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Bicycle Repair Man

It was rather nice and sunny last Saturday, so we decided to head for the big city and go by bike rather the car (parking tickets/costs!) or the bus (moving greenhouse). I decided to give my bike’s tires a refill of air, and while I was at it, I also resuscitated the tires of Mrs.B’s bike.

I’d just finished the last tire, when I heard an ominous ‘PSHSHSHshshshsh’. Within seconds, the front wheel tire was as flat as a slug on a test course for steamrollers. The tire had ripped where the valve is attached.

So we took the bus to go to the city. It was damn hot inside.

Not that this was so surprising, because the ruin on two wheels that serves as Mrs.B’s mode of transport only resembles a bike of you look at it from a great distance, with your eyes squinted, in the mist, and without your glasses if you wear any. Up close you’d only see a big pile of rust, worn down rubber and various bike parts that are crooked, broken and/or all together dysfunctional.

Yesterday Mrs.B handed me a new tire and asked me to change it. Taking out the round piece of smudge and grease that once was the wheel wasn’t that difficult, it was just very, very dirty. When I took the outer tire from the rim I noticed just how worn the rubber was, it was cracking everywhere. Luckily I didn’t tear it apart, and once it came off changing the inner tire was a work of minutes (once I’d finally found my bike tools that is).

After I’d put the wheel back, I took a good look at that old bike and decided to try and improve it, as far as that was still possible. I liberally drizzled oil on the chain, the wheel axles and the brakes. Now it moves like lightning but your bum slides off the saddle and your feet off the pedals. Then I removed the remnants of the gears and one of the two old bells that dangle on the handlebars. I might as well have taken off the other one, because it doesn’t work, but then an overzealous policeman/woman might stop my wife for driving without a bell and at least now it looks as if her bike has a functioning warning apparatus. I also reattached the front mudguard, although it really needs to be replaced because under the fork the attachment point rusted away and Mrs.B reattached it with a piece of string. So every time she drives over a cobblestone road, it sounds as if someone is rolling a container of crockery off a steep hill. At least they’ll hear her coming without needing a bell.

When I’d finished my work, I took it out for a spin and a noticed that instead of riding a slow heap of rust and dirt, my loved one can now ride a moderately fast heap of rust and dirt to work.

Not that is safe to ride it at any speed, because quite a lot of the oil came on the wheel and break pads, so you need at least five hundred metres to come to a full stop. If you don’t have a backwind, that is.

Mrs B's Pasta Recipe

  1. Make pasta sauce
  2. Forget pasta
  3. Serve while everyone's very hungry

Enjoy your meal!


Mrs.B on the playground

Mrs.B on the playground

One Of Those Days

'Wolf's has had a double ear infection for weeks now. I'm lucky he didn't pass it on to me'

The moment I had formed that thought into my head, the virusses clambered into their Stuka divebombers and scrambled into the air. So as of yesterday night, my head feels like it's going to explode and release a giant tsunami of puss, slime and snot.

While I remained in bed and perfected feeling sorry for myself, Mrs.B went to work. Two hours later, she was back.

The police had closed the office, arrested her bosses and sealed of the place. No-one is to enter. The investigating magistrate wouldn't give anymore information, apart from the fact that he wouldn't interrogate my wife because she's only been working for this office since the beginning of the year.

Anyway, it's very unclear now if she's without a job or not, and if she will be paid for the last couple of weeks or not.

And I thought I had a bad headache before I heard that news.

Happy First Wedding Anniversary

I almost can’t believe we had our first wedding anniversary on Sunday, it seems like yesterday when I was desperately trying to wriggle the ring around my fiancées finger to make her my wife. We had hoped to find the calm again after the torrent of activities in the months leading up to the wedding. But so much has happened during the past year. We went on honeymoon to beautiful Ecuador. We got the keys of our new house and moved in after three weeks of frantic preparations. Our car was destroyed by the garage and we had to buy a new one, visiting every garage in a 10 kilometre radius on our bikes. And of course Mrs. Bart got pregnant, I can barely control the outbreaks of great joy nor the flashes of sudden panic every time I think about that.

Muchos smoochos honey, I love you.

Clinging On To The Edge Of Life

We went to Bruges last weekend, to visit the in-laws and load up my wife’s old desk that she wants to use for her new office. My mother-in-law and her scandalously younger boy-friend had invited us to participate in a quiz organised by the local district committee. The two of them and myself managed not to get utterly defeated by the other 19 teams, while Mrs. B. slept almost through the entire thing as she was exhausted from working all week and being pregnant all the time.

