Trip to the UK – Chapter 1: Are we going to get this flight?

Prologue

My little sister and I organised this trip to the UK with three months advance, which naturally resulted in as much time spent in fantasising about the amazing things we were going to see and do. My mind created the ideal vacation during those three months without thinking once to compare it to reality. I only had those seven days of complete and utter freedom, so all my expectations were concentrated on this one holiday: I needed it to be perfect. I didn’t leave it all in the hands of Fate, I actually did some research and put some effort in looking for alternative spots to sightsee.

To cut a long story short, I had put all my money (literally and figuratively) on this trip, so it was bound to disappoint, at least partially. Nevertheless, some stories are worth telling even though they are not all rainbows and unicorns.

Are we going to get this flight?

I had the genius idea to go to the Esperanzah festival the day before our departure. We had arranged a shuttle to pick us up at home (in Brussels) at 3:00 am to bring us to the airport. The festival takes place in Floreffe and officially finishes around midnight, but no public transportation is available that late, so we had to leave earlier. We were so worried about missing our last connection that we decided to go to the bus stop well in advance (20 minutes). It would have been a good move too if we didn’t notice (obviously too late) that we were waiting at a suppressed stop. We did run to the following stop, tongues sticking out and heart pumping, but deep down we knew we couldn’t make it in time to catch the bus. Continue reading “Trip to the UK – Chapter 1: Are we going to get this flight?”

Time

Suffocating blackness is swallowing me. I try to claw my way out but my fingers keep slipping. Where is the handhold in this damned place? There’s no water, but I’m drowning. Fighting for the breath I will never be able to breathe. Feeling the surface up there, so close and yet completely out of reach. Wrestling with all my strength like a mad shark caught in a fishing net, frightened and angry. Panicking, I kick and scream my head off. Let me OUT! A rope, a hand… please! Nothing, I’m left alone to battle this crushing darkness.

I finally manage to wake up, my body rigid with tension, my mind a scrambled mess. I fought off my nightmares, but the day just started and I’m already exhausted.

Phone. Clock. How many minutes do I have?

Planning. Programming. Filling my agenda.

Project. Class. Work. Run… run… run!

You’re late.

What about that meeting? Where are you going to fit the preparation for that exam? And don’t forget the project! Your group counts on you.

Where is that damned bus? You’re wasting 5 minutes you could use to half read a page from that book you planned to use on your thesis.

Counting the minutes, the seconds, I can use to achieve multiple ever growing goals. Filling my agenda with never ending tasks. I don’t feel in control anymore. There’s always one more thing to do, one more important page to write, one more urgent email to send, and I’m constantly trying to catch up. The finish line is moving faster than I’ll ever be, always out of the reach of my stretched hands.

Today I stopped.

There was no face staring back at me. Although I’ve met so many beautiful people. No comforting voice asking me if I’d like a drink and a chat. Because I’ve said so many times ‘no can’t do’ that friends have quit asking. No comforting arms ready to hug my stressed body, no one to let me know everything will be ok.

Just the cold face of my oppressive clock. Just the filled urgency of my agenda. I realised in the self centered maniacal attempt to keep up with my stressful life I forgot to nourish my relationships treating them as secondary, accessory to my ‘oh so important’ routine.

What have I done? Where are the hours spent listening? Reading? Looking? Enjoying not knowing what hour it is? Deciding there’s no need for a start or an end time? Just savouring the suspension of a present moment and giving my activity the time it really needs?

Serenata

Suono viscerale. Intima attrazione che risuona all’altezza vaginale.

Come uccelli nella stagione dell’amore. Come animali in calore sentiamo quel richiamo e rispondiamo con altrettanto ardore.

Quando lussuria chiama andiamo tutti all’essenza della carne. Danza della carne.

Il desiderio eccitato dei neuroni. Il brivido della pelle. Il bisogno irresistibile di bruciare tra le mani di qualcun altro.

Questa è la musica della riproduzione.

La danzano i corpi che vogliono unirsi. Toccarsi. Farsi piacere.

Trans irresistibile, animalesca. Profondamente umana e carnale.

Baciami. Prendimi. Fammi godere, qui ed ora, su questa colonna sonora.

Conquistami, portami lontano.

Baciami. Ora, adesso, su questa nota gutturale. Prendimi. Fammi tua per questa notte.

La chitarra comincia, la voce segue ed eccola quella nota che determina la tonalità dell’amore, no, del desiderio.

Lo so, la riconosco, la sento tra le mie gambe.

Sesso, desiderio e oblio fino al mattino.

