Eurodan in English

September 28, 2003

And I had such good intentions. I took a break from early packing and reading Barbara Ellen in the Observer and drove over to Hull's Ice Arena for a bit of, well, you know... exercise. (Yes, I had rather forgotten about that recently).

And it was all going so swimmingly. After a slightly wobbly start, I'd regained my confidence and was fairly whizzing around, enjoying the feeling of actually doing something, being among others enjoying themselves, and raising my heart-rate into the bargain. Perfect. After about an hour I trotted off, perfectly satisfied and at peace with the world. "More of the same, to come," I thought.

Until the asthma started. Luckily I had my inhaler with me, but it was quite a serious attack - not debilitating or panic-causing, but bloody unpleasant all the same. It's such a tricky illness, this one. It lulls you into a false sense of security, and then strikes. You get to know your triggers (cats and house dust for me, mostly, but cold air and physical exercise set any asthma sufferer off, so a cold ice-rink - bingo!), but you're still never quite sure if and when it will strike. And there's not really anything much that can be done, apart from steroids, which seem somehow rather undesirable.

Anyway - I survived intact, and resolved to get a grip on it by way of a full consultation once I was safely installed in my new life in Brussels. Do remind me - I'm terrible at looking after myself.

Posted by Eurodan at 11:42 PM | Comments (5)

September 24, 2003

Regular readers may have spotted that I'm quite quick to criticise the UK when I feel the need - but now I'm about to leave it for who knows how long, I feel it's time to redress the balance a bit. After all, fair's fair.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and soon enough nostalgia will take hold, and so I thought I'd pre-empt it, and ask my esteemed readers what you would miss if you decided to live far away from the UK? And if you already *are* an ex-pat, what do you miss?

For some (hello Jon!) it might be Branston pickle, for others it might be Radio 4 - but don't keep it to yourself!

And I'll start the ball rolling - I'm likely to miss the fact that in Britain, most people sitting behind desks in public places seem to have a default setting of "friendly and helpful", compared to "icily efficient" in Germany, or "I get a cheap thrill out of saying 'non'" in France. And I'll miss Channel 4 - and Ribena. Er... I think that's it.

What about you?

Posted by Eurodan at 9:36 PM | Comments (4)

September 23, 2003

I thought I'd share this picture with you - it's a sunset over the river Humber, as seen from the North Sea Ferry on the way to Zeebrugge. There can be few more pleasant ways to bid farewell to the United Kingdom, and that's just what I'll be doing in a week's time, as I board the ferry again with my Dad and set off for Belgium.

A big hello to the Brusselaars if you're reading this. It was lovely to see you all last week, and I hope you'll all come to the flatwarming when I have it.


Posted by Eurodan at 12:34 PM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2003

crise de foi

From time to time an idea is presented to you which knocks you sideways, leaving you reeling and setting off some very deep self-questioning.

That was the case for me very recently, when the suggestion arose - partly out of a light-hearted conversation - that publishing a multilingual blog was a manifestation of self-obsession, or an attempt at showing off.

This led me to think long and hard about what my reasons for starting the blog were, which perhaps rather proves the point being made. Funny thing is, I didn't really give very much thought to the reasons for starting a blog before I started it - I just got on with it.

Of course, once you've published anything on the web you've really no control over what anyone's going to make of it. Some people might think it's the bees knees, and others just think "what a wanker!". Which is all as it should be.

But why did I do it? And in particular, why the multilingual idea? Well, as much as I do think that there's a big dollop of the performer in many linguists, this blog isn't here as a kind of cabaret act for me to show off the fact that I'm into languages. What an appalling thought.

It was actually started as a bit of an experiment. A blog is a bit like your front room on the internet, where you cordially invite guests and discuss things. The things may be quite banal but that's not the point. A bit of a spirit of community is created - although that's rather a grand word. Perhaps a cup of tea round at my place is more like it.

I wanted to see whether it would be possible for me to create that community feeling in more than just the English language part of cyberspace, and stay in touch with my non-Anglophone pals into the bargain. To see whether I could be part of more than just my British culture, and maybe engage with what was happening elsewhere.

Alas, keeping even one blog fresh and interesting takes quite a lot of time and effort, and it's not really been possible to keep the non-English ones alive. It may be time for a bit of a re-jig soon. But it was interesting finding that out, and I think it's good to have at least briefly made a tiny stand against the English-only perception of these islands of ours.

Is it all about me? Well, any diary is about its writer to a greater or lesser extent. But for me, this all about communicating. With you. I'm constantly flabberghasted that anyone reads this - but I'm delighted that you do. It would be very lonely here without you!

Posted by Eurodan at 3:16 PM | Comments (5)

September 17, 2003

Good morning from London!

Yes, it's Eurodan-on-tour time once again. Tonight I'm staying at my good friend Stuart's breathtakingly lovely gaff on the Thames near Blackfriars, before taking the Eurostar to Brussels tomorrow.

They've "opened" the new high-speed stretch of track from outer London to the Tunnel, but they're not letting passengers on it until the end of the month, so we'll be looking longingly at it as we trundle through Kent, as usual! Oh well... Eurostar may be a TGV in France, but it's still a TLV in England, at least for another couple of weeks. (Train of Low Velocity, in case you're wondering).

