Rescue came in the form of Peter, our Belgian host in both 2005 and 2011. He was ferrying Crash Course In Science about in a van with room for two more, and first stop was our pop art hotel room, oblivion and eventually eggs. This was Stewart’s first sleep since New York and I imagine you could have held a sousaphone party next to his head with no response.
A mere drive around the block to play Antwerp. On the trip we chatted with CCIS about the dying fun fairs in Sydney, Santa Cruz and New York. Our destination and default home from home – the Hotel Ibis at the train station, also used as a training ground for aspiring astronauts.
Antwerp has been kind to us over the years. Where Amsterdam has shown no interest, Antwerp has always been willing to fly us up the gravity well for a show or two. I’m not able to explain how two cities so near-by can have such different cultures, perhaps its simply the New York effect, where you have to constantly remind them that you exist. The venue was a new one and the Sunday audience was ‘discerning’ in the Spinal Tap sense – the only audience of the sort I expected to meet – male listeners from the old days – whereas most other audiences were unexpectedly diverse. Probably the only troops willing to deploy on a cold Sunday.
From Antwerp we drove on to Brussels. For Australians and Americans the distance is disturbingly small, as if a trip cross town. Brussels airport has recently been attacked with a car bomb and is currently encased in concrete and men fondling their machine guns. Belgium was the only place we passed through where the population seemed divided into cultural enclaves – probably true of France as well, but our visit there was too limited to see the evidence. It didn’t seem as if recent arrivals had integrated and one wonders what the future is for Belgium’s multi-culture.
When I book flights I book afternoons, none of this 4AM rubbish. The advantage is to sleep, the disadvantage is in airport lounges. We got to know Brussels Airport pretty well. In keeping with the whole region being HO scale the international plane to Bristol was about the size that does hops in regional NSW.
But it was at Bristol I first realised my error in scheduling entry to the UK three times. Europe is essentially laid back about people coming and going. The UK, like the USA and Australia, is paranoid as all hell. Each time we’d arrive in the UK they’d start up a fuss and bother like a child with toothache and we’d have to pull out names, dates and bits of paper to calm them down. (For the record the chances of me staying and working in the UK is the square root of fuck all, thank you.)
Outside the airport the cold English rain piddled on our heads as we found that no taxis would be available for 45 minutes, if that. The bus struggled through a traffic jam more suited for Los Angeles, at times by rolling over the top of cars (as much as you could work out from staring out the windows) and we got out at the wrong spot as everything was called something like Angel And Parsnips or Lady Fogbottom’s Hallway or Winking Nun Way. A second attempt by taxi inched (not centimetered) through the morass to our anxious host.