party

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Ancient History

Well, there's no use beating around the bush any more. I'm 40, which means I'm officially old. From now on, my body will fail me more and more. My sight will be going. I'll start leaking fluids everywhere. The pipes will bust. The wiring will burn. In as far as that hasn't happened already.

We had a great party last Saturday. Mrs.B and I spent the whole Saturday afternoon trying to turn a bare hall into an inviting party place, and I must say we succeeded brilliantly (if I may say so myself). Amazing what a bunch of balloons, paper table cloths and masses of cheap Chinese lampoons and garlands can do.

We invited a whole bunch of people, some of which we hadn't seen for many years. But in the end only twenty-five or so of them turned up. Still we had lot of fun. It was nice seeing and talking to old friends, we had plenty to eat and to drink, and I honed my DJ skills for the first time in years. I must admit I was a bit rusty and although everyone said they loved the music, I didn't seem to get anyone on the dance floor. Not to worry, I am able to play music and dance, so I had a blast. And finally some people joined my. That's Thirty-somethings for you, they'll yap and gossip all night long instead of dancing the night away.

At least we 40-year-olds really know what fun is.

Biannual Man

We celebrated Wolf’s second birthday this weekend. Two years ago, a fragile quiet little baby came into our life. It’s difficult to believe how fast he grew up to be an energetic toddler that's running around the house, that's learning the wrong words as soon as you accidentally utter them and who’s favourite hobby is to order his parents and the cats around.

Saturday – his actual birthday – we gave him a puzzle, but the real party was on Sunday. We’d invited his grandparents and godparents for a big barbecue. Mummy had bought enough meat to feed a herd of tyrannosaurs for a year or two and daddy slapped them on the grill, wearing his cowboy hat that went very well with the tepee that he’d set up at the end of the garden. And Wolf and mummy had spent the entire morning blowing up balloons and hanging them in the sun. Two hours later, the same sun had exploded almost half of the balloons. By the time all the guests were there, only four balloons survived. When the strawberries with whipped cream arrived (one kilo per guest plus one litre of whipped cream), our garden was the balloons’ version of the killing fields.

But it was loads of fun! And there were loads of gifts, although faulty communication led to two couples buying the same gift. But he got bicycles (plural, yes), a huge inflatable swimming pool, a Duplo horse riding centre (times two), a bedtime story book and loads of other loot.

Wolf and his nieces had a lot of fun; the sky was filled with screams of laughter, not in the least because the neighbours’ eldest daughter celebrated her birthday on the same day in the next garden. Needless to say, our party was the best party of the whole neighbourhood.

I was very glad that Monday was a holiday here, because I really needed an hour of rest before I went on the whole day to lay new drainpipes in the bathroom.

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.

Rainforest Coming Trough!

‘I like this one best’

We were in a garden centre, choosing a plant for the friends we were going to visit that evening. I’ve hated garden centres for all my life and I hold a grudge against all the women – my mother and my wife – who have ever dragged me there. So my wife was choosing the plants, and I was trying to prevent my skull from exploding because of acute boredom and lethal doses of chagrin.

‘You must be joking’, I reply when I take a look at the plant she is pointing at. ‘Plant’ is an understatement for this monster. It’s a giant sequoia, a complete rainforest in a pot. It’s almost taller than I am.

‘We’re never going to get that thing in the car.’

‘We can lay it down. Or put it behind the driver’s seat.’

‘It’s too big. Won’t we squash the leaves if we lay it down?’ I tried feebly. But resistance is futile and moments later astonished shoppers saw a giant green mass move by on it’s own, my feet barely visible beneath it.

My wife insisted that it would be wrapped as a present. I try not to sink trough the ground while the shop ladies call in reinforcements. Together they storm the towering mass of leaves with all the wrapping material they have. They have to restart twice, because someone went missing during head count and they find employees stuck inside the plastic wrap. Finally we can leave. When I get on the street, the wind catches the wrapped plant and I almost fly off like a sailing ship in a tornado. While I struggle to regain control, I try not to notice the sniggering passers-by. My green-fingered-life-partner is oblivious to all the attention and walks in front of my with a happy smile.

As predicted, it didn’t fit in the car upright, even with our new spacey Peugeot Partner. So it goes down, next to the carpets that we got back from the cleaner’s earlier that morning.

 

That evening, we get out of the car. Unfortunately, we found a parking spot right next to a café with a fully laden terrace. Despite the humungous green mass, I still think they saw my red face glowing behind. A small group of people on a stroll even offer to help when I finally put the thing on the ground in front of our friends’ home.

