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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?

La fête chez Billy et Adeline

For the 15th of August (a bank holiday in France), my brother Billy and his partner Adeline threw a big family party at their new home. It’s worth noting at this point that Adeline had only just given birth to my sweet little niece. At a similar point after my pregnancies, I was barely able to get dressed, let alone throw a party for fifty-odd people (or fifty odd people… one or the other). But Billy and Adeline pulled off an excellent party. And Adeline looked stunning to boot. Pfft!I wanted to get a picture of all of my parents’ grandchildren. Unfortunately, the sun was too bright, casting dark shadows in the midday sun. Also, unbeknownst to me, just where Charlie is sitting is where Billy and Adeline buried their poor cat (he was no longer of the living. Just thought I’d make that clear, you know, just in case). Lovely.Since their garden is so big, there was room for a paddling pool, a fire bit, a “bar”, several long tables, and various other forms of entertainment. And all that just in the end tip behind the vegetable garden. Space: not something we have so much of in Brussels.My brother Harry, his son, and my papa. Three generations.I love that little picture on the left: my mum handing over Candice (Billy and Adeline’s daughter) to Adeline’s… great aunt (I think!).Harry and his son. And that beautiful girl in the background? That’s my gorgeous sister Roxanne.The children’s table (and my mum with her newest grand-daughter).This is France. There was drinking. But surprisingly for a party involving my brothers and alcohol, there were no broken bones and no bared bums (that I saw anyway).

The starter: a melon and prosciutto salad. So yummy and refreshing on a hot summer’s day. And the fire-pit with the magret de canard gently sizzling away. By the way, initially Billy and Adeline were going to ask everyone to bring something for the meal. But then Adeline’s brother (pictured looking after the magret) told them they couldn’t do that and should lay on a good spread that no-one could forget. Initially, that made me angry because, as I’ve mentioned, they’ve just had a baby. But I have to give it to him, her did end up doing a lot of the cooking and it was excellent. He’s forgiven.And I’ll remind you, again, that this is just the “tip” of their garden. It was practically a 10 minute walk back to the house. Me, jealous? Non!That (tired) smiling face belongs to my lovely Billy-bro.Billy and Tom, not being glamorous. Rox and her boyfriend Ludo, being ridiculously glamorous. My attempt at creative editing. Gone wrong.Hot, sticky and full-tummied at the end of the meal.My beautiful sister-in-law and her gorgeous boy. Notice the camera to the left? Yep, totally jumping in a stealing someone-else’s picture: that’s me.Have I mentioned how much I love this girl before? My fabulous niece Clotilde.She’d practically just given birth. Ridiculous. Adeline: tu es bien trop belle. Ca ne m’étonne pas du tout que Billy te regarde comme ça (émerveillé et amoureux)!
Adeline’s father: a little bit mad and therefore really quite brilliant.
Chicken coop. I love chicken coops. And so do my children apparently.And the pinata! You had to pull at strings instead of bash it to pieces: a peaceful pinata. All those apples on the ground were soon to be joined by a big pile of sweets.Ah yes, and then I had to gather everyone for a big family portrait. That was fun. Not everyone was very enthusiastic, as you can tell.But we got there in the end. I probably should have repositioned a few people for better symmetry and visibility, but you have to know your crowd and I kinda suspected this one had a very short fuse.Turns out I was right. A couple of seconds after that last picture was taken a number of bottles of bubbly were “opened” by my brothers. Not everyone was happy (look at Hanaé’s face in the right-hand picture). Charlie was saved from the explosion by a fast acting Tom. Thank you Tom!The aftermath.My brother Charlie cheers up his children the French way…The child-throwing contest came next.Harry and Agnès asked me to take their picture. This was nerve-wracking for me. I’m not good at posing pictures and the pressure was huge: Harry and Agnès are very private people. This was pretty much my one chance to get a good picture of them. Harry and Agnès: I hope there’s at least one that you like!

My beautiful, grumpy children. I wanted to get a picture of all the girls, in their flowery dresses, under this tree. But the tree is by the side of the house and, as I’ve mentioned, the house was a good walk from where the party was, so that was a problem. Then, of course, there was the fact that the dresses came off within seconds of the paddling pool being filled. And finally, there’s the fact that none of them much cared to indulge me in my picture-taking quest. I mean, have you seen Amélie’s face? And that’s before the party had even started and there was nothing to miss. Next year maybe.One of my favorite pictures, even though it’s out of focus: Alice twiddling Rox’s hair, Harry and Billy mimicking each other (probably unknowingly), Tom playing with his nephew, Hanno in his sexy Grand Canyon cap… OK, maybe not so much that part, but at least Han’s in the picture.We finally wore Charlie down at around 5pm and had to borrow a buggy to plop him in. And of course that’s when I started wanting to snuggle him. He looks so snuggly when he’s sleeping. And on the right, we have my niece Hanaé. Possibly one of the most beautiful little girls ever – also the best at avoiding my camera. I pursued her like a determined stalker all day and FINALLY got the following three shots as we were walking back to our car to leave. Not even joking. I took three pictures in three seconds. None of them are very good but I’ve still edited them all. Because I mean look at her: she’s stunning (despite having pink-eye!). Now just imagine if I’d got a good picture! It was SUCH a good day. Our whole time in France was really brilliant. Argh! Makes it so hard to go home again. I miss my brothers and their lovely children. I miss my children being able to play with their cousins. I miss the space. Sigh… We’ll be back.

22 October 2012 - 3:29 AM Tonton Max - Cass, Thanks so much for posting the photos. I wish Annie and I could have been there. Next time the family does something like this, if you'll give us enough notice, we'll try to make it. Love you all, Max

22 October 2012 - 9:37 PM Teresa - There you are! I was just thinking about you. I've been checking your site but you've been MIA. I guess Brussels isn't Borign after all. ;) I LOVE these photos! Looks like such a fun time and you captured that energy beautifully.

24 October 2012 - 8:13 AM Cass - Teresa... Haha! I love that you noticed my absence! I wanted to post all these pictures together and because I'm a slow-coach (and only have an hour a day at best to play - and am incapable of bulk editing) it took me over a month to get them all ready. This is why I'll never go pro: don't think I could cope with the pressure of having to have a quick turn around! People would be getting their wedding picutres as anniversary presents ;-b

23 October 2012 - 3:03 PM mad gran/mami folle - Wonderful photos of a wonderful day.. thank you

24 October 2012 - 5:07 AM amanda - arrgh this is the most fabulous looking family party eva! How is it everyone in your family is so gorgeous!!!!!

24 October 2012 - 7:45 AM billy - Thank you Cass, this is great. These pictures are beautifull.I love them.

24 October 2012 - 8:08 AM Cass - It was your party Billy - you made it great xxx

24 October 2012 - 6:37 PM alice - Alcohol free, I swear. It's Champomy, french kids champagne. Please come and tell the police, they won't let me out of prison! Charlie.

24 October 2012 - 6:47 PM Cass - Surely the French police would applaud any efforts to develop children's palette at a young age.

17 November 2012 - 10:04 AM Frau Blau - Cass- these are brilliant! Looks like an amazing party. I cannot believe that is Roxanne! I remember her as a teeny tiny baby- incredible! X

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