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The Bulletin at 60: Geoff Meade immortalised the trials and tribulations of family life in his Backchat column

The Bulletin 45th anniversary edition
09:00 24/01/2023

In 2007, The Bulletin marked its 45th anniversary with a special supplement (pictured) honouring many of its writers and critics. Among them was journalist Geoff Meade, whose column, Backchat, became essential reading for more than one generation of expats in Belgium.

People often ask me how Backchat started.

Actually, they don’t. No one has ever asked how it started. In fact, now that the matter has been raised, it’s taken me some time to recall the sequence of events.

And like most things in my experience, it sort of just happened.

Originally, Backchat was a motoring column. But I used to write more about what happened to me when I was testing swanky new cars than the cars themselves, on the basis that the people craving horsepower and pistons and stuff would probably be reading a car magazine.

Then the editor of the day suggested I write a column about life in Belgium, picking up where the late Eric Kennedy, veteran Bulletin writer, left off.

I held out for a wider brief than life in Brussels; armed with the scripts from several post-war movies about newspaper life, I looked the boss squarely in the eye and snarled: “Gimme a blank sheet of paper.”

geoff meade

She did, and then I had to fill it, every week. I remember sitting blankly in front of my blank sheet of paper one blank day in the midst of domestic chaos and getting so desperate I typed the first thing that came into my head. What appeared on the page was: “How can I write a (blank) column with screaming Meadelets under my feet?”

It was a formula of sorts, and the household refrain, after any crisis, cock-up or disaster, became and remains: “At least it’s a column!”

What people do often ask is whether Backchat is made up. The answer is never, not even the tale of the dead cat in the bin liner and the one about the mobile doorbell. And don’t even ask me about the pregnant goldfish.

The rest, as they say, is hysteria.

This article was first published in The Bulletin on 13 September, 2007

Written by The Bulletin