The Saint Job Fair – a September event

The Saint Job Fair in Uccle: giants, a brass band, death and the baker, a boy in a bubble, a jousting knight and a sleeping cat… among others things

About the middle of September, all around Brussels (and for all I know around Belgium too) fairs are taking place. Some of them seem to blend into the weekly markets (such as the one at Place Flagey), but others are unique to themselves. There are sideshows and performances, parades and music, and some take the opportunity to promote a local district or municipality. My guess is that they have developed from harvest festivals in much the same way as Thanksgiving in the USA, but as local rather than national affairs. Last year, my first September in Brussels, I simply registered what was going on. This year I thought I should get out with the camera and take some photos.

The waterbearerThen came the question – where to go? Up the road towards the city centre, the Parish of Saint Giles (Parvais Saint-Gilles) was advertising a major effort with processions from four different starting points in the municipality all leading to a celebration of Les porteuses d’eau (the women waterbearers). I was tempted.

Then I saw that my own municipality was offering the “129th Annual Market of Saint Job”.

I’m not sure why the Old Testament prophet is dignified as “Saint” Job in this corner of Belgium. A trawl through the Internet doesn’t leave me much the wiser (though I really doubt it has anything to do with the Orthodox Saint Job of Moscow, Wikipedia). But I’ve always had a soft spot for Job, so Saint Job’s market won the toss.

Giants of the Saint Job FairThe Belgians have a fascination for gĂ©ants – giants. This seems to be a tradition that has hung over from the Middle Ages. Every district of Brussels has its own giants who are wheeled out (literally) every year for these fairs. They also make occasional appearances at other spectacles and events to represent the spirit of their district. At the Saint Job fair the two principle giants were a fellow in a bicorn hat and a curly-haired blonde. The two had a couple of half-sized giant children who orbited around them.

A parade in a tubaSeveral of their helpers (the people necessary to manhandle them over cobbles and kerbs) were also dressed up – as you can see from the photo. They looked like toys the giant children might want to pick up and play with.

Of course, you can’t have a parade or a festival without music, so there was a brass band on hand. In this photo you can just make out the tuba-distorted reflection of the male giant at the head of the parade.

Saint Job Fair: A break from blowingThe band had a lot of blowing to do, so they were happy take a break now and again. Here on the steps outside the church. (I think they’d want me to remind you, by the way, that the saxophone was invented by a Belgian – Adolphe Sax. You can post your heartfelt thanks below in the comments. Or not. As you wish. 🙂 )

Saint Job Fair: Posing for the cameraApart from the parade and the giants there was an exposition d’animeaux de la ferme. (This was one goat, one donkey, some chickens and a small selection of child-magnet-rabbits).The donkey was very obliging and happy to pose for photos when other people pointed their cameras at her. Me, she turned her back on.

Saint Job Fair: Pony go roundThere were also some ponies that had been coralled into an area like a small roundabout, and were walking around in a circle. Each had a small child uncertainly perched on top. There was a recorded – very distorted – voice blasting out a message in French. A message punctuated with the sound of a cracking whip and a “Yeeha!” I just can’t feel convinced by a “Yeeha!” when it’s part of a sentence in French. I’m probably deeply prejudiced.

Saint Job Fair: With death by my sideThe inevitable stall for face painting meant there were quite a number of kids running around with startling faces. The one that startled me most of all was this young man’s face. He was watching with intense interest as this baker demonstrated his craft. You could buy samples of the bread once baked, but personally I found the presence of death at the baker’s side a bit off-putting.

Sleeping cat lyingThere were other things for kids to do at the fair. They could visit the exposition de chats d’exception. A lot of very indolent pedigree cats in travelling cages. The cat show took place in a rather a dark, enclosed hall, so I came away without any photos. On my way home, though, I met a street cat I know who was happy to let me photograph him in his favourite place, on warm tarmac under a parked car. By way of a fill-in photo for all the siamese and persians I missed.

Saint Job Fair: Boy in a bubbleThere was a piste d’agilitĂ© vĂ©lo, a bicycle obstacle course, overseen by two dour police officers. It didn’t look a lot of fun and certainly while I was there, didn’t seem to be attracting much interest. By contrast kids could also get their parents to pay to have them zipped into plastic balls in a paddling pool. This looked to be really popular. It gives a new sense to the Boy in the Bubble.

Saint Job Fair: At the tourneyIt didn’t surprise me that so few kids were interested in the bicycle obstacle course, though I was disappointed so few wanted to try out the medieval jousting. However, I was patient and eventually a happy tourney rider showed up to reward me.

I hung around the fair from about 11 a.m. until 14.30 hoping to get some photos of the concours du chien le plus sympathique. I like sympathetic dogs – and these were very sympathetic dogs remember.

