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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Thursday afternoon

Means my sister has a half day off from work, so I can't do a lot. As I've mentioned before, I can't write when someone is constantly talking to me - in this case, my sister. Our mother was better that way. She just read a book when I was writing, or did some knitting. Plus made coffee for us both.

So we've kept ourselves busy with making a new batch of soup (main ingredient: chicory) and installed the new printer we got today. The old one was supposed to copy-scan-print but did not do much anymore. Hopefully the new one will work better!

And finally checked if we got the return of our taxes. The ministry is supposed to make the payment by the end of this month. We are the lucky ones, who have been getting money back since we started filing our taxes. That's one of the advantages of being single, even if we share the same house. For the tax administration that doesn't count. People who are married or living together, pay extra taxes as a rule. It's never very much you get back, some hundreds of Euro's, but you can always do something with the money.

In an hour or so we can start to prepare our evening dinner. Vegetarian today, an ommelette with a mix of red beans, corn, bell pepper and potato cubes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What You Don't Know

Right now, author Elka Ray is my guest. She's promoting her new release What You Don't Know and is doing a book tour - which you can follow, plus it allows you to win a 10$ GC from Amazon or Barnes&Noble. Each time you enter a comment, you have a chance to win. Use this link to place your comment:

I've asked Elka to answer some questons about this publication - a collection of suspense-crime short stories. Here they are, along with her answers:

Why do you place the action in far-away places? 

I set my fiction in places I know well that evoke strong feelings. I spent my earliest years in Africa and the bulk of my childhood in Canada with frequent trips to Europe and the UK. For the past two decades, I’ve been based in Vietnam. The stories in my latest book, What You Don’t Know: Ten Tales of Obsession, Mystery and Murder in Southeast Asia, are all set in Southeast Asia, a region I find endlessly fascinating.

Do you like to travel a lot? 

As well as writing fiction, I work as a magazine editor and travel writer. Now that I have kids, I travel less - and less adventurously - than I used to. Since I live in a small village by the beach in Central Vietnam, now and then I need a dose of urban life, which means a short flight to Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore. 

Do your memories of such travels have a response in your writing?

Maybe on account of my nomadic childhood, I feel very attached to places. I have strong and often irrational feelings about the places I visit - for instance locales that others consider beautiful might strike me as ominous. In retrospect, I’m often right - a riot was brewing, a coup was imminent, a horrible crime took place nearby… I believe that places, as well as people, give off good and bad energies. 

Some places I go inspire stories, that little twinge of unease leading to a “what if”.  An example from this collection would be the story “Burning Bright”, which is set on Cambodia’s Bokor Hill, home to a French colonial casino in the 1930s and a Khmer Rouge base from the 1970s through 1990s. When I visited a decade back, it was utterly desolate - a few burned-out ruins on a windswept plateau. This haunted setting inspired a story about a bereaved woman traveling with a husband whose many betrayals have pushed her to the point of doing something unthinkable.

More about What You Don't Know:


An American lawyer dreams of killing his trophy wife in Thailand. A Vietnamese soldier goes mad in a haunted forest. A bereaved mother's trip to Cambodia ends in tragedy - or does it?  Take a spine-tingling journey from the jungles of Sumatra through Bangkok's seedy bars to the seemingly sedate streets of Singapore. Your traveling companions are a slew of dark emotions - fear, grief, jealousy, greed, lust and revenge. And your destination?  With flashes of black humor and hard-to-forget characters, these ten stories shine light into the dark corners of Southeast Asia.


It’s the quality of light that I notice first, for I have broken free of the foliage and reached the river. Although it's dark, it is slightly less dark than it was under the tree canopy. I turn and see the darker shadow of our boat. The baby’s cries seem to have ceased. Relief floods over me.

I wade through the shallows, stumbling with fatigue. The rocks are loose and slippery. 

The boat is as it was when I left, still listing to one side, a rope tying it to a thick branch. I stagger towards it. I am about ten feet from the boat when I trip, my foot striking something hard yet yielding. In my panic, I fall forward, my hand touching something smooth and slippery.

It takes a moment to register, and even when I realize what it is, my mind rejects it. That cannot be Chau’s head bobbing with the current. It cannot be his hair brushing against my arms, or his bulging eyes staring up at me. 

My voice seems to have left me.

Author bio and links

At the age of eleven, Elka Ray co-founded the Double Trouble Detective Agency. She’s been on the lookout for mysteries ever since. Elka’s latest book, “What You Don’t Know: Tales of Obsession, Mystery & Murder in Southeast Asia”, takes readers on a darkly suspenseful tour of the Far East. Her first novel, a fast-paced romantic adventure titled “Hanoi Jane”, was published by Marshall Cavendish in English and DT Books in Vietnamese. Elka’s next novel, the thriller “Saigon Dark”, will come out with Crimewave Press in November 2016. Elka is also the author and illustrator of a popular series of bilingual kids’ picture books about Vietnam.
Elka divides her time between Hoi An in Central Vietnam and Canada’s scenic Vancouver Island. When she’s not writing, drawing or reading she’s in - or near -the ocean.

