Selective Diligence

More abiding Bruges memories include the rather nice ‘blond’ beer, and I don’t usually care for the stuff. Local brand has a jester on the label.

Also: the weak Pound to Euro rate making everything conspicuously more expensive. Wasn’t too long ago when 1 Euro was about 70p. Today, you just change the Euro sign to a Pound sign, and that’s close enough.

Plus: Smoking in the bars. Children in the bars. And no McDonalds or Starbucks to be seen anywhere, unless they’re tucked away under the medieval prettiness of it all. Makes me think of a cynical Marxist friend, who when travelling abroad takes bets on how quickly you can last before seeing one of those two logos of US world dominance. He’d have trouble in Bruges. Instead, every other shop seems to be a chocolate shop. Maybe some of those are ubiquitous Belgian branches, but even foreign franchises seem exotic.

Bruges does have a branch of C&A, but I’m not sure if this counts in the global homogeneity stakes as C&A closed their UK branches years ago, while the firm is Dutch in the first place. I suppose the pejorative phrase ‘Man At C&A’, used in the 90s to indicate a blokishly bland taste in clothes, might now have an air of continental glamour. ‘Ooh -  get him in his C&A clothes! Isn’t he the Eurostar playboy…’


Last night: drinks at Browns in St Martin’s Lane for the artist Stephen Harwood’s birthday. Chat to him and his partner about Tangier. They’ve stayed at the Minzah there and loved the place. Also note that one of his presents is Huysman’s Parisian Sketches, published by Dedalus.  Some shared Decadent connections there, then.

One friend of his is a musician who’s played the Boogaloo. Another knows someone who’s seen me DJ at Latitude: I suppose I must be a visibly memorable DJ. But otherwise it’s a gathering where I only really know one person there, and so I have to answer that dreaded question ‘what do you do?’ a few times. This time I actually have a job, except it’s not really what I think I ‘do’.

The trouble is, on night shift weeks like this I find it hard to summon the energy to do very much but recover from the night’s work before, or prepare for the night’s work to come. But this is surely a self-deceiving lie. If my sleeping hours are 8am-3pm (in theory), and work is 9.30pm-7.30am (adding travel there and back), that still leaves six hours a day to get things done, and write. No excuse, really. And of course, when I was jobless before I wasn’t doing much then, either. A yawning, sleepy slug of a man whatever I do. And yet I do get things done when I absolutely have to – or am trying to get out of doing something else.

Get in to work, where Rhoda says Charley has been trying to find me. It’s only at that point I look for my mobile phone and turn the thing on. Turns out I’ve missed my own Fosca rehearsal. Even though it was me who actually booked the (v. expensive) rehearsal and emailed the others about the details. Somehow I managed to copy the wrong day into my pocket diary, the thing which actually runs my life. Meant Tuesday, wrote down Thursday.

(And I wonder about the subconscious meaning of this oversight. Since starting the new job in October I’ve not once been late, or told that I’ve made some terrible error. If I’m perfectly capable of diligence and discipline for one thing, why I can’t I apply it to everything? Including this diary? No excuse, again.)

So the upshot is Rachel and Charley sitting in a rehearsal room in Old Street all evening wondering what’s happened to me, while I’m merrily sipping 1 coconut daiquiri followed by 3 cranberry juices at Browns, entirely oblivious. It’s fair to say I owe them.

They say they went through a few songs without me, but it’s just as well we have one more rehearsal booked. The last ever.

Tags: , ,

Formerly In Bruges

Back in Highgate after an impromptu mini holiday in Bruges, and feeling much better.

I’d woken up on Wednesday morning, grumpy and ill from a headachey virus that’s apparently doing the rounds, and wondered what it might be like to just run away and leave the country for a spell. I had moments like this all the time while on the dole.

This time, I could actually afford it. Couldn’t face a plane with the headache. Had to be a stylish and Decadent location reachable by Eurostar.

Been to Paris before, but not Bruges. Always wanted to go there after reading those books by Georges Rodenbach: ‘Bruges-la-morte’, ‘The Bells Of Bruges’, and ‘Bruges 3 – This Time It’s Personal.’

Then there’s the recent Colin Farrell movie about two gangsters escaping there: ‘In Bruges’. It’s got everything you could possibly want from a movie: comedy, morality and extreme violence.

I’m also aware – after the event – that Bruges is where Stephen Fry ran off to when he had his mid 90s nervous breakdown. And I’ve just found it was the setting for ‘The Nun’s Story’, that Audrey Hepburn film that always seems to be on TV at lunchtime.

So by 3pm I was sipping champagne with free refills on the Eurostar (Leisure Class wasn’t much more than Standard). By tea-time I was in a 60% off four star hotel room in Bruges, courtesy of one of those ‘we find you the cheapest deal’ websites.

So: Bruges. Cobbled streets, medieval brick houses, Gothic churches, canals and bridges, bicycles, every other shop either selling chocolates or Mr Farrell’s ‘gay beers’, one Tintin shop, one Phial Of Holy Blood, and one enormous tower with a belfry, The Belfort, which plays a pivotal role in the Farrell film.

I spent most of the three days trying to think just what The Belfort reminded me of. One of the Two Towers in the Lord of the Rings? Not quite.

Then it hit me. It looks like one of those rotating gun-like industrial machines that puts buttons onto clothes. A massive, sinister, Gothic button machine.