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A Dutchman in Belgium (11-04-24)

Everyone has those moments when things aren't going well for them. But if such a moment lasts for a long time, it becomes annoying. Can you believe it taught me to lie?
'Fine' I said when people asked me (well-intentioned, by the way) how I made it. That's all I said, thus they wouldn't hear me lie. Because if you start to suffer with one knee in such a way that you can barely stand, it is of course not 'fine'. Then it was May 10th, the weather was good, the pain in the knee almost disappeared and I grabbed the bike.

And if it's somewhere great cycling, it's in the region where I live with the well-known ‘Bels bike path along my house.
Through forests, past swamps, through villages where time has stood still, you can get along the canal to Antwerp. I stopped when I saw a dozen people sitting and standing somewhere. There also may have been a dozen of them, but that doesn't matter.
The age varied from I estimate 18 to 85, they were in a great mood and looked at the sky with one eye and to a pigeon loft with the other. Before that, someone wearing a dust coat was nervously walking back and forth.
I looked at my watch: Half past ten. The pigeons in Quievrain were released at 8.00 am so that could not be missed. That was 'watching pigeons' here.
I always say 'everything happens on the street'. Sometimes I also say 'nothing happens on the street'.
It depends on my mood. And from the street, of course. But here it happened on the street. Until I arrived. The ambiance disappeared like snow in the sun. There was no more laughter, there wasn't even any talking.
The Dutch in Belgium ? It sometimes seems as popular as Anderlecht in Antwerp.

I thought I vaguely knew one of those people. Years of ‘pub going’ had given him the appearance of a herring that had been in the sun for too long.
A guy with an unbelievably ridiculous face too.
Not that I have anything against guys with ridiculous faces, but there are limits. And a face to hang a curtain before of all the mirrors at home and for which fish dive to the bottom in the pond is just a little too much for me.
I always took him as he is, a complete idiot, but otherwise he's not too bad. He's also quite intelligent, but you can't make him understand that. I stepped into the bushes and went for a pee.
But my tragedy is that usually someone is next to me quickly and when the matter is done, the hassle only begins.
It was that herring man.
"Are you S?" he asked. I couldn't think of any counter-argument.
"Is that true about your knee?"
What kind of a cow was that? Why wouldn't that be true?
Why should I lie a little bit about my own knee?
"You have to move, move around a little more," he said. And you should move around less, I thought (the man came from far away).


'How many have you entered?' I heard someone ask.
"Four," said the dustcoat running up and down in front of his loft.
'My goodness. You are not afraid.'
'Right but if that chequer is late again he can go to the long distance.'
'Are you already playing long distance?' I dared to ask the man next to me.
"He means Noyon, 240 kms," he said, without moving a muscle from his face.
I was speechless, but with him the ice seemed a bit broken.
'Are a lot of pigeons participating?'
Let me see. Cross-eyed Pear two, ugly Sois two, Fat Gust his grizzle.
I think all in all, there could be eighty pigeons.'
'How many men have basketed them?'
"I'm thinking about thirty or so." I didn't say anything but thought my own.


"That's S," I heard someone say. No one responded. I seemed to attract them like a magnet for May beetles. Now 'the herring' turned to me.
'That LG writes well, do you read his columns?'
That was a stab under the water.
"Sometimes," I said. "I admit, he has a good pen. I myself have a Parker and it is better. The best, so to speak. And you know what you should do?"
He looked at me curiously.
"Drop dead," I said, looking at my watch. A quarter to ten. Someone came cycling up. "At what hour do you expect them?"
A little later pigeons come over, no one reacts.
Then one alone, low and much sharper than the other.
'The good blue of ugly Sois' shouted four men at the same time. Then a pigeon stumbles into the loft of the dustcoat. Fifty. Pigeons keep coming over. I didn't understand it very well.
Those should be Dutch pigeons, could not be otherwise. But they had only been liberated in St Ghislain, also at eight o'clock, which is a bit shorter, so they had to be gone.


Now the man next to me opened his mouth. If I had ever met Koopman in person, he asked. "Yes," I said.
"Then you have to say hello to him." "I'll do it," I promised. (It's not true, it went through my mind. Have you seen Koopman in person? So what? I also saw my grandfather still alive when he thundered off his bike as drunk as three Swiss. These are completely unimportant matters.)
"Do you know me?" the man asked.
"No, why?"
"Don't you need to know my name to say hello to Koopman?"
"What's your name?"
'Okay Sjef, but then you have to tell me why you thought that pigeon belonged to 'Sois' when there were so many of them flying? How could he have caught up with the Dutch pigeons?'


He shook his head. Simple. The Dutch basket everything that moves. Junk! You saw how the Quievrain pigeons got through, didn't you?
That had indeed not escaped my notice. Every border resident  also knows that the Quievrain pigeons in Belgium fly faster than the Dutch pigeons when they race Quievrain the same day.
A man arrives on a bicycle that Napoleon could have been riding on.  
"Sus," said the man next to me. "Your old blue at forty-nine, Sus?"
'Fifty and ten. He made a tour and then soon a half minute was spent on him, boys.' Everyone nodded in agreement.
With Sjef, the ice was really broken.
'Young man here is still fun playing pigeons.
Next week it's time to be there. For the fanciers there are free mussels and there will be a girl who does Striptease. I greeted him and grabbed my bike.


Later I heard that Sus had won the first prize. And the parents of his winner?
They were given to him by a Dutchman from just across the border. The same man who couldn't understand why the Belgian Quievrain pigeons always flew faster.
And then I knew for sure.

Letting your pigeons fly the same distance or preferably the same race every week makes them faster .

If I'm going to that party with free mussels and 'that girl doing striptease?' I'm not sure. Because mussels? Hmm. A long time ago.