heard on the wire

Geese, cobbles and redcurrants

No, not another cooking post, just three of the local attractions here in not-so-sunny Woluwé-St-Pierre.

Yesterday’s trip to the supermarket — a trip I had to make twice after first taking the wrong bike lock — was delayed slightly when I had to wait to allow a family of geese to cross the road.

The geese, however, were just the first hazard to negotiate. The second was a woman cycling towards me on the narrow cycle path while texting. She almost fell off when I startled here with a shrill ping on the pinger (you know, one of those next-generation bike bells that just, well, pings).

The hazards kept coming. Next was a stretch of Belgian cobbles. Eddy Merckx came from round hereabouts and it’s no wonder that, in addition to five Tours and five Giros his palmarès includes multiple victories in the “cobbled classics” of Flanders and northern France. When you combine the cobbles — which might more accurately be described as small rocks — with the short but very steep hills of the Woluwé valley, you have the perfect nursery for a future pro cyclist. For the rest of us just thirty seconds on one of the few remaining or recently restored streets is enough to make it all too clear that we are little more than a fragile bag of flesh and bones.

Taking to the cobbles was only necessary cause white van man had parked across the aforementioned cycle path; this was also the point where a La Poste van driver thought it perfectly acceptable to drive across the bike path without a thought for potential traffic.

That might have been understandable a few years back, when the sight of a cyclist on Brussels’ streets was rare enough to remark upon. But bike rental scheme, which pre-dates London’s equivalent “Boris Bikes”, has clearly had an impact, encouraging more people to take to two wheels and discover that La Poste man is not typical, as you might expect in a country where cycling has a legitimate claim to be the national sport (in Flanders it is the “national” sport). To date, cycling in Woluwé and its environs has been a remarkably pleasant, fearless experience, especially on the many cycle tracks that run around the local parks and lakes, even if they are shared with that most dreaded of potential perils, the pedestrian.

I left the bike at home today, opting to take the tram and Metro for a trip to the bank and a brief visit to a couple of our old St-Gilles haunts. I may be luring myself into a false sense of pedal¹ security, but the streets seem cleaner, dog poo-wise. Only time and soles will tell.

Our Belgian bank, Fortis, is now French-owned after going bust during the global financial crisis-but-we-got-a-nice-payday-from-the-bail-out-thanks-very-much. It’s slightly disconcerting to deposit your money with the BNP. But sweetly ironic, when you consider that the homonymous UK Nazi party is all but bankrupt, both financially and electorally.

To get to and indeed from the tram stop, we take a path that skirts a pond, currently home to new goose and coot families while passing through a small wood where I was astonished to discover a thicket of wild (or at least feral) redcurrant bushes bearing several ripening pendants of the jewel-like fruit. They’ll make the perfect decoration if I can persuade the Becster to make a cake this weekend.


¹ Meaning relating to the foot, I discovered while writing.

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