Thursday, May 31, 2007

STIB's answer

In the spirit of fairness, I'm posting the STIB's answer to my email.

"Nous vous remercions de nous avoir fait parvenir votre message.
Celui-ci contient quelques contre-vérités que nous tenons immédiatement à dénoncer.
D'abord la gestion des espaces verts ne dépend pas de la STIB, mais bien de la Région qui a pour charge d'entretenir et de prendre tout disposition utile, notamment pour ce qui concerne le danger potentiel présenté par des arbres malades. Nous ne pensons pas que tous ceux qui critiquent tout sans prendre évidemment la moindre part de responsabilité seraient d'accord de voir des arbres malades menacer la vie des personnes qui passent sous leur frondaison.
D'autre part, le gabarit des trams de la STIB est standardié à 230 cm de large depuis l'achat des T200 en 1991. L'espacement entre les voies a été modifié aux rares endroits où c'était nécessaire. Il ne doit donc plus l'être.
Enfin, votre opinion selon laquelle notre achat de tram de grande capacité est impensé est complètement contredit par le succès qu'ils remportent, au point que notre direction doive acquérir rapidement des véhicules supplémentaires.
Avec nos meilleures compliments,
Relations Clientèle

OK. Let's take this answer bit by bit.
1) They pass the buck to the Region of Brussels, who wouldn't be felling the trees if the STIB hadn't asked them to.
2) They repeat the insinuation that all the trees being felled are ill. This is clearly not so.
3) They state that the trams have been standardised at 230cm since 1991. That's only one of 2 directions and it looks like width to me. What about height?
4) The success of the trams with the clientele (they are LOVELY trams) and their need to buy more, which I'm entirely behind, does not compensate for the tree-felling.
5) They provide no statistical argument (n° of diseased trees) or evidence of monitoring or verification that unneccessary tree-felling is not occurring.

I think it's a pretty weak answer. What do you think?


Ich fahrt nach Frankfurt am wochen-einde beim Thalys, nicht am flugzeug. Ich gruss Sie und wunsch Sie eine schönes Wochen-einde.
Tchuss meine liebelinge!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Support the Dryads

I have to take a little of your time to garner support for a very local cause. The STIB, Brussels' integrated transport system, which forbids us to link to its sites so here is the index page URL, is cutting down trees unnecessarily and it's a crying shame. Both Tippler and Up Front have tackled this issue, please read their posts, and they'll refer you to the the "Protection des Marroniers" petition site, but I'd like you ask you all to visit the STIB's "Quality of Service" email form on and let them know what you think. For those of you who do not wish to spend 20 minutes composing something in French, may I suggest you cut and paste the following text:
Il parait que de plus en plus des arbres des grandes avenues de Bruxelles se font abattre par la STIB suite à un achat impensé de trams trop larges, sous prétexte qu'ils seraient tous atteints d'une maladie qui n'afflige en réalité que très peu d'arbres. Ces arbres font partie du patrimoine historique de Bruxelles, contribuent à leur poumon vert et donc à la santé publique des Bruxellois, et sont un atout important dans ses industries de tourisme et d'HORECA en terrasse. Ceci est honteux et aussi économiquement maladroit.
J'appelle à l'arrêt de ces abattages tant qu'une étude complète des coûts associés dans l'environnement, en santé publique et en perte de revenus de tourisme et autres industries associés soit faite, publiés, et les résultats pris en compte. *
I am going to provide them with my email address. I am curious to see what on earth they could say that I would consider a satisfactory reply.
Yes, I do know the dryads above. Aren't they GORGEOUS. I'm so proud of them.
*(It appears that, further to the ill-considered purchase of excessively wide trams, more and more of the trees on Brussels' great avenues are being cut down by the STIB under the pretext that they are diseased when in fact only a few of their number are affected. These trees are part of the city's historic inheritance, they contribute to its green lung and therefore the public health of Brussels people, and are an important asset for the tourist and terrace café-hotel-restaurant industries. This is a shame and also economically clumsy.
I call for an end to this tree-chopping until a complete economic study of the associated costs in the environment, public health and loss of tourist and other industry revenue has been made, published, and its results taken into account).
That should tie the beggers up for a few years. Then we can get a public health lobby group to sue'em.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lordy Lordy.

As a treat for Scouse Doris's birthday a while back, we went this afternoon to the matinée presentation of Lord of the Dance. Before it even started we were treated to 10 minutes with the World Champion Rope Skipping Team, DDF I think they call themselves. I remember double dutch in the playground ... and I remember it being a good deal more girly.

