Thursday, 28 May 2015

There's been more than one battle at Waterloo you know!


'My, my, at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender
Oh yeah, and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way
The history book on the shelf
Is always repeating itself...'

What do you know about Waterloo?

Do you say the words 'Waterloo', 
and immediately launch into Abba's famous song?!

If so, you're right!
'At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender'

Fast forward two hundred years, and local Waterloo Blogger Gattina
is kindly showing me the famous sights of the Battle of Waterloo.
Where Napoleon's tyrannic rule ended, changing the direction of Europe.

As we arrive at the man made Butte Du Lion
we notice masses of soldiers ready for action,
as if they were going off to fight in 1815.

The area appears to be a massive construction site,
with frenetic activity and workmen trying to finalise building
 before the upcoming bicentenary celebrations.
These days, instead of being on horseback,
the soldiers are in cars fighting for a parking space!

Butte du Lion, Waterloo
The organisers are expecting 120,000 spectators
at the Waterloo 2015 commemorations on June 19-20 2015.
 This will be the biggest reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo
 with 5,000 soldiers, 300 horses and 100 cannon.

Hopefully by then, they will have finished the building works
and completed the car park!

'How nice of you to arrange a VIP welcome!'

I say to Gattina, as the band swings into full force on our arrival!

It was lovely to meet Gattina,
who appears quite used to meeting random bloggers
 introduced via the Internet, but for me this was a first!

I first got to know Gattina through her blog  which I love to read as
as it brings me up to date on my previous life living in Belgium.

This is what happens when two bloggers meet:


 Hug (as we feel we're meeting old friends)


You can see Gattina's version of events here

There are 226 steps which give a panoramic view of the battlefield.
The new underground memorial was having it's official opening that day
with invited dignitaries, hence the soldiers and the band.
 TV crews and media, swirl around and Gattina and I snap happily away.

We are in blogging heaven!

Musicians performing at the inauguration of the Waterloo Memorial 
We follow a line of soldiers being signed in to the VIP opening,
check out the cow hide back packs!


After all this excitement and a drink at the cafe, 
to get to know each other a little better, 
we head off to the Ferme de Hougoumont, Braine l'Alleud.

Hougoumont was the pivotal point 
in the Duke of Wellington's defensive line in the Battle of Waterloo.
Once sadly derelict,
it is slowly being transformed with the help of British donations
which are being matched pound for pound by Belgium.

Peter Snow reports below "It was here at this peaceful farm 200 years ago that 5500 British and German troops died or were injured, in one of the epic struggles of history. Wellington said that the outcome of the battle of Waterloo depended on closing the gates at Hougoumont".
Here you can find more details of Project Hougoumont below:

Walking around the austere Hougoumont buildings 
I am transported back to my own 
 personal battles in Belgium,
 arriving to live in Brussels, over twenty years ago
with my DH and two children, one just ten days old...

It was about giving up a career 
and becoming a full time stay at home Mum,
in a country where I knew no one.

It was about learning to converse in a country 
which had three official languages 
 French, Flemish and German
where everyone was multi-lingual whilst
moi, arriving with basic school girl French, felt illiterate!

There were others but
my battle didn't last too long,
like Napoleon I capitulated
into the 'stay at home' Mum role
and grew to love Belgium!

I even ended up living there, twice and loving it!

'The history book on the shelf
Is always repeating itself...'

A massive thank you to Gattina for a wonderful day out
It was a pleasure to meet you!

Linking with the following:

Song-ography: Waterloo by Abba

Alphabe Thursday
B: for Belgium Blogging Buddy
Thanks Jenny!

The Good, The Random, The Fun

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Brussels, Belgium

A whiff of waffle!

May 2015

With that first smell of sweet waffles, 
cooking on the street corners, 
I knew I was back!

I have lived in Belgium twice.  
All of a sudden it seems a lifetime ago, indeed nearly 20 years, 
since our son was born here.
So many fond memories and lasting friendships formed in the school playgrounds...

Brussels is a fabulous city to live and also to visit.

It's small enough, to enjoy the major visitor attractions in a big weekend; Grand Place, Manneken Pis, Royal Palace, Parlamentarium etc. Add in a few museums, some art galleries and enjoy a beer or kir royale, whilst chomping through some pomme frites with mayonnaise, or how about a fresh crusty baguette with gorgeous cheese from an outdoor market? And before you know it, you're sad you're leaving, but have had a cracking time.

 I am here to wander 
and enjoy wrapping myself in the familiarity of my old Belgium life...
Sharing a sundowner drink in a pretty square with old friends, 
 or wandering through Parc Leopold, laughing and reminiscing.

It is fun to be back in this city of contrasts,
 the ultra new...

To the seriously old...

Well by Aussie standards
Living in Australia we don't have the buildings with this heritage.
Brussels is wow overload!

If you love culture and architecture, then you will love Brussels.
At every turn, there seems to be something interesting...

Even if it is the barbed wire security fencing which is piled up 
ready for use around the European Parliament

The mega cute buildings, standing proud, wrought iron balconies
 and the brightly coloured geraniums in window boxes, like we once had!

