Category Archives: avenue Jeanne

Monday 4th November 2013 – THE DEED IS DONE

Marianne’s apartment has now been sold and her estate liquidated. And when I see just the amounts to which everyone seems to have helped himself, there isn’t much of it left. “Vultures picking over the bones of a corpse” is what immediately springs to mind, and the metaphor seems to be quite apt. “Give everything that is left to the poor” said Marianne, and that’s what I will do, but I can’t help feeling that the poor are going to be rather disillusioned with the Vultures of Belgium.

First thing this morning was to roll up the mattress and bedding and have that ready to go. Second thing was to go to the DiY shop and purchase a new rubber gasket for the sink waste pipe outlet. I’ve fitted that and now the sink drains much better. Everything else that was hanging around went into the last cardboard box and the waste bin, and I put all of that outside along with the plants while I vacuumed everywhere.

The next-to-last thing that I did was to have a shower and to clean the bathroom and to pack up the suitcase of clothes. That went outside along with the shower curtain, and the final task was to read all of the meters.

Fetching Caliburn, I loaded all of the stuff up, and there wasn’t much room for anything else after that. I’d judged it quite fine. It’s a good job I wasn’t intending to take the plants with me – they are decorating the hall of the building now for people to do what they will with them.

I found a quiet nook and settled down with a good book until the relevant moment, and that was that. And I do recall saying to my lawyer as we left the building at the end “I won’t say a definitive goodbye to you, because I said that a couple of years ago and I still ended up coming back, but maybe we shall meet agin, a long time before Philippi”

I still have a few things to do in Brussels, not the least of which being to cancel the standing order about the payments to the apartment and also some things for Marianne, but that will have to wait for another time as I’ve rather lost interest in it all for now. I was on the motorway and out of that accursed nation.

At Melun, I stopped for fuel as usual but my friendly neighbourhood kebab house was closed. That was a disaster. However Dominos Pizza place was open and I ended up with yet another pizza vegetariana. And goodbye to the vegan cheese because I forgot to nip over the road earlier and buy some more.

But back on the motorway, round about midnight I was just overwhelmed with sleep and I’ve no idea why. I can’t keep going like I used to. Nothing for it but to pull off the highway and have a kip. I’m getting old.

Sunday 3rd November 2013 – AND IN A CHANGE OF PLAN …

… I’ve been working today. Or, rather, what remained of today by the time that I got up. I wasn’t in much of a rush seeing as it’s Sunday.

Today was the day that absolutely everything that remained in the apartment, with the exception of what I want tomorrow morning, can be packed up and made ready to go. And not just that either – no-one came for the video and audio cassettes so I bagged them up into rubbish sacks and stuck the video cassettes in with the rubbish downstairs. The audio cassettes I put outside on the pavement with the broken clothes drier and, true to form, they disappeared during the course of the day.

The bed I dismantled – I’ll be sleeping on the mattress on the floor tonight, and the coffee and dining room tables I dismantled and wrapped in clingfilm – I can see the uses of this stuf during furniture removals.

So with all of that done, I bought myself a pizza (I shan’t be cooking again in here) and sat down to watch some gridiron until the late evening when it all went quiet. Then I went off down the road to rescue Caliburn and started descending all of the boxes in the lift (there were 7 lift-loads in all and I was hoping for no more than 5). It was at that moment that the concierge started to wash the hallway floor – 23:00 hours. He wasn’t pleased about me blocking the hallway, just as I wasn’t pleased about him washing the hallway at that time of night. He told me to put my stuff outside. Well, like I’m really going to do that in the pouring rain so I told him in no uncertain terms what he coud do with his broom handle and this led to yet another contretemps (long-term readers of this rubbish will know only to well that this is not the first contretemps that I have had with this ignorant peasant, but I digress)

So Caliburn is now almost fully-loaded, with more stuff that I was hoping to take back but there you are, and tomorrow is the final day, but we haven’t quite finished yet. The sink in the kitchen has now totally blocked up and there was no way of emptying it. Dropping my tea into the sink twice last week hadn’t helped. Taking the drain plug out of the elbow didn’t improve matters very much and so I bit the bullet and dismantled the entire system from the sink down to the main drain. And here was the culprit. Just in the downpipe from the sink, everything was all clogged up with a sub-human mass of congealed whatever that must have been there for a hundred years and Yours Truly was there for a good half hour chiselling it out.

