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    Some good news to take into the weekend

    Studying in the summer sun. © PxHere

    The lockdown of the last nine weeks has been a sombre time, and it looks like the clouds will only part gradually from now on, but that doesn’t mean that good things are not happening here and there.

    Since summer holidays abroad seem likely to be out of the reach of many, and with others unwilling to venture too far from home, the tourism sector in Belgium is keen to pick up the slack. But few offers are as enticing as that from Eric Deschuyteneer from Brakel in East Flanders.

    Eric is one of more than 150 people who have listed their gardens on a new website, only online since Sunday, for anyone wishing to spend a few days camping.

    I’m an avid camper myself,” he told the VRT. “I once made a trekking trip from Bruges to Oudenaarde. I just rang someone’s doorbell every night to ask if I could camp in their garden or field. I had everything with me, my backpack, my tent, everything.”

    Belgians have cut their spending by no less than 30% during the confinement, according to an analysis by ING bank. The savings came most in spending on holidays (down 69%), activities for the children (68%), clothing and beauty treatments (61%) and transport (52%).

    The exception was spending on food, where in the absence of the chance to dine out, Belgians appear to have been treating themselves and each other at home, with food spending up by 12% in local shops and 24% with online suppliers.

    And while the confinement has modified the habits of humans, it has led to a change in bird-song, according to a study carried out by the Catalan Institute of Ornithology. Normally, city birds start singing later than their rural counterparts, in order to avoid the noise of rush hour. But with volumes of traffic drastically reduced, city birds too are now singing earlier in the morning.

    The simple pleasure of going for a walk in these days of tight restrictions has had a happy side-effect on nature: a record number of injured animals have been brought by walkers to the emergency wing of the Nature Help Centre in Oudsbergen in Limburg province. The all-time record has in fact been broken twice in the past week, with more than 100 now being looked after.

    It’s normal to be busy at this time of year,” one volunteer said. “But we’re drowning in animals, so we have to try to flatten the curve here, just as with the corona crisis.”

    The centre stressed, however, that not every small animal encountered while walking in the country needs help.

    The Flemish government is to offer places in free summer schools for school-age children during the July-August holiday, to help them catch up with any time lost during the time schools were closed since March. Schools and other establishments offering summer classes will receive €25 per day per child attending the classes.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times