Tag Archives: Brussels

Conservatoire Africain


Hello one and all, and here we are for another slice of life from the Hobbit Hole.

As you may remember the weekend just gone was my last planned free weekend this side of Christmas, so I treated myself to a little trip to Brussels.  Now Belgium is a much maligned nation, with a reputation for being dull.  That, I believe, is a shockingly unfair accusation, and I shall attempt to back up this bold assertion with a few photos and the odd tale from their capital.

BetjemanThanks to the rather excellent service provided by British Rail (I know!) and Eurostar the trip from Chippenham to Brussels was completely uneventful, and the first challenge came with the Brussels Metro.  This proved somewhat tricky as the little orange ticket validation machine became the little orange ticket eating machine, but thanks to some friendly staff, my ‘O‘ Level French, vigorous arm-waving and rather confused shrugging of shoulders the little orange validation machine was dismembered and forced to give up its tickety meal.  It seemed to have feasted on many tickets that day!

After that kerfuffle, it was time for a beer or two.  A procession of bars ensued, some new to me, some known from a trip a few years ago.  The beer was excellent, as is always the case for Belgium.



On the way back to the hotel we walked through the Grande Place, and even at 1am, wobbling slightly, we were able to marvel at the spectacular architecture.

Now we have some great stuff in the UK, but every Belgian city I’ve stayed in has their own Grande Place or Grote Markt, all lit up in spectacular style.

This is not like bowling out of Wetherspoons and heading for the kebab shop, I can tell you.

So did Saturday take on a significantly different stripe?  Well no, not really.  Some epic shambling was undertaken, some wonderful architecture seen, some odd things on street corners were photographed, and a few more beers were imbibed.


The evening of course was more of the same, just in different bars.  The beer waiter at A La Becasse took the new world record as the worlds surliest; the puppets on display at Toone were still freaky; and I drank my first ever Kwak.

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And in Poechenellekelder I saw possibly the oddest thing I have ever seen in a bar.  No photos were taken on the night, but some of this lot were in there, like something out of The League of Gentlemen.  They’re call Conservatoire Africain:

The noises they were making on various instruments were as bizarre as their looks.  Quite, quite surreal – and typically Belgian.  How can anyone possibly class this as a dull country?  (And just so you know, they are a charitable organisation that collects for children’s hospitals.  They’re just nuts).


Finally, a view of the carpet in our hotel.  If you can get back to the hotel and not throw up when you see this, you’re probably safe from a hangover.

So now it’s back to the wonderful world of chillies.  It will seem almost sensible in comparison the Conservatoire Africain, but I think almost everything will.

Have a good week, speak to you again soon.

Surprise, surprise

Every now and again life takes me by surprise.  This week has been a case in point.  I will explain.


Several months ago, when I threw myself into the world of selling chillies, I wondered if I would be able to keep myself busy.  Notwithstanding the ever-increasing amount of general chinwaggery and thoughtsharing that goes on with Jamie at the Wiltshire Chilli Farm, there is of course the small case of a living to be made.  This generally means standing out in all weathers beseeching Joe Public to purchase our spectacular world-beating products, trying to stop short of actually begging and whimpering.

Now I didn’t really think I’d be any good at it, or even want to do that side of the business, imagining myself to be more of a wholesaler type of cove.  Imagine my surprise when I now realise that (a) I seem to be passably good at it, (b) on nice days when there are lots of fillies in short skirts at the market I love it, and (c) I now have just one – ONE – weekend free between now and Christmas, so no worries about keeping busy.  That’s a bloody long way away, I can assure you, even though I suspect M&S are already filming their uber-sparkly-tinselly barf-fest of an advert.

And, dear reader, that free weekend is this one coming.  So will I be making the most of it?  You bet your sweet bippy I am…I shall be departing from London’s St Pancreas station on Friday afternoon for a weekend of fine beer, chocolate, mayo frites and waffles in Brussels.  Now being the aged bugger that I am it will be a civilised affair – plenty of sitting in bars watching the world go by whilst I put the world to rights with my mate Paul – and only trying the mind-cracking beers as a nightcap, sure in the knowledge that I can have a good lie down shortly afterwards.  It’s a tried, trusted – nay, almost infallible – plan, which will have been mapped out with military precision by my partner in crime.

I will be doing my best not to think too hard about chillies, but they sort of seep into most conversations these days.

What else have I learnt this week?  Well, in no particular order:

–          My ginger cat gets very confused by my laptop’s screensaver and can’t work out where the wiggly lines go when the disappear off the side of the screen

–          I appear to have invented the JunkPlan Diet containing just 4 food groups – chillies, crisps, chocolate and Pepsi Max

–          Swindon Town are heading for mid-table mediocrity, which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing

–          There is a burger bar in Hove that sells a chilli burger it claims is 9.2 million on the Scoville scale http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/chilli-burger-thats-twice-hot-3227322

None of this will change your universe, as to be fair, it hasn’t mine.  Unless you try the burger in Hove, in which case your lower intestine may dissolve.

The good work of the Wiltshire Chilli Farm will, of course, continue unabated in my absence this weekend.  Please feel free to hunt them down at markets and baffle them with logic and big words.

Now, how do I say ‘Bunny Burner’s quite mild really – give it a try’ in Flemish?