Friday, May 31, 2013


I'm very happy to tell you that today's post is written by one of my best friends. Noreen. I met her many years ago when we were working for the same company and spent many many hours bitching about our job, and life in Belgium in general.

Noreen is Irish, married to a Flemish speaking Belgian. They have two daughters, and live in Duffel (home of the duffel coat).

If you are of a certain age and grew up in Ireland or, in fact, in any country where greeting by kissing is NOT common and reserved for very close family or friends, then you will find the Belgium custom of kissing as a bit of a minefield. Why? I hear you ask, after all you just give a quick peck on the cheek and it's all over.....oooooo Noooooo that's not how it works in Belgium, the day, the event, the person, the relationship, the cultural back ground (i.e. Flemish or Walloon [French speaking]) will all determine if, when and how many kisses you are required to give.

When I first came here and was introduced to my husband's mother and small family unit I instinctively put out my hand to shake hands, they however, took my hand and moved in for the kiss on the cheek. So there was this sort of awkward push pull movement with the hands before I realized that I had to kiss them....even though I had NEVER met them before and did NOT have a long established relationship with them. It was at this precise moment that I learnt that in Flanders (I have to speak about Flanders as this is where I live but I believe the custom is the same in Wallonia) when you meet someone for the first time the custom is to give 3 kisses. Three kisses are also required for birthdays, anniversaries, funerals, baptisms, communions, confirmations and any BIG event in the person's life. HOWEVER, sometimes this rule can change depending on the person you are meeting and this is when you realize that you have to watch carefully for the other person's body movement to ascertain if you are required to give one, two or three kisses. If you thought two kisses were enough but the person you are greeting moves in for another then my advice is to just go with the flow.

As you might imagine, with such confusion over when and how many kisses to give, I have found myself in many funny situations. The funniest situation happened to me in Dublin Airport. I had been living in Belgium for a few years and so had become used to the 'greeting by kissing' custom, and often I would forget, that in Ireland, a hearty shake of the hand is sufficient to let the person know that you are happy to meet them. So you can imagine the surprise on some people faces when I move in for the peck on the cheek, or two or three....however, by the third I would have realized that the receiver of my affection was rather confused and not happy with my gestures of love.

On one such occasion I bumped into an old friend of mine, a guy that I used to work and socialize with so our relationship was pretty good before I left Ireland, and although we hadn't kept in contact I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet him unexpectedly at the airport. So I immediately put out my hand and went in for the kiss on the cheek! Well, this was where it all got out of control. I should mention that my friend is well over 6ft tall (I'd say between 1.90m and 2.0meters) and I am only 5ft4' (1.61meters), so my upward body movement to kiss him on the cheek should have been met with his downward body movement to receive my kiss, but as he wasn't used to the Belgian custom of 'greeting by kissing' and didn't make that downward movement, my kiss landed straight on his very long and exposed neck! I don't know which one of us was more surprised, me, him or my husband who was standing beside us, looking at me strangely and thinking "doesn't she know that you greet Irish people with a handshake unless THEY make the move for the peck on the cheek".

Well, as my friend and I had never shared such an intimate relationship before, that fact that it happened in public with my husband as a voyeur, left us both red-faced and embarrassed and we tried to pretend that it never happened and that there was nothing awkward about the situation. When leaving, where in Belgium, it is also customary  to kiss goodbye, I just quickly turned away and said "ok bye now" and legged it as quick as I could. There and then I vowed NEVER to 'greet by kissing' another person unless they made the first move and after 14 years of living in Belgium I have become very adept at reading the 'greet by kissing' body language.

The reason for all the confusion is that not all Belgians follow the same rules. Sometimes they will give you one kiss, and then the next time it might be two, or maybe they have also become skilled at reading the "greet by kissing" body language and so it is me that is causing the confusion. To add to all of this, many Belgian men will greet other Belgian men by kissing but then this is only customary among some Belgian men and more common I am told in Wallonia. As you can imagine when I initially arrived here and started working in Brussels to see my male colleagues greet each other in the lift with a kiss was a surprise. Last year I was reminded of it again, when my very Catholic and reserved mother and some of my Irish friends came to Belgium to help me celebrate one of my birthdays and everyone was "greeting-by-kissing" at Charleroi airport because they were in mainland Europe and it was very acceptable, and my mother, having been pecked on the cheek more times in one hour than she had been in her entire life, asked me privately on the way home in the car "what is all the kissing for? Can they not just shake hands!"

