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Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Last Party Of The Year

What person in his or her right mind would move on the 30th of December? Who would move if that date would be about two weeks before she’d normally give birth? So woe to me, because I’ve got friends like that.

It happened two years ago, and I was kindly summoned to give a helping hand in the big move from my friends’ apartment to their new house. They both are new Belgians, he being a Macedonian at birth and she from the beautiful Croatian coast. They met and married in Belgium, but their knowledge of how certain things work here was limited at some points, such as how to buy a house. So they were a bit overly optimistic about how long it would take to get a loan, get the paperwork for their new house done and so on. So they immediately gave notice to their landlord, thinking that they could leave their apartment in three months time, while it can take easily six months before you can finally enter your new house. So that is why everything had to be done at light speed, and that is why I was there to help them move on the 30th of December.

But apparently, painting walls and packing boxes when you’re 9 months pregnant is very stimulating for babies, so that very morning, in the wee little hours, a little baby girl decided that when everybody’s going to move, she should follow the trend.

A couple of hours later, I arrived at the apartment. I was very surprised that no-one else was there and I was just about to admit that I’d erred on the date again when I got a message on my mobile. It was a message that the happy father had send me five hours ago, explaining why the move had to be postponed.

But they still had to vacate their apartment on the 1st of January, so the next day we were out again in full force, minus the mother, to clean out the flat and transport it all to their new home, two villages to the south. It was a short new year’s eve that night, as I was absolutely pooped from the move. That was my last good deed of 2004.

Today we celebrated little Ilana’s second birthday. She blew out all the candles on the cake. She had to wait ages for that cake too, because the electric fondue set wasn’t working. But luckily the repairing skills of her uncle Kurt saved the day and the electric fondue set. And then she had to wait even longer, until her uncle Bart had finally finished eating. Uncle Bart loves a good fondue set, i.e. a set that doesn’t take more than a minute and a half to cook a piece of meat. Uncle Bart nearly cleaned the plate, although daddy had ordered food for seven people and there were only five people there because two of them couldn’t stay the whole evening. But even uncle Bart and uncle Kurt have to stop eating sometime, and then there was cake. And she got a very big present with Winnie the Pooh figures and a Winnie the Pooh house with integrated tree house and fun fair. And uncle Bart played with her and her brother until his arms dropped off and then she and uncle Bart gave invisible porridge with a visible spoon to her toy clown.

It was simply the bestest birthday party she ever had. Except maybe for last year's.

Posted by Bart at 10:40 PM
Categories: Miscellaneous

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pre-Daddy Grin

When your wife is expecting a baby, you can find all sorts of very detailed information about every stage in the evolution of both mother and baby. You can find minute-to-minute descriptions of which part bulges out at what moment or how your baby’s big toe develops if he kicks too much in his womb. Every single variable has been observed, measured, quantified, averaged, turned into a graph and compared since a guy called Grumph Jr. spilled some ink on a flat stone and turned pre-history into history.

But not a word on the biology of how a careless young man suddenly becomes a father.

So to fill the void, I decided to observe a prime example of man-becoming-father: moi.

Physically, there’s not much to report so far. I think there is a correlation between my wife bulging more and me bulging less. She claims that her tummy is expanding because the baby is growing. I say it’s because she suddenly started a feeding frenzy that is worse than that of a pack of sharks that drifted off into a vegetarian seaweed production centre. She cleans out every pan, which is a bit annoying when I didn’t even get the chance to fill my plate. Another small physical sign of impeding fatherhood is a stiff leg, because she takes a lot of naps and insists on using my leg as a pillow. This wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t so possessive to the point that she becomes aggressive when I try to go to the loo or just shift my leg.

My most noticeable change so far is the Pre-Daddy Grin. Don’t look for this medical term on the internet, I just invented it. It happens to me when I see little children play on the playground, or when a mother is making funny faces to her baby, or when a daddy comforts his little girl because she fell of the swing (head first). Then it hits me that in a couple of months time I too shall have such a bundle of joy in my hands. And then I grin.

Posted by Bart at 7:52 PM
Categories: Big Belly

Sunday, December 24, 2006

…To Be Jolly!

I’m grumpy today. I don’t like the Christmas period, ever since puberty washed away the joy of receiving tonnes of toys. We’ve been running around from here to hither to buy presents, to receive presents, to buy more presents, to wrap presents, to buy Christmas decorations and so on. Yesterday we raced to and through the city to buy the latest presents and food for the coming days. Then we drove to my parents for their Christmas party, the last one we’ll have without any grandchildren running around. My sister does an impressive impersonation of a Christmas ball, she’s eagerly awaiting the delivery which should happen around mid January. We all did a pretty good impersonation of the balls in the tree after eating copious amounts of turkey with cream-and-wild-mushrooms sauce.

