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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Regional airports demand answers

While Brussels airport remains closed, some of the flights of Brussels Airlines and other operators have been transfered to regional airports, such as Antwerp, Ostend, Liege and Charleroi.

Normally, these airports don't have a lot of traffic. But right now, they are working way over their capacity. They don't mind to help out, but for how long???

The two weeks of Easter holidays are already busy for passengers, but it's nothing compared to what is supposed to depart during the summer break. Brussels airport has around 160,000 passengers leaving in the first day of July. If the airport can't function, what is going to happen to all those passengers' flights?

We already had to give up one trip. Most likely, we'll have to give up the next one as well. And if by summer Brussels airport is not working, we'll have to see what we can do as from the following year. Take Eurostar to London, and leave from Heathrow? Can be done, but it's a little more expensive....

I don't know what is keeping the officials from opening up the airport once more. Now is not the time for silly rules and trade unions with their strikes. This is showing IS that their tactics work. We should already be rebuilding the departure hall of Zaventem, and a finger to all the rules!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Finally found the cause of my sister's accident

Three years ago, in February 2013, my sister had an accident while skiing. We were coming down a slope (not a difficult one) and suddenly she fell. But it was not a normal fall. When we go down, we automatically protect our most delicate parts. This time, she went down like a falling rock. When I reached her, she was still unconscious - and for a moment I thought she was dead.

A passing class of skiers with their teacher alarmed the rescue services and not long afterwards Chris was in hospital, where all kinds of tests were taken. Yet the doctors could find no accurate cause for what had happened. They kept her one day in the hospital, and then she could return to the hotel.

That was the end of our skiing holidays. We just don't dare to take the risk of it ever happening again. And today we finally learned what most likely was the problem.

It was by reading an article about a young cyclist who fell during a contest and died afterwards. Apparently, he suffered from a problem with his blood pressure (which both of us are having too) and he could only do intensive sports for 3 to 4 hours. Then his blood pressure would fall dramatically and cause a spell. And we had been skiing all morning, and part of the afternoon. And not only leisurely, when we ski we do black slopes and take a bit of (!) speed.  So now we are both warned: we shouldn't be doing intensive exercises for longer than a 2,3 hours at a time. Well, I haven't been doing that for some time. I feel it when my body needs rest and I listen to the warnings.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Not sure when Brussels Airport will be open again

A week after the terrorist attack on Brussels airport, it is far from sure when the airport will be open for business once more.

There is a lot of damage, admitted, but the police have cleared the entrance hall a couple of days ago already.

What is most vexing is that you don't know what will happen. We have upcoming flights in the near future, in May, July and August. Our problem is we don't have a car and we don't have anyone who could take us to another airfield, either in Antwerp or Liege. And when you need to book a taxi just one day ahead, it's far from sure you'll be able to get a ride.

Also, it is not sure if the railway station at Zaventem is still in working order. It was ever so easy to take a train which brought you right into the airport!

So I think I'm going to send a mail to Brussels Airlines, in the hope they will be able to give us some clue as what to expect.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bad hair (2)

Remember, some time ago I wrote about my bad hairdo? Well, I've finally found the solution.

My sister Christine is quite handy. S he can make furniture, she can paint, she can do plumbing, .... So I thought, would she not be able to cut my hair? So I asked her, and she was willing to give it a try. 

We bought scissors and combs, and now she's done my hair twice already. It actually begins to look like a coupe. Of course, my hair is still not quite in order, but you can't fix that in one-two-three. Some parts still need to grow. But at last I can come outside with hair that looks like it's tended. 

My own private hairdresser! Quite handy, and cheap.... Well, of course I'll buy a present for Chris, or treat her to something.

But "professional" hairdressers have done for me. Not one of them has ever done justice to my hair. They cut and cut, and when you wash your hair, it looks like nothing.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

I'd like to wish everyone a very happy Easter.

Look for some chocolate eggs and try to forget the bad in the world for a while!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Painting job

Now that we are not going to Dublin (see previous posts) we are going to make the best of a bad situation. Normally we'd have been away until Friday night. So we thought we could use the coming days (which are predicted to be bad ones, anyway with rain and heavy winds) to do some chores in the house.

When you live in a house that is nearing its 100th birthday, you know things need upkeep and fixing. Most things we can do ourselves, which saves money. Right now we need to paint the kitchen and continue our work in the hallway (more than 50 stairs up to the highest level). We've been working on it for a couple of years now...

