Until shortly before her death, NUUS columnist Anny Bert worked on a text that we publish posthumously. With our thoughts on her…
We just didn’t sell a thick layer of ça-va-Seul on our goedendag, once we got home from the Groeningenkouter.
You don’t have to look for us on the Ghent Altarpiece because we didn’t pose for Hubert and Jan Van Eyck between Singing Angels and Just Judges.
We did not give our steed the spurs for the Egmont castle to definitively teach Napoleon a lesson in Waterloo.
We all didn’t because we are alive now.
If the grass is not yet one ass high, we leave our robotic lawnmower in the stable because chasing a lawn mower is a thing of the past for us. In summer weather, the car stays in the garage and we get our sandwich with the speed pedelec at the bread machine. We even get our potatoes, our fried chicken, a sandwich, a cold dish, a hot croquette from a vending machine. We know the very latest techniques for a knee prosthesis, larger breasts, and wrinkle-free skin. We follow the first moon landing and the last journey of the Concorde on TV.
And yet you can see on our personal timeline that it was once different. Totally different. Incredibly different.
That’s how I heard the story of the little boy, now an old slightly hunched man with thinning hair who showed up very early at school almost every day.
Fons had already given himself courage in the Achturenhuis, because that was necessary if he still wanted to get rid of his cauliflowers, which already had a rotten spot here and there, and his pears that were already “sick of stomach”. His cart and his horse were in his old workhouse on Montmartre and before he started his round with vegetables, he first went to get a glass sandwich or 2, 3, 4 in his favorite pub, what Fons called “laying a stock”.
The boy and a senior friend had barely left the residential area and were coming into the open field when they saw the champetter making windmills from afar. As young as they were, their knowledge of people, their knowledge of mushrooms, was so extensive: a blow-jaw who thought he was the second highest in rank after the mayor.
Fons must not have found company to lay a fond and stick around because there was something there with Fons and his cart. The children both laughed when they saw the horse sitting on his poo in the verge, between the cauliflowers with a rotten spot here and there and the stomach-sick pears. Fons himself was sleeping peacefully, partly with his lower legs in the canal. He must have dreamed of pristine cauliflowers and freshly picked pears and how the women crowded around his cart to get to him and his vegetables. Fons himself was never married. Perhaps the women tested his breath first, then his cauliflowers, and then kept looking for a suitable lover.
The boys had to wait for the pompiers to arrive and of course they arrived too late at ‘t Gestichte in Kasteelstraat, too late but with a full cart of story material. However, the boy didn’t even get the time to explain because the voice of the master was already booming through class and hallway: Front! Sleeves up and hands on my lectern!!!
With a thick stick, his previous one having burst when struck, the master knocked and patted the child’s knuckles, now to the right, now to the left. The child bit his lips so as not to cry or cry and to provoke another scolding from the master in front of the whole class. But the tears still ran in small waterfalls down to his freshly ironed shirt.
Only when the master felt a cramp in his arm did he stop his torture, but the boy had to stand next to his couch until playtime. That afternoon the master ate his Brussels sprouts with fried bacon. The child could hardly bring his sandwich to his mouth that afternoon.
And home you ask? How did the parents react to these practices? They didn’t condemn. They didn’t judge. Or with :
The master must know what he is doing…
In June I read in the newspaper:
FULL CLASS TEACHER Smashed into hospital by furious parents
Under the title there was something about the possible reason for the aggression: the master must have dared to ask the student when he was finally going to submit his thesis…
I started to have doubts and started looking to see if I could still be found among the singing angels at the Van Eyck brothers, work by the 15e century.