Monday, November 30, 2015

Saving the climate... starts at home

Today the Climate Conference in Paris opened. Big talk and even bigger problems to face...

So, when you really are concerned with our environment and the climate, I think there is a lot you can do yourself. When everyone would do his/her best, the problems would be less.

What can you do? Well, for starters you can put the thermostat of your heating system some degrees lower. That way you use less energy. We put our thermostat on 20 degrees Celsius. When it is really cold and we are watching televison, we just snuggle up in a plaid.

Instead of taking a bath, you can shower. And it works even better if you don't shower longer than 5 minutes. I always turn off the water when I soap in or shampoo my hair. The same goes for brushing my teeth. I never let the water run while I'm busy.

Eating vegetarian twice a week also helps. If you don't bake meat, it helps the planet. I don't know about that, but anyway we eat veggie twice a week already. In any case it helps my health! (And the plus of it is that I lose weight.)

A good thing is also to forego a car. We haven't had a car for over 6 years now. We do all our errands on foot or by bike and we use train or bus to get to places.

What are you doing for the climate?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

It couldn't be

Just a short note this time, because I'm feeling a bit down. Belgium just lost the Davis Cup Final against Great-Britain. Although Goffin played very well, Murray proved a bit too strong for him (and he had one ace after the other).

And we did not win anything with the lotto this week... more disappontment! (Well, we never win a lot, but mostly we win enough to be able to play again the following week.)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Davis Cup Final in Ghent

For those who love tennis, this afternoon started the Davis Cup Final between Belgium and England. Our national number one, David Goffin, is right now playing the opening match against Kyle Edmund. It's 2-2 so it will be quite thrilling.

Of course the British have Andy Murray. But we know that the boys in our team can work very well together and often do better than they're supposed to be. And of course they are playing on gravel, which is their favorite ground.

So who will win? Flanders Expo is crowded with public to watch these games. Also our King and Queen are present for the opening match.

It was 111 years ago that Belgium has won the Davis Cup, and already 36 years for England (then with the famous Fred Perry), so this is a historical event.

Will keep you guys posted!

Note: Goffin won the first match. Go Belgium!!!!

Saturday afternoon: Double won by Great-Britain, score 2-1 for GB

Thursday, November 26, 2015

What are you thankful for?

For all  my American readers - and those who also celebrate - I want to wish you Happy Thanksgiving!

So, what are you wishing for? As I grow older, I believe more and more that what's important is having a good health and the love and support of those who are close to you. I only have my sister left, and I hope she'll be with me for a long time still.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

1000 Classics

On Saturday, the voting for the list of 1000 classics (from the years '60, '70, '80) will open once more - and I'm sure lots of people eagerly are awaiting this. Between Christmas and December 31st, the popular radio station Radio 2 will only be playing records that are in the list. The number one will be played at 6 p.m. on the 31st. 

For a couple of years, Bohemian Rhapsody from Queen has been the number one. Will it keep its position? Or will there be another number one???

If you could choose from all records that were produced and were popular in their time, which ones would you pick for your own Top 5?

Mine would be:

1. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
2. Paradise by the Dashboard Light - Meatloaf
3. Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits
4. Memories - Barbra Streisand
5. Hélène - Julien Clercq

Don't hesitate to let me know your list!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A never-ever-ending story

For some years now, I have been trying to finish my next novel, The Black Coach.

When I began, all went well. I got well into the story and the chapters got finished one after the other. And then... something came in-between. I don't recall what exactly it was, but my writing was stalled. When I had time once more, I did not find any inspiration. Total black-out!

A year or so, I began once more. And the same happened. Now I had advanced almost to the last chapters...

So keep my fingers crossed, I've begun to work over the novel for - hopefully - the last time! I hope nothing comes between me and my writing now as I'd like to finish this book once and for all.

By the way, it should be a good story. A bit gothic, a bit of mystery, a love-affair woven in-between. For those who have read my collection of short stories, Face in the Mirror and Other Stories, this is the real story behind the legend of the black coach in the last story of the collection.

Monday, November 23, 2015

How long can this continue?

The government has decided to continue alarm level 4 for Brussels. Today the metro and all schools were kept closed. Lots of buses and trams were not riding as well. Shops and restaurant were closed.

This can't continue, of course. People need to go on with their lives. Like the schools - how can you close schools for several days, especially when the exams are coming up?

And they are still looking for the terrorists.... Don't want to say too much about the work of our police force or the secret agencies....

In the meantime, jokes about Salah already pop up at the social networks. In our language, 'salah' nears 'salade' which is salad...

