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.

Winter in Antwerp ...

These mornings, returning from the 7.30am school run, I stink of the pollution that's out there in this city. 

It was -10 celsius today, with frozen snow everywhere, and the 100,000+ per-day highway that cuts the city in half was roaring with traffic from all over Europe.  My hair and my skin stink of the fumes.  It reminds me of Istanbul on its worst polluted days, that city of 14 million+ but here there are no sea winds to blow the hugely polluted air someplace else.

They tell us that the weather will continue to hover around minus 10 overnight, rising to zero celsius, if we're lucky, with some more cold-cold coming over the weekend.

And so it is, winter in Belgium.  I might just concentrate on those photographs taken back in New Zealand.  This plant was spotted down in the garden of Christine's parents ...


Winter in Antwerp ...

It has been difficult to return to this European winter ... return from swimming and wading at various beaches all over New Zealand.  Difficult to return from a country where you squint in the sun  ... to a country where the sun makes an occasional appearance.

Difficult ... yes.  Very.

But I filled my life with projects, as is my way.  And they're all EXCITING.

And there are lots of projects because other people are so interesting however ... there's only one of me and this attempt to not miss New Zealand has become a nightmare of a workload. 

I have 5 major projects.  These last two days have been spent, head-in-hands oftentimes, as I recognise that I might have over-committed myself, in ways that I seem to specialise in.

Each project is brilliant.  Some have been underway for a while.  Some involve 1,000s of photographs I have yet to process.  Others are future plans that excite the hell out of me.

Anyway, here's a glimpse from the other day when I wandered into the city in search of boots for the snow.  I found these boots and they were cheaper than the price listed here ... half price in fact. 

And the guy that sold them to me was the nicest guy.  We chatted about the countries we come from while I shopped for my boots.  A huge thank you has to go to him because shopping in Antwerp isn't always fun and the people aren't always friendly.  When I find the receipt, I'll come back and tell you which shop I bought them in ... so you can pop in too.

And so it is ...

Snow has arrived here in Antwerp.

It's cold, damn cold.  I woke at 3am and padded through the house, trying to work out if I could turn the heating up.  It goes way down at night. It was 14 celsius inside ... it didn't feel quite right. 

It's snowing again as I write this meanwhile a tram derailed over on the Leftbank here and it's a little messy when it comes to getting past Central Station on Tram 5.  But I need more Nespresso coffee capsules, just till a delivery can be made.

Sigh.  I'm going to get snowed on. 

In good news, my voice recorder arrived in the mail today.  Interviews can happen again.  I lost mine in New Zealand and was so sad.  I am so careful with my equipment, so very careful usually.

Anyway ... outside just now.

A New Post on the Antwerp page

There has been a real sense of storing impressions ... of really looking, as I walk city streets in these days before flying back home to New Zealand ...

This is the opening to a new blog post I wrote for Fans of Flanders, and posted on my Antwerp page but even as I write this here, I'm thinking maybe I need to create a New Zealand page.

I'll leave you with another image from New Zealand photographer, and good friend, David Wall.

Must finish packing ... tot later.


View from the MAS Museum, Antwerp

I went out into the city searching for beauty today.  It had started well this morning ... there was blue sky and sunshine but I moved too slowly and voila, by the time I left the house, it was grey.

A few weeks ago, I had made one fast family visit to Antwerp's relatively new MAS museum and had found myself wondering whether the top floor might not feed my need for a view.  It's not bad but, by crikey, it's flat here. 

Winter ...

Today, meanwhile, is a day of editing.  I have 2 big projects and a third smaller project to work through.  Miss 7 needs picked up from her new school way across the city and I foolishly just checked out the temperature.  It was -10 celsius at 9am.  The sky is grey, the ground in the backyard is white ... but more because the snow of a few days ago has frozen and frozen and frozen again.  They're talking of more today snow ... we kind of hope so because it pulls the temperature up. 

I rarely take off my thermal underwear in these days, and it's all about multiple layers when stepping outside.  The only question is whether to wear the leather and sheepskin coat, the one that weighs about as much as an adult polar bear, or the long black boiled-wool coat, with a polarfleece underneath. 

And then there's the hat, and scarf, the good gloves, and hiking boots, and woollen socks too.  Did I tell you it's cold here?  So very cold. 

But ... the days are getting longer!  We're hanging onto that.  The shortest days fell in the mild days of winter.  Now it's all down and dirty, weatherwise, but we have more light.  It makes things more bearable.

To work.

These Freezing Days in Antwerp ...

Wiinter has finally arrived.  I've been trying to ignore it, despite preferring that the seasons come and go in a natural way, however ... minus 20 celsius is simply rude.

And I wouldn't know about -20 celsius (reached due to a -11 frost the other day and combined with windchill factor) but I sometimes get to do the 2 hour-round-trip that is getting Miss 7 to school this year.  4 trams and some brisk walking.  A trip that involves a leather and sheepskin coat that weighs as much as an adult polar bear (my estimate in terms of weight) and multiple layers, with hiking boots, hat, gloves, and a scarf.