On Sunday we visited Mrs. B’s grandmother, who has suffered a stroke a couple of weeks ago. She’s been in hospital ever since, in the geriatric department. She’s in her mid eighties, and although she was getting less lucid lately she managed rather well, although with full-time assistance from her daughters. But after that stroke she’s half paralyzed and unable to speak or to express herself in any other meaningful way. It was sad to see her like this, although Mrs. B. kept up a brave and smiling face and entertained her grandmother until we had to leave. I, on the other hand, didn’t manage much of a conversation. But then again, grandmother seems always very amused by my face, ever since we met for the first time. So she observed me a lot while I pretended to observe the television or a couple of women’s magazines.

My own grandfather is in pretty much the same state as Mrs. B’s grandmother. He’s been moving in and out of hospitals for the last couple of years with an ever increasing rate. A couple of weeks ago he was admitted after a cardiac arrest, and the doctors told my mother and my uncles and aunts to say goodbye. But the old man clung to life with surprising tenacity. His body, that is, because his mind is tugging to leave. One of the few things he still reacts to is my sister’s name. Somehow he remembers that she recently gave birth to a girl, his first grandchild. My mother suspects that he wants to see little Hebe before he dies. Unfortunately, Hebe is not strong enough yet to risk her bringing into a hospital.

False Alarm

I couldn’t set my mind to work today. I had a lousy night’s sleep, lying around for ages, tossing and turning. I think I slept too much when I was ill last week. I also woke up in the middle of the night, I suspect when the person that steals blankets for a living who happens to lie next to me, had to go to the bathroom.

But the worst thing was waking up:

She: ‘Oh crap, it’s 7.05 already. You’ve forgotten to set your alarm clock. Wake up!’

Me: ‘Mmmph.’ Just great, I think, after such a night a miss my bus and train. I raise my head to make eye-contact with my alarm clock. Wait a minute, I didn’t forget to set it…

Me: It’s not five past seven, it’s five past six in the morning.

She: Oh, yes. You’re right... Sorry.


Thirty-five more minutes left to sleep, but of course I didn’t get a moment’s shut-eye anymore.

I Know What You Did Last Evening

Being married to a wife that doesn’t drink alcohol is quite practical, because it allows you to slosh down – let’s say – a bottle of white wine, a bottle of excellent 1992 Bourgogne (name escapes me behind veils of mist) and some small change in pints. No worries about how you’re going to get home…

However, it is very annoying that you can’t escape the details about how you’ve made a fool of yourself the evening before. Normally when everybody drinks at the same rate, such information is safely washed away by the alcohol. Although you may suffer from sudden flashbacks the next morning, when you’re recovering from you hangover in you warm but moist and smelly bed. This happens to me mainly when there was a dance-floor in the vicinity and the DJ played decent music for a change. The next morning I may experience some sudden and heavy flashbacks of my on the floor with my legs spread apart in a Michael -Jackson-meets-Prince imitation. So very wrong. So very painful. I usually cover my head with my pillow in shame, it helps a lot. But on the whole, these flashbacks are rare, although they may linger for several days and give me the occasional jolt of shame and disgust.

But when your wife’s still sober and fresh by the end of the evening, she will leave no detail of your scandalous behaviour, ridiculously wild claims, very politically incorrect but loudly proclaimed opinions and other socially unacceptable faux-pas uncovered. She takes revenge for listening for endless hours to your blabbering, by providing you with a detailed account of what you said and how everyone else looked at you in stunned disbelief / utter disgust / immense boredom. Oh the shame! It will take weeks before you recover and dare to phone your friends again. It will be months before you take the risk of setting a mere glass of kiddy-champagne or root beer to your lips in their presence. And that’s what it is all about: preventing that such evenings repeat themselves too often.

Nurse Bart

Mrs. B. has the flue. It started on Saturday evening when we were entertaining some of her old college friends. I slaved the whole day in the kitchen to prepare what must have been the Worlds Most Humungous Wok Dish For Seven Persons Ever. The recipe is quite easy: take 35 metric tonnes of veggies (onions, paprika, carrots, mushrooms (two 40-foot containers) tomatoes and soy sprouts), add one shipload of giant shrimp tails, half a shipload of monkfish and half a shipload of scallops. Forget the cuttlefish rings in the refrigerator so you can wonder the next day what the hell you’re going to do with a truckload of them for just two persons. Serve with China’s year supply of rice and India’s year supply of curry sauce. Oh, and for starters we had cauliflower and endive soup with bacon.

Anyway, everyone like the food and we had a jolly good time but by the end of the evening my co-dishwasher for life became very tired and developed a fever. So for the past couple of days I’ve been promoted to Maker of the Royal Tea and Fluffer of the Pillow. Very distinguished and all that you see. Her stomach was a bit queasy too, so I prepared some light and otherwise easily digestible meals such as wild boar stew in red wine gravy with bacon and mushrooms served with creamy mashed potatoes, and rabbit in Flemish beer sauce with thick applesauce and boiled potatoes. Maybe tomorrow I should make some spaghetti with steamed veggies or something, or else she won’t make it to the end of the week.

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