I’m sure the ex-pats out there amongst you reading this will understand what I mean when I say there are occasions during moments of my exile - an exile which is sometimes self-imposed, sometimes not - from my homeland that I crave something from back home.

For some it may be family and friends, certain types food or drink, for others a walk amongst familiar scenery, for others again it might just be the ability to converse in your own language with everyone.

For me it’s a combination of all of these things.

Of course I miss family and friends. It goes without saying. But, in reality, 5-6 hours door to door and I’ll be in my mum’s kitchen drinking wine, telling stories and listening to theirs, or I’ll be in the local with my dad and mates talking crap about football, politics, or whatever the topic of the day is. So that doesn’t get me down too much, too often.

Then there are the slightly different tastes in food. Now don’t get me wrong – dining out in Belgium is a wonderful experience and more often than not, the restaurants are far superior to most of what’s on offer back home; but there’s nothing like living abroad to start hitherto unnoticed cravings for such culinary delights as Tayto cheese & onion crisps, Ribena, Heinz Baked Beans, Lucozade, real sausages, real bacon, potato bread, soda bread, Fray Bentos pies, cheesecake, angel delight, fish and chips, and of course THE granddaddy of them all – HP sauce.

This is by no means a definitive list and probably not too healthy either* but rather an indication of the plethora of foodstuffs taken so much for granted back home that suddenly become such much-needed delicacies that you would offer your soul to the devil to get your hands on some.

(* Mother – in case you’re reading - I can get all the fresh fruit and vegetables and all the other healthy foodstuffs I need over here, it’s just the more “traditional” stuff that I’m missing in my diet!)

Yes, I realise that some of these might be available in some specialist shops or tucked away in the deepest, darkest corner of some GB supermarkets under the title ‘international cuisine’ but where are the Asdas and Tescos? The great consumer temples that are the mainstay of any shopping experience back home?

Another far more subtle thing that I miss from being back home was brought to my attention recently. I mean, I always knew it was there, but I can’t remember longing for it to any great extent.

Basically, it’s the mentality that I miss, if that makes any sense at all.

I have given seven years of my life to Belgium and along the way I have made several Flemish friends, many of who are lovely people but (of course there was a but coming) I know that I have been guilty of spending more of my social time with other ex-pats during my time in this country.

One reason of course, is the language difficulty but I think my knowledge of Flemish is good enough now to certainly be able to follow a conversation - if not exactly set it alight with my own witty 'Flenglish' repartee.

But the reason is more deep-rooted than that. It’s because – by and large – we’re all on the same wavelength.

There is a lot more that unites the Irish (north and south), the Scottish, the Welsh and the English than divides us. The North Americans, the South Africans, the Australians and the Kiwis that I have come into contact are (by and large) just the same as well

But of course there is a double-edged sword to this kind of existence.

Without fully integrating into Belgian society I will forever be on the periphery. Like the 7 dwarves stood at the back of a crowd at a concert trying to see some of the action. I’ll have the craic with my mates listening to the music and drinking but I’ll never get to see the full show.

During my time in Belgium I have met a lot of people - many of whom I consider to be good friends. However, there is a certain inevitability in meeting nice people whilst living abroad.

The inevitability that people will always move on.

I am big enough and ugly enough to appreciate that nothing lasts forever and perhaps I’m guilty of holding on to things that should be let go of but the fact remains that since leaving home at the age of 19, in the 14 years that have passed, a lot of nice people have come into and out of my life. Of course there have been the occasional twats, but by and large they’ve been a pretty good bunch.

But of those people, just how many do I actually keep in contact with?

If I’m honest, no more than a handful, but I suppose I’m not alone in this. I just think that living abroad just seems to create an environment where this can happen more often than not.

The people that I have kept in contact with are obviously very dear to me and last weekend I had the opportunity to go spend some time in the London area with two friends of mine - a 22 year old mate from the Wirral who used to live in Antwerp and his sister, who I met when she was visiting her brother in Antwerp.

There are things that I love about countries and there are things that I hate. I have never been anywhere that I would say was perfect, or even came close. I’ve high hopes for Australia though. If I ever get there.

So in order to find happiness with your situation you need to weigh the pros and the cons of where you are.

For example:

Thursday night, I arrived in England at 21:30 after a 5 hour drive from Belgium. We were in the country pub for 22:00 and we were kicked out by a 15 year old barman by 23:05.

That is most definitely crap.

His equally pre-pubescent colleague had refused to accept my Northern Bank notes when I first tried to buy a drink.

I was not impressed. The feel good factor of being back in the UK was fast fading.

But drinks back at the house, guitar out and a good old singsong and spirits were raised again.

Next morning was the trip into London for the sight-seeing. Less than an hour later, we were stood on the banks of the river Thames, looking out at the city’s famous skyline.

“There’s the Oxo tower, St. Paul’s cathedral, the national museum, Blackfriars Bridge, the London Eye and just around the corner out of sight, is the Houses of Parliament. Anyone fancy a pint in the pub?”

I didn’t need asked twice. Hair of the dog sounded like a good plan.

This was most definitely good.

Pints, pubs and craic are enough to keep this simple man happy but it’s also the Brits and the Irish ability to laugh at themselves that I love so much about the people.

Nobody takes themselves too seriously. I’m not saying Belgians as a race do, I’m just saying that we, most defintely, don't.

Saturday, my mate and I were dropped off at the pub at midday by the sister to watch Liverpool beat ManYoo. We were picked up 6 hours later after having spent the afternoon drinking several pints of Guinness and Cheeky Vimto cocktails, singing along to the juke box, chatting with the friendly locals and playing pool. A simple afternoon but for me, most definitely a good afternoon.

So what does all this mean? What's my point, exactly.

Weeeellll, to be honest I'm not sure.

I certainly never thought I’d see the day where I’d actually consider living in England again. It’s not that I have anything against the English, it’s just that I always thought ‘been there, done that’ but now with the attraction of Belgium fast fading, I’ve decided that I’m going the way of so many people before me...

On to the next step.

It’s time.

But not before one last swansong.

I’ve got enough work here until the end of the year. Belgium please make it a good one for me!