The Irish Guy

This is my current favourite busker in Brussels. He’s referred to as The Irish Guy by my colleagues, or ‘your cousin, Paddy O’Flanagan’ by my friend Thomas.

He normally plays the tin whistle, but I think he’s playing a recorder here. I once saw him playing a melodica during a snow storm.  

He has a bit of a rota going on, although I’ve never quite worked it out. Some days he’s outside Arts Loi metro, sometimes he’s up near Schuman. I once saw him in Galeria Inno (the worlds most disappointing department store). I’ve been trying to take a picture of him for weeks.

We have yet to determine whether he’s actually Irish.

Tales from the Metro 2


Today, at Vanderkindere, where all tales from the metro seem to begin, someone asked me whether this was where she could catch the 25.

– Le 25? 
– Ouais.
– Il y a un 25? 
– Merde.

After further investigation, it turned out that there is a line 25, but it kind of goes round the opposite side of the city. She headed off, grumpily phoning whoever had given her shoddy directions in the first place.

Once safely onto tram no. 3 (which does indeed stop at Midi), I was serenaded by the delightful busker who seems to only know Sway (and then, only the first two verses). He sings in what I think is the accent of a Spaniard who doesn’t actually speak English:

Dancewime, maikemeswaiy,
Holmecloss, swaiymemorrrrre

On the plus side, he has a guitar, not an accordion.

I couldn’t find a video of him, so here is a guy in Antwerp playing a horn violin, which is apparently a real instrument. There’s someone who does this on the metro in Brussels, too – maybe the same guy. I don’t look. If you make eye contact, you pay. I think that’s how it works.

I share the bus journey home with a postman and his little cart of letters. I like to assume that he has a really big route, and wasn’t just heading off to Flagey to dump them in the lake. I’m guessing he avoided having to buy two tickets (one for the cart) by hopping on the back of the bus which is VERY ILLEGAL, as we were reminded by the angry driver on several occasions. We are also now aware that THE BUS HAS PRIORITY WHEN PULLING OUT, NON??? PUTAIN DE MERDE!!!

Le Stoefer

Le Stoefer looks awesome. Its close to Place du Chatelain, and fits in with the cool vibe of the area. It’s all about the industrial, with bare bulbs, waxed wood, long benches and gloomy minimalism.

The menu is very nice to look at, but not extensive. The choice was really burgers, salads or pittas. However, it’s not expensive.

I went there with some friends for dinner recently. Over the course of about six hours we drank a lot of beer, ate delicious but small burgers (the guys ended up ordering a second burger since they were still hungry), and then proceeded to be treated like shit by one of the waiters.

The service wasn’t great from the start, but when a waiter wandered past, they’d take your order, and they were fairly nice. After we’d eaten, things took a turn for the worse when a big group turned up and they told us we’d have to move as they needed our table for them. We pointed out that, you know, if they wanted to be polite they could have given us some notice about our impending move; but we moved and all seemed to be ok in our new table at the noisy end of the bar.

Until the same waiter came over to us and asked my (admittedly, naturally loud) friend if he could stop SCREAMING as people were trying to eat. 

There is a point at which people reach breaking point with the shitty service they’ve received, and decide to remove themselves from a repressive and abusive atmosphere created by a waiter to make him feel good about himself. This was that point for us and we decided that they could cock right off, and we headed to the more pleasant atmosphere of Roxy for some cocktails. 

I don’t know why people can’t understand. All we want is a friendly bar/restaurant which looks cool and serves good sized, tasty portions of food. Is that so hard?

Damn you, le Stoefer, I thought you were what we were looking for. 

Exploitation Demonstration


One of the nice/scary things about the location of my office is that we get to see a lot of demonstrations on their way to the European Parliament.

This week it was the turn of the builders and woodworkers of Europe. There may have been others; the builders and woodworkers were in the first group, followed by some Dutch and some Poles, then some Germans and Norwegians. After the English signs stopped, I was a little unsure of what was going on anymore. 

The gist of it seemed to be ‘Stop exploitation of our workers and stop social dumping’. 

They all wandered along, throwing firecrackers (which I’ve been suspicious of since one was thrown at me during the last farmers demo), and chanting. Occasionally the crowds were broken up by a bus which they’d brought along. 

My favourite part was when someone buried a mannequin in a wheelbarrow of sand. This was quickly followed up by a trio of coffins. 

The parade itself seemed well organised (more so than when the street cleaners went on strike and stood outside our office drinking beer); they all appeared to have a little brown paper bag with a packed lunch. 

The German section was especially loud, and I think concerned about CCTV. They also had vuvuzelas. And very professional looking flags.

During one especially tense moment, a car tried to escape from the garage opposite – this did not go down well. Fortunately, Belgians are such bad drivers that the demonstrators saw sense and let them pass. 

After they’d left, a band of street cleaners came through and had a snowball fight. Sadly I didn’t manage to capture the most exciting moment of the day on film. 

Tales from the Metro


I’m not sure why, but on my particular metro line, and, in fact, at my particular station, people often seem very concerned with whether or not the trams stop at Gare du Midi. They do. They always do. Well, unless you go the wrong way, or catch the 92 or 7, which don’t, but stop in a different place at the station anyway. 

This morning, as a case in point, a lady asked the guy standing next to her whether the tram would stop at Midi, and how long it would take to get there. The guy replied that yes it did, and would take between five and six minutes. She then asked how many stops, to which, after some thought he replied ‘five, no four, no, definitely five’.
Confusion reigned at each stop. She would start by saying ‘but this is Midi, isn’t it?’, to which he would reply, ‘No, it’s Albert/Horta/Parvis de Saint Gilles/Porte de Hal’.  
Eventually he became tired of all this communicating and said, ‘But look, I’m getting off at Midi, so I’ll just take you with me when I do’.

Sadly I got off at the stop before so missed whether he followed through with his promise or not.  

Waiting for my connection at Porte de Hal, a woman walked past me shivering. She was wearing suit trousers, a jumper and a scarf. Admittedly it was a balmy -2°C this morning (we have seen -15°C quite recently), but this was too much too soon (or too little, depending on how you look at it).

Arriving at Arts Loi, the entrance hall smelt pleasantly of baked beans.