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Brussels report

I'm very grateful to all of you who have expressed concern about us in the last few days. In fact we live far enough outside Brussels that the situation had almost no impact on us, except that my visiting mother-in-law found it much easier than usual to make her train connections on Saturday night due to the lack of crowds. Our village is far from any place of current interest; yesterday I took B and her grandmother to the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Neerwinden, where we meditated on past conflicts and the origin of the poppy as their symbol.

I was luckier than a friend from England, who had chosen Saturday for a day trip to Europe's capital. He reported that it was "Quiet, but not OK. The closure of the metro didn't bother me - it's a compact place and I know my way around on foot. But what hasn't been as well publicised on the news is that all the museums and an awful lot of the shops were shut. Which was made worse by the rain, and then the snow and the near freezing temperatures. So not many places to shelter, not even City2 which they shuttered down at midday. Ho hum."

Today, I had little difficulty getting into Brussels; trains were delayed, but that is normal enough on the first cold day of winter. But I arrived to find the office two-thirds empty; those with children at school in Brussels, or dependent on cancelled public transport, or just not wanting to make the trip, were sensibly encouraged by our management to stay at home. The rest of us went out for a morale-boosting lunch, and afterwards I walked into the city centre for an errand. There was a more visible police presence around the Central Station, but more striking was the comparative absence of other people; it was like a wet Sunday in February. In the evening I counted myself lucky to get home smoothly - trains are now being cancelled due to staff staying home for whatever reason. Having grown up in Belfast in darker days, this is all tedious rather than frightening to me.

All non-essential meetings in the Brussels bubble have been cancelled for the next few days. The police who would normally show up to look like they were doing something now actually are doing something. Last Thursday I unexpectedly bumped into an old friend, the foreign minister of [redacted], on the street. I don't think we'll be seeing foreign ministers wandering around Brussels so casually for a while. Meanwhile we understand that the security forces are continuing their operations, though they have successfully persuaded social media users not to give blow-by-blow accounts of police movements but post cat pictures instead. I do hope that this turns out to be something more than security theatre to steady the nerves.

One of the winners of the current situation is the news website POLITICO.eu, who have run a series of incisive and insightful pieces starting (with eerie prescience) two days before the Paris attacks by interviewing the Belgian interior minister, excusing his inability to keep our country and our neighbours safe (it's well worth reading most of POLITICO's recent output). Well, maybe it will occur to voters in the next elections that if you support politicians who are intent on underfunding and undermining the institutions of the Belgian state (outlined in detail in this excellent piece by the excellent Kristof Clerix), there are associated costs to that support. Once the current security crisis is over, I hope that there will be a reckoning.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 23rd, 2015 09:56 pm (UTC)
Brussels Lockdown
User frances_lievens referenced to your post from Brussels Lockdown saying: [...] just very very very annoyed. I'd love to call it all a farce, but says it so much more eloquently [...]
Nov. 23rd, 2015 10:23 pm (UTC)
I'm very glad to hear this. Ironically, now that I work for a news organisation, I don't see all that much news myself. The Brussels story doesn't seem to have been given coherent coverage on the BBC news site, it's largely focussed on Paris and Syria instead.

But the cat pictures were fun.
Nov. 24th, 2015 12:10 am (UTC)
An ex-colleague of mine from Gaza commented that it says something that his family back in Gaza are regularly checking up on him to make sure he's safe.

Stay safe.
Nov. 24th, 2015 09:51 am (UTC)
Having grown up in Belfast in darker days, this is all tedious rather than frightening to me.

My partner also grew up in Belfast in the 70s, and that's exactly his reaction about all manner of security scares and theatre.

"bunch of amateurs" comes out a lot.
Nov. 24th, 2015 12:21 pm (UTC)
Hadn't commented, but have wondered if you are ok so good to hear so. The Boy has rather a different attitude to me from growing up in Belfast too, albeit later than you (80s).
Nov. 24th, 2015 01:44 pm (UTC)
M'lovely Brussels-dwelling friend (that I stayed with in the summer) has been ordered to work from home this week; her (indoor) cats are apparently very disgruntled about this disruption to their routine. :)
Nov. 24th, 2015 05:04 pm (UTC)
I'm very relieved to read that you and your family are all right. Safety these days is a relative thing, but it seems as if you'll be OK.

Your last paragraph is the one that grabbed me most strongly.

There's gonna be, there must be a whole lot of reckonings when this current affront eases. Europe as a community must understand how these terrorists (Emphatically NOT refugees) could embed themselves so successfully into so many places.

Also, as I am here, please let me thank you for your kind words of support regarding my latest 'adventure'. Things continue to process in a positive direction.

Let us all pray that God is watching over us.
Nov. 24th, 2015 07:16 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear you and your family are safe, hope it remains calm there :)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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