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Monday, February 29, 2016

Unpredictable seasons

It's the end of February. In March spring will be there - but it doesn't feel like it.

Alas, it's colder now than it was in December or January. We got night frost and during the day a cold wind is blowing, which makes it even colder.

Is it becoming older, but I remember my childhood seasons as real ones. In summer there was a lot of sunshine and temperatures were up. Then the leaves turned all colors and it became autumn. In winter it froze and there was enough snow to play in. And in spring the first flowers appeared and all became green once more.

But now? Sometimes it's colder in summer than it is in winter. Or we have high summer in March. Or we sit on a terrace sipping cold drinks at the end of November.

Our weather has turned crazy and unpredictable. I don't know if it's global heating that is responsible, or just a change like the ones in the past, when we had Ice Age and such. I'll probably never know the answer...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hotel Mama

More and more kids remain at home for as long as they can, nowadays. The reason? Renting or buying a flat/house has become very expensive for young starters, with prices easily reaching 200,000 €  or more. Staying at home with Mum saves money and allows to set some aside for later.

What is also growing more and more popular is kangaroo-living, where grandparents, parents and kids share a house. Althoug... this idea takes getting used to. Lots of people still don't understand how valuable this can be.

I don't have to be persuaded. I grew up in a (big) house which was shared between my maternal grandparens and parents. So normally there were 6 of us living there. And sometimes, my mom's youngest brother with his wife and two sons came over from Germany (where my uncle worked) for a holiday. Then we were 10 (little Negroes)...).

I've never experienced this as a problem. There was always someone at home when you came home, there was something to eat and drink. Grandma always loved to cook and bake, so the kids (and not only us two, but all the other kids in the street and the friends we brought over) did not go hungry or thirsty! And when you had a problem, you could talk about it to grandma or granddad, as they understood better than our parents.

Alas, the grandparents and parents are not there anymore. Now there are only my sister and I - 2 little Negroes. And in the end there will be none. I just hope my sister can go before me, because I know she'll feel lonely when I am not there anymore. I could cope better, I know. I can be on my own when it is necessary. But of course, that's not in our hands...

Friday, February 26, 2016

Feeling good about myself

I'm quite happy today. FINALLY I'm writing the epilogue to a manuscript which has been lying about for a couple of years.

I guess it was 2012 when I wrote the first chapters of what should become my latest novel, working title The Black Coach. And then something came up (I don't remember what) which made me forget about writing.

Each time I began my re-writes, something came up once more. But now - at last - I was able to finish the last chapters and this morning I began with the epilogue. The novel should be complete by Monday.

For me being able to write, conditions have to be perfect. Meaning, I can't be bothered with anything that can distract me. So, for instance, when my sister is around I can get no writing done. I prefer to be alone in the house with only my radio playing in the background. Then my imagination roams freely and words appear on the screen of my pc.

So I guess I'll have a good weekend, with a sense of completion.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Our coast can't become a second Calais

Now that there is talk of evacuating the 'jungle' in Calais, where all kinds of sans-papiers are camping in the hope of finding a way to reach England, the authorities in our country are afraid there will come a flood of people seeking a new way via Belgium.

Therefore, the minister of internal affairs, the governor of West-Flanders and the mayors of the town concerned are concentrating on protecting the borders with France. Police - on the motorcycle, by car, on horseback - will guard all the known smuggler ways into West-Flanders.

Especially the governor of the province is afraid of creating a new Calais in Zeebrugge, our most important harbour at the North Sea coast. Already lots of immigrants are present there. If they put up tents, these are removed by the police, but it's becoming a real problem. Once picked up, the immigrants have the choice of asking for asylum in Belgium or return. Most of them plainly refuse. They don't want to stay here. The last time we were in Heist, we already noticed there were already lots of immigrants on the tram and more are on their way.

What is especially a problem that these people don't get that they don't have a future in England and they could better apply for asylum in Belgium or France. What can they do in England? Work in a sweatshop? Live under the radar all their lives? What kind of future is that?

And what irks me most are the so-called do-gooders who talk about the past world wars. There were lots of people on the flight, that's true, also my own grandmother and her children. But nobody helped them! They were not given food and shelter, lord no. They had to fence for themselves. If my grandma hadn't been a woman with character, things could have gone wrong for them.

Nobody says that people in need shouldn't be helped. But Europe can hardly manage millions of them. I'm very much afraid that the situation will escalade and nationalism will be on the rise. And then someone will be the new Hitler...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Planning is (more than?) half the pleasure

Although we still have to do our first trip of this year, we have planned (nearly) everthing already. For this year, the trips will go to Dublin, London (twice, mainly to see a show on Saturday night), Venice, Stockholm and Visby (on the Gotland isle) and Budapest.

