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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas


Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas APRIL. 20, 2021

Our short trip to Brussels was really about the train ride. To be able to get on a train in London and get off the same train in Brussels was something like science fiction back in our childhoods before the building of the Channel Tunnel. So having decided to go through the tunnel on a train, where to?

What we also didn't know back in 2013 when these were taken was that by now in 2021 Britain would have left the EU. It was quite honestly unthinkable.

But what a great and timely event that turned out to be, as we look at the Trans Europe Express train wreck that is the EU today.

Belgium, (apologies to any Belgians reading this) is a bit like the Black Hole of countries. Everyone sort of knows it is there, probably, but we're not sure how it got there or what is inside.

In England there is a one line joke which goes "Name a famous Belgian" which always seems a little unfair as I can name at least two. Plastic Bertrand and Renee Magritte. But I suppose I am just making matters worse coming up with someone called Plastic and a painter who thought "The Son of Man" was an apple in a bowler hat.

Plastic's biggest hit was "Ça plane pour moi" or literally everything is gliding for me, or everything is going well for me. It was as close to punk as I got and really cool because it was the first song I had ever heard get airplay that wasn't in English. What is the bombshell for me now though is to discover that its vocals were actually performed by Lou Deprijck, the record's producer and composer.

So my one of two famous Belgians didn't even sing the cool punk song I liked as a kid, it was some other Prijck.

Speaking of Prijcks. This is Brussel's most famous tourist attraction Manneken Pis. Yes, Paris has the Eiffel Tower and London has Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London, The Crown Jewels, Madame Tussauds and The London Eye, yadda, yadda, yadda, but Brussels has a tiny boy sculpture with a tiny prijck peeing into a fountain. It is so easy to miss as you walk by with your head down in the rain that they have been forced to dress it up in doll's clothes so people realise which one is the real one.

Why do you need to know which is the real one? Because there are tens of thousands of other ones all over the city. Brussels is full of little prijcks.

And the real bombshell? The real one below in the hat isn't the real one either, so all those tourists are looking at and photographing a replica. This one was put up in 1965 while the one erected in 1618 is tucked away in a museum.

Is anything in Belgium real?

This sight below is the sort of thing I photograph when I travel around the world. I go to Brussels and I find a tiny tree on a window ledge of a house that is about to fall down. So, tiny boy and tiny tree.

This is the splendid roof of the Galerie Royales Saint-Hubert which is an old shopping mall, built in 1846. I only photographed the roof because the rest was made of Belgian chocolate. Most shops in Brussels sell chocolate, I'm not really sure where one buys carrots. But as roofs go this is quite a good one.

This is a very dull unremarkable EU building made palatable by some reflections. It is behind windows like these that unelected officials work hard to destroy Europe.

This is the Virtue Signalling exhibition of great things that the EU takes credit for. The one about vaccine rollout is missing.

Yet more windows, hiding more unelected officials.

The EU's greatest achievement is saying everything in twenty three languages. That takes 180,000 translators. Britain has 4000 Senior Civil servants running the worlds 6th largest economy. Andorra is a country between France and Spain. It's entire population is 77,364. The 364 work in Brussels translating everything into Andorran.

The United Nations, with offices in 193 countries has a total of 37,000 employees, and is the world’s largest universal multilateral international organization. The UN, as I would like to point out to the EU, is the entire world including all the EU countries and manages with just six languages.

The Town Hall is the central edifice on the Grand Place. It was built in several stages between 1401 and 1455 and is also the square's only remaining medieval building.

Don't worry I double checked. It is definitely the real thing, definitely medieval, not plastic, not lip synched, and not a modern replacement, with the original moved to a museum.

I would have added TinTin to my other two famous Belgians to make three but it seemed a bit unfair as he isn't real either.

This unreal Belgian though, will always get my vote because he was my childhood hero. Who can forget the introduction to his tiny episodes of drama. "Herge's Adventures of TinTin" shouted out of the TV. He only ever seemed to be on for about five minutes and nothing ever seemed to happen before we were being informed about the next upcoming episode. The narrator was Paul Frees from Illinois USA. Frees was known as "The Man of a Thousand Voices".

One of those chocolate shops.

And just because I quite liked these Gilbert and Georgesque wall panels below I put in a few from a Metro station.

I have a story about Gilbert and George, (two artists who work together as the collaborative art duo Gilbert & George. They are known for their distinctive and highly formal appearance and manner in performance art, and also for their brightly coloured graphic-style photo-based artworks.)

Some years ago I was quite a fan of theirs, and my other half worked in sales of technical equipment. Coming home from work one evening, MOH presents me with a copy of Gilbert and George's book "A Portrait". Where did you get this I ask? Gilbert and George. Yes I know but where did you get it? They gave it to me. Who did? Gilbert and George.

This could go on forever.

Apparently they wanted technical advice so MOH pops along to their studio in London and spends the day with them and they give MOH a copy of their book.


I didn't think to ask them says MOH. I am incredulous and furious. To make matters worse, the signed copy is now worth £140. I've gone right off them since.

When I decided to do a post about Brussels it was going to be one post with all my photos in it together, but when I started it, I realised I was going to have to make it two posts, because I had a lot of pictures of something big in Brussels.

These pictures meant I couldn't get all the pictures into one post. This thing in Brussels is big but it is not very famous. It could have been famous like the Eiffel Tower is an icon of Paris but the person who made it copyrighted it's very existence. So the chances of you knowing about it are very slim indeed. It became invisible. In photographs of Brussels, it literally became a black hole.

But as of 2016 and the "freedom of panorama" law it is now legal to show you these photos. There is a clue in the picture below. My next post will feature some private, non commercial use images of this over-protected big thing that became a mystery for fifty eight years.

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