Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Made in Belgium: Jacques Brel

Belgium's biggest chansonnier and one of the only world stars is Jacques Brel. Just listen to these classics.


Ne me quitte pas

Dans le port d'Amsterdam

Mijn vlakke land -

Le plat pays-

Monday, October 25, 2010


Last weekend Jan and I hopped on a plane to return Edinburgh, Jan's former workplace for several years.  We were a bit anxious when riding by her buss stop but she fortunately didn't need to get into town the same moment we did.

As we didn't feel the need to do the touristy stuff any more, we enjoyed catching up with some friends in the many trendy bars & restaurants in Newtown.  More and more familiar faces, hugs, memories & stories until it was time to leave for the party in time. After all we all had to be in before she arrived.  We were all so thrilled in anticipation to see her face.  In order to avoid all suspicion the colleagues had even gathered yesterday and went out for drinks with her to celebrate her birthday until early in the morning.

She's coming, she's coming!...




How heart warming it was to see how much effort relatives, friends and colleagues had done to make her 60th birthday perfect. How fun it was to be part of the fun and to hang out with these friends/colleagues again whom we had not seen since our wedding or before,  to be dragged onto the dance floor again where I swirled as ignorant Belgian always a few spins too much in the Gaelic dances until someone turned me to the other side again trying to catch up the steps, to be walking in this beautiful city again.
Damn 30 hours can go by quickly.

Edinburgh castle

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dancing with Little H. in high school

I heard "Enola Gay" by OMD on the radio this evening and I saw us dancing again under the blossoming fruit trees with the radio plugged in through the open window. It was a silly line dance with Little H enthusiastically in front which got brutally interrupted by the  principal's secretary who burst in to check where the noise and giggling came from.

"Oh  I thought you were here unsuperviced"
"No no, we're just dancing"  Little H. replied.


My sister had already shared Little H.'s reputation to me the year before I entered her class for the first time.
"Oh I bet you'll get Little H. next year. Hahaha, that's going to be something. Let me know if she has changed in any way.''
She flashed a big smile at the memory.

"oh boy literally anything could happen in her class and she never took action. One time someone had hidden herself on the shelves in the cabinet and started opening the cabinet doors in the middle of the lesson waving to us. Absolutely hilarious, we couldn't stop laughing.  Another time we had wrapped ourselves up in the big curtains and she allowed us to stay like that all hour. She has no authority whatsoever. Once some kids from a science class dropped in, claimed that they preferred getting an introduction to Greek and she was that happy to have such interested students in the room for a change so she started giving them a private lesson into the Greek alphabet instead of sending them back to the class where they were supposed to be.''

Little H. had not changed yet. She was still her sweet timide and a bit old-fashioned self, ...the only teacher who didn't simply walk by that afternoon that I had somehow not tied up my elastic binder well on my bike only to get it in an impossible knot tangled up in my bike chain. She immediately kneeled down wrecking her nylons to help me pulling and cursing until we finally cut the binder into pieces with a scissor she had fetched from the teacher's room after which we both went to wash our greased hands in the teachers's washroom with the better soap.

But the chaos in her class had not decreased over the years.  We quickly experienced that even the loudest set of talking during her class only resulted in a weak hush. Soon her hours were filled with stories about the latest boys bands, weekend adventures and last minute homework for the next hour.. anything really except for the topic she was teaching in front.  Only the victim's name she pulled from a little box, was faking an attempt to translate that Latin text after which she helplessly stared at Little H. until Little H. finished the translation for her.   At about each 10 minutes someone asked with the biggest smile "oh sorry Mrs H., I just missed that part, could you repeat that once, please" . After such a question we were all abruptly silent.  "From which part did you miss? "  " euh, about the last 5-10 minutes.  "  "Oh but you know you are not supposed to write down the translation in class...that's rehearsing homework for tonight"  "Yes yes, of course, I'm just writing down a brief comment"  .... after which Little H.  started reading our the entire translation of the last 10 minutes which we all wrote down consciously.   We got our punishment of not studying at all at the brutally difficult exams.  And the year after when we had to catch up all the knowledge with a different teacher.