But as weeks go by, we got the itch to plan for 2017 already. And don't you agree, planning can give you so much pleasure! You look up things, like hotels where you could stay + their evalution of Tripadvisor and, finding restaurants where you could eat, how the climate is when you are travelling, what the difference in time is (when necessary), which travel documents you need to have, which shots you need to take to protect you from illness...

What we are looking at right now are which trips we can do next year. We'd love to go to Buenos Aires (Argentina), because it has a certain appeal. We've seen Evita, of course, and would love to see the place for ourselves. Also, it would be fun to be able to tango and go horseback riding at some estancia. We've been looking at hotels already and appear to have found a great one.

At the same time, we have been checking out Toronto. This could become a trip in 2018. We've been in Canada  before (seen the Rockies: stayed in Banff and Fernie, went to Vancouver and did more skiing in Qu├ębec province), but have never been to Toronto. From there, we would also like to go and see the Niagara Falls.

And most likely - if nothing untoward happens - we could to to Cape Town in South Africa later on that year. Language won't  be a problem there, as lots of South Africans speak 'Afrikaans' which originates from our Dutch. And we know English, of course! Willl have to taste the wine there!

Also, returning to 2017, we might do a trip to the Azores (a group of islands, belonging to Portugal, in the Atlantic). It's quite authentic there. Not so long ago, I talked with a Portugese woman who teaches French, and she told me she has family living in the Azores and it's very nice there. Also we could do a city trip either to Prague or Krakow in Poland. We'll see how that goes.

And from experience, I know that anything can come up (like some artist who's doing a show somehwere in Great-Britain or Dublin - places easy to reach and not all that expensive if you plan carefullu (and save points in all major programs of air, train and hotels). Like this spring. We'll be going to London and it costs almost nothing.  We could buy the tickets for Eurostar well ahead and the hotel is for free (saved up enough Hhonor points to even stay in a suite!). Only have to pay for the show and the food we'll be enjoying.

Monday, February 22, 2016


David Cameron got what he wanted: an okay from Europe to push through his propositions concerning Great-Britain. He wants to stay in the European Union, however, now he has got what he wanted.

The question is: do his people want the same? The mayor of London, obviously doesn't. He wants out of the Union. So do more ministers in Cameron's government.

When the Brits would want to leave the Union, it also opens possiblilities for the Scots. Because they want to remain in the Union. Should there come a Brexit, the Scots have the right to vote for independence once more...

Well, for us Europeans there won't be a lot of chance if Britain wasn't part of Europe anymore - for starters, they have never felt they WERE European. They always talk about the rest of Europe as 'the Continent' and are quite chauvinistic. Normally, when you belong to a state in the EU, you have the same rights anywhere.  But not in Great-Britain! For example, you can't get a card for Marks & Spencer or Boots if you don't live in GB, can't compete in competitions and so on.

So where's the difference???

I wonder how the population is going to vote in June. What do you think?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Board games on the rise

Young peope today don't want to hang out in a pub or nightclub all the time any longer. No, they'd rather stay at home with some friends ... and play a board game, llike Monopoly or Colonists of Catan.

They've discovered it makes just as much fun and has the advantage they can drink a pint (or two) because most of them live nearby and don't have to take a car.

When I was a kid, we used to play games with the entire family on Sunday afternoons. We played with 10, 12 people, all around a big table with grandma and grandpa at the head. And there were treats of course, like hot chocolate for the kids and beer or wine for the adults. Plus some sweets, like pancakes and waffles. This made Sunday afternoon the best day of the week!

Do you still play board games? Now there's only my sister and I, we don't play board games any more (only two makes no fun), but we do some online games together.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Should heavy smokers be denied medical care?

Today, there's a big dispute going on between RIZIV (the organisation which pays back medical costs) and the minister of Health, Maggie De Block.

RIZIV claims that the medcation and care for a certain type of illness, caused by smoking, cannot be paid back to the patient if he or she can't prove they have not smoked for some time.

The minister says this cannot be, that it is not alway so that smoking causes this illness.

Now you must know this minister is way overweight. I suppose she's afraid when this would go through, there would also come measures against operations to reduce the stomach (by which you can grew thinner)....

Of course, lots of people will agree with RIZIV. There is a certain feeling among the population that those illnessses which you have brought on by your style of living, cannot become a burden for the whole community.

No problem for me, if they wouldn't pay back those operations. I try to live as healthy as I can. I don't smoke, don't use too much alcohol, walk a lot and keep an eye on my cholesterol and the sugar in my blood. I don't think I'd be refused treatment when I would become ill.

