Tuesday, January 03, 2006

waffle's second

By time I saw the third Saint-Bernard, I should have known it was going to be a weird day. The first two came at once, during a lunchtime visit to the Brussels Christmas Market: one black, one brown, held on two leashes by one person, which is kind of like putting a Lamborghini engine in a Twingo. I was buying a chocolate-covered waffle at the time and paused, treat in hand, to look fondly upon the black dog. It was looking a little too fondly at my waffle and thoughts of the Lamborghini engine tearing the unsuspecting Twingo apart compelled me to press on.

I should specify that it was a Liège waffle. Among other varieties, there are also Brussels waffles, but Liège waffles are better, or, at least, are more dependable. Brussels waffles are supposed to be classy: they are strictly rectangular, their inner squares are deep and well-defined, they want to be light, airy and crispy. Unfortunately, they tend to be crusty, tasteless and unenjoyable. The Liège waffle, on the other hand, is irregular, lower-class, gooey, filling, easily found on the street, probably easier to make and, generously, almost never fails to satisfy. Never hesitate to hand over 1.60 euros to the Belgaufra or Vitalgaufre person. An alternative is to step into a HEMA shop and get one of their honey-filled galettes. Not really waffles, but so delicious I thought I'd mention them anyway.

Back to the third Saint-Bernard. This one was at the Garde de Midi and in the traditional brown-and-white pattern. Apart from a baby-panda-cute Saint-Bernard puppy spotted a couple of months ago, I hadn't seen any Saint-Bernards for what seems like years, so how to explain this sudden one-day windfall? As I took my place aboard the High-Speed Train to Paris, a pretty young girl sat next to me and then proceeded to take a big cat out of its travelling cage. Impressively, the cat remained calm for the whole trip and sedately lay, and occasionally turned around, in its owner's lap. The woman and her daughter in the seats in front of me also had a cat, but it was not removed from its cage. The oddities did not stop there. Informative messages from the train staff (such as the warning that there were thieves on board) were introduced by a little jingle that sounded like an absurdly happy and sped-up version of the Dido song Eminem sampled for "Stan." It could have been one of those crazy, random connections one's synapses cook up after having seen one Saint-Bernard too many, but when I took the same train in the opposite direction one week later, the improbable resemblance was still there.

During the latter trip, parents behind me thought that no-one would notice if they changed their young child's diaper right there in their seats. More pleasurable was getting to hold my (total stranger) African neighbour's baby girl while she collected her affairs and then placing the baby on its mother's back so that she could be wrappred up in a traditional sling. There was also the Parisian RER Gare du Nord-Gare de Lyon connection being held up for 15-20 minutes by what was reported to be someone activating the alarm. The upside was that it gave me a chance to be impressed by the veritable male fashion show that was going on in my little section of the subway, but also to be vicariously bored to tears by a guy talking to a woman about his sleeping patterns, endlessly. At Geneva's Cornavin station, my nefarious plan to cross the border with an out-of-date ID card was not foiled by the Swiss customs officer's careful inspection of the card itself, his comparaison of the photo and the living version nor by his typing of something (which I assume to be the ID card's number) into his computer. So much for border security, but I'm not complaining. In-between the two 7-hour trips there was family, Christmas, snow, gifts, a new house, CD buying, eating.