An Australian-Belgian Gentleman in Belgium (but really in Australia)

The last post I submitted to this website is now a good year and four months old.

In that time some pretty big things have happened:

  1. I became Belgian. I’ve been meaning to blog about that process since the day it happened (January 27th, 2014) but for the following two points never did.
  2. I went on a working holiday back to Australia. I’d been thinking about doing this since about the time I started the Ghentleman blog, but always put it off for work reasons. I’d been coming back to Australia every eighteen months or so, but only ever for a fortnight at a time. 2014 has been more or less entirely spent in Australia, visiting deserts, oceans, mountains – and many many libraries from where I’ve been working.
  3. Running a business from abroad. One of the biggest concerns about the trip to Australia was just how well (or at all) I’d be able to perform my consulting duties for my clients back in Europe. Turns out it wasn’t nearly as hard as I suspected. With little more than email and the occasional Skype phone call, I’ve been working nearly as much as I used to back in Belgium and really enjoyed the ‘night shift’ that comes about by working through an Australian day whilst Belgium is sleeping.Further, there’s something really special about plugging into some work in the middle of a public library in the middle of Australia that gets you motivated to pump out some quality work.

As a result of the above three points I’ve all but neglected this blog. However at the same time this blog was dedicated to my “Ghent times” – not so much my “Australian times” – so perhaps it’s for the best.

My Australian times are now on their last weeks, and I should be back in the land of chocolate and beer within a few months.

I’m really looking forward to my first (of hopefully many) pintje at Het Spijker, and fundamentally miss my weekly shops at Colruyt. Such a good shop.

Big Nuts! Australia likes your rich velvety feel

In April (yes! April) I took a bag of my Flemish Grandmothers’ favourite chocolates from Belgium to Australia and asked all of my former folk to tell me how much they loved them. Turns out my Big Nuts were quite impressive.

Some choice quotes:

“My life had a gaping hole in it until Chris slipped in his Big Nuts”

“My wife really gets it off on my Big Nuts”

“When it comes to that special treat, nothing beats that rich velvety feel of my Big Nuts”

“Thanks for giving Chris some Big Nuts to bring back to Australia! We generally have just regular sized nuts here, so thanks very much!”

“Citycat riders choose Big Nuts”

“It’s not often in Australia I’m handed a pair of Big Nuts”

World of Chocolate, I hope you’re taking notes. Try and keep up.

Vegemite chips

Smiths Vegemite chips

Back home in Australia for a few weeks, only to find the Australians have taken their love of Vegemite to the logical conclusion..

Good grief. Going to try my hand at Stoverij for the family tomorrow, having tracked down a couple of rather expensive Chimay Blau bottles, and discovering that cows in Australia do have the same types of meat as they do in Belgium.

Bread rolls and old emails home

Whilst trying to work out if today was indeed my parents wedding anniversary (it isn’t) I found this old email I sent them nearly five years ago.

It’s one of my many late 2006 rants about I didn’t particularly like the town of Ninove, the first ‘town’ I lived in upon arrival in Belgium. I find it interesting to see how my love of the place hasn’t changed much since my first initial impressions.

Ladies and gentleman of the blog-o-sphere, if you ever find yourself moving to Belgium, I would recommend avoiding Ninove as your first port-o-call. Perhaps go there once you’ve fallen in love with Gent or Antwerpen or heaven forbid Bruges, but whatever you do, don’t allow Ninove to be your introduction to this beautiful country.

Ninove is without doubt the smallest town I’ve ever attempted to live in. There are no shops, no restaurants, no signs of aaaany nightlife.. I’d be crazy to move in here! Having said that – I would certainly spend a lot less money, but whats the point of making money if you can’t spend it?

This afternoon I’m going to head into the “downtown” of Ninove and try to set up my first non-Australian bank account. Apparently all I need is a letter from my employer, which I have (including my contract), so hopefully it’ll be a breeze. The downside is that I’ll have to walk there, a mere half hour hike, however it rains here all day long! I’ll have to get one of those dryzabones next time I’m in the country.

Are those things even made for rain? I have no idea what they are really. regardless – I’ll have to make a start by buying at least an umbrella. Everyone at work was shocked when I told them I only owned one, and that it was in Australia! People here have multiple umbrellas on them at any one time, so the lady I’m living with (in her B&B) gave me one from her car’s backseat.

Apparently Ninove is going to try and get some work with the company that brews Fosters in Europe, that would be funny.. I’d be working at a pseudo-Aussie brewery in Europe! Imagine that. I hope they don’t make me drink the stuff!

I bought a Duvel beer last night for less than a Euro. It was so strange, I’ve never bought one for less than AU$7! I felt rightly royal.

Living in my B&B has been a little tough in the evenings, I don’t have any kitchen facilities, and the only food is in town (half an hour away) – so I’ve gone the past two nights without anything for dinner. This I plan to change tonight, when I go into town. Apparently there’s a pub that will serve me some pasta – I’m ITCHING to eat something that isn’t on a bread roll. eerp.

Incidentally Belgium makes the second best bread-rolls in Europe. If you’re ever in the country I thoroughly suggest you stock up on bread, unless of course you’re coming via the land of the best bread-rolls in Europe.

Ahhh Germany, you and your bread can come over any time.

A death in the family

My beautiful children,
There is no easy way to tell you this so I will just write it bluntly.
Our beautiful Stegs died this afternoon after being attacked by 2 husky dogs in our front yard.
She wasn’t bleeding at all. I think I got there before anything like that could happen. I think they must have broken her neck somehow and she died inmy arms . Perhaps of a heart attack. I will never know. It was useless taking her bto a vet as she was dead before I even manaGED TO GET HER INTO THE PETPACK.
I had the pound come and collect the dogs. They stayed sitting in the front yard for 1and a half hours after Stegs died. The council came baCK TONIGHT TO GET A STATEMENT FROM ME . i HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO (Bloody caps lock and tears) press charges but I decided what good would come of it. Just some other pet lover would be distressed as I am tonight. So I chose not to. That doesnt mean the council won’t go further. But that is up to them.
Dad is going to bury her next to Lady Cat and this is the last animal I am ever having.
It is too sad when you lose them.
I had to tell you this straight away as I knew you would want to know.
Email was the easiest way for me to go about it.
Take care my lovely ones.
I love you .
Mum

There are times living 16359 kilometers from your loved ones is hard, and then there are times living 16359 from them is near impossible. My poor ol’ cat Steggles never really understood why I disappeared up to 18 months at a time, nor why upon my returns I would spent so much time out of the house drinking booze instead of running around  the backyard with her chasing lizards. She always waited for me at the top of the stairs, meowing her head off until I’d exhausted us both with stick chasing and hiding behind bookshelves. Every morning she’d race outside at the first hint of an open door, and scream her little lungs out until I was outside with her.

This Friday she would have reached a ripe ol’  age of 15, which is quite a significant achievement for anyone, let alone a cat who not only put up with the Hanney’s but a climate absolutely against the concept of a thick winter coat.

Steggles, there will forever be a spot at the bottom of the bed waiting for your return. I will never look at a backyard the same way.

I am sorry I was not there for you in the end, though I am more sorry I was not there for you these past years. Rest in peace little one.