Posted in Personal life, Writing

Tiptoeing into the New Year (2015)

Welcome to my first blog post of the New Year!

Debbie writing with a pen on paper
Sometimes the pen is mightier than the keyboard

Well, did you miss me? Did you notice I’ve been offline for a bit? Probably not – if you’ve got any sense, you’ll have spent a lot of time offline over Christmas too.

But I have to say I’m greeting the first working week of the New Year with renewed energy and enthusiasm, after spending as much time as possible away from my computer during my daughter’s two-week break from school.

When I furtively dipped back into the internet now and again during the holiday fortnight, it was effectively under cover – I’d set up an out-of-office message to cover my two email accounts: the online equivalent of dark glasses.

In fact, if I hadn’t been part of Helen Hollick’s fabulous Christmas Party Blog Hop, I’d have spend even less time online. Reading the other participants’ fascinating posts was the main reason that I sneaked back to my computer at all.

Why Christmas Isn’t Over Yet…

Blog hop logo
Catch it before it’s too late!

What do you mean, you didn’t read the 25 fabulous articles on the blog hop, on different aspects of Christmas traditions and with plenty of festive fiction samples to enjoy?

Fear not, there’s still time to catch them with a clear conscience, because, as I’ve just discovered, Christmas isn’t actually over just yet. I’m not talking about waiting for Twelfth Night (today, 5th January, according to some people, or tomorrow, 6th, for others, including me). The vicar’s letter in the new Hawkesbury Parish News states that the festive season doesn’t officially conclude until Candlemas on 2nd February. Now there’s the excuse Laura was looking for to keep the Christmas tree up for a little longer.

ALLi logoIn the meantime, I’m back in the room – and I’ve just been blogging about the benefits of going offline on the advice blog of Alliance of Independent Authors. You can read that post here, if you’re interested: Don’t Let the Internet (Tail) Wag the Author (Dog)

  • What’s the longest you can bear to stay offline – or indeed online?
  • Do you have a top tip to share on avoiding internet burnout?
  • Feel free to join the conversation via the comment box below!
Posted in Personal life, Travel

Why Belgium Is Being Rebuilt (Further Tales from the Camper Van, Easter 2013)

Roadworks in Mons, Belgium - 2
Coming soon: European City of Culture 2015

Everywhere we go in Belgium, there are roadworks: on the motorway, on the main roads,  in pedestrian precincts.  Highway diversions  confuse the satnav; footpath blockades trip us up.

One of the first Belgian towns that we stop in on our motorhome journey to Luxembourg is Mons, known as Bergen to Flemish speakers. Mons has recently been designated the 2015 European City of Culture. The local council wants to ensure that when the time comes, this ancient city will live up to scuh honour. Disruption at every turn is a small price to pay. Cobblestones are being lifted and relaid, walls rebuilt, roads resurfaced. We teeter across roadworks on temporary planking between piles of sand and stone, only to find, to our disappointment, that Mons’ greatest tourist attraction is closed for repair.

Oh well, we console ourselves, we’ll be going to plenty of other places in Belgium, and we move swiftly on.

Roadworks in Mons, Belgium
And here’s one they prepared earlier

Yet beyond Mons, the madness continues. In Dinant, parked in a quiet spot by the river, we awake to the distinctive sound of jackhammers, before hop-step-jumping around noisy roadworks in the town for some sightseeing. In Arlon, we have to detour around impeccably rebuilt stone steps to the Church of St Donat. (We try picture Homer Simpson.)

What is it with these Belgians? Why the apparent national obsession with rebuilding?

And then it dawns on me. Until recently, Belgium has been without a government for an extraordinary length of time – 541 days, to be exact. During this interregnum, the daily life of the country apparently ran more smoothly. Presumably that included the granting of planning applications, the bane of any builder’s life in Britain.

Roman column in Mons, Belgium
A great advert for Roman engineering – this Roman column is about the only thing the good burghers of Mons have not yet seen fit to rebuild

No government? This could be just what we need to get our potholes mended: let’s overthrow ours today!

Well, at least it would give the political pundits something to talk about other than Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.

Other posts about our Easter 2103 motorhome trip to France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany:

Just When We Thought It Was Safe to go Back into La Piscine

When In Belgium, Drink As The Belgians Do