May is a tremendous month to be gainfully employed in Belgium. It is a bank holiday fest.
With a refreshing lack of beating about the bush the very first day of the month is off. This year May 1 was, of course, a Tuesday. In countries where work is potentially more sacrosanct (thus defeating the entire point of May Day), this would probably lead to a postponement of the bank holiday until the following Monday, allowing for a long weekend at that point. The Belgians, however, have a better scheme. They engage in the endearing tradition of "making the bridge", which entails turning up for work on neither the Monday nor the Tuesday. Being (reasonably) new here and wanting to ingratiate myself with the natives I decided to try to impress them by also making the bridge between Tuesday and Friday. I think they liked my style.
Friday, May 4
For those of you who did not know, 17 May is Ascension Day. I have absolutely no idea what it signifies (although I could probably guess if I thought about it for a couple of, erm, milliseconds) but I do know that this year, as if by miracle, it falls on a Thursday. Those of you who are quick on the uptake will have already realised that Thursday has more in common with Tuesday than six letters. It is also perfect bridge making material. So while everybody is busy not turning up for work on Friday 18, I will be making the somewhat longer (lets call it 'the Oresund') bridge, between Monday and Thursday.
Unfortunately the final bank holiday of the month, Whit Monday, falls, as its name would suggest, on a Monday (28th). This is not really bridge building material but having already been out for most of the month it is difficult to really complain. This is particularly so if you happen to work for one of the European Union institutions. Already not exactly renowned for a Stakhanovite approach to toil, they have actually managed to chisle an additional holiday all to themselves this month. Schuman Day, named after the French architect of the Union, Robert Schuman, is an annual day on the doss for them. Every 9 May they get together, presumably in the metro station also named after Robert, and sing Beethoven's ninth symphony. This year they will probably also be reciting the Treaty of Rome, it being 50 long years since its signing.
It doesn't sound that exciting but I guess I'll have to take Schuman Day off too. seeing as it is a Wednesday, I'll probably make a bridge or two too. When in Brussels.....to bastardise the phrase.
Anyway, May the 4th be with you!