Thursday, 20 March 2008

In case you were wondering, ...

I was flattered that Paul, a regular contributor to Ambassador Watch and Shadows of WCG, was the first visitor to post a comment on this blog, and also that he was moved to say, “I dig your look!”. As my Blogger profile now incorporates a different photo, I thought I’d post here, for future reference, the original picture that inspired Paul’s comment, together with a few words about the background, just in case anybody was wondering.

When I was still relatively new to Brussels, I was walking along Avenue de Tervueren one evening [yes, the name of the avenue really is spelt like that, unlike that of the eponymous town, Tervuren], when I was struck (figuratively) by the registration plate of a parked car. This was some months before the introduction of the euro. From my youth upwards, I had been familiar with the school of prophetic interpretation which holds that the “beast” described in the book of Revelation should be understood as referring to an economic and political superstate taking shape in Europe that will ultimately constitute the “final resurrection” of the Holy Roman Empire. And I had also read an article explaining how the European Article Number (EAN) barcode system – by its own criteria, no less! – actually bears the number of the said beast, namely 666. Thus, I found the symbolism of this number plate, here in what would soon officially be designated as the capital of Europe, quite interesting, to say the least. Why me? Why now? Why here? Could this all be mere COINCIDENCE? (You bet it could, but we’ll talk about that some other time.)

The next morning, and for weeks and months after the incident, I found myself wishing I’d had a camera with me at the time. I was confident that my experience was not (solely) attributable to the effects of Belgian beer. But, as time went on, I still hadn’t seen so much as one single vehicle with a registration plate consisting of three numbers followed by the letters “EURO”, let alone the memorable combination 666 EURO.

And then one day, near the Montgomery roundabout, suddenly I saw it: a vehicle (I think it was a 4x4, but at any rate I’m sure it had four wheels) with that “magic” number plate! By another amazing coincidence, again I didn’t have a camera with me. So I commissioned a similar-looking objet d’art instead. Those were the days when I was on the speaking schedule (let the reader understand), so I leave the rest to your imagination.

And what of the interpretation of the blindfold? A zealous desire to see no evil? A veiled allusion to the blind leading the blind? Sorry to disappoint you, but I can’t actually remember what prompted me to don that particular fashion accessory for the impromptu portrait session a couple of years ago. But two points are probably worth making in conclusion: (1) My wife has a good sense of humour; (2) The (now irreplaceable) Swissair eyemask in question is a souvenir from our first transatlantic flight in February 2001 when we visited New York City, Indianapolis and Washington DC in connection with a book launch. Tune in again soon for the next exciting instal[l]ment.


Gavin said...

"the next exciting instal[l]ment"

Graham, I perceive that you are torn, like me, between two spellings... the American (ll) and the British/rest of the world (l). I've tended to default to the former just because most blog readers come from the USA, but in my tetchy old age I notice myself getting bloody-minded about the "proper" spelling, and I let slip a "centre" the other day.

One more thing to be conflicted about... ;-)

The Third Witness said...

Thanks for dropping by, Gavin! You’re right: this is a case of veritable déformation professionnelle for me, I’m afraid, as my niche these days involves me in harmonising/harmonizing spellings in texts written by non-native (but frighteningly proficient) professional users of English here in Belgium.

As time goes on, I’m becoming increasingly sympathetic to US spelling conventions, as they are usually simpler, more logical, and sometimes even phonetic! The first (and so far only) book I have edited was also published in the USA, and, thanks to many years of reading the original PT, I am very comfortable with American English as well as with my “mother tongue”.

In everyday communication, it’s more the different meanings of “the same word” that can cause unintended confusion sometimes. I once heard Joseph Tkach Sr say in a video sermon: “My suspenders are killing me!” – and I didn’t know what to think until I learned that in America “suspenders” are what we Brits call “braces” (i.e. the things men use to hold up their trousers [“pants” to you Americans – no “offense” intended!]) and not the accessory a lady would use for holding up her stockings [or should that be “panty hose”?]. (To be continued...)

One encouraging trend is that here in Belgium, where we have three official languages (Dutch, French and German), English is often a unifying factor rather than something that gives rise to conflicts. And, for practical reasons, in everyday communication within the EU institutions, you might say that English is fast becoming the de facto lingua franca of Europe!

“Have a nice day!” (and I really, literally, DO “mean that sincerely”).