Sunday, November 22, 2015

Memoirs and the memories they evoke

In a week or so, I will be publishing my new memoir, Walloon Ways. I'm not going to be making a song and dance about it as it is a slim volume and just an addition to my other 'Ways' books. No great work of fiction and maybe only of interest to those who love Wallonia and Belgium as I do.  But if anyone is interested in reading it, the cover is below, so you'll be able to see it on Amazon and also on Nook books in due course. I will make it available as a paperback but only through Lulu.com. I sell very few paperbacks these days and in honesty, they bring in less than the e-books if I put them out on Amazon, so it's not worth all the trouble of formatting them the way the big retailers want them done. However, some people still like them better, so if they want a proper book, Lulu will have them.



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!



19 comments:

  1. I wish you well with the new publication Val. We here enjoy the smell and feel of a new book, it enlivens us probably as much as a glass of whisky does for others and on that note I can only say
    "Cheers m'dear !"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Mel! I also like a real book, which is why I always make a paperback, but very few people buy them these days. Sad, but true.

      Delete
  2. I was lucky enough to be part of the Brussels experience and I can testify that, after proofreading the book from the very beginning, Walloon Ways is a perfect, Val-style rendering of our sojourn in the area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Koosje. We had a good time in Belgium, didn't we?

      Delete
  3. This sounds good Val I can't wait to read it. I can imagine when you were writing that memories you had forgotten came into your mind. Nostalgia is lovely and the fact that you're written it all down is wonderful. I love reading books set during the world wars but I've never read one set in Rotterdam so I hope you choose that one first.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am tempted, Anne. The thing is, I've started the other one and am quite well into it, so being a typical bull, I feel I should finish it first, but we'll see. I'm very very tempted, I must say!

      Delete
  4. Kindle is fine with me - but I am excited! I can't wait to read it. You are a great writer & every book you write is fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, dear Steph. You are such a supporter! Bless you :)

      Delete
  5. Your projects sound fascinating! I know very little about Wallonia. When did you learn to speak Dutch by the way? I have often wondered how you came to live in the Low COuntries in the first place. Maybe you explained that somewhere?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenny, I've lived here since 2001, so I've picked up quite a bit of Dutch although I've never followed a course. It's enough to manage in daily life and have one on one conversations with people, but I still get lost in a group. I like reading in Dutch, though, and I use it a lot in emails. My grammar is not very good and I'm useless at colloquial expressions, but I manage :) How I came to be here is explained at the beginning of Watery Ways, but I only write about it briefly. Personal circumstances and all that!

      Delete
  6. Hi Val - it does sound like a great trip down memory lane for you - while we can get a flavouring of life in Wallonia and around Belgium .. it's such an interesting and complicated part of the world.

    Two new ideas at the ready ... one will froth up to the writing surface ready to bubble out ... I'd love both! Cheers and good luck with this one ... Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Hilary! You're right. Belgium is a complicated part of the world!

      Delete
  7. Memoirs are such fun to write!! And I know what you mean about reviving memories (though I could survive without reliving the crocodile!!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I so agree Jo! And even the crocodile is a memory of a great experience...even if it's still a bit too close for your comfort. My 'crocodile' was a python...

      Delete
  8. Well done - it is always such a marvelous feat to reach that stage. I am a bit behind - next I have the process of beta readers and an editor before I can release my prose to the bright lights of the world! I am the same too - at least four other ideas for books - started, I have to choose which one to concentrate on.... decisions decisions - isn't this just too addictive! Anyhow, please shout (and remind) when this is available - I'm looking forward to it! x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you dear Jackie! I'll let you know and good luck with your own writing!!

      Delete
  9. Ooh, can't wait to read this memoir, having enjoyed your previous ones. I am torn too as to what you should write next. Good luck deciding! xx

    ReplyDelete
  10. Congratulations on another book, Val. I look forward to it, and to learning a bit about Belgium too. I have never even heard of Wallonia!! The book about Rotterdam in the war sounds very interesting - I am sure you will write it one day :))

    ReplyDelete
  11. Eu vim deixar um beijo,
    dizer que gostei muito
    do seu blog e também
    dizer que o estou seguindo.

    Siga o meu blog também,
    vai.

    Beijos e bom natal.



    .

    ReplyDelete