Wear Sunscreen

An historian's view on life, love and leisure

Category: History

Hallelujah and Armistice Day

For the past two days, everything people are talking about, all over the world, is the election of Donald Trump as the new president of the USA.

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Expats and Belgians: living happily ever after?

The ancient palace of the dukes of Burgundy in Brussels

17th century view on the ancient palace of the dukes of Burgundy in Brussels by Jan van der Heyden and Adriaen van de Velde. The palace on the Coudenberg was the quintessential meeting place for European diplomats and a true expat heaven for centuries before it was completely destroyed by fire in 1731. Its foundations can still be visited today in the Museum on the Coudenberg.

When The Bulletin (for those who don’t know The Bulletin, it’s the first, best known and largest of the media targeting the Belgian expat community) featured the results of the Expat Explorer Survey undertaken by HSBC, the reactions on social media were far more interesting than the results of the survey itself. Many of the issues discussed on social media weren’t even part of the survey and had nothing whatsoever to do with the article featured in The Bulletin. As the comments on social media demonstrated, people are often bewildered by the culture that surrounds them, even if that culture is not so very different than the one they left behind.

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Keeping busy: what I’ve been doing in the past few weeks

Leaving the harbour of Ostend (Belgium).

Leaving the harbour of Ostend (Belgium).

These past few weeks have flown by so quickly. I finished editing a book, spent about a month travelling in July/August and have just started my own business. I don’t even know where to start…

The book I’m talking about is actually a volume I edited with a Dutch colleague on the dynastic identity of early modern aristocratic families, which will normally be published in December of this year by Ashgate publishers. If you want to know more about it, you can find details on their website. It took us about 4 years to finish it, I don’t think either one of us imagined it to take that long. Not that this in itself is an exception in academia, my husband is waiting on a publication to come out which he wrote about 8 years ago…. So things could be worse 😉

The good thing about finishing a project, any project, is the mental rest that comes with it. After I sent my final e-mail this Saturday,  I felt completely exhausted. I couldn’t think of anything else, I just wanted to go to sleep early. I’m still really tired strangly enough, but it also feels as though my head is clearing up and new ideas are slowly filling it up again. That feels so wonderful!

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Conferences, coffee and jolly good company

Humboldt University

Humboldt University at Unter den Linden in Berlin, Germany: the location of the latest conference I went to in March of this year.

 

Contrary to what one might think, the best thing about conferences is not the exchange of knowledge. The best thing is meeting new people and catching up with old friends.

 

I once heard say that the whole idea of attending conferences is old-fashioned. Most companies have long ago decided conference calls are much more efficient, cheaper and faster. Since a couple of years, the internet has taken over, Skype is a wonderful thing, TED-talks inspire people all over the world.

So scholars who still travel around the globe to listen to a paper they might just as well read at home, are apparently completely out of date. Although I personally do feel we might want to “update” the whole conference experience a little bit, people who think the concept is obsolete simply do not get it.

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Religious mysteries (and a hint of surrealism) in Belgium: the relics of the Blessed Idesbald

Engraving of the Blessed Idesbald

Good Blessed Idesbald, patron saint of fishermen, sailors and the Flemish coast

Consternation in the newspapers and a mayor speaking on national radio about the relics of a long dead saint: no, this is not the plot of a new Dan Brown mystery novel. This is something actually happening in Belgium right now.

So, what is this about? In the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ter-Potterie church in Bruges the lead coffin of the locally venerated Blessed Idesbald was opened and scientifically examined. It was more or less expected to find the relics of this 12th century abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ter-Duinen in Koksijde inside it. The thing is, research has now shown that these remains actually belong to somebody who died roughly between 1470 and 1623. Conclusion? These are not the relics of the Blessed Idesbald!

The scandal! The mockery as well, as a gloating mayor of Koksijde proudly announced on the radio that in Bruges, they had been worshipping the ‘wrong’ relics for centuries. Did I spot some old rivalry between the cities of Koksijde and Bruges? Could it be that it had long been a frustration of the good people of Koksijde that ‘their’ saint (actually Idesbald was only beatified, not canonized) was buried amid these arrogant folks from Bruges?

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