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Hard Labour

Mrs.B has got a job! A full-time, fully paid job at an insurance firm that shall remain un-named. You won't believe how relieved we both are, as she has been unemployed for a full year.

When she received her letter of resignation, I wasn't worried at first. After all, there are plenty of jobs for legal experts, right, even in these difficult economic times? And frankly, I was relieved that her previous contract came to an end, because her old boss was trying to push the blame for his department not reaching its targets on her shoulders. And then he tried to set the rest of the team up against her. Unsuccesfully so, I might add, because my wife still has good contacts with most of her old colleagues. But still, it was time to pack and go.

'Take it easy for a while', I told Mrs.B. 'Don't worry about finding a job, with your qualifications you're sure to find something soon. But first take a rest and get those nasty times out of your system'.

But four months later, by the end of the year, she'd received a lot of invitations and done a lot of tests, but no job still. A couple of times she came really close, but then... She wasn't the only candidate. In fact, there were loads of other candidates. She would meet the same people over and over again waiting for the same job interviews, even when she applied for rather specialised positions.

Meanwhile, our savings were drying up. I stopped working in the house. We stopped going out. We bought only the bare necessities. And then we had the car crash and a new loan to pay off. We stopped inviting people.

When we went on summer holidays, we decided we didn't want to sit in our caravan all day, afraid of spending a single euro, but when we came back it was clear that day X would be somewhere in November. To make matters worse, job openings were getting even scarcer. We had 'minimum birthday parties' for Tyl and Mrs.B in September.

And then suddenly, an insurance company AND a sollicitor's office were both interested to see her. More tests followed, and it was difficult for Mrs.B to motivate herself once more for these lengthy procedures, reviews and tests. I was secretely hopeful, but then again we'd been disappointed so many times before. In the end you don't dare to hope. So at the same time I started to contemplate the alternatives: sell the car, the horse, the house, the children - maybe even as a final desperate measure my vintage porn collection.

But then she had not one but two offers. The sollicitor offered her a part-time position, but the insurrance company was interested in more.

So this Monday, after a year's sitting, waiting and brooding at home, she packed her lunch, jumped on her bike and rode to  the office. It's only a short bike ride from home, so it's even very practical to bring the children to and from school/day care in the morning and evening.

So until she receives her first pay check, we'll still have to eat spagetti twice every day. But you can't believe what a relieve this is. Yay!

Wednesdays Are Painful

Wolf has a boo-boo and we have to apply some ointment on it twice a day.

Wolf: 'Mummy, what day is it today?'

Mrs.B: 'Wednesday'

Wolf: 'Oh no, then you mustn't rub the ointment on because it will hurt!'

Crash Test Mummy

I was at work last Monday morning, when Mrs.B called me. The moment I heard her voice, I realised something was wrong. 'Bart, I had an accident with the car. I'm fine, but the car is a total wreck!'

It took a moment for that message to sink in.

She had been to the horse riding club that morning, and on the road home the car started to act funny in a curve of the road. Things got much worse however at the next bend: the car drifted to the right, but when Mrs.B tried to correct it suddenly swerved to the left - which is in this part of the world the wrong side of the road. With oncoming traffic approaching fast, she tried to turn to the right again, at which point the car veered off the road, down a slope and sliding into a ditch. During that slide, the roof made contact with a wrongly parked tree that gave no right of way.

When I saw the pictures of the car later that day, I could feel cold sweat seeping down my spine:

Granted, from the back it doesn't look that bad. But then the tow truck came along and pulled it out of the ditch:

That tree had made a mess of the back of the car, and the roof, which meant that it is beyond repair. Notice that little red children's seat? That's were Wolf is normally strapped in. Luckily, he was at school that day.

The tree in question had taken a beating, but was otherwise fine. Well, at least it was in a better condition than our poor old car.

Well, the most important thing was that Mrs.B was ok - shaken and stirred, but otherwise unhurt. As a matter of fact, the moment she arrived in the garage with the tow truck, she inquired about buying a new car. We're going to France in six weeks time, you see. So on Wednessday she looked around for a car loan - while I was enjoying a nice old gastric flue - and on Friday we went to the bank to sign for the car loan and today the car was delivered to the garage and tomorrow we'll get the plates and on Wednessday we can go get the new car. That's how Mrs.B deals with car crashes!

We opted for the new version of the Peugeot Partner. We were quite pleased with our previous car, apart from that minor tendency to violently swerve all over the road at random moments. The garage made us an offer we couldn't refuse on a car they had in stock. It's army green, so the next time we have a collision with a tree we can just let it there because it will blend right in with the scenery. Saves us the cost of a tow truck.

International Keep-Your-Fingers-Crossed Week

Mrs.B may have found a job, after four months of being on the dole. It looks very promising - knock on wood - but she won't find out for sure before next Monday.

So please join us in crossing our fingers for the next couple of days. And don't you think of uncrossing them for such mundane trivialities like eating, sleeping, picking your nose or wiping your bottom!

Pas De Deux

Wolf in action, together with his mum. He loved it; not only did he step around a bit, they even did a trot and then went on to galloping!

Then it was Tyl's turn...

But that was less of a success...

Poor little guy. It really wasn't his day, because he wasn't feeling too well.

Tyl crying on the back of Julia

Tyl crying on the back of Julia

Baby Tyl riding Julia

Baby Tyl riding Julia

Wolf riding Julia guided by mummy

Wolf riding Julia guided by mummy

Wolf riding Julia

Wolf riding Julia

Party All Night Long

We thought we'd have a quiet New Year's celebration. You know, just with our little family, have a nice meal and stare at dumb eighties re-runs (thank you Flemish television for THAT crap, we'd almost forgotten what kind of stupid shite we'd had to watch before cable finally conquered Belgium).

So after staring at the fireworks displays - both the official and amateur ones - I gulped down the last of the white wine and went to bed. Mrs.B had nested herself under the duvet since before long, just waking up for a couple of minutes to yawn 'Happy New Year' and then retreating again. So all was quiet.

And then some morons started to shoot fireworks again after 2 o'clock. Tyl had been whimpering all evening long, but now he got infuriated. He would have none of it, and he'd protest until everyone would get the message. And with 'everyone' I mean the general population of the greater Antwerp area.

He was inconsolable. A simple drink of water didn't suffice. We took him into our bed, but he continued to cry and kick and scream. Every time he calmed down, the idiots down the street fired up a new weapon of doom, and Tyl would counterstrike without hesitation. This went on until four in the morning, then Tyl had finally calmed down and fallen asleep.

I didn't dare to produce a sigh of relief, I was so cramped up with fear that the slightest sound would alarm him again. And then, as if they'd picked up the very thought, those mad criminals would detonate one last charge. I went through the roof, but luckily Tyl was too exhausted to react.

So finally I lay my head to rest... only to be woken up a couple of hours later by Wolf. He'd gone to the toilet, and he needed someone to clean his bottom. So he shouted for me... I veered out of bed like I had a very large piece of firework fired from between my buttocks. By the time I'd reached Wolf - all hushing and shushing - he'd yelled out three more times. Fortunately, Tyl still slept like a baby rose.

Wolf wouldn't return to bed, so being a good parent I parked him behind the TV with a bunch of biscuits and a large glass of apple juice. Then I crawled back to bed, for a bit of a nap - until noon. Anyway...

Happy New Year to everyone!

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