We came back from Dublin yesterday. I am still a shadow of my former self. On the plane back, the Princess sat by the window, Mr. Waffle sat in front of her with Michael on his lap and I sat beside her with Daniel on my lap. As we were sitting on the runway taxiing about, the Princess and I had the following conversation:
Her: I want to do a poo.
Me: You can do a poo when the fasten seatbelts sign goes off.
Her: But I want to do a poo NOW!
Me: I’m afraid you’ll have to wait.
Her: But the poo wants to come out.
Me: Well it will just have to wait. What is that awful smell? And those funny damp brown marks on Daniel’s back?
Her (giggling): I think he did a big poo Mummy.
Once airborne we retire to the toilet where the Princess sits on the toilet while I try to stop Daniel eating anything dangerous. When she is finished, I change Daniel’s nappy and all his clothes. He wriggles. The toilets on planes are small. That’s probably all the detail you need. When we got back to our seating, the long-suffering man on the outside stood up to let us troop in.
Him: Three children – a lot of work, eh?
Me: Hmm. I suppose. Princess, sweetheart, can you get up off the floor please.
Him: I have two sons 27 and 29.
Me: That’s nice. Are you from Belgium?
Him: Yes from Mechelen.
Me: I like Mechelen.
Him: It’s handy for my work. I travel a lot. I was in Ireland for work. It’s very expensive.
Me: Yes, isn’t it? Sweetheart, what are you doing down there?
Princess (muffled but indignant): I’m picking up papers to put them in the bin.
Him: Are you working in Brussels?
Me: Yes, what do you do yourself?
Him: I’m a businessman. I sponsor the IMPAC literary prize.
Me (vaguely aware that this is the largest literary prize in the world): Goodness, that’s very impressive.
Him (pleased): You’ve heard of it?
Me: Absolutely. Daniel will you please stop pulling your sister’s hair? You must be very interested in literature.
Him: No, it’s really for the publicity. My passion is art collecting. When I’m in my New York office, I like to go to the art galleries.
Me: What kind of art do you like to collect? Are you biting him?
Princess: NO, I’m kissing my little brother.
Him: I like Cobra and I have a lot of these works.
Me (faintly): A lot?
Him: Yes. I also collect….[inaudible]
Daniel: Waah, a bottle, waah, I need a bottle, also she did bite me.
Him:…and a small Picasso that I keep in the kitchen.
Me: Good for you. Here, sweetheart, have a bottle.
Princess: I WANT a bottle.
Me: Well, I haven’t got a bottle for you.
Princess: Can I have some crisps then when the “any drinks or snacks” lady comes?
Me: OK, then.
Him: I’m also really interested in the symbolists.
Me: Oh yeah, did you see that whatshisname, Belgian symbolist, um..
Me: Yes. Horsey, horsey don’t you stop, just let your feet go clippety clop…
Daniel: Big grin.
Princess: When will it be MY turn to sit on your lap?
Him: Did you see that picture of his sister in the dress with all the buttons?
Me (warily, considering that almost all the pictures were of his sister – Khnopff appears to have a number of issues here): Yeees.
Him: Do you collect at all?
Me: No, not really, no.
Him: I had my house repainted in the colour scheme on that painting. Why not, eh?
Me: Why not indeed, um, do you have a very large house for your large collection?
Him: Art nouveau house, 600 square metres.
Me (swooning from envy): Lovely. Sweetheart, look out over England, see all those things sparkling, they’re fireworks (it was November 5 and the English like their fireworks for Guy Fawkes – it was an extraordinary sight).
Daniel: UH OH.
Me: Princess, could you pick up your brother’s bottle?
Her: No, I’m looking at the fireworks.
Him:Have you been to see the Spilliaert exhibition?
Me (holding Daniel on the chair with one hand while rooting round on my knees on the floor for the missing bottle): No, not yet, though I do like Spilliaert. He’s interesting in a weird Belgian kind of way.
Him: You think Belgians are weird?
Daniel: The bottle woman.
Me (inserting bottle in indignant mouth): The home of surrealism, I think so, yes.
Her: Can I see Aunty Publishing Exec’s house?
Me: No, sweetheart, we’re too high up and anyway, we’re over Belgium now.
Him (pensively): Having children, it’s a lot of work; I’m not so sure about having another baby. I think I will offer a million to the first of my sons to have a grandchild.
I’m not sure whether he was serious or not but I bet he wished that aer lingus hadn’t dispensed with business class for the weekend flights.
Peggy (in French)
Peggy is a working mother of two little boys. She works on European stuff but is Belgian. I know this sounds odd, but it is hard to meet Belgians in Brussels. Please trust me on this. Peggy is like a Belgian friend. Through her blog, I get an insight into what it must be like being a Belgian in Brussels. I won’t say anything further because I don’t want to unnerve her by behaving like a weird foreign stalker but I do like her blog.
Julie, mother of one after (trust me here), not inconsiderable difficulties. Polemical, opinionated, funny – what’s not to like?