… out and about on my travels again this afternoon.
A little saunter up into town took me to the railway station and my train, but I wasn’t going to Aarschot and neither was I going to Antwerp Central railway station either, but seeing that it’s nearly Christmas, I’ve actually just been to Nazaret.
I consider that to be a highly appropriate place to visit at this time of year.
You’re probably wondering just where Nazaret might be, and what there might be to see in Nazaret to attract my attention.
The fact is that Nazaret can be reached by train from Leuven and a good brisk half-hour walk at the side of the railway line and then along the road in the direction of Lisp, and I’m sure that you think that I’m joking too.
But I’m not
What there actually is in Nazaret, or actually in Lisp because it’s apparently across the commune’s border, is the Herman Vanderpoortenstadion, otherwise known as Het Lisp, and that’s the home ground of Lierse SK, the football club of Lier.
That’s my destination for today, because OH Leuven are playing there today. Everyone tells me that I ought to get out more, and so going to watch OH Leuven fits into that plan.
The stadium is quite a modern stadium and there was a fair crowd in here today. The atmosphere was good – quite noisy, which makes a change from Tubize the other day.
I was sitting in the stand at the back of the goals with a pile of old men (somehow it seemed quite appropriate) and there can’t be anything more Belgian that sitting in a stand at a Second-Division football match clutching a bag of fritjes
It’s another place where there’s no fritkot between the station and the football ground and that’s a rather desperate state of affairs here in Belgium.
I’m glad that I arrived at the ground in plenty of time because one of the most exciting features of the game is the pre-match entertainment.
We actually had some cheerleaders out there dancing away. Something of a motley crew rather like the ones whom I saw in that diner on the Interstate near Bangor, Maine, a few years ago, but cheerleaders just the same.
It was a shame that their routine was rather sedate, but nevertheless it warmed me up a little.
We also had a parade and a triumphal arch with enormous flags to welcome out the players to the pitch. It reminded me like something of a Nuremburg Rally in the mid 1930s.
But I did have a little smile about the standard bearers. And I’m sure that you don’t need me to describe them because you can imagine them yourself, but I will do all the same.
They were all probably in their late 20s and 30s, large, overweight and wearing glasses and you’ll see them in every similar organisation carrying buckets and that kind of thing.
As for the match itself, it started slowly but gradually through the first half OH Leuven began to impose themselves.
The more pressure that OH Leuven applied, the more apparent it became that it was the Keystone Cops playing in the Lierse SK defence. If you thought that Pionsat’s defence was chaotic at times, you haven’t seen anything yet.
But if Lierse SK had the Keystone Cops in defence, OH Leuven had Laurel and Hardy playing up front. To give you just one example of many, Casagolda missed a free header into an empty net from three yards out and his striking partner, the big Macedonian striker Jovan Kostovski following up, shot into the side netting when it was far, far easier to score.
The only surprise was that it took OH Leuven to score. While two Lierse SK defenders dillied and dallied about clearing the ball, Kostovski stuck out a boot in between them and lifted the ball over the keeper into the net.
And as you might expect, we had two different teams out there in the second half. I was expecting OH Leuven to go out there and score three or four more but instead, sat right back and allowed Lierse SK to bring the game to them.
By about 60 minutes, Lierse SK started to play good attacking football and from then, they went on the rampage and it all began to look rather uncomfortable for OH Leuven.
We had a couple of penalty calls and despite some rather weird decisions that the officials had been calling, they had the penalty decisions just right.
The most controversial was a loose bouncing ball in the penalty area that Gillekens dived for and pushed away. There was a collision with a Lierse SK attacker but in my mind, there was no doubt whatever that Gillekens was playing the ball – in fact he had managed to have both hands to the ball in order to push it away – and the collision was after Gillekens had played the ball.
No doubt in my mind whatever that it was not a penalty, but he didn’t half receive some abuse from the crowd for the rest of the match, particularly when on two occasions he was over the goal line (but the ball wasn’t) when he caught the ball.
But it was inevitable that Lierse SK was going to score, with the amount of pressure that they had been applying.
