Monday, 29 July 2013

The Passing Of A Great Friend....

Our dear friend Glynne Davies, a long standing stalwart of the expat community here in Brussels, passed away in his sleep last week, at the grand age of 99.

Born in Wales in 1914, a year of great significance of course, he spent much of the 1930s in London, before joining the London Welsh some months before the outbreak of the Second World war. Having taken part in the shooting down of his own commanding officer during an air raid at RAF Wattisham (where I myself served from 1979-1983, but sadly never had the opportunity to repeat Glynne's acheivement, as much as I may have wanted to...) he went on to take part in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, and was a part of the British force, serving under Montgomery, that liberated Brussels from the Germans in September 1944. He liked to keep busy....

He stayed in Brussels after the cessation of hostilities, where he married,  and raised his family. A highly cultured man, he loved literature (which he taught to a high level), music, and rugby. He was also quite partial to a glass of the amber nectar, and loved his fish n chips on a Friday lunchtime. I think that half the cod I have eaten in my lifetime has been in Glynne's company.
To the end, Glynne never lost his singing voice. He loved to sing, and would do so at the drop of a hat. He also loved to recite poetry. I discussed with Glynne the writings of Richard Llewellyn and Dylan Thomas, and the poems of Rupert Brooke and John McGee endlessly. The years were kind to Glynne, and although he could become melancholic sometimes, his mind remained very sharp, as did his sense of humour. He was very unhappy when he fell and hurt himself, and had to celebrate his 98th birthday in hospital. He hated hospitals, but it was a lovely afternoon, involving champagne and welshcakes (and rather too much chocolate cake!)

I will miss him very much.

Glynne survived both his wife and daughter, and he loved them dearly until his final day.

The funeral will take place at 12.30 on Thursday August 1st at Uccle. If any of Glynne's friends from the European Parliament or Place Lux need details, you will know how to contact me.

Many thanks to Randall Calvin for the photos, and if you want to hear about the Normandy landings from a man who was actually there, you can find Randall's interview with Glynn here....

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Brussels: To Get Even Uglier?

The Brussels administration appears to have given up on Place Jean Rey.

The fountains are not working - in the summer the local kids like to play in the fountains and goodness knows a bit of cool spray would be welcome at the moment. The drinking fountains have not worked for about 3 years, and the square is overgrown with weeds.

Its a shame. Its not the prettiest of public spaces, but there is so little of those in the district that it is a welcome diversion from all the high rise apartment blocks and expensive hotels that are going up in the area.

Ahhh.... of course!

And so I expect that we will see work start soon on the little square. Incidentally, the car park you can see at the top left of the picture is gone. In its place stands a ghastly looking high rise that is nearing completion. The small green space to the right of the red brick building is home to apartments and shops that are also nearing completion.

Brussels is effectively a giant building site floating on a sea of public subsidy. Given that the country is technically bankrupt, one has to wonder which public we are talking about here.

Isn't the EU wonderful?

Monday, 22 July 2013

Tin Tin Gets it Wrong.....

Being July 21st, yesterday was Belgian National Day, or Tin Tin's Birthday as we like to call it.

It was also a bloody scorcher, not a day for hanging around pointlessly in the sun for ages. Which is precisely what happened to a great many people yesterday.

The parade always starts at 2pm in Rue de la Loi, a few minutes walk from my home. So George and I took a stroll at about 1.45. Lots of people were there, with their little flags, and their faces painted in the national colours. But one thing was missing - the parade. It had been re-routed and re-timed, but there appears to have been a communication problem, and not everybody knew about it.

So we strolled down to Place du Luxembourg to grab a bite to eat.

It gets worse.

We were told that part of the parade would pass through the square, and so the local bars and eateries had taken on extra staff for the big event. Sadly, the fact that it had been re-timed to start at 5pm had not been communicated all that well, and so the extra staff were all there at the wrong time.

We gave up, shared a croque monsieur and went home.

The highlight of the day is always the flypast - now this I must admit is done really well. So a little before 5pm I headed off to Parc Cinquintinaire. From under the Triumphal Arch you get a stunning view of the aircraft as fly straight towards you. Cameras were all set up, there were a couple of film crews, lots of tourists asking when would it start, etc.

It started at about 5.30 or thereabouts. The trouble is, like the parade, it had been re-routed. The aircraft passed a mile or so to our south, but so low that the trees obscured everything. Possibly a bit more communication, chaps...... The format was also a bit strange - instead of the usual flypast they came over in dribs and drabs, and at inconsistent intervals.

All this disruption was because of the appointment of the new king yesterday morning. I hope he had a good view of the flypast, in fact I'm sure he did, the rest of us were a bit disappointed though.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Global Warming and How to Survive it.

