In Flanders Fields

Somehow, between my two trips into the Himalayas, I allowed myself to be co-opted as chauffeur for a four day trip to into Flanders. I well remembered the hospitality of the pretty little hilltop town of Cassel and gave myself up to whatever piece of arcane research my friend Chris had in mind with the stipulation that I at least be able get the picture-book city of Bruges ticked off my list at last. After having my car checked over and renewing my alcopops (the French police require you to carry your own breathalyser tubes) we set off from Dover on this latest excursion.

Satellite navigation seems to have improved since the last time we tried this and there were definitely fewer unintended diversions but I did need to be reminded that “go round the roundabout, take the second exit” actually meant anticlockwise. When at last the annoying talking box told me “you have arrived at your destination” I proclaimed that I intended to honour my French ancestry with a few glasses of bon vin and that Chris could jolly well walk around Cassel from now on.

And the champagne did indeed flow freely at our first engagement. I will probably never quite comprehend how an event commemorating the WW1 artist, Sir William Orpen, came to feature a super-serious Beat poet complete with black roll-necked sweater and a heavy-handed grand piano recital. Simultaneously. Despite being surrounded by an enraptured audience, I did manage to discretely hit the record button on my mobile phone, stifle my giggles and drink as if my life depended upon it. Ask me to play it back to you sometime if you don’t believe me.

The following day passed in such a pleasant haze, with the lunchtime drinks continuing into the afternoon and then segueing into an equally well-lubricated dinner, it is hard to pick out many of the details. I’m pretty sure that I found myself surrounded by charming Irish people at times (ah! The Orpen connection – they must have been the other invitees) and blithely acting as translator to all and sundry. There was a deep and meaningful conversation with a silver fox of a Dublin lawyer about the possibility of my obtaining an Irish passport before Brexit. I’m not quite sure what I may have promised him in exchange but I’ll probably find out when Chris asks me to accompany him on the next trip.

(to be concluded)



Categories: Europe

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