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Well, I’m not posting this from Brussels but on arriving in London, coz damned if I’m going to pay TWENTY MOTHERLOVING EURO for four hours’ internet at Zaventem Flemish Airport, to be consumed in an hour. I don’t care if work does pay for it. I’m so disgusted, I think I’ll fly across the English channel and pay £3 at Heathrow for my internets instead.
I’m still bodily in Yerevan time: crashed last night at 10, woke up at 3:20 for fear of tractors, to make a 7:30 flight. To explain: every tractor in Belgium is converging on Brussels today to protest fuel I think. (What a wonderful future we have lined up for us.) So I was determined to run far in advance of the Agricultural Vehicles of Doom; the rather fetching barbed wire barricades already set up by the cops alongside the road were a useful reminder of what to run away from.
The hotel was all strange the night before about me ordering a taxi beforehand; something about not accepting responsibility, and could I please make my own arrangements five minutes’ walk away from the hotel. The hotel is next to the European commission, so it would be seeing its fair share of Agricultural Vehicles of Doom; but that still made little sense to me — had they been sued by a Eurocrat? At any rate, I noted a cab rank at Place Jourdan, three minutes walk away from the hotel, and got assurances from a cabbie that there would be people there at 5 am. As it turned out, I need not have bothered even with that much: there was a cab rank I had not noticed — 10 metres from the hotel (other side of the street, where the posh hotels are). Which came as a surprise to me, and probably the hotel dude too.
When I emerged from the hotel at 4:20 or whatever absurd time my body clock favoured, I discovered the previously undisclosed cab rank, flailed in the cabbies’ general direction, and was steered towards a black vehicle with no taxi markings.
MEC SYMPA DU TAXI: And where are you going this morning, sir?
MEC SYMPA DU TAXI: …
MEC SYMPA DU TAXI: Zaventem! I’ll take that luggage from you, sir.
ME: [to self] Could this be one of those Unofficial Taxis that Zaventem Flemish Airport keeps warning you about? (But in French and Dutch only, the Anglos can sort themselves out — verdaamt, and/or sacré!)
MEC SYMPA DU TAXI: Wait a second sir, I’ll just put on my hat. [Takes taxi lights out of front seat, puts lights on top of car, plugs in lights]
ME: Ah. And such a nice hat it is too!
MEC SYMPA DU TAXI: Arglé Barglé Saucisson!
ME: … … Yeah!
NICE TAXI GUY: *Jovial Arabic salutations to the other assembled mecs sympas du taxi*
[Exeunt, stage right, pursued by an Agricultural Vehicle of Doom]
… Like I say, I hear French a lot slower than I speak it; I miss every second sentence, and Arglé Barglé Saucisson! was the one to miss, I guess. The language thing makes me silent in cabs, which is probably overall a good thing. But the cabbie did extract from me that I was d’origin Australien, and I was not going à Londres pour vacances. Pity I couldn’t chat, he sounded pretty cool.
MEC SYMPA DU TAXI [on phone, jovially]. H-O-M-A-T 3. Homat 3. Why won’t you listen to me? [gesticulates jovially] Homat with an H, followed by a three. That’s all. Homat. You’re not listening to me. H-O-M-A-T. 3. Homat 3.
Got to Zaventem Flemish Airport (“Good day sir, and happy working!” [jovially]), before the counter even opened. The counter attendant opened the counter rather less jovially, en français. Must have been the Wallon backpackers in front of me: I did hear unmistakable Flemish the other side of the counter. Had breakfast (quite acceptable mozzarella and pesto baguette for €4.2); and will now catch up on transcribing my day before boarding. Once in England-Town, I have to catch up on my homework — going to a workshop today that I haven’t read a thing on, and have downloaded a couple of appropriate documents to make a start with. I may get some shuteye on the 5 minute flight. In fact, that’s looking pretty damn certain.
No sign of any tractors yet in Zaventem, btw.