Sunday, 9 November 2008

Hasselt Bierfestival (part one)

Me and Mike always go to the Hasselt festival. It's a sort of tradition. For several reasons. There's a museum of some sort in the city. What was it again. Cheese? was that it? With a food/drink product. Genevieve, that's it.

I was well-prepared, a neat pack of foil-wrapped sandwiches in my bag. We'd barely passed Schiphol when Mike starting discussing lunch options. We had 40 minutes between trains in Antwerp. "What about that chicken place? The one on the square in front of the station." Mike suggested. As usual, my mind was a total blank, I struggle to remember my breakfast after 10 AM.

"I've got sandwiches." I showed Mike my shiny foil pack. To rub in the superiority of my preparation, I opened it up just before Dordrecht. Mmmm. Corned beefy goodness.

The train was packed. Like some sort of pickled fish. Though, thinking about it, that's a terrible analogy. I adore preserved fish. Anchovies on toast. Sardines on toast. A kipper for breakfast. With toast. Preserved fish and toast. I adore both. A seat and sandwiches. I had everything I needed. As long as the train kept moving, life was pretty sweet.

In Antwerp, Mike led me in search of chicken. I had no intention of eating any. I had my sandwiches. As we approached, the chicken place did look vaguely familiar. Bratwurst. They had bratwurst. My sandwiches were quickly forgotten in the presence of greasy, sausagey goodness. "Een bratwurst , graag. Zonder saus." It came in a long stick-bready roll, with plenty of onions.

Mike had three chicken legs.

The sausage didn't trouble my chewing gear for long. Like Sunderland, it offered little resistance to a determined attack. "There's a supermarket with a decent range of beer not far away." Mike said. "I'm not going to hunk beer all the way home. " And Dolores has given me her opinion of the beer pile on the floor. "Don't buy any more beer, Ronald. Look at all this crap. I daren't bring anyone back to our house. They'd think we were drunks." Can't argue with that statement on any grounds.

Mike suggested we go and take a look at the beer, anyway. I love looking at beer. It's a weakness. He wanted dessert, too. We went to the supermarket, anyway. Loads of time. Forty minutes between trains.

Mike went in search of ice cream yoghurt and all things sweet and unhealthy. Did I mention my thirst? I tend to get a bit of a thirst after an hour or two on the road. I headed for the beer shelves. "Rochefort 10 is only 1.60." Mike enthused. "But they haven't got any. I could sell it for 20 cents, if I was out of stock." "Westmalle Dubbel is just 88 cents. Fucking A." He was excited. I was practical.

I wrenched a bottle free from a four-pack. Mike asks: "Maredsous, you're buying Maredsous?" That's why it's in my hand. "Why are you buying that?" "It's what I want to drink." "But they've got Rochefort 8. And Westmalle." "I feel like Maredsous 10."

The supermarket wasn't busy. Me, Mike and a girl at the cheese counter. The train to Hasselt was at 11:43. But there was still a queue at the checkout. 11:31. We had 12 minutes. Plenty of time. The pensioner at the head of the queue started to count out the cents, one by one. Plenty of time. 11:32. The bloke buying just a bottle of own brand cola, decided to pay by pin. 11:33.

When you're panicking over time, it's seems as if everyone else moves in slow motion. Fucking hurry up, you twat. There's only one train an hour to Hasselt. I didn't want to spens an extra hour in Antwerp.

11:34. It's funny what can become important in these stressful moments. Armed with an AK 47. I'd have cut down the granny, the mum, her children and the middle-aged autistic between us and freedom. Only the search for a bog when you're absolutely busting can match it.

11:35. "I tempted to just leave our stuff and go." Mike said. No. Bugger that. I'd got a beer for the train. I was looking forward to that. No effing way I was going to leave it on the belt. Not when just the autistic guy with personal hygiene issues stood between me and my first beer of the day.

11:36. I have the exact money in my hand, ready to pay. "Bedankt." No, I don't need the effing receipt.

Excursions with Mike are often characterised by time pressure. I blame him.

11:37. Back when I danced all night, my fitness levels weren't bad. Kids, lethargy, and an unquenchable thirst have transformed me. Not in a good sense. Mike took a 15 metre lead as we fast walked down the main drag. I'd ask him to slow down, but I'm out of breath.

11:40. When will they finish fiddling with Antwerpen Centraal? We entered a temporary entrance to the station. Mike was still rushing. He elbowed two Dutch couples, who had paused to admire the wonder of the new station, aside.

It's 11:41 and I relax. Just one escalator left. We've plenty of time. Mike's sprinting. Amateur. There's so much time to spare we can walk thorough two carriages looking for a seat. And sit down, before the train starts.

Just as well I have no blood-pressure issues. The Maredsous 10 entertained me as far as Diest.

Partial result.

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