Alla ricerca del cavaliere nero. Un po’ peccatore, imprevedibile, grigio mistero. Lussurioso amante della notte. Sensibile e sorridente. Positivo, ma peccatore. Dove sei mio dolce amore?

Ti cerco e non ti trovo. Ti chiamo e non rispondi. Ti guardo e non ricambi. Ti scopo e non sei tu.

Cercami. Trovami. Baciami. Fammi tua.

Il suono si dilata. Il suono della mia vagina. Lo stesso del tuo pene. Il suono della loro conoscenza e frizione. Il suono della loro unione… del desiderio della loro unione perché la tensione è più potente di ogni consumazione.

Conquistami. Prendimi nelle tue reti. Amami.

Fammi male e poi abbracciami. Cullami.

Fammi male ma senza ferirmi.

Mordimi come se volessi assaggiarmi, non sbranarmi.

Abbracciami, per mostrarmi che mi vuoi tutta e non solo stanotte. Che tornerai da me anche quando avrò voglia di piangere. Di silenzio. Di pace. Allora tornerai da me con un bouquet di baci per ridarmi la voglia di sorridere.

New year resolutions

DSC_0350CROPPED

As a new year begins and another one piles up in our used bucket, we search once more for new resolutions. Who are we kidding? These resolutions are rarely new, and even less lasting. Excited about a new beginning we promise to be wise and good. We plan a million fresh projects we will achieve in this young dynamic year. Let’s be honest, we’ll realise a week into this newborn 2016 that we’ll just be our old selves and that we already have our hands full. At least I know I will, so I’ll start by not making any new resolutions. Continue reading “New year resolutions”

Performance

There are eyes following my every move so I feel the pressure to quickly find a seat. But there’s a maze of seats in front of me, where should I sit? Not too far, or I’ll give the impression that I’m afraid. Not too close to the light, because I want my face to be in the shadows. Once I find a good spot someone says a word, but I can’t say who it was or what it said. It was too quick for me to follow. My mind is still frantically trying to come to terms with the fact that I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, or am I expected to do something? The word is repeated, again and again by the people that are around me and look at me, calling upon me.

Continue reading “Performance”

Ricordando Franko

Guardo il riflesso metallico del binario davanti a me, non più oggetto di vita quotidiana, ma fantasma di un male che sfioro senza capire. Abbandonata dalle stesse parole che mi hanno in così tante occasioni consolata, mi sento impotente. Sono solita trovare conforto nel suono di una frase ben costruita, tremante d’emozione. Non stavolta. Vana è la mia ricerca, continuo ad ottenere la stessa risposta: silenzio. Qualsiasi cosa possa dire è sbagliata, banale, proforma, insensibile.

S’insinua allora il desiderio di un contatto fisico, del calore rassicurante dell’abbraccio di un altro essere umano colpito dalla stessa tragedia. Qualcuno che capisca e condivida il peso di questo vuoto.

Vedo sfilare davanti a me quel gruppo di giovani monelli, facce che ogni volta mi strappano un sorriso perché sempre calorose e accoglienti, generose e genuine, malgrado la loro fama di piantagrane. Giovani pieni di creatività e di progetti. Giovani che hanno intrapreso strade diverse, eppure ritornano nel paese insignificante che li ha visti crescere e quando si ritrovano sembrano non essersi mai persi di vista. Lontana, posso solo immaginare i loro volti tormentati. Abbraccio ognuno di loro sperando che il mio pensiero li raggiunga portando con se un po’ di vicinanza e calore.

Era il più quieto, timido e riservato. Aveva una voce profonda che usava raramente. Ma tutto ciò che non diceva lo dipingeva.

Nell’ombra danzante dei pini della via Maremmana si staglia la sua figura snella. Concentrato sul nodo di braccia intrecciate che sta dipingendo asciuga il pennello e lo immerge nuovamente nella mistura di acquarello. Frank! Con una battuta appaiono gli amici, si fermano per fare quattro chiacchiere, organizzare la serata, ammirare l’opera. Un giorno d’estate, caldo e piacevolmente rinfrescato dalla brezza marina. Un pomeriggio sereno.

Con quell’aria di chi è perennemente perso nei suoi pensieri, aveva un modo tutto suo di creare opere di una bellezza viscerale. Immagini così vivide da diventare indimeticabili. Era un animo puro. Troppo sensibile per questa società. Uno spirito lontano mille miglia, a caccia di qualcosa che questa vita non ha saputo dargli.

