Wednesday, 6 January 2010

I try to avoid driving in Brussels, especially in the mornings. The inadequate roads are overcrowded, and it is quicker to walk. I am a bit of a green, so I do avoid using the car out of principle, and I also prefer to actually spend time chatting to Junior about our world, as opposed to merely ferrying him from A to B in a metal box.

This week, however, its darn cold, and the roads are less congested. The only significant employers in Belgium, the EU institutions, are still enjoying their long, taxpayer-funded Christmas holidays. They will (sort of) drift back towards their offices on January 11th.

So this morning I did indeed take the young boss to school in the car. Coming home, I approached the junction twixt rue de Treves and rue Jaques deLaing. There are traffic lights there.

There was very little traffic on the road, and as I approached the junction I indicated to turn left. It was all a bit laid back in the old Panzer... the Everly Brothers on the stereo, Stetson hat perched jauntily to one side, and half a mind on an article I wanted to write about salmon farming in the Kamchatka peninsula. A fascinating subject, by the way....

Suddenly, an bird in a blue get up leapt in front of my car. A bird with a gun - a Brussels police-chick.

She was frantically blowing a whistle and pointing and waving at me in a way that suggested "Its a natural disaster - get out quick or die..." She obviously did not want me to do a left turn, so I went straight ahead and moved out quick, as I did not want to inhibit her disaster relief operations.

I live at the epicentre of a one-way system. I eventually drove home, in ever-decreasing circles, and passed the heroine again about 5 minutes later. It transpired there was no reason for panic; but she was still leaping out in front of traffic and pedestrians with her whistle. I pulled over for a moment to watch this spectacle. But nothing was wrong... it was just a set of traffic lights, on a quiet morning, no road closures, no problems at all. It was just a set of properly functioning traffic lights, an a very quiet morning. At one point she had to wait a full minute for someone to drive along so she could jump out into the road uneccessarily and wave her arms about. I wondered if she was one one of those lunatics that dresses up as a cop, or a vicar, or whatever, in order to live out a fantasy. But no... she was genuine. Genuinely Belgian.

Belgium... you wouldn't want to make it up...!