Problem is you don't always have the time for it, and also the temperatures need to be good enough. Not too warm or too cold.

Later on this year, we hope, we can do the living room. When we have finished that, the entire house has got a new look and can remain thus for another couple of years.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Don't be afraid to live

In the aftermath of the explosions at Brussels airport and the tube station, people seem afraid to show joy in living.

There are mass demonstrations to show solidarity with the victims, and lots of people seem to live in fear of more attacks.

Still, is it wrong to say you are not really touched by everything that goes on? When something terrible happens, lots of reactions occur. A great deal of people is affected and will show signs of concern, even fear. But some others can free their minds of what has happened and go on with their ordinary lives. This is not always easy, but actually it is a good way of dealing with a problem.

I'm a hands-on person myself. I always keep a clear head when something happens. Sometimes I think it's a fault in my genes, but at other moments I'm glad I have this capacity. When my father unexpectedly died while having a check-up at the hospital in Aalst, my mother and sister were not able to do anything. I had to drive the car to Aalst, let everyone know dad had died, make all the necessary arrangements, accept the condolences. Not a happy task, but I did it witho, ut shedding one tear.

Also now I can only feel sympathy for those who have family members lost or hurt in the attacks, but I don't feel any pain or fear. I know nobody who was affected by the incidents. Friends of mine who work in Brussels are all fine.

In the meantime, we have cancelled our upcoming trip to Dublin. Aer Lingus offered a full refund of our flight, and the hotel could be cancelled as well, free of charge. No biggie, we only took the trip because we wanted to be away for a couple of days.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Luck is... having a guardian-angel

My grandma (who lived through two world wars) always used to say: "Dear, you can count yourself rich if you have a) breath to breathe, b) a house to live in and c) enough to eat". How true, especially when reflecting on what happened yesterday.

If you happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong moment, there are two options: either you die, or you survive. It's a question of luck.

I'm not truly religious but I do believe in guardian-angels. If you have one that does its duty, you can survive many a precarious situation.

About ten years ago, my sister and I sat on a plane that could explode in the air at any moment. Luckily for us, it didn't. Was it a frightful experience? To be honest, no. We were together. If we'd die there would be nobody left to mourn us. And what use is shitting your pants with fear? There is nothing you can do. We have been circling for hours, using us as much kerosine as possible. And when we landed - at the farthest off runway on Heathrow, London - it was lined with fire trucks and ambulances. The runway was covered in foam. Most people on the plane were white as sheets and were praying, but there was no panic.

In the moment something happens, you don't think, you act. It's a strange feeling. I once had an accident with my car, and tolled around on one of the main highways. I just sat in the car and waited for the instant the car would hit something. It didn't - the first time my guardian-angel was present. Even the car had no scratch. And when my sister was suffocating because something was stuck in her throat, I did not think either. I just gave her a good whack on the back and the piece of food (it was a pomme frites) landed on the kitchen floor. For once I was glad I'm rather heavy-handed...

Have you survived a situation that could have killed you?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Terrorist attacks in Brussels airport and metro station

This morning, when getting ready to start the day, I heard on the radio there had been two explosions at Zaventem (the main airport of Brussels, and of the country). Apparently, one was a suicide attack and the other a bomb that exploded. Most likely there are up to 13 dead and 35 heavily wounded. The entire entry hall is devastated and also part of the ceiling came down.

A short while later, other news: a metro train exploded near one of the stops (station Maelbeek in Brussels). Also there 10 or more dead people.

Alarm level 4 has been raised for the entire country and all the transport to and from Brussels is suspended. No more trains, no busses, no trams, no metro. Schools in Brussels have to close their doors and keep their students inside.

Telephone lines are over-used and often there is no connection. We're in state of siege.

Just wonder what will happen later on. We were planning to go to Dublin during the Easter holidays, but it's not clear how that will be possible. We can annulate the hotel without costs, but we'll lose the fare we paid for the airline tickets, I suppose.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Do you read in various languages?

I like to read a lot. My mother's tongue is Dutch (or Flemish, which is basically the same, just another accent, like British and American English). So I started reading in that language, but as I grew up I discovered English.

Now I mainly read books in English. But having lived in Germany for a couple of years, I also know German and occasionally read something in that language. Next, I also know French. Pretty obliged when living in Belgium, where you get French from early on at school. And some novels I like are only available in French, hence...

For some time at Uni, I also did Swedish, but I'm never going to read a Scandinavian novel in the original language. I could try, and would probably understand some words of it, but it would be too hard and take too long.