So having finally dealt with what was left of Quatermass’s Experiment and seeing that the water was now draining out a hundred times better, I reassembled everything only to find that I’ve torn the rubber gasket that connects the downpipe to the sink and there’s quite a leak.

Ahh well – off to the DiY shop in the morning, I suppose. I could have done without this.

Saturday 2nd November 2013 – WHEN THE ALARM WENT OFF THIS MORNING …

… I just rolled over and went back to sleep. Somehow I couldn’t summon up the energy to leave my comfy little bed here.

And when I finally did wake up, I decided that I would have something of an informal day of rest and not do too much. That was the cue for coffee in bed and a James Bond film, together with a good book.

That took me through until lunchtime and then I nipped out to the local shops for the baguette and the bits and pieces that I shall need for the journey home next week. Hard to think that this is effectively my final shopping expedition in Brussels, although I’ve said things like that before.

This evening, I went out again. No football in the Netherlands border area this evening, and none in the German border area either. There was however a match at the Argosstadionachterdekaserne, the home of KV Mechelen, where the home team was to entertain Zulte-Waregem.

Argosstadionachterdekaserne kv mechelen zulte waregem 2 novembre 2013 belgium jupiler leaguePeople, including Yours Truly, do say that Belgians have no sense of humour, but you would be forgiven for thinking differently when you see the sign over the entrance gate to the stadium. You can tell that KV Mechelen aren’t doing so well in the league at the moment.

But the stadium itself, which must qualify for having one of the longest names in mainstream football, wasn’t easy to find. It was hemmed in right in the middle of an area of what would be in the UK some kind of Victorian working-class terraced housing and it did remind me of going to a football match in the UK back in the good old days of when all stadia used to be like this.

There was however some easy – and free – parking on the old railway goods yard about 500 metres away, and there were even a couple of marshalls to help everyone. Long time since I’ve seen this kind of thing.

The next thing was something of a shock though – unlike at Breda in the Netherlands last week, the stadium doesn’t accept payments by card – it’s cash only. And I wish now that I had paid with a card at the supermarket this afternoon rather than with cash. The nearest cash point was 1500 metres away, so I was told, and me with a bad foot too after my exploits with the coffee table earlier in the week. I didn’t need any of this. Mind you it was a good job that I arrived early.

Argosstadionachterdekaserne kv mechelen zulte waregem 2 novembre 2013 belgium jupiler league
So having procured a ticket, at €16:00, it was into the ground. And this was a surprise as well. A First Division game in one of Europe’s leading national leagues and the stadium had probably over 50% of its capacity as standing. When was the last time that you ever heard of this?

And as for the stadium itself, you can tell that they’ve never heard of the Taylor Report in Belgium either because this place wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in England following the report on the condition of English football grounds after the fire at Bradford City. It really was like stepping back in time to the early 1970s in English football and you have no idea how comfortable it felt to be standing up on the terraces.

Argosstadionachterdekaserne kv mechelen zulte waregem 2 novembre 2013 belgium jupiler leagueBut I don’t care what anyone in authority has to say – the fans are totally correct in their opinion of all-seater stadia. With so many standees in the ground, the atmosphere really was electric for the entire 90 minutes and the Mechelen fans must be the noisiest that I have ever heard at a modern football match.

The Powers That Be want everyone to be seated at a football match as in a theatre or a cinema, and give polite applause whenever someone does anything merit-worthy and to keep quiet the rest of the game. That is total nonsense and is what has ruined the game as a spectator sport. Football is all about noise and atmosphere, 90 minutes of bedlam on the terraces, and you can’t do that sitting down. And it’s not just about the merit-worthy actions either. When Zulte-Waregem’s n°3 went down rather too easily and for far too long right under the referee’s nose and on the “popular side” after a challenge early in the game, the Mechelen fans were on his back for the rest of the match with whistles, jeers and abuse to such an extent that his captain swapped him over to the other, more sedate side of the field.

THAT is what real football is about.

