09 November 2007

Belgium 1830 - 2007

Belgium, the European country which has done so much to enliven so many dinner parties as couples vie to name six interesting things about that sovereign state before the cheese goes off, is believed to have fallen apart after nearly six months without a government.

Formed from the remnants of the Low Countries in 1830 following a, frankly, hard-to-believe Belgian revolution, Belgium quickly found its place in Europe as it inherited none of the flair and flamboyance of its southerly neighbour, France, nor any of the edginess and excitement of its northern neighbour, Holland, instead promoting itself as the national equivalent of a pair of sensible shoes or a wet weekend - or, preferrably, both.

With King Leopold I installed at the head of its constitutional monarchy, the people of Belgium - whether they be Flemish, Walloons or confused travellers who stopped off before reaching Paris or London - settled down in the traditional trades of brewing, chocolate-making or the burgeoning waffle R & D sector based around the capital, Brussels.

Having been invaded by Germany in 1914 (innocently letting the Kaiser's troops across the border to "retrieve a mislaid bratwurst...") Belgium made sure that before the kick-off of the next world war everyone knew it was neutral and "would be taking no part whatsoever in any future conflicts" only to be interrupted by Hitler's troops rolling across the border in order to take the rat-run to France.

Culturally Belgium was best known for the works of surrealist painter Rene Magritte and his most famous painting Ceci N'est Pas Un Waffle. To the surprise of many, several of France's best-loved musicians were in truth Belgian, though, less surprisingly, Django Reinhardt and Jacques Brel preferred to spend most of their life in France.

But without a doubt Belgium was most famous when it was most fictional. Made-up detectives Hercule Poirot, Tintin and... er... Snowy all raised the profile of Belgium abroad and for a brief instant made readers think it was a hotbed of international intrigue when, in reality, it was a country so dull that M. Poirot had to find work in London to escape the tedium of being asked to investigate yet another mysterious case of the disapperaing waffle.

When the Flemish Christian Democrats won last June's general election no one foresaw that they would fail to establish a ruling coalition. Despite the absence of a government in Belgium for nearly six months the country did not descend into anarchy, instead waffle prouduction at EU and NATO waffle mills exceeded projected targets month-on-month and the people of Belgium continued to drink beer, eat chocolates and look down on the unruly Swiss.

With the realisation that the 150-day run without a government was not an attempt to get into the Guinness World Book of Records (as that had been banned in Belgium since 1967 for fear of over-exciting the populous) talks between the 11 political parties became more protracted. But a split began to develop between the Dutch-speaking Flems and the French-speaking Walloons, and a move to end the right of French speakers in Flemish suburbs of bi-lingual Brussels to vote for French candidates proved so boring that the country shrugged its shoulders and returned to its jigsaws of giant waffles as the country split asunder in utter silence.

Belgium will be buried in two separate ceremonies at La Maison du Waffle and at Den Wafflehaus.


lady macleod said...

oh my!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Aah, I feel sorry for the Belgians!

Eurodog said...

I am sorry but as a Belgian I do not find your post funny; I find it slightly offensive.

Greg said...

That's a shame.