The Good, The Bad, and the… Bloody?

By - May 21, 2008 (Updated: November 28, 2014)

Only a week has passed and yet, in some ways, it seems like months. I can hardly even believe that I am sitting here, in my loft, looking out my skylight, over the towers of Brussels.

I am ‘unofficially’ on-line again. Most of the boxes are unpacked and it actually is starting to look like a home, rather than a building site. Unfortunately right now it is both. But let me
start at the beginning… or at least, as much of the beginning as I can remember. I’m starting to believe that moving has the same effect on your memory as child-birth. Mothers claim that you forget about the pain so you’ll do it again. I think a similar effect must explain why Andrew and I see fit to move every three years.

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Friday morning we were up with the sun and throwing last minute items in boxes. Thursday had been a late night and an exhausting day for me. Our movers arrived promptly at 10 and were a truly efficient pair. Before I go on, I must say that if you are looking for movers in Belgium, I highly recommend Stommeleer. They did a fast yet careful job.

Our movers were a funny pair. One was tall and stoic and bared a slight resemblance to Liam Neeson. After the move, Andrew asked me, “Did you ever see Liam without a cigarette?” I replied that as long as he was outside, he was smoking, even while refilling the lift truck’s gas tank. “But did you ever see him lighting a cigarette?” Neither of us had… curious. The other mover was short, dark and talkative – a true Frenchman. For a little guy he had mad lifting skills… they both did. Yeah, I know, they are movers, it’s part of the job. But when I saw Frenchie passing a bookcase out our window to Liam who was down in the truck… I have to say it was impressive.

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The unloading of the Everberg house took only two hours. Andrew and I had moved as much of it as we could into the garage as we were packing and the movers made short work of it. Everything left upstairs was passed out the bedroom window.

I knew the move into the loft would not be so easy. In fact I had spent the week previous thinking of all the many ways it could go badly – very, very badly.

Andrew and I arrived at the loft before the movers and discovered our first obstacle. Although we had gone to the commune and reserved the street for the move, the workers at the building across the street had the entire road blocked with trucks. Andrew spoke with them and they said that they were almost finished and would move the trucks.

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The second problem arose when we saw our truck at the end of the street. Frenchie was driving the lift truck and he was navigating the narrow city streets relatively successfully, but Liam in the moving truck was having a hard time. Just as I was having visions of having to walk all of our boxes up the street, he rounded the corner. After a bit more negotiating with the builders across the street, the truck and the lift were parked and ready to go.

Before I continue, let me just say that our entire street is a building zone. According to Etienne, our new Landlord, he was one of the first to buy and gut a building on this street. Now I would estimate that over half of them are being totally renovated. It makes sense. St. Josse is a poor commune and the housing prices here are lower than some of the more desirable areas. However, I can look up my street and a block away is one of the EU buildings. Several doors away is the embassy of Montenegro and we’re in walking distance of two metro stops, shops, restaurants
and the city centre. Renovating buildings here makes a lot of sense. Our building isn’t even finished (more on that later) and already we Canadians have taken over the loft, there is a Spanish lady below us and below her a couple from Montenegro will move in. Only the ground floor remains unrented.

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But I digress. With the lift truck in place, Frenchie and Liam were sizing up the situation. I must say the size was small. Although the back of the loft is all windows and patio doors, there is no way to access it with the lift. Everything had to come in through the bedroom window which is not very big at all. Frenchie and Andrew took position in the bedroom while I ‘helped’ Liam load the lift. My ‘help’ consisted of telling him what items where going on the lift and what was going down to our storage room. I was too short to climb in the truck and Liam wasn’t really the kind of guy who looked like he wanted help from a girl anyway. He did relent to pass me the things that were going in storage, all the while asking “Madame” if she was sure she was ok with the lifting. How the heck did he think it got in the old house in the first place?

The loading and unloading of the lift took time, but waiting for it to go up and down the ladder was actually the longest part. Incredibly, the only thing that didn’t fit through the window was our bed. We had known that this would be a problem but I had also thought the dining table and sofa may be issues as well. Not for Liam and Frenchie.

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Even the bed came in faster than I expected. They brought it up the lift to the floor below us. As we were the first people in, we had a free run of the building. First they attempted to bring it up the stairs but making the tight corner at the top was a no-go. Plan B was to hoist it from the balcony below, up to ours and in through the patio doors. They had it up and in the bedroom, in no time.

While I was ‘helping’ Liam, I had a chat with Etienne about the timeline for finishing up the loft and the rest of the building. He took pity on my stressed out bedraggled looking self and offered two of his workers to help us move in. They put things in the correct rooms, under Andrew’s guidance, and took things down to storage which was a help. Etienne also said that everyone liked my red paint job. (Yay! I had been worried that he would freak out a little). Apparently the architect thought it looked great. I even got complimented on it by the lady next door who used to live in the building before all of the renovations. She wandered in while we were mid-move and introduced herself to me and asked if she could look around. She was very impressed with the building work and complimented Etienne. I was also told emphatically by one of the builders (who I must say are all very nice, respectful guys, although all of the Madame-ing is making me feel damn old) that we have the best flat in the building – “Beaucoup, Beaucoup de soleil Madame. Trés belle.” They are mostly all Polish and have varying degrees of French.