As we all sat there aghast, the show began. An ancient Oirish tale of good versus evil, it starts off with an introduction to a small creature in sparkly pyjamas and nightcap who pretends to be playing a much-loved Shaker (weren't they Protestants, what's with that?) melody on a tin whistle. The tune is sweet, as Aaron Copeland has pointed out, but the mannerisms are maddening and the "Little Spirit" was lucky I didn't have my bow and arrow on me. It awakens a bunch of flower fairies, all legs and hair extensions, who prance around for a bit without their clogs on and then have a dance-off with Morrighan, the wicked hussy, or at least as wicked as Bonnie Langford fallen on hard times and forced to take up pole dancing can get. I might add that this woman is wearing a shorter version of my red dress, but as I look much better in it I find it in my heart to forgive her. Then Don Dorcha, the evil leader of the Dark Warrior clan comes onstage with his Cybermenesque cronies. Despite the Russian Mafia purple and black shell suit trousers and the somewhat plump anatomically correct armour, the dancing was very virile.
At this point Scouse Doris murmured to me "I'm with him!".
A loud bang is let off, after which it's defibrillators all round which distracted us somewhat from Saoirse's solo, and then came two lassies with some very hot violins. Then the ladies come on in their prim Oirish dancing costumes and leap about for a bit until Morrighan influences them at which point, in true Buck's Fizz stylee, they rip their dresses off to reveal shamrocked gym kit. Not surprisingly at this point the eponymous hero, who has a belt with his name on in case you haven't worked out which one to root for yet, leaps onstage with his knights companion in their skintight tops with silver buttons on. The famous chorus line to the Shaker tune then ensues.

Interval. Scouse Doris and I reach for the chocolate ice-cream like an ageing librarian for the G&T when forced by his mother to dine with the vicar's spinster sister.

Act 2. On comes the Spirit with her bloody tin whistle again, followed by Don Dorcha and his Warriors who tease her, steal it from her and then break it. At this point, Scouse Doris and I broke into a small and lonely bout of applause. In comes the Lord of the Dance and he and his men fight off the baddies in quite a magnificently virile show of Irish dancing. For reasons I have yet to fathom the Lord of the Dance mends the Spirit's bloody tin whistle. Despite this heinous act for which he should have been roundly booed, Saoirse still manages to find him sufficiently fanciable as a partner for a romantic dance between the male and female characters. After this the support dancers come onstage in Strictly Ballroom-style day-glo leotards for a set piece dance during which a little light relief was finally provided when one of the men fell over and the rest of them got the giggles. Erin the Goddess (the singer) then sang something rather sad about missing Carrickfergus, although the lyrics seemed suspiciously familiar from the Skye Boat Song.

Then the Lord and Saoirse come on for a bit of a dance but Morrighan is waiting and she distracts him (all men are the same). Gentlemen, be warned. See what happens when a man lets himself be distracted by a loose woman: he is captured by the dark henchmen and taken to Don Dorcha's palace where he is danced at until he disappears in a puff of smoke and a loud explosion. Out with the defibrillators again. Don Dorcha claims the Lord of the Dance Belt, which I wouldn't want personally due to all the sweat. But it turns out that the Lord has been saved by the annoying Little Spirit elf thing who's grateful he mended her tin whistle, and he returns to challenge the Dark Lord in a quite magnificent duel, and everyone comes onstage and dances that chorus line again until their shoes fly off into the audience.

I haven't laughed so much in ages. It was worth every penny.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A first grey hair

I have found my first grey hair. I was poking at it in a mirror near the lifts at work when a male colleague stopped and looked at me quizzically.

"I've found my first grey hair." I announced in mournful tones, suggesting that it was but the scouting harbinger of an entire army and that I could give away my glad rags and settle into a black mourning dress for my lost and insufficiently mis-spent youth and perhaps even take to massage stockings and those shopping trolleys that one trails after one like a plaid, plastic dog.

He thought for a bit and said "well, when you look at it from my point of view, a grey hair is a hair I've still got".

Monday, May 21, 2007


And as the Beeb settles for a week of non-stop clematis trimming, a girl's thoughts turn to alternative activities. Politics, of course, is always a popular pastime for those with nothing better to do with their leisure hours. Daphne is painting Madrid red, which sounds far less boring than it probably is, and Tippler and Eliab have found a politician prepared to offer them personal services, apparently not even in exchange for a vote. Honey is observing riots in her street and raging herself about another issue, which I must say I agree with her on.