Saint Job Fair: The Green ManUnfortunately for me it seems everyone likes sympathetic dogs . (Well, of course. I should have guessed.) Probably the most well attended event of the fair, by the time the parade started the crowd pressed too densely around the stage. I tried, but there are no photos I want to share.

So I gave up. I was actually on my way home when I met another giant. Not quite in the same league as the official ones, perhaps, but he had a charming face and happily posed for me to take a photo. This Green Man was standing on stilts. He was about as tall as the bicorn hat giant’s shoulder.

That was my visit to the Saint Job Fair.


I wrote this entry for the #Blogg52 challenge.

A visitor in Brussels

Michael and me at Café MetropoleThe weekend just gone Mrs SC and I entertained our first visitor. As a matter of fact Michael didn’t stay with us but in a hotel in town, but he probably wouldn’t have chosen Brussels as a destination if we hadn’t been here. Also we spent a good deal of time with him. I think he counts as our first visitor.

Café Metropole interior 1To acquaintances here in Brussels and out on the Internet, I’ve been describing Michael as “my cousin” but that isn’t quite true. He’s my mother’s cousin, the son of her mother’s younger brother. I think that makes us first-cousins-once-removed (and his son is my second cousin). I admit I had to look this up on-line — see here.

Exactly what that would be in Swedish I’m not at all sure. Michael and my mother are kusiner, Michael’s son and I are sysslingar, but what is Michael to me? What am I to him? Suggestions, my Swedish speaking friends! 🙂

Café Metropole interior 3Anyway, Michael is all of 85, and if I am as spry, clear-headed and adventurous when I’m that age, I’ll be very happy. He made his own way here (by train and taxi) and was so curious and active we forgot how old he was and I’m afraid may have encouraged him to do more than he really ought to have done. However, he seemed happy enough with his visit when he left and said he was looking forward to a good rest when he got home.

Café Metropole interior 2On the Friday when he arrived (26th June) we took him to the Café Metropole. It was recommended by one of Mrs SC’s colleagues. It is the cafe/restaurant attached to Hotel Metropole and I’m told is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Brussels. The décor is Art Nouveau, dates from the 1890s and has been lovingly preserved. The food and drink is good and the staff were friendly, helpful and multilingual.

CafĂ© Metropole interior 4 - palmAfterwards, we tried to walk back to Michael’s hotel, but that was a step too far, so we contented ourselves with a look around the Grand Place before getting a taxi. When we got there, with my eye on the electronic display by his side, I tried to pay the taxi driver €104. The “104” turned out to be tuning frequency for the FM radio station he was listening to. The journey actually cost €5.40. Everybody but me thought this was very funny. (I have just looked it up – the taxi driver’s radio station of choice was Bel RTL “the most widely listened-to radio station in the French Community of Belgium” according to Wikipedia.)

Michael and me in Van Buuren gardensOn the Saturday Michael came to us by taxi and we took him to the Van Buuren House and Gardens, our third visit. We know the house quite well by now, but the gardens are ever-changing. We sat in the shade under a vine trellis and talked of many things.

Street market Flagey - cheesesMichael’s first visit to Brussels was with his Scout troop in 1946. He was 16. The troop took the ferry to Ostend and walked and camped their way south to the Ardennes, then back to Brussels where at last they stayed in the homes of a local Scout troop. They even visited Antwerp before returning home to London. One of Michael’s abiding memories is of the butter, cheese, bread and fresh vegetables that they got to eat in Belgium — in Britain these were still being rationed.

Street market Flagey - cherriesOn the Sunday, for a complete change of scene, we took Michael to the open-air market at Place Flagey. Here we walked around the stalls and admired the fruit and vegetables and all the other goods for sale.

Street market Flagey - spring onionsThe oyster and champaign bar was doing a roaring trade, but we decided that wasn’t for us. Instead we had coffee and great wedges of baked cheesecake and then took ourselves off to the Café Belga in one corner of Place Flagey for a beer.

In the Cafe Belga at FlageyThis watering hole is described in the French language Wikipedia as one of the city’s “trendy bars” (at least this is how M. Google translates “un des bars branchés de la commune”). I’m sure if we’d known we’d have felt very trendy. It is also in the ground floor of an art deco building from the 1930s that used to house the Belgian National Radio Broadcaster and is still home to a Dutch language commercial station.

Street market Flagey - baguette towerWe finished the day off — but hopefully didn’t finish Michael off — by visiting the European Parliament area and the Park Leopold before an evening meal on Place du Luxembourg.

It's hard not to put a current events spin on this statue and see the reclining figure as the Greek government gazing longingly up at the Euro being held way out of reach by Lady Europe. Or perhaps you have another interpretation?
It’s hard not to put a current events spin on this statue and see the reclining figure as the Greek government gazing longingly up at the Euro being held way out of reach by Lady Europe. Or perhaps you have another interpretation?

Thanks to Mrs SC for the two photos of Michael and me.

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.