Walking to Work

5 Jan

For the first time in my life, I can walk to work. After living in London where I had to learn what part of the billboard to align myself with to ensure the train doors opened right in front of me (for a few weeks I would stand between the kissing couple, and then after the sign was updated it would be slightly to the left of the Jack Daniel’s mailbox), and then, once aboard, trying to burrow my way through to a brightly coloured pole to hang onto, or failing that, spreading my feet out and bending my knees as if I was on a surfboard, willing my body to move in harmony with the train so that I wouldn’t have to grab onto the arm or the nose or the earlobe of the guy whose other arm is stretched over the short woman’s grey bouffant to cling with his fingertips onto the panda-ear shaped knob on the back of a chair. I got used to smelling soaps and perfumes in the morning and body odour and sweat in the afternoon, reading snippets of newspaper articles over people’s shoulders, winding my way between the forest of standing statues gazing up at the orange platform information times at Waterloo, the backs of men’s black loafers and women’s frayed heels as I blazed my way up escalators (time was too precious to stand on the right like a country bumpkin), and shuffling shuffling shuffling up to the ticket barriers like WWII-era folk lining up at a bread shop, clutching our ration stamps.

All of that is over now. Now I step out of the door, put my hands in my pockets, and meander my way up through the sleepy city without having to dodge anyone or cling onto anything. Sometimes I’ll pass a man walking his dog, sometimes I stop at a crosswalk to let a girl on a bicycle pass, sometimes I nod at a little group of people smoking outside of a chocolate shop. Okay, so maybe there’s a few more people than that, but on the whole I can chart a straight course down the wide sidewalks (and even the narrow ones).

The job is nothing special, not that the job in London was either, but the fact that I can walk there is a constant marvel to me. Well, it’s not like I walk along in drop-jawed awe every day or anything, but I do have a perpetual feeling of contentment as I pass the little art galleries, antique shops, jewellers, wine bars, coffee table bookstores and the giant dome of the Palace of Justice. At the moment the Christmas decorations are up, and storefronts have waterfalls of fairy lights tumbling down them, so at night it’s all white and glittery and when it’s been raining the cobblestones shine, too.

Apparently Brussels is one of the few cities in Europe where the plebs live in the centre and the moneyed classes live on the outskirts. Here, the richest of the rich live in Uccle, which is outside the pentagon, quite far to the South West. They’re the ones who would have to drive their Porsche to the Grand Place if they wanted to show their friends the place where Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto (on second thoughts, maybe Uccle residents wouldn’t be so interested in that…), whereas me – the person who can’t afford to get her camera fixed to show you pictures of my walk to work – can see the golden statue of St Michael slaying the dragon from my living room window.

All going well, soon I’ll be able to work from home. I’m pretty sure that’s going to keep me marvelling for a while too (no more worrying about being late and then discovering you have a huntsman in your car. True story…), but as much as I’ll enjoy being able to get up at 8:55, I think I’ll miss my walk to work.

(Here is where I would have inserted pictures if my camera wasn’t broken. Instead, here’s a picture of the view from my living room window (taken before my camera carked it, obviously))

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2 Responses to “Walking to Work”

  1. Lydia January 27, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    I stumbled across your blog during a google image search for piglet street art. As another Australian living in Belgium, I say welcome to your new home. Brussels is such a fun place to live.

    • sarahwiecek January 27, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

      Hi Lydia, thanks for the warm welcome! From the looks of your blog it seems as though you’ve been comfortably ensconced here for quite a while now. Whereabouts in Australia are you from?

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