September 2009

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Vomit Comet

After a series of early autumn days, summer has made a short come-back here. Last weekend we enjoyed a couple of warm sunny days, and what better way to spend them than in the company of friends in a beautiful 'gite' in the Ardennes. This time, we went to the easternmost part of Belgium, to the small town of Malmedy. It's a beautiful green region with the typical bulges of the Ardennes – you can't really call them mountains. It's also the part of Belgium where a couple of thousands of people speak German, a consequence of two World Wars.

We enjoyed a gourmet grill, a barbecue and a spaghetti festival, with plenty of hors d'oeuvres and aperitif before, deserts after and snacks in between meals. In the morning we made long walks, which turned out to be quite the exercise – pushing a buggy with a 25 pound toddler over dirt tracks and up steep hills is not for the weak and meek.

Unfortunately, Wolf had caught a bad little bug which sprang into action on the first evening. When we heard him crying we went up to check him out, and found him all covered in chunks of breakfast, lunch and dinner. His little bed was covered in half digested food, not to mention the little guy himself. An hour of scrubbing and bathing later, Wolf was clean, refreshed and calmed down again. We improvised new bedding with a large towel and luckily we had a spare cuddly bear to replace his ever faithful Booh.

Later that evening, when we went to bed, I went into his room to check on him. I knew something was seriously wrong when my sock-covered foot went 'splitch'.

His bed was Armageddon. A giant puddle of puke, even larger than the first time, covered about one third of his bed. He had vomited right trough the mesh that makes up one side of his bed, creating that bloody puddle I just had stepped in. He was covered in mucus from head to toe.

So we went to alarm phase three, gave him a bath again and then I spent until 1AM trying to clean out the towel, his bed linen, his mattress, his Pjs, his teddy bear, etc.etc. with nothing more than a small bar of hand soap.

When I finally went to bed, I found Wolf taking up most of my place. So I made do with about six inches of bed and tried to sleep. At 3:30 AM I was still awake, dozing off occasionally until Wolf would kick me in the back again. So I left my place to the ungrateful little brat and went to sleep in the next room in a spare bed, right next to his cleaned but still very smelly bed.


But the rest of the weekend was actually very nice!


Not only did we have plenty of grapes this year, our first experiment in cultivating raspberries turned out better than expected.

And we had plenty of apples too. And some gooseberries, but not nearly as many as we had raspberries. So sweet and delicious, mmmmmmmh.

Berba Grozda

When I was involved in peace-work in Eastern Croatia, September was definitely the month to visit the region. Berba Grozda is the harvest of the grapes, and during that times grapes are consumed in large quantities. Fresh grapes, but also by-products such as... oh, let's see... wine?

I don't know how many times I was invited to visit the three big wine producing companies of the region (and various privately owned cellars). I'm not much of a connaisseur, but I did like the white wines of the Croatian Danube region.

It's been five years since I last participated in the traditional celebrations of Berba Grozda. But now I can have a party of my own. After years of careful pruning – nothing short of slash and burn agriculture – our grapevines have produces an excellent harvest this year. Small but very sweet grapes in the thousands!

There are so many grapes that I've been carrying whole baskets to all the neighbours, my family, friends and anyone that happened to pass by, while gorging myself in the process. Wolf too is fond of the grapes and likes to munch them away with me in the shadow of the vines. If I had any kind of commercial feeling I could have set up a small shop in the front garden to sell them. I could probably start my own export business.

And of course, I'll have to start my own wine cellar!

Choo Choo

On the second day of our holiday, we tooka historical train ride around part of the Bay of the Somme. There are two main lines, from Saint-Valéry sur Somme to Cayeux (to the south at the coast) and back and the other one from Saint-Valéry (on the South side of the bay) to Le Crotoy (on the North side), with a stop at Noyelles-sur-Mer. We opted for that second tour, because it's with a real steam train whereas the trip to Cayeux is with an old Diesel locomotive.

However, when we'd bought our tickets we only found the Diesel train. So thinking that it replaced the normal steam train ride, we boarded. It was only when we left the train station that we say the steam train leave from another station, just 500 meters from where we hopped on our Diesel train.

I blame the French for being absolutely incapable of giving clear indications. They put one arrow in the general direction, then another and then you're left to your own devises, until you see an arrow pointing completely in the opposite direction (so at least you know you're too far).

My wife blames me, of course.

So it was with red cheeks that I handed over the tickets to the train conductor, who claimed again that their directions were perfectly clear. Luckily, he didn't kick us off the train. And besides, that old diesel locomotive was at least as charming as the steam train, wasn't it?

You can't take pictures like these on a steam train, you knowYou can't take pictures like these on a steam train, you know

Arrival at Cayeux. Forty-five minutes later the train returned to Saint-Valéry sur Somme.

And we're off again!And we're off again!

We smuggled Booh, Wolf's favourite cuddle, into the passenger compartment. She really didn't want to travel with the cargo because there were no windows.

It was very hot that day (28°C!), so Wolf made sure that Booh drank regularly.

That's what you get for trying to scare me and my cuddly cow!That's what you get for trying to scare me and my cuddly cow!

When we got back to Saint-Valéry, we heard a steam whistle. This is the train to Crotoy and Noyelles (where we were supposed to go). See, it's not half as nice as our little diesel train!

Although I admit that the cars do look more comfortable than the ones we travelled in. But then again, we could see the tracks through the cracks between the floor boards.

Ok, it IS a nice train.

Damn Muggles

Seen on a garage door in Antwerp today:

Witches' parking only

All others will be toad


Damn you, J.K. Rowling


He did it! Wolfy made a big poopoo on his potty! The first time it was not entirely voluntary, as we pressed him down on his potty until he made a rabbit's dropping. But then we rewarded him with a piece of chocolate while praising him above the clouds.

Fifteen minutes later (after he finished the chocolate), he made his big work of art, this time completely out of free will. So more praise was bestowed upon him and a round of chocolate bars for everyone!


It's a small crap for man
But a giant heap for a toddler!

Beach Holiday

Wolf playing with Lobster Man (aka dad)Wolf playing with Lobster Man (aka dad)

Punching In

Well, that was that. After a last well-deserved holiday in France, it's back to the chain gang. The taste of sea-food still lingers in my mouth and at night I can still hear the seagulls (or rather the storm wind beating the walls of our little cabin).

The weather was a bit of a spoiler in the end, although the week started off with temperatures up to 28°C (about a 1000° Fahrenheit I think). As a consequence, I had to sleep face down for a couple of nights, but at least Wolf and I had great fun in the swimming pool and on the beech. Mummy joined us only once, I think she prefers swimming in molten lava over water. The merest cloud in the sky and she's turning over the suitcases in search of a thick sweater.

But then the storm clouds came in and the last couple of days we let the gusts of wind blow us inland to seek calmer weather. Not that we found any, so there are plenty of pictures of us walking through various cities and places in yet another downpour. The last day, we sought our entertainment indoors and went to Nausicaa, an infotainment-zoo-aquarium-museum in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Wolf had a blast running from one fish-tank to the other. I think the penguins were his favourite, finally an animal that was exactly his size.

That final visit brought the total score on 695 pictures, some of which will be featuring here in the coming days.

Only 351 more days and we can hit the road again. - Sigh -