It should have been a relatively simple task:
1. Meticulous preparation of paperwork in advance;
2. Get everyone to sleep last night in time to wake up this morning in time to get to the Brussels commune before their limited service hours (not the same as their opening hours, as they tend to refuse entry at least thirty minutes ahead of official closure) end;
3. Successfully transport all offspring to the commune, as above and note down where you’ve left the car;
4. Once in the commune, queue for forty minutes to obtain a ticket entitling the bearer to queue for a service;
5. Don’t complain about any of the above. Wait silently in the forty minute queue for the next queue, the real queue;
6. Get in the real queue and when you’re finally at the head of that and since you’ve only waited fifty minutes, beam a smile towards the 18 year old on the other side of the counter who is totally ignoring you and wait for her to finish texting. Still don’t complain;
7. When she is free to talk to you, politely request renewal of number 1 son’s ID card, grovel a bit to excuse not yet having obtained one for number 2 son (three years late…) and redeem yourself by requesting one for number 3 (daughter), on time;
8. Graciously accept much huffing and puffing and the inevitable requirement to re-take all three kids photographs as they are more than three MONTHS out of date;
9. Eventually pay a load of money and thank the teenage commune girl profusely for advising that you will ALL have to return in three weeks time to collect the finished products;
10 Leave. Purchase wine and go home.
The reality went like this:
1. Meticulous preparation of paperwork in advance;
2. Got everyone to sleep last night in time to wake up this morning in time to get to the Brussels commune before their limited service hours ended. Two out of three children also fed before leaving!!;
3. Successfully transported all offspring to the commune, and wrote down where I’d left the car;
4. Enter the commune. TOTAL CONFUSION at this point. There are only five people queuing to queue???
5. Whoops of joy and high fives all round in this little queue to queue. I’m going to get time to do the 750 tasks on my to-do list after all and the kids will be able to go back to bed and forget all about this nightmare of experiencing the pre-midday sun (grey sky) during school holidays. Its gleeful MAYHEM in the pre-queue.
6. We skip to the head of the queue to queue and present genuine beaming smiles towards the heavily made up smiley lady at the ticket counter. Why is she so happy? Has the obligation to be as disagreeable as possible towards customers been dropped today? ……and thats when it all started to go horribly wrong…..
7. Smiley lady twice points me towards a piece of A4 scrap upon which are written three (obviously explanatory but incomprehensible to me) words in Dutch. Right……So, in my best commune voice, I politely, respectfully and cheerfully request a ticket and explain the specific services I need.
Cheery features lets me get to the end of my little speech before responding as follows: “No services are available today due to a breakdown in the National Register. We cannot access any records, therefore we cannot provide any services. Oh and we have no idea how long this will last but certainly all of today. But you are welcome to return and check with us anytime. Its been on the radio you know…….” More smiles.  No I didn’t know…..
8. I very gracelessly accept this news and the inevitable prospect of having to repeat the whole process tomorrow, since we depart for a week of family disagreement (holiday) in France on Sunday. Thereafter I’m back to work and therefore unable to catch all the kids awake, free and willing to cooperate, at the same time, until next July……
9. We all trundle silently back towards the car park entrance. No one dares say anything to me. No one so much as sniggers when number two lets out a massive burp as we weave our way down an Escher-esque series of escalators and tunnels to retrieve the car. Though we can’t help but collapse in a heap of nervous giggles as we somehow end up in the Post Office having ascended the wrong escalator at one turn.
10. Purchase wine and go home.