People might think that that is being grossly unfair to the footballers concerned. Four or five years ago I remember Craig Bellamy being quite upset about the abuse that he was receiving from the crowd. Firstly, I don’t ever recall him complaining or being upset when the fans of his team were dishing it out to an opposing footballer, and secondly, I will gladly go and stand out in the middle of a football pitch for a whole 90 minutes and let 30,000 people hurl as much abuse as they like about me and my family for only 25% of the money that he is on.

Argosstadionachterdekaserne kv mechelen zulte waregem 2 novembre 2013 belgium jupiler leagueAs for the football however, we had a torrential rainstorm and a 2-2 draw, the result being a fair reflection of the balance of the play. And the best player on the field was the Zulte-Waregem centre-forward who scored both his team’s goals. A different class of player than the others on the field.

I’d seen a Turkish Fritkot on my way into town and so I stopped off there and, sure enough, they conjured up a plate of falafel and fritjes. I enjoyed them too, especially as I felt that I had earned them. I’ll miss all of that when I leave. But I’ll have to come back ina couple of weeks though – there’s a book sale in the car park and I must add to my collection a copy of “Honkie and Ponkie On The Moon”.

I’m depressed though about how much Vlaams I’ve forgotten, I really am. I must do something about this.

Friday 1st November 2013 – IT’S A BANK HOLIDAY HERE TODAY.

But not for me – I have work to do.

Now that the cleaner has finished, I can review the packing situation, especially as, on my travels yesterday to buy my bread, I liberated a pile of wooden boxes.

Everything was unpacked from the cardboard boxes and repacked in the wooden or plastic ones. There are two types of boxes – those that are wanted as soon as I get home, and those that can wait for whenever. The idea is that the least urgent stuff will be crammed right down at the far end of Caliburn and the more urgent stuff put closer to the doors. That way it will all be to hand.

You’ve no idea how long it took to do all of this – much longer than I thought – and then of course I had to dismantle the empty cardboard boxes. But at least now there’s plenty of space available in the apartment and it looks more like a furniture removal job.

For tea I had the last of the aubergine casserole that I had made earlier. Then, having washed the pot and the plates, they all went into a box. Tomorrow I’m out and Sunday I’ll have a pizza that I can eat out of a box with my fingers. I’ve officially finished cooking.

Thursday 31st October 2013 – THE CLEANER …

… came round this morning right on time and was here for about 4 hours. I did what I could to help, but that wasn’t all that much and it was clear that I was in the way and so I skulked off to my little room and stayed there, just occasionally giving advice and assisitance.

I can’t say that I’m too impressed with what she did, to be honest. I was expecting a much more thorough job that this, but she did more in four hours than I would have been able to do in four years and so I can’t complain too much.

The purchaser turned up with a workman later. He wants to have the parquet floor sanded and polished, and needed an estimate. I didn’t have any good reason not to let them in and so in they came. It rather disrupted my plans a little, but that’s what plans are for, of course. And after they went, I cleaned a few of the more obvious places that the cleaner had missed.

There wasn’t much time left after that and so I had tea and called it a night. An early night with a good book is always a good idea every so often.

Wednesday 30th October 2013 – IT WAS THE TURN OF THE TROC …

… to come around this morning. They were earlier than anticipated, something that took me very much by surprise, and I wasn’t really ready, but I wasn’t going to send them away. Of course not! Two of them, there were, and they worked quite rapidly to empty the place. It didn’t take them too long to dismantle the big wall unit either, and that soon disappeared into the back of their van.

What impressed me though was how they managed to move the wardrobe in the cellar. It was a little rickety and I was half-expecting them to dismantle it, but no – they had a huge roll of clingfilm and they wrapped it in that. You’ve no idea just how rigid that made it, and when I expressed my admiration, they gave me what remained of the roll, which was an unexpected bonus. 40 years and more I’ve been furniture-removing – I wish I had thought of this before.

After they had gone, I needed to arrange a cleaner. The estate agents had given me a phone number and in the end I was put in touch with a woman who would come at 09:00 tomorrow. Perfect timing, of course, and so I didn’t hesitate. That’s one more job crossed off the list of things to do.

