The acupuncturist practised in Uccle at number 1147H. Wherever that was! I had a vague idea—introduced by Google maps with options en route: walk, bus, car—but nothing was familiar. I knew it was through the forest—visions of Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel—a place of fairy tales. I didn’t want to venture into the forest … well not today anyway. I would be travelling at dusk; the forest dark. I wondered what tales this forest held—what secrets it kept.
It was a wet and windy walk to bus stop number forty-one—Heros. I was Googled up (seven stops—alight on the other side of the forest at Montana—walk straight then cross the main street— continue left and acupuncturist on the right—1147H) so it was easy—right!
Bus stop. Check. Route forty-one. Check. Destination Heldon … NO CHECK. Help! Where is Heros! If I could just see the word somewhere reassurance would replace any anxiousness for being late, or worse, lost in Brussels. I needed my written directions. I scrummaged through my red backpack. It’s travelled overseas with me for the past eleven years—on every trip I’ve taken and every adventure I’ve had —it is my friend, my companion. I felt comforted. A bus came around the corner. Don’t panic, wait, assess the situation and stay calm and present. I let this bus come and go. I finally found Heros on the other side of the bus shelter! I would take the next bus and I hoped it would be soon.
Bonjour—I’m on, swiping the bus card like a pro; it beeped. I was happy but as quickly as the confidence came it left just as swiftly— was that the right beep—the beep saying you may pass or the beep alerting the bus driver and any interested passengers that an alien’s trying to play local? The bus moved off. I figured I got it right and stood balancing for a time, watchful, until we slowed for the first bus stop. Correct—Bien Faire—the first stop en route—confirmation I was heading in the right direction. I relaxed and checked off the next five stops. We entered the forest and it was all I had imagined: tall leafless trees, greyness to blackness. Dirt tracks disappearing deep into the thick, foggy dark. It was magical. Childhood visions and dreams inspired by fairy-tales and favourite storybooks. This was the enchanted forest.
Out of the forest—disembark next stop. I made it to Montana! Was it now a walk to Uccle, or was I already there? A pedestrian crossing made it easy to cross Chasee de Waterloo, the hectic main road, but, there’s no button to push—only symbols on signs that I don’t understand. The universal flashing red person in the traffic lights, however, could not be misinterpreted—I waited. Green flashing person—I crossed.
Hidden under my umbrella, I walked down the hill—the wind bitter cold cutting through my layers. I need to find number 1147H. I’m looking for an acupuncturist. His website was slick and provided all necessary details—mobile, landline, email, address—as well as pics and prose providing confidence of a professional practitioner. I was presumptuous looking for a modern, bright and light clinic signed and branded—a fluorescent welcome against the dark evening—a safe place.
I kept walking. It was four-thirty in the afternoon and the day had now turned to night. The old terrace houses continued. Old letterboxes and hedges—holes cut into the branches revealing the camouflaged building number—only visible if deliberately hunted … by me. Who thinks this works? Second last terrace house—I’ve arrived.
The sign … it was handwritten on an old shabby white square plant pot. A number beside the door confirmed my destination. Really! Where were the lights, the welcoming glass automatic doors, the smiling receptionist beckoning my entry? Instead a heavy timber door with paneled glass and wrought iron loomed in front of me. A car was parked on the cobblestone driveway—no sign of a horse and carriage. Oh that’s because it is 2017!
As I stood at the door feeling small and somewhat vulnerable I tentatively tapped the brass door knocker. I waited but with no response I pushed the unsigned and heavily worn button on the intercom. .
A reassuring voice answered. It was Guido, the acupuncturist. An obvious click unhitched the door, inviting me to enter; I took the handle and pushed. Inside was dark but as I took a step, darkness turned to dim light and Guido descended the stairs to let me know he would see me in fifteen minutes and to wait. I sat on a wooden chair—turn of the century antique, leaving my wet umbrella to drip on the marble floor.
Who had sat in this chair over its lifetime?
I looked around. The walls were panelled in dark timber obviously dodging any renovations or restorations, ignoring trends and styles over the decades. The doors were also dark timber. Architraves—all dark stained and raw—original. The heavy timber staircase wound upwards disappearing into the void; carved, ornate balustrading followed the treads, providing them with balance and support. The blackness of the marble floor gave no respite to the heaviness; but sitting there, quietly alone, feeling the space, I felt a sense of peace woven through the intrigue and curiosity of this aged but glamorous building and its bygone eras. I enjoyed being there and the fifteen minutes of stillness.
If only I could perceive the silent language of this room, of this building, of the forest.I am here. I am in this beautiful old terrace house in Uccle. I am in Brussels.