And Belgium is not a safe country to travel to... It gets better day by day

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Alarm level 4 for Brussels

This morning, we heard on the radio news (yes, I still listen to my radio, daily) that for Brussels the terror alarm was raised from 3 to 4 (the highest level). Apparently, there is a real threat that an attempt will be carried out.

So all the shops, museums, events, sports events had to shut down. The trains of the metro are not riding and the stations are closed for public. Also some trains to and from Brussels are cancelled.

The government asks everybody to be extra-vigilant. I just hope this won't lead to many panic calls to the emergency services, from people who are afraid. And what will happen when someone forgets (and I really mean 'forget') something on a tram or bus?

Makes me think of our last ride on Eurostar, way back in May. Across the aisle a guy sat down, who was carrying a big hold-all. He put this in the racks above. But some time later he stood up and strode out of the carriage. We haven't seen him come back - and the hold-all remained in the rack until we arrived in Brussels... Reason for alarm? Probably not, but I don't think you should try this right now!

Friday, November 20, 2015

How crazy is the weather?

For a long time, it's been way too warm for the time of year. Not so long ago, we were in Hamburg, Germany and the temperatures were like end of August, begin of September. A coat was too warm - hence we both are suffering now from a bad cold!!! We began sneezing and coughing a couple of days after we returned home from our trip. Although we've been taking medicine it's not yet completely cured. Will have to be careful for the days to come...

And right now we're plunging into winter. From one extreme to the other. The weather bureau predicts night frost and snow. That's early, especially for Flanders.

How's the weather where you are living? Please feel free to share.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

We shouldn't be afraid

To my astonishment I hear and read that lots of people are cancelling their trips (mostly to France). Also football matches are cancelled or forbidden to be played with public.

Where are we going to? This is just what those people of IS are wanting: for us all to be afraid. They want us to feel threatened, afraid of going out. So what? You can fall of the stairs in your home as well, and break your neck.

I think it's a bad sign of our leaders to go along in this. They for one should show the world  we aim to maintain our rights - our freedom of speech, our freedom of thinking. Our women can go to school and have a good job. Education plays an important role in enlightment. Those who have studied realize there is more than just the world of a deity (be it God, Allah or Jehovah) and they will know how to show respect for everyone. Because respect has nothing to do with belief. I have respect for everyone (if you are a teacher, that is a must) but I also expect respect from the other side - it's a two-way thing.

So no, I won't be afraid. I'll go on my trips as planned - the only thing that can change those plans is that the airline won't fly or going to this or other country would become forbidden. If I have to die, it will happen. But I'll never die a coward!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

We move too little

According to a recent research program, we Belgian move too little. One on two people sits more than 8 hours a day, and apparently most of the people eat before their telly.

That is the main reason why our youth is getting too fat and it sure becomes a problem. Kids come home from school, throw themselves in a chair and either watch TV or play on the computer.

When I was young, we came home from school, made our homework (half an hour!) and went outside, playing. This meant running around a lot, climbing into trees, making rafts to ferry across a river or brook, just name it.

Even now I often move. I do all my shopping either on foot or by bike (even the heavy stuff) and I don't know how many times I run up all the stairs in my home to the attic room where I do my ironing and drying of the washing.

What about you?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Agent A.X.L. Pendergast

Have you ever read a novel by Preston & Child? More especially, the ones in which FBI Special Agent plays the main role?

Well, if you  haven't I can certainly recommend these novels. It all starts within the Museum of Natural History, where one of the local scientists finds a  special creature in its cellars (Relic). This is followed by Reliquary, The Cabinet of Curiosities, Still Life With Crows, Brimstone, Dance of Death, The Book of the Dead, The Wheel of Darkness, Cemetery Dance, Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance, Two Graves, White Fire, Blue Labyrinth, with The Crimson Tide being the latest installment.

In each book characters are introduced, but many are returning. Like archeologist Nora Kelly who falls in love with reporter William Smithback. Or researcher Margo Green and NYPD lieutenant Vincent d'Agosta - and not to forget Constance Green, Pendergast's ward...

Once you have read one of these books, you won't be able to not read the others. You'll want to know how the story continues - because there is an ever-continuing thread in the books. See, Pendergast has dark secrets - and a brother who is pure evil.

And Pendergast is quite a special guy. He is very rich, owns among others a mansion in New York, where things are hidden down the immense cellars. He only wears black and was married once.

The authors, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, know how to get the reader into a trance. Once you begin reading one of their novels, you continue until you reach the last page!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tribute to a hero

Just read this on Facebook, it was posted by author Teresa Medeiros. I'm passing it on because it really is something that should be shared!

