The words of the season offer nothing in the way of comfort or uplift: epidemic, pandemic, virus, infection, distancing, confinement.
Nonetheless, there are some rays of light visible here and there. Some stories of people who managed, despite the circumstances, to raise a smile.
In De Wilg school in Lint near Kontich in Antwerp province, two cleaners have put the last weeks to good use by cleaning the whole place from top to bottom, safe in the knowledge there was little chance of coming too close to other people.
“Better to get cleaning than spend the whole day sitting inside,” said Sonja Van den Eynde and Monique De Goeyse, who have since received gifts of chocolates and flowers for their efforts. “We made sure to keep enough distance from each other during the big clean-up.”
De Groote Witte Arend is one of Antwerp’s best-known and fanciest cafe-restaurants, which means that chef Tim Ferket is unemployed for the time being. Unemployed but not idle, as Tim is now busy at the stove of Kamiano, the only restaurant in the port city that remains open, because it caters to the needs of the city’s homeless.
“I wanted to give something back to society,” he told Het Nieuwsblad.
Normally, Francis comes each day to visit is wife Simonne, who was last year taken into a care home in Duffel near Lint in Antwerp province. But confinement means outsiders are no longer allowed into the home, so when Francis and Simonne wanted to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary on Friday, there had to be a wall of glass between Simonne and Francis and the couple’s three children.
Inside, a group of about 15 home residents joined Simonne in raising a glass, while other residents watched from their windows.
“I thought it was very pleasant, and I’m very grateful we were able to do it,” Francis told the VRT. “I can’t wait until I can give her a big hug again.”
The church in Zottegem in East Flanders last week attracted some 7,000 viewers to its online broadcast of the Sunday Mass – a special result, since the service normally gets a congregation of around 700. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and deacon Hans Vandenholen hopes at least to equal that audience. The livestream goes on on local news channel Nuus.
Finally, prospective students and their parents who were considering studying at the Sint-Rombouts college in Mechelen need not miss the school Open Day, which has been cancelled.
The event, intended to introduce the school to prospective students and families, will instead be conducted by drones, who visit the school on your behalf and send the pictures back to the school website.
The school dates back to the 1860s, and counts among former students former Flemish minister presidents Bart Somers and Luc Van den Brande, poet Herman De Conick and FC De Kampioenen actor Jaak Van Assche.