What about you? Please drop a note if you can read in different languages.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

They caught him

Big news yesterday evening: police forces were able to arrest Salah Abdelsalam, who was among those who did the terrorist attacks in Paris, November last.

Well, I must say it comes at quite a good moment... which makes me wonder. Apparently, Abdelsalam was all the time in Brussels. But right now, when there is a lot to do about the deficit in our government budget, they can arrest the terrorist! And now of course Charles Michel is a hero and nobody talks about finding the necessary millions anymore.

Well, that's Belgium!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Today, everyone's Irish

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone Irish or from Irish descent. Don't get too drunk!

I quite like the Irish - they have a good sense of humor. Two of my favorite authors are Irish: John Connolly and Ken Bruen. If you haven't read any of their novel, I can certainly advise you do.

St. Paddy's Day is celebrated everywhere around the world. Even here in Dendermonde, our local Irish pub is full of green - even green beer (yuk!).

We haven't been in Ireland when it was St. Patrick's Day. Perhaps we can do that when both of us are pensioned? We're going to spend some time in Dublin, though, not so long from now. The airfares were so low, that's why. You just have to take opportunity of such a chance. And there's plenty to see and do in the Irish capital and its surroundings.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What a circus!

Commotion in Brussels (Vorst). Yesterday afternoon, the police wanted to check a house, following the investigation around the terrorist attacks in Paris. Typically Belgian, they did not have clue (!) there were people inside the house...

So their entry was greeted by shots from heavy duty arms. Three police officers were carried away, wounded. Later on, special forces came to the scene and were able to kill one of the attackers. The other two are still on the run (did they hide in a closet, too?)

Shows how good our national security works. Just like any other thing in Belgium. We pay most taxes, pay the highest bills for electriciy and gas in the world, just to mention some,  People here work hard but are forced to work even longer because the government claims they won't be able to pay the pensions otherwise. I don't know what they do with all our money. Our government still manages to have a deficit of 2,3 billion. But the rich don't have to pay high taxes and big companies can do anything they like.

Democracy, yeah, right!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I just love great voices!

Those who read my blog, will know by now that I just LOVE musical theater! My sister and I try to go and see a show as much as possible, even when it takes us to the UK, Holland or Germany.

To sing musical, you need a good voice. Not every singer could do it. Plus you need some acting qualities. That is why I'm so fond of Ramin Karimloo, who is growing into a superstar. I've met him a couple of times, and still find it astonishing how shy and polite this young man is.

So when we learned that Ramin is doing a 'One Night Only' show in London, we just had to get tickets! We were lucky we could secure good seats (this is just impossible in Belgium, I don't know why) and so we'll make a short excursion to Great-Britain's capital in July. As also 'Titanic' is being restaged around that time, we've combined the two shows.

Another one who has such a great voice is Colm Wilkinson, the Irish singer. Despite his age - he turns 72 this year - his voice still has strenght. So we'll just hop to Dublin later this year to see him perform as well. Dublin is turning into one of our favorite destinations, as we already had a trip to Dublin planned - our first one this year.

So, who is/are your favorite(s)? Don't hesitate to share.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Most kids don't know what their parents are earning

An inquiry of late shows that most kids here in Belgium don't precisely know how much - or how little - their parents are earning for a living.

Younger kids mostly don't have any clue, but even 15-year-olds and 15+ only know it partially (about 40%).

Is that a good thing? I don't think so. Communication within a family should always be clear. It's not wrong for a younger child to know the worth of money! If you don't learn how to deal with it when you're young, how will you manage later on? Especially in this age of plastic money. You use your debit or credit card - and lots of people don't know what they're spending.

I believe my parents did a good job. Even as little ones we were taught to save money. If we wanted that real cute toy (a new dress for Barbie or a new book) we had to save a couple of weeks (even months) for it! We were not given a lot of pocket-money, see. So we learned from the start it takes some time to gain money.

We also learned that you NEVER could spend more than you have. It's a good principle and even now it keeps me out of trouble. I never buy something, or order something, I can't afford! Some people are paying off one loan after the other and then the bailiff comes calling.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

First spring weekend

For a change, the weather forecast was right! We do indeed have spring in the air! For a couple of days already, the sun is out shining and when you are out of the wind, it is quite warm.

The coast got a lot of visitors this weekend, as did other outdoor activities. Here in Dendermonde, there was a run for a good cause, and there were many participants. A lot more than last year, when it was cold and raining!

