The Eurostar slid into Brussels Midi a bit after 3; I tugged my suitcase off the doorway, three long steps above the platform, and incanted Ik stap uit de trein. It probably cuts no ice in the French-speaking capital of Europe, but the parallel Dutch narrative helps with vocabulary (and to find words that I need to learn).
The connectors trip me up more than the nouns and verbs. If, actually, then, because, except, though, like… I think in compound thoughts and fidget when my sentences don’t have phrases.
It’s not just the words (als, eigenlijk, dan, omdat, behalve, toch, net als), but the way they affect word order, when to add an ‘e’, the form of the verb.
And by the time I sort that out, I’ve lost track of the sentence or the conversation has moved on.
Still, with practice.
I tuck my earbuds deeper: I should be listening to Niewslijn, but NPR takes less concentration in a crowded terminal. I scan the boards for Liege, find Luik, and head for track 4a. A bathroom break would be nice, but I’ve got 20 euro and 40p, a bad combination for the 50p entry fee.
The commentator drones about the new wave of male waxing. Apparently limited to chest hair, it still sounds very affected. Nearby, John Travolta dances with Princess Diana on a magazine cover – I shake my head. Urban Cowboy, Saturday Night Fever: He was the king of affect, of becoming someone you want to be just by changing your costume. A sidestep, really, that keeps you from ever becoming who you want to be.
The 70’s rolled into Cambridgeshire last weekend; everyone (over 50) dressing up in big hair and loud colors.
I don’t think that the British ever did disco, really, so the music is Beatles and ABBA. I wonder whether our music will survive once our generation is gone; even now it sounds cliché. Multicolor lasers flicker from robotic hardware: scientists in the 60’s would have killed for this kit. Now they pulse to YMCA in a simple village hall.
Still, it’s a familiar rhythm and happy memories follow from every melody. And it doesn’t feel affected.
The train is late, but the sun is out and it’s nice to sit along the platform, watching the people and the transport. People ask if I get lonely, and I suppose that a birch-bark blond fifty-something, alone on the platform with a suitcase beneath his legs, evokes something of that sentiment. Certainly there are ideas I’d talk about; idle chit-chat to share. But at the same time, I am busy with notes and narratives, plans and sketches, and the time passes quickly.
Finally, the train arrives, and Ik stap aan, then off to Luik, frowning at my computer screen as I try to adopt the new spreadsheets that my accountants want me to use.
The steden en dorpen slide by against the green countryside: Leuven…St. Truiden…Huisen… Hasselt…Genk ? I realize that the line has swung far north of the main line if, indeed, I was ever on the right train to begin with. Damn.
Nouns, verbs, no problem. It’s the connections. that throw me.