MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “workshop”

Dare, if you will

©Jean L. Hays

If you don’t ask, you’ll never know”. Christian sighed. He was playing restlessly with his fingers. It was obvious agitation had the better of him. He stood silent staring at the old warehouse.

Well, go on, will you? You won’t know unless you go for it”. His friend was urging him forward but he wouldn’t move.

For someone with so much ambition, he scared too easily.

Fine, I’ll go and ask”, but as soon as the threat became real, Christian woke up and marched inside.

It turns out the warehouse was for rent after all. It was his first atelier.

Also part of Friday Fictioneers

When the dwarves met the elves

Santa's-Workshop-2When Snow White rode off with Prince Charming, the dwarves knew that their life would change once again. But having lived such a tremendous upheaval the first time, when they had returned home to find this wonderful young lady waiting for them, they now knew that they could not go back to the life they had before. It just seemed so dull now. It was official, they were experiencing the “empty nest” syndrome that they had so often heard of from all those women on the morning shows that Snow used to watch.

As they were returning home that day, one of the dwarves (there is much controversy as to who exactly it was, so we will not go into that right now) suggested that as Christmas is coming they could all take a trip up North. The plan was to go and meet the elves. They were pretty much the same size and also worked all day. So it would be nice to meet their “colleagues” in a sense. They all happily agreed and before the next sunset they had already departed.

It was a very hectic season for the elves in the North Pole. They had to assure that everything was perfect and on time, ready for Santa’s annual trip around the world just a couple of days away. Pandemonium was the order of the day, as the slightest mishap could lead to complete havoc. Especially if the head elf had run out of Zanex.

In fact he was yelling about a toy soldier’s cane being a centimeter too short, when the dwarves arrived at the factory. No one seemed to notice at first. But then Grumpy coughed, or rumbled, according to the elves, and everything came to a halt.

These cheerful slim creatures, dressed in green and red with a small bell jingling at the top of their hat, now turned with eyes glaring with fright and stared at these seven rather chubby intruders.

Excuse us, we happened to be wandering around and heard the jolly songs in here and thought we might come along and see if you could use a hand, perhaps even make your acquaintance…” began    Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey all at once.

The elves were dumbfounded.

Make our acquaintance!? Make our acquaintance? Do you think this is the time to happen to pass by to make our acquaintance!??” bellowed Clyde, the head elf. Sparkles, his assistant, was hectically searching the entire factory for at least one last pill of Zanex. No-one could stand the stress anymore.

Twinkle, the second assistant, began rather shyly to say that maybe it was a good idea that they came along because it meant extra helping hands. Clyde would have nothing of it. “We managed for hundreds of years without them and will do so this year too!” “Yes, but we had you on Zanex until now,” mumbled Elfie, loud enough for Jingles to hear and burst out laughing.

Quiet!!” roared Clyde. “Get back to work!”.

The dwarves were left stranded in the middle of the factory entrance, while the elves returned to assembling and packaging the toys.

Just then they heard a stomp and a jingle, a stomp and a jingle, being repeated again and again. Someone was approaching. The fat man himself. Em, sorry, the chief – Santa Claus.

He took the dwarves under his arm (he was big enough to do so) and led them to his “office” where Mrs. Claus offered some hot cocoa with marshmallows floating inside. The dwarves felt they were on an exotic vacation. Never had they felt so welcomed, well not since Snow left.

The dwarves began explaining to Santa the reasoning for their trip and Mrs. Claus began to snif and scuffle for a tissue at the sound of the “empty nest”. Buddy, their son, had gone off to study this year, and she knew exactly what this feeling was.

Santa consoled all eight of them and excused his head elf who was having a hard year because his reindeer ran off with a deer and he considered it quite unclassy. Whatever the case, Santa thanked the dwarves for having travelled all the way up to the North Pole and told them that although it was a bit hectic this time of year, they were welcome back whenever they wanted. He gave them each a cloth bag with a gift almost their size wrapped inside and promised them that better days awaited them at home.

So, the dwarves once again set off back South, having felt the warmth and hospitality of the North Pole, and having satisfied their curiosity of what these elves they so often heard of were like. One thing they all agreed upon was to never work so hard that they would need medicine to control their anxiety levels.

