Sunday, 11 April 2010

Bat Out Of Belgium

Don't mess with Belgium
So, the Family Grump have survived the skiing season for another year. And what a top vacation; riding up and sliding down all day, generally without injury, with the exception of a nosebleed, one spectacularly sunburnt nose, and a nasty testicle-crushing incident on a draglift. So all round not too bad, since I didn't want any more kids anyway, and have never attained the high notes in "Bohemian Rhapsody" until now.

But in an unexpected twist, this vacation taught us many interesting things about that mysterious nation, Belgium.

Belgium, originally established as a place where the French could send their landfill, nuclear waste, and excess Algerians, would probably have disappeared altogether if the cunning Belgians hadn't invented the European Union. Allowing the Germans and French to believe it was their pet project, they managed to get it based in Brussels, which until then had only been known for its poisonous sprouts. What a stroke of genius. Today the corpulent EU splatters lucky little Belgium with great satisfying gobs of EU cash, and the canny Belgians have never looked back.

So here's what we learned.

Belgians can ski

Belgium is flat and damp. Skiing was unknown there until 1982 when EU defence chiefs, concerned about the possibility of war on a slope, issued every Belgian with new skis and natty jackets, as their contribution to the mighty European war machine. Each Belgian adult was issued with free skilift tickets, and vouchers for large frothy beers at lunchtime.

Belgians take a lot of vacation

As Belgium is at the centre of the EU, whenever any member state has a public holiday, Belgians honour that state by taking it too. Combined with the EU working time laws, this means that most Belgians work for two days each month, which is just enough time to enjoy their statutory sick days.

Belgians have enormous cars

The EU, concerned about domestic vehicle production, hit on the excellent scheme of issuing Belgians with whopping great BMWs, Volvos, and Audis. Small cars wouldn't work, alas, as Belgians, courtesy of the EU waffle, beer and chocolate mountains, tend to be on the large side.

Belgians drive very fast...

...and not very well. To hone their fighting skills, Belgians head to the Alps in vast numbers each year. It's a long way, so naturally they have to drive like maniacs to get there. It's a bit disconcerting for other road users like, say, me, travelling at the French limit of 82 mph, to be undertaken by a Belgian with a beer in one hand and a waffle in the other, steering with his knees.

So pardon me if I sound a little frazzled. Nine hours of Death Race 2000 with half the population of Antwerp doing Warp Factor 3 all around you is a dizzying experience. Next year, I think we'll take a cycling holiday. Somewhere flat and empty. Like Belgium.

P.S. I forgot to mention Twiglets. Oops. I blame the stress, and Gordon Brown.


  1. I've never even had a Belgian Waffle. I need to get out more...

  2. The thought of a Belgian with a beer in one hand and a waffle in the other, steering with his knees, made me laugh outloud. I thought we only did that in Oklahoma.

  3. LOL! I didn't realize Europeans made such great blog fodder.

    I shall have nightmares about that soused waffle driver.


    I hate drag lifts. Sometimes they drag me right out of the path.

  4. I enjoy your blog! Was in Belgium years ago and this brings back fond memories.


  5. If you hadn't specified that it was Belgians you were assessing, I might have thought you were talking about the folks from L.A.

  6. "Brussels, which until then had only been known for its poisonous sprouts"

    This was among the many things that had me laughing out loud. My dad was stationed in London during WWII, and apparently had to eat a lot of Brussels sprouts. To this day (he's 95 now) I know Brussels sprouts as the one food he will not eat.

    Welcome back from vacation.

  7. I'd like to import that vacation policy to the US.

    Great post, as always.

  8. I was about to purchase a plane tic to Belgium until I got to the second half of this post.
    I hope your testicle is okay now, Ubes.

  9. Hey 'Grumpy! Well I'm sold, and that was only the photo. And beer, waffles and chocolate too? Sounds an excellent place to be. Do they have fried chicken and pizza too? Sorry to hear about yer nads, hope they're all better soon. Indigo

  10. Glad to hear the Grump Family survived the pistes....barring that unfortunate testicular incident.

    Personally, I've always found the Belgians to be very agreeable...well, significantly friendlier than the French (I suppose that may apply to most nations though!)

  11. I like that vacation policy. Since we are now a global economy, I think we should honor every holiday everywhere...Chinese New Year...Ramadan...Cinco de Mayo...Mardi Gras...we should have them all off!

  12. Ahhhh Belgian drivers. I once drove to Amsterdam from Calais with a mate, all across Belgium in the rain. Terrifying.

    And they served huge vats of dogshit and frites in the motorway service stations. I suppose I should have been grateful it wasn't sprouts.

    Lucy WithaY from livesbythewoods, on her iPhone and too idle to login properly...

  13. Enormous cars. That's funny. I was thinking Ford F150's and BIG BIG cars.
    You must come to America. The cars will make you crap your twiglets. :)

  14. Ouch, UberGrump. I suppose the good thing of any testicle-crushing drama is that you can hit the high notes on Bohemian Rhapsody. Not really doing the song justice without them...hehe.

    Glad you had a good time. I went to Belgium once- to Ypres- and you can imagine what kind of time i had. It was the opposite of good.

  15. Aw yes, and right up the road is Amsterdam!

  16. I'm impressed that you've learned so much about Belgians. All valuable lessons. But I can't believe you crushed a Belgian's testicle. That's uncalled for.

  17. Belgians sound far more interesting than I ever gave them credit for.....

  18. I really thought the Belgian Waffle was named after Mr. Belgian.

    The more you know.

  19. i can never spell it right. i forget the i. like belgum.
    and then it's just like bell gum. gum. like bells.
    are belgIums chewy? just wondering.

  20. and one more: if you can't win with your muscles, do it the Belgian way and win it with your brains. Go Belgians!

  21. Well they invented french fries, so they can't be all bad. And they gave us Plastic Bertrand (ca plane pour moi!), who everyone thinks is French. Especially the French.

  22. Those bastards and their noxious sprouts!

  23. I, personally, am delighted to hear the Belgians are taking defence seriously at last!

  24. You always cheer me up Grumpy. It seems the worse it is for you, the better I like it. Sorry!

    The Clean White Page

  25. Judith Chalmers, eat your heart out. You've sold it to me. Though I don't like their chocolate. Far too sickly compared to Swiss.

  26. Since 51% of my DNA is made up of Belgian Waffles, Chocolate and Beer, I should be offended.
    My Grandfather risked his life..
    okay, but he did have to go on an awfully long boat ride...
    to escape and make a new life for the seeds of his loins here in the geographic centre of the Colonies, which, ironically, is also hobbled by bilingualism, and even flatter than Belgium.

  27. Sleepless hours here wondering where you can have been skiing in Belgium. Did you turn left instead of right in Calais?

    And that testicle. It wasn't your last one, was it? I expect you remember that advert for Rolos.

  28. So basically, you're saying that there were too many Belgians, which was fine while they were skiing, but a nightmare on the way to and from?

  29. You make Belgium sound a lot nicer than it is.

  30. Grump it up soon please

  31. Belgian, don't really have big cars!
    American people have much, Much bigger cars! I have been to america once and we counted 2 cars as little as the usual cars in belgium. Also we counted 20 bikes in 2 weeks. In belgium you count 20 bikes in 5 minutes! But the truth is, the waffles, chocolat, beer and fries are amazingly good in belgium. And yes, a lot of the younger people hate the sprouts as well!