Back to the cellar and that had a thorough going-over. I can forget about that from now on. I went back upstairs and took down all the curtains. The cleaner will need to be able to get to the windows.

But the apartment is now fairly empty, and when I talk out loud to myself I can hear an echo echo echo.

Tuesday 29th October 2013 – ST VINCENT DE PAUL …

… came around today. Not the Saint in person, but some members of his charitable association. They took away the stuff that the Troc didn’t want and which hadn’t sold on the internet. They were quite pleased with what they had won, which made me quite happy because I was quite pleased to let them have it. I did ask them what Vincent’s sister Lynsey was up to these days but that went clean over their heads. No sense of humour, these Belgians.

It had taken me all morning to sort out the stuff for them and make sure that it was properly packed and boxed – we don’t want all of the stuff falling out all over the place and down the stairs. And now at least the place is looking a little emptier now and I can start to move things around and try to sort out the cleaning. It isn’t that easy when the place is overwhelmed with all kinds of stuff.

Now that I have nowhere to sit I’ve had to make a little kind-of studio in the smallest bedroom. Sitting on the bed and a plant across a box on top of the coffee table to make a raised table. But that was not without its problems either. I didn’t realise that the coffee table had a drawer in it until I turned it on its side to pass it through the door into the bedroom.And there was I in barefeet too. I’ve done myself a serious mischief now – toenail all broken and the big toe all various shades of red and black and I’m in agony with this.

I’ve also been down in the cellar. The wardrobe out of here needs to go and so the cellar needs to be emptied. Having seen the hoops that one has to go through in order to get the local council to come and take the stuff away I simply bought a pile of white sacks and spent a happy hour or two crusing up rubbish and filling the sacks. There’s a huge load of them and that will upset the concierge when he has to put them out for the bin men tomorrow morning, but that’s what he’s paid for, after all.

But at least the only thing in the cellar that doesn’t need to be there is this wardrobe, and that will hopefully be going tomorrow.

Monday – 28th October 2013 – MORE OF THE SAME

Yes, back to work today. And to carry on from where I left off on Saturday, and every other day (apart from Sunday) since I’ve been here, I was up long before the alarm went off.

The washing machine is going on Wednesday and so I’ve sent most of the day doing a mega-wash of clothes and the like, making sure that everything is clean. All that hasn’t been washed is the stuff that is going to the clothing bins, and also the curtains, because it’s very hard to do those when you have builders not 6 feet away from where you are trying to work.

I’ve reaired a few pieces of furniture too – stuff that is also being collected by the guy from the Troc on Wednesday. The better it is and the better the condition in which it finds itself, the more money I’ll receive for it.

The notaire has also been on the telephone with a list of things to do, and a eadline by which I need to do them. I’ve totally forgotten that it’s a bank holiday here on Friday, so that’s one less day that I have to do stuff. This is all closing in on me rather rapidly.

Friday 25th October 2013 – I’VE FINALLY FOUND …

… the Acte de Base, or title deeds, to the apartment here. And a few people are going to be in for something of a surprise because, if you remember from a while back when I had a run-in with the Syndic of the building about one or two matters, I find that I am completely correct in my assumptions and it seems, to my legally-untutored eye, that the Syndic has been ripping off poor Marianne for years. I shall have to look further into this, itemise where I think that there are problems, and invite an explanation.

It might be, of course, that I have simply misunderstood things. On the other hand, there might be five fingers. But it does prove the value of tidying up. Maybe I should do it more often.

Apart from that, I’ve binned another pile of papers that I was keepig on Marianne’s behalf. All that remains is some stuff that relates to an incident in her life that dates from 1996 and which I shall have to look into in due course, and some insurance details which I am 99.9% sure are of no value whatever but nevertheless need to be followed up.

So, what else? Not much. I’ve been fairly busy but I’ve not really accomplished all that much. I need to get a move on.

Thursday 24th October 2013 – THE MAN FROM THE TROC …

… came around this morning as promised and went through the furniture. He doesn’t want all of it and for what he does want, his terms are hardly generous, but then I’ve been trying to sell this stuff for a couple of months and only some of the stuff has gone, and I’ve really no idea what to do with the rest and it has to be gone by next weekend and so I have to cut my losses and move it on. I’m playing for much bigger stakes than a couple of hundred Euros.

