It is a quarter to ten. Saturday morning. I am at Place Emile Bockstael on the terrace at café La Perle. It is still cold outside, but the sky is clear! The sun is shining! I order a coffee. I take notes.
A number 86 bus is leaving in 23 minutes for Machtens. A child is running ahead of its mother, crying. Another number 86 bus is leaving in 11 minutes. Both buses are empty. A number 251 bus passes in the direction of Brussels North. A metro to Elisabeth, two minutes before departure.
Most people wear mouth masks. Only the man next to me does not, instead he is drinking his beer while smoking a cigarette. Other figures: the number 6 metro, number 2111 bus and number 9456 bus. All kinds of advertising and road signs.
White cloud wisps. A taxi drives by. The man finishes his beer and leaves. A tram arrives, pretty empty, I cannot see where it is going, the buses are hiding it from view. A tram, number 62, arrives from the other side, heading towards the cemetery and Jette. The first number 86 leaves, giving me more of a view of the newly rebuilt Place Emile Bockstael. There is a market going on. Salvatore Sciarotta's stall is dead ahead of me.
Most of the stalls sell fruit and vegetables. A number 88 stops, heading for the UZ, and for the first time a lot of people get on. A white van goes by for the second time, now from the opposite direction. Another white van with a green stripe and “services” in small letters.
Another tram coming from the direction that before was hidden from my view. A number 62, destination Eurocontrol. What is that, Eurocontrol? Strange name for a destination. A man with a child in a pushchair enters the café. Another white van. A number 93 going towards Stade. Pretty full.
It is now quarter past ten in the morning, and I can still just manage to type. I have been trying to master this kind of writing for a good few weeks now. Sit down somewhere and describe what you see, especially that which you do not usually notice, that which is not inventoried or told, described, listed.
I found the inspiration in the book Tentative d'épuisement d'un lieu parisien by Georges Perec, published in 1975. The writer spent three days on the streets of Paris, based first at a Bar-Tabac on the Place Saint-Sulpice and then at several other places in the area.
On 3 March 2022, it will be 40 years since Perec passed away. Between 12.30 and 13.30 Paris time, everyone worldwide is invited to participate in the “Tentative d'épuisement d'un lieu planétaire” via Twitter. (“An Attempt at Exhausting a Place on the Planet”). You sit down somewhere and you describe that place. Perec wrote with pen and paper, but this time hashtags will be used. So, for example, you write #Brussels in your tweet.
I do not have a Twitter account. But I am going to create one (again) for this occasion. I once started working on a never-ending poem on Twitter. I thought it would be a good idea to do just the opposite of what Twitter suggested. After a week, I forgot about the whole thing. But do join in. Go and buy Perec's great little book, read it in one go (47 pages) and then on 3 March between 12.30 and 13.30 sit down somewhere in Brussels (or anywhere else) and describe what you see, as Perec did. Perhaps I will be back at La Perle on 3 March or who knows where the wind will blow me.
My hands are too cold to carry on writing. I am going to walk over to Salvatore Sciarotta and get some scamorza fumé and other scrumptiously delicious Italian food.
The sun is shining and a small but not very graceful flock of birds is flying over the square. Urban pigeons.