Sport of course is a far more useful pastime than politics although sometimes the two can be combined. Issues such as immigration have certainly been tackled effectively by the Iranian cycling team. Economics come into play when it comes to taking up sports activities. I myself have been pestered by Scouse Doris to join her rather chic gym, but I nearly balked when she explained that in order for weight loss to occurr (other than the extraction of notes from my wallet) I would actually have to GO. My own personal planned economy is affected; but the income allows the gym to employ assorted handmaidens and handimen to fluff towels, etc, thus helping the economy turn and increasing the alluring opportunities Europe can offer. I myself shall be looking out for any buff young Omar Sharifesque Iranian spinning class teachers.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wedding party

I went to a fabulous wedding party last night. It was held in the Palais des Colonies, and my Indian colleague was celebrating the marriage of his strapping, focused son to a beautiful charming young Mauritian lady. The food was fantastic. The saris were glittering. The company was scintillatingly high-flown and cosmopolitan. I wore a fabulous halterneck chocolate brown silk floor-length frock and felt appropriately elegant. It was a delightful evening of the sort I hope you all get to have often, and all I can say is, Indian grandmothers ROCK, I hope I'll be dancing to bhangra in a jewelled sari at sixty-five.

I am very stiff now. And so tired I'm buzzing. I wish the blogmeet and the wedding had happened on two different weekends. Ah well, needs must where the party devil drives.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I should read my mail

It was only whilst reading Scouse Doris's comments this afternoon that I realised that Brom-Man is passing through Brussels again, and consequently there will be a Blogmeet tonight. I was gutted because no-one had told me. That's OK, I thought, I know when I'm not wanted.

And then I phoned Zoe.

Turns out I really should read my blogmail more often...

See you all at O'Farrell's this evening. Happy hour starts at 5. Oh look, it's 5.10.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dr Frankenstein

I have created a monster. I got some feedback from St*ke today, and it appears that one lad arrived home that evening and announced to his parents that he intends to become an MEP.

I may have overdone it a trifle.

Meanwhile in Beavershott, Oliver Gosling has issued a warrant for a very dangerous-looking person indeed. If you see her about, I'd steer clear if I were you.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Eurovision Song Contest

Well I'm glad Serbia won. It was a well-composed ballad, musically quite competent, although I wasn't sure what all the Charlie's Angels shoulder-grabbing was about. But I'm not glad WHY it won. In past years, the bloc voting has been humorous. We used to enjoy guessing who would vote for who, diaspora votes being the biggest telltale. But now it's just tired.

The Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is not an EU activity. (If it were it would have big EU flags all over it). It is run by the European Broadcasting Union and funded by countries as they see fit. Now, they don't know what you think until you tell them. We should all write to the EBU and say what we think of the way in which the contest is judged. Here are the contact details of:

Svante Stockselius, Head of Unit, EBU, Eurovision Song Contest
Tel.: + 41 (0)22 717 2414, Fax: + 41 (0)22 747 4414

and send a copy to

Bjørn Erichsen, Director Television Department,
Tel.: + 41 (0)22 717 2402, Fax: + 41 (0)22 747 4401

Jean Réveillon, Secretary General
Tel.: + 41 (0)22 717 2111, Fax: + 41 (0)22 717 2010

Lastly, I would like to call for the United Kingdom to pull out the majority of governmental funding it sends to the ESC. It should be used to build starter homes for young couples or increase nurses' pay instead. People who are interesting in the continuation of the ESC should make donations and/or purchase their merchandising to help fund it. I will probably not be one of them.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Having lost it when we all had to migrate to the Google account, I found my Clustrmap again (see side bar, or click on link for big version) and it's lovely to see you're all still there. Those of you who are new, please do introduce yourselves. I've picked up some readers in India, probably courtesy of Prufrock, and someone probably very puzzled in China, is that Chongqing or Chengdu? Aside from the USA Cruise Girls, sashay ladies! there must be R. Sherman, John B., and the Problem Child Bride. Costa Rica or Nicaragua? Guyana, hi there Guyana Gyal. Iceland. Japan - Kyoto? Hello all my fellow Europeans, I love you all dahlinks but you are too numerous to mention and mentioned numerously anyway. Dubai and Riyadh. Amman or Tel Aviv? Lima, Santiago and Montevideo or Buenos Aires, and something in the middle, is that San Luis? Jo'burg or Pretoria. Bangkok. Dhaka. Kuala Lumpur - that's Edina Monsoon. Manila, of which all I know is envelopes and Imelda Marcos's shoe collection. Edmonton, Saint John's, and Churchill, Canada, one of whom is Dawn. Is that Hawaii? Aloha Hawaii.