Very often some other teacher opened the door to check whether we were having some unsupervised party, only to withdraw quickly again when the saw that Little H. was in front of our class.  After the bell rang, they were waiting for us to lecture us on disturbing their class 2-3 rooms further by our incredible noise.  But they couldn't do much without taking over Little H.'s class which clearly none of them dared to do.

One day we were playing a game in our old narrow room which had windows on either side giving either sight on the elementary school playground or the secondary school playground.  We had saved up all our failing pens and were trying to throw them each at our turn through the open windows.  All of a sudden someone launched her pen through the air and the projectile took its flight forward further and further from the windows over the first rows....right on Little H's forehead.  Tock...
We all froze for a moment  until she bended to the ground, picked up the pen and said "oh I think someone dropped her pen".

Afterwards we had a heated debate.  We had gone too far according to some. Surely she suffered from our rebelliousness even though she didn't seem to be.  Even though she did never punish us for anything, we still had to keep some respect.    Others claimed that this was the only class where anarchy could rule, so why would we self-discipline ourselves?? We had to profit from this rare opportunity since we'd never get away with such behaviour in any other class.
The next lesson we were angels, attentive, interested and silent.   She was visibly nervous, turning her wedding ring over and over and mumbling "oh it's quiet in here , huh? "   We were all nervous as well from a guilty conscious, trying to do our best so much and hoping we'd all keep it up as we had agreed.  When a wind gust from an upcoming thunderstorm unexpectedly blew the window open, we were so surprised that we screamed out loud.  AAAAAAAAAaaaah. The tension & our effort was gone and then things felt normal again....noisy but with a little bit of respect nevertheless.


I heard "Enola Gay" by OMD on the radio this evening and I saw us dancing again under the blossoming fruit trees with the radio plugged in through the open window.  It was our monthly lunch meeting with our class preceded by Little H. as our home room teacher.  The weather was beautiful and we had decided to move outside to the garden nearby the classrooms behind the principle's office and the administrative offices.  Usually nobody was supposed to be hanging out there during lunch but Little H. had agreed to enjoy the sun under the blossoms.  Someone had brought the radio along and was showing some easy dance steps that fitted the rhythm.  It was a silly line dance with Little H enthusiastically in front which got brutally interrupted by the principal's secretary who burst in to check where the noise and giggling came from.

"Oh  I thought you were here unsupervised"
"No no, we're just dancing"  Little H. replied.


I heard Enola Gay again and wondered how Little H. is doing now that she's been retired for a while. Would she be missing her students??

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Made in Belgium: Eva De Roovere

When I hear Eva De Roovere I often tend to hold my I fear that breathing too firm might break her :). She sounds so fragile, sensitive and pure.  Ironically enough, she got mostly mainstream known after her song "Fantastig toch" got mixed by a Dutch rapper which became a huge summer hit in 2009, which I blogged here. I love that version as well!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Goodbye Bafana

Finally I finished a book again that I can recommend.  Phew that had been a while.

"Goodbye Bafana" is the story of James Gregory who has been Mandela's prison guard for several decades at Robben island, Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Vesder.  He learned Xhosa from his best friend Bafana, a boy living at one of the kraal's at Gregory's parent's farm .   This knowledge gave him the perfect skill to become a censor officer for the political prisoners in the apartheid's regime.

Despite being submerged all his youth by the ideas supporting apartheid nurturing hatred against those black beast that tried to hurt South Africa,  Gregory is immediately impressed by the calm and respectful nature of the emprisonned ANC leaders. This triggers Gregory to research the ideas from the ANC and a lot of his prejudices get shattered during his search & study.  A relationship of mutual respect (and friendship?) grows between Gregory and Mandela while the political background in South Africa thawns very gradually.  As a reader you're dragged into the hope that the society will change and that one day Mandela will be a free man leading the nation.