What is your take on this?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

So much going on...

Normally, I don't have any problem to find a subject for my blog. But right now, there is so much actuality that I hardly know what to say.

First thing: the police forces found a tape in which the house of the top man of nuclear energy was being watched. This tape was found after house searches during the terrorist threats for some time ago. Did the terrorists want to blow up one of the nuclear plants?

Another thing: refugees are bad for tourism. At the coast, one hostel where fugitives from Iraq and Iran where being housed needs to be cleared because it is needed to house tourists when the season starts. And in Zeebrugge (harbour, part of Bruges) the mayor has his policeforce pick all the fugitives who have not filed an aplication for asylum. He doesn't want a second tent-camp like in Calais.

Next, a big enquiry along the population of Belgium proves that most of the Belgians want to change the laws on inheritance. Our system is quite an old one, and the laws date back to the time of Napoleon. Here it goes as follows: when two people are married and one of the partners dies, 50% of the inheritance (money or real estate) goes to the widow/widower, the other 50% to be shared by the children. When the last partner dies, the children will get the following share: one child gets 50%, two children each get 1/3, three children each get 1/4, ...  The laws don't allow parents to disinherit their children. But what about a son or daughter who has never been in contact? Or a child who is addicted to drugs? Many people would like to see this law changed and adapted to the current living circumstances.

Finally, my mind is set on writing now. I've finally found the time to complete the novel on which I have been working for 3 or 4 years off and on. I'm at the last but one chapter, hurrah!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cardiologist wants to test all youngsters

Almost each day, a young person drops dead during a cycling tour, a football match, ... Some people even don't have to be sporting before they die. Most of the time it's their heart that gives out.

Leading cardiologist Pedro Brugada (Spanish-Belgian) feels very disturbed by this. Early screening would solved a lot of problems, he claims in today's newspaper.

The minister of health, Maggie De Block, however is not convinced. 'It woud cost too much,' she says. She says if they want to screen every youngster, it would make social security too expensive for the population. And then you must know that we Belgians are among those who pay the highest taxes in the world. Paying double or triple (or even more) for health care would leave us with practically  nothing.

This morning, in a radio program, a doctor was talking about the problem as well. He says people should listen better to their body and more often go and see a doctor if they feel something is not as it should be. And that's just the problem with young people. They don't think they could be ill or that something is wrong with their heart. I know for myself. I'm much more aware of my body than I used to be when I was 20 or 30.

And how about you?

Monday, February 15, 2016

If there's one place where I'd like to live...

... then it would be London, without doubt!

Every day, I get messages in my mailbox concerning concerts and other venues. Too much to pay attention to, in fact. So much is happening in London during a year. If I had money enough, I'd be there at least once a month, to attend a concert or see a play. Now I can only go a couple of times.

Strange enough, it's easier to get tickets for an event in London than one in Antwerp, Ghent or Brussels! If you want to see a ballet, or a muscial, you hardly find seats in the first 6 rows. In London, that is no problem - especially if you want to pay for it. The problem here in Belgium is that some organisations buy up most tickets and then sell them on to their members. If you are a private person, you have to be very, very lucky.

So, not surprisingly, we often head to Great-Britain if we want to see a show. This year, we'll be seeing Sunset Boulevard (the re-run at ENO), with Glen Close returning to the London stage to play Norma Desmond. That will be quite an event, and better still, we managed to have a suite at the Hilton for free (saved enough points)!

Later on, in summer, Ramin Karimloo will be giving a One Night Only concert at the London Palladium. Also for this performance we have tickets secured.

Yeah, if ever I win a Lotto, I sure buy a place in London - where I'd probably spent more than half of the year!

What about you?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Be my Valentine?

Everywhere you go, everything you see & hear is about Valentine these days. Tomorrow is THE day...

Good for those who have someone they love, but what when you are not such a romantic, or you don't have a sweetheart?

The merchandising around Valentine is a bit over the top, just like any other festivity (Easter, Halloween, Christmas). It has become big business, that's for sure. At the coast, most hotels and restaurants cater a weekend around Valentine. In the shops you find all sorts of decorations. The chefs in cooking programs on TV tell you how to prepare the love-fish (skrei)... Need I go on?

No, Valentine is not for me. I only have my sister (whom I love) but I'm not going to buy roses for her - nor would she do that for me. Never having married both of us we never got any presents for Valentine. Oh well, I once got a card from a penfriend, and once my sis got flowers from someone who had a crush on her.

For those who celebrate the day: Happy Valentine!