Contact: Email Elka at
Agent: Elka is represented by Amy Tipton at Signature Literary Agency
Elka Ray’s website:
Elka Ray Facebook Author Page:
Elka Ray on Twitter:
Elka Ray on Goodreads:
Amazon buy link:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Week of the Seventies

Starting as of this morning, Radio 2 (the radio station with most listeners in Belgium) began playing exclusively songs of the Seventies.

For those old enough, a lovely look-back to the time when we were teenagers (I was 14 when the year turned into 1970). Great songs, as well.

I must say I love most music. Even today's. Well, I don't like jazz or most electronic music (which isn't music at all in my mind) but when I think back of the Seventies, I think of The Sweet and Mud, Slade, Abba, ...

Both my sister and I were great fans of the band Mud. We saw them as much as we could, whenever they did a gig in Belgium (at that moment in time, we still didn't hop over the pond when we felt like it - that was before Eurostar) and the guys began to recognize us. They always waved when they spotted us in the audience. Even years later, when only Les Gray brought Mud songs in the tradition of Golden Oldies, he still recognized us!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Flemish traditional food

Tonight, we dined on something which is a typical Flemish dish: chicory in the oven.

There are several variations in this recipe: you can just make it with a cheese sause (which means, boil the chicory, prepare a cheese sause with the boiling fluid and put both chicory and sauce in a oven dish). Put gratin cheese on top and leave it for a while in the oven.

But you can also boil your chicory, take away the wetness with kitchen paper and roll them into slices of ham (boiled or smoked, up to you). Then put the rolls into an oven dish and spread a cheese sauce over them. Leave them some time in the oven.

We serve mashed patatoes with either of these dishes. When we eat chicory in the oven with just the cheese sauce, we also eat a steak with it.

Like tonight. Yummie!

Friday, October 21, 2016

They're already playing Christmas songs

As I'm already 60 (don't feel that old, though), I'm of a generation who loves to listen to the radio. It's a habit of mine to switch on the radio as soon as I come down for breakfast. It remains playing all day, as long as I'm inside the house. We only turn it off when the TV goes on, around 6.30 pm for 'Blokken' (a quiz) and the 7 o'clock news.

Just a moment ago, I heard the first Christmas tune of this year being played.

When I was a kid, they'd only play Christmas songs the week before Christmas day. But in the course of years, commerce has taken over and each season seem to come earlier and earlier. Before we realize it, they'll be putting up Valentine decoration in the shops!

What do you think of this?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Afternoon in the kitchen

Sometimes, our kitchen resembles a small factory. On free afternoons (my sister is still working) we like to prepare some food for the days to come.

Today we made soup, a tuna salad for tomorrow and in a few moments we'll start preparing today's dinner. The soup is a mixture of onion, turnip and carrot. You start by cutting up the vegetables in small cubes. Then you fry the onion for a while, generously add curry and then add water When the water cooks, drop some bouillon cubes into it. When they are dissolved, add the carrots and turnip. Let cook for about half an hour. When the soup is cooled down a bit, you mix the lot.

The tuna salad is made of red bell peppers (2/3), shallot, egg, tuna on olive oil and mayonaise. You can also add some herbs to your own taste. This is great with real Belgian fries!

And tonight's dinner is something we haven't tried before. It's a stew of seitan with beer, onion and mushroom, along with roasted Brussels sprouts and rice. We'll see how it tastes.

So this afternoon was pretty busy. I don't mind, however, it makes a nice change from sitting behind the computer and do some writing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Euromillions millionaire flees the country

Granted, when all the world knows you've won a big sum (in this case: 168 million Euro), you won't have a quiet moment left. Just everyone will be begging for money. The man who won this big amount two weeks ago didn't dare stay in Schaarbeek, where he lived and worked. He fled to Germany, to live with family there.

He had bought his ticket in a shop, of course. The system works like this: when you go to the shop to have your ticket validated, the screen will go black and you'll be asked to call the Lottery in Brussels. There someone will tell you you're the winner of a big amount. They will also ask you what you want to have known in the media. And this is where most people go wrong. They allow the lottery to share their gender, their age, their family situation, even their address. And the owner of the shop where the winning tickets was sold, of course also knows he had a winner. No wonder all the world knows who and what after a couple of days.

When you want to live anonymously (and I think it can be done) you have to play online. For starters, there will not be a single clue of to where the winning ticket was sold. And you go to the Lottery headquarters with your own contract. Have them sign nothing of your identity, gender, occupation, family situtian and address will be shared in the media. Just have them announce there was a winner in Belgium. The country is big enough.

And then, continue you ordinary life for some time. It's easier when you are alreay a bit older. In our case, my sister could go on working for one or two years, and then claim to have taken up some sort of leave (which does exist in the department of education). Then sell the house (we want to to this anyway, all the neighorhood knows) and move to the coast. Nobody there will know how much money you have in the bank. I don't think we would spend too much of all this money. Just freshen up the flat at the coast and do some more travelling. And stay in first class hotels and fly business class. There would be a lot left when we'd go - good for the charities we've been supporting for many years. The state would get nothing.