Late last week one of the children said, “I hope you haven’t forgotten Saint Nicolas on December 6.” An impressive degree of attachment given that we left Belgium for good 11 years ago.
Apparently, still current in day to day conversations of Belgians, there is an expression indicating that this is all very well but it’s not really getting us anywhere: Tout ça ne nous rendra pas le Congo. I find this…surprising.
When we lived in Belgium, I used to occasionally buy and read “Royals” magazine. The clue is in the title; it goes large on the Belgian royal family but all of the European royals feature from time to time (the Grimaldis are my absolute favourites; what a family) and sometimes more exotic royals from Asia or the Middle East. I used to read it in a post-modern, ironic way and, because it’s in French, it’s clearly not the same as reading, say, “Hello” magazine which I am obviously too lofty to read.
Mr. Waffle goes to Brussels for work from time to time and on his return he often picks me up a (post-modern, ironic) copy of “Royals” magazine. Inspired by his success he got me a subscription to 12 months of “Royals” magazine last Christmas. I have to tell you I was not delighted, I felt I’d tipped over from post-modern, ironic to weird middle-aged Belgian royalist lady. Anyway 12 months later, my subscription has finally expired. If you need to know anything about the Belgian royal family, ask me now. While I have to say that I enjoyed it more than I expected to, I am glad to have reverted to being an occasional consumer of Belgian royal family news rather than the Irish expert on Prince Laurent’s latest quirk.
For obvious reasons, I have been thinking about Brussels all day. It will always have a special place in my heart. I still have lots of friends living there all of whom are safe and well for which I am very thankful. It is very chilling to see this happening somewhere you have lived and in the most banal and everyday places.
Michael: How far is to Saint Nicolas?
Me: Well, we haven’t lived in Belgium for a long time now and, um…
Him: When is it?
Me: Well, some people might say it has already passed. Technically.
Him: When is it?
Me: December 6. But, you never liked the chocolate Santas anyway, he had to bring you crisps.
Him: That’s hardly the point.
[His siblings emerge from their bedrooms looking peeved.]
Me: Um, well, it’s really up to Saint Nicolas and I suppose we don’t live in Belgium any more….
Him: There will be three pairs of shoes beside the fireplace tomorrow night. Saint Nicolas had better deliver.
Me: Um, ok, we’ll have a word with him.
Did I mention that, on the 6th of December, Saint Nicolas came to our house? We did think that since it is now 6 and a half years since we have lived in a jurisdiction where he has authority, he might give us a skip but the children were adamant that no, he should come. I blame myself. I offered Daniel 50 cents to read a French book aloud. He picked “T’choupi fête Noël” which had the dual advantage of being seasonal and short. As he read aloud the doings of the festive mole, it all came flooding back.
So, in fairness to him, at quite short notice, St. Nicolas came in line with expectations. He just brought some chocolates and crisps in accordance with his reduced obligations in this jurisdiction. This did not stop Michael sleeping on the floor beside his bedroom door in a state of advanced excitement or him waking me at 6.30 in some distress as Saint Nicolas had brought him the wrong type of crisps.