So. August 2016. London. I’m in kitchen, probably knee-deep in mothering, or looking at my iphone, or doing both simultaneously and inadequately.
Enter My Lawyer, who is working from home and to whom I am married, stage left: “I’ve been asked to apply for this job.”
Me: … *Alan Partridge shrug*
My Lawyer: “It’s in Amsterdam.”
I look up. My Lawyer, who has been recently expressing some professional unrest, looks animated. This is not a look I usually see from him on a weekday.
Conundrum. We have three children under the age of 7. The youngest is 2 and almost completely feral. If released into the wild, he would probably do very well. The 5 and 7 year olds are well established at school, thriving. My mum lives around the corner. We have many friends, or at least I do – My Lawyer has reached the point, late 30s, when a man looks around and realizes, with fleeting interest rather than much regret, that he has two, maybe three, friends. Where do they all go? We should have tagged them at our wedding, or made them sign some sort of retainer.
Back to the kitchen. I think: Hang on. He hasn’t been offered a job in Amsterdam. He’s been asked to apply. Therefore the chances of him getting the job are surely minimal. There are like a gazillion lawyers, right? So that’s a 1 in a gazillion chance of him getting offered the job.
I got B in GCSE Maths in 1996.
“Yeah mate,” I nod, going back to Insta. “Go for it.”
I think you know what’s coming. You can read between the lines, and also the title of this blog.
December 2016. My lawyer is now in possession of a job offer. Vrolijk Kerstfeest!
This may come as something of a shock to those who know us, but we are not as cool as we look, and neither of us has ever been to Amsterdam. So, late December, we identify a 20 hour window in which we can visit Amsterdam to see what we’ve gotten ourselves into, before we sign on the dotted line. I have caught a level ten contagion from one of more of the small human biohazards that I live with. We leave the biohazards at home with my mum, giving the usual handover advice: wash your hands as much as possible, try not to breathe in, make sure your affairs are all in order. We wish her luck.
At the airport, my lawyer advises that I should try to “look less ill… less kind of gross” as we negotiate passport control. They let us through without marking me with a big red X and in 40 minutes, FORTY MINUTES, we are in another country. Southern Rail customers will note that this less time than it takes to stand on a platform waiting for a train to be cancelled whilst fashioning an effigy of the Southern CEO out of Costa cups, Metros and broken dreams, and then walking to work with said burning effigy as fellow commuters join you to form an angry mob, the comradery of which instills within you just enough hope to attempt the entire bastarding saga again on the way home.
Schipol Airport, Amsterdam. We negotiate passport control (My lawyer: “Look less ill. Look less ill.”). Through my delirium, I note that the passport control guys in Amsterdam are much hotter than in the UK. My lawyer congratulates me on my sudden improvement.
The train is on time and takes us from the airport to the centre of Amsterdam in 15 minutes. We then walk to our hotel, with my lawyer advising that no, it is not a good idea to give the marijuana a try for medicinal reasons. It’s dark and cold, but the canals sparkle with the illuminations of the Amsterdam Light Festival.
After a good meal at our hotel, The Ambassade, I pass out for the night and recharge enough for our sprint around the city the next day. We have a list: Things To See. Our list says things like “Office”, “A park/nice places” and “The bits where people live”. We march around doing an inventory of Amsterdam. Lots of bikes, nice coffee at the museum, and there are human beings dotted around so they must live somewhere around. Families look happy. It seems a very calm place. (Insert your own marijuana joke here.) Canal, bike, canal, bike.
By 2pm I am running out of steam, and I know I have to reserve enough spark to get me past the fit Dutch passport guys again on the way home. I quickly take stock. The little I’ve seen, I’ve liked. My lawyer remains buoyant and positive. He wants to live here, I can tell.
I don’t not want to live here. We could do with a change. Change is as good as a rest, isn’t it? That’s a saying, right?
Let’s change house, change countries, change jobs, change schools, change language. That sounds so restful.
Let’s do it.