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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Self-made Toys

Boys with their self-made toy cars, made from fish cans  

Two boys with their sardine can toy cars (Kinshasa, october 2008)

Posted by Bart at 9:35 PM
Categories: The intrepid explorer

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Time Lag

I woke up this morning thinking it was already Friday.

Very depressing discovery when I found out there was still one extra day separating me from the next weekend.

Bummer! Big Bummer!

Posted by Bart at 7:02 PM
Categories: Miscellaneous

Monday, November 24, 2008

How To Become A Hood Ornament

I was taking Wolf in his buggy to the day-care centre last week. As usual, this means we have to cross the Big Road that runs to our sleepy Antwerp suburb. The Big Road is a triumph of 1960’s optimism and belief in technological development. It is an ode to concrete, when planners still believed that people could lead very happy lives living in concrete towers surrounded by concrete plazas and linked together by huge concrete boulevards.

The Big Road is one of the two highways that link Antwerp to Brussels. And in this case, you can take the term ‘highway’ literally. It has 10 (!) lanes, four of them on level ground and six of them five meters up on a causeway that stretches from the city border to well into the next town.

To cross it, you generally have to wait for the first traffic light to turn green, then walk underneath the bridge and then wait for the next traffic light to turn green. If you walk at normal speed, there’s no way you can cross both double lanes next to the bridge in one go. However, if you run (at leisurely pace), you can make it in one go. Another advantage is that making a mad dash for it has great entertainment value for the toddler. And it gives me a false sense of doing at least some sports.

So last Thursday, I made a run for it. I was just crossing the last two lanes, when I something big hurling at us at uncomfortably high speeds. I quickly jumped back on the pavement under the bridge, not forgetting to drag Wolf in his buggy with me. A big lorry came to a screeching stand-still, after his driver was alerted by my presence to the fact that – oh look – the traffic lights were as red as the windows of a whore-house run by the Red Army.

The truck stood still in the middle of that decorative zebra pattern that many drivers just ignore. But this driver was suddenly very aware of where he had finally managed to stop his vehicle. And to the fact that he almost run over an 18-month-old and his father.

His face turned red.

Mine was still white.

I crossed while the little green man was still green.

Posted by Bart at 9:01 PM
Categories: Next Generation

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Snow White

It's snowing! A huge package of snow is blocking the roads, everything is white. The whole of Belgium is covered in literally centimeters of snow. At least 4 cm, I should say.

I won't be able to go to work tomorrow!

Posted by Bart at 6:36 PM
Edited on: Sunday, November 23, 2008 6:38 PM
Categories: Miscellaneous

Saturday, November 22, 2008

House Warming Party

It’s alive! ALIVE!

Or rather, it works. My DIY buy-the-kit/decipher-the-manual/tear-down-the-house-without-a-clue central heating system. The day before yesterday a technician came over to fire up the boiler. My installation was fully approved – apart from a vent I have to place on the other collector and a pressure safety that was upside-down. We can now make warm water without burning up a fully loaded LNG tanker each time.

And we have heating in every room, apart from the hall-way because you never open the radiators there anyway and not in the kitchen either because the gas stove and the oven provide enough heat and anyway there isn’t even a door between the kitchen and the diner room so it gets warm anyway and…

I’m as happy as a child.

Not only because I pulled it off (without ruining a 5000 € investment), but also because this means that after months of non-stop work I can finally enjoy a free weekend now and then. Or as much as you can get a free weekend with a toddler running around and a wife that’s managing the social calendar.

And there are other perks too: winter sex will be so much easier without 400 blankets and duvets and animal pelts on my back (or on her back, depending on who’s burning the calories).


Posted by Bart at 1:26 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Normal Week-end

We went to The Big City last Saturday, meaning to Antwerp – which is a metropolis to Belgian standards but would be a small town (500.000 inhabitants) in many other countries. Nevertheless, it was lovely to just stroll around and look at people and shops, instead of rushing quickly-quickly to fetch this or fetch that. Ok, I had to take an hour of clothes-shopping for granted, because Mrs.B needed some trousers and then a T-shirt or two to go with them. But you can’t get bored in a large convenience store, at least not with a toddler that’s just learned to run and who loves to play hide and seek between all those racks with clothes. Not to mention the fun he had when he discovered the dressing rooms. In which one did mummy hide? Well let’s find out by opening every curtain until we find mummy.

So I spent an hour or so trying not to notice big bums in white under garments or various sizes of braziers or the various unclad body parts while ducking after my offspring with a red head.

In other news, Saint-Nicolas has arrived in Belgium and because old Nick comes by boat from Spain, the port of Antwerp is his first stop here. Thousands of kids and their parents were roaming the city, while St-Nick’s politically incorrect black helpers (it’s soot, it’s got nothing to do with African descent and a white supremacist for a boss, honestly) climbed onto terraces and roof tops.

Wolf was not impressed.

He did like the Belgian waffle though, nice and warm and with chocolate sauce. Unlike his mother, he didn’t get covered in chocolate though. He’s such a well-behaved boy. He takes that from me, you know.

When night fell, we enjoyed the relatively warm weather and the old city with its beautiful lighting and Christmas decoration. It felt so great that I didn’t have to break down walls and tear open floors all weekend long. We haven’t had a normal weekend for months and months, we really should do this more often.

On the other hand, you appreciate these things more when you’ve missed them for so long.

Posted by Bart at 9:08 PM
Edited on: Monday, November 17, 2008 9:09 PM
Categories: Miscellaneous

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pain Killer

Last week, when Wolf had a severe bronchitis:

   Me: 'Did Wolf take his Jupiler today?'

   Mrs.B: [stern look]

   Me: 'What?'

   Mrs.B: 'You mean did he take his Junifen.'

I think if he'd taken my medicine, that he would have had a quiet night too.

Posted by Bart at 9:37 PM

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trench Warfare

In honour of my dear old great-grandfather, who fought in World War I and lived to tell the tale while consuming huge numbers of Belgian waffles each 11th of November to remember his fallen comrades, I've dug my very own remembrance trench in the back garden.

Well allright, I didn't mean to dig as deep as I did, and it was pure coincidence that I dug a four-by-one-point-five meter hole on armistice day. It's only 60 cm deep, so it would hardly provide me any cover for german machinegun fire. But given the fact that I just wanted to clear the top soil of any rocks and stones, it's a pretty mighty trench.

Last spring, I removed the garden path, made partly with concrete sidewalk tiles while other parts were just concrete poured over old bricks. There's a lot of bricks and old rubble underneath it, and it's very difficult (or bloody impossible) to dig the blade of a shovel into that stuff. So I had to dig underneath it, and pry the bricks out by hand, then sift the sand to get the remainder of the rocks out. It's a tedious job, and so far I did about 10 meters, which means that 15 more meters of garden await me.

At first I tought I found the remains of a Roman village, but actually it's a whole city, complete with Collosseum, bathing house and protective bullwarks. I also found a genuine Roman bycicle, although I still have to carbon date it because it's also possible that it dates from the Neolithic age.

I'll keep you posted if I find any dinosaur skeletons.

Posted by Bart at 9:06 PM
Categories: Home Improvement

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Out Of Africa

I'm home again, after a week of absolutely fascinating business meetings that I will tell you all about in great detail the moment you're begging for euthanasia. Luckily, we did an interesting field trip halfway through, so that broke up the infinite boredom a bit.

I did bring back a little souvenir:

I've got farts

They're multiplying

And my butt

Is loosing control

For the bacteria

You're providing

It's greased diarrhoea!

Posted by Bart at 12:17 PM
Categories: The intrepid explorer

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