Friday, February 12, 2016

The car is growing less popular

During the last 10 years, cars have gradually been losing terrain when going to and from your work. Public transport wins more and more users.

The plus? Well, for starters, our government pays back the money you pay for your train-tram-bus tickets or cards. When I pay for instance 95€ a month to travel to and from Sint-Niklaas, I get back this money a month or so later. You only have to save up the tickets and the proof of your payment.

My sister and I have for long given up on the car. Better still, we don't own one anymore. The last car was sold 6 years ago, the other one already 15 years ago. When we were younger, we both had a car because we worked at places that were not easy to reach by public transport. But later on, we could work closer to home and then the need grew less. First I sold my car to one of my ex-students. One car was enough for what we needed (which was driving to the coast and doing shopping). But as the years passed by, my sister grew more and more nervous when watching what other drivers did. So we decided to sell that car as well and only use the train to go to the seaside. You can read a book and it's very relaxing.

Can you miss your car???

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Problems with Windows 10

The last few days, my sister has the urge to kick her pc out of the house. The reason? It isn't working properly anymore (and it's only a couple of months old). She can't get into her mail, she can't go into the system requirements, most of the  time it says she has no connection with internet...

She has a Surface 3 with Windows 10 on it.

My grandma used to say that everything for free was not to be trusted. I suppose she was right.

I have two pc's which are quite old (one is over 10 years old and the other already 6) but still work fine. They run on Windows 7, which I think is quite good a program. I should like to buy a new computer, but I'm not willing to try out that Windows 10. Hopefully Microsoft (or any other company) can come up with a laptop/hybrid model that has touchscreen but works better than what Windows 10 does now.

Are there any other who also have problems with Windows 10? If so, how are they dealing with it?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

40 days without (or with less) meat and fish

Radio 2 - about the biggest radio station in Belgium - has launched a competition for its listeners, daring them to go the 40 days until Easter with less meat or fish. Dieting, right? The action is meant to better the environment.

I'm not for dieting by itself. Those who follow a specific diet will often go eating too much once more when they end their diet.  The so-called jo-jo effect.

What works is see to what you eat. If you really want to lose some weight, you have to make the effort to adjust your food mechanisms. What works for me is to watch carefully what I eat. I only eat meat once or twice a week. I also eat fish or chicken, and also prepare twice a week a vegetarian dish.

I've found it lowers my intake of fat (less cholesterol) and this way I lose some weight as well. Nothing spectacular, but I've gone down one size in about six month's time.

For my heart, I also need to be careful with sugar. All in all, I think we eat quite healthy.

Are you a fan of diets?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Let's talk about sex

When is the best age for children to learn about sex? This question remains up-to-date all through the centuries.

Here in Belgium, youngster apparently wait a bit longer than before to begin having sex. Those who are 16 now prefer to wait a bit longer - but then the younger kids appear to be starting earlier again.

When I was a young girl, we did not think about sex before we were at least 17 or 18, but right now you hear girls of 14 compare their sexual experience right in public. One girls even mentioned 'she had sex when she became 14 because it was time'.

Sorry, but I do honestly think that's wrong. Sex is simply over-rated. It's an experience that in my mind comes not higher than having a good meal, or skiing down a slope at top speed, or galopping over the beach on horseback. And when is the best moment for sex? That's when you feel totally comfortable with your partner - then it comes without premeditation.

Should parents talk with their children about sex? I don't know. Mine did not do that, we found out ourselves and we were not the worse for it. I suppose I'd warn my daughter(s) for the dangers of having unprotected sex, as make them aware that you don't give away your body to just anyone.

What are your thoughts on this?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Avec le vent de l'est....

With the wind coming from the west... To say it in the words of Jaques Brel, our flat country is chastened by the wind.

The winds reach a pretty high force, causing trouble already. Some events have been cancelled and parks and other public areas have been closed in precaution.

We have been out walking, though. If you dress well (with a windbreaker and a hat) you can master thbe wind without any problem. Not many people about, but that doesn't bother me. Nice to have the place to yourself.

Makes you hungry, however! We've been eating ice-cream (can eat that even when the temperature is down)  and then had coffee with something sweet to accompany it. Well-spent afternoon...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Alaaf, alaaf!

For all those who love carnival, today is one of the highlights. Everywhere in Belgium - Aalst being the most important town (and the most crazy) - groups are getting ready for the big parade. Guess ISIS will be THE topic of the day...

Not only in Belgium, Holland and Germany festivities will take place. Also in Rio de Janeiro carnival is big, as in Venice and New Orleans.

