Be Back Soon!

Hey there, dear readers!

As you may have noticed, I’ve been a despicable blogger lately. My excuse? Too many activities in London, more than I keep the pace with. During the last three weeks or so, I have been writing draft over draft, patiently waiting on my desktop. I have many stories to tell you so don’t go away just yet. I won’t let these drafts grow old! They just need to be brushed up and refreshed.

Drying Laundry

In case you’re wondering, this laundry represent all my drafts. Yes, laundry and drafts go together: sometimes, they both have to wait for ages to be taken care of.

I have realised that culture-wise, I have had many “firsts” here in London, such as my first ballet show, my first opera, my first webinar, my first time to the Royal Albert Hall, my first jazz concert in the most amazing and snazzy venue… too many adventures to share!

Lucky I got my student grant, though… It’s not easy being a mere poor student in a glamorous city!

Being High Tech And All

I used to think that being high tech is a geek thing. Poor old me thought that it was enough to have a MacBook and a Facebook account to call someone high-tech. Such a joke… I used to think that “less is more” when it came to mobile apps and didn’t even bother downloading Twitter or Instagram on my phone. What’s the use? It’s going to eat up all my mobile data and battery. All that talk on iOS being better than Android or vice-versa was making me dizzy. I couldn’t even see the difference…

I used to shrug at iPads… until I got mine. That’s when my world got shaken by the high-tech earthquake. Major life-changing purchase. Probably the best investment I’ve ever made in my life (thank you, graduation gift)! This love story started in a supermarket. Seriously, keep on reading. An Apple store is way too cliché. In Belgium, most of the Carrefour supermarkets have an IT aisle (I don’t even know if that’s the proper name) where they show on display new phones, new computers aaand – yes – iPads to play with. All the kids go there which makes the toys aisle a sad and forgotten place. I wasn’t really fancying trying out iPads and see their features, especially when seeing 10 kids fighting for one (almost like fighting for life). Sigh. When I was a kid, I used to fight for a swing because it was my turn. One day, while every kid in town was at school, I decided to pack up my courage and finally pick up an iPad and see what the fuss is all about. Bang, I fell in love! “Oh my Goood, look at this! It’s brilliant! You can slide the apps! Oooh, let’s see the apps! Hmm, music, video, iTunes… iBooks?! Oh my everlovin’… did you see the image resolution? Free books?! You can highlight things in a book? You can make notes? You can bookmark it? Face Tiiime! Even better than Skype (well, actually I wouldn’t know… most of my friends have Skype instead so I don’t use Face Time that much). There’s an app for playing the piano? And drums!” And this and that and… I had to lie down. I had to buy an iPad. Well, after reading 10 275 reviews on it and see how to make the most of it, I have finally ordered it online last year. Best investment ever.  For free time but also for university: pairing it with a Logitech keyboard makes it a tiny laptop that you can easily carry with you. That’s for my love story. This should be turned into a romantic comedy.

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What’s quite funny is that I’m a lover of all things vintage. Throw me anything vintage or vintage-inspired, I will take it. A few years ago, I wasn’t the least bit interested in this addictive high-tech world. I used to be against smartphones and Kindle readers. As an avid reader and old books collector, Kindle seemed like a slow poison for the publishing industry. A while ago, I have actually realised that you have to be open-minded and keep an eye open for everything evolving out there. I would hate to see e-readers replacing real books because there is no better feeling that buying a new book and hold it in your hands. Books are an object of art, there is a lot of work behind them. I have a friend working in the publishing industry and told me that a book certainly doesn’t get published overnight. But, let’s be honest: if I had to travel somewhere for a long time and wanted to pack 5 books with me, I’d much rather download them on my iPad because it takes less space. From a practical point of view, e-books have the upper hand. But this doesn’t mean I will throw away all my printed books. Each book I own has a story and memories behind it: my childhood, my obsession with horses at twelve, my teenage years, my poetic self at sixteen, my university years where I had to read French, Italian and Spanish classic authors… It’s hard to throw that away. Even if the pages are yellowed or if the spines are bent, flipping through the pages brings back all those memories.

