18th April – decades of a date

18th April 1986 – I am 27 years old and it is my wedding day…

18th April, 1966
It is a *Monday, the first regular school day after the *Easter break. I am not yet eight years old. Am I looking forward to my day at school? I can’t be sure.
18th April, 1976
It is a *Sunday and I am three and half months shy of my 18th birthday. The day has no significance for me yet, and I have no memory attached to it. However, it’s about a month before my final school exams, my A-levels, the results of which will help or hinder the next few steps I take into my future. My preparations are well underway and the end of the academic year is in sight. After thirteen years of school I have decided, regardless of my results, that I will take a break, a year out, get a job if I can, travel if not.

There is a memory, and it might as well be from this day, the sun is shining above the Downs, the sky is blue and where it comes down to the south it meets a dark blue line – the sea. This is the year I discover punk rock, but not just yet. As I dress in the morning I am singing along with Johnny Nash on the radio:

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me black,
It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright
Sunshiny day.

18th April, 1986
I am 27 years old and it is my wedding day. The future Mrs SC and I will marry today in a civil ceremony at a house in Gamla Linköping. We have chose the short ceremony – three minutes long – and I have practiced saying “Ja!” with conviction in the right place.

It has not been a great year so far – Chernobyl, the Palme assassination, and I’m in a dispute with my employers over terms and conditions – but it’ll get better from here on, won’t it?

We have no money and have chosen to have a very modest day. No relatives from either side and as guests only our witnesses – friends we have got to know during the academic year. Merzad has come down from Uppsala where Agneta is studying. Stefan, who works with me, has come over from his flat in the town centre. We walk across town and on the way buy a bouquet of Marguerite daisies for Agneta. We are married by a man called Goding* – something the bride finds exceptionally funny – and then walk home again to open a bottle of champagne.

It is a good day, though I’m a little sad, afterwards, that no one from England came to surprise us despite their non-invitation.

18th April, 1996
It is an ordinary *Thursday in another busy week and we forget it has any significance until long after. It passes unobserved, our tin anniversary. The metal seems appropriate. It is not an easy time for either of us. We are both working more than full-time on interesting, challenging, all consuming projects over and above our regular jobs.

We live in Sundsvall in the north of Sweden where we have lived for eight years (and where we will live for another year and a half, though we don’t know that). We both have – by our lights – good incomes, but no time. No time. The dark clouds are gathering. The sunshine is dulled.

18th April, 2006
Two days after *Easter, we celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary (which we have learned is our porcelain anniversary). We are in Gothenberg and have hired the space of Skansen Kronan, one of the two outlying forts surviving from the old city fortifications. We have invited friends, old and new, from our two lives and our joint life. Not sure how many – 60 perhaps. The party begins in sunlight outside the fort and continues in the safe embrace of the deep stone walls. Food (catering), speeches (our Swedish friends and family), music (ditto), dancing (the whole party).

The evening ends for us, the key participants, in a taxi on our way home to bed. Let’s do it again, we say. We must do it again.

April 18th: Skansen kronan (not really - obviously an autumnal photo)
Skansen kronan (obviously not taken 18th April)
18th April, 2016
We remember our 30th (pearl) wedding anniversary a day in advance, but celebrations are limited to me watching her get into a taxi at six in the morning on her way to the airport. She is flying to Lisbon for her job. I sit at home, translating and writing teaching material and, later, a newspaper article tips me into bitter memories of failure. In the evening, we talk on the phone, half a continent apart. We promise we’ll celebrate together – a delayed celebration – when she gets home again.
18th April, 2026
Ah, who knows? Our ruby wedding. Where will we be and will we remember in time? At least we’ll both be retired by then. Time, but no money. Again… Well, a little money perhaps.

*No, I don’t remember days that were 18th April in all these years, or the dates of Easter in 1966 and 2006. But the Internet has its uses, and one is a plethora of calendars where you can check these things.

*Goding, which works perfectly well as a family name in English, sounds weird to Swedish ears since it’s a slang description for an attractive person – think “sweetie”. Mrs SC assumed the gentleman had taken the name, but I suppose he might have had an English Goding ancestor.

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

There’s something in the Brussels Air

There’s something in the Brussels air – among other things the spores of yeast, and also the spores of art

Brussels Air - To peel a ball - 2To be sure, there’s more in the air everywhere than we can usually see – dust motes glimpsed dancing in the sunlight are not even the half of it. Just at present I’m going through a pollen reaction phase. I know that the Brussels air is laden with pollen because my eyes are itching and my nose is running, I just can’t see it. Can’t see it except after the rain when pollen scrubbed from the air scums puddles and leaves yellow-green lines on car windscreens where the wipers have rested at the end of an arc.

Brussels Air - Dekkera bruxellensis - English partBut there is something special in the Brussels air: spores of the wild yeast B. bruxellensis (aka Dekkera bruxellensis). Belgian lambic beer is brewed without the addition of brewer’s yeast. Instead the fermentation vessels, filled with barley malt and wheat mash, are left open and the wild yeast in the air that lands on the mash starts the fermentation.

Brussels Air - Ne touche à rien - Don't touchNow, though the yeast spores do exist in the wild in the air of the Senne river valley where Brussels stands, and though lambic beer was originally brewed – 900 years ago – just from these wild open-air spores, more recently the lambic process is started within the brewery. After all this time there is a higher concentration of wild yeast in the air of the brewery and so the process is more reliable nowadays than perhaps it once was.

