Saturday 18 May 2013
We began the day by booking our transport from Antwerp to Paris. We then went for walk to a wonderful antiquarian bookshop that Ruby and Susie had discovered on their op-shopping adventures a few days before. It was full of stuff from monasteries, including replica statuettes of Mary and the baby Jesus. After some aimless browsing, I discovered the philosophy section, which had some very interesting titles in English. I bought two of them, had them wrapped, and asked for directions to the nearest post office, where I posted them to my work address back home.
After this, Susan and I stumbled on the Tilburg markets, where we were seduced by some amazing pastries filled with cherries and cream. We walked to a canal nearby where we devoured them and were promptly filled with remorse for succumbing to something so vile and utterly delicious. We admired the barges parked along the canal, which were adorned with heavy lifting equipment and incongruous lace curtains in the portholes.
We then continued on foot to our final destination: a large op shop in an ugly industrial estate by the canal. This was full of the dead skin of Tilburg life—that is, everything that have been cast aside but deemed worthy of re-selling for either practical purposes or as retro chic. Accordingly, the clientele were a mixture of Tilburg’s less wealthy citizens and its hipster youth. Observing them was much more interesting than sorting through the junk. Susan made a single purchase: a necklace crafted from some beads and seeds that will probably have to be surrendered to customs on our re-entry to Australia. Hopefully by then, Susie will have enjoyed her 75 eurocents worth of Tilburg cultural history.
We walked back to our apartment from the industrial estate, and Ruby joined us in the afternoon. By this time, the citizens of Tilburg were organising an even more impressive tribute to the junk of the city. A flea-market was about to take place, where hundreds of stalls appeared around the town, and everyone emptied their attics and offered up their unwanted belongings for sale over the next 72 hours (or thereabouts). We walked around the crazy flea-market, marvelling at the jumbled archaeology of consumerism that was assembled along the streets and pleins. The good burgers of Tilburg jostled each other to secure bargains, most of which (I imagined) would find their way on to the purchaser’s own stall the following year. Ruby found one stall that was selling small bottles with cork stoppers that had cheesy “affirmations” inside them, printed on rolled-up bits of paper. This gave her the idea of replacing the cheesy affirmations with heartfelt messages for her cohorts on exchange at the university.
After our visual archaeology of Tilburg consumer culture, we bought some Japanese take-away and took it back to the apartment. I walked Ruby back to the bus station close to midnight. When I got back to the apartment I discovered that she had left her clutch there with all her money and ID. I rang her and made an arrangement to get it to her before we travelled to Breda the next day. I then settled down to our final night in the Tilburg apartment.