Carnival has its followers, and those who dislike it. Personally, I think it's foolish and out of time. What fun is there wearing a stupid costume and do nothing but drink for three whole days?

I can understand where the tradition comes from. It dates backt to the Middle Ages, when carnival preceded the long fasting before Easter. The last chance to make fun - especially after a year of working hard on the land or at sea. People in those days had nothing else for divertisement. But now?

I'd rather go for a walk (at least when it's not raining) and have dinner somewhere in a cosy restaurant.

What about you?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Well-earned start of the holidays

Today was the last day at work. As of now we are on holiday for a week! And I feel it's well-deserved, for I went working a full day when feeling not too well. Yesterday I had to stay home because I simply had no voice.

Often I suffer from infection of the aereal passages. Bronchitis, bad colds, just you name it. This time it's a bad one once more. Normally I never have to call in sick, but yesterday my sister had to make the call. I stayed in bed for most of the time and took my medicine. So this morning I felt good enough to board the train and begin working the first hour of school. Luckily it was not a very heavy day, as I had some free periods between lessons. And my student were very thoughtful when they noticed I was not all that well. Kids can be sweet sometimes!

We're going to enjoy this week of doing nothing. Well, we'll see how the weather goes. When it's dry we can go walking or perhaps do a cycle tour. But when it rains we have to find amusement indoors.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Education in debate

Our minister of education has launched a campaign in which parents, students - all those interested - can share their ideas of how education should be organized in the future.

Do you think this is a good idea?

I'm into the teaching profession, and i.m.o. it's not the best of Hilde Crevit's ideas. If you allow EVERYONE to take part in a debate, and even listen to their propositions, you'll get a wild growth of the most foolish thoughts.

Since I've been a teacher since 1978, I have found that the current generation of youngsters has far less general knowledge than our generation. For example, when you ask about a certain fact in history, none of the kids knows the answer. Once I asked what was the capital of Egypt, and the answer was 'Paris'!

We went to school to learn something. Not to 'do' or to 'experience' anything. We had literature and grammar in our language classes, while nowadays it's forbidden to teach grammar. At the university, we only had exams once a year, while nowadays students take exams twice a year - they can't study all the courses in one session anymore.

Please feel free to share your opinion!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

New glasses, new look

This morning, I received a message that my new glasses were ready. I had chosen new ones about a week and a half ago, but the glasses needed to be ordered (they have to be made to measure).

The new glasses give my face an entirely new look. They look more or less like the ones in the picture, but of course I don't red my lips that much! Not if you have to be in front of a class mostly of boys of around 18...

I've been wearing glasses since I was 2 years old, and I've seen a lot of styles pass by. From big to small, from round to square. However, I need to be careful which ones I chose, since I have a rather small face.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Train trouble

I don't know how it is with train services in your country, but here in Belgium it's really bad! Yesterday morning my train had an half hour delay with no apparent reason - and one wasn't given either. Now I see that the train services between Ghent and the coast will be affected during the weekends of 6/7 February and 13/14 February - exact those weekends which are the beginning and then end of the Crocus Holidays! Don't they know many people will want to travel to the coast to spend a week there?

No, that's not important. I.m.o. Infrabel should work during the night. Trains don't run between 11 pm and 6 am, so there's enough time to work in between. But here night work is considered a punishment. Shops are not allowed to stay open at night as well. Our supermarkets have to close on Sundays, and are not open 24/24, 7/7 like in other countries. Everyone who attempts to change this is whistled down.

Well, I hope we'll be able to travel without too much trouble....

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mechanical fraude

Today's big topic is a crying Femke Van den Driessche. The 19-year-old female cyclist has been caught on 'mechanical fraude' during the World Championship cyclo-cross last weekend in Zolder, Belgium.

We all know for a long time that cycling is a sport under discussion. Lots of cyclist have been using doping to better their results. Some took cocaine, others did blood-doping. Some lost their titles and never cycled again.

But now there is another way to false the result of a contest. Apparently, you can fix bikes with a little motor - which then will help you to get up a mountain, or be faster than the rest.

It is claimed that Fabian Cancellara won the Ronde Van Vlaanderen in 2010 this way (he sprinted away from Tom Boonen on a hill), but now Femke Van den Driessche has been caught using such a bike. The fraude was discovered because the electrical wires stuck out of the frame...

This morning, Femke is is every newspaper and in the tv-new, crying her heart out and claiming 'she's innocent'. Hard to believe you're so stupid.

The UCI was trying out new equipment this weekend. They will be hard on those who don't respect the rules. Penalties willl be high. And worse, the Italian company which produced the bike used by Femke is threatening to sue her, because she has besmirched the reputation of their company.