Or at least of the fantastic 4 years we had together. Yesterday we left home to travel to Warwick via London, where there was a Wet Plate Collodion gathering, aka an alibi to go visit England. We didn’t get any further than Brussels… We missed the Eurostar connection to London (let’s just not go into that part :-)) and we had to wait for the next.
So we decided to grab a coffee outside Bruxelles-Midi train station. We went to a bar called Astoria on Hallepoortlaan 60 which has a back-entrance on the Rue de l’Argonne 14. We sat outside on the terrace, just the two of us, and the pavement was pretty much empty. We sat with our backs to the wall so had a nice overview. There was a fair across the street, with police and everything looked pretty darn quiet. I placed my backpack with the Leica inside on the side of my chair and even, just to be sure, pulled it a bit more against my leg. We were discussing the trip as missing the Eurostar caused quite a delay and I was looking on my phone to change things. And then I looked at my right again and the bag was gone..just like that…we both saw nothing, heard nothing…bloody fucking eerie, but for real.
I then noticed a door behind me which was left a bit open and went in to check but nothing. Someone said that she saw someone going around the corner with a backpack in his hand so I ran in that direction but saw nothing. And then the news started to hit me…FUCK!!! My bloody camera with 35mm lens…I have worked so hard for this. I know it’s ‘just’ a thing but IT’S NOT! You know. And not just my camera was gone, also my passport, my wallet with all my bankcards, credit card, id-card, driver’s license, ticket to London etc. London was down the drain anyway obviously.
Well, after a cool-down next step is to file the items stolen in Brussels..Paul went across the street to the police I mentioned earlier on. “Oh no sir, across the street is not our jurisdiction, you have to go to that and that police station”. WTF?! Okay.. so we went there. “No, this is not our jurisdiction, we are railway police, you have to go there and there…” WTF?! Okay…so went to take a cab (phones almost empty for navigating there) and the driver said “No, you have to go back to the other one” etc so we did. Turns out there are three different districts in one city, neither of them authorized to deal with the other. And finally, after a bit of pressure they decided to go along and take our statement…
And they told us stories. And so did the people on the streets. Robberies are such a common practice in that area. We were lucky it wasn’t a violent one. The mixture of cultures there is so extreme. It looked like Africa. It smelt like, I don’t know, un trou de merde. Every single person we talked to spilled their guts on how bad it is there. How violence and mugging is daily business for them, it’s life there. So much poverty. The future of Europe.. And a strongly divided country in how to deal with it. It was an amazing insight, however brief it may have been. If I still had my camera it would make for a great documentary. Or the get-go of one to be surely.
We went back there today. Last night I wrote to every camera and second hand shop in Brussels to mention the goods stolen. Maybe we get lucky. And we printed rewards on A4 sheets for anyone giving me back this camera. We went back today to spam the area with these A4’s and glued them onto everything that would hold them. Around the bar they seemed to get pretty nervous when they saw us today with these sheets, asking questions and responding very awkward. Tomorrow we are heading back again, keeping the pressure on whatever, hoping something will happen. Fingers crossed. My insurance is not going to cover this damage in its entirety. I will not be able to buy this again so… the thieves are not the only desperate ones right now…
Besides the financial malaise; this camera is so precious to me. If I think about how some low-life scumbag with no affection for this item whatsoever is having it in his hands, looking to see how he can get money of it, probably happy with any amount high enough to get the daily dose of whatever…makes me cry even more. It doesn’t even come with a charger so it’s pretty much useless and unsalable (at least to normal people) as it is. He won’t even be able to open it I guess to see where the battery goes. Argghh, this will not be the last tear I shed over you, dear camera. Maybe faith will bring us back together, one can only dream. And with dreams our journey also began so who knows…
Details on the Leica:
Leica Monochrom M246 #4831768
Leica Summicron 35mm f2.0 #2402470
Came with a Artisan & Artist black leather strap and a variable ND filter of B&W
Plastic protection cover is still on the bottom of the camera