Back to School

The school summer holiday in Belgium runs from 1st July to 31st August, regardless of what days those dates fall on. This is why all the kids are going back to school today, even though it’s a Thursday. The first day back is a bit of an easy one: the kids don’t have a full day and will be mainly receiving timetables, directions and other essentials.

There are big changes for us this year. The twins have now graduated from primary school, so all three boys will be cycling into the next town for their schooling. The twins were accompanied by their mum today (just to make sure they have the route correctly memorised), but they will be on their own from tomorrow.

I am still working from home at present and, after having the boys at home with me, the house feels awfully quiet today.

Camp

It’s that time of year when the boys all head off for their annual summer camp. And this year, they are now all old enough to both cycle there and enjoy the full ten days. We saw them off yesterday morning and spent much of the rest of the day getting used to how quiet the house has suddenly become.

Traditionally the younger kids are dropped off on Sunday, which is generally quite a big event including food, drinks and an chance for parents to catch up on how things are going so far. This social part has been cancelled over the last couple of years because of COVID, but this year it’s back. No barbecue, but I am assured that there will be plenty of food and drink for all.

Of course, with an empty house to ourselves, Eve and I will need to figure out what to do with ourselves.

I’m sure we’ll manage.

End of an Era

The schools broke up yesterday and two months of Summer vacation starts today for all three of the boys. And big changes are ahead for us because the twins have now graduated from primary school and will be embarking on their secondary school careers in September.

While attending their graduation ceremony on Tuesday, it struck me that I will never again need to return to the local school, and nor will any of them be able to walk to school. From here on in, all of three boys will be traveling to the next town for their education.

We have much to prepare, but today we shall enjoy the first day of the Summer holiday.

Fully Jabbed

I’m really slacking with this blogging thing at the moment. My last post was five weeks ago and merely mentioned that I’d had my first Pfizer jab. And the most interesting thing that has happened to me since then is that I had my second jab today.

And even that wasn’t very interesting. The process was just as smooth as before and I am not (so far) feeling any side effects. Kudos, though, to the man who brought an eBook with him so that he would have something to do during the fifteen minute post-jab wait. I wish I’d done that.

Tomorrow I can download the CovidSafe app and in a couple of weeks time I will be as CovidSafe as I can be.

Jabbed: Part One

I had my first Pfizer jab yesterday and it all went remarkably smoothly — from turning up at the vaccination centre to sitting down in the post-jab waiting room, the whole process only took about ten minutes.

And, after the compulsory 15 minute wait, I went out for a drink, because of course I did.

And in five week’s time I have to do it all over again for the second jab.

Leaving Lockdown

One positive bit of news that I almost missed is that Belgium now has a plan for leaving lockdown. The plan is, as ever, dependent on vaccination schedules but we should see a re-opening of restaurants and cinemas on June 9th.

Restaurants are already able to open their terraces to groups of four or less who want to sit outside, but with the upcoming easing of restrictions, we will be able to sit indoors a well.

As for the cinemas reopening, it’s not a moment too soon:

Things are looking up.

Unpausing

The Easter Pause didn’t have as much impact as hoped but the Covid numbers have been deemed to be enough under control for the break to end on Monday, as planned. This means, among other things, that people can meet outside in groups of up to ten, we no longer need to make an appointment to go shopping and hairdressers and other non-medical contact professions can re-open with restrictions. I think I need a haircut again.

The big news, though, is that bars and restaurants with terraces can reopen on 8th May. There are a number of restrictions, but these amount to: go with a small group, or your household; stay seated; and be out by 10:00. Not all restaurants are going to be able to re-open because the tables have to be at least 1.5 metres apart, but I’m feeling optimistic.

May 8th is also when restrictions on youth club activities start to bee loosened, with a further relaxation (provisionally, as always) on 25th June. This should mean that the boys will be able to go on summer camp this year.

This, of course, all depends on people getting vaccinated so it’s good to see that the Belgian vaccination campaign is receiving something of a boost, with the delivery of nearly 900,000 coronavirus vaccines. This, along with the minimum age limit for the AstraZeneca vaccine being lowered will, hopefully, see the schedule speeding up a bit.

According to the Flemish Health Minister, Flanders is expecting to have half of it’s population vaccinated by the end of May, at which point things can start returning to normal.

Here’s hoping that we can all look forward to August.

Feels like 2020

With Coronavirus indicators continuing to rise, it came as a surprise to no-one that Belgium is going into lockdown again. This was announced yesterday and the new restrictions take effect on Monday.

The new and tightened rules all amount to reducing the numbers of contacts we have with each other, with aim of having a short, hard lockdown now in order to avoid longer lasting one later.

For us, the main impact is that schools are closed next week. Macsen has end-of-term exams, which are permitted but we will have to wait to hear from the school as to how these will be organised. As for William and Alexandre, we are also waiting to hear from their school whether any online learning will be organised or if they are going to have a three-week Easter break.

Non-essential journeys within Belgium are still allowed and the zoos remain open, so even with these new restrictions we’re not entirely trapped. Just as long as none of us tries to talk to anyone.

Great Minds

In the comments of yesterday’s post, I suggested (slightly flippantly) that if France and Germany didn’t want their AstraZeneca vaccines, they could be used to speed up the vaccination process in Belgium.

Great minds think alike.

Belgium has asked pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for the surplus vaccine doses from the countries that have temporarily put the company’s jabs on hold over recent concerns about possible side effects.

Jabtastic!