Personally I was still relatively young when Mandela has been released so I've not followed the news bulletins about the apartheid as a child. Of course I know more or less what has happened in South Africa's history but not quite in detail at all, so I found the book very interesting. It draws an amazing & respectful image of Mandela's wiseness and intelligence.   Also James Gregory himself is portrayed very positively. Even though he admits having truly believed all the with hatred filled prejudices he learned at school,  very little proof of this is given in the book.  I am a bit suspicious about James Gregory's fairly rapid "conversion" in a society that would have probably brainwashed him of other ideas.  I wondered how much his story has been influenced by the hindsight...knowing that his book is obviously written in a totally different South Africa than when he started his job as a prison ward.

Afterwards I've read some remarks online where it is claimed James Gregory would have polished his friendship with Nelson Mendala quite a bit for his book to sell more. Nelson Mandela would only have mentioned him twice briefly in his own biography which would seem very little after having read this book. I do not know how close he's truly really been to Nelson Mandela. Nevertheless I've truly enjoyed reading it.  I have not seen the movie yet that is based on this book.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Last weekend at the sea in the sun , this weekend...brrrrr

Remember my pictures from last weekend?  We sat in our T-shirt in the sun having a beer next to the harbor.
In one week we went from summer to winter.   Gosh, did we buy those new hats, scarfs & gloves right on time!

The weather station at the Mont Rigi of the Royal Metereological Institute claimed it was 2°C and the neighbours claimed that there had been some (melting) snow in Elsenborn.  Hmmm I think I need to go shopping for some rubber boots soon.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Made in Belgium: The Wallace Collection

No wonder that Bryan Adams sings about 1969....when I see this I'm sorry I wasn't born yet as it must have been a magical world :p.  

This is an iconical song I've known all my live and only just recently found out it's Belgian! It was recorded in the famous Abby Road Studio's and it's been a number 1 hit in more than 20 countries. Most band members were classically schools and together they could play 20 different instruments!  2 members of the Wallace Collection founded later on  Two Man Sound. Hmm small change in style.

Daydream - 1969

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another Indian Summer in Scheveningen

Our past frequency of going back to The Hague about 3 times a year failed miserably so far in 2010, but we made it up with a splendid weekend with our friends and their kids.  After fall weather in August & September, October treats us for some enjoyable summer weather. Another Indian Summer in Scheveningen. Time for a long walk along the beach in the sun !

Tickle tickle tickle
Look we have the same sweater !!

Aaaah the Pier in Scheveningen, a sight that always makes me happy

Part of the dyke & boulevard on top of it, is getting reconstructed & reinforce to ensure it can withstand a "superstorm" (once every 400? years).  Everywhere in the Netherlands there seems to be construction works ongoing to reinforce the existing dykes protecting the mainland below sea level, but also in Belgium there's plans/studies to construct artificial islands and or to rise the beaches etc as protective measures to superstorms and rising sea levels with regards to the changing climate.  

Anyway the familiar boulevard & beach in Scheveningen was interrupted past the Sealife center where a temporary boulevard takes a turn onto the widened beach to make room for a huge construction site.

Don't worry Jenn, your favourite herring sculptures have been safely moved out and will come back as you can see in this little animation film. Nevertheless, the sculpture museum now looks very desolate.

But fortunately the strandtenten (although going into winter retreat as we speak) and the sea never seem to change and were as enjoyable as always! 

and the beer at the port was very enjoyable :)

after which we could head back in the sun

curves at the Circustheater

Friday, October 8, 2010

Waffle jokes & stereotypes

I had seen two comments last week on someone else's profile whether she had seen Jon Stuart's jokes on Belgium.   Ha, I was curious so I googled. I 've seem some extracts of his show before and he sure can nail it.

