Saturday, October 30, 2010


Friends, cupcakes, hamburgers, baby-cuddling, and a working computer. Can't complain. Time to go to bed. A good night's sleep would be nice to complete the list.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

There goes the neighbourhood (or not)

Big-city life is always surprising. One minute you're enjoying a lazy evening in front of the TV, next minute you realize that all the screaming you hear is actually not on TV, but in your street.

Our street is quiet. Okay, we have the homeless shelter right around the corner - but honestly, those guys are quite alright. Apart from the dozens of empty beer cans they leave behind. So this evening, when I heard a woman scream her lungs out (and after I realized it was not the background noice of the TV), I opened the window to see what was going on. Early Halloween celebrations? Not likely, but you never know with all the expats around here.
The commotion was right in front of the fanciest building of the whole block - huge lofts, and a galery for fashion photos. A screaming woman was being dragged out by two men. She was putting up quite a fight as well. She re-entered the building. Same scenario a few seconds later. Screaming on the top of her voice, and being dragged out by two men, pushing and shoving going on in all directions.

After watching this a couple of minutes, I decided I had enough of this little drama. I pulled my boots on, and went outside, ready to confront the bunch of trouble makers. Or this had to stop, or I would call the police. (yes, I know, maybe a bit reckless - but spectator sports have never been my thing).

So there I went, tough little N in boots, straight into the action.

Ah, what else but a love affair could've caused all this havoc? A woman disturbed the fancy vernisage because a man she loves was there with another woman. Apparently, she also slapped him in the face, and threw a few wine glasses around.

Anyway - something in all of this made me very happy (besides the fact that the bastard got slapped in the face :-). I was not the only neighbour who decided to not just stand by and watch. 2 others showed up (ok, granted, they were guys twice my size), and 2 more made it into their doorway. The 2 guys were daddies and had sleeping babies at home. The neighbour with the cute doggie was alarmed by foresaid doggie, and also came to have a look. Neighbour number four was, of course, our old next door lady who simply needs to know everything that's going on in our street.

So ha, our tiny neighbourhood just gave a good kick in the butt of some prejudices about city-life.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A bit of nothing

Since I'm not writing that regularly, this is what you've missed:

- my brand new blue laptop refuses to go online. So it's back to good old snail-speed laptop.

- summer is gone, autumn is here (well, you actually might have noticed that without the help of my blog). And with that, the warm water bottle has made a re-entry.

- P and I were in Belgium last weekend! An we enjoyed a great evening at the fanciest sports club in town thanks to our friends M & V. Think "chateau", heated outdoor swimming pool, huge jacuzzi, steam bath, sauna, etc.

- I have two baby-visits planned. And I keep postponing them until...Well, probably until the kids are about 5.

- My hair is shorter again.

- I'm in need of a real holiday. No partying, no socialising, no family visits, no 2day-getaway, no jetlags. But a REAL one (books, pool, sun, nature,...)

- Belgium still doesn't have a new government.

- Completely in Halloween spirit, I made delicious pumpkin soup.

- Three more days until the long weekend...

- I have to go to work now. And guess what. Right, I don't feel like it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Driving down memory lane

Last weekend P and I decided last minute to jump in the car and drive to Paris. The reason was simple: plenty of friends happened to be in town at the same time – some of them we hadn’t seen in a very long time, others would soon be moving to further-away places, and still others were so kind to offer us a free place to sleep!
Trying to keep things a bit low-budget, we opted for car instead of Thalys. The last time we did that exact same trip was more than two years ago, with two overloaded cars – moving back from Barbizon to Brussels.

I can’t remember how many times I did that stretch of highway – driving back and forth during P’s INSEAD year. Suffice it to say that last Saturday I realized I still knew the road signs by heart. And of course we made the obligatory stop in “Assevillers”. Yesterday, while dozing off a few times on the way back, I wondered how in the hell I did it those 4 first months: driving for more than 4 hours on a Friday evening after a heavy work week, party all weekend, and drive 450 km back on Sunday night. Ah, the things we do for love :-) …

Anyway, we had a great time in Paris. My last visit was more than a year ago – and once again it felt a bit like coming home. The crispy autumn leaves reminded me of the romantic weekends I had there with P, many years ago, when he and a colleague had their own little flat near the Champs Elysées. The fact that I don’t need a city map anymore on every single street corner took me back to the lonely days I wandered through the city, whenever I needed to escape from Fontainebleau. The many friends we saw again this weekend made me realize that, however tough it was from time to time, it was worth it.

Paris was – and still is – the comforting city of Love.