It would indeed make life very easy if, in Belgium, we just all shook hands, but like many Belgian customs that I have come to love and adapt as my own, I like the 'greeting by kissing' custom. Perhaps my friends don't, or at least don't like greeting me, as I know many of them have ended up with a mouthful of my long curly hair, another obstacle to maneuver when 'greeting by kissing', and which I promise, right now, dear friends, to pull it out of the way when next we meet. I'm just happy really that I don't live in South Africa where the custom is to 'greet by kissing ON THE LIPS'. What would my poor mother think of that then?

image via Google images

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Random rambling Thursday

‘Hot in Cleveland’

Well it was for the Red Devils as the Belgian side is known locally. They beat the US men’s team 4 -2 in last night’s friendly game in front of 9700 spectators at the Energy First stadium in Cleveland. (Soccer, for those of you who didn’t know).

‘Overheard in the car’
'Nobody makes me bleed my own blood! Nobody!' White Goodman, Dodgeball - quoted by Tiger on the way to school.

 ‘Bart Simpson in court’

I guess it was only a matter of time before it was going to happen. In Warwick Crown Court (U.K) a Company Director Barton Simpson, 56 stood trail in front of Mr. Recorder Burns for carrying a .38 Smith and Weston revolver in his luggage on a flight from Birmingham airport to Croatia.

‘It’s raining cash’

Zedelgem, Belgium - During a police chase last week a safe was ‘thrown’ at the police. Said safe then burst open sending about a million euro flying.  As you can imagine people in the surrounding area swarmed in to pick up as much of the cash as possible.  Consequently the police have issued a request that people return the money, reminding the inhabitants of the fact that innocent people in the neighboring town were now out of a million euro. You really should read the full article here.

 images via Google images.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WWTK - Knowing you, knowing me ....

Wednesday! We are ½ there people ... the weekend is in sight!
And, yes, it is time to link up with Scriptor and Kenzie for WWTK.

Incognitus Scriptor

It's so easy anyone can do it, even you. Just follow these simple rules:
1. Follow both Scriptor & Kenzie
2. Include the super cute button in your post
3. Link-up and spread the word
4. Last, but by no means least, have fun!

Here are my answers:

{no. 1} If we met up for coffee what would we talk about?
The terrible spring we are having, I can't seem to stop complaining about it. And about what long hours Himself is putting in at the pub and how the kids and I miss him and how I wish there was something that I could do to make his life easier. And how I'm hoping and wishing that his big business venture will really take off without us having to constantly deal with dishonest people in this world.

{no. 2} What is one great thing that has happened to you this month?
We had access to a second car for two weeks, it was bliss, as long as it lasted.

{no. 3} Where is the last place you went?
I'm not quite sure how to answer this. Since I tend to go to all the same places, all the time. Work, home, school, soccer/swimming for the kids.

{no. 4} If you could meet up with one or two bloggers who would they be?
I would have to say I would love to meet up with so many but especially with Colleen & Amber. Since Sarah has just moved to London it is only a matter of time before we meet up.

{no. 5} What are your pet peeves?
Rude people, people who don't use their indicators ... the list can go on and on ....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Do you suffer from any phobias?

I suffer from claustrophobia.  It's never been terribly bad, I just don't like my arms to be pinned down and I can't watch people on TV if they are stuck in air vents.
However I think it is getting worse.  I got stuck in an elevator / lift at work the other day.  It took every bit of self control not to freak out and for the rest of the week I took the stairs. Luckily I'm on the 6th floor and not the 16th.

Yesterday I had to take the car through the car wash. Let me tell you it is something that I don't want to do any time soon again. It was horrible!   I felt nauseous and like I couldn't breath. Even after it was all over and I was driving along the highway I was still feeling like that. And it is stupid cause logically I know that of course I can breath and that thousands if not millions of people use a car wash on a daily basis. Plus have you ever heard of someone actually dying in a car wash? That only happens in the movies and then they are either stabbed or strangled or shot. 

Just looking at this makes me feel sick!

I don't get any sympathy from Himself either. He just thinks I'm being illogical and need to get over myself which is annoying cause I know it is true.

(image via Google images)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Yesterdays 'Friday Fashion'

Yesterday afternoon I had Cat take a couple of photos of me for my 'Friday Fashion' post ...ha ha ... do you think I was able to post it? For some reason when I published my post the writing appeared but no pictures. 

Just goes to show, people who know as little about fashion as I do should not attempt to publish fashion posts. Even Blogger agrees.

Anyway, the real reason why I wanted to do a 'fashion' post was to show you just how lovely our spring weather is. Yesterday was a 'balmy' 7 / 44 degrees! No jokes. It had stopped raining for just long enough for me to take the pictures and take the dogs for their walk before the heavens opened up again.

I'm not the only person who has had enough of the weather. One of the local radio stations QMusic ran a 'shit weather' afternoon show. They even played a 'shit weather top 40'. Top 3:

3. RIHANNA - Umbrella
2. ADELE - Set Fire To The Rain
1. ICE MC - It's A Rainy Day

To say we are all more than ready for spring/summer is the understatement of the year.

