Rambling, Rambling and Rambling

Welcome back to Brussels.

It’s nice to learn that ‘sac’ is French and Flemish. By the way, it means ‘purse’.

During the 11 years we spent in Brussels, we were warned about carjacking, then there was carjacking and homejacking. Warnings were issued through the newspapers.

They were kind of weird like: ‘Leave your car papers at home.’ Then: ‘Leave your car keys and purses in the hall, close to your front door.’ (ie so the burglars won’t need to wake you up. We don’t want crime besides stealing, do we?) But they never asked to leave the front door opened.

So now, it’s sacjacking! Oh, I love it. Belgium ranks first for its sense of humour. The police warns you. They do. There never is one single policeman to be seen around but the warning has been issued. If your purse is stolen while you are driving your car, it’s your own fault. Don’t complain.

Upon arrival, we found out that ‘our’ house is still unfit to be lived in (nine months after the flooding). We were there to assess what had been done in September and what still needed to be done before we could move back in.

We’ve been having a slight disagreement with our landlords. It’s a long story, very long story. Let’s just say that they never lived in this house and they tended to act like slumlords despite the very high rent we are paying every month. No serious upkeep ever. Leaks everywhere. Electrical problems.

Last October there was a storm. The house had been so neglected ever since they had bought it that it was flooded from the top floor down to the basement (5 floors in all). Our belongings suffered quite a bit but the structure of the house itself was in a very bad shape, worse than ever.

We could have moved out years ago but with cancer and Popeye’s job, we kind of endured besides the fact that we knew what we were in and were worried about what we could get into.

Brussels is not very particular about housing laws even though it is the capital of Europe.

But now enough is enough. We are very angry. Angry but still very polite. Kind of hard but we managed so far!

Our landlords know that we now have the right to take them to court and ask for the reimbursement of the 9 months rent plus compensation.

So we had a nice surprise when we got to the house. The garden was ours to take care of. It is a very small garden but I had a good gardener to help me. It really was lovely.

Early summer

On Saturday - View from the house
We got the warning message allright.

We had been asking for too much apparently. It’s obviously very bad to annoy Italians, especially high ranking officials from the Italian Foreign Office.

It was a tough blow for me but...

Anyway, on our way back to Paris, we listened to a beautiful rendition of Verdi’s Rigoletto, live from La Fenice, in Venice. Is Venice Italian?

Verdi was Italian even if Rigoletto’s libretto was written from one of the plays of our very french Victor Hugo. Victor Hugo, our French everything: Poet, writer, playwright, thinker, activist, political exile, husband, lover, devoted father.

Rigoletto is one of my favorite operas. Leo Nucci sang my first Rigoletto ever and I ended up sobbing in Bastille on the shoulder of a very embarrassed Popeye. ‘Do I know this hysterical woman? Oops! She’s my wife.’

I no longer cry when I listen to Rigoletto. I still feel sort of anguished, it’s true. Mainly because I can’t help remembering so vividly Leo Nucci’s superb and heart rending performance.

As I said, we drove back to Paris, listening to Rigoletto, live from La Fenice. We even ate at a ‘McDo’ drive in not to loose one note, one air. When we got to Paris, we stayed in the garage where we park our car until the final note.

The night watchman probably thought we were smooching in the car. Not at all. We were in La Fenice, listening to Rigoletto.

We got to Swee'Pea’s appartment, feeling a little bit down. Well, Rigoletto is not the best way to cheer you up... And we both hate confrontation. And we really didn’t enjoy the ‘garden message’... It was so uncivilized.

We went to bed, thinking that Sunday would be another day, a better one, please.

On Sunday morning, we were feeling better but already planning the letter we had to write to our friendly landlords sooner or later. Then we went to  Garnier to listen to a Rossini opera which he wrote at 21. ‘L’Italiana in Algeri’. Bad choice: ‘The Italian girl in Algiers’. Italy again!

The opera was okay, a little bit too much because of a farcical production. Very silly synopsys too. The music was extremely beautiful as usual. I imagine Rossini was a very happy man because he makes your heart swell with rejoicing and happiness. It did us a lot of good.

The tenor was wonderful. He’s African American, goes by the name of Lawrence Brownlee. His middle name wasn’t Hussein. Not all African Americans are called Hussein then?

On our way home, we turned the car radio on to listen to the news. Perfect way to end a perfect week-end - The American Government had just issued a warning about terrorist bombing threats concerning France.

You see, our government is so enmeshed in scandals of all sorts that when it issued the same type of warning a while ago, we did not believe it. Protective screen, we all thought.

And now the US are issueing a warning to their citizens who are visiting France. Quite scary.

Except that when you think of it, we are quite used to live under terrorist bombing threats. We are quite used to see soldiers patrol the stations, the subway and other public places. We are quite used to see police all over the place. Because we’ve been living under threat ever since 1995. Sometimes the level gets down to yellow but now it is up to bright red!

We’ll have to learn to live dangerously again. Most people don’t have any other choice. How do you get to work in Paris? By train or subway. What do you do most nights? Museums, operas, theaters... Then train or/and subway.

We’ll have to get used again to become very aware of anything looking weird (a suitcase under an empty subway seat, a grocery bag by a garbage can). We’ll have to get used again to have our handbags searched every time we’ll get into a shopping center or a movie theater. (They’ve already been doing it in museums, operas, etc.)

This is not a problem. We’ve been through this many, many times well before the world started talking about Ben Laden. I know we will keep on living as usual. We all know that frightening people is already some sort of terrorism. And so far, we have refused to be frightened, even right after a bomb attack.

So we’ll live. It will be stressful. But we’ll live, hoping to survive.

The only problem that did not exist at the end of the XXth century is our way of looking at Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs, immigrants and foreigners. Will their life become unsufferable? Will they be looked upon as outcasts?

This is the real threat. Will we be able as a people to make the difference between crazy fundamentalists (religious/political) and ‘the others’, the people we run into every day?

I am very pessimistic about the outcome of the threats. I’m not totally convinced that we will have bomb attacks. Daily life worries me much more. France has already been going so fast on the wrong track of exclusion and fear of differences that we may well end up being our own terrorists.

I was right when I started this blog tonight. It is filled with rambling and rambling. And getting scarrier. From ‘sacjacking’ to ‘terrorist attacks’. The destruction of my lovely garden seems so trivial now. Crazy world.

*Good Luck, and Good Night*

1 comment:

Myrna said...

That was quite the ramble. I, too, worry the most about daily life--well, your second last paragraph sums it up nicely. No, not nicely; sadly. Seems we humans haven't learned very many of the lessons of the past very well, and as the saying goes, if you don't learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it.