This morning we were off hunting for presents and Christmas cards again, and this afternoon we’ll drive off to Bruges for Christmas diner at my mother-and-her-lover-in-law’s. So more presents, more copious amount of rich food and then tomorrow we’ll repeat all that at my grandmother-in-law’s Christmas drink. Cake anyone?

I was really looking forward at the long weekend, I’m really tired of work and as you may have noticed my blogging volume has reduced somewhat because of it. But instead it will be a rally from one place to the other, as usual. And next weekend it will be the same mayhem all over.


Posted by Bart at 1:16 PM
Categories: Miscellaneous

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Unpaid Overtime

My computer at work was acting up yesterday. We have a firm that maintains the network and they are responsible for the updates. But something was blocking the update process, so my computer had a couple of hick-ups when I logged in. But the rest of the day it seemed to work properly.

When the evening fell my boss took her coat and waved us bye-bye. I checked the time on my computer, and it said it was 4.30pm. So she left a bit early but she told me earlier both her kids have the flue so that’s not so strange.

A couple of minutes my other colleague left. As it was still not 5pm I continued working, happily slapping my keyboard. A short while later it was time to start the race home, according to my computer. Usually I set off around 5.10pm. But when I grabbed my cell phone, it claimed that it was already 5.40!

Just great, that meant that I had missed my train, which in turn meant that I had to take the subway to Brussels’ central station instead of hopping on the train on the small train station near my office. And to add insult to injury, all trains passing through Brussels’ South, Central and North stations were late and will be for the coming days because the main powerhouse for that area burned down on Monday (most trains run on electricity here).

Needless to say, I had to wait for ages for a bus that would take me from Antwerp’s Berchem Station back home.

Posted by Bart at 8:55 PM
Categories: Public Transport Pains

Monday, December 18, 2006

Living On A Shoestring

I’ve never been fond of shopping for clothes. In fact, if it wasn’t illegal and if the climate would be more tropical I’d probably run around naked. I have frequent quarrels with my wife about certain clothing items because they predate the Perestrojka, the Reagan presidency, the Beatles, hieroglyphs or the invention of the wheel. ‘You can’t throw that away’, I’d shout. ‘It’s only…’ and then I’d realise that I had that sweater since second grade in high school.

Although I can last forever with a sweater, other clothing items have a much shorter life span. I’m a notorious shoe-killer for instance. Shoes are lucky if they withstand my tread for a mere year. That’s because I’ve got this bouncy way of walking, combining the gait of a dinosaur (walking on the tips of my feet) with a sole-grinding attack on the pavement, so that my heels churn off at the sides as if they are sinking into the ground (of shame I suppose). But the weak spot is invariably the middle part of the shoe, right at the place where your foot and your toes join. Sooner or later the sole will crack right on this spot, unless I buy real sloppy shoes but they have soles are too thin for winter.

We went shopping on Saturday, in a desperate attempt to find Christmas presents while fighting hordes of people that had foolishly waited until the last moment (although everybody should know that’s when we go around). It was raining, nay, pouring with rain. And by the time we returned home, I felt that my feet were not only tired, but also very cold and very wet. That’s the tell-tale sign that usually leads to the discovery of a big, sole-splitting crack across at least one of my shoes, and this time it was no different. So another pair for the dustbin – or rather the container park because we recycle everything here, even the odours of my feet (as it is illegal to dump toxic waste).

So I ran upstairs to put on my ‘nice’ shoes – the ones I only wear for special occasions. But I’d forgotten that the rings through which the laces run on the right shoe had broken off at two places. And to make it even better I discovered that the heel was coming loose from the leather on the other one. But I didn’t want to continue the evening in my wet shoes because I’ve had enough colds so far, thank you very much. Rubber boots were not really an option, since we were expected at the birthday party of a friend of ours. Ditto for the sport-shoes, which are covered in isolation foam and paint. So off I went, hoping the lace would manage to hold my shoe on my foot running through only three holes and praying that my heel wouldn’t drop off. No dancing for me that night.

So I really need to go and buy shoes. But Christmas gifts, a baby-boom in the family and with friends, a house in reconstruction and the accident we had with our previous car mean that we’re on a tight budget. Maybe I should just go to the salvation army.

Posted by Bart at 8:51 PM
Categories: Miscellaneous

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Today's my birthday.

I like big expensive presents.

Just that you'd know...

Posted by Bart at 6:54 PM
Categories: Miscellaneous

Friday, December 08, 2006

Off To Oxford

I haven’t been travelling much lately. In the beginning of the year, I went abroad at least once every two months for my work, but since August I haven’t set a foot across the border. So they make up for it, I got a surprise voyage in my hands today. Although it’s not really spectacular to go to England – more precisely to Oxford – for a seminar. So Monday morning, or Sunday night to be exact because I have to leave here around 4.30 AM, I have to take a train to Brussels and from there directly to London Waterloo station. Then it’s on the subway to Paddington Station, where I have to take the train to Oxford. I have serious doubts about my ability to stay awake that first day, but anyways the second day of the programme is much more interesting. Oh, in case you wonder, the seminar is about capacity-development of governmental and non-governmental actors in an international development context. Woohoo! We’re animals baby! Wicked!