 Being in the Capital of Europe everything seems to be on such a grand scale
However now living in Melbourne, four times as populated,
Brussels seems small!

I love the visit to the European Parliament. The interactive Parlamentarium museum tells the history of the European Union. It is well done.
As I visit David Cameron is in Riga, Latvia 
attending a EU Summit and asking for reforms before the future 
British in/out referendum 
on Britain's EU Membership in 2017

 We enjoyed the Chagall exhibition at the Museum des Beaux-Arts.
Chagall is fascinating painter, 
each painting full of symbolism and hidden meaning. 

I hope you have enjoyed a little wander with me in Brussels
Tomorrow join me as I visit fellow Blogger, Gattina to visit Waterloo!

Have a lovely weekend.
Linking with the following thanks to the lovely hosts at:

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

How to run an amazing Flower Festival

It's all in the preparation...

Some worms on an ice cream!

If you only knew the hours of work 
that goes into organising a flower festival for the village,
then you'd understand perfectly how this lady, Jesse Cox
came to be collapsed in the front of my car last Friday.

Driving Jesse to church.
Jesse Cox started life as a papermache balloon head,
some wool hair, and a body stuffed with plastic bags!

She was created, last year by my Parents 
along with her soldier husband, and a bridesmaid or two
 for her 1918 Church wedding at St Mary's Longcot.
2014's Flower Festival was a World War 1 inspired.

2014 Long Church Flower Festival
This year's theme Painters in Flowers is an interpretation 
of the style, colours and work of famous artists. 

Each theme is meticulously planned by my Mother and her 
wonderful band of local Oxfordshire flower arrangers.

Mum has the vision, 
but turning that vision into a reality takes work,
 and an able assistant, my Father!

2015 Painters in Flowers at Longcot Church
Jesse Cox is back, by popular demand! 
2015 finds Jesse painting serenely in her garden...

In fact Jesse has not been anywhere.
Except sitting in my Parents dining room for most of her year,
whilst her war hero Hubby has been in the garage!

The finished scene

She needed a new frock,
and so has been redressed retaining her blouse
but a new skirt has been made.
She need to be redesigned to sit down,
cue Dad who made the cardboard box she is sitting on.

She needs a painting, paints, paintbrushes etc 
all that before anyone even attempts 
the beautiful floral arrangement to be painted.

Preparing the scene... painting Jesse's painting

Jesse needed the painting which we did one Sunday lunchtime
and proudly showed to the kids back home in Australia on Skype.

'Hmmm' said Daughter No 2 thoughtfully
'Have you done that Mum?' 
'I might have had a little dabble', I said proudly!

'Well, it looks like some worms on an ice-cream from here!'

'Thanks, darling!'

Some worms on an ice cream...

I'm not a Flower Arranger 
but I hear the same things time and time again...

Despite me showing you all the above at the end of the day

1. It's not about the props, it's about the flowers...

Vase of Flowers - Breughel
2. Conditioning the flowers is everything!
The flowers are prepped for display by soaking them in water 
for at least 24-48 hours which will help elongate their lives. 
These flowers need to last for two weeks.
Burning the ends of those with heavy sap will help.

3. Each flower must look individually perfect

even when the overall look is to be casual ...

4. Beg, borrow and steal your greenery!
Never go anywhere without your secateurs.

No garden in Oxfordshire has been safe...
This flower festival is a truly community event,
We've been gathering greenery from far and wide.

It has been rather disconcerting that 
as the British economy has picked up,
friends are employing gardeners more and more.
Tidy gardens are not as good for greenery!

The best story I heard was the friend who hates her variegated ivy
but keeps it growing 
as she knows how much the flower festival loves having it!

5. Buy your Flowers wisely

Whilst a lot of the flowers were kindly donated by the flower arrangers themselves, and this has been supplemented by some generous financial contributions from the village, 
it is expensive putting on a Flower Festival.

To ensure there is not too much out of pocket expense
flowers are carefully chosen for their long lasting blooms 
from a mixture of suppliers.

 The 'exotics' come from the local florist
 but the filler plants; chrysanthemums, lilies and carnations 
all come from the local Supermarkets!
Either Sainbury's, or indeed the majority coming from Aldi 
at the bargain price of 2GBP a bunch.

I hope you have enjoyed a little peak into the Flower Festival.
If you are in the area, do pop in and visit for yourselves
St Mary's Church, Longcot, Oxon
16 - 24th May 2015

Linking with the following:
Thanks to all the wonderful hosts!

Mosaic Monday

Mosaic Monday

Our World Tuesday

Good, Random, Fun

Home Matters Linky Party - Grab Button

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Dear Dave (Cameron) just a little suggestion...

 British General Election 2020!

Last Thursday 
 the storm clouds gathered over the not-so-United Kingdom 
for the General Election.

It is fair to say that things have moved on a bit, 
ok a lot,
 since I did my A-level in Government and Politics.

Ummm I suppose it was rather a long time ago...
 Indeed the last time I voted in this country,  
the name Margaret Thatcher 
was on the ballot paper!

