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Wednesday, 12 February 2014


As I have written here before one of my favourite places in Brussels is Parc Parmentier.  A recent visit was not so comforting.  I found a bit official notice on a hoarding talking of improvements -  a word of which I am always wary.  Some one had pulled the plug!. All the water had gone from both little lakes. No birds, save for a pair of rather confused Egyptian geese; but they always look less intelligent than the native geese!  There was  just very thick, very shiny mud with a little wriggling water course through it.

I seems they are doing long term maintenance. The pools will be cleared of debris, some of the dead trees removed and undergrowth cleared back under the surrounding trees. Long term it will be an improvement but I miss the heron and the coots and the fish, which we are, bi-lingually, forbidden to catch.

This is a quick little sketch in my A6 pocket book. Here is a link to a photo of the view in summer time (use your back button to get back again)

Now the bright light is reflecting off shiny mud rather than water.  The foliage will grow back.

Monday, 10 February 2014


In the UK we are used to our buildings being well mannered and self effacing. We like to"blend in" and are most assertive in insisting that others should blend in with us. What about office suits and school uniforms? We are very proud of our Georgian terraced houses, each perfect in its proportion. Reticent, gentlemanly and reserved, rather than heart on sleeves. If we build pairs of houses they must be twins, share the same genes. Semi detached rather than semi attached?

It is so different in lovely Belgium. Self expression is the thing The oldest buildings are wonderfully extravagant, each stadhuis must have pinnacles and baroque towers, the churches are tall with wonderful towers. Brussels is the spiritual home of Art Nouveau and organically twisting iron work flourishes everywhere. Art Deco is rampant.

And there are no holds barred when you build up against another house. It seems to be compulsory to use different materials and style. Nothing lines up, the scale of each building is a personal choice. It is as if the architects were engaged in a duel and, whilst sometimes it is weird , most of the time it is WONDERFUL!

This is the view from our bedroom window. Every house in the street, and the next street, is different.
As I write this I am thinking I should draw all the  houses in the neighbourhood, some are very fine. It might make a good series?

In case you were wondering our home is a superb Hansel and Gretel fantasy with a steep roof by a Dutch architect;  handmade bricks and wrought iron holding back the shutters, festooned in summer with red roses.  We fit in!

Sunday, 9 February 2014


Last week the females in the family took me for a days shopping in Terneuzen, in Zeeland. We (Lutje and I) took the train from Brussels to Gent where we met Daughter One travelling, also by train, from Mechelen.  Daughter Two was waiting with her car and drove us north.  We had a great time and had a lovely meal, zeebaars en frietjes for me.

Good company. I was very happy to be with three such lovely women.

On the way there  I was stricken by the winter landscape.. Huge pale blue sky, sodden brown fields and rows of  stark, sleeping trees.
Here is a little sketch I made


At least the weather here in Belgium has not been as bad as in Somerset. We have pouring rain, and violent wind storms, roofs removed not far from here but nothing  like the floods back home.

There has been some activity in the studio but things don't go so well. Lack of confidence to paint big? perhaps I shall blog on that later.

But my little sketch books keep purring!
Last week there was a lovely day trip (shopping with "the girls"!) to Holland, (Terneuzen in Zeeland) -  a blog is gestating  on that and there are already two drawings on Urban Sketchers Flikr. look  HERE

This week we had a trip to Veurne, a town in the S/W hoek of the country, near the coast almost into France.   We had been given a hotel voucher a while back and used it for somewhere we had not been before and where we could travel by train.

What a lovely little city! It's an old once fortified port, now a few kilometres inland, which traded with England in the 12th C.  Maybe a bit "gentrified", certainly not a cheap place to live but beautiful. Cobbled streets, good restaurants, amazing church of Sint Walburga, brick gothic and so lofty, with someone learning Bach  on the organ and, from another tower beside the Grote Markt   the carillon of St Niklaas rang through the streets.

We stayed in a really intriguing hotel,  de Loft  , adapted from a former industrial building.  A nice simple industrial aesthetic, galvanised doors and windows, painted brick work but so stylish and so very cosy and friendly - I want to go again!

It was cold and grey outside but the hotel was warm and snug and Lutje, having  mastered the WiFi code, was happy with her iPad for a while whilst I drew.

Standing at the window i could see yellow brick houses and a bar

and sitting and looking up at the window the skyline of stepped gables was amazing (the lower part of the window was obscured )

Our cold wind blasted sight seeing walk around the town produced a coffee, with Advocaat thrown in, and the best waffel ever!!

And later still  a HUGE hunk of delicious varkensvlees en frietjes and two glasses of St Bernardus bier made for an interesting night!