I also had a phone call from the church of St Vincent de Paul. They could well be interested in what is left over, and they have a van slot free for 10:30 next Tuesday. Consequently, that will be the rest of the stuff gone, and what is left over after all of that will be out on the street on Wednesday evening, either for the dustbin men or for whoever it is that goes a-wandering past.

And apart from that, I’ve been tidying up again. I need to keep on top of all of this.

Wednesday 23rd October 2013 – I MENTIONED A CHANGE …

CITY FACADES av jeanne 1050 bruxelles belgium… about the property just now, didn’t I? This is what greeted me when I arrived – the building is shrouded in a cover and the facade is under repair. But what a repair! There are two men up on the scaffolding filling in the holes in the wall. There are two men down at the foot mixing the cement. There are another two men fastening the buckets of cement to ropes, using open hooks, and, standing in the roadway, pulling down on the ropes to raise the buckets.

No means of security – it just wants a moment’s distraction for a bucket to crash down on the head of a passer-by, someone leaving the building, or a car on the road. Or even on what is laughingly described as a workman, because not one of them is wearing any safety gear like a helmet or steel toecapped shoes. I asked one of them what he thought about the conditions of work but he just smiled at me. Closer inspection of the scaffolding revealed that it’s from a company called Delta in Warsaw. Clearly City Facade consider workers from Eastern Europe to be by and large expendible on their chantiers.

Internet was the next issue. The sum that Marianne owes is enormous and I’ve rather had my fill of paying for Marianne’s debts just now. The good news is that being right next to the University there’s a wifi hotspot that bleeds over here. It’s payable, like anything else in this Godforsaken country, but if I go for a minimum service (which is really all that I need) it’s quite good value for a fortnight’s subscrition – much better than any other deal I’ve been offered. However, while I was at Proximus, they were selling open-network wifi dongles for just €40 and, as you know, I have the right to wifi access on my French, my British and my Canadian sim card. Canadian access is not so important now that there is free wifi at Tim Horton’s, but the rest will come in handy.

I’ve also spent most of the afternoon on the phone. There’s a guy from a troc coming round to see the furniture that is available, but as far as charities go, theres no-one interested in the rest. It’s astonishing. Most of them want me to photograph the stuff and give a full description before they come to collect it. Obviously, as my friend Erika says, beggars CAN be choosers. But one thing about this is that it all beggars belief. No wonder people don’t donate stuff any more if they have to jump through hoops like this.

Friday 23rd August 2013 – CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP

Yes folks, it’s me again. Eating humble pie once more, ad we aren’t talking Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton either. Cécile made it back to Nantes by 18:30 which, seeing as how she had her mother with her, she was fully-loaded, she didn’t know the route and she had to pass via Paris, that’s pretty impressive going for all of 700-odd kilometres. Take a bow, Cécile.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I spent most of the day tidying and cleaning, apart from lunch when I went to the Place Flagey for lunch with Esi and her boyfriend. Esi and I had a good chat about people that we had met during our time at Uni together and about what we were doing these days. After that tough, we all went back to my pied-à-terre in the city because their plans up to date were that they were staying with friends until Sunday and then having to book a hotel for the rest of their stay – a silly idea if you ask me with Marianne’s apartment standing empty and needing some kind of presence.

So having shown them around and explained things, they cleared off and I carried on with the cleaning. But not quite for in one of those “100 things that only Eric can do”, I managed to switch on the coffee machine to make the drink for my flask, and not put the bowl underneath it, so I ended up with a kitchen awash with coffee.

But anyway, as 19:00 came around I fetched Caliburn and loaded him up, and now I’m off to the Place Flagey to give Esi the keys.

Thursday 22nd August 2013 – I’M HERE ON MY …

… own now. Cécile and her mum were up and about and wide-awake quite early and we were on the road for 8:45. I took Cécile to the motorway and pointed her in the right direction for Paris, but I’ve had no news since. She’s on course to turn up in Berlin some time in 2017.