Once they reached their little cottage, they had a surprise waiting for them. Well, two for that matter. No, eight. One was that it was snowing and their little home had been beautifully decorated to emanate the season’s joy. And the other; well, the other was that Santa had kept his promise. There was a lady dwarf, each for every one of them, waiting quietly by the fireplace where a turkey was roasting. Doc had a lady who was patient and strong, Grumpy had one who could soothe his temper and soften his spirits, Happy had one who could share his excitement but know when to stop, Sleepy had one who could keep him awake, Bashful had one who would make him more confident, Sneezy had one who was always equipped with handkerchiefs and could make natural remedies, and Dopey had one who would get him to think more. They were all cut out for one another.

So the trip to the North Pole was worth it after all.

And up in the factory, the elves finished making the toys on time, Buddy returned to surprise his parents, and Clyde received a new annual prescription to Zanex. Only it was sugar drops, but nobody told him.

Happy Christmas!

Living in a bubble

Photo 16-10-13 18 46 23The signs in Brussels Airport say “Welcome to Europe”; because let’s face it, you think of Brussels and European Union (EU) springs to mind.

I was over there for a two-and-a-half day workshop for young journalists, hosted by the European Parliament. It was stressful and hard work, but it was an amazing experience and the contacts and friendships made were more than worth it. To be honest the amount and quality of work we managed to produce in such a short time is indeed impressive. Especially given all the challenges we faced.

For starters there was the adventure of finding your way in Brussels and to the EU institutions. For first-timers it was no piece of cake. Three years after my first time in Brussels and there are still construction works going on all around the EU Quarter. Something which makes orientating yourself so much harder. And for people (like myself) who have a bit of trouble with orientation, it means getting lost countless of times. But hey, that’s how you learn a place better. At least that’s what they say. Because I’ve seen beautiful places that I have no idea how to get back to!

So, after walking in circles between the Schuman and Maelbeek metro stations, that is between the Commission, Council and Parliament buildings, there on one side of rue Belliard appears the impressive esplanade of the European Parliament (EP), with the fancy digital screen of the Parlamentarium inviting you in, and this period calling you to vote in the 2014 EU elections.

So all is well, and having already burnt the calories you had for breakfast, you’ve passed the security checks and you’re in! You’re in this huge (I mean really huge) building that hosts representatives from 28 European countries and serves (or at least claims to do so) as the ‘voice of EU citizens’. Being inside is impressive. But there are so many offices, rooms, floors, towers, buildings, that it is almost impossible not to get lost. Yet everyone who works there seems so comfortable in moving (actually rushing) around that it makes you wonder: do they have a secret map embedded in their brain that we do not know of? Personally, I had to ask for directions a handful of times while going around and up and down that building. It seems like a maze. And one person who kindly directed me to the right elevator (yes, I had trouble finding these too!) told me that ‘this building is so confusing it’s as if it is designed to trap people inside’. For example, did you know that there is an exit on the third floor?

Even finding the canteen required asking for directions. And then actually getting the food was itself a complex process, or so it seemed to us, because everyone else pretty much knew what they were doing and where to go. We were just in their way.

This EP mall, as it is called, is exactly that. Fully equipped with a sports centre, hairdresser’s, banks, cafés, restaurants, shops, florists, and I’m sure there is a ‘nap-pad’ hidden somewhere. It’s like the Google playground in The Internship, only for EU civil servants. And I’m sure the buildings of the other EU institutions are similar to this.

But seeing and experiencing all this from the inside, you are left to wonder: do these EU officials live in their own world? They don’t even need to go outside. Heck, by the time a visitor would manage to find the exit, it would be time to go back in again to resume their work! But it seems that after all, the EU does live in a bubble. Detached from reality, distant from what people’s lives are really like. They make decisions, reports and dossiers, all drowning in bureaucracy, but they seem to be unaware of how all these policies affect people’s lives in practice. Just ask any citizen of a Memorandum country and you’ll see the negative view that prevails of the EU, its officials and its policies.

If the confusion and disorder that reigns in the EU Quarter and is encountered by visitors is in any way symbolic of the ‘Europe’ that Brussels proclaims it represents, then it is no surprise why the EU is in such chaos and is constantly losing credibility and trust in the eyes of its citizens.

EU officials should exit their bubble once in a while and see for themselves how their decisions affect the people they claim to represent. After all, isn’t that their job? They’re supposed to be accessible and close to their constituents. Not locked in an office, a building or a mall. Particularly one in which you need a map, comfortable shoes, security badges, and a lot of patience, in order to find your way around.

Brussels is a beautiful city, but if you’re isolated inside what in essence can only be described as a ‘small state’, you don’t really get to experience it.  And if you’re in there too long, when you do get out in the real world, you should cover your ears at the deafening sound of your bubble bursting.

18 October 2013, Brussels

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