But then it got sunny and I went to Lier, and I wondered why the small towns of Flanders are not better known. Brugges, of course, is popular, but there are others that tend to get overlooked, Lier among them.
Here are some pictures, so that you can judge for yourself. The town has:
1. a cathedral with some stained glass windows intact from the early 16th century (some are away being restored just at present, but at least one remains) and a van der Weyden triptych:
The last two pictures show old gargoyles, but the earlier ones appear to be some feeble but influential wag's idea of restoration - or did people genuinely wear spectacles in the 15th century?
2. a clock tower, courtesy of former resident, Mr Zimmer, who was not, as I at first assumed, commemorated for being the individual who invented the German word for "room", but actually a renowned clock maker:
3. a UNESCO listed Beguine precinct - Beguines were prototype feminists, in a way, it seems:
4. a gallery with some good paintings, many of them, as usual in this part of the world, depicting Flems having fun through history. Also a rather nice fireplace tiled in Delft-type ceramic tiles, depicting people, some of whom look as if they were drawn by Jules Feiffer, doing incomprehensible things:
|Murillo who is, I know, kitsch, but I have a very soft spot for, because I have no taste or nobility of soul|
|Rubens, St Theresa of Avila interceding for Bernardion of Mendoza|
|The furious movement of that cherub, I love it|
|Family Portrait by Floris 1561|
|The stoat is not to be missed - although he easily is|
|A Portrait of Children by the age-old master Anonymous, working here in 1650|
|Looks like an Indian Mynah bird to me, bain of life as a vegetable gardener in Australia, where they are an introduced pest|
|The labelling in the Lier Museum is weird, but I'm pretty sure this is David Teniers; it has all his trademark details|
|Not every painter would remember to put in a discarded slipper (see above) or the little brush to sweep ash hanging on the wall, (if that is what it is)|
|An owl observes the revels|
|Ignatius Josephus van Regemorter "Kroegtafereel" 1828|
|This might be Jan Steen, or the next one might be, or they might both be 19th century imitators. The labelling is impossible to work out, but you do get the sense that they know how to enjoy a party in the lowlands|
|Something - the opposite of letting the cat out of the bag? - seems to be going on here. I think the painting is The Resting Hunter by Ferdinand de Braekeleer from 1783|
|The dog is focussing all his mental energy on trying to alert his master, gentle hound|
I rather liked the dogs in these more modern pictures as well - in the first one, the dog is over at the left:
|"De Mosseleters" by Gustave de Smet, 1923|
|"Bohemians" by Edgard Tytgat, 1922|
I thought these would be a couple of dismal prospects to come home to after a rough day:
but this reminded me of some kind of Roman Catholic/Gymkhana collaboration - "We now announce the young incense swingers handicap over 12 furlongs".:
Here are the tiles I mentioned:
and, 5., the sine qua non of all these towns, a lovely market square:
Lier also had its very own punks, (we also spotted a hipster, I regret to say - but as there was only one example we can hope that there will be no scope for growth in the population):
There was also a nice old-fashioned bread shop, although the lady who ran it looked slightly scary (I hadn't realised I'd been taking her photograph; I was just trying to get a shot of the things in the window without reflections:
I suppose you know you're in Belgium when the chips are put ahead of the chicken:
I think the town symbol is a sheep:
Certainly, our guidebook - ratherly rudely - alleged that the townspeople have sometimes been referred to as sheepheads. I suppose I should admit that I only thought that was rather rude to begin with. When I realised that some sheephead in the town's administration had made the weird decision to put little round things every 25 metres along the streets, on the facades of buildings, so that we could all enjoy '70s hits radio - I'd completely forgotten about Baker Street and The Sultans of Swing, not to mention Rah Rah Rasputin, (at least, I had until I went to Lier) - I began to see where the impression of dunderheadedness might have come from. Here is one of them, next to a lion's head:
The town also has a patron saint who I think may have lived in a tree. I deduced this from the fact that there is a charming metal sculpture of the saint - whose name escapes me just at the moment - in the cathedral, in a, (also metal), tree:
|Probably if you zoom in the saint's name will be revealed on that notice on that wooden collection box at the left|
Back on watery issues, (well, sort of), while I am already resigned to the fact that the unit of water used for measurement of flooding, at least in Australia, is always a "Sydney harbour" and the unit of measurement for numbers of people is equally a "Melbourne Cricket Ground" (aka MCG), I still found myself wondering this week why the unit of measurement - or at least the container - for pensions always has to be a pot. Is a pot really the best place to keep one's pension, assuming one has one, (or should that be "provided one has either"?)?
One reason I object, I suppose, is that the word "pot", in my experience, goes about most regularly in company with the word "chamber", and I can't help worrying that a pension pot of that variety will lead ineluctably to laundered money.
I also wondered whether anyone in authority anywhere noticed this piece of news and began to think about its implications:
No? I thought not.
I wonder why I allow myself these little bursts of optimism. I suppose it's because it would be a very bleak existence without them.