Poor Himself is as sick as a dog, I think it is more the crazy long hours that he has been working than the weather but the weather is not helping either.  He was home at about 1 this morning, but the pub is buzzing so a friend took over for a couple of hours to just let him get some sleep.

And so, without further ado, here is my attempt at 'fashion pictures':

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Could you give up your phone?

Time flies when you are having fun ... well I'm not so sure about the having fun part but time is really flying! What is up with that?

Anyway, I'm linking up with Kenzie and Scriptor today.

Incognitus Scriptor

Do you want to join the fun? It is super easy. All you have to do is:
1. follow both Kenzie & Scriptor (aka Incognitus scriptor)
2. inlcude the super cute button in your post
3. link-up & spread the word
4. last but not least - have fun!

Here are my answers to this weeks questions:

--Questions & Answers--

1.) How connected are you to your phone? Do you always have it on you?

I have it with me all the time but it is ancient so I only use it to call or text.

2.) Would you be able to be away from your computer for an entire week?

If it was just a normal week, at home, heck no! But if we were away on vacation at the beach, yeah easily.

3.) If you had to get rid of one of the following, which would it be and why? Cell phone, computer, or TV?

TV - not because I don't watch TV, I'm pretty much a TV addict, but because I was all my TV shows on my laptop.

4.) Do you think you could ever live "off the grid"?

I don't know. Probably not. At times I think it might be nice, but then I have to be brutally honest and admit that I like technology and all that it enables too much. Plus since we live very far away from most of our family it is essential for keeping in touch.  If the whole entire world were to become cut-off like in Revolution I guess you would get used to it and life might have been simpler in some ways before the rise of technology but you can't stuff the genie back in the bottle, can you.

5.) Tell us about a time you disconnected from technology/the world and how you dealt with it. Was it good or bad?

I don't think it has ever happened in the past, say 15 years of my life. Not totally anyway. Even on vacation there has always been TV to check & keep up with what is going on in the world. Plus I also read newsletters as much as possible to stay up to date even when on vacation.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

WWTK -- Back to high school

I know, I know, I'm a day late, again ... hey, I live on the other side of the world.

This week Kensie and Scriptor wants to know all about high school.

 photo WWTKbutton-1-1_zps2077872a.jpg

1.) How were you as a student?

Mmh lets just say that if I were to go back to school today, knowing what I know now, I probably would have worked a little harder. I was not the worst student but I was by no means a straight A student.
2.) What was your favorite subject and did you excel in it?
English & Geography - Loathed Math, still suck at it.
3.) What - if any - is your fondest school years memory? 
I have loads of good memories from high school. That is, after all when I finally met Himself. But I went to a really small school, on a farm so everyone knew everyone. Plus we got into loads of trouble for some rather innocent pranks and behaviour.

This photo was taken my last year of high school - it is the entire school plus staff. I'm in the top row

4.) Did you attend college and if so, how was that experience?
I did not. Was accepted for teachers training but before I got there things changed and I never did go.
5.) Would you go back to school - be it in person or online - if you could? (Or to earn another degree?)
I have thought about doing it quite a bit over the years but we've either never had the funds for it or just not the time. Plus, someone in our house needs to hold down a 'normal' 9 - 5 job

Now, if you haven't yet linked up do, it's fun.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Grab a cuppa, this is a long post

Hi!  It is not often that I sit and blog with a cup of tea at my kitchen table. O that the house is this quiet.

Cat is on school camp for the week. She left yesterday morning in a flurry of excited tension and then when she was on the bus looking out of the window she showed me that she had taken photos of all of us with her. One of me and her when she was about 4, one of Himself and Tiger when he was a baby and one of Himself and I taken years ago.

I can't wait to hear all the stories when she gets back on Friday.  Just hope she doesn't come back sick. The weather is really not great, wet and not warm at all. We are sitting about 56F or 14 C.

Tiger is also not at school today, the teachers are having another teacher training day which means no school for the kids. We have another coming up in June.  Needless to say he is really enjoying being a only child this week.

And for a quick re-cap of our past weekend.

Thursday was Ascension day. So the kids and I went to a 1st Communion party.  Himself had to work at the pub ... I think he was secretly happy to have a valid excuse not to go. He is terrible like that.

In the end both kids left with other people.  Cat went to Noreen for a sleepover and Tiger had a sleepover at another South African lady house. She has two boys.  This was quite handy cause I meant that I didn't have to go home after the party I could just go straight to the pub to pick Himself up ..... well, we closed at about 3.

Friday I spent the day driving around with Himself getting stock and doing banking etc before going to pick the kids up in Antwerp and Duffel.