This kid of weather is supposed to last a bit longer, up to next Thursday. I hope we can look forward to more nice weather, as rain is so depressing!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Learn to say 'no'

Today, the authorities have been trying to make every parent aware of the dangers of the internet and the social media.

They warn people to take care that their kids don't put pictures (especially nude ones) on the net. Because if you do, you don't have any control over that picture anymore. It can come back years later to haunt you and perhaps prevent you of getting a job.

It is important that kids are being taught about the dangers that lurk about. We don't live in a safe world - never have.

Also when I was young, there were dangers. Perhaps not the same dangers as there are nowadays, but still... As soon as we were able to understand, both parents and grandparents warned us never to accept candy (or anything else) from people we did not know. We were taught a natural distrust of anything that was out of order. We also got to know how to react if anything should happen. It has saved me from a pretty unsavoury situation when I was about 19. A man on the train (we were quite alone in the carriage) tried to rape me. If I had not known what to do and how to react, I would have been a victim. My dad had always told me to go and sit where the alarm button was. So when this man tried to put his hands on me, I got up and reached for that alarm. I told him to go, or I would pull it. He saw that I meant what I said, and went.

So you see, it's very important to learn how to say 'no'!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The unconditiional love of animals

This morning, passing by the umptieth article about refugees or bad politics (!), I came by this touching article in my daily newspaper.

The story was about a penguin, which travels 8,000 km each year to see the person it was raised by.

Brazilian Jaoa Pereira de Souza, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, found a pinguin more dead than alive some years ago. He brought the bird to his home and looked after it, until it was fit to swim away once more.

But look and see, after some time he was walking on the beach, and 'his' pinguin came to greet him! From then on, the pinguin visits Jorge each year. The animils travels more than 8,000 km for that reason, from its nesting grounds in the southern tip of Argentina, to Rio de Janeiro!

People at the Antwerp Zoo say this is not uncommon. They say that pinguins tend to form a good relationship with their caretakers. So they can easily believe this story, as the pinguin - nicknamed Dindim by Jorge - considers the man as part of its family. Jorge is also the only person who's allowed to touch the pinguin. He can take it in his hands and play with it.

Cute, eh?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Call the Midwife

Will be watching this season's finale of Call the Midwife (in delayed view). "Call the Midwife" is a BBC1 series about a group of midwives in Poplar, East London, during the 1950's and 1960's.

I quite like this series, as it shows very well how life was in those days. The young women who work as midwives live at Nonatus House, an establishment runs by nuns. They each have a bicycle, which they can use to reach their patients. After a while, they get help from Dr. Turner, who is a widower with a little son. He falls in love with one of the sisters, who then leaves her veil and becomes his wife. It's not all about the midwivery, there are also lines about the private lives of the nurses.

People living in the 21st century and under the age of 55, will not realize how different life was in the mid-twentieth century. I was born in 1956, my sister in 1960. In the town where our parents live(d) you wouln't see the same situations as in the BBC series. There were midwives working still, but women of the better-off folk had their children in hospital. Both my sister and I were born there, in safe environments. But my grandma had her kids at home - just like in Poplar. I remember she once told me she was doing the big washing of linen (which was done by hand once a week) when she got cramps. She dropped her washing, had the baby - and returned to the washing! That was my mother's youngest brother, who was born in 1932.

I have seen a lot of change in the course of my lifetime. Often, my students ask me to tell something about 'then' when we have a couple of minutes left of the classes. I can tell them about the telephones, the coming of TV, the cassette-recorders (!), the pick-ups, the first computers in the 1980's, the coming of the internet...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

International Women's Day

Today women are in the spotlight. Unfortunately, even in this 21st century women are not treated equally to men.

Even in our western world, women are treated unfair, considering wages and pension. Not to speak of countries were women are still treated as cattle, or a possession of which can be disposed at will.

We do have the right to vote, we can work (even if our pay is less than that of a man), we can go into politics, ... But you don't see too many women leading a company, or being boss of a big organisation. If they are, they have to prove themselves double.

But we also are held responsible for the housekeeping,.. How many men do chores at home? It's slowly changing, but there are still families where hubbie sits before the telly and the little wife does all the work! I have never thought that ironing, cleaning and cooking are the sole responsibility of a woman. At my home, whoever was at home did what was needed. My dad could cook, sew, clean, ... just as well as my mum.

So, how is the situation where you are? Are women treated equal, or not?

