Street of the Candlesticks

January 6, 2011 at 12:54 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

You never know where a story will come from.

I watch people on the tram and notice the bruise on his forearm, the way she bites her lip as she reads. And I’m a chronic eavesdropper, loving the snatches of conversation that get flung my way.

Let’s do it naked, and feed the horses on the way – overheard at Bar Open, Fitzroy.

I once lived in a five hundred year old house with blood red walls and slanted attic poking high into the Belgian sky. Brussels is my favourite place in the world, a city where a daily flea market is held in a former leper colony, thick syrup waffles are sold from crumbling medieval stores, and I can sit on the cobblestones where heads once rolled, sipping coffee and reading.

The last time I lived there it was on Rue des Chandeliers, Street of the Candlesticks. I couldn’t have written a more poetic name myself. My bedroom looked out onto the narrow cobblestone alleyway that snaked its way down the hill, an ivy-covered pedestrian street first listed on city maps seven hundred years ago.

I spent so much time sitting at that window, notebook open, waiting for stories to walk by.

And lord, did they come.


I hear her before I see her. She is crying in deep bursts, the howls starting down low in her chest. The tremor in her voice slays me as she croaks into the phone ‘Je ne suis pas encore prêt pour rentrer á la maison’, I’m not ready to come home yet, and I close my windows with trembling hands.


I’ve started to count the men pissing outside my window; he’s #18. Neither he nor the previous seventeen have any shame, unzipping with the drunkard’s sway. The stench outside my window brings out the scowl in me and I practise my Flemish with a harsh bark that sounds utterly at home in the language: ‘Wat doe je daar, schramoelenbak?’ What are you doing, trash bag?


Her moans wake me and I know not to turn on the light. He has her pressed up against the bricks, his thigh between hers, a hand on the back of her head. No-one ever thinks to look up at the windows.

One of my proudest moments was when this story, Street of the Candlesticks, was adapted for performance on Radio National here in Australia. When I first heard it, I was in my darkened flat with a glass of red wine. Listening to the actors recite my lines, to the sound effects of a thunderstorm and a kitty miaowing, to my slice of Brussels brought to life, my hand was on my throat the entire way.

The reason for this post is that Radio National is replaying it this Saturday, January 8th, at 2:05pm. It’s part of a program called City Nights, and my seven daily vignettes are separated and interspersed throughout the one hour show. Radio National is at 621 AM in Melbourne, and you can find frequencies for other cities here, as well as more City Nights information on their website.

I highly recommend a glass of Belgian black cherry beer as you listen…damn, how I miss that glorious city and its indulgences!

Rijn Collins


  1. Michael said,

    I’m going to make a note to listen on Saturday,

    I have only lived in a 30 year old house that smells of my family so the history has not been present. Or, it seems, the characters walking past.

    • inkymouth said,

      Sometimes I did think 500 years of history was too much: I used to lie awake at night, wondering who else had slept in my room, and whether they had the plague, or were burnt as a witch…ah, writers – what a melodramatic lot!

  2. gretchen cello said,

    Have listened once and will naturally again. Might I add after Luke met you on the weekend his question to me was, “Isn’t that whose story we heard on the radio that time?” x x

    • inkymouth said,

      Thanks so much babe – your support means the world to me. And I remember us messaging back and forth while it was on, as though you were right there by my side the entire way…who’d have believed that was a YEAR ago now? Thanks darlin’ x

  3. Holly said,

    i know this street! i know the feeling of the warm belgian summer air on my skin, and the sound of brussels sighing with contentment as she unravels her charms to bewitch those who return to her clutches time and again, and those who arrive fresh-fraced and green, eager to voluntarily hand over their heart over to europe’s little gem.
    i know the look on your face as the red walled window frame comes into view.
    i know the feeling of sun-warmed cobblestones under skin with the canopy of the grand place overhead and the throaty kriek-induced dirty laughter spilling and tumbling from cheeky grins.
    i know this mute joy.
    it’s the way it felt to press play, and wait breath-baited for radio national to fill my mancunian flat and hear your words read aloud, providing the bookends and shelves for an entire program.
    it’s the kind of feeling that makes you feel like you could implode from the largeness of love. and pride.
    it’s how it feels to watch you unravel. unfurl.
    there is no complacency that grows in our garden belly jean; with time, i have only grown more enchanted.
    inky mouth!
    congratulations my love. long may your word spells toil and trouble, although i fear our bewitching won’t present much of a challenge to you. we are all too willing to hand over our sense and hearts in exchange for your words.

    • inkymouth said,

      Babette! What memories you lay out in front of me…standing at the top of that Sablon hill with you, gazing down at the street that held me close in the city I love best, was a moment I won’t forget.

      I love that I’ve now shown you the magic of this glorious city…sifting through silk scarves on the Place du Jeu de Balle flea market, sprawled on the grass popping grapes in the Park de Bruxelles, vintage shopping in Rue de Violette, teasing Spanish soccer fans in the Grote Markt, vuvuzelas blaring…what bliss!

      Welcome to my inky world, my love! How I love your presence in it, and your word witch wisdom x

  4. Three little splashes of ink « inkymouth said,

    […] a mix engineer in New York contacted me about my ‘Street of the Candlesticks’ piece, performed as part of the City Nights project on Radio National here in Australia. He’s […]

  5. Adelia Bertetto said,

    I’ve enjoyed your sketch on Marolles. I’am another foreigner, addicted to Bruxelles. Adelia

    • inkymouth said,

      Thanks, Adelia…I’m definitely addicted to Brussels! It’s one of the most magical, beautiful places I’ve ever visited, and I miss it every day. Thanks for reading 🙂

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