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On Being Boring

I moved from London to Brussels with my husband nearly 10 years ago. When I told people we were moving, the news was greeted with bemusement: why did we want to move to a city that was possibly the most boring place on earth? Ten years later and I can honestly say that I've had more fun here than I ever did living in London. It might not be the most exciting city in the world but it is a fantastic place to live. It is full of hidden treasures that you probably never get to see as a tourist: wonderful shops, amazing food, great museums and galleries, beautiful architecture, a forest (yes, a whole forest), and so much more... And if that doesn't convince you, well, get on a train and you could be in Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne or, yes, London in no more than a couple of hours... Which other city can you say that about?

Enough Gems to make a Crown for the Queen

I am going to tell you honestly about a few things that Amélie said this weekend. After having read this, you may wonder about my parenting methods. Don’t worry, I do too.

On Sunday morning, Amélie was desperate to get outside. We’ve told her she can’t skip inside anymore because someone has moved in downstairs and the sound of her skipping-rope hitting the floor rythmically throughout the day might be enough to drive them crazy. So now she spends a lot of time trying to convince us to leave the house. On Sunday morning, the reasons she gave me were two-fold: “One, it’s sunny. Two, for Charlie and Hanno, for their gonads, there’s a nice breeze” (don’t even ask!).

As it happened, Han and I had quite wanted to go to the Musée Royal des Beaux Arts to see the Stanley Kubrick photography exhibition. And the museum is right next to Amélie’s favorite park, so, ok, why not. Let’s go.

Once she had got all the skipping out of her system, we headed off for the short walk to the museum. On the way, we passed the Bozar, a smaller gallery that often hosts more avant-guard exhibits. Amélie stopped for a moment and asked “have we already been in there?”. Yes, we had. “Because I don’t remember if we did or if it was a dream but I think we saw robots that were ghosts in wheelchairs chasing us”. That would have been a dream, and a fairly disturbing one at that. Also, I never want to go to Bozar again, just in case.

At the museum (the one without the man-eating robot-ghosts), getting to the Stanley Kubrick exhibition involved walking through a hall displaying various pieces of modern art. One consisted of a pile of blank canvasses topped by a pile of big grey concrete blocks. “What’s that?” asked Amélie. “It’s art”. “Yes, but what is it?”. “It’s a pile of canvasses with a pile of rocks on it”. “Why?”. Moving on! And then we came to the paintings and drawings. “That looks like me doing bouchacha” [=scribbles]. “It does a little bit, yes”. “Why?” (we get asked “why” A LOT). “Because that’s what the artist wanted to do”. “Why?”… There followed a brief conversation about the nature of art and how different people saw beauty in different things and represented things in different ways. And also about how you should never throw a painting away because what looks like a mess to you could be a masterpiece to someone else. “It still looks like bouchacha”. Hmmm.

Finally, we got to the Stanley Kubrick photos which, for the record, I liked more than I expected. But, for me, two moments and two pictures in particular, will be remembered:

1) the moment Amélie came running up to me and said “come mummy! Look!” as she dragged me to a photo of a circus performer with weighted rings through his nipples “look at his boobs mum! They’re all pulled down!”. They were indeed. As I went off again, I turned round: Amélie was still standing there. But instead of looking at the picture, she was staring at the other visitors and watching for their reactions. I loved that.

2) the picture of the fully clothed man standing in front of a naked woman (that we could only see from behind) and Amélie’s question “what are they doing?”. “Well, I think he’s an artist. Look, there are paintbrushes on the table and what look like unfinished sketches all over the floor”. “Why’s she naked?”. “I think she might be a model, maybe she’s posing for him”. She paused for a few seconds, and then, with full confidence, in a very quiet room, she declared: “I think he’s going to have sex”.

And then we had some lunch. And then we went to look at some Hieronymus Bosch and Bruegel which Amélie loved. And then Charlie decided he’d had enough of the museum for one day so we went home.

23 April 2012 - 1:57 PM melissa - Oh, I love her. LOVE her. And you, too. xo

23 April 2012 - 2:44 PM Cass - You know what, I'm getting a yearning to return to NYC, this time with my boy and my girl in tow. I mustn't tell my husband this otherwise he'll be booking us on the next plane out of here. But, after our most recent trip, I just realised how much I would love to go back. And this time, I promise, I won't go AWOL. I will find you, and our girls can go to MOMA together and find all the pictures of naked people to laugh at. What do you reckon? Hmm... would my daughter be too much of a corrupting influence on your beautiful and polite girl?

24 April 2012 - 2:56 AM melissa - OOooooh, don't be a tease! They'd be two peas in a pod (and Eliza + Charlie together.....adorable!). We'd have a blast; you know I'd love to see you (and giggle at the naked art with the girls). Don't worry about corrupting my City Kids...we're doing a fine job of it already. xoxo

25 April 2012 - 8:06 PM Angie - She's saying what we're all thinking!

25 April 2012 - 9:38 PM Cass - Agreed. Except for the ghost-robots in wheelchairs.

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