Monday, March 7, 2016

First snow of the year

Normally, we should be heading towards spring right now. But look and see: this morning we woke up - and it was snowing!

The snow came down really hard, too. Most regions in the north of Belgium got caught in it, and of course it caused major delays on the road. Pavements were rather slippery and you had to watch where you were going.

Luckily, by noon, the sun was out once more and the snow disappeared quickly.

Yeah, March can be tempestuous! Because, believe it or not, our weather bureau claims we'll have temperatures up to 15-20 degrees Celsius by the coming weekend!!!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Camping before the schoolgates

Have you ever heard of this phenomenon? Here in Flanders, parents camp before the schoolgate in order to enlist their kids for next school year.  In most (good) schools, spaces are limited, and so parents want to make sure their offspring has its spot in the classroom.

Especially in bigger cities, this is a problem. In Antwerp, Ghent, Sint-Niklaas. Sometimes, parents camp for a couple of days before the school, not to miss their entry when the gates open for inscriptions. There are afraid to get to the bathroom, lest they should lose their spot!

How crazy is this? When I was a kid, this was not a problem. We could go to any school we liked.

Do you have the same problem where you live???

Friday, March 4, 2016

Bad hair

I really don't know what to do with my hair anymore!

I have very thin hair, good for nothing. When it grows it gets a curl here and there (which also doesn't look well). When I was a twenty-something, I had a sort of Afro coupe. Lots of curls by permanent wave. That looked well, but hey, can you see a (nearly) 60-year-old having such a hairdo?

I've tried letting my hair grow, no effect. Now I have it cut very short. Also not good enough.

What the alternative? Shaving my head and buying a wig? Problem is my head is pretty small (child-size) so I won't find anything that fits, until it's custom-made and I don't have the kind of money for it.

If someone who read this has any suggestions, please don't hesitate to share!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Do we need more patience?

Sometimes my hair stands on end when I read something in the newspaper. This morning there was an article about a government organisation where you can place a complaint against one or other service.

The head of the department said they'd been getting more and more complaints in recent years. But, he says, PEOPLE NEED TO BE MORE PATIENT.

Now that doesn't sit too well with me. That person said that years ago, we found it normal our pc only began to work after ten minutes or longer. Doesn't he know that times have changed???

Everything works faster, and so should government services. But often they work with personel still thinking it's the 50's! (My sister and I call them 'Marie-Jeanne's' after a woman who used to work with us and was so terribly slow she only did a day over an amount of work we could finish in 15 minutes.)

Had the same problem a couple of days ago. Some governmental organistion needs to transfer money into my account, and I still haven't received it. I called them yesterday and they said "there was a slight problem" - yeah, someboby obviously forgot to make the transfer!

So, no I don't think we need to be patient any longer. If we have a question or problem, it should be responded to as soon as. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Trump for President?

After Super Tuesday it's more or less sure that Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate, going against Hillary Clinton.

Now I'm Belgian so politics don't interest me overmuch. I know things never change a lot, not here, probably nowhere. Politicans can promise as much as they want, in the end they have to face the same problems as their predecessors.

But in the United States elections are a different thing, right? I remember from my stay in Sacramento as a youngster that my 'sister' Terry was very much interested in what was going on in politics.

I wouldn't know who to vote for. I don't know these candidates. Only thing I know is that Donald Trump almost ran us over with his car by ignoring a traffic light in Aspen, Colorado (he was then with Marla Maples). You should have seen the look on the guy's face when my sister 'politiely' pointed to the light... Well, if he becomes President than we have a story.

So what do you Americans think? Who would make the best president? Don't hesitate to comment on this.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Typically Belgian!

We Belgians are famous for our being able to find ways around a problem... and for evading taxes (no wonder, we pay most of them in the world!).

No rule or there is a way around it, we think. Take Eric Vekeman from Zegelsem (a village in East-Flanders). He was married and his wife had a shop. But the wife died and after a while Eric wanted to transform the space for the shop into a garage. But he did not get a permit, as the buildings in his village are protected.

So Eric began to think how he could solve his problem. He did not like to leave his car outside. So he figured out a way to make a wall turn. You see how it works in the picture underneath;

He put the window on a metal frame and also the brick wall under it. So now he can drive his car into the space, and close up once more. Only problem is he has to do it by hand - he's still thinking about how to motorize the construction.

Pretty clever, eh? And the best part is, nobody can do anything against it, as the front of the house remains the same.