For those of us lucky enough to be spending a year out of the country, I will tell you this. There are many great things to do and I would recommend this experience to anyone. However since moving to Belgium there are two things which have been quite literally assaulting me since my arrival; firstly – bicycles, and secondly – Christmas.
I have never had a problem with bicycles before because they are an environmentally friendly form of transport, you look cool on them and they have nice dingy bells to remind the pedestrian (aka me) that I am in the way. I am not a bike hater. But here they truly take it to another level, I used to listen to music in my headphones on my way to lectures, it made me happy and feel a bit like I was in a film. I can’t now because a bicycle is hard enough to hear as it is, let alone with Destiny’s Child pumping in your ears. The sheer volume of cyclists is unbelievable; they get priority on the road hierarchy and on the pavements, which is supposed to be my area! There are sometimes only cycle lanes. No pavement. Just a cycle lane. If I get out of this country without a handle bar through my head it will be some kind of miracle.
Speaking of miracles – the birth of baby Jesus has also been attacking me from every angle for the last two weeks. Today is only the 16th of November – yet last weekend when I left my flat to meet a friend about a four minute walk from my front door, I was met by horses, people dressed up in Victorian clothes and, weirdly, a xylophone band. This ‘Christmas parade’ of men and women were throwing sweets to all these tiny people who are supposedly human, apparently called children, I couldn’t tell because they were all screeching like banshees. I was hit in the head twice by flying gummie bears; I wasn’t kidding when I said that Christmas was literally assaulting me. The four minute journey took me fifteen minutes. Why? Because everyone had decided to park their bikes in the middle of the pavement and I had to duck out the way of an oncoming horse to get past them.
Now I am not one of those big, green, hairy creatures that likes to steal Christmas, but people of Belgium, and the world over – it is NOVEMBER. Not only have you started a continuous assault campaign on me with a barrage of bicycles but you have decided to double this up for the next two months. Please, Christmas is a lovely time of year, but it is one day – it does not need a 2 month build up campaign, no matter how amusing it must be to throw gummie bears at grumpy English girls.