In Flanders fields…

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. – Rupert Brooke, 1914

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Image: Copyright Chiromancer 2017

If you read my earlier post Adventures in Benglish…you will know that I have set myself the task of adventuring across the A-Z of Belgium.  It’s a sort of therapy for me.  A way to kill my inner conflict about living here, by being a tourist and acclimatising simultaneously.

I’m not doing it in any kind of chronological order, the only requirements are:  #1 that I hit all 26 letters, and… #2 that I try to visit places that are a bit off the beaten track.

Visiting Ypres (Ieper) probably breaks condition #2, but it does cross off the letter ‘Y’ which I thought might be problematic.  As I headed out of Bruges for an appointment I spotted it on the periphery of my satnav… ‘I’ll give it a go’ I thought, as the sombre stanzas of several War Poets began running through my head…

Two things I had certainly not anticipated. #1 As a town, Ypres is a lot bigger than you think, and…#2 there are war graves everywhere. And, I mean e-v-e-r-ywhere. In fields outside of town, in the middle of residential areas, and of course at the emblematic Menin Gate (Menenpoort).   In the 1920s the Commonwealth War Graves Commission built 150 military cemeteries in and around Ypres in the honour of all those who gave their lives during WW1. I must have missed that part of the history lesson…

What I found so moving today was the realisation that it wasn’t just Germans, French, British and Belgians, who made the ultimate sacrifice, but South Africans, Algerians, Senegalese, Chinese, Indians and loads of other nationalities. A conflict to end all others… It’s estimated that half a million people died between 1914 and 1918.

Which got me thinking…it’s time I started my own inner peace talks. Sacrificing the best of who I am to bend my current world to my will isn’t working. It’s not the way forward. George Orwell wrote that ‘happiness can exist only in acceptance’.  I think he was right…

 

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!