Octobre (Francis Cabrel)

Le vent fera craquer les branches
La brume viendra dans sa robe blanche
Y'aura des feuilles partout
Couchées sur les cailloux
Octobre tiendra sa revanche
Le soleil sortira à peine
Nos corps se cacheront sous des bouts de laine

Perdue dans tes foulards
Tu croiseras le soir
Octobre endormi aux fontaines
Il y aura certainement,
Sur les tables en fer blanc
Quelques vases vides et qui traînent
Et des nuages pris aux antennes

Je t'offrirai des fleurs
Et des nappes en couleurs
Pour ne pas qu'Octobre nous prenne
On ira tout en haut des collines
Regarder tout ce qu'Octobre illumine
Mes mains sur tes cheveux
Des écharpes pour deux

Devant le monde qui s'incline
Certainement appuyés sur des bancs
Il y aura quelques hommes qui se souviennent
Et des nuages pris aux antennes
Je t'offrirai des fleurs
Et des nappes en couleurs
Pour ne pas qu'Octobre nous prenne

Et sans doute on verra apparaître
Quelques dessins sur la buée des fenêtres
Vous, vous jouerez dehors
Comme les enfants du nord
Octobre restera peut-être.
Vous, vous jouerez dehors
Comme les enfants du nord
Octobre restera peut-être.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

One click away

Yesterday evening I came home completely exhausted and emotionally drained. My mom had been to hospital for another chemo-treatment, and was, as usual, very sick. So all afternoon and evening I tried to comfort her, and ease her pain a bit, or simply pick her up when she’d fainted again. Seeing someone you love suffer so much is, well, there are just no words for it. Gutted, heart ripped out,…I guess those come closest.

So when I entered our flat, and slumped on the couch, I was in desperate need of some comforting company. While hamster Lucy was running around on my lap, arms and shoulders (her way of cuddling :-) , I went online. Just to check the TV program. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by friends! A friend from London, making plans to meet up in Paris this weekend. Another friend from closer to home, making me laugh as usual. A musician from Colombia I met last weekend, letting my listen to his songs. And an old student from Germany, visiting Brussels next week and looking forward to seeing me again.

In less than 5 minutes, 4 people were knocking on my virtual door, giving me the so needed company and diversion. It would’ve been cool to have them all in my living room in real life (they would’ve made a fun bunch, with life music on top of it) but this was a very, very good second best.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Last weekend

Amazingly beautiful Mallorca.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hello again

Yes. It’s there. Looming in the dark. Waiting behind the corner, ready to attack. Impatient. Lashing out to let me know it’s there. To give me a feel of the pain it can cause. As if I don’t know that already.
I can’t run from it, there’s no way to go. I just have to face it, sooner or later, and either take the fall, or (miraculously) conquer it.

Monday, October 4, 2010's Monday again.

- I almost didn’t get any sleep because my alarm clock refused to change the wake-up time from 9 AM to 7 AM (I think it’s psychic). The few hours I slept I had nightmares, waking up P with my screams (same stupid dream over and over again- boy, Mr Shrink will have loads of work tomorrow).

- P left very early on a business trip, leaving me with what I first thought to be a sweet bye-bye note on the kitchen counter. Nope, it was just a note reprimanding me for not plugging his laptop back in after I’d used the socket for the water boiler to make tea. Good morning to you too, honey. Yes, I miss you too.

- I decided to turn things around in a positive way. Get a grip, get active, take the Villo-bike to work. Yes, good idea, only all the stations in a 1 kilometer radius of the school were full, so I ended up arriving late (and very sweaty) at work.

- The friend whose hen night I missed because I felt emotionally drained after saying goodbye to my grandmother’s house, and after I couldn’t bring up the energy at 10.30 PM to get on my bike and drive to some bar through the rain, is obviously still angry at me for not coming.

- All the job offers for Dutch trainers in Brussels are for “free-lance”. Damn, is it really too much to ask to get a bloody fixed contract, even for only 20 hours? *sigh*

- On a positive note: my lovely students (yes, even the ones “from Hell”) noticed my obvious distress and lack of sleep, and were very easy on me.

If by now you have the impression I’m wallowing in self-pity: yes, I am. Allow me. Give me a pat on the shoulder and say “ yes, poor N, your life is tough. You deserve a hug, a homemade dinner and a back rub. Then I’ll make you some tea and I’ll tuck you in”



(God, even Lucy the Hamster is ignoring me.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cut down

There, it’s done. Yesterday, I went for the very last time to my grandparents’ house. To see it one last time, before the new owners start breaking down the walls. To see if I wanted any furniture or other stuff. I do, I want all of it…I just haven’t got one square meter of free space to put anything.

I feel like I have to say goodbye to a very large piece of my life. My roots are being cut away, and there’s nothing else replacing it. No new branches or no new leaves full of hope and future. I look back: there’s nothing left but memories. I look at the here and now: one of my parents very ill, and me – not getting anywhere with my life. I look at the future: no clues, no certainties, only unfulfilled dreams. This little twig on the family tree is not growing, although, God knows, I’ve been trying for years.

Anyway, the house where my grandfather and my mother were born, and where three generations lived and loved, is gone. More than a century of my family; a place where I always felt very safe and protected, and where I was always loved. The people are gone, the place is gone.

People who have never known such a home fail to understand how I feel. They say “it’s just a house, you still have the memories”. Like calling a picture of a loved one “just a piece of paper”. I gave up trying to explain. Sometimes feelings cannot be put into words, sometimes feelings can’t just be understood by others. So sometimes it’s just you, and a box of Kleenex.