It been a long time between innings – something I have in common with the Australian cricket team.
Blogging slowed as things began to settle out here in Belgium, then turn to chaos, then settle, then chaos, and, well, here I am.
So what has been the most rewarding personal experience since arriving here nearly two months ago?
Yes that is bread, the yeast, water, salt, flour variety.
At 2 pm on Xmas eve I found myself in a shop looking for a playstation 3 game for the girls for Xmas, and next to the playstation section was the kitchen section.
And in the kitchen section was a line up of AEG ovens discounted heavily and ready to go.
A few questions, confirmation that across the road IKEA had home build units which could take a built-in oven – and despite the fact IKEA would close at 3pm, the decision was made. I paid for the oven, sprinted to IKEA, ran to the kitchen section, quickly told the assistant what I needed –
Single Oven? Yes.
Sorry out of stock.
White? (Naturally) No problem.
Now I had 15 minutes to get back to my car, drive to the afhalen attenderen (Collection or pick-up point), load the kitset and then drive to the oven supplier and their afhalen to collect the oven. Unintedned mission completed. On the way home, I detour to the supermarket – we had nothing intended for an oven at home.
By 6 pm we were sitting at the table eating roast chicken and veggies, our first ‘feels like home’ meal since we left NZ on 1 November.
And then there was bread.
I mixed up the batch that night and Xmas morning, amongst the excitement of our children my own therapy began. Comfort, warmth and joy emerged from a 230c oven. Smelling of home, of our life, of a basic, pure and simple pleasure which has always, without fail brought me joy – bread, home-made, moist, crusty, warm, bread.
Olive made my day when later on she asked me for another piece of her favourite bread in the world.
And there it is. I don’t think it was an attempt to have ‘home’ or to run from Belgium. I think it was the need for that which we recognise.
A token gesture that all things were possible, that pleasure is simple, that what can nurture us is as simple as flour, salt, yeast and water.
The knowledge that we need (no pun intended) confirmation of the familiar. Amongst the strange and unfamiliar, the chaos and culture shock – that if we do the little things which warm us at the core, then the little things which eat away at us for no good reason – stay just that – little things of no consequence.
Work, I now understand, has been a defacto for me, a daily confirmation, that I am who I am, nothing much has changed. It’s a ready-made world, which looks and feels like work anywhere. I’m not lost there as the landscape has not really changed.
But our home life has few such built-in securities. We are not accustomed to our children wanting to stay inside, to playgrounds covered in ice and snow – unusable to all but juvenile Yeti. The house is new, the supermarkets and their stock different. even white sugar is not as we know it.
Now more than ever I realise we need to place our pitons in the rock. Build a supporting harness of things which ‘feel familiar’. Not simply ignoring where we are – not trying to make Belgium New Zealand – that’s a recipe for an early exit.
Music (thanks Gordon, I played the music you especially copied for me for the first time yesterday)
Loving each other
Laughing at life
And believing, no not believing, knowing, that the life you are living, is the life you are living and that you are obliged to make the most of it.
To rejoice, to celebrate how fortunate we are to have each other, to walk, to talk, to love, to care, to think, to know, to connect, to heal, to learn, to understand, to embrace, to move forward, to grow, to acknowledge our human-ness and in doing so realising that the greatest challenges hold great joys, and so do simple pleasures like home-baked bread.
P.S. Readers may not know that we found ourselves in this townhouse without realising it had no proper oven, and no place to put one either, hence the need to get both an oven and a cabinet etc.