Monday, 30 May 2011

A Man of Wealth and Taste.

Hello, please allow me to introduce myself. I am Richard. Some of you already know me at first hand through my own blog. Others may have seen the odd comment by me in another place but to many I'll be a complete and utter stranger even though I've been around for a long, long year. I would imagine though that all of you, every single man jack bar none of you, will have been surprised to see me cropping up in the life of the woman currently dozing (somewhat noisily, it has to be said. That's my rations gone) but nevertheless still looking delectable on my sofa.

I will admit that I too am among your number. I haven't a sodding clue how she got here either other than that I asked her if she'd like to and she said yes. Yes, sometimes it's that bloody easy. A bit of a boon after you've only ever experienced long-term relationships and hadn't actually asked anyone out on a date in the conventionally accepted manner since 1979. Her particular circumstances rendered the distance between us immediately redundant as well. And it looks like she's here to stay, too. Which is nice. Well, not stay here, she has way too much stuff as she's a woman and this house is very small but she's getting a place down the road. That's nice, too. She chose it specifically because of its inherent shedability, too. She's so caring and considerate.

Maybe it's been in the fates for decades. Several years ago I revealed to Zoe on her previous blog that for the same seven years during the 1970s we had gone to school in the same town. And not just the same town, during school hours for those seven years we were no more than about 600 yards apart, more or less along the same road. We witnessed the same events and I even walked past her school every day on my way home to the bus station. Of course, I was a grammar/comprehensive school tit and she was at the posh school with the heliotrope blazers and the felt cloche hats (I really am living on my wits now) so we never mingled; although I'd like to think that our paths may have crossed from time to time and that hers may have been among the pairs of fit young legs trotting back from the hockey fields across Mace Lane to have occasionally stolen my gaze away from my copy of Sounds magazine.

I am horrendously happy and feel insanely lucky and privileged that this lovely woman has decided sharing our lives is a good idea. It certainly feels fine to me and I can't thank her enough. Oh yeah.    


Thursday, 26 May 2011

I want my teddy.

I've been here for about 1 1/2 months now and I'm still not in my new home yet as the vendor appears to be doing up the house, including cleaning all the carpets which, while a sweet gesture, is ultimately pointless as I aim to pull them all up and take them all to the skip.  He has, however, made the garden look beautiful and I can't wait to move in.  This isn't going to happen for a bit though, as my solicitor has only just received the other party's papers. 

Richard has been extremely patient putting up with me here but admittedly, I really didn't realise how much I'd get to miss my own possessions.  I am living out of a suitcase and every now and then pay a visit to the storage place to get another much needed belonging, but it really is amazing how much you get to miss your personal belongings, however material they may be.  Basically, all that is here that is mine are important documents, medication and clothes.

I want to look at my pictures, sleep in my bed, use my towels, listen to my CDs, use my dressing gown - I want my teddy, my comfort zone.  Much as I am very grateful to Richard, I feel homesick for my usual surroundings, even if I have forgotten my spice rack, toaster, microwave, mirror, lamps, soap dish, foot stools and much more.

In the meantime, I have paint to think about, wooden floors to choose, curtains to look at, find roofers, buy furniture and so much more 'fun'.

Oh, and a thick anorak and umbrella.

And a shed.

Yes, a shed.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Mistaken Identity of the Day

Z: When did I last have duck?
R: Was it when you first came over?
Z: Oh no, I was thinking of ostrich.

Insult of the Day

R: What was that, darling?
Z: I was just talking to myself
R: That constitutes an intelligent conversation for you, doesn't it.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


When moving, do make a list of items that you really can't do without as it may come as a huge shock when you realise that you can't use your laptop as the battery needs recharging and the recharger is in another country and the house that you have just left is rapidly being emptied by your son.  The same applies when your GSM finally lets out its last signal before going completely blank and dies in the palm of your hand.  You may think that you packed your GSM recharger, but, after emptying your suitcase and throwing clothes all around someone else's bedroom only to find that the lifeline to your GSM is also in another country, it soon becomes apparent that the only useful bit of your phone is the SIM card.