And why am I going to Brussels just a couple of weeks before I'm due to move there? Well, initially I was planning to go flathunting, but since that's all sorted out, I'm just planning to saunter around for a few days having a bit of a holiday and occasionally doing a bit of light admin, opening bank accounts, that sort of thing. Personally I think I deserve a bit of a holiday. I'm sure you agree. Thank you.

There was an article in this week's Observer about a new breed of Euro-ex-pat, escaping dreary, cold Northern Europe for the sunnier climes of Barcelona etc. Internet, low-cost airlines and cheap phone calls have finally realised the teleworking dream. And I suddenly realised - it's our very own Shyboy that they're describing.

Mind you, summer in Hull was a lot more bearable since I didn't have to go and work in the local Bird's Eye factory, and could instead supply my European clients with translations, so I suppose I've been doing the same sort of thing, just swapping Barcelona for Hull. But then I never did like the sun.

Anyway, enough of this pointless drivel. Until I send you more, probably from somewhere in Belgium, later this week.


Posted by Eurodan at 12:55 AM | Comments (4)

September 13, 2003

This photo pretty much sums up one of the things I enjoy the most about mainland Europe. The place is a drinks supermarket in a village called Barle-Nassau/Barle Hertog in both Belgium and the Netherlands. It doesn’t just straddle the border – the main border between the two countries is a few kilometres to the south of this place.


It’s better than that. Barle-Nassau/Barle Hertog is a little enclave of Belgium inside the Netherlands. When the border was being drawn (I think in the 1830s but feel free to check) the local communities couldn’t agree on a common frontier, and ultimately the only way that a settlement could be reached was to work through the scores of individual lots of land one-by-one.

Some went to Belgium, some to the Netherlands, leading to exclaves, as I think they’re known – that is, islands of the Netherlands inside islands of Belgium inside the Netherlands, if you follow.

The whole situation throws up some interesting problems – for a start, you have to be careful to select the right mobile phone network, so that you’re not roaming by mistake when somebody calls. You also have to check which post-box you put your letter in. Use the right one and your letter gets sorted in the village – use the other and it will be sent to Amsterdam or Brussels, flown to the other capital, sorted then dispatched back by train, all for a few hundred yards – or less.

But don’t get me wrong – as much as I love this kind of border-related through-the-looking-glass situation, it’s not really what I’m getting at. The thing which I love is the connectedness – the fact that I’ll soon be living in a bilingual city with four other countries accessible in a couple of hours on the train. The fact that crossing a state frontier isn’t thought of as “abroad”, and doesn’t entail a trip to Going Places. The fact that if you want to make a money transfer to another European bank account you don’t have to fill in a long form and get charged twenty quid.

I could go on, but you get it.

As for the picture - it's "borrowed" from one of fascinating sites about enclaves. I acknowledge the copyright and will remove it on request of the owner.

Posted by Eurodan at 3:25 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2003

I'm shocked and saddened by the brutal murder of Anna Lindh, Sweden's foreign minister last night in Stockholm.

The murder of any public figure is abhorrent, and reminds us of the vulnerability inherent in public life, but it seems particularly brutal in Sweden, a society so wonderfully open and where a sense of mutual trust still governs large swathes of public life.

Anna Lindh first drifted into my consciousness as Sweden's intelligent, stylish and graceful foreign minister at the time of her country's presidency of the European Council, and I'd been a big fan ever since. I'm sure that there are many around the world who will miss her.


Posted by Eurodan at 9:18 AM | Comments (1)

September 10, 2003

Sorry it's all gone quiet - I'm currently mired in re-writing and fine-tuning my dissertation, and it's draining me of the ability to express myself even semi-coherently in text.

Normal service will be resumed by (at the very latest) Monday 15 September (the hand-in date).

Posted by Eurodan at 8:01 PM | Comments (2)

September 6, 2003

I'm just going through the formalities of sorting out my new flat in Brussels - and you can see the pictures in the new gallery. It's been a nice change living with Dad in Hessle for the summer, but I must say that I'm itching to have a place of my own again, especially one that looks so cute. (From the pictures, anyway!).

Let me know if you'd like to see it from the inside sometime!

Posted by Eurodan at 9:37 PM | Comments (2)

September 2, 2003

This is Wim De Vilder, my favourite Belgian newsreader.

A couple of weeks ago, in the very sleepy parish that is my Dutch language blog, I wrote about how I rather liked Mr De Vilder's newsreading talents, which I often watched and appreciated when I lived in Cologne. (You could get Belgian TV on cable there). He has a rather sexy gravitas - which looks better on screen than in the picture. And his Flemish is just beautiful...

And would you credit it? Two very helpful strangers have sent me pictures and information about my favourite (and gay, as it turns out) newsreader. And so, in a bid to encourage his breakthrough into those tough English-speaking markets, here's a lovely picture of him for you to enjoy, courtesy of Lise. Isn't the internet wonderful?


Posted by Eurodan at 8:55 PM | Comments (6)

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