Memories of Christian de Laet

by Nadia McLaren

In the days since his death, I have often been talking about Christian to people who knew him and, oddly, also to people who did not and invariably want to hear more.  Christian's life is so rich that the memories and anecdotes keep bubbling up.

His humanity was extraordinary and uncompromising. He was always looking for the soft spot where he could get under your skin and encounter the "real" you.  He could be unsparing with pompous and arrogant people, like the waiter who delivered his pizza some minutes after the rest of us were eating. "Did you enjoy your vacation", he icily delivered with the barest of nods as the man departed.

In Belgian cafés, we played marvellous games with words (he was such a linguist), layering innuendo on pun for hours.  The only time I saw him bettered was by our dear friend Jeanne (a beautiful Parisian).  During a meeting break they were were leaving the toilets together.  We'd earlier been complimenting Christian on losing weight.  As they were walking back, Jeanne deftly reached over and ever so quickly slid her hand down the front of Christian's now baggy trousers.  "Oo-la-la. You certainly have lost weight, Christian". 

Christian was an expert on technological innovation but could fail to take account of the human factor in its application.  He never forgave himself (his technician's pride was hurt) when he filled my just-delivered second-hand Volkswagen Golf with diesel, insisting against my weak protests that diesel was certainly what it took. It conked out on him the next day and needed a complete engine clean.

His friends at the Union of International Associations in Brussels (which he adored for its ability to apply information  technology to extract and order  information on international organizations, and of which he was for many years a Council Member) would tease him about his never-processed collection of documents, some of which, for lack of storage space in Montreal when he and Susan moved out of Knowlton, spent the winter outdoors under a tarpaulin and provided a nest for squirrels. 

There are so many ways to remember Christian.  Mostly I'll remember him for his delight in intellectual creativity, his spiritual depth, his care and concern for Gaia, his love for life and his naughty laugh, which I can still hear as I write this.  You must miss him enormously Susan.  We all do. Love, Nadia