Other bits and bobs that you may leave behind are extremely useful and long extension cables, ideal for lawn mowers, tweezers, wellies (found them - in storage), headphones, office chair, laptop rest, mouse (two - TWO), various kitchen utensils, kettle, full box of tea bags, wine racks....

I know that this list will get longer, much to my chagrin.

Thursday, 12 May 2011


Hermie has been enjoying the mild weather in his pen outside in Richard's garden, especially due to the fact that there are so many weeds in the garden.  He doesn't like weeds in general, at least, not Belgian ones, but Hermie appears to love the weeds here.  This may have something to do with the fact that I cannot find chicory, his favourite vegetable, anywhere.  True, I have yet to look in Sainsburys and Waitrose, but how on earth can the Brits live without one of Belgium's national dishes, chicon au gratin or chicon caramilis√©?

Not being able to buy chicory here is a bit of a shock, especially as you can buy strange, Chinese mushrooms, yams and many other exotic vegetables.  Chicory is a simple, root vegetable, lovely in salads or cooked slowly with a little brown sugar.  It is also Hermie's favourite snack and the man in Tescos is getting a little fed up each time we go there as without fail, I'll ask him if they stock any chicory.  Torts in England have no idea what they are missing out on in this rather backward country.

Waitrose and Sainsburys are next on the list.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Going to the doctor's.

The last time that I paid a visit to a doctor in this country must have been about 30 years ago.  I've registered with a surgery here and have already had to pay a visit to the rather simple building that appears to be older than it actually is.  I was to be seen by a doctor who, whenever he called out for his next patient, could never remember which room he was in, much to the patients' in the waiting room amusement.

By the time he had called me in to his room I was in front of his door when he finally added " 6" over the intercom.  I was greeted by Dr Kapoor, a short man with an incredibly shiny, bald head, from somewhere in south Asia.  After a few questions, I was asked if I minded if Dr Kapoor touched my stomach.  Well, if a doctor needs to poke my stomach to give me a diagnosis, then I'm used to them going ahead and doing it.  So I jumped up on the bed and waited to be prodded.

"Would you mind lifting up your shirt, please?"

Ah, yes, this doctor has lovely manners.

"Would you mind undoing your belt, please?"

This is just weird.  Just poke and prod me, will you - they all do in Belgium.

I was then asked if I would mind peeing into the tiniest pee-pot that I had ever seen, yet managed perfectly without peeing all over my fingers.  Dr Kapoor tested the sample and prescribed me some pills and I feel reassured to tell you that I am not pregnant.

Monday, 9 May 2011


So everything was going well and it was just a matter of counting the days until I moved.  I didn't tell many people that I was leaving and spent the majority of my laptop time trying to find out my National Insurance number that was probably given to me when at school at the age of 16 and not thought about since.  I notified the necessary authorities and sat back, wondering about what I had let myself in for.  I was leaving a country that had been my home for the past 25 years - could I cope with a country that doesn't even use euros, drives on the wrong side of the road and is totally surrounded by water?

Richard sent me a text message letting me know that he had been admitted into hospital with acute appendicitis.

My thoughts were two-fold: a)What the hell do I do now and b) oh dear, I hope he's OK.

And then I started to worry.  The ferry was booked, the electricity and water were going off as of 18 April and all my possessions were packed.  Thanks to my Dad's help towards the cost of the move and Richard's family pulling together, I was picked up by Richard's brother-in-law who kindly packed the van he brought over with the help of Coralie's boyfriend and friends, ignored the sudden buzzing noise in one of the boxes which refused to die a sudden death for an impressive length of time and put up with my inane babble all the way to Ashford where I spent the night chez Richard's charming parents.

I had expected the departure to be a rather painful and sad affair, but everything seemed to happen so quickly that once the electricity etc had been turned off and I gave my keys to Coralie we had time for a tearful hug before I jumped into the van hugging a shoe box containing Hermie and left the road for the last time without even looking back.

