The thing about writing memoirs, for me anyway, is the memories they evoke and the nostalgia for the times and places I am writing about. Walloon Ways is about our three years as weekend Belgians when we had a barge on the canal just outside Brussels and spent every weekend there. It was intended to be a real move, and we had ideas about living there full time, but I never managed to get teaching work in Brussels and so our residency was limited to the last three days of each week and, of course, holidays.
During those three years between 2003 and 2006, we had a lovely time on the barge and also exploring Belgium. I grew very fond of the country so while writing, I became immersed again in those memories and experiences, and it's given me hankerings for our life there again. I really miss Brussels sometimes. I loved being among French speaking people, and Brussels was much closer to Wallonia, the region I feel so at home in.
For various reasons, which I explain in the book, we had to sell the barge in 2006. Neither of us wanted to, but we didn't have much choice, which is probably why I am so sentimental about it (but don't worry, the book isn't - at least I don't think so!). It was in many ways my ideal life - living on the water but having a garden too. We were also very close to the city, but it felt like being in the country. The rolling hills of Wallonia were just down the road, meaning we could spend a lot of our time in very rural areas. It was a gift in many ways that I still treasure.
Of course, there were ups and downs too. Some of the downs concerned the animosity of some of our neighbours who felt they'd been invaded by Holland. They really did! And apparently, we were known by at least one person as the Rotterdam Mafia, although I don't know who it was and even if that was true. Still Brussels has some difficulties in coming to terms with its bi-lingual Flemish/French status as most of the residents are French speaking. There were therefore those in the community of barge owners who resented us, but if I leave that part out (as I have in my book - I only touch on it in one part), everything else about our time there was definitely worth being nostalgic about.
Anyway, I'm glad I've nearly finished editing and proofreading now as I've come close to looking for places in Belgium to keep my Vereeniging, such have been the feelings writing my memoir has aroused. It would be even less practical now than it was then, so the sooner I put it all away and hand it over to the world, the better! I can then put my memories back in their box and move on to other projects.
What are they? You may well ask... at the moment, I'm torn between continuing an Eccentrics style novel about a couple who take on the job of looking after a farm in Africa for a year while the owners are away (yes, this is based on personal experience, but it is fiction) and the other is something I'm itching to write. It's a kind of prequel to The Skipper's Child and will start in 1940 with the bombardment of Rotterdam. That's all I'm going to say for the moment. I'm reading a lot of wartime novels and right now, I'm reading one in Dutch which describes what being in the city during the bombing was really like. It's incredible. And awful. But it makes me want to get started with my own book even more. Time will tell which one wins!