Theoretically, though, anyone can make beer in Brussels – just expose some sweetened barley porridge and let the wild yeast get to work. Not that most people do. It’s far too much trouble.

Anyone can make beer – just as anyone can make art

And anyone can make art out of anything.

Brussels Air - The biography of objects 02 - carpet, wild yeast, fixative resin plus Ombre indigène - videoMost people, though, don’t have the eye to see what might be art in the world around them, and only some of those who have the eye also have the cast of mind, the urge, the skill, the talent, the time and patience to create art from what they see. It’s as though the spores of wild art in the air that settle on everyone, that are breathed in by everyone, have to find the right person. The right vessel in which to start the process of fermentation. (To take the metaphor further, just as today there is a higher concentration of yeast spores inside breweries, I suppose students in art schools are more likely to breathe in a higher concentration of art spores.)

WIELS café spaceAll this is brought to mind by the Edith Dekyndt exhibition (I keep wanting to call her Edith Decadent) at the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre here in Forest/Vorst. The WIELS centre occupies a former brewery and several of the great copper vats in which lambic beer was once brewed share space with the cafe and bookshop on the ground floor. Up above are four floors of gallery space, two of which at present are given over to Dekyndt’s exhibition Ombre Indigène (Indigenous Shadow).

Brussels Air - The biography of objects 07 - carpet, wild yeast, fixative resinEdith Dekyndt is a Belgian artist who is clearly very inspired by science in general and biology in particular. Judging by the examples of her art on show, she is fascinated by the appearance of material that has been subjected to some sort of biological influence. Yeast for example, which she has persuaded to grow as a fungal carpet on a woven carpet.

Brussels Air - One Thousand and One NightsSome of the works on display have been created specifically for the space and make references to the history of the brewery and the brewing process. The installation called One Thousand and One Nights is a carpet made from dust collected from around the gallery over the period of the year. A light illuminates a shape on the floor and the dust is swept and raked within the lit shape. From time to time the light shifts and the gallery guard has the job of repositioning the dust in the new shape the light creates on the floor.

Brussels Air - A portrait of things - vivarium, fake fur textile, humidityThe temperature and humidity of the Senne valley, and the water of the river, are also key elements in brewing the local beer, and these elements Dekyndt also makes use of. A kind of long narrow aquarium bottomed with artificial fur fabric and with condensation beading the glass. Petri dishes with cultured bacterial growths – again, bacteria from the air we breathe. Projected slide image after projected slide image showing the range of colour and form the bacteria take.

Wiels Centre for Contemporary ArtI come out of this exhibition fascinated. A little disgusted, true, but definitely fascinated. I also come out a even more impressed by the amazing filtration job my nose, mouth and lungs do – and the protection afforded by my immune system – given the range and volume of the micro-organisms, unseen, that I am breathing in from the Brussels air.

Is it art? Yes, it is. In the same way as written science-fiction is literature (which I believe to be true). This is science-art.

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

Back in Brussels airport

Yesterday, as I write, I flew back to Belgium after a few weeks at home in Gothenburg. It was exactly two weeks to the day after the bomb attack on Brussels airport, and up until Monday I had not expected to pass through Brussels International. I was fully prepared for a flight to Antwerp or Liége followed by a bus journey, but no.

Brussels airport is struggling back onto its feet, shaking off the effects of the attack, and the first planes in and out flew on Sunday. Not to say that Tuesday was business as usual by any means. There were just a few flights and the place was emptier and quieter than I have ever seen it. Still, though, it was working.

Back in Brussels airport: the arrivals/departures gates

Here are a couple of photos taken of the gates. The moving walkways were running, but just a few people were travelling on them.

Back in Brussels airport: moving walkways

Back in Brussels airport: panorama of shut shops

Many of the airport shops were shut (above), though the restaurants around the atrium (below) were open. However, most travellers seemed keen to pass through and move on.

Back in Brussels airport: the atrium

Back in Brussels airport: cart

This electric cart (above) carried a reminder of why Brussels International needs to re-open as soon as it can. But the baggage reclaims hall (below) was desolate.

Back in Brussels airport: baggage reclaim hall

Back in Brussels airport: security

I didn’t think the security was very obvious, but it was certainly there (above). The direct trains and buses that usually shuttle passengers to and from the airport were suspended. It was taxis only (or private cars). The taxi queue was long, but orderly and efficient (below).

Back in Brussels airport: taxi queue

Sea of flowers and the steps of the Bourse

Later in the afternoon Mrs SC took me by the Bourse to see the flowers and signs and all the people who still stand around here, meditating, mourning, praying, adding their own messages and/or taking photos (above), “Pas au nom de l’Islam” – Not in the name of Islam.

There were a lot of signs posted by the international communities that call Brussels home (below). “I am Brussels,” they say, and “I am Palestinian/Congolese/Moroccan/Cameroonian. Stop violence. End racism.”

Messages at the Bourse

Even Brussels public transport (STIB) is wearing mourning after the bomb attack on the Maelbeek station. A current campaign to get people to use public transport has been adapted to the circumstances with a monochrome colour scheme, a mourning band and a re-purposed hashtag.

Brussels public transport (STIB) in mourning

Bruxelles c’est nous tous – Brussels is all of us.

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.