Monday, March 01, 2021

Guest post from Belgium

I'm having a series of posts from regular readers of the blog, telling us about their life during the pandemic. 

Today my elder brother is writing from Belgium, where he lives.

There is a huge diversity of lockdown misery stories according to where you live.   Readers in the UK may have a compulsive liar for Prime Minister and a collectively incompetent cabinet but, despite that, someone has managed to get a dynamic vaccination policy going. Here in Belgium we have different problems.  This is a small country of 11.5 million citizens with three regions and six parliaments, of which the federal parliament has members from 12 different political parties.  Trying to get a policy decision from a multi-coalition government is somewhat difficult. Anyone who claims they can explain how the political system works in Belgium clearly hasn’t understood it properly. 

Fewer than half a million people have had a first dose of vaccine and Belgium is a major manufacturer of Covid vaccines. Last Friday the national television news showed pictures of a huge vaccination clinic based in the Brussels equivalent of Earls Court exhibition centre.  It was completely deserted of patients, with bored nurses in PPE standing around twiddling their thumbs.  Invitations sent out by e-mail and SMS had gone into people's spam folder and no-one responded, so now letters are being sent – we have a couple of 80 year-old friends who still haven‘t had the call.

In the first lockdown I started making a few masks on the old hand-cranked sewing machine I inherited from my grandmother – it must be over a hundred years old but works perfectly.  Now we are encouraged to wear FFP2 masks, which can’t be home-made.  In our little town outside Brussels, people in shops and supermarkets are on the whole scrupulous about wearing masks, but it is appalling to see the number of discarded masks on the ground in car parks.  The catering/hospitality and cultural sectors, among others,  are suffering from lockdown but some manage to improvise by supplying take-away or home-delivered food.  Our local cultural centre has been closed since the latest lockdown but has organised live-streaming of theatre and musical events, much to the satisfaction of both the performers and those who had bought advance tickets for the winter season.

On the brighter side, we have had some enjoyable moments.  During the lockdown easing last summer we were able to get away with a couple of suitably physically-distanced friends for a night in a beautiful country hotel by the great river Meuse.  

As a part-time painter I have also continued contact with my local watercolour group by exchanging subjects and the resulting pictures on line.  

Sue has been very encouraging too;  you may remember her clematis paintings in recent blog posts.  She asked me to have a go too and here is my effort in watercolour. 

Everyday items such as vegetables can be interesting subjects for a watercolour still life and here is an example.

And here's a pastel of our cat Petal:

Where I sit to paint in my studio I have a view outside of the bird table, which has a great variety of visitors: three different finches, five different tits, a pair of nuthatches and a great spotted woodpecker, to name a few.  But the most amusing are two squirrels who do their acrobatic best to get at the nuts and sunflower seeds.  Here are two of my favourite visitors, a bullfinch and a red squirrel – we don’t have grey ones in Belgium.

We are very fortunate to have a large house and garden and I sympathise with those like our daughter in London who have to manage in a shared flat.  And now that sunny weather is bringing out the daffodils there is encouragement to think positively – at least we can get out for walks and fresh air. 



Anonymous said...

How wonderful to have a peek into someone else's day to day.
Our own feel like a well worn set of clothes that went out of fashion quite some time ago!

The beetroot, Petal, a different take on clematis - and those wonderfully folded edges on the entrance to the cardboard bed.

it's the little things that speak so much.
Thank you for sharing,


Anonymous said...

Such a talented family!
Lovely artwork - and the asparagus evokes memories of sunny days and buttery fingers, chilled white wine and straw berries. Always my father’s birthday meal.
Growing up in a family with two wonderfully gifted artists has left me fearful of drawing anything other than pin men but has left me with admiration and respect for the artistry of others. I would happily live with these on my walls.
And thank you to Sue’s family and friends for sharing a little of their lives in these crazy times.

Sue Hepworth said...

Peter says 'Thank you' for your lovely comments, Thea and 'Anonymous.'