But that’s not all. In January I shall be crossing the Mediterranean and set foot in Algeria for the first time. I’m looking forward to that. And in February I will fly to Niger – again. I’ve also got an outstanding invitation for Guinea-Conakry, but I doubt if that will happen. Anyway, I’ll have to do my travelling in the beginning of 2007, because I’m not getting on a plane in the months before and after the baby will be born. Although if he/she is anything like me, she/he will be born late.

Posted by Bart at 9:50 PM
Categories: The intrepid explorer

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

And So It Begins

‘Is this thing on?’ peeeeEEEEEEEeeeeeeep

‘Wait… One! Two!’ squueeeeEEEEEK!

‘To close to the loudspeakers? Ok. This better?’

‘Ok. Ok. Good-good evening everybody. Nice to see so many people here tonight. It’s a special evening tonight and on behalf of the organising committee I would like to welcome you all here and thank you for your patience.

Before we start our regular programme I would just like to make an announcement: I’m going to be a daddy.’

[polite applause]

‘Thank you, thank you very much, also on behalf of the mother-to-be. As you may know this will be our firstborn…’

[More polite applause]

‘thank you. So we can use all the money we can get and we decided to make this a pay-site.’

[dead silence, manifest absence of applause and sound of crickets chirping]

‘Just kidding of course, hahah. So enjoy the evening!’

[Leaves stage, no more applause]

Posted by Bart at 9:08 PM
Categories: Big Belly

Monday, December 04, 2006

Comedy Casino Royale

I won two free tickets last week, for the Stand-up Comedy Casino Royale. The Flemish Ayatollah of Irony, known by the call-sign (PDW), helped organise this event and the first who could produce an original joke or a witty remark in his weblog comments would get the tickets. So I gave it a shot and produced something remotely funny and to my surprise I was the Price Poodle.

The Comedy Casino itself was on Saturday evening in the Vooruit in Ghent. The line-up consisted of Flanders’ funniest with the addition of some imported humourologists from the UK, Holland and other planets. There were three stages in the three concert halls, with a fourth stage in the lounge where young talent could have a go with a try-out. The idea was that the public would move from one stage to the other, but unfortunately some of them didn’t. You see, there was only one theatre with chairs, and it wasn’t before long that the most anti-social visitors had conquered all the seats and dug in, not willing to move an inch before the end of the evening. But some comedians were so annoyed by this that they did their performance all over again in the lounge after the try-outs.

We started our evening with Han Solo, who left princess Leia, parked the Millenium Falcon on the Sint-Pietersplein and now tries to earn a living with stand-up comedy. He soaked us with a hose, threw biscuits and carrots at us and then proceeded by imitating a male chauvinist racist to the point where it became all too real and uncomfortable. New and upcoming talent Bert Gabriels was next, known for his hilarious character of the eternal but sadistic looser. But it was very refreshing to see that he evolves from eternal looser to somewhat more sadist. I laughed my pants of which ruined the evening for everyone behind me. The Master of Ceremony or MC for this part of the evening was the excellent Thomas Smith, I’ve been a fan of his for years.

We went to the lounge because my wife’s feet started to hurt and my throat started to dry out (despite the garden hose) and queued for a while at the entrance of the hall-with-the-seats. Only three people could enter, the other 150 had to wait outside, so we watched the new kids on the block in the try-outs. Unfortunately, the people in the lounge had the sense of humour of a jellyfish dropped in the Sahara desert and the attention span of a hyper-active five-year-old on amphetamines.

We migrated up again, to the ball-room and to Youssef El Masaoui, a relative newcomer with Moroccan roots (you’d never guess) and an excellent sense of humour. Although I feel he uses the clichés a bit too much to laugh with himself and not enough to mock the Belgians. We stood firm through Patrick Van Den Kieboom’s gig (enough said) and then discovered the more than excellent Henk Rijckaert who played in his hometown of Ghent. Back to the lounge then, where Nigel Williams gave his all to compensate for the bastards who hogged the seats all night. So many jokes, so much alcohol Nigel…

So all’s well that ends well, but on the way home we met one of the comedian again. We found Youssef next to a car with a very, very flat tire and a very, very broken wrench. So together with another couple we came to the rescue and gave fantastic advise while he toiled to get his tire changed. He was so grateful he offered us free tickets, and that is how we go from one event to the other all for free.

Posted by Bart at 11:06 PM
Edited on: Monday, December 04, 2006 11:20 PM
Categories: Miscellaneous

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