Friday, August 04, 2006

The Gent Festival, Part 2

Well, I'm actually back home now, but I'll relay the rest of the holiday as best I can.

The evening after the last post, I had a lovely dinner with Jo and her boyfriend. Her boyfriend (whose name, for some reason, has left my head) and I spent most of it putting the world to rights. Or deciding that the world's pretty well buggered and agreeing that something drastic would have to change before it was put to rights and neither of us knew what that would be.

So, a few hours later, when the night was still middle-aged, I ventured back into town and headed for the Pole Pole stage. Some Mexican rock band were playing and they were pretty good. I drank "Pole Pole" cocktails and taught the barman how to say "Thank You" in Swahili (Asante). All felt right with the world.

When the band were replaced with the DJ, however, I became rather annoyed. He played a range of world music (though heavily biased towards Latin) and I liked the idea to show video clips of people from a range of world cultures on the big screens. The idea was nice. The execution was awful.

There was clip after clip of African tribes going through everyday chores that to Western eyes (and presumably the DJ's eyes) might look quaint. They were probably the most "amusing" clips they had and they were playing them over music that wasn't in the least bit African. I know it's a bit silly to find that annoying (and I felt a bit silly), but there's really no point in doing that sort of thing if you can't be bothered to put a bit of effort in and make the clips and music match.

Having lost the enthusiasm at that point I wandered around other stages for a short while but just felt sleepy and went back to my room.

The following morning I went to the station for my jaunt to Brussels. I decided to buy my ticket to Friedrichshafen (the German side of the Swiss-German border) while I was there. The plan was to go to meet my brother there before moving on to Jane's (Joinee Mum White's) cottage near Angouleme in St Claud in France.

Only it would have taken me four trains and lots of money to get there, and I would have had to get off in Ulm to buy another ticket. Alternatively, a train direct from Brussels to Angouleme was quite cheap. Decision made.

I managed to get to Brussels for late morning, and wandered into town. I headed straight into the Grote Markt, which is stunning. It's a big square surrounded by very grand imperious looking buildings, one of which now houses a museum. The side streets around there are bursting with cafes and restaurants, so I immediately ticked that off as probable lunch location.

It's a lovely looking town, but I never really got to experience it properly, being as it was, body temperature. Perhaps I would have had a bit more enthusiasm for wandering around aimlessly had I had someone else to be silly with, but I really didn't feel like doing very much.

So I had a Napolitan pizza at a nice Italian restaurant down one of the side streets, wandered up the shopping street a bit, and then decided I'd had enough and got back on the train to Gent.

Although in the middle of all of that I did go in the museum and discovered what all that Mannekin Pis business was about. It's actually a fountain (I couldn't be bothered finding it) of a small boy urinating, somewhere in Brussels.

There are all sorts of origin stories for the fountain, about six of which are listed in the museum (I imagine there's probably more). My favourite (mostly because it's the only one I can remember) suggests that one time when Brussels was under seige, a small boy peed on a lit fuse, saving the city from explosives planted under the city walls. So a fountain was made to commemorate it. All of the other stories are similarly daft.

The fountain isn't the first either, various incarnations have been removed for various reasons. Which reminds me of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, which has been vandalised and replaced about fourteen times. Usually with paint or explosives.

The museum has lots and lots of them, all dressed up in various national costumes. So now you can see small boys of lots of nationalities having a whizz. It's a bizarre collection of glorified dolls. When I went in a gift shop later I couldn't resist the Mannekin Pis bottle openers.

[I've now looked up a couple of links on Mannekin Pis. The Wikipedia is as ever informative, but is worth a look just for the animated intro.]

Back in Gent in the evening I met Jo for the festival. We met at the Pole Pole stage and watched a Caribbean band whom can only be described as the early 90s sitcom Desmond's in musical form. The lead vocalist, "Desmond" (no, I don't think that was his real name) was wearing a red trilby-type hat, with a Jamaica t-shirt and a red Hawaiian shirt.

The real star, though, was "Pork Pie". He must have been about 70, sporting sunglasses, a white beard and blue rastafarian hat. At first he was sat playing the bongos, looking effortlessly cool. The third or fourth song in, however, he stood up to take the lead vocals.

His singing was great, but it was his over-energetic, almost uncontrolled dancing on the spot that stole the show. Pure gold. We loved it. It was only the third time he stood up to sing, though, that we realised that he was getting an awful lot of help from his band mates and he was in fact blind.

Then the DJ took over, the rain came and we met up with Laure again and a couple of other people. Yes, apparently I spelt her name wrong before - it ends with an "e". I should be ashamed of myself. Dancing in the middle of the night in the rain between a river and a brightly painted Citroen 2CV on a podium is an experience I can recommend to anyone.

We drifted on to another stage before the rain stopped, but that's pretty much how my time in Gent ended. Aside from the nearly missing my train at six o'clock in the morning thing, that is. A great start to the holiday.

1 comment:

  1. hey man, i want to see some pictures !!! i thot you're a man of few words... once school starts, i need bullet point summary ....

    take care Phil
    Bad x


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