We all love our romance heroes and what they stand for and I want to pay tribute to a real-life hero today. Ludovic Boumbas (known as "Ludo" to his friends) was enjoying a birthday celebration for a friend in the cafe in Paris where one of the attacks took place on Friday. When the chaos began, he instinctively threw himself in front of a girl to protect her from the shower of bullets and ended up dying in her place. I've always believed that instinct to protect another human life, especially when a man does it for a woman, is a triumph of the very best in human nature. When something incomprehensibly evil like this happens, our battered hearts can only survive by gazing steadfastly into the opposite direction of sacrificial love. Or as it says in John 15:13: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Terror in France

I suppose all of the well-thinking world will be affected by the vicious terrorist attacks yesterday night in Paris.

Just suppose, you're going to enjoy a concert (as most of us do occasionally), or you sit dining in a restaurant - and a couple of brain-washed imbeciles shoot their Kalashnikovs or let themselves explode.

There are already more than 120 people dead, and 300 wounded, who can possibly die as well. Where is the world going to???

Last week we were talking to a Danish guy, who was worried - just like us - about the state of affairs in Europe. This is not going well and I'm very much afraid it will lead to another world war. Extreme right will have new fuel to attack all that is muslim and even normal-thinking people consider revenge.

I just can't understand how faith can lead to such extremes. I've read the Koran, just like the Bible and the Thora. They are old stories, and should be treated as such. Anyway, if you live according to what's written in them, you live an exemplary life. But it's the interpretation that can lead to excesses. And some ayatollah's have very persuasive powers....

My thoughts go to al those who have lost loved ones last night!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Who's gong to be Sportswoman of the Year?

By the end of this year, the "Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year" will be announced. And like each previous year, it are not those you'd expected.

Last year, Naafi Tian was picked. She won one bronze medal! But others were just passed -  because the sport they practice is not important enough?

For this year, I would nominate either Delfine Persoon (boxing) or Marieke Vervoort (wheelchair racing).

Although severely handicapped and close to death, Marieke can still bring up the courage to fight against her illness and tries to win gold medals in world championships and Paralympic Games. And she does - she won three gold medals shortly after another!

Delfine Persoon works full time as a railway police officer and spends her free time at boxing (lightweights). She does this extremely well: only yesterday she won her third consecutive world champion title in the lightweight category. And even the big boss of the police, Catherine De Bolle, was present at the fight!

Forget the Naafi Tians and others who only perform once or twice - and never when it really counts. Give the cup to those who deserve it!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Speaking English

According to a report of some international organisation, Belgium dropped quite a bit in the list of countries where English is well-spoken.

Well, I'm not surprised. I've been  a teacher for a very long time (almost on pension) and I know from experience that teaching English is not evident. I quite honestly confess I knew no English myself when I finished school. Of course, I had got lessons in English but they really don't teach you anything. What you read in the textbooks is no real English (expressions like 'it's raining cats and dogs'...). And a lot of teacher don't pronounce the language as it should be. There was a piece on the news today, where they went to a class and attented a lesson of English. The teacher could use lessons as well!

I've only learned to write and speak English by first reading books in English, then by watching BBC television and thirdly by spending a lot of time in the UK and the USA. Now I can say I can speak a decent sort of English.

What about where you live? How is it with the knowledge of languages?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Day of Remembrance

Today, 11th November, we remember the end of World War One. As usual, at 11 a.m., the Last Post was blown under the Ieper Gate.

I wasn't there to watch it, but I keep my grandfather's memory in mind. Alfred Urbain (1897-1973) was only a boy of not even 17 when he was called away from military academy to fight in a war so terrible he never spoke about it. He had the command over men who were at least twice his age but who adored their 'little one'.

Granddad was caught by the poisonous gas and was also shot a couple of times. And once more, in 1940, he was fighting another world war. This one he talked about. He told me stories of how he escaped from the POW camp in Germany and went underground in the south of France. He stayed and worked there at a local vineyard - hence his love for a good glass of wine. And when the Germans were losing the war and he returned to Belgium, he hid himself in the cellar of a neighbor. Grandma proudly told us how our mother - aged 13 - could lie to the Gestapo and tell them she hadn't seen her dad in over 3 years. Her boys wouldn't have been able to pull that off.

Yes, I fondly remember my grandparents and my parents. They have all died now, my sister and I are the only ones left. But they still live on in our minds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

City trip to Hamburg

As promised, I'm going to tell a bit more about our trip to Hamburg today. I'm still not feeling quite well but my mind is in working order!