Tomorrow we have to be out the door by 7.30am and this morning, the radio weather people predicted a temp of -20 celsius.  I'm not excited about this.  I arrive home completely drained by the freezing cold bleak cityscape.  As I write this, at 9.31am, I checked in on my old blog and the weather there ... it's still -11.

I phoned Gert.  He works in one of the old guild houses in the city ... the pipes are frozen there.  They

have no water.  He's a bit glum too. 

However,the sun is shining. The heaters at home are working.  I did pick up my camera in an attempt to ward off thinking of the fact I have to race across the city later this afternoon.  I did see some nice light outside.  It's the view out the window behind me, here at my desk. 

Yes that is snow. 

Yes really, many Belgian home owners don't clear snow from the pavements outside their house.

Yes, walking anyplace here at the moment is increasingly treacherous as it freezes and freezes.

Well yes ... Monday is feeling kind of challenging, actually.  I'm here trying to write myself into a better mood.  It's not working, is it :-)

My very first newsletter is due out tomorrow.  If you would like to take a look, leave a comment and I will forward you a copy.  The first is going out to Everyone I know ... just that one time, then you are welcome to subscribe if it seems like something you would like to continue receiving.

And now ... to work.  Tot ziens.

Autumn means Easter to Me ...

I’m not sure my unconscious will ever adjust to this upside-down life in the northern-hemisphere.

The leaves are changing colour and we’re waiting for our first frost which means ... it’s almost Easter.  But no, that was a New Zealand thing.  Here it’s already mid-October. although Belgium had been enjoying high temperatures as late as last week. 

I took the bike out this afternoon, needing to stretch. I took myself and my camera into the park on our beautiful day.  We’re blessed with this city park, and mostly I love it even while struggling to forget the massively busy European motorway right next door, the motorway that, if I wake in the night, sounds like a Spring tide at Tautuku, on the lower East Coast of New Zealand.

Anyway, today it was pretty.  There was a blue heron down at one of the many ponds, hanging out with the big white geese and the ducks.  The moles hills were there mocking mans efforts to tame nature too.  I love those moles ... there to remind us, surely, that we’re not quite able to tame and maintain everything out there in the natural world.

On the way home ... in Belgium

Nina’s Ornamental blog is the place I wander to when I’m in need of that feeling I found in New Zealand.

I used to live in this funny little cottage with huge windows on the edge of a harbour, and I had a beach for each mood back in Dunedin.  And there was a creek my Labrador and I ran away to when we lived in the mountains beside Fiordland National Park.  Lake Te Anau did just as well. 

There was a tiny road that twisted and turned, taking us to a small bay in Marlborough Sounds while we lived on the Airforce Base in Blenheim, and there once was a place where the mighty Clutha River flowed into a smaller quieter side-stream and that became ‘our place’ while we were living in Cromwell ... although some days we’d throw off our responsibilities and race through the Kawara Gorge to visit the Arrow River in Arrowtown. 

My dog was a wanderer too and travelled all over New Zealand with us.  She died at 16.

I always had a special place and a dog in New Zealand.  Here, in Belgium, I miss the wild peace of home.  Just ‘being’ in Nature is far more difficult, perhaps because Nature is much less powerful by virtue of so many centuries of ‘civilisation’. 

I’m looking for a golden labrador crossbred with some kind of sheepdog because I’ve had labradors since I was 9 and the best was a crossbreed.

Meanwhile I couldn’t resist parking my bike and taking this photograph because the scenery on the way from the new house to the old apartment is nothing to sneeze at ...
Tot straks from Belgium.

Cafe Stanny, Antwerp

I had passed by Cafe Stanny on the train as I travelled to and from Brussels city, and I have slid by it via the Number 8 tram so many times but I had never quite managed to step off and visit its red and welcoming friendliness.

Today, I had no destination in mind, I was simply escaping a really bad day and so there was nothing to lose as I climbed off Tram 8 with my small travelling laptop.

Cafe Stanny’s lunch menu is diverse enough to offer something for everyone, with soups, breads with a range of fillings and things I can’t quite remember. I chose a most divine bacon and onion omlette for lunch and it came with a soft brown heavily-grained bread that was delicious.

The music indicates good taste (an important criteria when wandering, laptop in hand). The atmosphere, now that it is summer, is open door with benches both inside and out. The staff were friendly and the decor lovely - appealing and a tug on the strings of memory for this kiwi so far from home. A deep blue bar/counter with stools, and stools along the high tables at the two large windows in the front.

Back in winter, I remember being attracted to the warmth of Cafe Stanny’s red exterior and the promise of its fogged up windows, clients bicycles piled up outside calling to me in but I was rushing, always rushing through that stretch of the city between here and there, I never made time to detour a little.

Cafe Stanny’s is lovely, a new favourite of mine but come see for yourself.

It’s at Stanleystraat 1, 2018 Antwerpen, located on the Tram 8 line and close to Berchem Railway Station ... seen from the train on the left side as you pull into the station (I think).
You can’t miss the red.