Blog Week 98: Current affairs.

Monday 8 October 00.09

As I was forgetting about the summer-that-never-was, now - in early October - we get our first few continuous days of half-decent sunshine since April. Typical.

My hot stagiaire accidentally started an insightful meme on Friday. I'll explain more tomorrow.

Monday 8 October 23.56

So on Friday I entered the vibrant, beating heart of our office - the kitchen. Well in the upstairs/downstairs world of this office, I have noticed it is often the place from where news (intentionally or otherwise) starts to spread. It happened to be quite full when I arrived and at that moment my hot stagiaire, being new to Brussels, was asking a partner and counsel he was with why there was a problem with the forming of a new Belgian federal government.

I was expecting a fluent, articulate response. The sort of thing our clients would expect. But instead both seemed a bit lost for words. They looked awkwardly at each other and mumbled something about not really having kept up with recent events. They took their drinks and left asap. I know senior lawyers are focused on the almighty billables but this lack of basic awareness of current affairs seemed ... well amazing.

Shakespeare and Pierre then entered. Given the unusual silence, Shakespeare asked who had died? (Every now and again he still likes to act like a drama queen). My hot stagiaire explained the non-response to his question.

Shakespeare rolled his eyes, shook his head and then started building up a head of steam by ranting about the shocking ignorance of some foreigners - particularly the British. Maybe by being English he felt it gave him licence to go a bit further. According to him, some British lawyers live a life in Belgium like they have practically never left the UK. They wake up listening to Radio 4, read the Times, visit the BBC website, work in English and then go home to whichever francophone or Flemish part of Belgium they live in but know absolutely nothing about. They'll socialise with other Brits, or at the most English-speakers, and never leave their UK bubble. They'll slag off Belgium but not want to leave. They'll know more about the daily gossip of UK politics than anything to do with Belgium. According to him integration with the locals boiled down to reading some English-language weekly or other. He finished by sarcastically asking however did they get used to using the Euro?

His remarks seemed exaggerated to me. If not venom, then definitely there was a certain edge to what and how Shakespeare made his comments. The sort of edge that no sensible person wants to prod further because you don't know where it will lead. Thankfully neither Mockney or Weirdo were around at that moment. Otherwise everyone present would have been sucked into that particular twilight zone.

Pierre has this skillful way of moving a conversation, teetering on the edge of an abyss, back to safety. (I saw him do it recently during a couple of the staff evaluations.) He pointed out that all nationalities here have some people who act in that way. Even most Belgians do not bother to follow the federal political developments. He pointed out through the window at the Brussels skyline. Those federal politicians inhabit a parallel world, physically so close to us and yet they inhabit another dimension.

Wednesday 10 October 01.04

I mentioned Shakespeare's rant to Old Timer and he smiled in that all-knowing way of his.

"Shakespeare's been around long enough to have seen a number of "characters" in his time. Poor guy has had to work with a few too. I understand he first did some training in a Brussels office that was essentially a little London bubble cocooned in Brussels. One oddball partner would accuse staff of having "gone native" if they did anything in a vaguely Belgian way. Like wearing suits that did not have City pinstripes. Maybe working for such a neo-colonial has its consequences..."

Old Timer laughed and left. As usual I didn't understand the joke.

Thursday 11 October 00.25

I finally spoke to the hot stagiaire today. At luncthime I saw him coming out of one of those trendy sandwich bars nearby. I casually acted like I had accidentally bumped into him. He smiled. I asked if ever got an answer to his question about the federal government. He laughed and said no. Like he had given up on ever getting an explanation.

I offered to give him one. But he admitted he actually was not so interested. He prefered to know about the office current affairs. His smile was full of innuendo and I laughed. After all I was not going to say anything so soon. But there is more to him than meets the eye.


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