Right on 90 minutes too and it was a penalty as you might expect. The ball definitely hit the arm of a defender from a cross on the goal line, and it did indeed divert the ball, but it was one of these harsh decisions where the player’s arm was right by his body and there was no intent whatever to play the ball with the arm.
A penalty, yes, but just sheer bad luck.
And so I walked back to the railway station at Lier in order to come back to Leuven.
And as I walked down the side of the railway line I noticed a train leaving the station. “I bet that that’s my train” I mused to myself, and when I arrived at the station, I found that it was too!
Ordinarliy I would have had to wait another 55 minutes for the next train but a friendly neighbourhood guard on another train told me how I could go to Leuven on the Liège train, changing at Aarschot.
And so what else have I been up to today? While you admire some more photos of the Christmas decorations at Leuven I’ll tell you about it.
Despite a somewhat-disturbed night that involved a trip down the corridor, I was fast-asleep when the alarm went off this morning.
But I’d been on my travels too, to the abandoned communities of Hebron and Okak on the day that they were being abandoned (which, or course, was not the same date but never mind). And I’d entered into a “relationship” with a young Inuit girl, just as many kablunas did when they arrived on the Coasts of Labrador.
And after breakfast, I had to get a wriggle on. Alison was planning to go to the English Shop after lunch and did I want to go?
It meant that I would be in a dreadful rush to catch my train and so I went for a walk uptown to the railway station so that I would have my ticket all ready for what I reckoned would be a dash to the train.
And on the way back, we had another one of these “Only in Belgium” moments.
Here in Belgium and in the Netherlands, we have what is called a bakfiets, a bicycle built to carry goods. And here we have a mother who has decided to go out for a bike ride with the kids on a Sunday morning, and what she has done is to simply chuck the kids into the bakfiets.
The barrel organ singer from yesterday was there too, but this morning he wasn’t singing – just turning the handle of the organ.
I had a good look at his barrel organ, and it’s one of these sheet music things where the sheets are rather solid and have punched holes so that the pegs that work the notes of the organ that are required to be played are operated by the holes in the sheets. Spring pressure keeps the pegs inoperable, but the holes allow the corresponding pegs to open, and that’s how the music was played.
Alison came round as arranged at 12:45 and by this time I was outside waiting for her – the quicker we get away, the quicker we come back.
It was quite crowded in the English Shop but there was a really good selection of products that had just come in and I was able to stock up with some very useful articles.
They are stored in Caliburn right now, and I’ll show you a photo of them after I’ve been to rescue them.
The train was two minutes late, which is most unlike Belgium, and as we unloaded at Aarschot the train from Liège pulled in bang on time so we had to run to the next platform. This train was absolutely packed and I had to fight my way into a seat.
And I crashed out too for 10 minutes on the train. It had been a long walk.
But the train arrived back in Leuven bang on time and we had the usual tidal wave surge up the street into the town and passed the Christmas decorations that by now were all lit up.
It’s certainly much nicer here in the city centre with the illuminations, isn’t it? And as it wasn’t all that cold right now, I hung around to take a few photos.
As we’ve seen, the camera on the telephone is nothing like as good as the Nikon D5000 but as you know, we can’t take “professional” cameras into football grounds these days and so the phone is the best that I can do.
So having spent a good 20 minutes walking around the city centre and the lights, I came back to my little room in the hostel.
It’s Sunday night, and that means pizza. And with my little trip back home when I was able to pick up some more stuff, I’d come back with my pizza tray and in my new cooking mode, I decided to make my own pizza.
And having bought a packet of these half-baked half-baguettes, I made some garlic bread too.
But it didn’t work out too well. The oven here doesn’t seem to work – only the grill – and so my pizza was burnt on top and uncooked on the underside. I’ll have to rule this out.
The small table-top oven works reasonably well and I’ll have to use that the next time, although a pizza won’t fit into it. I’ll have to cook it in two halves.
After pizza, I had plenty of things to do, but I just crashed out.
I’d had a long, hard, busy day.