That feature on Facebook, whereby every day it sends me a message about my activity on that date in preceding years, is an interesting snapshot into what was going through my mind and going on in my life at a particular time. Granted somethings never change. On this date last year I posted the Youtube link to ‘9 to 5’ by Dolly Parton, while in the throes of Amsterdam joblessness.
Was I trying to get Dolly to inspire me to pour myself a cup of ambition? Who knows – it didn’t work, that much is certain. I remained resting, in the certainty that by this year I would be back in Ireland. And I was aware that a new job would easily derail this plan. Once you are locked into the grind of a 40 hour working week in a location other than home, it becomes quite troublesome to arrange big life events like a house redecoration, a house sale and an emigration.
In 2014 I was at the cinema in the OT301 – the old Amsterdam Film Museum that is now an artists’ squat, but they still have a cinema on the top floor. Actually I hope it is still there – the rate at which that neighbourhood is being gentrified I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if it is being turned into a boutique hotel that only uses ethically sourced mung-bean essence to oil their organically mined door hinges. I was watching ‘Still Life’ – a Chinese movie from 2006 about 2 people searching for their spouses who have been displaced by the building of the Three Gorges Dam – the world’s biggest dam – on the Yangtze River . I watched it with some good friends who would depart from Amsterdam within 6 months for the bustle of London.
It was in fact their departure in June of that year that accelerated my plan to leave the Netherlands. They are not the reason I left but their departure certainly planted the idea of leaving, more firmly than what had been there previously.It went from a comatose plan to a turtle-speed plan – it took another 15 months before I would eventually leave
I love Amsterdam but since arriving there at the dawn of the 21st century what has been a feature of the place for me is the revolving door friendships. It’s because of the fact that I was a foreigner who never got into a serious relationship with a native. As an immigrant, my friends were largely other immigrants (I never use the word ‘expat’ – it seems laden with snobbery, as it apparently says ‘Oooh I am not an immigrant – I am a cut above THAT sort of person’. When in actual fact you are the exact same.) The trouble with having mainly immigrant friends is their tendency to leave after their Amsterdam experience. Amsterdam being of course, a city very much on a list of desireable destinations to live in for travellers – the sex, and drugs, and rock and roll, the canals and bikes and Flemish fries. But after a few years many people have had their fill and decide to return to where they came from, or to continue on their journey in a different country.
I calculated that approximately every four years there would be a mass exodus of people I was close to. And it was 2014 that I decided I didn’t want to deal with those goodbyes again. Of course there are my Amsterdam lifer friends – people who will be complaining about the Dutch and their eccentric ways, as they hobble about the Vondelpark in their zimmerframes, while on day release from the geriatric centre. And there are my Dutch friends who never seemed confused by the mysterious ways of the city under the sea. These are the people I am relying on to keep me connected.
And if, by any chance, I decide that I would like to go back, they will be the people I will call.
In 2012 I had just done my final night as serial killer Jonathan Brewster in ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’. I loved that show. I had my very own make-up artist to give me evil face.
And to think on this day next year Facebook will remind me that I was writing this very blogpost on a dreary Friday in late January while eating a potato and onion organic quiche.
What a time to be alive.