On top of all of this, I also bought a real smartphone. A Samsung Galaxy S3 to be exact. You know, the one which was voted the best smartphone in 2012. By the way, Amazon, I love you for your crazy deals! I don’t know how I managed to live without one before… Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and LinkedIn grouped on HootSuite? Yes, please! Of course, there are many drawbacks to having a smartphone, like becoming utterly addicted and anti-social with people around you. Balance is the key. When I’m with friends, I don’t dive into my phone, refreshing every news feed. But I guess it’s reassuring to know that you can keep in touch with everyone. Sure, a simple phone call is easier but who said you can reach everyone with phone calls nowadays? There are plenty of people who don’t even bother answering anymore because you’re interrupting their tweet… 

Even if I decided to keep pace with the era I live in, this doesn’t make me inconsiderate towards old things because I still appreciate their value. For some things, I’m really old-fashioned. But, turning into a high tech gal made me aware of new interesting things. and the best is yet to come! I think this is closely related to my newest addiction to social media. Ok, “addiction” is a big word. Let’s say, “affection”. That sounds even more creepy. Well, you get the idea! 😉

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Râler contre Bruxelles?

Hier, je suis rentrée de Bruxelles où j’ai passé le weekend avec mes proches pour fêter mon anniversaire. Je ne sais pas vraiment comment l’expliquer mais c’était quand même bizarre de revenir, même si ce n’était que pour deux jours. C’est peut-être parce que j’ai pris l’habitude de vivre dans une ville immense, où on doit courir pour garder le rythme avec la ville. Comparée à Londres, Bruxelles est minuscule à côté. J’étais même étonnée de voir que faire quatre arrêts en métro peut me prendre 5 minutes (ce qui n’arrive pas si souvent que ça à Londres). J’ai presque oublié à quel point Bruxelles est petit. Mais après tout, être à la maison est le meilleur sentiment au monde (peu importe le nombre de fois où l’on voyage)… même s’il y a eu quelques détails qui ne m’ont pas manqués du tout ! Comme, par exemple, le transport en commun, que l’on appelle la STIB. Très raffiné comme nom, n’est-ce pas ? Court, simple, efficace. L’abréviation, pas le service qui est trop souvent inefficace. Sauf si vous n’êtes pas pressé. Bon, je ne vais pas me mettre à râler contre la STIB parce que beaucoup le font déjà assez. Et puis franchement, je crois qu’après 13 ans, on s’habitue aux retards des bus, aux gens impolis et les trajets agités dûs aux fameux pavés bruxellois.

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En parlant de transport en commun, aujourd’hui, je suis tombée sur cet article écrit par Marco Ricorda  qui m’a bien fait rire en parlant d’un trend sur Twitter, #STIBsongs (http://checkthis.com/stibsongs). Une de mes préférées est  “Can’t Buyl Me Love” – The Beatles. Il y a quelques jours, Marco a aussi rédigé un article à propos du service public déplorable en Belgique. Évidemment, il a reçu autant de réactions positives que négatives. Vous pouvez lire son article mentionné au-dessus. Ce que j’ai trouvé intéressant, ce sont les deux exemples de Joanne et Pablo qui montrent que les réseaux sociaux peuvent donner une voix aux clients mécontents. Après, c’est aux entreprises de voir comment ils peuvent régler le problème. Dans les deux cas, j’ai été choquée face aux réactions et ça ne m’étonnerait même pas si les deux entreprises vont finir par être ruinées un jour.

