Sailing down the canal in the silence of a solar-powered boat wasn’t something to shout about, I thought, preparing for a quiet day at Festival Kanal and trusting that the ever-so-slow rhythm of the ride would inadvertently impose a state of “still-being” on our hopefully receptive passengers.
I was wrong about that. Not the state of still-being, not the effect of the slow and gentle rhythm on our passengers - all that worked out fine. What surprised me was that this meditative boat ride would become the focus of sustained yelling and shouting on all sides. Bystanders on the canal’s edge needed to impress surrounding pedestrians with catcalls directed at those quietly sitting in the boat, usurping the light and silence of the open catacomb that is the canal.
Wonderful to see that one can scream and shout invitations to 'Come and slow down! Be still!'… Wonderful that we don't have a 'Rough Guide' to urban communication. I went through a learning curve on those placid waters between the Kaai and the Porte de Ninove. We can believe all we like that slowing down will result in an introspective reverie of lost silence - but nothing was further from the truth in what I found on the waters that Sunday.
Our passengers were overwhelmed by the beauty of the city centre’s inner belly. They were ecstatic to have found places they never knew existed, and people began spontaneously relating stories. The silence was not therapeutic: it was an elixir that stimulated the rediscovery of lost images from the depths of that forgotten and sometimes stinking artery of the city.
Yet to be fair, it wasn't all yelling and catcalls; some people just sat staring at the water as if seeing the canal for the first time in their lives; sitting still and gazing at the stone walls, the towering edges of the city looming above them. The Taxi Service might have been a fantom journey, but there were no clouds or disappearing tricks, no funtoosh! and kablooiee! - it was just people sitting and doing nothing.
Buratinas did surprise and confront, unearth and flush down. A trip trough town reinvented by the sun.