Monday, 28 June 2010

The 9:15 to Bedlam

What is it about being in Brussels that makes people act so stupidly? Almost every day I see something that amazes me, and today is no exception. I note that a sign has appeared on the front door of the European Parliament effectively explaining to people that it is not a train station. Is that an easy mistake to make? I don't think so.

I can't imagine anybody entering central lobby at Westminster and asking where they can get a train to Ipswich, for example. Here is a picture of the European Parliament - does it like like a train station?

Apparently the mistake is made often enough here for the apparatchiks to feel the need to put up a sign about it.

There must be something in the water, I guess.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Told you so!

 Maybe I should become a football pundit... my predictions about England's chances in the World Cup were pretty accurate! But then I guess it doesn't take an expert to work out what will happen - poor performance and lame excuses.

What really annoys me is that millions of young English kids look on these guys as role models. And what do they get? Talentless and whinging overpaid no-hopers.

England's World Cup bid, let us remember, started with a goalkeeper who dropped the ball, conceding a goal. Now I can accept that even professional goalies make mistakes - maybe they dive the wrong way, or they misjudge the curve of the ball. They are not, however, at this level, supposed to drop the f*****g football!

Wayne Rooney, who we are told is a good footballer, played like a crumpet, and had the gall to criticise the England fans, who had paid a lot of money to go and see him play, for booing his appalling performance. Perhaps he should take early retirement like the rest of his dysfunctional family who effectively retired the day they left school.

That was below pathetic. 3 goals in 4 games? This was the World Cup finals, chaps. Less than minimum effort won't cut it. Thats why you are all going home in disgrace.

It is telling that the pundits are even getting nostalgic for the days of David Beckham. Ah yes... David Beckham, who tripped over whilst running up to take a vital penalty in a key match.

As for Fabrice Acappela or whatever his name is, he resembles a cross between Freddie Garrity and a Thunderbirds puppet. He has reassured us, apparently, that he will not be resigning. Well that's a bloody shame.

Friday, 25 June 2010

The highlight of the World Cup so far was sitting in the middle of a huge group of German fans, cheering for Serbia. I suspect that one may come back to bite me on the ar*e on Sunday.

I tried to explain to a Spanish friend after the game the very special relationship we English enjoy with the Germans. It may be something to do with working in the EU institutions, but I really do get the impression that we Brits are the only people in Europe to have any accurate recollection of the 20th century whatsoever. I find those old UKIP myths about Europe tediously dull, but it is absolutely true that in the European Parliament WW2 has been referred to as the "European Civil War". It is also the case that there were, apparently, no Germans involved at all. It was the Nazis, you see!

But surely my favourite moment was during a meeting of the EP Security and Defence sub-committee back in 2004. The Ukrainian "Orange Revolution" was in full swing, and there were real concerns that Russia might invade in order to partition the country. A rather fat German MEP stood up and called for the EU to send troops to act as a "blocking force".

There was a flaw in this plan... the EU did not actually have an army.

I was reminded of another mad German politician, 60 years before, who wanted to send non-existent troops to stop the Russians.

Politics: only the faces change!

The photo, incidentally, has nothing to do with the story, but aren't they great :)

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Perks of the job.

My job is not without its perks, I have to admit. The main one is that I get to share my days with some of the most highly educated and well-connected people in Europe, something that makes even living in Belgium worthwhile.

And so it was that I got to watch the opening game of the World Cup with the ambassadors of South Africa, Namibia, and the Congo. This was followed by a fascinating conversation with a charming poet from Sierra Leone, and then dinner with my closest friends. Not even a night out in the Old Kent Road can beat that.

As I write, England have yet to play their first game, so I suppose we can look forward to a few days of broken feet, yellow cards, and missed penalties. This will inevitibly be followed by the usual agonising "If Alaska lose by more than 8 goals to Peru, and if Germany draw against Hawaii, and if we can beat Tongo, we can still qualify for the quarter finals on goal difference..."

I've got a great strategy for the rebirth of English football. Score goals, win games. Its surely that simple.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

I wish I hadn't signed a contract with Belgacom

Think back to the 1970s, when telephone services in the UK were run by the GPO. It was pretty dire, right?

Fast forward to the 21st century, and in Belgium we have something called "Belgacom". Now imagine the GPO, but without any desire to help their customers at all, and you might get an idea of what it is like trying to get anything to work.

Belgacom controls everything in my home - TV, telephone, internet access, the lot. I consider it to be a bit too expensive, but what really irritates me are all the little boxes and the miles of wiring that fill my home to service all this technology.

If anything goes down, it is a nightmare to get it fixed. We had to call an engineer out recently - the call out was free, "but you 'ave to pay 70 euros because 'ee was zere..." Their box was broken, but I had to pay.

Tonight I wanted to watch the news. I have about 100 channels - all pure garbage - except for BBC1, which is the only channel I look at. Tonight the service is "temporairement indisponible", which is French for "It don't work". None of it works, the whole service is off the air. Nearly 100 euros a month, and it doesn't bloody work.

I used to get TCM as part of the package, which meant I could at least watch an old, half-decent movie from time to time.  Without any reference to me, the customer, it was withdrawn, and now I have Al Jazeera, and some other Arabic channel that I have no interest in whatsoever. I suppose this reflects the changing demographics in Belgium. I would complain, but that would make me a racist, of course.

Every expat, of whatever nationality, has their own story about wasted days waiting for a Belgacom engineer, call-out charges, hostile customer services, etc. 

I only wanted to watch the bloody news, I can't even do that in this dump.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Taking to the streets!

Some years ago I took part in a protest outside a police station in Minsk. This was probably one of the hairiest of political activities I have ever engaged in, but I have to admit it was all rather good fun. Certainly more fun than getting one's head cracked open on the streets of St Petersburg for being gay, or for exercising the right to protest in public, as guaranteed under Article 31 of the constitution.

On Monday, the Green Party organised a small protest outside the Russian mission to the EU, to show solidarity with the Russian protesters, who were at that very moment being beaten about the head, and having their extremities fed to large police dogs.

The Belgian police showed up, and of course would not allow us near the mission. When I say "us", actually I have to admit that they had no problem with me, as I was wearing a suit. The Greens were wearing what Greens usually wear, and so the police moved them away from the mission. And so it was, in true Belgian style, we demonstrated against human rights abuses in Russia outside a Metro station.