Où va-t-on avec ça ? Ah oui, le service publique belge. Soyons corrects, je crois qu’on peut avoir de la chance et éventuellement rencontrer des gens polis travaillant dans ce secteur. En-dehors de la STIB, j’ai eu quelques mauvaises expériences avec le secteur HORECA, même si ce n’est pas le seul pays où j’ai expérimenté ça. Je ne suis jamais allée dans un restaurant de luxe (comme par exemple Comme Chez Soi) mais dans quelques-uns “de moyenne gamme”, j’ai rencontré pas mal de serveurs qui se comportent comme s’ils vous faisaient une faveur, alors s’il vous plait, ne les faites pas perdre leur temps avec vos caprices comme, par exemple, demander un deuxième verre d’eau. Je ne vais pas vous parler des fast foods et je ne vais pas rentrer en détail pourquoi. Encore une fois, ça ne se passe pas systématiquement comme ça. C’est vrai que le personnel d’un restaurant ou d’un café doit s’occuper de clients impolis et c’est peut-être pour ça qu’ils s’en prennent aux autres mais c’est loin d’être une raison pour agir comme ils le font. J’ai aussi eu l’occasion de travailler comme vendeuse dans une chocolaterie et j’aurais pu m’en prendre à des milliers de clients à chaque fois que quelqu’un était impoli avec moi. Mais je m’abstenais parce qu’il y a ce truc qu’on appelle “etiquette”, ce dont beaucoup de gens ont oublié. Je suppose que c’est plus facile de payer avec la même monnaie.

J’ai aussi entendu beaucoup d’histoires à propos de touristes qui sont traités indignement ou des immigrants qui ne se sentent pas accueillis par les gens travaillant à la Maison Communale. Je peux vous garantir que la politesse dans une Maison Communale à Bruxelles devient très rare. Je ne parle pas des gens qui viennent pour des renseignements ou des obligations mais du personnel qui est censé nous aider et nous respecter. Non seulement le respect devrait être une règle d’or mais en plus de ça, quand quelqu’un arrive dans un pays et montre un certain intérêt envers ta culture, la moindre des choses est de se comporter de façon humaine.

En gros, je ne veux pas royalement critiquer la Belgique parce qu’aucun pays n’est parfait, soyons honnêtes. Mais en prenant l’article de Marco comme inspiration, je pensais aussi faire la remarque que le service public belge a pas mal de choses à améliorer ! Ceci ne fait pas des Belges des ingrats ou des inhumains, loin de là ! Combien de fois je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de rencontrer des gens aimables et généreux et je suis sûre que j’en rencontrerai encore plus ! Par contre, j’espère un jour enfin tomber sur un vendeur qui puisse m’aider sans me répondre « Boh, j’sais pas vous aider moi, Madame, demandez à mon collègue », en espérant que le collègue en question ne soit pas encore plus à côté de la plaque.

De toute façon, une de mes amies allemandes va visiter Bruxelles en Octobre et je compte lui demander son avis sur la Belgique et comment elle sera accueillie! Ullie, tu seras la future star de mon blog ! 😉

Bitching about Brussels?

Yesterday, I came back from a weekend in Brussels where I spent my birthday with my loved ones. I don’t know how to explain this but it was slightly awkward being back, even if it was for two days. I guess I got used to living in a huge city, where you have to move fast to keep up with the city’s pace. Size-wise, Brussels seems insignificant compared to London. I was actually surprised to go through four tube stations in only 5 minutes (which doesn’t happen very often in London). I almost forgot how small Brussels really is. But home will always be home… even though some things made me not get homesick. Like the public transport, for example, usually called “la STIB”. Fancy name, isn’t it? Short, simple, effective. The abbreviation, not the service which is often not that effective. Unless you’re not in a hurry. I won’t go on bitching about Brussels’ public transport because many blogs do that already. And to be fair, I think after 13 years you get used to your bus being late, rude people and bumpy rides due to Brussels’ well-known pavé (causing many ankle sprains when wearing heels).

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Speaking of public transport, today, I have stumbled upon this article which was written by Marco Ricorda and had a great laugh at a Twitter trend he mentioned, #STIBsongs (http://checkthis.com/stibsongs). A personal favourite of mine is “Can’t Buyl Me Love” – The Beatles. A few days ago, Marco also wrote about Belgium’s awful public service. As it was to be expected, he got both positive and negative reactions. What I found interesting is that he mentions two relevant examples of two people who got bashed by a service provider and a business. You can read more about it in his article (linked above). These two examples show how customers have the power to destroy a business through social media. Joanne’s post on Facebook and Pablo’s YouTube video show how social media can give a voice to unhappy customers. Afterwards, it’s up to the businesses to make it up for them or not. In both cases, the reactions were actually appalling and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if both businesses ended up ruined one day.