'Who's UKIP and Nicola?'
'What happened to the LiB Dems?'
Ed who?
'Scotland is interesting!'

But as quickly as I tried to get up to speed 
with what was going on politically,
and trust me, 
those who'd not lived abroad for twenty plus years struggled too...

The next day it all changed!

It was like a political Ring a ring o' roses British nursery rhyme
That we used to sing in the school play ground.

Ring a ring o' roses
A pocket full of posies
A tishoo, a tishoo
We all fall down!

A pocket full of Conservatives won 
under the leadership of a somewhat surprised David Cameron 
who had been running the Country with Nick Clegg 
and a coalition of Liberal Democrats...

When this happened 
all the other party leaders, including Nick Clegg, Deputy PM
fell down and resigned.

Well not quite, 
not Nic (Sturgeon) 
She's the very impressive leader of the Scottish National Party 
who despite masses of media attention, 
couldn't resign, as she wasn't up for election... 
Are you following all this?

Let me not get into Scotland 
otherwise I will show my true colours - Haha
Except to say that at one point #DogsatPollingstations trends on Twitter
Of course I couldn't resist joining in with my own Crazy Poodle photo,
although I did restrain myself from adding #bettertogether!
sob, sob I miss my dog!

Now talking of hot dogs I've had an idea!

It was fun comparing election day with those in Australia.
I cannot leave the British Election without a teeny, weeny 
suggestion to the new PM...

Dear Dave
If I was running the country 
I would take the following steps for political reform...

No, no, I am not talking proportional representation, 
although there's a thought...

My idea is very simple
no need to consider compulsory voting like Down Under, but follow our lead
 and introduce the following fundraising initiatives.
You definitely vote with your wallet in Oz!

1. Cake stall
2. Plant sale
3. Sausages...

Don't even think about another General Election 
without a sausage sizzle being the norm. 
Produce a map of where to vote with the best bangers (we call them snags!) 
'wham, bam thank you Ma'am'
Up goes your turnout from your 66.1% in May 2015 to way over 75%...

Think about it this way Dave,
 you need sustainable economic growth.
Why not start on election day by offering way for the electorate to give back?
Let's bolster the coffers of the local community through cakes, plants and hot dogs!

I really feel you are missing a trick, 
I mean let's just use chapels and churches as an example,
Most of these used as Polling Stations would have had their busiest day for, well...
since the last election
All these people nipping out in their lunch break or before work.
It's a winner, Dave!

I await 2020 with great excitement
I'll bring the ketchup!

Linking with the following:

Alphabe Thursday Thanks Jenny
Z is for Zero Hour
zero hour (plural zero hours)
  1. The scheduled time for the start of some event, especially a military operationH-hour

#PoCoLo   Thanks Victoria

Post Comment Love

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

I remember Wren...

It's been a cracker of a British week!
We've had everything here starting with a Princess born,
Wren veterans at VE celebrations,
a visit to a Sir Christopher Wren inspired garden,
and a General Election.

It's a real trip down memory lane for me returning to the 
 English countryside where I grew up.

1, I remember Wren...
I was a country girl living in a small Oxfordshire village.

Learning to ride my pony and cantering across these hills,
or perhaps more like careering wildly out of control, 
I had a spirited and young chestnut mare.

I never thought I would end up with a life of city living in Australia.

2, I remember Wren
I gave birth to my two daughters in Cheltenham maternity hospital.

They were easy uncomplicated births but
on the third day after Daughter No 1 was born
my car was stolen from the hospital car park.
It was eventually found in Brighton six week later...
I remember sobbing my eyes out 
with our new baby and a policeman taking notes!

How things have changed.
You don't get the luxury of a week in hospital these days.
Last weekend we watched (on the telly) Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
 leaving hospital eight hours after giving birth to 
HRH Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.
Kate looked amazing, 
of course she had help 
... and a few more policemen than I did. 

Closer to home (my parent's garden that is)
 Mother squirrel finally brought her babies out for the world to see.
'scuse me for the blurry photo.
Here they are learning how to walk in a straight line without a wobble!

3, I remember Wren...
This week the country celebrated seventy years since VE day

Across the country many Veterans, including Wrens 
attended remembrance services to commemorate victory in Europe.  
The Queen attended a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey 
and in Horse Guards Parade, London 
10,000 people celebrated at a concert:  
VE Day - 'A party to remember'

 Wrens - the nickname given to 
the Women's Royal Navy Service.

4, I remember Wren...
voting at a General Election 
seemed far less complicated!

Thursday was an interesting election day and by Friday
the country seemed blurry eyed and in a state of shock, or pure delight,
depending on allegiances.
Billed as too close to call, the Conservative party
formed a new government with an overall majority.

5, I remember Wren...
Admiring Tyntesfield's Orangery and kitchen garden
inspired by Christopher Wren's 
Hampton Court Palace.

Tyntesfield, outside Bristol is a splendid house and garden. 
We had a very enjoyable visit on Saturday. 
More to come on this later in the week

I hope you have enjoyed a little peep into my week!
Thank you for your visit
Looking forward to visiting you soon.

Linking with Our World Tuesday
Five on Friday - Thanks Amy!