Myself and dad have become real men on this holiday. No, we haven’t wrestled a bear with our bare hands or anything like that, but we have observed a lot about buildings. (Perhaps I should have said we have become real “blokes’). Every morning we have discussed the roofs, plumbing and cladding of the neighbours’ houses. We have discovered that in the house the toilets flush using rain water (where is the tank? What happens if it doesn’t rain?); that a law forbade the people of Bruges from rebuilding their houses with wood claddings as it was a fire risk (why is the house behind us clad with wood?) and how they attach the roofs to the ornate gable ends (it must take more lead flashing then a normal roof. It must be a thieves’ paradise!).
Today however we had a proper blokes’ adventure. Just along side us are 4 windmills. One of them has a museum in it . We wandered along to it this morning. As we got closer the ladders up to them looked steeper then they did from a distance. Mum failed the first hurdle (she couldn’t lift her leg high enough to get onto the base of the windmill). Karen just looked at the steps and said “nooo wayyy (man)”. So it was down to the men.
I headed up first (to make sure it was open). As I scrambled breathless to the top of the ladder I was greeted by a surly looking man.
“Ah you open”
“My dad’s over 65”
“Huh, 5 Euro then”
A Euro is a Euro, so I paid and gestured to dad to ascend the ladder. He arrived a minute or so later. The surly man thrust a laminated sheet of A4 at me with the details of the windmill in English. I then started my main role of the holiday, reading things out, It saves time (and reading) if one of us reads out information. In fact today I walked over to an information sign, took a photo, walked back and read it it to the group. That saved valuable walking and reading time.
I noticed that the windmill had a sort of stale tobacco smell. Perhaps it was a tobacco mill (do such things exist?). Perhaps the windmill was made of ancient wood from a tobacco ship which had been repurposed? As I stood and wondered the surly man went out onto the balcony and lit a fag. “Ahh, that will be it” I thought.
We then went up an even steeper ladder into the heart of the windmill. We were greeted by 2 enormous cogs spinning above our heads. My first thought was “they should really have guards on them”. At that moment, dad piped up “if you had an accident up here you’d have no chance”. We are nothing if not health and safety aware, we Fenner men. I have no idea how long we were up there but worked out how the mills worked, how the brakes worked and how grain became flour. We were quite chuffed with ourselves.
In fact dad was so chuffed with himself that when a French family came up, he shared our learning with them. The French dad then repeated what we told him, bizarrely enough in English, to his kids. Happy with our entente cordiale we climbed back down the ladders to tell our ladies how they had (probably) the 2 best engineers in Europe in their midst. They didn’t sound convinced.