London Life

I’m writing this from a Starbucks, drinking tea of course, after having met up with a new-found friend whose show I am to see at the Soho theatre tonight. This morning I went to work by Tube, instead of bicycle because I had to go out after. Today was a half-day (to theoretically accommodate the writing-dream) but really is there such a thing as a half-day; by midday I had resigned myself to the workload and went for lunch (mistakenly getting an egg-noodle broth instead of rice noodles, the latter being superior, as we all know) before staying two more hours trying to get stuff done.

When I walked out of the office, I made my way to Soho. Walked past the squares with their stately homes and houses, the tea rooms, the theatres, the cinemas, the cocktail bars. I bought an ice cream, in my favourite place where they don’t use scoops but turn your flavour choices into ice cream roses. I sat outside and watched the world go by: lovers, colleagues, tourists making their way over the cobble stones. Friday afternoon, early evening giddiness in the air. Hotel terraces are packed with wine-drinking ladies in power-dresses, men with the top button of their collar undone: the relaxation and expectation of the weekend.

Called a friend to see if she was interested in joining me for the performance but she had plans but pointed me in the direction of someone else who might be interested before inviting me to a party later tonight. We agreed to stay in touch and play it by ear. One text message later and I got myself some company to see the show.

I made my way to our meeting place, an Italian coffee bar; checked Facebook on my phone and saw he was running late. Ordered an amazing coffee and sat down to write a postcard. Sipping my amazing coffee, I sat by the window by myself: once again looking at the people passing by. My new friend arrived and we moved because the music was too loud to talk.

When we sat down, we spoke about performing, about writing, about creativity and parental expectations. We talked about siblings, about travel, about feedback, about the importance of deadlines and moving on.

He has left to prepare for his show and the barrista tells me that they don’t close til 10pm. So I stay and wait, I stay and write, I stay and marvel at my London life.

Musical chairs

Over the weekend, someone shared a metaphor with me:

“Turning 30 is a bit like musical chairs… At 29, the music is playing and everyone is dancing; at 30, the music stops and everyone sits down. Not even on the most comfortable or prettiest chair but on the most convenient one – everyone sits down and holds on for dear life. And there is always one person left, standing in the middle of the room, looking at all the others clinging to their chairs, thinking: “WTF just happened?””

Don't settle! (Pic by Daveynin Flickr)
Don’t settle! (Pic by Daveynin Flickr)

2014 has just started but in my circle of lovely friends, two babies are (to be) born this year and the e-invite for the now near annual hennight has just come through, in preparation for a near annual wedding later this year. Less cynical than the metaphor though, I do like to think that my friends have made their moves as conscious choices; smoothly moonwalking to that 2-person Chesterfield sofa as the music enters the final chorus…

Not even on the most comfortable or prettiest chair but on the most convenient one; at 30, everyone sits down and holds on for dear life.

Yes, as we enter month two of year 30, it’s possible that the one person still dancing in the room might well be me. I’m not sure what happened to my track but I seem to be playing the Baz Luhrmann extended version. Still bopping away, while my friends happily wave their baby’s hand to me (hand still attached to the child, of course!) from their comfy seats. Those moments are still unreal to me, the idea of a third person where there first were two.

At times I get tired of dancing and I envy my friends happily stretched out on the faux-leather sofa but you can’t stop until the music stops – those are the rules! As for settling for the wonky old kitchen stool for one: never. Though tempting at times, even I can see in my weariness that it will only be a temporary comfort until it breaks.

Dancing among the toddlers is not really how I imagined my life to be but then again, I never saw much further than 21 and that was overrated. So as I am slowly being pushed one generation along, I like to think I am embodying the spirit of this crazily American but still kind of cute video for all the new additions on their first days here: “There’s plenty of reasons to dance, you just got to look for ‘m.”

Being Dutch

When I left for the UK, I wanted to break free from the small country in which I was born. Ironically enough in the ten years to come, I would become more attached to my nationality. Perhaps because I see the past through rose tinted spectacles, perhaps because being on foreign grounds leads you to appreciate your roots. Who knows.

