This is the first day of new things starting. I moved to Brussels on a Eurostar packed with businesspeople early yesterday morning, waited for nearly half an hour outside the luggage office to collect my boxes and my bike, and then ferried it all across Brussels in two loads. The direct route taken by the taxi driver made me grateful for my godmother’s advice not to try riding the bike to my new home; I already knew that Brussels drivers were pretty bad, but the ring road from the Gare du Midi swoops down into several tunnels, in which the random lane-changes that Brussels drivers execute approximately every fifteen seconds would pose a serious hazard to cyclists. On the second trip from the station I took my bike on the Metro and then rode it the last 600m from Schuman; even this was time enough for an assassination attempt by an angry-looking man driving (guess what?) a BMW, who overtook me and then turned right in an attempt, perhaps, to see how much and how fast I could brake. The bike is now in a yard outside the back of the building, and one of the first things I need to do is find a waterproof cover. It’s going to take some getting used to, what with Belgians driving on the wrong side of the road and all, but I still think the greater hazard to me is the very strongly-ingrained British habit of looking right and then left when I try to cross the road.
That aside the move went off pretty smoothly, aside from the fact that I realised I have forgotten my suit. This will have to be fetched on some future trip back to London, and gives me a good excuse to go there at some point. The flat is freshly redecorated and far from the scaffolding-filled, dust-sheeted chaos that reigned when I was here for the interview and a look around the house. I was first to arrive, and so got to choose a nice large room with two nicely battered desks, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, a bed, and a set of shelves. The room is right under the roof, so the walls slope inwards, leading me to several head-bang experiences while unpacking, which I will doubtless repeat ad infinitum over the next 12 months. There are some amusing features: a shower cubicle in the bathroom that feels about 1 foot by 1 foot in area; a secret-seeming door, also in the bathroom, that leads up to an attic full of mattresses and old furniture; items of former occupiers’ stuff lurking in drawers, for example seven or eight tiny individual socks, and a radio/CD player (this made me feel old, as I realised that I hadn’t brought music on any medium that it could play).
The only hitch was going to collect my SIM card for a Belgian mobile number and then realising that it didn’t work. I have yet to figure out why this is, so for now please restrict yourself to texts or Skype if you want to get in touch, since I am still effectively roaming with my UK mobile. Texts are probably better, since my room is a long way from the wifi router and therefore the Internet drops with alarming regularity.
This will be a long weekend of meetings and work (straight in at the deep end!) but I will try and write some more about Brussels once I have had a chance to get out there and enjoy it.