Saturday the 6th of June
Similarly to Australia, the exam period for schools and universities falls in the month of June – unluckily as this is the month in which I am now on holiday in Belgium! Had my parents and I waited another month to visit family I would have been able to spend much more time with long-time family friends of my age, but the price to travel would have been much dearer. With this in mind, I am so lucky my friends whom are soon to enter the testing period are finding time to spend with me whilst I am in the country.
Mama Bernadette and Goedele had been best friends since their teenage years and although the two girls were not in the same year or in each other’s company all too often, they managed to maintain their friendship throughout their adult years until now. Regardless of the distance and time the girls had to straddle between them, they remained best friends. Goedele had two daughters before mum was even married, but when she and dad conceived me, Goedele was awaiting her third child Marieke who I became friends with as is every BFF’s dream. I was ecstatic when I organised to meet with Marie on this Saturday a few months prior to our departure from Australia but until now it was uncertain as to what we would be doing together. At midday we met in the lobby of the hotel and headed into the city for a picnic lunch.
After buying some belegde broodjes (translation: bread rolls with condiments) we walked through the Grote Markt and to the seaside where we sat on the waters edge and enjoyed our sandwiches. This seemed to be the European equivalent to the beach – an easy unregulated place by the water with a serene outlook that appealed to the youth for a nice afternoon together. After admiring the calm scenery and filling our stomachs we reconvened our walk along the lake shore and made our way to the Park Spoor Noord. Marie and I had initially agreed to meet with her older sister Katrien at the summer carnival that afternoon but as she had attended a ball for her advertising bureau the evening prior we had to wait sometime longer before she was well rested from her late evening. For the time being, we decided to order a drink at the Summer Bar as we awaited her word as to what time she would be underway. A strawberry daiquiri of freshly pulverised strawberries and garnished with mint was the perfect refreshment as we sat on the green grass viewing the water ornament in which children played. Park Spoor Noord was a green expanse that surrounded a stone fountain that passed as a water attraction in the hot summer sun. I secretly wished to be able to run through the cold spray with Marieke like we might have when we were younger, but refrained. This is for the moment the only substantial downside of being classified an adult yet the strawberry daiquiri was a more than sufficient consolation.
As we had not yet heard any affirmation from Katrien as to when she would be joining us, we made our way on foot to the popular summer carnival: the Sinksenfoor! Three years earlier we had taken a day to visit the ferris wheel and roller coasters that momentarily inhabited the otherwise empty concrete expanse of the south plain – but which had dissipated from the crevasses of my memory. Game rooms filled with dozens of claw machines cramped the hopeful customers who were enticed by the pop-culture prizes inside them. The smell of deep-fried goodness wafted from the stationary food trucks which sold typical carnival nibbles ranging from sugar candy to churros. Marieke and I ordered a portion of smouterbollen which were deep-fried doughnut balls smothered in icing sugar. We also lined up for the Wild Mouse rollercoaster which seemed almost tame in comparison to the upside down thrill rides which we watched speed around their course in awe and fright. This ride was great fun nonetheless! It swerved and it twirled along the track seeming as though it were about to catapult off its coarse and meters to the hard unforgiving ground. We may not have participated in many of the attractions at the Sinksenfoor but seeing all these rides which evoked childhood memories was enjoyment enough.
As we made our way back to Park Spoor Noord we came across a sign reading “please keep off the grass as it has just been mowed”. The following uproar of laughter was evoked by the background of this scene. The area where we had been seated a few hours earlier was overrun with locals making the most of the summer sun and cooling off in the fountain – all of whom were sitting on the green freshly mowed grass. Disregarding the sign also, we stretched out on our jackets close to the rustic counter once again. Finally, Katrien and her boyfriend Damien spotted us – four hours after our initially planned meeting time. We drunk an organic gluten free beverage called a cranberry bionade and shorty after stepped into the car to journey back to their family home in Edegem.
I was invited to join in on the first Maldoy Family summer barbecue of the year which would also facilitate the introduction of boyfriend Damien to Katrien’s parents and sisters. Each of the girls sat with her boyfriend and I was made the ‘guest of honour’. We enjoyed conversation over sausages and salad, getting to know the romantics and catching up over the years that had passed. We had a wonderful evening and I was sad to have to leave – but thankfully it wouldn’t be our last night together.