Monday, 9 August 2010

Home again

I am back in Brussels now - swimming against the tide as usual, since everyone else has just finally downed headsets and skipped off to warmer climes.
Ah Poland: once again the meat counter defeated me and I ended up ordering three hundred grammes of szynka wiejska when actually I wanted 3 decas. Or indeed 13. 130 grams, dammit. About half as much as I eventually got anyway.

Pino: proszę 3 deka szynki wiejskiej
Pani sprzedawczyni: Co?!
Pino: proszę 3 deka szynki
Pani: ...?
Pino: ok proszę trzysta gramów szynki...
(Pino's friend: who on earth buys 13 dekas of ham?! That's just weird)

In any case, now I'm back in Brussels. Trouble started on the Eurostar when my seat was occupied by a teenage French brat:
- but weee wanteed to seet togezzer...
I tried to calmly blag an upgrade from the train manager, but she was having none of it. I suspect that had I been a forty-something businessman in a grey suit she would have granted my request.
Every time I get the Eurostar I can feel the tension rising as I anticipate having to fight to keep the seat I've already paid to reserve. Possession is nine tenths of the law, and once someone else's bum is firmly planted on your seat, you're in a lose-lose situation: give in and you have to find yourself another space, which you then risk losing at the next French Deluge getting on at Lille. Insist on having your original seat, and you expose yourself to awkward, resentful silence from your neighbour after having ousted her indignant friend. I never have this problem on any other route so the only logical conclusion is to blame it on the French. Disclaimer: the author of this blog has nothing against francophonic persons and insists that Some of her Best Friends Are French. Honestly.
Fellow Eurostar travellers! If you really must sit together then jolly well book your tickets together and sit in the seat you've been assigned to. And that way you will help prevent frustration and high blood pressure disorders in otherwise mild-mannered conflict-averse persons like me.

Miraculously, no-one broke into the flat while I was away, the internet still works, my taxi got from Midi to My Place in a record ten euros and I found a whole can of beer in the fridge. There were a few other items in the fridge as well. One of them may have been a tomato, but resembled a very tiny, mouldy round of goat's cheese. My unwashed coffee cup in the sink sported an interesting fungal structure that steamed when I ran the tap into it.

Tomorrow will be a day for opening bills and paying bills and checking bank accounts and getting keys to new flats.

Better get a good night's sleep then.


Jeannie said...

Welcome back! I got very stressed out reading about the teenager on the train. Very funny about the ham. I have no idea about metrics to begin with, so to think about ordering in a different language, well, I would not only order the wrong quantity, it would end up being the wrong thing entirely.

Korie said...

Welcome back!

Justyna said...

Next time just annoy the butcher lady with the actual amount of slices you want. I see nanas do it all the time. You run the risk though of having 300g of ham hacked into 5 slices.

Michael Dembinski said...

Five dekos enough for a (generous) sandwich, ten is good for breakfast for two, 15 you get to stick the rest in the fridge for next time.

I my first year in Poland I ordered a single deko of salami, which resulted in three wafer-thin slices served by a very indignant shop lady. You see, I thought a deko was one-tenth of a kilo (or a fifth of a pound). I was out by a factor of ten.

You are right of course, SI has no place for 'deka' - so order in grammes.

But then as Rhodes Boyson, Thatcher's Education Secretary famously told Ali G, children should learn to deal in quarters and eights of ounces.

Jake said...

Hi Pinolona,

I came across your blog a while back (via beatroot / scatts?) and got hooked... but I feel a bit guilty as it seems a bit voyeuristic, so I thought I should tell you about me, now that I'm writing something of a blog myself (for a while anyway).

I used to live in Poland (about the same time as you first did I think) - in Warsaw though, sorry(!) , did my best to get the hang of the language, so have loved reading about your struggles with it. I'm living back in the UK now, but still pop over there a few times a year. In fact I'm on my way now... by bike! I'm cycling from London to Warsaw, and am just about to get to the half way point. I'm raising money for WaterAid along the way. You can read about my adventures so far at

I'd be really interested to have a chat with you about your experiences of both Poland and Brussels... if you're happy to, email me at: ben at - but this probably comes across as being a strange message from a creepy strange guy - I hope not though! Look forward to hearing from you.

Laura said...

Haha! I've got so used to having to fight for my seat on the train that I automatically went up to someone and told them they were in my seat. Poor guy was trying to have a phone conversation at the time... Anyway, turns out that I was looking at my seat number for the return trip and I should have been at the other end of the train. Of course, he was Belgian and pointed out my error in perfect English. Embarrassing!

I was also very pleased not to have been burgled while on hols - I insisted on taking all valuables away with me, just in case. Turns out there wasn't much need for two laptops in France.

katy said...

I once rode a eurostar where the previous train had been cancelled and a conductor had to forcibly remove an indignant Frenchwoman from the seat behind me, because it was her seat on the defunct train... I think the whole car was embarrassed for her.

despite the tense situations I still miss belgium's public transportation though!

Anonymous said...

Did u die in a car crash? is this blog dead for good ?

Anonymous said...

Pino, tell those French bastards to get the hell out of YOUR damned seat!! Get a little assertive here. I know it's not comfortable but the longer you cave in to these seat thieves the worse you'll feel about it.

End of today's lesson.

pinolona said...

i'm still here. I just moved house and don't have internet. And probably won't for some time, since Belgium is a bit primitive where telecommunications are concerned.

Outsider said...

"A bit primitive"? Walk to Ostend, stick your handwritten messages in a bottle and throw them in the sea, and chances are they'll somehow find their way to their addressees before the Belgacon guy shows up.

Indian smoke signals are also a viable alternative to internet in Belgium. :(

As for the whole deka thing, I thought it was pretty much an obsolete unit of measure because I'd never heard anyone but my grandmother use it... ?