Beach Volleyball – but where’s the beach?

Last weekend saw me indulge in one of those weekends that only the single, the lonely, the desperate, the foolish, the crazy, the bored, the spontaneous, the free spirit, the daring or the reckless participate in.

I feel that I qualify for more of those characteristics than most people.

Friday night was spent at a lovely birthday party, which saw us end up in the wonderfully named “Reflex Niteclub” in the Flemish countryside, near Westerlo.

Believe me – whatever you are picturing in your mind’s eye as you read this, I would suggest that you multiply your idea tenfold to get somewhere close to what this place is like.

Lot’s of neon lights, plenty of exposed flesh, several floors, and observation balconies for patrons to check out the dance floor and more importantly those patrons ON the dance floor.

It was a meat-market in the style of so many nightclubs I frequented back home in Northern Ireland, as well as during my time spent in the North West of England.

Needless to say - I loved it!

I danced like an epileptic on speed; I sang along to all the cheesey songs and made a right tit of myself.

As you do.

OK then – perhaps you don’t but believe me, I do.

I can’t dance but what I lack in ability I make up for in enthusiasm and I used all my ‘top-drawer’ moves that night on the dance floor. I’m cringing as I type these words but the big grin on my face tells me that I had a good night.

Following day and I was in the much more familiar territory of the terrace at my local back in Antwerp and was soon joined by some people that I’d met during the World Cup Final.

Not AT the world cup final, you understand but whilst it was being shown in my local. As I mentioned in a previous blog, it turned out that he was also from Northern Ireland and we got on famously, as people living in a foreign land so often do when they meet people from back home.

Rather kindly, they invited me to their house for a bit of a dinner party on the Saturday evening. They explained that it was a ‘bring your own food’ party but in my case they would give me an exception due to the short notice.

Then they explained that it was a vegetarian party.

Now – I must admit to having a certain amount of prejudice towards vegetarian meals, being a bit of an old fashioned “meat and two veg” kind of bloke and was somewhat perturbed by this new development.

They reassured me that everything would be OK, and anyway, there was a frituur nearby to get fries, just in case things went pear-shaped. And, of course, there was plenty of wine and beer.

Needless to say - I loved it!

The food was tasty, plentiful and the wine and beer even more so. We had a great time sitting out in the garden in the hot evening and chewing the spit into the wee hours of the morning and listening to the music. It seemed we all had the same taste in music as well. I met some members of a volleyball team and it turned out that they were all taking part in a beach volleyball tournament the following morning, in the Kempen region of Belgium, which is famous for its sandy soil base.

After a few drinks, this seemed like a splendid way to spend a Sunday. Even the prospect of an 08:00 start in the morning did not put me off and because everyone was meeting at my friends’ house the next morning, I was invited to crash overnight on a mattress in their spare room, which turned out to be a bit of a surprise to the girl that was already crashing in this room, her having gone to bed a couple of hours earlier.

I’d like to state for the record that we did have separate mattresses and they were located in opposite corners of the large room but apparently this was not enough, the poor girl awoken by my snoring and unable to sleep had to resort to sharing another room with one of the other players.

BTW - I’m a bit worried by this most recent of developments - The Drunken Snoring. Not something I was ever prone to until recent months, it seems to have appeared unannounced, along with the grey whiskers that rather surprisingly appeared on my chin at the recent rock festival. Worrying times indeed.

Moving swiftly on…

At just after 08:00, I was awoken by the poor girl who I had kept awake with my snoring, as she crashed around looking for her stuff. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional (!) that she was making so much noise but I got up, got showered, dressed and walked downstairs into a cacophony of noise, energy and activity.

The kitchen was full of female volleyball players, all milling around making sandwiches, preparing drinks, talking excitedly, joking - far, far, far too much energy for that time of a Sunday morning, that’s for sure. Eventually my mate dragged his arse downstairs looking as rough as I felt.

The Belgians were definitely winning the “Sunday Morning Energy Level” competition, with Northern Ireland being very poorly represented by us two hairy-arsed, hungover eejits.

We said goodbye to the girls and then went to pick up another friend who had also been convinced to join us for the day.

And I have to say, it was with some surprise that, at just after 10:00 on a Sunday morning, we arrived on the outskirts of a small town called Bel – “Bel-End” if you will – and immersed ourselves in a world that I had no idea existed.

I surveyed the scene before me with something akin to amazement.

There must have been 20 beach volleyball courts and every single one of them had a game already in full swing. And all this in a naturally sandy area in the middle of a forest in the middle of nowhere in a place I had laughingly referred to “Bel-End”,

There was a huge beer tent, food stalls; an outdoor shower and all this to a backdrop of the most eclectic mix of music playing on the speakers located around the venue. There must have been upwards of 400 people running around the place.

I checked my watch again. 10:10, Sunday morning.

I had no idea that Sunday mornings were for anything else other than recovering from the Saturday. I was suitably impressed.

Some of our friends had already started their first match. So we got a few beers in and settled down to cheer them on. Or what I mean to say is that we settled down to put sun tan lotion on each other and soak up the early morning rays. It was already so hot that we were already struggling with the heat.

We quickly headed for the shade after the first game finished and didn’t move from there until much, much later that day.

In the meantime, we kicked back, drank a few beers, and watched the tanned, athletic, lithe bodies parading around the ‘beach’. And that was just the guys. I felt suitably inferior and consoled myself with another cold beer.

As the day progressed more friends came and joined us and I must confess we had a rip-roaring time. I was soooo impressed by the girls’ efforts on the court that day that when the tournament finished, I decided to have a go at it myself.

I should state at this moment that the sand was so hot that evening standing and walking on it was difficulty. Just how those girls managed to play competitively on the hot, bumpy surface, I’ll never know. I also had a few too many beers.

OK – disclaimers aside – I have to say that it is a really difficult sport to play and nowhere near as easy as the girls made it look.

So hats off to beach volleyball players around the world. After having spent a day in your company, I now admire you for your athletic prowess and ability…

…and not just your ability to look damn sexy in those skimpy outfits with those muscular thighs…


And that was another bizarre, but oh so much fun, summer weekend in Belgium.

This upcoming weekend is a long weekend in Belgium with tomorrow (Friday) being the national day of Belgium.

Deciding to forgo the “National Appreciation of Waffles” or the “History of the Saxaphone” or whatever they have organised in Brussels, I will celebrate the fact that I am an adopted member of Belgian society by the much more authentic “Getting-Really-Pissed-at-the-Gentse-Feest” this evening until the wee hours of the morning.

Tomorrow evening is the free concert given by the city of Turnhout with my favourite Belgian artist, Daan performing.

See you there!

So PUMPED am I to be living in Belgium at this moment, I’d sing the Belgian National Anthem but I’ve yet to find a Belgian that can teach it to me.

If you see me over the weekend, feel free to teach me it!



Anonymous said…
Well done!! Very easy to read and oh so funny. good luck yhis weekend hilde