Archive | March, 2016

Meanwhile In Belgium

22 Mar

Two noteworthy events happened in Belgium these past 24 hours.

I´m sure you´ve already heard about the most recent one: the bomb attacks in Brussels International Airport. It´s been four days since the main suspect in the Paris attacks was captured in Brussels, so it didn´t really come as a surprise. We´ve been hearing for years how our country is the focus point of unhealthy terrorist attention. I´m even surprised this hasn´t happened earlier. Like a bad migraine breaking through after you´ve been feeling it coming for days.

Belgium has now raised its terror threat level to 4, which is the highest level.

(One of the reasons this is all happening in Belgium, the bellybutton of Europe, is explained here.)

 

The other event, one you might not have heard about, happened yesterday (Sunday 21 March 2016): 25000 people took to the streets of that same beleagered Brussels. Their message was: there are alternatives. There are alternatives to repression, to fear, to cutbacks, to an unsustainable economy, to turning the country into a police state, to mutual distrust, to fear.

 

It takes only a few people with bad intentions to blow up an airport.

But it takes a lot more to mobilize 25000 people to get out of their house on a Sunday. (Especially in a country that only has 10 millions inhabitants and where Sundays are sacred.)

I believe in that power.

May that Good Force be with us.

 

 

You´ve Been… Alfonsified

19 Mar

So I´m working on the computer, while my husband is chasing bandits on the Playstation.
Suddenly he says: “You know, I was thinking…”

“Yes?” I say.

But no answer comes.

I take my hands from the keyboard and turn my chair towards him.
“What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking,” he resumes, his eyes still fixed on the tv screen, “I might go to the supermarket to…”

Then silence again.

“…to…” I prod.

“… to buy…”

“…to buy what?”
Now that I´ve interrupted my work, I might as well get to the bottom of this.

His fingers keep clicking away at the controller, and he´s still intensely gazing at the screen, when he makes another attempt at finishing his sentence.

“… to buy a thing…”

At this point my frustration turns into fascination.

“Really?” I tell him. “You want to go to the supermarket to buy a thing?”

He grins, but the mystery remains.

It takes me three more questions (“What do you want to buy?”, “What´s the message here?” and “Can you please finish your sentence?”) to lead this Echternach conversation to a satisfying conclusion.

“… to buy some wine,” he says at last. “I was thinking a glass of wine would be nice.”

“Yes,” I say. “That would be very nice indeed.”

They say that to keep a marriage alive, you have to keep talking.
Score for us.

 

 

Saint Patrick´s Day Special: My Favourite Irish

17 Mar

Ian
Ian is a teacher and ex-colleague of mine, one of the first people I met when I arrived in Spain. While car-pooling to teach company classes in the port of Valencia (where you actually get to drive on the race track, how cool is that), we´d be cracking the silliest jokes while his little car radio would be blasting old-school songs from Carole King to Soulsister. (Yes, my Belgian friends, Soulsister!) He was one of the first people that made me feel at home in this new country, something I´ll be forever grateful for.

Marian Keyes
Marian Keyes is a writer whose novels are generally written in a light and humorous tone, although the themes she deals with are often dark and controversial (alcoholism, domestic violence, depression, to name a few). I guess it´s this combination that makes her work so addictive. I started reading her after I´d come across a secondhand copy of The Brightest Star In The Sky, which I bought for less than a pound at a jumble sale in a little Welsh village.
I usually grab one of her thick books when I´m struggling through another, much thinner book, and then I always end up finishing her book first.

Hozier
I accidentally came across a youtube-cover of “Take me To Church”, and that´s how I got to know this Irish singer-songwriter. (I just found out from his wikipedia-page that today is his 26th birthday -synchronicity! Always a good sign.) Allergic as I am to simplified tunes and uninspired lyrics (see Supermarket Serenade), I immediately fell for the soul and poetry of his work.

So: long live the Irish!

And a happy Saint Patrick´s Day to you all.

 

 

 

Any Way The Wind Blows

14 Mar

When I was a high school student in Belgium, we were taught in French class that in France there was a type of wind called “mistral”. At that time, this made no sense to me at all. In Belgium, wind is wind.

But then I moved to Spain, to a village a stone´s throw away from the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the many new things I learned there, was a kind of knowledge I acquired in the most physical of ways. That air can be humid or dry. We don´t really notice that in Flanders´ Fields, but in Valencia: oh boy.

When the wind comes in from over the sea, saturating the air with humidity, it makes you freeze to death in winter, and drown in your own sweat in summer. They call this wind Levante, because it comes from the east, where the sun comes up (“levantarse” means “to get up” in Spanish).

The wind that comes from the west is called Ponente (“poner” means “to put down” in Spanish, so that refers to where the sun goes down -it´s really that simple) and brings along the dry heat from the plains of the Spanish midland. Very agreeable in winter, but when it comes along during the hot summer months, it feels like you´ve stuck your head into an oven.

This morning I went cycling, following a bike trail that runs through the orange fields (when I get a new memory card for my camera, I´ll post some pictures, I promise) to a village a few kilometers up north. The wind was coming from the north, so it blew straight in my face, making my cheeks glow. It´s called Tramontane, because it comes from over the mountains. It´s a dry, cold wind. And I loved it. As a matter of fact, I was quite surprised to notice just how much I loved this particular wind, and then it struck me: this was the wind from home. This was the wind I had grown up with. Cold and dry.

And the nicest part of it was that it actually came from home, from up north. And when I´d gotten to the end of the track and had turned around, it blew me straight back to my new home, pushing me gently but firmly in my back, as if to say: there you go honey, there´s your new home now. But I´ll come and visit you from time to time.