Not for the first time, it has been quite a while since I wrote a proper post. Time has been passing, and I’ve been busy. I spent Christmas home with the folks at their new house in Herefordshire, soaking in the peaceful atmosphere and trying not to freeze solid in the Arctic weather conditions. Then it was back to London, and flatsitting at my friend’s place in London. A more conveniently-located place to stay for a few days in London is hard to imagine, and I caught up with lots of friends while enjoying the sensation of being a tourist in my own home city. At the moment I am a long way from being at home anywhere, and that suits me well. Brussels isn’t home, but neither (now) is London; my parents are no longer there, it feels as if I’ve run far from a lot of the things that I associated with the city, and though many of my friends and my sister are still there, it now feels like somewhere that contains memories and associations, rather than a place I live in the present tense. A time and place like this, filled with friends making comparisons to when they last saw me, is pretty good for reflections on what’s happened.
So what’s new since I came over to Brussels? Everyone says I’m happier. It’s not hard to put my finger on why. A lot of weights have lifted from my shoulders in the last few months. Part of it is to do with life being simpler. There are no cars to maintain, fewer bills to pay, and only my emotions to deal with. All of that counts for a lot. Part of it is professional. I wouldn’t say either that I am loving every minute of my job or that it has turned out how I expected, but it is a challenge and one that I will only get the best from if I decide not to feel helplessly pissed off, and just get on with making the most of it. Most of all it’s the quite unexpected feeling of being in possession of my own life, and not tied to anything or anyone. Either way, it makes life no easier but also makes me much happier dealing with its difficulties. It becomes a problem to be solved rather than a reality that must be conformed to.
Just time to share one anecdote from Friday night. My flatmates and me were on our way over to a friend’s house. We were bringing food with us, and had quite a lot of stuff to carry, including one very hot casserole pan fresh out of the oven. So we decided to share the cost of a taxi, rather than attempting to carry it all on the metro. I ring Taxis Verts. A large Merc arrives. We troop outside. The Belgian man driving the taxi takes a look at my casserole and my pan handlers and displays a look of Gallic disdain. “C’est une bouffe?” he asks. Bouffe means ‘nosh’ or ‘food’, with possibly-vulgar connotations of overeating and gluttony. I tell him that it is. He replies, “That’s not going in my car. This is the capital of Europe, you know? Important people ride in this car. They’re not going to want that smell in here.” The melange of emotions I feel at this point runs the entire gamut from offence to anger. Obviously those important people’s money is more important than mine. Obviously this taxi driver is too good for all of this. We begin to walk off down the street towards the Metro. Taxi man shouts after us, “I’ve come here and you’re going to walk?”
Sadly, one always thinks of the best things to say when it’s too late. It is not until I am sitting in the Metro carriage, amusing fellow passengers with my sweating and grimacing over a saucepan that’s too heavy to hold in the same position for 30 minutes without severe discomfort, too precariously held to juggle or reposition, and too hot to rest for long on my lap without severe burns; no, it’s not until now that all of my French insults come rushing back, and I remember how to say what I really wanted to say to the taxi driver. But as I walked away, the best I could manage was a lame, and entirely heartfelt, “Bon weekend, wanker!”