Thursday, 5 August 2010

Spaced Out

Its an old adage that if one walks across Grand Place at 4am, when it is totally deserted, and then stands still, a Belgian will walk into you within a second. Belgians have absolutely no concept of personal space at all.

This afternoon, I decided to have a bar of chocolate from a vending machine in the parliament. The place is pretty empty right now, so as I approached along the shopping mall like ground floor, with its banks, hardresser, dry cleaner, newsagent and permanently closed post office, there was just me and a Belgian. I knew he was Belgian, because of the funny tuft of hair growing from just under his lower lip. Its very popular over here. The 3-piece cordrouy suit was also a bit of a giveaway. I sensed that he would walk behind me, and then want to use the same vending machine as me, at the same time. I was right!

I stood back to let him go first. Instantly, 2 more appeared, like characters from Shaun of the Dead, and a pantomime began. Together, they all tried to work out how to use the machine. I sat down to watch, sensing that this might be entertaining. How many different ways, I wondered, can they fail to put 60 cents into a slot to by a mars bar?

After 5 minutes, and much jangling of coins and banging on the glass, they all left, shrugging at each other. I decided to try my luck. The vending machine that worked perfectly well yesterday is now well and truly bolloxed.


  1. If Belgians have no concept of personal space, then it has to be said some British people have no concept of healthy eating!

    Last week we heard about your attempts to purchase burger and chip and now we hear about your failed attempts to purchase chocolate. What next? Belgian ice cream made with double cream or cakes oozing with chocolate and more double cream.

    Could it be that the good Lord in heaven is trying to tell you something by your failed attempts? Namely, that He does not want you to become a portly gentleman as depicted in many a Dickens novel.

    Here in the UK the concept of 5 a day fruit and veg is being rammed into us with no avail.

    Hence British Political Scientist and other Brits roaming the street of Belgian looking for unhealthy delicacies.

    Ever heard of a an apple or perish the thought a salad?

  2. It is ironic that whilst Belgian chocolate is being sold here in the UK at a high price, the Belgians themselves are buying Mars bars and other non-Belgian chocolates.

    Does this suggest that Belgian chocolate is not all that it is cracked up to be, or is it the allure of the 'foreign' experience that is so appealing?

    I think it is the latter. Balzac wrote of the of the great allure and mystique of the unfamiliar and the contempt of the familiar which caused a women to leave her husband for the enticingly attractive foreigner just because he was foreign.

    It never ceases to amaze me that people are prepared to eat inferior foreign foods simply because it is foreign.

    I remember once an Indian lady told the late Lady Diana that her great attraction to eastern men and the mystique they seemed to hold was just a facade. "When you have to wash their underpants" she told Lady Diana" you will then realize that they are just the same as everyone else"!

    What has this got to do with Belgian chocolate? Nothing. But it's interesting all the same isn't it?

  3. I hope Gary, that the answer to that last question is a very definite no.

  4. You think a three piece cordoury suit is unstylist and unflattering. Then think again.

    What about you suited men's most awful casual clothes so many of you business men choose to wear in the evenings and at weekends.

    I'm talking about baggy ill fitting T shirts that have been washed over 50 times and with logos scrawled across them or pictures of strange objects. Not only that you choose to wear jeans and cargos so baggy that they slip down your bottom when you bend! And those underpants, I just won't go there!Then you have scruffy trainers that need a good wash.

    Whatever happened to shoes?

    I know you suited men want to relax at the weekends, but why cannot you do it with some style. Ever heard of Paul Smith?

    If I had my 3 minutes of fame in the European Parliament I would suggest that all men wear a uniform when they are not working. Every woman loves a man in a uniform and surely this European dress code for men not at work would be a darn sight good improvement on the awful, awful, absolutley awful clothes that the majority of you men choose to wear at the weekends.

    You can call my suggestion an infringement of human rights. Well, the way most of you men choose to dress when not suited is an affront to society, a spot on the beautiful landscape of Europe. Yes, I know beauty is skin deep but something stylish on the outside wouldn't do any harm would it?

    And what does Mr C and the average middle-aged Brit wear on a hot day at the weekend? A pair of casual beige shorts of questionable length I suspect with a long sleeved navy shirt, just so that nobody thinks he is being scruffy, a pair of woollen socks to keep his furry legs warm and of course the British fashion must a pair of open sandles!

  5. The little tuft of hair that is worn by some men under the lower lip that you mentioned is actually called a 'soul patch' or Royale and is considered quite fashionable at the moment, thanks to Brad Pitt.

    As we all know Hitler sported a 'toothbrush' moustache. Apparently it became very popular during the 30's and early 40's as a male fashion fad, as did Hilter's particular hair side parting. Many admirers of Hilter went to a lot of trouble to cultivate the Furhers' 'look'.
    You critisized this fashion statement at your peril.

    Whilst many ordinary Germans ridiculed Hitlers' moustache, his severe hairstyle and his constant high pitched shouting, one astute commentator however described Hitler as a 'dangerous clown'. Words which are a chilling reminder that simply laughing at out adversaries and mocking them will not neccessarily reduce their power.

    Adolf Hitler is a testament to that.

  6. You say Belgians have no concept of personal space. I would disagree.

    The fact is that Belgians concept of personal space is simply different to ours.

    Coming up too close and personal to another person is generally considered threatening to most British people. We find close contact with someone for whom we have not established an intimite relationship with bad manners and also somewhat creepy.

    There are exceptions in British society where suddenly becoming close to a stranger, like comforting a sick person in the street is considered acceptable, but these are unusual circumstances, not usual.

    I do remember the late Peter Sellars depicting the Belgian Sleuth 'The Pink Panther' constantly coming up nose to nose with British detectives and these detective's nervous backward steps, and Sellers' determined forward steps towards them as they tried to escape him. Very amusing!

    If European politics is one step foreward and one step backwards, no wonder there is misunderstandings, fear and suspician.

    If two people cannot settle what is considered acceptable 'personal space' between two people,then how are we going to work what is acceptable personal space between two nations?

    Politics is not only a game but a dance. Each must decide who is the 'leader' and who is to be 'led'. If both parties want to be the leader, theirin lies the age old problem of human history. Control,Control, Control.

  7. Well they say be careful for what you wish for, or not as the case may be.

    Tonight a 40 something business man asked me out. What was he wearing you might ask? A smart suit hand made by Saville Row or a co-ordinated sylish casual outfit?


    Just my luck! According to Brit fashion of the middle aged he wore a bright blue short sleeved cotton shirt(very smart) and a beige pair of shorts that were far too short for decency and yes,his feet were clad in open sandles. To top it all his legs were covered in thick layers of black fur.

    Serve me right for having a go at the way you businessmen dress at the weekends?

    Yes I quite agree!