Garden…

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Image: Alexey Khromushin | Dreamstime.com

I spent love and a fortune on renovating my old house. It was to be my ‘forever’ home. But the universe had other plans...I met The Belgian and life became a trans-continental juggle. The garden, which of course the builders had trashed, lay dormant.

2016 was one of those horrid years, where the bad news kept coming and the good stuff got lost in the haze. My garden got lost in the weeds, along with my good intentions for landscaping the plot. And yes, the universe had other plans…

Periodically, I made futile attempts to weed and plant, but to be honest my heart was not in it. Which is strange, because I love gardening. The plans of the universe?…Not so much. The task ahead seemed too daunting, too much just another thing on the ‘to do’ list of my life.

Each time I looked out of the French doors, all I saw was failure. All the things that hadn’t happened in the way I’d planned. All the things that were stuck. ‘You never realise anything’ went the negative refrain in my head as Summer, Autumn and then Winter rain pelted the house and watered the weeds.

I was determined that 2017 would be different. After what seemed like a long wait for January’s ice and frost to clear, I’m pleased to say that the garden is finished.  My contractors came and went in a whirlwind – laying a footpath and shingle, creating raised beds for planting. Ready for a new beginning.  Now when I look out of the French doors, the vista – and my mood – are transformed. Thanks, universe!  I learned a valuable lesson or two…

With the right tools, you can do anything!  One of the worst rows I’ve had with The Belgian came after we’d made a half-baked attempt to lay railway sleepers ourselves.  My garden guys had whacker plates and a digger. Voila! In half a day, they did twice as much as we did on several tiring weekends. And they did it beautifully!

When you are stuck, get help! I’d spent months planning to landscape the garden myself, against a punishing work schedule and planning a wedding to aforementioned Belgian. Crazy!  Asking someone else to carry that load was ultimately the road to sanity, not self-flagellation.

sometimes you have to start over, in order to start right. 

 

Every time we say goodbye…

blog_goodbyeImage: Dankalilly | Dreamstime.com

I hate goodbye… Whether it’s wishing my far flung family farewell, or saying ‘sayonara’ to someone special…I’m a real wuss when it comes to goodbye.

For the last two and a half years, The Belgian (a.k.a. my lovely husband) and I conducted our courtship across the English Channel. Every other weekend was spent in another country, and since we both work as consultants, our weeks were spent apart.  Long working days, long distance love, and lonely nights… It meant we crammed as much into our weekends as possible, before that dreaded Sunday moment, when – having repacked our respective suitcases – we hugged and hoped that the week would pass quickly so we could see each other again.

This Sunday, The Belgian and I hugged, and said goodbye. As he drove away, I stood in the driveway of our cottage, feeling familiarly sad, but somehow different. As I walked back to the house, I was deep in thought.  Perhaps saying goodbye is not so bad, when you know that you will see each other again. There is fondness in farewell when you realise that time apart brings the opportunity to share your adventures over a glass of wine at the weekend. Next weekend, darling! As that wise philosopher, Pooh Bear once said: ‘how lucky I am to have someone that makes saying goodbye so hard’.

The Year of the Cat…

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Image: Copyright Chiromancer

The cat – as with so many things this year – arrived in an unexpected way. The Belgian and I were enjoying a late-evening aperitif and some ‘hapjes’ (a.k.a. bar snacks) – when a skinny creature made it’s approach, miaowing plaintively.

Since we were living in two places and I was working in a third, pets were not on the agenda.  We had only just had a funeral for the gerbil so I really didn’t need another crash course in  pet care for step-parents!  

 ‘Do not feed the cat!’ I was instructed. Which of course, I was compelled to ignore. Surely a small and surreptitious snack would not do any harm? ‘He won’t leave’ The Belgian muttered. And he was right…the next night the cat arrived for another late night bite.  Clearly the cat was domesticated, so he must be someone’s pet. ‘If he is here again, I’m going to take him to the animal shelter’ said my husband, darkly.

Instead, he took the cat to the vet, got him micro-chipped, vaccinated and issued with a pet passport so he could travel.  The Belgian is nothing if not kind-hearted, and that is why I married him!  We named the cat Watson. He purrs louder than a tractor, and since his batteries must have been removed in one of his previous 9 lives, sleeps 18 hours per day. He is of course, totally perfect for us.