So here's the extract and it cracked me up.   Those waffles, hahaha.  Ok the highway to Paris was maybe a bit less tasteless but the mob swap was an excellent idea :).  And I'm sure that if Jon would be reading my blog, he'd find some more inspiration in Belgian jokes :)
But if you excuse me now, I have to continue watching the brilliant French movie "Bienvenue chez les Ch'Tis" on the stereotypes the French have about "Le Nord" of their own country where they speak an incomprehensible dialect, only eat fries & mussels and are alcoholics to survive in the freaking cold.   Hilarious if you watch it in a country even more north than that "Nord".     Do watch this movie if you ever can!!!!!!!! (not that it's translatable in subtitles but so be it).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Made in Belgium: The Scabs

At the end of the 80ies my sister was an exchange student abroad which meant that I got access to her cassette player and her vast collection of > 100 cassette tapes .  Ha cassette tapes, those were the days :D, I can hardly remember what they look like anymore.
One of my discoveries was The Scabs.  Aaah good portions of classic rock made in Belgium. Awesome.  The members changed now and then ( Willy Willy came eg from Vaya Con Dios, Berre Bergen went to De Kreuners (swoon swoon) , Tjenne Berghmans came from Clouseau). And their hits kept coming until 1996.

Afterwards they seemed to be part of the Belgian rock archives, good old memories but no more.  But somehow they got inspired in 2007 to organize some reunion concerts and the last summers we've been lucky to see them on stage again now on then.   Remember this post?  Well the last youtube down below shows footage of that concert so try to spot me in the crowd!! I'm waving :p.  Last summer we saw them at Suikerrock and they are still rocking. 

Keep going Guy !

Hard times -

Robbin' the liquor store

Hard times

she's jiving -

Nothing on my radio (live)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


  • After successfully placing a wooden floor in the living room & bedroom (and previously everywhere in Leuven), despite about 10 attempts to start over,   opening new packages of wood to assure we had not by accident a faulty board, remeasuring, ... But every time again after 2-3 rows, all of a sudden those boards didn't want to click together anymore. 

    I hope the little kid next doors wasn't playing on the drive way or he must be fluent in Dutch cursing by now.
  • Broadcast Bones year 3 episode 1  right the week after year 6 season finale....yeah that is not confusing at all.

  • All government negotiations in Belgium failed again.  Nope, apparently Bart De Wever can't realize what Leterme couldn't do either.  Tabula Rasa but those same parties are still condemned to govern together and we need a government and they've never been so close to a compromise before , so they'd better get their act together.
  • The Dutch seem to have a government without parliament majority but supported by an islamophobic political party. I pity them.

  • The Opel plant in Antwerp didn't find a take-over candidate so another automobile assemblage plant in Belgium (and it's suppliers) will close down. 

  • I've taken off my wedding ring to paint and forgot to put it back on again before we returned to Leuven. It feels so bare.

  • I knew I shouldn't take that last spot on the parking spot under the trees...but it was the last one available so what choice did I have. My optimism was in vain....aaaaah stupid pigeons.
  • I must have somehow cracked the joints of 2 fingers over the last weeks and now each time I put some pressure on them, they start hurting, sometimes a bit swollen and then it eases away again.  During the silliest actions eg taking my mobile out of my purse, I crack them again.  Pretty annoying

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mushroom weekend!

As announced, it was mushroom weekend in the east of Belgium so we had to check it out. The centre de Botrange was crowded with people sampling the local gastronomy, were watching some demonstrations on cooking with mushrooms or that were gazing at the long table with hundreds of baskets with labelled fungi.
Haaa, I love opportunities to learn so I quickly started studying the different stems and caps while trying to memorize some of the names in order to walk out as a full mushroom expert.   Well ok, I lasted for about 10 of them and then had to acknowledge while staring at the long tables that it was rather hopeless.  I couldn't even point out with certainty the "gnome city" from our garden and name it. 

We escaped the overcrowded hall with a few packages of delicious local in beer ripened cheeses, which we wisely placed in the warm car to perfume there,  after which we headed for a walk.  

Fagne Wallonne

Gehlen Kreuz

A family Fly Agaric / Vliegenzwam

Coral Fungus
(one of the only ones I did remember from the center....I loved it and thought this bright color had to be rare...until we saw them everywhere in the woods!)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Goodbye from the orange tiles

Despite the outing of many orange tile lovers on my blog here, I am happy to announce that they are now gone!! Sorry Jenn, Brian, Kat, Jen, Lilacspecs....they are still available for free pick-up if you are interested :p.  In all honesty I must say they looked better on picture than in close-up.

So this weekend we did the finishing touches in our new kitchen and it makes such a big difference.