Sunday, March 17, 2013

Belgium - "a land that might almost have been dreamed"

I spent a total of seven years of my life living in Belgium but I never met the man obsessed with penguins.  Tabloids like to use "Brussels" as shorthand for the EU, as if there was some bureaucratic cellar in the Grand Place dreaming up madder and madder regulations to impose on Britain.   Douglas Adams' take on Belgium was surprisingly unpopular when I played it to a Belgian friend.   Jonathan Meades' take does more justice to the country and its delightful oddness.  See volume 2 of 3 at  6m29s for the national sport of finch watching and 9m30s for the museum of underpants, but if you have time watch all three volumes. Penguin man is in volume 3.  It will lighten and illuminate your day.

"Can you name 12 famous Belgians ?" people ask.  No problem:
Jacques Brel
Adolphe Saxe (inventor of the Saxophone)
Plastic Bertrand
Georges Simenon
Herman van Rompuy
Eddy Merckx
Herge (inventor of Tintin - you're not allowed Tintin)
Rene Magritte
Leo Baekeland (inventor of Bakelite)
Audrey Hepburn
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Maurice Maeterlinck

I've excluded people born before Belgium became a nation (1830) such as Peter Paul Rubens and Simon Stevin (inventor of double entry bookkeeping).   If you want more, there is an excellent website on the theme called "Famous Belgians".   John Cleese doesn't seem to like them.

(That's enough Belgium - Ed)


sappho said...

Oh, come on. Why leave out Beethoven?

Foregone Conclusion said...

Apparently one of the questions on one of the papers for last year's examinations for the Fellowship at All Souls, Oxford was simply:

Why Belgium?

David said...

sappho, I know Van Beethoven sounds more Flemish than German and that there are Beethovens in the telephone directory for Mechelen but Ludwig was born in Bonn and Belgum didn't exist as a country at the time.