It’s a very good week to become Belgian.

An anonymous looking letter from the commune was waiting for me when I got home last night.

It’s been four months, and bang on schedule my Belgian nationality application has been approved.

I am pleased that the process is complete, but I get a warm glow about the timing. Sometime in the next week the Conservative Party in the UK is expected announce that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson will become its leader and therefore Prime Minister.

Back in the 1980s with the assurance I youth I spoke out loud and said “If Maggie Thatcher gets elected again I’m going to emigrate.” Life takes over, it never happened until the wonderful chance was given to us by European Cyclists’ Federation to come and try life in Belgium.

Taking Belgian nationality wasn’t automatic when we arrived, as an EU citizen I had a secure job and stability in Belgium. With Brexit and knowing that Boris is intent on the political equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade I would be completely stupid not to make sure my life can continue. To get the nationality approved on the week he becomes Prime Minister is invisible to him, but it has a symbolic value for me.

Belgium is no utopia (where is?), there are a different set of challenges and issues that can easily cause hair pulling and teeth grinding. But I feel that am very lucky that I have the chance to stand apart from the sadness I feel about what is happening to the UK, to its place in the world, the hardening of attitudes that feel so alien to ideas of “home”.

That is summed up by the appointment of Boris, and by the contrasting experience of nationality applications between the UK and Belgium. Theresa May’s legacy of intolerance as Home Secretary leaves an immigration system creating a trail of families torn apart, much needed professionals sent home and an expectation that the NHS cannot be staffed and food will rot in the fields.

People who have contributed to society, raised families and paid far over the average level of tax are being told that Britain is not for them. And even if you pass the climate of intolerance the process of citizenship is slow, stressful and expensive. We know, because my wife went through it after 28 years of living in the UK.

For Belgian nationality there are four tests. Social integration, economic integration, community integration and linguistic integration.  However if you have been continuously registered and employed in the country for 5 years there is an automatic assumption that you are a stable participant in the life of the country.

And when it comes to the application I get no sense that I have signed up for feudal servitude to a medieval institution. I signed to say I accept the constitution (written) and a commitment to human rights, both of which I can happily do.

Frites, beer, chocolate, cycling classics, potholes in the road, shops closed on Mondays, tranquillity laws, multilingualism, etc etc …….., I have signed up to all of it and I have been accepted.

Thank you Belgium.

National Day holiday in Belgium – glorious summer morning bike ride

Gallery

This gallery contains 6 photos.

National Day public holiday in Belgium. Most of the country is enjoying a late morning in expectation of music and fireworks tonight. Which means the roads are almost deserted, a glorious opportunity to ride almost car-free through summer fields with … Continue reading

My Ghent Six Day 2016.  If this was the Wiggins finale then “thanks for the ride, Sir Bradley”

Gallery

This gallery contains 5 photos.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Ghent Six Day cycle race with my Dad for my second immersion in this Flemish temple of cycling, cycle sport turned into pure entertainment. And once again I was captured by … Continue reading

Late summer Saturday in Belgium – any excuse for a bike ride will do, but it helps to have several

Gallery

This gallery contains 3 photos.

On Saturday I was just back from a hectic week at Eurobike – which means an awful lot of talking about cycling and not a lot of doing, followed by 7 hours on the train home from Germany. And I … Continue reading

Still waiting for winter in Belgium

Gallery

This gallery contains 3 photos.

After the warmest December on record in Belgium it is suggested that winter may just be coming. But it is taking it’s time. The news, web sites and social media shows snow reaching Scotland and minus 14 temperatures in Scandinavia, … Continue reading

When life gives you lemons – make lemonade. When life gives you wind and rain and mud and a bike trail just round the corner …… go offroad.

Gallery

This gallery contains 6 photos.

When we went to the Ardennes for the weekend I seriously considered not taking our bikes. The forecast was wet and windy, the landscape promised excellent walking, the old dog doesn’t keep up with the bikes any more.………. But somehow … Continue reading