Happy New Year ... from Scotland

It's been one hell of a year but here I am, relatively relaxed and writing from a pub over in Scotland.  I have two weeks to spend with my favourite people.

They're living way out in the back of beyond, and so we're forced to pop in to pubs in the area for internet connections.  Not wanting to be rude, we also sample the whisky and play pool too.  

The locals are lovely. I'm adjusting to the weather ... kind of.  I can finally feel my feet today but the guys here just assured me that there's snow due on Sunday.   We've already had snow.  The 26th was quite white. We've also had two big storms ... Storm Barbara, then Storm Connor (I think).  

I'm not sure about all the granite here. But even so, the architecture is cute ... as seen below.   I love my Ligurian life and will be glad to get back to the colour and noise of Genova but it's good here too.  And so very superb to catch up with Miss 12 and her mum.  

I've been clearing backlogs of photographs, a few sets waiting for time and concentration.

I'm so happy to write that, after 2 months or more of the most disgusting, long-lasting cold/flu-thing I've ever had, I'm no longer sick.  Being here, living quietly, is partially about building up my strength again.   It's the right place for that. 

Wishing you all the very best things in 2017, and let's see where the next year takes me ... 

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December Snow, Antwerp

We were enjoying a mild winter we thought.  Frosts hadn't really arrived ... until suddenly.  Then we had snow.

It awakened the Grinch in me and yes, I complained, mightily.  I'm just not good at northern hemisphere Christmases.  And so I've remained quiet here while working my way through it all.

A photograph taken from the window behind me when I'm at my desk.

Winter Blue ...

I posted, over on Facebook, that some friends in Genova will no longer believe me when I tell them I go there to escape the grey skies of Belgium.  Roberto and Doris flew in from Liguria on Monday, just as a high pressure weather system stalled over us.  They have enjoyed deep blue skies these last 3 days ...

We have had our first frosts here but a lot can be lived with if deep blue skies are involved.  I mentioned the fact that I had laundry drying on the clothes-line outside ... not completely drying but still, it was out and it was drying some, and she asked if I had photographed my lovely December clothes-line.

The thing is, once I pick up my camera, the difficulty is in putting it down again.  So rather than simply photograph sheets and duvet covers drying on my clothes-line outside, I wandered round our little pocket-sized garden.  I noticed the honeysuckle has been fooled into flowering again and that the raspberry leaves look rather divine in their autumn state. 

And so, a collage ...


It's been on odd going away on adventures not of my own making ... to places I hadn't dreamed of but it's been grand.  Absolutely excellent, in fact.

I've spent most of these last two months traveling, oftentimes feeling like Alison in Wonderland.  So ... if I haven't been exploring beautiful new locations and meeting most excellent people, I've been unpacking and preparing for the next big adventure.

Nicaragua was mentioned today but I have heard stories of wildlife I don't care to meet there and so now it is that I must prepare to face a Belgian winter ... it's here.  Oh how Belgium embraces that rotten season, wringing every last drop of greyness and misery out and dumping it over us here in the flatlands.  Our previous winter lasted into July, more or less, if I'm telling the story. 

I feel gloomy today, as darkness began descending much earlier than I recall it descending way back in August when my travels began.

Belgians have already told me of yesterday, that sunny day I spent in Paris ... was pure misery over here in Antwerp.  I feel like I should stockpile some vitamin D, and buy up all new material that slightly superb Australian, Tim Minchin, produces during this new season that I do not, in any way, enjoy.

Winter continues ...

I cleared about 10cms of snow and ice from the sidewalk this morning ...

Winter continues but perhaps I am beginning to wake, to shake off this winter lethargy, inspired by the kindness of old friends and new. I've been living a hermit's life lately, curling up in the cave of this Antwerpen winter.

Midday found Diana and I  chatting on skype, bringing each other up to speed and talking of winter and workshops.  I find her writing inspirational and this blog post helped shine a little light in on the greyness here.

And the other day ... the day after the day of drama and sadness, Miss 8 convinced me about buying the beautiful Nepalese shawl you see pictured below.  It's a little like wearing my own private version of the sun.

We discovered Nepal Handicrafts on Hoogstraat which is part of our 'pretty way home'.  Miss 8 and I share a passion for finding the most beautiful ways to reach home ... the prettiest way to go anyplace really.  The journey is our destination and we must, if possible, enjoy it.

We have an animal spelling game for the days that are bleak and the trams full.  She starts with 'elephant', for example, and then I have to find an animal whose name begins with the last letter of her animal.  More research is required as we're running out of animals known to us.  It helps that we both have Dutch spelling too but the tram journey is oftentimes longer than our memory or knowledge.

I feel more posts are long overdue.  Life goes on and the sadness that has filled me simply must go.  It's time.


So yeah ... it's snowing again.

I took the photograph on 13 March but looking out from my window today, the scene is exactly the same. 

March 20, 2013 and it's snowing.  As I set out across the city on the school run at 7.20am it was all about the umbrella, the correct amount of layers to protect us from the wet cold rain.  On the return, lost in a book on the tram, I looked up and discovered that 'outside' had turned into yet another horrid snowy winter's day.

To try and break the misery that is Antwerp this winter, Gert and I disappeared over to France, to the summer playground of the Parisians ... on a cheap Sunday night deal last weekend.  It rained but I was on a roadtrip and has always delighted me.

Although ... he had fallen on ice last week and sprained his wrist.  Slowly slowly he is healing.  The roads here are lethal in snow and ice, especially the shiny new bricks they've laid on the round-abouts.  He fell crossing the one near home.  We were talking on the phone at the time, and I was feeling particularly miserable after making a freezing cold, roadwork-infested, cross-city trek.

There's nothing quite like hearing the Belgian bloke crash to the ground and lie groaning while seperated by  more than a few kilometres.  I arrived home just in time to head off to A&E with him.  Oh yes, that was a long day.

I suspect I shall be giddy with delight when the temperature goes up and the snow finally stops because it really is Spring.  And rumour has it that these 2 hour city treks will be over as of the Easter holidays.  I really need them to be.  Antwerp, and its current mania for both roadworks and house improvements that seriously impede any progress along the pathways and tramways I take, is a bit like having my own seriously dark and snow-filled cloud over my head at all times.

And so, on that happy note .... tot straks.