But nobody seems to be reading me from the Congo. Ahem, Mr Gorilla Bananas. You are Busted, Sah. You're actually frontline reporting from a cosy simian lovenest in an airing cupboard in Ipswich, aren't you! What do you have to say for yourself, you charlatan of an anthropoid?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Eurovision heats

I'll tell you all about Stoke tomorrow. Or over the weekend. Suffice to say I had a fantastic time, very inspiring, and I was sorry to leave.

In the meantime, Poland should hang their heads for their Eurovision entry. For shame, Poland, for shame.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Embarrassment ahoy

You won't hear from me for a couple of days. I am going to a certain English city by the name of St*ke-*n-Tr*nt for May 9th, to speak to 250 university students and a school. Apparently they'd like to know why we celebrate the 9th of May in Brussels, and what the European Commission is, and what the EU does in the way of external/development/humanitarian aid. Yeah, right. I bet they've been waiting for this day all sixteen-seventeen years of their lives.

I've never addressed 25 people, much less 250. I have to admit to having no idea whether I can do this or not.

On the bright side, if I make a COMPLETE fool of myself, no-one will ever know.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Speaking of Queens....

I have just met the Queen. Of Belgium that is. I was doing my annual stint on the ECHO stand at the Berlaymont for Open Day, which I always enjoy, when along come a six-camera media circus, a flash of photographers, and an assortment of large men in dark suits milling around our Commissioner, Louis Michel, and her Majesty Queen Paola of the Belgians. Sans tiara, in case you're wondering.

My fellow Brit colleague S and I, trained (in my case from my earliest youth by my Hyacinth Bucket of a mother) for the elaborate protocol of dealing with the doyenne of all monarchs, our Second Elizabeth, stood to attention and smiled tightly. When you are British, you do not speak to royalty unless they speak to you first, you do not offer a hand to shake unless theirs is extended. If invited to shake hands, one rips off a small bow or half-curtsey, which I had been a bit nervous about as my balance is still a little unreliable and I had worries of keeling over and bringing down the whole stand, pamphlets and postcards fountaining up and out in a mushroom cloud of information, which would not have been very elegant, would have shamed my mother forever, and furthermore would almost certainly have violated protocol.

Our non-Brit colleague Su, though, seemed unaware of such restrictions. She launched into an explanation of our activities, repeatedly calling the Queen's attention back for a further sentence or two (unbidden! the horror! we Brits curled into small mummified versions of ourselves), and then presented her Majesty with one of our rather classy jute rucksack bags, stuffed with pamphlets featuring our most photogenic beneficiairies and all in her native Italian. Her Majesty was somewhat nonplussed at being offered such an item, which apparently no other stand had had the gall to try doing. She turned to her retinue and made a help! gesture, whereupon the Commissioner scooped it up and handed it to a senior official. We have no idea where it went, but at least it didn't come back.

All I can say is it's a good thing we weren't all Brits behind that stand, otherwise the Belgian Queen would have thought Europe's entire humanitarian aid effort was staffed by wan, tight-smiled mutes.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The dinner is claimed...

.... by Drama Queen. I have not as yet met the Drama Queen, as she has not as yet deigned to turn up to a Blogmeet. She'd better turn up for the dinner. I have been known to fly into fits of pique when peeps disrespek' my soufflés, man.

In the meantime, I am now faced with the dilemma of whether to divulge Mrs T.'s blog details unto you. Some of you have already found her, Sherman, Gosling, and are probably now wishing they'd put 2 and 2 together a bit earlier and rendered themselves eligible for a bit of duck. Some of the rest of you are still searching. Well, anyway, what I recommend you do is start watching people's sidebars. You'll get there sooner or later. Holler out in the comments when you do.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Mrs. T's blog...

... remains elusive. I've got the clue from Tippler's blog and have google oogle oogled 'til I just can't google no more and it just ain't there unless she's claiming to be a Danish pensioner. But this wasn't the point of the exercise. The point of the exercise was that I was planning to reward the kind person, plus guest of his or her choice, with one of my fabulous dinners, in exchange for the URL.

The menu would have gone something like this:

Crevette grise and parmesan soufflés on a bed of lamb's lettuce, wholegrain mustard vinaigrette, accompanied by a perfectly fresh Pinot Grigio

Pan-fried duck breast with a marmelade and port gravy just slightly touched with star anise and a little cinnamon, gratiné dauphinois, steamed courgettes drizzled lovingly with Austrian pumpkin oil, served with a suitably cuddled Australian Shiraz

A perfectly aged Chaource cheese served with homemade sun-dried tomato bread rolls, served with port

My own apple and almond tart with Dorset organic vanilla ice cream, served with coffee or tea and a Calvados

Sigh. It's such a pity that no-one seems keen to claim it...