It is not a question of if, but more a question of when!

So, as I report to you upon my visit to the City of Leuven for the annual Opening of the Bar of Leuven I suspect you are thinking that the title of my report would refer to that ‘B’ word which should not be spoken.  Well, you would be wrong, although there was to be many discussions surrounding the ‘B’ word during the weekend the main topic of conversation related to the high probability of one or more of us being run into by the myriad of bicycles being peddled around the city. If, as the song goes there are nine million bicycles in Beijing, then the City of Leuven runs a pretty close second!


Anyway, back to the visit.  The Opening Ceremony was due to take place at a converted Monastery about 10km outside of the city.  A coach had been arranged to take us to the venue.  We were asked what time we would like to catch the coach back to Leuven the options being 1.00 a.m. or 3.00 a.m.  As it was now only 4 p.m. you could be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be a long night!


Upon our arrival we were warmly greeted by our hosts and we quickly became acquainted with our fellow guests who had travelled in from Rotterdam, Cologne and Luxembourg.  The opening ceremony then got underway and it was at this precise moment that I encountered my first problem of the weekend.  Now, my ability to converse in English is not bad and is followed closely behind with my grasp of French but Dutch, I fear not.  There followed a two-hour opening ceremony all of which was delivered in Dutch.  My survival instincts told me that if I clapped when the audience clapped and laughed when they did I should get through it.  After the Ceremony had concluded, I was relieved to hear from several of my fellow guests that they had also gone into the same survival mode.  


Following a drinks reception during the course of which attendee numbers grew significantly we were invited to dinner, a formal affair which was held in the Church which formed part of the old Monastery.  For those that attended this year’s awards ceremony at Exeter Cathedral you would have found yourself in very similar surroundings.  The conversation around the table turned to all matters regarding Brexit but there were some interesting insights as to how our European colleagues viewed the negotiations and also the recent ruling of the Supreme Court.  Perhaps on a disappointing note, and contrary to views I had heard only a week or so before my trip, the corporate lawyers among the group were looking away from the English jurisdiction and focusing more on other member states.


As the hours passed the conversation edged away from Brexit and onto other shall we say less formal topics before it was time to depart and head back to Leuven in the early hours of Saturday morning.


Leuven by night

Saturday itself provided time to wonder around the City before gathering with our fellow guests for lunch hosted by the President of the Leuven Bar at a restaurant overlooking the City square.  It was encouraging to hear during the lunch how many of my fellow guests were looking forward to coming over to Exeter in June of next year for the meeting of the Twin Bars and the opportunity it gave to continue to develop close ties between the Society and European Bars.


Adrian Richards

DASLS Deputy Vice President

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