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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?

First Class Husband

He is. It’s official. And he got to graduate at Versailles, in Paris. Because only royal palaces are good enough for first class husbands.

I would say he scrubs up well but he pretty much always looks this good. I’m the scruff-bag in this relationship.

That middle picture… He looks like a magistrate (or something) marching purposefully towards the gates to deliver an important message. In truth, he was probably storming off to catch Charlie before he disappeared into the crowds of tourists (you can see him legging it in the first picture, on the left). He was a frickin’ pain in the proverbial that day  (Charlie that is, not Hanno). Hanno wanted to get a few pictures of himself in his gowns before the graduation ceremony started. All Charlie wanted to do was roll around in puddles. I’m not even joking. I wish I were. I have pictures to prove it. But I’m not posting them. The memories are vivid enough as it is.


And the ceremony wasn’t any better. First of all: two young children + a long formal ceremony with very little in the form of entertainment = unhappy Cass, especially since Han had to sit away from us, at the front, so he could get up to collect his degree at the appropriate time. It was little me all on my own. Amélie was well behaved, if somewhat fidgety, but made friends with a few of the OAPs sitting around us. And I mostly managed to distract Charlie with a cartoon on my iPod. But we forgot to bring earphones so I had to rely on those horrible ear-bud things that I have in my bag in case of emergencies (which would have sounded like a weird thing to have for an emergency, except, as it turns out…). Of course, with Charlie’s little ears (or any ears as far as I can tell) they kept on falling out, so I had to be on permanent alert: if they had stayed out for long enough for Charlie to realise that he had been quiet for an unusually long stretch of time, he might have decided to do something to remedy that. Anyway, I was just beginning to think we might just make it though the whole thing intact… I had even pulled my camera out, ready to snap Han as he was called onto stage… and that’s when it happened… Those two dreaded words that strike fear into the hearts of parents all over the world: “mum: poo!”. Oh, and did I mention that Charlie had diarrhoea? No? So yeah, there was that too. I grabbed my bag and Charlie, told Amélie NOT TO MOVE (I’d never left her unattended in a huge room full of strangers before) and ran (RAN), no doubt trailing bag contents, out of the auditorium, down a huge set of stairs, through the massive reception room (that was teaming with people setting up fancy drinks and nibbles for after the ceremony) and into the foyer where I located the nearest lavatories. Of course, there was no changing table – or space of any kind in fact – the whole room was about the size of a doormat. So Charlie went on the (damp) floor and I started emptying my bag, hunting for nappies and wipes (thank the heavens I had thought to put him in a nappy for the afternoon because that “mum: poo!” was not so much a request as a statement of fact). Now, this bag of mine was not a cute little handbag but a huge backpack containing everything we would need for a weekend in Paris. So out flew my camera, snacks, coats, shoes, jumpers, maps, purses, tickets… until finally I located what I was looking for. Why is it that when you’re looking for a jumper, all you can find is flippin’ nappies, but when you want a nappy, they all seem to be playing hide-and-seek in a black hole at the bottom of your bag? Why? WHY?! By this point, I think I had frightened Charlie into silence and cooperation (mummy’s having one of her manic episodes again) so we managed to get him undressed (despite the ridiculous laced-up boots with DOUBLE KNOTS! Whaaat?!), vaguely wiped down, and dressed again – minus the bloody boots (they got stuffed back into my bag with everything else), without too much fuss. Then I grabbed everything I could, pretty much threw Charlie over my shoulder, unfolded myself out of the postage stamp facilities, and legged it back across the foyer, through the reception room and up the four hundred squillion stairs, bursting into the auditorium with a bewildered Charlie just as they called out Hanno’s name. I managed to get back to our seats, poke Amélie in the ribs (she had picked up the iPod and was completely oblivious to everything and anything going on around her) and applaud more of less on cue. Then I burst into tears. Quietly and with dignity of course. Of course. No but really: we had got up at the crack of dawn, crossed Brussels, caught a train, arrived in Paris, then crossed Paris, in the rain, or trekking though miles of grim tunnels and braving the miserable RER, found only a crowded McDonalds for sustenance, got changed, taken pictures, and all that with two exhausted children, so I was damned if I was going to miss the actual moment when my husband graduated. “Mum: poo” indeed. I would have left him to stew in it if it weren’t for the fact that the fumes would probably have done in quite a few of the old codgers sitting next to us. And then I’d have had to deal with bodies as well as a fetid custard-filled nappy.

Now, having told you that story, please congratulate me for just getting all three of them into these pictures. In fact, please tell me I’m brilliant. Because honestly, at that point I was probably ready to sell Charlie to the highest bidder. Not because of the diarrhoea. That probably wasn’t his fault (although, given the stuff he puts in his mouth…). No, not because of that but because of all the rest. Like the rolling in puddles. And maybe for having woken us up at 4am that morning. Yes, maybe that too. Given the circumstances, these are frankly the most superb formal portraits ever and I’m very proud. So there.

And this is Hanno doing an impression of Gollum with his precious ring – except he’s holding his degree certificate instead. And yep, still feeling super proud of these awesome portraits and not feeling guilty at all that I told Han not to shell out for professional ones because “I could do just as well”. Bwahahaha! Nevermind.

Last but not least: ta-da! See that? “First-Class Honours: Hanno Pfister”. Told you: first class husband. Him and Claude: right old clever clogs.

3 November 2013 - 8:12 PM erin - aaaaaahahahaha i love you and that little rascal, Charlie congratulations Hanno!!

3 November 2013 - 8:46 PM Adeline - Hanno est vraiment le meilleur !!! tu peux être fière de lui Cass!! un père exemplaire et un élève brillant! Sa modestie n'a d'égale que son excellence! Félicitations!!! on vous embrasse fort

4 November 2013 - 10:16 AM Annie - That's awesome! Congrats!! Your little ones are so stinkin precious!

23 November 2013 - 8:56 AM alice - félicitations....

28 November 2013 - 9:07 PM Mathieu - Hello, Do you give lessons in photography? I love your 'portraits' Yours faithfully Mathieu

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