Monday, 29 February 2016

Fiz: Great expectations

When two people gave me the same book, my expectation of a good read was high. And it was going to be a long read—over 700 pages. I was eager to begin and yet…

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Naz: read it on the plane

Au revoir!  It was tuff saying goodbye

I’m heading home!  Sitting in the Brussels airport with a Starbucks regular Americaine coffee to keep me company, travelling alone and with two hours before boarding I happily reflect on the last three weeks.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Fiz: I did it

me casually editing
I did it. I resigned from my Drug Trends work at Queensland Uni which means that from the 1st April I will no longer be a researcher at the School of Public Health. Even though this has been a planned move—I cut back on my research work 12 months ago and began doing casual editing—it still feels scary. I am leaving security behind for flexibility, portability, and the newish world of editing.

It could work out but then again it might not. However, when a few days after resigning I got a phone call asking if I really, truly wanted to resign and whether I would consider staying on a few more months, I wasn’t even slightly tempted to postpone my departure. My mind was made up. I know that if I don’t make a change now, I may not have the energy or enthusiasm to do so down the track.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Naz: A bit of Belgium

Two weeks in Brussels, Belgium and three weeks as Grandma!  It’s been cold, windy and raining (average 3 degrees). The internal heating tricks you into thinking the weather is mild but take a step outside into the wind and the 3 degrees drops simultaneously to minus 2 or lower.  And that’s how they forecast here – 3 degrees but feels like minus 2!

Waking up in Brussels -7.30am - still need the street lights 
Blue skies surprised us one afternoon—the sun cautiously decided to shine so I boldly ventured out for a few hours exploring. 

Lesson number one in Brussels—never go out without an umbrella! Fashion and ‘chicness’ will be willingly sacrificed for dryness and warmth and all within twenty minutes. 

Yep, it’s the coldest and wettest time of the year in Belgium but I’m blessed with an opportunity to experience the authenticity of Brussels as a local (son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter live here) and—it’s pretty cruisey.

Buses, trams and trains are the easiest way to get around but during peak hour if you don’t like getting up really, really close and personal with ‘Brusseleers’—risking a future runny nose and sore throat—take the car,  ride your bike or better still stay out of the city.  The Belgian head cold now calling me home does nothing to boost my usual carefree holiday vibe!

Lunch at Ha
Gravesteen Castle in Gent
Arcade du Cinquantenaire
On"mere drizzle’ days 
I‘ve managed to visit a few tourist districts—Grand Place, waffles at Maison Dandoy, The Brussels Museum; lunch at Ha, Gravesteen Castle in Gent (inclusive of a well-worn guillotine and medieval torture instruments); The Royal Family Palace (drive by only) and Arcade du Cinquantenaire. The architecture is spectacular—the    grandeur and age of the buildings leaves me spellbound.  
Le Liverol Fromagerie     
I grocery shop locally and with no time constraints can loosely translate the unfamiliar packaging to work out what’s what (images are a godsend—well sort of)!   I’ve made a couple of rookie errors but mostly been able to use what I’ve chosen.  Most evenings, pre-dinner, we tuck into delicious French and Belgian cheese from the local cheese shop Le Liverol Fromagerie, just a short stroll up Square De Boondael, washed down with a friendly red casually picked up from the Delhaize supermarket (as you do in Brussels)—sooooo convenient. This has become our daily ritual and I’m in heaven!  The cheese tastes extra special—wrapped with care and love in thick waxed paper—‘voila’—not hurriedly bundled into sterile plastic, slapped with a price tag then stuffed into another plastic carry bag. (btw—the Belgian chocolate and the craft beers are seriously good too)! 

Another plus for Brussels is the value they place on family.  Apart from a few small corner stores and restaurant/cafes being open, all shops are closed on Sundays.  Sunday: family day in the city wakes up slowly, the roads are quiet and the local church bells gently remind you it’s 9.30am—a respectable time to get moving.  Family time is encouraged.  Even the road that meanders through the massive park bordering the city, Bois de la Cambre, is closed to traffic on Sundays. Children safely play, riding their bikes, skateboards and roller blades around the park, parents push prams, toddlers totter and older kids kick balls or team up for cricket or softball. The park is packed with families enjoying time together—a happy site! 

Bois de la Cambre
Bois de la Cambre
Sadly a site slowly disappearing in Australia—increased trading hours, shift work and longer working hours at home have compromised this family time and I truly believe families need quality time to play together.  My most vivid and happy memories as a child are the moments my mum and dad and grandparents simply played with me—hung out with me—shared time with me.  I felt loved and I felt special. 

So, one more week in Brussels to spend with my family and my granddaughter—I better get moving—time to make some more happy memories with Isla Kate.  


Hanging with the girls at the local &
getting some sun -  I'm sampling the Belgian beer!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Fiz: sharing the joy

Joan Baez 
There are weighty issues that I could be writing about—issues that involve deep thought and research; however, I just want to share my joy at rediscovering Jag.  You see, I remember figuring it out, about age 16, that one of the important things in life was having a cool pair of jeans. People might have been renouncing material possessions and advocating peace and love but they were doing it in a cool pair of jeans.
But you know how it is—time passes. And in my mid-50s I had moved to inner-city Brisbane and I decided that denim was no longer appropriate. (I was going through my faux old stage—when I considered myself older, but no one presumed I was retired and my lipstick didn’t bleed into my wrinkles).  Now, however, I am a decade older, have embraced beach living, and am revelling in the casualness of the coast. I have also re-adjusted my thinking about old as my regular readers will attest. I even dug out a denim jacket from the 90s and have worn it more now than I ever did first time round. But jeans…mmmmm maybe, but as it is still very much shorts weather …

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Naz: a baby in Belgium.

Twenty-five hours travel time to Belgium left me needing catch up sleep and recalibration to adjust to the time difference—last week became a blur.
Time to refocus as a new chapter of my life begins—I’m a grandmother!

Up until a couple of years ago I felt I was too young to be grandma, granny, Nan or nanna.  I wasn’t ready for the role—the responsibility—the unspoken declaration—I’m an ‘oldie’.   Over recent times many of my friends (Fiz included Fiz: age appropriate cool) have become grandparents and they seem ok with it, like it, love it and assure me it has changed their life in the most positive way.

I imagined what it could be like when the time came—able to spoil then return, hang out and do fun stuff together, play and be the cool, quirky adult called grandma while leaving the hard calls, discipline and mundane parenting bits to the parents—the serious ones.  I can do this!

The sight of my son tenderly holding his baby daughter made my heart sing and tears flow—tears of joy.  Witnessing his happiness and pride and the resolute intent in his eyes to care for and protect this precious person made me one proud parent.  I was left in awe with the awareness that this little person cuddled in his arms also held a tiny part of me.  Wow, the cycle of life!