Stiamo sbagliando tutto, se nella nostra disperata corsa verso il futuro sono queste le persone che calpestiamo e abbandoniamo. Stiamo sbagliando tutto.

Two days to gobble up Brussels’ heritage beauty

Dimanche du patrimoine 2014
The interior of the Aegidium

Two years ago I participated to my first ‘Journées du patrimoine’ where I discovered some amazing hidden places, like the Aegidium. Ever since, this annual event is one of my favorites and automatically enters my agenda. It is an occasion to enter buildings that aren’t usually accessible to the public and have a historical and/or an architectural value. It also allows to visit places that are regularly open to the public (like theatres and museums) and to see them under a different light: through activities and special exhibitions or simply by accessing staff areas.

Although I love this initiative I always feel a little frustrated at the end. The offer is so rich and the time so little that I’m forced to make a choice, but I’m such an undecided person that choosing between so many things I’m curious about ends up being a painful process. This year was particularly hard since the theme was one I’m especially passionate about: ‘Workshops, factories and offices’.

From a practical point of view, two days are nowhere near enough to be able to visit all these wonderful places. I do understand this has a cost and that it isn’t easy to organise, but it would be great if we could have a ‘Semaine du patrimoine’! Especially since many sites are open a few hours a day, are accessible only with a guide and therefore at certain hours only. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the guided visits since they add information about the history of the building as well as its current use and future plans, but this system limits your options even further. In addition, some visits of neighbouring buildings take place at the same time and group sizes are logically limited to 20/30 people.

Regardless of my personal indecision, I enjoyed this years’ discoveries and would like to share them with those who haven’t had the chance to see them.

Imprimerie NIMIFI (or IMIFI)

rue du Houblon 47

Entrance imprimerie
The entrance of the ‘Imprimerie’

As the name suggests it is an old print house located in the centre of Brussels and surrounded by a number of industrial buildings. The building itself is not impressive and I was underwhelmed by the architecture: very plain except for some metal work and some marble stairs. I was also expecting to see some old machinery, but that wasn’t the case either.

Imprimerie
View from the roof of the ‘Imprimerie’

What was interesting though was the story of its reclamation and what’s become its current use. In 1999 the building was up for sale. A handful of citizens were interested in buying the property and creating a community. Little by little the group became big enough (about 20 people) to acquire the property. The rules they established are quite simple: each owner gets a loft space which is private and all expenses related to its furnishing are individual; each owner also has access to the common spaces, for example the meeting room, and shares their management and costs.

The primary rule though is that the building must be kept as it was since it’s listed in the Brussels Heritage catalogue. This is understandable seen the history of the building but isn’t always an advantage for the inhabitants. For example, the original structure isn’t well insulated and changes can’t be done without destroying part of it. However, the owners manage to balance these disadvantages with a sustainable way of life: they use solar panels, they have a system that collects rainwater and they agree not to heat the common areas.

The best part of the visit was the rooftop garden. The soil helps the insulation of the roof and part of it is used as a vegetable garden. Not to mention the nice 360° view on downtown Brussels.

Garage Citroën

place de l’Yser 7

Citroen
The central corridor connecting the showroom and the workshops

I really wanted to visit this site for a number of reasons and have sacrificed other visits for it, but I don’t regret my choice. For those who aren’t familiar with this building it is one of the symbols of Brussels, no one that has lived in Brussels for a while doesn’t know where it is and what it looks like.

Recently it has become front page material due to the Region’s decision to buy the building to create a Contemporary Art Museum. There are positive and negative aspects to the proposal: it would allow to preserve the building (a rival proposal was to build housing units, but this would entail the demolition of the original building) and to find a place for the contemporary art collection (stored in a humid and dark archive at the moment). But it might not be the best space for an art museum (notably it’s too bright) and could serve other cultural projects better. So you can probably understand my curiosity.

Citroen
The poster of the ULB exhibition

The guide was a good narrator and started from the beginning of André Citroën in France and she explained how the building has changed in the 50s due to a larger production. We visited the showroom building first which is less impressive than it used to be, now that is separated by multiple floors.

The most interesting part was the descending corridor that links the showroom space to the workshops. The iron structure is fascinating. Nowadays there are few workshops left, but in the 50s the two floors were occupied and each workshop had its specificity and its team.

Another interesting aspect of the visit was the temporary exhibition of the projects from the students of the University of Architecture (ULB) who, after having studied the specificities of the building, proposed different approaches to rehabilitate it for culture. It was exciting to see so many ideas (some really linked to the social structure of the canal area) inspired by a building who’s fate is still being discussed.