Monday, March 31, 2008
The Scottish are famous for their Highland Games, amongst other things – such as drinking strong beverages in women’s clothing. One of the disciplines in the Highland Games is the ‘Caber toss’, or throwing a long wooden pole as far as you can without having it land on your own head.
I’ve been trying out this sport myself lately, but of course wooden poles are a bit wimpy for a strong Belgian lad like me. No, I prefer to hoist a concrete pole in the air. One that has one end buried five feet in the ground.
There were five of these concrete poles in our backyard, in fact they really were there to hold up the washing line. It must have been the sturdiest washing line in the world: each pole measures up to 12 ft and ways about 150 kg. Add to that about 27 cubic feet of concrete to set in the ground. With five to six iron bars in each post, that washing line could withstand a nuclear war in its day.
In my initial optimism, I wanted to wiggle them around a bit (I didn’t know about the concrete foot) and lift them out of the ground. In fact I did manage that with the first one, which didn’t have that much concrete. I even managed to break it in two with my bare hands – I really don’t know my own strength. Fortunately for me, I didn’t catch me in its fall because it would probably have killed so. It landed on a plastic box and crumbled it to little pieces.
The next two were even harder. I had to dig a big hole next to each post, four to five feet deep. Lifting them out still was impossible, let alone doing a caber toss. I brought out my brand new pneumatic drill to chip away the concrete block at the bottom and break each post in three pieces. Even then, I was barely able to lift the individual pieces, although I did caber toss them – making big dents in our lawn and ripping parts out of the hedge. Collateral damage, but it was satisfying to see those bastards plummet to their death.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Dreaming Of A White Easter
At the end of a rather balmy winter, the weather gods have apparently became aware that they've been a tad on the lazy side this year. So they surprised us with a snow bombardment. Of course, the B-family was on the other side of the country when the first flakes gently floated down. By the time we said goodbye to Mrs B's big sister and mother, it was really snowing. Thirty minutes later, we were caught in a veritable blizzard. I barely missed a bunch of penguins on the highway.
This morning, we woke up to a beautiful blanket of snow. It was at least seven centimeters thick at places – eat your heart out indigenous tribes people we're not allowed to call 'Eskimoes' any more! But when I got off the train, it had already turned into that dreaded filthy mushy sludge that clings to your shoes, soaks your trousers and chills your feet faster than when you submerge them into liquid nitrogen. Wearing shoes with big cracks in the soles doesn't help either, so I spent the day in the office with cold, wet feet.
Can't wait until spring, Bandini.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Attack Of The Ladybugs
As I may have mentioned, my mother-in-law comes over once a month to babysit Wolf for a day or two. When she sleeps over, she uses or old bedroom on the second floor. Now that ours is finished, we don't visit that room that often anymore. At least not often enough to notice any insect plagues.
I must admit I could hardly hide a smile when my MIL reported a 'plague of ladybugs'. She woke up during the night because of the bugs running over her face. Surely she must be exagerating, I thought. I mean, how many ladybugs could there be? Three, four tops?
Four hundred was a more accurate guess. I've never seen anything like this. Luckily, by the time I went up there they were all dead. Presumably, trying to survive by nibbling on my MIL's face didn't become them. I can only guess what chemicals are in the face mask she smears on every evening. It was like the mythological ladybug graveyard, where old ladybugs go to die when they feel there end is near.
I went around with the hoover, now the place is spotless again. Get it? Spotless?
Oh, bugger off.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Last Tuesday, when I came home, I found myself under rapid fire from Mrs.B because of some highly illegal and unnecessary items I had purchased. I must say I was a bit stunned, I hadn't expected to be interogated by the Spanish inquisition.
But then again, no-one expects the Spanish inquisition...
Upside down on a stretching rack with needles underneath my toe nails and boiling hot oil dripping on my private parts, I quickly admitted my crimes. I had indeed purchased two jars of apple sauce AND two bottles of shampoo while there were still plenty of jars of apple sauce and bottle of shampoos in stock in the cellar. So – the prosecuter screamed at high voice while she made her whip crack – I had spent no less than seven euros extra. Seven euros from our rapidly dwindling budget. Now there wouldn't be enough food for us at the end of the month. The baby would starve, or we would have to eat him to survive ourselves. Monster that I am!
I feebly tried to argue that the items that I bought would serve us well sooner or later, but the prosecuter would listen to none of my whimpering arguments. A big €-sign was burnt into my forehead, so that all can see what happens to mad spenders like me.
Three days later – in a totally unrelated event – my wife reminded me that she would go over to the neighbours' house for an 'evening with the girls'. Apart from 'the girls' there would be a saleswoman promoting make-up and other beauty products. Mrs.B assured me that she wouldn't spend a lot of money. Just for safety she'd withdrawn 40 € from our account, but of course she wouldn't spend it all. By golly, no! She hardly ever uses any make-up anyway.
