Brussels Stories

How is your boiler, and what about your partner - grappling with the Belgian census

What fuel does your boiler use? When did you begin co-habiting? And does your home have a concealed well?

What fuel does your boiler use? When did you begin co-habiting? And does your home have a concealed well?

Forget worries about a gas attack or biological warfare, the Belgian population has a real battle on its hands, and this time the enemy is a familiar one: bureaucracy. The census has arrived, and it is a minor masterpiece, combining questions of mind-numbing detail with those which elsewhere would be considered downright rude.

This is a particularly testing time for heads of households (that apparently includes me), who have not one, but two forms to fill in. The first invites me to pick from a full two-column page of possible academic or professional qualifications, a list so extensive it seems designed to make a mere university graduate feel grossly inadequate.

The second involves a similarly detailed interrogation about the age of our home, its facades, its aesthetic qualities and, of course, the workings of the boiler and water systems.

Finally, the Belgian National Statistical Institute gets personal. It wants to know our year of marriage before asking, a little later on, when we began cohabiting – married or otherwise. Not the sort of question one expects in a predominantly Catholic country.

The accompanying instructions do not list the penalty for incomplete form-filling but do provide one piece of good news: this is the last time Belgians will ever have to complete a census. Thanks to the size of its social security databank, the government reckons it will know enough about its citizens to avoid the need for one in future.

 

* * *

 

An unusual question of protocol has been hanging over the Belgian royal court: what should a king do when he is accused of paedophilia? Several weeks after the publication of a book which made exactly such a claim about King Albert, we now have the answer, and it involves his majesty's learned friends.

In an extraordinary development the Belgian royal family has taken a legal action in Paris against a French publisher, Flammarion, over a book which alleges that, before assuming the throne, King Albert took part in sex parties with underage girls. The palace, which usually treats such incidents with silent disdain, had taken off its gloves by issuing a rare royal denial of the claims made in the book, Paedophile Dossier, by Jean Nicholas and Frédéric Lavachery.

Now the French courts are being asked to force the insertion in each copy of a leaflet refuting the allegations. The royal family also wants damages (which will be donated to a charity fighting paedophilia). For the authors, it's all great publicity.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 3 Welsh Teacher vacancy in Penarth

£110 - £120 per day + Travel Scheme and Free training: Randstad Education Card...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Male Behaviour Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

BA/PM,EMIR/Dodd-Frank,London,£450-650P/D

£450 - £650 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz