Good Time during Rehearsing in Belgium Farm
Godfrey Salmon, Gino Malisan,
Brian Holloway, Timothy Kraemer, Joy Yates (do you want a kiss!)
Locating Houyet (revisiting a hamlet in Belgium)
by Janice Slater - Australia - April 2003
In the early 70’s I sang my heart out in a small village in the Ardenne called Houyet. Houyet pronounced without the H meant ‘Ouyet’ to a band of incorrigible and irrepressible musicians and singers called ‘Esperanto Rock Orchestra’ of which I was a member. This disparate group, comprising of 3 females and 6 males and from at least seven different nations, with members speaking a variety of languages, from French to Maori, Italian to Hawaiian, visited the little village of Houyet to bring our fledgling music, now labeled, ‘progressive rock’, to the world.
Houyet, of cobble-stoned streets and terraces with Belgian lace, seemed empty of people. German tanks once rolled down these narrow roads. Villagers appeared to still lay in wait for their arrival. Over 30 years after the event, Houyet still speaks to my soul.
A small railway station where on occasion we ate breakfast, croissants and coffee, a forest with tall firs in dappled light and somewhere further afield deer and the mysterious Chateau Royal d’Ardenne, of which the boys said existed ‘way up in the forest’ but which I never did see (note from webmaster: the Chateau is destroyed, but it remains the Leopold tower which is used as Club-House by the Royal Golf Club Chateau Royal d’Ardenne).
On the backburners of memory, an old man wears a hat, stands at a gate, smiling, with a red ball in his hand and a vacated hall with a stone fence where in the afternoons we arrive to rehearse ‘On Down the Road’, ‘Perhaps One Day’, ‘Statue of Liberty’, ‘Gypsy’ with the boys. In the mornings we aim for accuracy, rehearse in ‘sections’, back at the house; voices and guitar, strings, rhythmn section. In the afternoons we let fly in the old hall.
Visits to the butcher’s shop where meats and sausages of a variety of flavours, sizes are purchased. Maori singer, Joy and Hawaiian singer Bridget ‘Lokelani’ Dudoit speak a smattering of French. Joy’s a great cook and together we prepare the evening meal.
The room with the amber glass door downstairs houses a billiard’s table and table tennis. The slap of rods and bats and the popping balls becomes the ‘boys’ domain, with lapses of madness from Joy and Bridget’s visitations, female wit and raucous laughter, fill the air. Upstairs, with night fall, in the ‘girls’ room, I dream of my boyfriend back in London.
In the day I climbed a ladder to closer inspect a grotto in the garden or from an upstairs window at night, listene to the stream gurgling below our windows. Houyet is my place of solace and dreams.
Back then I was a long way from my new home, of London, a long way from my old home of Sydney, but in the good company of wonderfully gifted and spirited young men, and women, and still I yearned for my boyfriend in Highgate, North London.
Houyet, I now discover is difficult to find, to relocate, on the Internet but I read that ‘From Namur or Brussels, to borrow the E411 motorway towards Arlon. To take the exit No21 (Houyet) and to follow indication. You are not any more but with 11km starting point. In train, line IC Namur-Dinant, then line Dinant-Bertrix (a rail-car every 2 hours on average). Journey time Namur-Dinant-Houyet: 51 minutes.
A description strangely reminiscent of the dislocated and bizarre exchanges between the multi-tounged, Belgian/French speaking Belgians, Italians, and English members of our group ‘Esperanto’.
Finally I am left with two images, the first of our group doing Grouch Marx walks towards and away from the camera on our last day together in Houyet. The second, a young walkers on one of the few sites on the internet. The following subtitle. ‘50 marked walking circuits in loops through the Condroz and the Famenne, in the heart of the Lesse valley. Discover a remarkable natural heritage. Beautiful countryside, circuits for walkers, mountain-bikers and horse-riders. Ravel network between Houyet and Rochefort’.
Re-locating Houyet I find a new route to the future.
© Claude Wacker - 2001-2014