Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Secret Behind King's Cross

We recently had the opportunity of going to London for a four day visit. One great thing about living in Brussels is that we are close to many European cities - Amsterdam, Paris, and London are all within 3 hours by train. London is literally a hop, skip, & a jump away. Having spent two of our days trying to get the most of our London Pass (it's definitely worth it, but only if you're okay with little relax time), we still had two more days to soak in the London air. For those who are interested, the London Pass entitles the user to visit any of the 50+ sites of London that sponsors the pass, sometimes even getting past the lines at the ticket office. I know that sunk costs are irrelevant (anyone who has taken Econ 110 from Kearl at BYU definitely knows what I'm talking about), but it's both human nature and engrained in my character to squeeze every last drop from the pass - I relentlessly planned our days to the hour and let the pass work for me. Heck, why else would we have gone to the Queen Ice Rink & Bowl to skate in circles with a bunch of teenagers? But don't get me wrong, it was very refreshing to have the cool air blow in our faces after a long and sticky day...

Alright, I guess I should get to the point of my little post here: "The Secret Behind King's Cross." Any J.K. Rowling fan could tell you that King's Cross is the train station in London where Hogwarts students board the Hogwarts Express to go to Hogwarts School. (isn't Hogwarts a funny name?) Being Harry Potter fans ourselves, we decided to visit this station during some of the free time we had before returning to Belgium. We were just wanting to see the station, locate platforms 9 & 10, and maybe take a picture where the ¾ mark might be. As we approached these platforms, though, we were surprised to see a sign indicating "Platform 9¾". We felt a surge of magical curiousity, and Talyn even managed to push half of a luggage trolley through the brick wall! But we couldn't push it farther in, and it was impossible to pull back out. Oh well. I'm sure some kids will have fun with it later.

One thing we noticed is that there is, in fact, no brick wall between platforms 9 & 10 at King's Cross. There's platform 9, the tracks for the train for platform 9, the tracks for the train for platform 10, and then platform 10. Apparently, J.K. Rowling had been confused as she tried to remember her experiences at King's Cross, mistaking it for another station. That's according to my sources at Wikipedia - we hope that they're credible. At least we had the opportunity of visiting King's Cross ourselves.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Potty Boy and Potty...Girl?

When I was a wee little girl living in a tiny little town in the northwoods of Minnesota, my family used to go for walks. We used to walk down to the river and wander around, looking at cool things there. One trip we took occasionally included a visit to what we called the "Potty Boy." We had a good reason to call it that. It was a little statue of a boy becoming one with nature and letting it go into the river. At the time I thought it was kind of scandalous to have a little naked kid as a statue, but we also thought it was pretty funny. Even after we hadn't made a trip to the potty boy in years, we still talked about him. He became a family icon, if you will. Well, maybe just a family joke.

(Our little potty boy with someone who wants to grow up to be just like him)

This summer I discovered that our little "Potty Boy" is not one of a kind. In fact, there is a potty boy identical to my old friend here in Brussels, only they call him "Manneken Pis." He's right down town and they do a pretty good job making him a tourist trap. They have cardboard Manneken Pises at three times actual size, chocolate Manneken Pises, Manneken Pis pens and t-shirts, etc. Foreign countries who feel sorry for the poor naked boy donate costumes to him and he wears them on special occasions, and once a year he changes from a fountain of water to a fountain of beer. He's become the city's icon.

(One of the tourist ones, at three times actual size, with complimentary Belgian scarf.)

Now, I hear you feminists out there. "We want equal rights!" you say, "If there's a little boy, where's his sister?!" you say. Well, don't worry, the good people of Brussels hear you. Manneken in fact does have a sister named Janneken Pis. She squats at the back of a secluded alleyway behind red bars and surrounded by greenery. (Well, fake, plastic greenery)

Now, one wonders why they - two small, metal citizens - choose to relieve themselves out in the open rather than just finding a public restroom. Where is their mother anyway? "Perhaps the public restrooms are dirty," you say. Occasionally they are, but you can find a clean one without too much trouble. "Perhaps they really are trying to become one with nature," you say. Maybe, but if they were trying to do that, it seems they would choose a location other than the middle of the city, plastic greenery or not. My theory is simple. I think that the children's good mother has taught them the value of being frugal. By choosing a location out in the open they save 20 Euro cents (actually, if their other option were the train station in Luxembourg, they save €1,10). I imagine there are others tempted to join them rather than have to go make change of their 20 Euro bill, and from the smell of the metro stations I can only assume that some have joined the rebellion.

So, as with many things, childhood memories must give way to the reforming influence of two small statues seizing the "rights" that, according to some, should not be protected by the constitution. I for one am in favor of an ammendment to the Belgian constitution assuring me access to a clean, free restroom. Then again, what do I know about politics?

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