Monday, 3 August 2015

A Seventh Week of Wonders

I spent quite a bit of this week wondering if summer in Brussels always involves umbrellas and wellington boots.

But then it got sunny and I went to Lier, and I wondered why the small towns of Flanders are not better known. Bruges, 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?

I also rather liked some of the religious statuary:

and the gratuitous insertion of a Flemish looking building into this painting struck me as quite funny:

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".:
It also brings to mind the papal fashion show in Fellini's Roma:

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 a wonderfully old fashioned tobacco shop, with a man pondering a pipe purchase in front of it:

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:
All the same, if the sheepheads want to become less sheepheaded and get an education instead, this school looked an attractive place to be banished to each day:

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
Before we leave Lier, I should mention Felix Timmermans who lived there for a bit and has his own museum. I quite liked this painting of his in the museum we went to - the main one, that is, the one with all those other, (badly labelled - sorry, don't mean to sound obsessed), paintings in it, as well as his. In fact, I might even go back to Lier one day to see the full panoply of the Timmermans oeuvre. After all, it is only 40-odd kilometres from Brussels. But I'll take earplugs next time, to avoid the enforced music in the streets:

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.


  1. G.K. Chesterton wrote an essay about ending up in "Lierre" by mistake. I suppose that it is the same as Lier, though I haven't a Belgian atlas to check this with.

    1. Thank you v much That is much appreciated Always happy to read more GK Chesterton

    2. George, your link didn't work but found the text on Gutenberg - do you know which essay it is within the book?

    3. It's okay - found it: Ballad of a Strange Town

  2. zmkc, stumbled across your wonderful blog looking for something on Elizabeth Harrower. Look forward to reading more.

    If you like murders in country houses could I recommend Derek Raymond's 'How the Dead Live'?

    Best wishes,


  3. Very nice to find your blog, thanks to your comment. As we say in Australia, it's gone straight to the pool room, (it's a ref to an Australian film called The Castle - a gem, although possibly only comprehensible if one is Australian). The pool room, in this case, is of course the blog sidebar. Thanks for the Derek Raymond tip - just looked him up. A black and white photograph shows an emaciated Kim Philby lookalike, but that will not deter me.