Sometimes in life, you get what you need, but it’s not necessarily what you thought you wanted.  Thanks Watson, for being one of the good things in 2016.

Adventures in Benglish…

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Image: Copyright Chiromancer 2016

So, I’d be lying if I said the adjustment to living in a new country where I don’t (yet) speak the language properly and recovering from severe shingles was going swimmingly.  It’s not. After another hospital appointment where the doctor barked at me in Dutch (yes, that is actually what passes for good bedside manner here, despite the excellent healthcare),  I got in my car and drove away in tears. Enough was enough and I was ready to pack my passport and hot-foot it back across the Channel to sanity…and my own GP!

As I drove back to the house, I began to wonder about why and how I was feeling like this. Of course, The Belgian (a.k.a my gorgeous husband) will tell you that I am impatient – and that feeling rubbish for such a prolonged period has brought out the very worst in this patient.  He is, of course, factually correct!  Patience is not my super-power…neither is being ill.

But there is a bit more going on here. As I drove back to the house, I reflected on what I could do to feel more at home in a role (wife, stepmom) and country (new house, new ways) which, in essence is unfamiliar to someone who has been a committed single-career-girl- about-town for so long.  So, instead of turning left, I carried on driving and took myself to the beach for a few hours. After all – I have time on my hands, so why not?

I parked up in a new place, and discovered the most amazing building. As I walked on the sand, enjoying the pale Northern sun and the emptiness of the beach, I found my antidote…to uncertainty, unfamiliarity and unhappiness. I made a decision. After all, action is the cure for despair.

What did I decide?  Well, I am going on a quest…and this being me, and the country in question being Belgium (and therefore small enough to criss-cross in a day), I am going to visit the A-Z of places in my new abode. This is entirely possible, since Belgium is half-Flemish and half-French so the likelihood of every letter of the alphabet being represented in place names is high. This being me, I am also going to pick destinations that are off the beaten track. I might be impatient, but I am certainly not conventional! I hope to document this in my blog, and while I’m doing it – rediscover my new self, and a whole lot more about this small, but interesting nation!  Perhaps you will enjoy reading my adventures, too.

P.S. The picture was taken yesterday at the Thermae Palace in O-for Oostende. I’ve crossed that letter off the list, then!

 

Up-side…down?

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IMAGE: DREAMSTIME

So it’s been a huge year so far, but that is the subject of another blog. Mostly it’s been a bit mixed. As in…Up-side! I finally got to marry The Belgian – on a crisp November day, we tied the knot in front of a select coterie of friends and family who’d travelled from across the globe. Such a happy day.

A week later…downside. I went back to work to discover my contract had been terminated because they’d restructured the project. Major bummer? Erm..no. Up-side! This meant that I could put my affairs in order and bring forward a move to Belgium to be with my husband, who has been extremely patient with his workaholic, long-distance wife.  Trust me when I say that planning a wedding when you are holding down a hectic job and living in three locations is challenging!

A day later…the lump at the back of my ear had turned into a raging case of Shingles. A.K.A. Chickenpox for grown-ups.  On my face. Definitely no up-side!  Well, apart from the fact that I was channelling a look that was the cross between Shrek and the Elephant Woman.  Oh..and the disinfectant powder and red, terminator eye made me look like some sort of crazed Halloween raccoon. Up-side?  That seemed a bit hard to find last week. And yet…

My immune system crashed and burned and the vision in my right eye is impaired. The up-side…well, the upside is that this cosmic siren call is calling time on my hectic lifestyle.  It signals a shift my priorities as much as my perspective – as in ‘work less, play more’. Life is short and we are a long time dead. Lying in a darkened room for 10 days has given me plenty of time to reflect. It’s a bit like the Hanged Man card in the Tarot – a card which in some cultures is thought to represent the Norse god Odin who suspended himself from a tree to gain wisdom. My learning? You see the world differently when your own is upside down.

Friday…

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30 Day Challenge

Friday. For most of the last 2 years Friday’s were either spent travelling to Belgium or waiting for The Belgian to make it back to Blighty. Friday marked the end of a busy working week and the start of weekend adventures – home or abroad. While I’m having some downtime between assignments, Friday is still a good day to mark the close of ‘work’ and the beginning of ‘play’.