Surely this airport story was a day early. It sounded like a so-easy-to-unmask April Fool’s joke. But no, apparently in the coming weeks the new incheckbalies – check-in desks – will be opened for holidaymakers. Rows 1 to 12 are open now, and, in the words of the airport’s woordvoerder – spokesman: “Eind juni wordt een muur verwijderd en installeren we rij 14 – At the end of June a wall will be removed, and we will install row 14”.
Yet, a recent study seems to show all this up as a hippie dream. In short, it concludes that Vlaamse jongeren willen een partner, een huis en een kind tegen dat ze 26 zijn – young Flemish people want a partner, a house and a child by the time they are 26.
In the past, jongeren – young people thought first een carrière maken – have a career; en dan op het gemak uitkijken naar een partner – and then take your time to find a partner, om een gezin mee te stichten – to start a family. It appears that few young’uns have this perspective today.
Likewise, you shouldn’t be surprised to read the headline Opnieuw vliegtuigbom gevonden in Bombardementstraat – Another aircraft bomb found in Bombardment Street, which was the case in Evergem not so long ago.
Of course, you will find an abundance of flowers and animals: Boterbloemstraat – Buttercup Street, Schapenweg – Sheep Way. Some odd names soon reveal themselves: a street called Tramlaan – Tram Avenue – out in the country tells you that along the side of this strangely wide road there once rolled a rural tram.
In Belgium, an amazing 155 million kortingsbonnen – reduction coupons – were handed in to shops last year, saving shoppers a total of €123 million! Gemiddeld gebruikt een gezin 34 bonnetjes op een jaar tijd – on average, a family uses 34 coupons in a year. Not that you will be saving much: a coupon is usually worth 80 euro cents, but, as we say in Scotland, every mickle makes a muckle.
Of course, we don’t “sleep out” in English. Strange because so many Dutch words beginning with uit- are rendered in English with out, if you follow me. Some match up easily. So uitbreken means to break out, either of prison or een brand is uitgebroken – a fire has broken out.
The verb uitgaan means to go out, as in to leave or to date someone. And uitdelen, which resembles to deal out, means just that: to hand out or to distribute. The three letters even become a verb: uiten – to utter.
So when my eyes fell on a piece of mundane local news about the opening of a new kapsalon, I was surprised to find myself reading on. The proud owner is a young man called Nassim, who made his way to Belgium from Iraq to escape the miseries of the war there. The article begins tantalisingly: Achter de twee blauwe ogen die schuchter naar me kijken, schuilt een woelig verleden – Behind the two blue eyes that look at me shyly hides a turbulent past.
The programme’s reporters manage to make the most reserved of people open up in front of the camera. One of the weekly themes is a visit to villages around Flanders, where a local guide points out the places and people of interest.
Recently the Mbh team descended on Liedekerke. One of the local characters persuaded to talk to them was a sprightly senior citizen who has a remarkable talent for parking. His garage is between his terraced house and the next. I say garage but, at 1m55 cm wide, it’s piepklein – tiny. I suggest you pause now and measure that.
Some messages are signed boringly with “Marc” or “An”; others are more familiar: knuffelbeer – cuddly bear; bolleke – chubby. Some messages promise a bed of roses: de laatste Valentijn als jouw verloofde – the last Valentine as your fiancé; binnenkort word ik jouw man – soon I’ll be your husband; het wordt zoals ik beloofde – it will be as I promised. Ah, promises, promises.
How does he do it? Serhani geeft zich uit voor de zoon van een Arabische prins – Serhani poses as the son of an Arab prince. He is in fact a former student nurse from Elsene in Brussels (though sometimes a police cadet from France, depending on who he’s talking to).
But that’s nothing compared to learning how to use a word like mag, the singular of mogen, which can mean “may”, “should”, “can” or simply “is”, and is pronounced as a Scotsman would say “mach”. Modal verbs is what the grammarians call them – those words that add the idea of obligation, speculation or permission to a normal verb. You might be tricked into thinking that mogen with its singular form mag is simply the same as “may”. If only things were so simple.