Zaid – a short story from Belgium.

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In the autumn of 2004 I found myself suddenly relocating to Belgium, at the expense of an attractive job offer in Italy. It was one of those major forks in the road, the kind of big decision that could transform a life. Which, for better or for worse, is exactly what it did.  

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“Mister Lie-ton, so nice to see you!” he purred in his thick, strangely charming sticky-toffee-pudding-voice. Extending his hairy ape-like arms towards me, I returned the gesture as he locked me into that familiar bear hug, an endearing staple of any Zaid visit. “Happy Birthday!” I cried and he could only chuckle in reply, his cheeks turning just a touch red. “Thank you Lie-ton, thank you”.

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Muntstraat – a short story from Belgium.

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In the autumn of 2004 I found myself suddenly relocating to Belgium, at the expense of an attractive job offer in Italy. It was one of those major forks in the road, the kind of big decision that could transform a life. Which, for better or for worse, is exactly what it did.  

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12 School Lane, 1989.

I’ve had loads of homes in my life. So many that I couldn’t name them all if I tried. From this multitude of mostly temporary habitats, two stand out head and shoulders above the rest. As a kid growing up in England, there was the magical 12 School Lane, Old Amersham; a cosy little three bedroom council house next door to St. Mary’s, the primary school I attended. Located opposite a large park, with playground, lawn tennis courts and the local youth club, that modest little council house served as HQ for what was a virtually idyllic childhood.

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A Single Man – a short story from Belgium.

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In the autumn of 2004 I found myself suddenly relocating to Belgium, at the expense of an attractive job offer in Italy. It was one of those major forks in the road, the kind of big decision that could transform a life. Which, for better or for worse, is exactly what it did.

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It was a few weeks after my breakup with Lucie when I woke up one morning in my little student room and realised I was actually pretty happy! This was a surprising development on several fronts. Firstly was the accommodation itself, a dingy box of a room containing little more than a desk, a sink and a dubious bed that kept collapsing when I rolled over in the night. The toilet, bathroom and kitchen had to be shared with a pair of local girls and an eccentric Iraqi called Zaiid, who spent his days living off Belgian social benefits and failing to learn Flemish. 

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Car Crash Girl Part II – a short story from Belgium.

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In the autumn of 2004 I found myself suddenly relocating to Belgium, at the expense of an attractive job offer in Italy. It was one of those major forks in the road, the kind of big decision that could transform a life. Which, for better or for worse, is exactly what it did.

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In many ways things between Lucie and I began to disintegrate right from the day I arrived in Belgium. Touching down in Brussels, she was on hand to meet me at the airport before leading me outside to meet her father Tom. Slim, tanned and talk-show-host-dapper in his freshly pressed shirt and trousers, Mr. De Smolden smiled, shook my hand and was courteous enough in his rusty English. And yet there was something in his detached demeanor that suggested life in the family home wasn’t going to be as welcoming as I’d hoped. Still, as we sped off towards Lucie’s hometown in her dad’s fancy car, I told myself to try and be positive. After all, it was only for a few weeks and then we’d be getting a place of our own. After the challenges of life in The Middle East, the adventures of Slovakia and the trials and tribulations of traveling around India, I mistakenly believed that a couple of weeks in the north of Belgium would be a piece of cake. 

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Car Crash Girl Part I – a short story from Belgium.

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In the autumn of 2004 I found myself suddenly relocating to Belgium, at the expense of an attractive job offer in Italy. It was one of those major forks in the road, the kind of big decision that could transform a life. Which, for better or for worse, is exactly what it did.

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“Get out of here!!!” screamed Lucie, slamming her fist down on the kitchen counter. “I’m starving, I need to eat, I can’t deal with anything until I’ve eaten!!!” Grabbing my coat, I made for the door, determined not to look back at her as I left. We’d only been living together for a week and I was already getting used to the tantrums. This time I didn’t need to see her wild eyes and flushed cheeks, or indeed the curls of saliva that formed at the sides of her mouth when she was angry. As attractive as Lucie undoubtedly was, seeing her in one of these all too frequent moods was not a pretty sight.

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My Top 20 Albums – ‘The Ideal Crash’ by dEUS.

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As a committed record collector there are few greater feelings than discovering an amazing band the masses don’t know about. You can’t help but succumb to a sense of triumph. These guys are fantastic, and nine out of ten people have no idea!

Part of you wants it to stay that way. You certainly don’t dream about the great unwashed blaring them out of their mobile phones. Nor do you want to wake up one morning to find the lead singer in a Calvin Klein commercial. Should your heroes ever roll into town, you’ll also be counting your lucky stars that getting to see them won’t involve the word Ticketmaster.

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