And true to her word, when she returned a couple of hours later, not a single coin had left her purse. But only because she ordered for way more than 40 € worth of products. Not that she had succumbed to any peer pressure or the slick presentation of the saleswoman, you understand. She had just bought some utterly essential hard to get by very important urgently needed products for herself and for the baby. And all that for a measly 61 €.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Old Man River
Winter stroll along the banks of the river Dyle in Mechelen...
Dreary weather and structures like this go together like tits and whipped cream.
Pigeons waiting on the tarmac for their turn to take off.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Oh Lord, Won't You Buy Me A Mercedes Benz
The umpteenth train strike today, making me loose time going to work and - more importantly - coming back. With a number of trains not running at all, we were stuffed like spam in a can in our coupe. Although I did manage to find a seat just in time, lucky sardine that I am. So nice to have people sitting on your shoulder, falling on your lap (not nice young ladies either, only big old hippos with moustaches) and pushing their handbags in your ear.
My bus was still there, but the doors were already closed and it was waiting for the traffic lights to turn green. If you have a nice bus driver, he'll let you in. I had the biggest prick since the invention of the bus ticket, so I had to run accross the street to the next stop (there's only 300 meters between the two stops nearest to the station, don't ask me why).
And for all this 'service' they even had the nerve to increase their prices!
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Spring's here – a bit too early but there you go – so it's time to dig up the old hammer and start DIY-ing. On the agenda this year: install central heating and a new bathroom, and refurbish Milady's office.
The central heating thing is the biggest challenge (not that I ever installed a bathroom before – or revamped an office space for that matter), so some preparation and homework is on the order. I snooped around on the internet a stumbled upon an interesting formula: some companies make all the difficult calculations of how many radiators you need and how much capacity the heater needs to have based on the plans of your house. Then you get a training on how to install everything, and they deliver a number of kits with easy-to-follow plans to your doorstep. Then you have to install everything, and in the end their specialists come over to check if you didn't do anything stupid, correct it if you did and finally do the difficult jobs like setting up the central heater.
Piece of cake! And it costs about half of what you'd pay for a professional to turn up somewhere between today and mid-November 2814 AD.
So last week I drove to an appointment I had with one of the firms that I contacted. It was in the evening, so I half expected to be there alone with the salesman. Was I a measly bit wrong! It was a coming and going of people, there were desks all over the place with scores of salesmen and -women trying to sell-sell-sell. I don't want to imply that they were pushy, but before I had settled in the comfy chair the guy had already tried to jam a rainwater recycling installation and a new sanitary installation through my throath.
It took a while before he finally started with what I came for: a central heating. I felt he was barely interested in what I wanted, it seemed more important for him to get all the information HE needed. I really had to press him to include a condensation boiler in stead of an ordinary one. 'Yes', he said 'but it will be easier to install, with the exhaust and all'
'But doesn't it burn much more gas?' I asked.
'Well, only 25 percent.'
'Only 25 percent?' I said. 'I want that condensation boiler, I don't give a damn if it's a bit more difficult to install!'
The difference with the second supplier couldn't be bigger. It was as busy as the other one was, but here the salesman took their time, really listened to what we wanted and gave us some pretty darn good advice that will save us a lot of money and make installation easier. Not unimportant if you do such a major job in a house that you still have to be able to live in the whole time.
Now even when the first company offers us a better price, guess which one will probably get the contract?
Monday, March 03, 2008
In The Jungle, The Mighty Jungle
Women waiting at the maternity.
If your jeep gets stuck at the middle of the jungle, getting out can be a challenge. I simply couldn't get the door open, so I had to clamber over the gear shift and get out at the other side, where I almost sunk knee deep into the mud.
After this we left the main "road" behind us and headed into the jungle, to Mushenge, the capital of the Kuba people.
This old bridge was built by the Belgians and hasn't seen much maintenance since the colonisation ended. A similar bridge that we had to cross later that week had collapsed under the weight of an overcharged truck. A lot of people lost their lives during that accident.
Our local contacts assured us that there were no more crocodiles here...
I noticed this giant spider web AFTER we had walked underneath it. It was larger than I am and you can still see the remains of the last poor soul who was devoured by the spider. Luckily she wasn't at home, probably went to the pharmacist to get something for her indigestion.
A Kuba tribal mask. Their king still has his court at the jungle town of Mushenge. Entering the domain - which lies on the edge of the forest - is strictly forbidden. Strictly, in the sense that anyone caught in between his many wives will be executed instantly.