Crissay-sur-Manse: June 6th, 2000

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Sand in my hair ...

With a title like that, you'll probably think that I'm at the seaside. We have a beautiful 60 km long shoreline here in Belgium, with nice sandy beaches and dunes. It's very popular with Belgian and foreign tourists, even when the weather is autumn-like like last week.

But that isn't were I got the sand in my hair. It happened right here, on my doorstep. Just have a look at this:

Looking up from the balcony.

On Tuesday morning, when I left for work, a huge truck loaded with over-sized Meccano pieces was parked across the street. When I got home in the afternoon, our facade was hidden behind an intricate scaffolding structure. For the last three days nimble men have been climbing up and down carrying high-pressure water-guns. They are sandblasting the bricks, bringing back to life their original 1990's colour . 

You're fine as long as you stay inside with the windows firmly closed. When you go out, however, you need an umbrella because the sandy water is dripping through the holes in the metal foot plates. I learnt the hard way and got my first sandy shower on Thursday. Yesterday I avoided another shower by taking the required umbrella. My car got a load of it too. I bet its new spotted look will attract a lot of attention in the underground car park at the office on Monday.

The sandblasting job should be done by Tuesday. After which we can start cleaning up: washing windows, taking the car to the car wash ... In the meantime I'm curious to see the final result, when the scaffolding will have been removed. I suspect that by Wednesday, life will be back to normal in our spic-and-span apartment building.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

From Japan to Leuven - part 1

As I mentioned in my most recent post, I went into Leuven on Wednesday with my colleague and friend F. One of the things I like about her, apart from the fact that we share some common interests, is the fact that she's very punctual. Although she lives some 35 km away and had to tackle the extremely busy Brussels' 'ring' (which is not unlike the Parisian 'périphérique', but not as long), she arrived at the agreed time. We drove into Leuven. It took longer than expected, because for the first part of the journey we were caught behind a tractor. And the last kilometre or so we found ourselves following a garbage truck, collecting the waste paper in some of Leuven's narrowest streets. 

Parking was no problem, as the underground car park in the centre of town was only half full. We started out doing some shopping for my mother ... and got lost. Well, you can't really get lost in Leuven as the town isn't all that big, but the street I was looking for wasn't where I remembered it to be. You may recall that I attended secondary school in Leuven. At the time I knew the town like my mother's back yard, but that's almost 40 years ago ...

Finally, with the help of a town map and a friendly local resident, we found the street and the shop we were looking for. I didn't take any photos of this part of our trip as we were too busy chatting and getting back on track. We also did a lot of window shopping - lèche-vitrines in French. It was great fun. I ended up buying one item that was not on my initial shopping list: a multi-coloured top with a geometrical design which will be perfect with a recently acquired green cardigan.

By then it was almost noon and time for an aperitif on a sidewalk terrace in the sun. But first I wanted to show F. the statue of Fonske. Here it is.

'Fonske' or 'Fons Sapientiae' as he his officially called, was a gift from Leuven's University to the city of Leuven to commemorate the 550the anniversary (1425 -1975) of the Catholic University of Leuven. 'Fons Sapientiae' means 'Source of Wisdom' and shows a student pouring water into his head while reading a book, the water representing the wisdom he's acquiring. This interpretation however is different from the artists initial intention, which was a student drinking too much beer and reading about the effect it had on him. After a protest from the Students' Association which didn't appreciate the fact that all students were depicted as beer drinking rascals, the town council came up with the new, more dignified explanation.

Here's a closer look of Fonske. 1975, the year in which he was inaugurated, I left Leuven to continue my education in Brussels ... So Fonske and I have never been properly introduced!

Monday, 18 August 2014

From Roye to Japan ...

... it's only a small step when you're blogging. Let me explain.

I have (yet) taken another week off from the office. It's only my second short vacation this year and I still have over 20 days of 'congé' left, 15 of which I need to take before the end of the year, if I don't want to lose them, which would be a shame.

Don't think I'm flying of to Japan tomorrow! But on Wednesday I'll certainly be learning more about this fascinating country. In the morning my cleaning lady is coming and I need to get out of the apartment. As my mother needs some items from a specialized shop in Leuven, I had decided to take the 9.30 bus into town, work myself through my mother's shopping list, do some window shopping myself, have an aperitif and a light lunch, before returning home around 3 p.m.

And then, last Thursday when working from home, I received a phone call from my colleague F. who has just returned from a two weeks trip to Japan with her brother and daughter. She was anxious to tell me all about it and show me the photos. We agreed that the office wasn't the best place for that - after all, we are supposed to work there, and not to chit-chat. As she's not working on Wednesday's, I invited her to come and join me in Leuven for a proper lunch at my favourite restaurant 'Kokoon'. I'm really looking forward to this and there may be some more Leuven photos in it for you!

The two photos in this post are scans from postcards my family received in May and August 1966 from a Japanese woman my father had met on his flight to Tokyo earlier that year. He was on a business trip and she had been visiting Europe. Apparently they got talking to each other when the woman had trouble with her seat-belt. My father, always the perfect gentleman, had helped her untangling it. During the flight, which took them over the North Pole, they exchanged addresses and for a year or so we regularly received postcards from Japan.

After a devastating earthquake in the region where the Japanese lady lived, the postcards stopped coming  .... My mother has kept the two featuring in this post. Mount Fuji has always been one of my favourite views in the world, although I have never seen it for real. I wonder if F. and her daughter have.