'Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more'.

We're just in from a weekend spent in Wallonia, where the temperature dropped to below zero celsius and snow fell.  And we gathered around a huge fire in a big old house and spent our time talking with good friends.

Actually, my heart has been warmed as friends have welcomed us back to Belgium after weeks spent wandering in that New Zealand summer.

Wednesday found me out with Jurjana, my truly delicious Croatian friend here in Antwerp.  She drove me to her favourite restaurant and we enjoyed a lovely lunch and catch-up session at Patrasche, in Hoboken

Thursday and Stephanie, an English friend, came over for dinner with her daughter.  Another few hours spent talking and listening.

Friday and it was Lucy, Fiona, and Ruth.  My lovely Irish and Belgian friends.  We began as an informal Nederlands class but they have become such good friends that there was something of a 'coming home' feeling as I arrived at Fiona's house.  Actually, we don't really speak in Nederlands anymore .... but, by crikey, we always have a most excellent time when we get together.

And this weekend was the icing on the cake.  We wandered over to the New Zealand/Belgian/American household, over there on the other side of Belgium, and the snow fell and our wandering souls were surely warmed.

We're back in Belgium where its winter.

Sometimes ... I just get quietly lost

…And that’s why i have to go back
to so many places
there to find myself
and constantly examine myself
with no witness but the moon
and then whistle with joy,
ambling over rocks and clods of earth,
with no task but to live,
with no family but the road.

Pablo Neruda

I found Pablo Neruda's words in my inbox, via The Quotationist, and I thought 'yes'.  Sometimes I just need 'the road' because ...

These days have been dizzy, giddy, fast-moving days.  And in recognition of the pace and insanity, I am quietly developing this habit of throwing myself back at my bed on a Sunday - to read and nap and sleep and rest because I have been tired.

I returned from Italy and stepped straight into 10+ days with the delightful Miss 7.  She had 8 of those days off school but we read a lot of Harry Potter, walked in the park, talked about interesting things and maybe we had quite some fun.

My stepdaughter arrived for a few days too.  And I was cleaning and cooking and slipping back into this life while trying not to think about the fact that my daughter and her daughter are moving countries soon. 

I'm fortunate.  Their destination is no longer that small South American village, reachable only by horseback ... that place where tarantulas and scorpions are commonplace.  And it's no longer New Zealand ... some 16,000kms away from me.

Instead, it's just next door, over in Germany.  I can do that.

Gert used his environmentally-friendly gift cheques to buy me a bicycle ... a brand new one.  The first brand new bicycle I've ever owned but that's a whole other story that needs blogging, with photographs.  I love my new bike though.

I've been putting together my book on Genova, and editing it ... because I edit.  It's not a good thing.  It may be that I'm seeking perfection ... just perfection.  So yes, I need someone to take my first draft from me, as I write, and not let me edit until the whole thing is done.  I know this thing about me but I'm not sure of the solution. 

And I have received the first draft of the story of a special wine and a family and their friends in Italy.  I can't wait to write that up and share the photographs with you.  It's one of those stories that make me smile whenever I think on it.

I have made a yoga date and hope to become a creature who rescues herself with the practice of yoga.

Paola, Simon and Matteo came to dinner on Saturday night.  It was good to sit down and catch up with them again.  They bought wine ... my beloved Banfi.  Gert cooked a pie from The Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies Cookbook.   It was lovely, although we're still experimenting with pastries here in this country that doesn't sell the New Zealand pastry I knew and loved.

On Friday, I was running all over Brussels, meeting with the most delightful people.  First stop was my accountant ... she who rescues me from the hellish complication of daring to be self-employed in Belgium.  Then on to Paola, to return her Genova keys and catch up.  And then a little further, to the inspiring New Zealand artist, wise woman, and friend, Wendy Leach.

Oh, and I sold a photograph that will be published in a book.  News to follow when that all comes to fruition.

Hmmmm, Stephanie and Catalina came to dinner last Wednesday night, and I had a tooth rebuilt on the Tuesday ... a second tooth.  I do appreciate my wonderful Belgian dentist.

There was an English church fete on Sunday with Stephanie, Catalina, Miss 7 and I ... and a phone call home to my dad because he turned 76.  And on it goes.  You see the giddy mad slide that is my life?

But I think I  must love it because nothing ever changes.  It's always kind of mad and chaotic and full of good people, and frustrations, and things slipping through my fingers, or arriving - in all their beauty - in front of me.

Anyway, all that to say that I haven't been quite so bloggy lately but I will be again ... soon.

Old Friends, Amazing People ...

I have people in my life that I have loved and adored just about forever ...

I met my friend Fiona when we were 13, first year in High School.  She was a Fairfield girl ... a bus girl, and I lived just down the road from the school.  We were both a bit nervous about that first year at this enormous high school and, I was so lucky, we became friends.

I would drag her home for lunch at my place sometimes.  Back then, she was a Cadbury's Peppy Chew addict, and introduced me to the whole range ... caramel and, I think, spearmint chews too.  They were great days though.  Phone conversations and laughter in class. 

And then ... she couldn't shake me off.  Where ever I've wandered and lived since then, the story of my friend Fiona usually comes up.  She remains the friend I would I most like to be like when I grow up.

Later, after quite some moves around the country as my first husband climbed his career ladder, I arrived at Base Woodbourne, as an officer's wife.  Oh I was wide-eyed back then, in those days on the base, as I learned the etiquette of that military life there.

Again, I met an amazing woman who went on to become another one of the big loves in my life.

Christine had been an officer's wife for a while by then. and she contacted me, even before I arrived on base.  Her husband, the lovely Peter, had recruited my husband as an education officer.  He thought I might need some support as Chris went off to train for 6 months.

We had so much fun there on the base.  I remember a million cups of tea in her sun-filled kitchen, her fabulous baking, the treasures she sewed, and much laughter.  We soon had a gang of like-minded women who did things like taking me off to the secondhand shop in town, on a sherry glass hunting expedition. We never really took anything really seriously though.

Actually, we 4 almost drowned in the base swimming pool one day.  We got the giggles at the deep end.  It was worrisome ... trying to stop laughing long enough to reach one of the sides.  We made it.

I can't remember who moved first.  We only did 4 years on that base, surrounded by some of New Zealand's top wineries ... Cloudy Bay, Alan Scott and Montana, to name a few.  I didn't drink wine back then.  I was happy to be 'the driver'.  But Christine and I stayed in touch.

I spent some time with them on the base at Ohakea.   They spent  some time with us down in Fiordland.

I'm rarely on skype but today, while catching up with Christine and Peter, Fiona and Barry came online and I went from an hour with one much-loved friend, straight into an hour with another much-loved friend.

I'm exhausted.  It was amazing.  We all laughed often, caught up on news ... my cup runneth over. It's 10.42am and here I am, exhausted.

We have made plans for when Gert and I go home in December.  Small plans, to be enlarged upon when I have our dates.  But expect to laugh a lot, talk more and probably, when I see everyone again ... I think there will be tears. 

Forza 2012!