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So all told it took about 5 hours to get us in to the new place, which was better than I had expected. Liam and Frenchie had well earned their money. It would have been utterly impossible without them.

When everyone was gone, Andrew and I headed back out to Everberg for the rest of the family who had been safely locked in one of the bedrooms while the move was going on. We brought them back to the loft and released them to expected results. Buddy immediately hid in the
farthest corner of the storage closet. The girls, led by Orange cautiously explored every inch of the house.

Andrew and I rewarded ourselves with a curry feast – delivered to our door. For the first time in Belgium we are in someone’s delivery zone. We ate on our terrace. It was after 8 pm and neither of us had anything but coffee all day. We had intended to grab lunch while we waited for the movers to arrive at the loft but we were embroiled in the truck shuffle with the builders across the street. Needless to say, it was a perfect meal. Not long after, we both tumbled into bed exhausted.

Saturday we were up with the sun once again, although not entirely by choice. The sun was pouring in our curtain-less windows which we had stupidly left open. Cities are noisy, we have quickly learned. The double-glazing is excellent and we can sleep in silence with the windows shut… We’ve already bought another fan.

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We had been puttering around and were just about to head out for groceries and yet another trip to IKEA when my worst fear was realised. There was a loud thump and Andrew yelled. I ran to the living room to see the Calico bloody and running for cover. She was sneezing and there was blood pouring from her nose. I thought she would be dead in minutes. We cornered her and Andrew held her while I ran for towels. After a few minutes the bleeding had nearly stopped and we started checking her over. There was nothing obvious besides her swollen nose which seemed to take the brunt of the fall. We let her go to try and figure out which of her legs was broken but miraculously she seemed ok. Needless to say, we didn’t go out and watched her like hawks. We debated taking her to the vet but didn’t want to add more stress to her trauma for nothing. She rested, and within an hour or so was acting basically normal.

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Meanwhile we pieced together what had happed. She had tried to jump from the ledge around the loft to the skylight. We don’t know if she thought the skylight was open and she could jump out or if she thought she could land on the ledge there but the angle was way too steep. Either way, the claw mark below the skylight told the tale. I can only hope that she learned from this and will never, ever try it again.

Since we were homebound (we did walk to the grocery after we were relatively sure she was in no immediate danger) we unpacked and started putting things together. By the end of the day we had bedroom furniture and the start of a kitchen.

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Sunday was more of the same – Up with the sun and collapsed in a heap at night. Monday, Andrew worked from home while the internet was hooked up. We still don’t have a proper connection. I don’t know what the trouble is.

As of now I have a working kitchen that just needs a few more odds and ends;  bedroom and bathroom which are basically in the same state as the kitchen; a living room and terrace that are unpacked, a dining room that only needs the bookcase assembled and an office in a half unpacked state. Yesterday I finished my most hated task – ironing, finishing and hanging the curtains. It was a pain but they look good if I do say so myself.

We are still waiting on a railing for the stairway and one for the terrace; shower doors (the most annoying thing we are missing) which I am assured will be installed Friday; and several ‘fixes’ including the upstairs bathroom skylight which doesn’t open and our hot water heater which is making a loud air-in-the-pipes sort of noise.

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The cats are all out of hiding and even Buddy is starting to get used to the noises, which currently there are a lot of. The builders are still working on the ground floor, basement storage rooms and the hallway. They are supposed to be done by June but we honestly don’t see them being out of here until the end of July. The biggest downside to this is the dust – everywhere. There is dust from our newly sanded floors (which I love, except for the aforementioned dust issue), and dust from the plastering and sanding in the hallway. We also still don’t have a mailbox (although mail is arriving through the door slot) and we can’t open the downstairs door from our flat yet.

Miraculously, we are fitting in here. I am liking my kitchen quite a lot. It’s not perfect but I’m making it work for me. The new appliances are wonderful. I am in love with my dishwasher and considering an affair with the freezer. There seems to be enough storage in the bedroom and the bathroom (aside from the missing shower door) is perfect. I LOVE the light here. The terrace is beautiful and I look forward to getting some better patio furniture when we have the funds.

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I can’t imagine what I’ll be feeling about this place in another 3 years. I can hardly image life in 3 months these days. Hopefully in the coming weeks as we get settled we’ll be able to take advantage of some of the reasons we moved to the city.

The weather has co-operated grandly. The sun has been shining and the inside of the loft has remained steady at about 22 degrees. Not too hot, not too cold. That said, right now I’m going to take a break and enjoy the sun on my terrace.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
It's after Halloween so I can officially share Christmas Markets now right...? 🎄🎅 - 1 week ago


  1. Comment by Michael McNeil

    Michael McNeil May 21, 2008 at 20:31

    Congrats on the new place. It looks great! I’m sure you’ll make the most of city life.

  2. Comment by Megan

    Megan May 22, 2008 at 05:14

    The new place is going to be great.

  3. Comment by pugwash pops

    pugwash pops May 22, 2008 at 15:21

    Fabulous place and terrific move adventure … wish I was there … enjoy your new world! … I’m assuming there were no nose prints on the skylite and that Calico landed on her nose – not her feet! … a cat with a driving desire to do things differently, evolution will reward her lineage, maybe! … hope all the doors and connections and stuff gets resolved painlessly … lotsalov … PP

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