I have no idea what we did on Saturday. Drawing a total blank...oops. But I know how it ended.  I spent Saturday night doing the ironing.  I finished at about 1 in the morning and decided to relax just bit before calling Himself to hear what time I was to pick him up.  But after the previous late nights I decided to leave the main light on in the bedroom and just to take off my shoes, you know, not get too comfortable. Called and he said to be there by 3. So I started watching an episode of something on the computer ..... checked my watch, it was 2 which meant I had to leave in 30 min. At 3 Himself rang to ask where I was. Failed, I fell asleep.

Anyway, I pulled on my shoes and raced to the pub, well race is an over statement. It was pouring with rain and all the drunk drivers were out so you really can't drive too fast. (ps. in case you are worried about the kids, we still have someone staying with us so they were not left home alone).

Got to the pub at 3:30, helped clean up the last couple of glasses. We left there at about 4. Then Himself told me that we had to go pick Jellen & Kim up and take them to the airport just after 5. Their flight to Miami was moved forward by 24 hours. So we drove to their place via the 24 hour MacDonald's. And sat outside their house waiting for some movement. 

In the end Himself took them to the airport in our car while I went home in their car.  Let me tell you, my bed felt sooo good! 

I was up a couple of hours later, the kids had a Mothers day gift for me, which really surprised me cause I know how little time Himself has had to do anything like going shopping.  And since it was Mothers day I made some crumpets for breakfast (they are like pancakes but smaller). And then I had to rush out the door.

Tiger had a soccer tournament so it was decided that I would work in the pub while Himself took Tiger to soccer.

I finally made it back home at 9 o clock. Long day.  

I knew having the pub again was going to take up a lot of time but I forgot quite how tired you get. I feel so bad for Himself, his knees are killing him. (He broke both knees playing rugby many years ago so all this standing is not enjoyable).  But it looks like this is going to work. Once Jellen and Kim are back from their vacation they will also start doing some shifts which will help. In the mean time we are trying to come up with a new name for it.

Right, this post was quite a bit longer than planned. Sorry if I bored you to death.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What day is it again? ...

Today is Monday  eh no it's Wednesday .... no wait it's Friday ..... or all three.  I took the day off from work yesterday. The kids didn't have school thanks to teacher training which is why today feels like a Monday. But it also feels like a Friday cause tomorrow is Ascension day - no work/school and the actual Friday is a bank holiday so yay - no work either.  Other than still having loads to finish off at work I'm loving this!

I made the kids work in the garden yesterday, they were not loving me much. But hey, despite what they imagine they don't live in a hotel. Plus, a bit of hard work has never killed anyone, has it?  I bet they are praying for lashings of rain on Thursday and Friday so I can't make them do it again :)

Things at home are also changing quite a bit. As of this past Monday we once again own a pub. Which means that Himself now has his day-job (Stack-Cup) and a full time night job running the pub. As you can imagine he is not getting a lot of sleep.  But it is going okay thus far. I'm sure we'll all get used to the new schedule again. Luckily it is not such a huge shock to us since we've done this before.  As of June he will have help over the weekends so then he'll only have to work 5 nights a week i/o 7.  Having the pub also means we have some cash on hand again which is always handy. Plus, I get to drink for free. Okay, to be fair it is very seldom that I end up paying for my drinks.

Tomorrow we are going to a communion party and then on Saturday Tiger has another birthday party to go to. So i think we are in for a busy couple of days. But that is how I like it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Weekend roundup

Wow did that weekend just fly by or what? We were busy busy busy! 

We have a new house guest so we had to clear out the ‘store everything that doesn’t have a place to go room’. Following a split with from his CRAZY girlfriend a friend of ours no longer have a place to stay. He has also decided to change what he does for a living so money is tight. So, he is living with us for the foreseeable future.

Sunday was spent driving around. Cat had scouts and Tiger had a birthday party at on the other side of the bloody country. Okay, so that is not exactly true but it was ridiculously far away. Not to mention the fact that it was only for 2 hours! Who has a birthday party for 2 hours? 

33.5 Km or 20.8 miles!
On my way home after dropping Tiger off Himself called me to say that since the weather is so nice we are going to have lunch with Jellen & Kim. Sweet, only by the time we get to the restaurant and order our food it is time to drive back to pick up Tiger. So Himself offered to do the trip. Eventually we had to take his food home with us cause they got stuck in traffic. There was a local run happening so they were diverted all over the place. Again, who organizes a race to take place at 3:00 in the afternoon??? More crazy people!

Anyway, the fact that is was warm and sunny made up for it all.

O and you’ll never guess what one of the dogs did last night … he broke a window. Why? cause there was something outside that he just had to get to. At 3 o’clock this morning I was woken by the sound of breaking glass, the man just slept through it all. So I had to get up and check that he didn’t cut himself to bit and to find something to put in front of the window. Luckily he was fine and all the glass got knocked out of the room.  Why can’t I have normal dogs? Is that really too much to ask?

Right, time to get back to work. Only 2 days of work this week. Kids are off school tomorrow and so am I - Happy days!