Eurodan in English

February 25, 2004

History lesson

I used to earn a living editing a website, you know.

Don't believe me?

The link will take you to some archived remains of a long-dead UK online gay magazine called Gay365.com, which was launched at the height of the UK internet euphoria by (at the time) unstoppable web-publishing giant, the 365 Corporation.

What's even more exciting than finding these archived fragments, is the web archive machine itself.

The thing is, Gay365 is no longer actually online, but while it was online back in the year 2000, web.archive.org committed it to its archives, so now we can all take a trip back in time and see just how bad a product I created.

To be fair, it did have some moments of brilliance. The subversive gay soap opera acted out by Action Men dolls was one of them. But we were a very small team, and the main part of the website, a kind of Gaydar-type online meeting-place was poorly engineered and never really worked properly, which was a shame, since we'd spent such a fortune on marketing.

We also tried to succeed by providing light-hearted yet intelligent content for gay men, while resisting the clichés of having a photo of yet-another-bloke-with-his-top-off.

A completely foolhardy strategy, of course. Still, it was fun while it lasted. And I certainly know the M1 between London and Hemel Hempstead (where the offices were.)

Posted by Eurodan at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2004

Last night Bart took me to see a really excellent play called Gembloux, about the rather forgotten history of the Moroccans and other North Africans who came to France and Belgium to fight against the Nazis in the second world war, and very often ended up as cannon fodder.

It was very timely, as the Belgians are currently marking the fortieth anniversary of the first wave of immigration from Morocco, when, a booming Belgium was desperate for extra labour. A familiar tale for many North Europeans.

Now Moroccans make up one of the most visible ethnic groups in Brussels, alongside the Congolese and the Eurocrats. The bakery just across the street from me is run by Moroccans, and very good it is too, particularly for sweet things. On a Sunday afternoon you'll find it full with people of North African descent, buying large boxes of patisserie for what seems to be a weekly coffee and cakes ritual.

It would be dishonest to give you the impression that all is sweetness and light in the relationship between Belgian's immigrants and its indigenous population (the allochtone and autochtone, as they're known in Dutch).

North African young men and teenage boys in particular are accused of a lot of petty crime and threatening, aggressive behaviour, leading to increased tensions between communities.

As ever in Belgium, the attitude towards the issue splits to a certain extent along the language-divide, at least in public. A right-wing Flemish politician openly suggested banning non-European foreigners from swimming pools and amusement parks during last summer's heatwave, after a bunch of youths had apparently made trouble. The Prime Minister's centre-right party is against giving non-Europeans who don't have Belgian nationality the vote in local elections, whereas most French-speaking parties are in favour.

As for whether the average French-speaking Belgian feels more favourably inclined towards Belgium's North African population then your average Fleming, I for one have no idea. But in a country with as many layers and factions as Belgium, generalisation is always a very dangerous game.

Posted by Eurodan at 9:21 AM | Comments (2)

February 16, 2004

It had been a lovely, tranquil (Valentine) weekend in Stockholm, with brilliant sunshine and, wonder of wonders, mild weather - 3 or 4 degrees above zero.

It was Sunday night and Bart and I were relaxing on the plane back to Brussels, reading the paper and reflecting over what a relaxing weekend it had been.

Below us we could see the lights of Brussels - we were well into our final approach, and would soon be home.

And then we started to smell burning. The sort of smell you get when a piece of paper catches fire, quite sweet but a bit acrid as well. And suddenly it felt very warm under our feet. We looked round and other passengers were also clearly alarmed.

The flight attendants started to walk up and down the plane, looking out of the windows at the four engines of our BAe 146 jet. None seemed to be on fire.

For a truly appaling moment, the denial which we all enter into when we board an aeroplane, hiding behind the statistics that tell us "it will never happen to us", that denial slipped, and it looked like something quite serious was about to happen. If something in the hold really had caught fire, that really would be a terrible way to go.

The pilot extended the wing flaps, and we landed in what seemed to be rather a hurry. The smell seemed to go away, and the crew welcomed us to Brussels.

I have to say that I've never been quite so relieved to be back on the terra cotta as John Prescott would, apparently have it.

Ever the Nancy Drew type, I put the words BAe 146, burning smell and landing into Google, and discovered that the plane seems to be quite famous (if that's the right word) for air quality issues, and notably for "cabin fume incidents". I even unearthed an Australian parliamentary enquiry dossier into the issue, quoting various sources who seemed to claim that it was far from rare, and even that on occasion the crew have become incapacitated by burnt oil fumes coming from broken seals in the air circulation, or words to that effect.

I'm not sure whether to be relieved that we weren't actually on fire, or angry that we had such an extremely alarming experience and don't seem to be the only ones.

I'll certainly think twice before boarding what used to be my favourite type of aircraft in the future.

Posted by Eurodan at 1:19 PM | Comments (8)

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