Somehow, via the good fortune of knowing someone with such a wonderfully kind and helpful family, I got here.  I miss my children immensely and have the odd moment when the tears roll, but in all, I'm very happy although it is going to take a while to get used to the culture.

The people here may need a while to get used to me, too.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Selling your home.

I had lived in the house for eighteen years; it was the only home that Todd knew of and the only one that my daughters remembered.  I had watched it being built, the Ex had installed a lovely pond that attracted many newts who I loved watching as they played around in the water - we both thought that we had a home for life together until we decided to get divorced.  The divorce allowed me to stay on in the house and pay off the mortgage until 2011, when I had to either buy my Ex's share of the house - or move out.

I had to move.

And so the plaster came off my foot and I had to sell the house.  The Ex advertised the house online and I soon started receiving calls.  This was not a smart move as I was still hobbling around badly and each visit involved a trip down to the cellar, back up, then upstairs and then again to Tatiana's room in the attic and back down again, only to greet the next visitors.  Some people just seemed to like looking at the house, asked no questions and needed a life.  Others slagged the house off saying it was over-priced, needed a new this, that and the other before mentioning that they were, in fact, estate agents.  Nobody seemed to understand that they were talking about my home.

One evening, a couple came around with their young daughter and put in a higher offer than the first one received, the following day. 

I told the Ex to accept it.

They were anxious to move in before July and so the pressure was on me to pack up and move out.  Todd helped me move the heavy things and soon my living room had a wall of boxes that Coralie helped me pack, contained two double beds that had been taken apart and anything else that I needed on a daily basis - such as my TV which, like my laptop and Hermie only got packed away on the day I moved.  I left most of my furniture behind and Richard  was organising to come over with a van to pick up my few belongings, Hermie and I up.  I booked the ferry, Richard arranged for my stuff to go into storage while I organised extra muscle in Belgium to help pack the van.

Only things never are that simple, are they?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Starting all over again.

I was feeling more and more miserable as the end of 2010 approached - the job market was pants and the hope of my getting a job proved futile as the interviews dwindled to a virtual stop.  I realised that my house was going to have to be sold in 2011, so the job-hunt switched to a home-hunt which proved that renting anything in Belgium is ridiculously expensive and that nothing required the needs of a single woman and a tortoise.  After a fight with the staircase, I was left with an extremely swollen right foot which showed, after a week of hobbling around alone in the house, to have a broken toe.


Coralie drove me to and from the hospital, got me some crutches and a vast supply of various painkillers, made me comfortable on the sofa before shoving two rolls under my nose and dashing off to pick up her boyfriend.  It then dawned on me that cooking with crutches was barely possible and so spent the next six weeks sitting on the sofa looking for somewhere to live.  After a while, it appeared to me that property is much cheaper to buy in England, and though I have never really lived in England before, the thought started to appeal to me more and more.  Richard sent me links to property sites - as well as job sites in the area - and I soon settled for one particular house that was well within my budget once I had sold the house in Belgium.  I visited for a week, saw The House and set my heart on living in it.  There was plenty of space for Hermie to run around in it too.

As I ate less and less, the skinnier I got, which was a worry, but Coralie would often come around and help, especially after Tatiana left for Madrid at the end of January to do her internship.  It was only then that I realised that I had to cut down on my belongings as I was all alone, living in a four-bedroom house.  But I worried terribly about the culture-shock, having never really lived in England, and the adjustments to be made after having lived in Belgium for 25 years.  I would worry at night and would often cry myself to sleep, but Richard was very understanding and we would chat over Skype every evening and I tried to feel reassured about the whole move.

Once the plaster came off my foot, things changed.


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Test post

Like getting here, this is a work in progress, but I had to make a first post about something.  Seeing as Eastenders is about to start, I'll stick to one of the cultural changes that I have had to adjust to: English keyboards.

Hi chickadees - I'm back.