A Belgian waffle…

From July 2019

Waffle can mean both ‘lengthy and vague, trivial talk or writing‘ or refer to ‘a dish made from leavened batter of dough cooked between two plates‘. This blog can be considered a combination of the two as this piece is about Belgium.

Geert van Istendael (pseudonym of Geert Vanistendael), a Belgian writer, poet and essayist said of Belgium that “it is the best remedy against patriotism”. After having lived here for twenty years, this is something I do recognise. Compared with England, where I lived for 14 years, there is no equivalent to the ‘Rule Britannia’. And unlike the Netherlands, where I was born and have lived for 19 years, Belgium does not get too excited, nor blossom a colour on Kings day or when the national teams play. This lack of patriotism is perhaps hardly surprising as Belgium formed as late as 1830 after seceding from the Netherlands.

Not only that, but Belgium is perhaps one of the most complex counties in the world, with six governments and three national languages. As well as having the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, the country is steeped in history and tradition, with beautiful medieval towns, impressive Renaissance architecture, a good tradition in food and without question, the best beers in the world.

The Belgians are modest, quiet and smart. Being both diplomatic and very professional, they know full well how to look after their self-interests, and this includes purposely flying under the radar in order to not attract attention. This is fed by a historical distrust of the government, the monarchy and ‘the establishment’ and it takes a while for an outsider to become an accepted member amongst them.

But for all of these reasons, I love Belgium. Not more so than the other two nations I’ve lived in, but differently. Somehow the combination of Dutch liberalism, French passion and German efficiency makes for a wonderfully inspiring back-drop to my novels with characters being both humble and proud, timid and bold, foolish and smart. It is perhaps for the same reasons that there are quite a few famous Belgian characters, such as Tintin and Hercules Poirot.

Perhaps in time, my lead-character Jesse Lacroix may be added to this list too. Or maybe not. Am I waffling? Time for a waffle….

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