Having spent many months complaining endlessly about the winter that would not go away, I have to say that it has been a bit too hot these last few days.

Apparently it hit 54 degrees in Death Valley last week, which is just 2 degrees short of the hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet.

There is a lot of talk in the European Parliament - as elsewhere - about global warming and how to mitigate it. They should ask me for advice, I know exactly how to mitigate the effects of global warming.


I particularly recommend something called Leffe Ruby. Not the most widely available of Belgian beers, but worth tracking down. For my many readers in the EP, if you haven't found it yet you can do so in the Grapevine in Place du Luxembourg.

There will be a lot of global warming mitigation taking place this weekend, I suspect, as Sunday is Belgian national day, which means a day of excessive joy and celebration. I particularly enjoy watching the troops muster in the burning sun before the big parade. I generally do this whilst sitting on a terrace with an ice cold glass of said mitigation in my hand and thinking to myself "thank f**k I don't have to do that anymore!".

This will of course be a national day tinged with sadness for many Belgians as King Albert will officially abdicate. I find that a strange day to choose, but this is Belgium and they do things differently here. There is even a Rue de l'abdication here in Brussels. Apparently it was named in honour of the day a previous and much loved king, named after a sausage, abdicated temporarily so that a law concerning abortion could be passed and he would not have his reign tainted by something that would offend his catholic sensibilities.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

We Are The Teds!!!

Just perfect................................

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Symbolic Policy & The Eton Rifles.

If a party knows that it has no hope of forming a government, it does have the luxury of being able to say absolutely anything it wants safe in the knowledge that it will never have to deliver the goods. We call this symbolic policy.

UKIP are in this position, and they have got the Tories running from pillar to post trying desperately to find something that they can be sincere about that might challenge Flash 'Arry and the boys.

UKIP can say, for example, that they will stop Romanians at the border, or that they will tear up the treaties, or that they are both for and against HS2 at the same time depending on who they are speaking to. It doesn't matter, as they will never be in a position to do anything about it. The Tories, however, are in government, and so they are somewhat constrained by the fact that they could actually do something if they wanted to.

And there is the rub: they don't want to.

The Conservative Party administers the UK on behalf of a relatively small number of very wealthy interests. Romanian immigration would actually be good for these guys, as increased demand for housing would mean higher land values and higher rental income, the latter being mostly at taxpayer's expense as most newcomers tend to have their rent subsidised by housing benefit.

So the Tories have 3 policy options.

1. Say nothing, and let UKIP do all the running.

2. Make promises with absolutely no intention of honouring them - the cast iron guarantee of a referendum on Lisbon comes to mind.

3. Tell the electorate what they want to hear, and then do it.

The latter option, of course, is highly unlikely to materialise, not least because any significant action will require resources that could otherwise be diverted to those interests I referred to earlier.

Possibly the most unspectacular abortion in recent political history was the attempted smear campaign launched against UKIP just a few days before the local elections. Such a campaign needs at least 3-4 weeks to be effective, and I have to wonder who is advising the Eton Rifles at this particular moment in time.

The 2009 Euro elections, at which UKIP won 13 seats, was defined by expenses scandals, and it was this that hit the 3 main parties hardest. UKIP know that this is what won them those seats. What is not often reaslised is that UKIP themselves were implicated. Just a few days before the elections the Sun ran a story about a UKIP MEP who, despite his claims to the contrary, was employing a member of his family, and also had staffers from his own company on the parliament payroll. It was, however, too late to have any impact. I would have thought that there might be somebody in Central Office who would remember this, but apparently not.

The run up to the next euro elections will be interesting, although I would suspect that the Tories are resigned to the fact that they will do badly. I don't expect the Tories to spend too much on the elections - they will be more concerned about the next General election.

Whether or not David Cameron will still be at the helm next time is questionable - It probably depends on how much a certain media mogul is prepared to spend on revenge between now and then.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Child Euthanasia In Belgium?

This is a subject I have researched in some depth, whilst researching a short series of articles on poverty in Belgium for EU Reporter back in 2010.

Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, as it is in the Netherlands. In the latter case, this extends to the right of two medical experts to make a decision to termiate the life of a new-bon child without reference to the parents. Didn't we fight a war against people like this during the last century?

I uncovered testimony from a Belgian nurse stating that in her hospital there was a 'Friday clear out' whereby those with little chance of getting through the weekend would be given a bit of help, thus freeing up hospital beds. There was also an account of a woman screaming and begging not to be given a lethal injection.

They do things differently in the Benelux countries, apparently.

Now Belgium is considering extending the right to die concept to children. Too young to vote, too young to drink or smoke, but apparently old enough to make the decision to have their young lives ended by a doctor.

Am I alone in finding this deeply disturbing?