I’ve been catching up with some paperwork (and not by any means with all of it) and that took me until well after midday and then I had to end up drawing a ground plan of the basement seeing as how there isn’t one ad we still need to sort out the cellar. And so armed with that, I went off to the notaires where we finally signed the compromis – meanig of course that a potential purchaser of the apartment is now locked in. Only a major catastrophe can release him from his commitment ow, but I’m not under any illusions as, what with one thing and another, I know all about catastrophes following my recent experiences.

Back home I crashed out for a hour or two and I’m not surprised. I’ve had a stressful week or two.

This evening though, I have done something that I haven’t done for years and years and years, and that is that I sat down and watched television. Belgian TV was broadcasting The Good, The Bad, And The Aardvark. That’s a film that ought to be in the top 10 of anyone’s film collection – one of the greatest films of all time – and not only do I own a copy I have watched it time and time again and in dozens of different edits. But I have to say that I have never seen this edit before, and it contains sequences that I have never ever seen. Furthermore, the added scenes go a long way to filling in the numerous holes in the story – holes that have always puzzled me.

Yes, I was fascinated by this, from start to finish.

But there are still holes in the story, and one day someone might get around to releasing the full unedited version.

Wednesday 21st August 2013 – Cécile’s car …

… is ow fully-loaded ready for the off ad by the time may of you read this (like tomorrow mornig) she ad her mum will be well on their way.

Caliburn is still fully-loaded but with a different load aboard. This morning we went off to deliver a table to a woman who had bought it over the internet. That freed up a good deal of space inside the van and with the dosh we went off to the Bois de la Cambre and the Chateau Robinson to spend our ill-gotten gains.

ferry chateau robinson lake bois de la cambreYou’ve see loads of photos of the Chateau Robinson, from my other visits there in the past and so that you kow that it’s on an island and reached by a ferry, such as the one in this photo, across the lake.

Even keener readers will recall that some time over Christmas 2011 I had a chat with none other than the present King of the Belgians, and if that little bit of shameless name-dropping doesn’t earn me any Brownie Points then there is no justice in this world.

cecile desmarest fabienne desmarest bois de la cambre brusselsCecile’s mum had never been on the ferry, of course, and as she is a keen boatsperson, she was quite enthusiastic about the trip, and who can blame her?

Back here, the apartment is even more empty as the divan and easy chair have disappeared inside Caliburn. Cécile is having them for her new house, wherever that may be.

And that is that. Things are winding down here. It won’t be long before I’m going as well.

Tuesday 20th August 2013 – I’M WHACKED

Cécile and I have just finished loading Caliburn and he’s now parked up back in his little spec down the road. Julie’s bookcase is in there, and so are Clare’s wicker objects and Cécile’s dismantled desk. There are piles of boxes too, some for Liz.

I had another dream last night. I don’t remember much about it but I was in a scrapyard looking for a car battery and they had a white battery that they were using to check out all of the electrical equipment. For some reason it was that battery that interested me more than any other and so I insisted on having it. They were obliged to check it and test it in front of me before I paid them the money.

Anyway this morning I went and reserved my voyage to Canada and then to Greece. I bitterly regret that the branch of my travel agents that used to be up at IKEA has closed down – instead, I went to the one just around the corner and that was a mistake. Up there, they were always competent but here they don’t have the same esprit and during one attempt to do my booking, the girl had me arriving back at Paris on 7th October in order to take a aeroplane out to Greece on the previous day. And then, of course, the computer system crashed, didn’t it? That just was’t my morning. Unfortuately I’m having to fly Air Transat – the equivalent of long-distance Ryanair – and that is something that I vowed that I would ever do again after my voyage of 2011 but havig left my booking so late and having lost the benefit of my half-price voucher (it expired when I was here helping Marianne), flying by Air France was not an option (and I’ve just realised that I haven’t ordered my special meal).

Back here in the afternoon we sorted out all of the books and took four boxes to the second-hand bookshop. He chose about 25 out of them, and gave me €45 for those. Now I wasn’t half impressed with that – if I had received that for all of them I would have been well-impressed – and so with no further ado, the rest went to Oxfam.

And back here, we packed up and loaded.

It’s much more empty now and we can move around. But there’s still far too much stuff here for my liking and the sooner it all goes, the better.