Where am I going with this? Yes, Belgian public service. In all fairness, I think you can be lucky and actually come across polite people working in the Belgian public service. Aside from the STIB, I personally have had quite a few unpleasant experiences in the HORECA sector, even though it’s not the only country I’ve experienced it. I’ve never been to any fancy restaurants (like Comme Chez Soi, for example) but in some of the middle-range ones, I have met quite a few rude waiters who act like they’re doing you a favour, so please don’t waste their time with your capricious requests, such as having a second glass of tap water. I won’t mention fast food restaurants and I won’t even go into detail as to why. Again, to be fair, this didn’t happen every single time. True, restaurant or cafés staff may deal with unpleasant customers and it might be that they’re taking it out on you (they’re human after all) but that’s no reason for them to act like that. I have also worked as a shop assistant in a chocolate shop and could have bashed thousands of clients if I counted every single time where a client was rude to me. But I didn’t because there is this thing called “etiquette”. Many people seem to have forgotten that. I guess it’s easier to offend a client back if he offends you.

I have also heard many stories about tourists being treated unkindly or immigrants feeling unwelcomed by people working at the Town Hall. Speaking out of personal experience, I can guarantee that politeness at the Town Hall is almost extinct. I am not talking about people coming to the Town Hall for enquiries but people who are supposed to help and respect you. Not only is respect a golden rule but for crying out loud, when someone comes to your country and shows interest in your culture, you can at least act like a human being.

All in all, I don’t mean to criticise Belgium in any way, because no country is perfect. Taking Marco’s article as an inspiration, I thought I could also point out that Belgium’s public service can feel free to improve. This doesn’t make Belgians unkind or inhuman. I have met many lovely people and I’m sure I will still meet plenty of them! Though I still have to come across a supermarket or shop assistant who will be able to help me without saying “Boh, j’sais pas vous aider moi, Madame, demandez à mon collègue”, hoping that the colleague isn’t clueless.

Anyway, one of my friends from Germany will be visiting Brussels in October so I will make sure to ask her for any feedback about Belgium and its hospitality! Ullie, you will be the future star on my blog! 😉

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Wind Of Change

Yes, I had this song in mind when I was looking for a title. I know many bloggers who should be “accused” of copyright infringement when using too many titles referring to songs. But let’s not get into that.

Today’s biggest announcement – drum rolls, please – I have finally created my own blog domain! “Big deal”, rolling eyes… Hey, I have dreamed about this day, so let’s be nice!

I have to say this blog has been a long-awaited project. I’m not going to tell you guys the story from the very beginning again but it took a lot of time and courage to finally dive into this addictive world of blogging! My blog isn’t a brilliant reference in the blogging world but I’m learning every day! Rome wasn’t built in a day so I’m hoping this kiddo will grow more and more each day! I realised the secret of frequent blogging is to start writing about whatever you fancy and never stop! Those ideas will come flowing before you know it! So I’m just going to keep on writing and walk my own walk of life! 🙂

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Oh, in case you’re wondering: yes, my blog’s title was inspired by – not one but – two songs! Copyright infringement big time! The first one is, of course, Dire Straits‘ famous song and the second one is a less-known single by Billie Piper, which apparently was her last song in 2000 following her decision to retire from the music industry.

My blog might have been inspired by these two songs but in all honesty, I wanted to create a place where I could talk about different subjects and write for all different kinds of people, from all walks of life! Because that’s what makes life interesting: we all have our own walk of life and we always inspire and learn from each other (or at least, we should). I choose to share a few moments of my own walk of life with you, hoping to either make you smile, laugh or think “Hey, I’m not the only weirdo who thinks that!”.

 So, let’s hear some cheering for the new “Walk Of Life”! A new era begins…

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