Only consolation: the stunned look on our friend’s face when he opened the door. I guessed he must have realised immediately that their just wouldn’t be any more living space for them once they unwrap that monster.

The Old Fart Went Dancing

I’m not feeling very well today. We went to a birthday party yesterday, a couple of friends of mine celebrated their 30th anniversary this year and they decided to organise a party together. Although I’m not used to drinking large quantities of alcohol as I was before as a single free unmarried bachelor without any strings attached, I did my best. I’d say I made a serious dent in their booze budget. After half an hour the people behind the bar knew already who I was and what I wanted: beer.

Not that I was incredibly pissed, but still pissed enough to make a fool of myself on the dance floor. I consider myself to be an excellent dancer, after 15 pints that is.

So this morning I woke up with a headache that could serve a dozen or so people. An overdose of aspirin helped my clear my head a bit, but I have to cut trenches in a brick wall this afternoon to lay electrical wiring in our bedroom so the headache may come galloping back. My stomach is a bit iffy too. But I had a heck of a time and it was sooooooo long ago since I had a decent night out. That’s worth a bit of pain!

Married!

So there we are, Mr and Mrs Bartlog. We had a beautiful and glorious wedding, despite getting bombarded by everything the Belgian climate could throw at us: rain, hail, violent gusts of wind,… But the sun broke trough the clouds on all the right moments. It was pouring when we left for city hall, but when we arrived the sun was shining in all its splendour. And it remained as if it was a really nice spring day until the moment we climbed on the coach again. We had a big coach, drawn by three black ‘Friesian’ horses and the whole city was admiring us when we drove through the streets of Antwerp. Except this one guy who thought it was a funeral and who made a cross sign when we passed!

The wedding ceremony was on what is know here as ‘the beautiful floor’, where the mayor and aldermen have their offices. It’s a magnificent building, designed by Rubens himself in Italian Renaissance style. We weren’t too nervous, although I had serious troubles getting the wedding ring over my bride’s finger. She has narrow fingers but broad joints, so it took me ages and I must confess some sweat ran along my spine before I finally had the stupid thing in place.

We went to the Antwerp Zoo for the photo shoot, which gave us a lot of logistical problems. My stunning looking wife had to keep her stunning dress from the stunningly muddy paths, but luckily the sun did us a favour again so we didn’t have to mess around with umbrellas. However, it was a bit nippy, especially for her because the dress had a broad bare back. She nearly froze there and she still has a bit of a cold.

So off to the wedding party. You know we were planning to have a demonstration in advanced horse riding, but unfortunately it would look more like a demonstration in advanced mud wrestling. The paddock was a giant swimming pool, and so were the places where the people had to stand. We thought about cancelling the whole thing, but then we decided to try and improvise something inside. This is also where the tent AND the inflatable jumping balloon castle thing stood, both in bright colours, so there was a good chance that Julia (my girlfriend wife’s horse) would panic and flee. But instead she was as calm as can be, performing admirably and with grace. Which is more than I did, since I had already sampled a lot of the drinks. You can’t risk serving lousy drinks to 130 guests, I had to take the responsibility!

The children had a great time on the inflatable jumping balloon castle thing (what’s the right English word for such a contraption anyway?) and on the ponies. Many a parent was surprised that his/her child dared to mount a pony. Many a parent will also be surprised that their child will whine incessantly for a pony until its 18th birthday.

Food: excellent! Roast pig and lamb chops, you can’t go wrong there. Although the bride was so nervous and busy getting every detail right that she barely could get anything down her throat. Drinks were good too, and plenty, but luckily I’d been practicing the days before so I managed to hold on to the end.

The opening dance was… ‘Zij’ (she) by Marco Borsato, a Dutch singer most of you won’t know. But after that we had almost every song you suggested, and more. In fact, the DJ was VERY fond of slows, up to the point were it almost got boring. But slowly (wooha!), the action on the dance floor started and I must say that as usual I overdid it and made myself look ridiculous. It was a good thing the incessant flow of guests coming and leaving took a lot of our attention.

We went to bed around 4 o’clock in the morning, and especially for you dear blog readers I will unveil what happened during the night: we slept. That’s it, no saucy sex scenes, no steaming wedding night. We were just finished after days and weeks of preparations. (Afterwards we did make up for it of course, but I already said to much).

 

So that’s it. Now we finally understand why people call this the most beautiful day of your life. It’s not the fact that you got married, it’s the knowledge that you won’t have to sacrifice your every free moment choosing napkins, tents, hors d’oeuvres and what not!

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