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.

(In)experienced Swimming coach fights school slag

School slag: the secret is to never, ever, ever let your head anywhere near the water.
School slag: the secret is to never, ever, ever let your head anywhere near the water.

In an effort to starve off the ever expanding belgian-beer related belly, I decided to make for the pool and rekindle an old love of swimming. I started off attempting to do laps at the local pools of Ghent, only to find that most of them were occupied by the Belgians that had lacked the desire to get wet let alone swim.

Belgians, on a whole, absolutely despise swimming pools. Some of them might attend one out of guilt (beer-belly), social pressure (schools), or hormones (people in speedos), but very few of them actually go to their local pool to swim.

All this was true, however, until I discovered the Rozebroeken, built in 2011 in the eastern outskirts of Ghent. Rozebroeken is an indoor 50 meter pool, with an incredible pool floor that is able to be raised and lowered from half a meter to a full two meter depth. Unlike the rest of the pools in the country, Rozebroeken makes very strict use of ‘lane ropes’, and encourages swimmers to swim laps instead of diagonal dog paddling.

All this however doesn’t change the Belgian approach to swimming. The majority of swimmers that attend the Rozebroeken swimming pool still thoroughly enjoy not getting wet, and will do their outmost best to keep their heads as far away from the creepy depths below. This is usually made possible with ‘school slag’ (their choice of words, not mine), which is a variation on breaststroke where the head is never placed under water. Instead of making the thrusting dive forward upon the completion of the stroke, the Belgian school slag swimmer thrusts his (or even her!) head as high as possible in an effort to raise the body fully out of the water and as close as possible to the pool exit.

It was during a moment of shaking my head at a good eighteen of these swimmers in my lane alone that I realized I had to do something about it. I just had to learn Dutch first. Two years later, I’ve started an IT consultancy (oh yes, that happened too. I should really blog on this some more sometime?) studied a whole bunch o’ dutch and have been working with quite some time in the middle of Flanders with a variety of dialects and mad folk. I thought I was ready to start some coaching.

So I wrote an email to the Royal Ghent Swimming Club confessing my case, and much to my shock received a pretty enthusiastic response asking me to come on down for an interview.

Slightly dull volunteer-job-recruitment-story cut short: I’m now a tentative swimming couch for thirty-one Flemish kids, starting off from tomorrow night. I’ve spent a good part of a week reading up on coach-tips and have had the fortune of hearing all about it first hand from some good friends of mine that have recently remembered their training past, and hope that some of this preperation, if any, will still be remembered or even slightly useful when I find myself in front of 30 squirming kids tomorrow afternoon.

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.

Waterloo

Waterloo (win the war of the playground)

I went to Waterloo (I was defeated, you won the war) yesterday, and played on a swing. It was without doubt the highlight of my week.

Other waterloo highlights were the fun times at the local supermarket, delicious Waterloo Tripel in distinguished ceramic glass, and finally ending the minutes of tension between the Flemish and Neapolitan armies.

Waterloo Tripel - really tasty!