You could ask why we chose Hamburg as destination? Well, mainly it was because we wanted to see the German version of 'Love Never Dies'. We both love this show and didn't want to leave the chance of seeing it once more.

All in all, Hamburg is not that far off. Only a plain ride of one hour. And not expensive either, as Brussels Airlines offers cheap fares inside the EU (especially when you only take hand luggage). We found a hotel online, and we were set.

Well, we found the town quite pleasing. Enough to see and the distances were not too big. We could walk to any place, and it mostly did not take longer than half an hour. I love town that are walkable. For those who don't like to walk however, I can recommend the InterCity hotel. They offer you a free public transport ticket for the entire duration of your stay.

The muscial - in a theatre quite near to the (in)famous Reeperbahn of Hamburg - was superb. The lead roles of Phantom and Christine were sung by Mathias Edenborn and Rachel Anne Moore. Edenborn is a Swede, who used to be a premier league soccer player before he went to the music academy. And Rachel Anne Moore is American. Normally, it disturbs me when muscial numbers which are originally in English are translated - it is horrible how they do this in Holland and over here in Belgium! But the German version sounded just as believable as the English one. Beautiful texts, well set to the music. A live orchestra with great conductor and the superb singing of all the artists made this a show I'm not likely to forget.

Something I can recommend while visiting Hamburg is a boat trip on the Elbe. There is also the Alster (inside and outside) but that's only a big lake, nothing special (although houses around the Alster are quite expensive). The boat trips on the Elbe are something else. I recommend you go for a small ship, as they are able to navigate the small canals in and around Speicherstadt (for those who don't understand German: warehouse town). The temperature inside these building remains equal despite the climate, which makes them great for storing goods.

Shopping can be done in the area around the Town Hall. All the great shops - and a lot cheaper than in Belgium. I bought a tunic at Gerry Weber's that was 20€ cheaper than the one I saw in a local shop here.

All in all, it was a nice trip. The hotel was ok - we slept undisturbed - and we could spend our days without any problem.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Back from Hamburg

I haven't been writing my blog for a couple of days, as we were on a city trip to Hamburg, Germany.
I'm going to write more about this trip tomorrow, as I'm feeling a bit under the weather right now.

No, I haven't drunk too much (you can't get pissed on German beer) but I think it has mainly to do with the absurd weather we've been having. More than 21° Celsius in November! Two days ago, we could make a boat trip while sitting on the open deck.

I'm feeling terrible cold and the shivers run over my spine. So it will be off to bed soon, with a hot toddy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Gigolo's in high demand

The things you read in the newspaper... This morning, one of the lead articles was one about gigolo's!

Now I don't mind people paying for and having sex (as long as they don't disturb me - the woman in teh flat below ours was up all night having 'roaring' sex). But according to this article it are especially women over 50 who want a gigolo.

I don't know about you guys, but my sister and I are both over 50 - and we never paid a gigolo. All in all, I think sex is over-rated. What more is sex than a physical pleasure? You can just as well go horse riding, or ski down a vertical drop, go to the hairdresser's or sit down to a gourmet diner. I don't need sex to feel good. And I certainly wouldn't want to spend my hard-earned money on paying for it.

What about you?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fraude with fish

Be aware of what you eat! A resent research project showed that most of the fish which restaurants put on your plate are not what you ordered, but a cheap variety...

Well, cheating is as old as the world itself. As long as humans exist, some of them have been trying to sell lesser wares for the true thing - and rid you of a lot of money.

So, when you order tuna in a restaurant, there is a big chance you'll be getting the cheap yellowfin tuna instead of the bluefin one. Or you get pangasus filet instead of haddock.

There is only one thing you can do: only eat in a reputed fish restaurant, where the chef buys his fish straight from the fishermen - and allows you to see the catch. It may cost some more, but then you'll be sure not be tricked.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Warmest begin of November ever!

All touristic destinations in Belgium are overwhelmed with joy - thanks to the exceptional high temperatures for November (20,7°Celsius yesterday!) they have much more people visiting them.

Yesterday was more than special. It was the 1st of November - the day on which we remember the dead. But the sun was out from early in the morning to sunse, and the temperatures quickly rose to over 20 degrees Celsius. On our roof terrce it was warmer than we experienced during July and August. We could do chores we kept postponing during our so-called 'summer' because there was almost no sunshine and the winds were always high. Now it was the right moment to paint the outer railing of the terrace and dry some washing in the meantime.

It was time for ice-cream cones and rides with the bike. The seafront promenade was as full with tourists as on the top days in summer. And all the terraces were filled with people enjoying a cool drink...

How's the weather where you are living?