“If it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much” is  a tongue in cheek slogan that has been used by my very cool sister and I.  Awareness of one’s nationality is so subtle, so inexplicable until you feel it.

I felt it when two weeks ago The Ice skating Tour of Tours  “De Elfstedentocht” (Eleven city tour, which is a tour that leads overfrozen streams past eleven cities – quelle surprise.) was hyped and then cancelled because the thaw set in. The last tour was 15 years ago and I’m sure the whole country felt disappointed.

I felt it today. It was just announced that one of the Dutch princes, Friso, who got hit by an avalanche on the Royal Family’s annual skiing trip last week, might not wake up from his coma. If he does, he will need years to recover. He’s a complete stranger of course, still there is an inexplicable sadness for his mother, the Queen,  his wife and small children.

It’s another small drama really but perhaps one that is quietly felt by 16 million people.

Stuck At Sea – Who Would You Take?

This morning I read an article about two men who survived 33 days at sea. This particular article manages to condense their ordeal into three (longish) sentences.

Five weeks with one person in  a small boat. The men were 53 and 26 years old, no idea whether they were relatives, friends or lovers. Maybe they were complete strangers.

It made me think about, if I had to choose, who I’d would want to be stuck with.

Now, this is not even a “Who’d you take to a desert island” – at least you can park yourself on the other side of the island if you need some private space.  It’s not even being stuck in a lift when you know someone will save you somehow.

It’s like a poor man’s version of Life of Pi – and the more I think about it the more complicated it gets.  See firstly, there are the slim survival chances. Personally,  I don’t mind dying but as a Dutch comedian once said: ” It’s not my own death that upsets me, it’s the death of others that bothers me.” For that reason, my very cool sister, who I consider great company, is off the ‘Stuck at Sea’-list.

Despite these chances you’d want to be with someone who doesn’t panic. Survival rates are higher if you don’t jump off the boat come Day 4. People who need a lot of medication or inhalers are therefor also not ideal.

You would need someone who has a sense of humour, if you can’t cry about it, you might as well laugh right? It should also be someone who I could talk about fears and life about, I’m an extrovert: keeping it all  in would make my face break out. That would be the last thing  I’d want: Stuck at Sea and a flaky face.

Someone I could fight with without either of us holding a grudge afterwards –  because disagreements will definitely happen and that would be a very awkward boatride after Day 7. It would have to be someone I am not attracted to: trying to survive at sea should not be marred by raging pheromones.

Someone who I’d be so comfortable with that by the time we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of each other, we’re still ok in the same boat.  Slowly, slowly as I was thinking of all this, the person who’d I choose to be stuck with appeared. The question is of course whether that person would feel the same!

Stuck at sea with one person. Who would you take?

Food frustrations

I was going to write an update on “My 12 for 2012” but there is a matter more pressing to me. As I have no kitchen yet and too many lovely places to eat around The Square to succumb to the microwave, I have discovered that I have a few food annoyances. Firstly, a disclaimer:  I understand the children in Africa are actually starving and that because of the recession many people find it hard to feed themselves let alone give to charity, so I encourage you to show your support through this feed the world game on FreeRice.com.

My annoyances are terribly middle-class and not enough to shout about, still they provide just enough material for a midweek blog…

Burger Shack
Image by L.Richarz via Flickr

The Burger
The waitress asks you how you’d like your burger cooked. The only answer to that is ‘medium-rare’.When the meal actually arrives: the burger is well done. Now, it doesn’t make me angry but it disappoints me. Disappointing meals are sad. Please don’t create any expectations  if you can’t deliver- ok? Thank you.

A photo of a cup of coffee.
Image via Wikipedia

Coffee
I’m not that old that I usually start my sentences with: ” I remember when…” but I remember when you could just order a black coffee in a cafe. Perhaps it’s because of the pretentious coffee houses around The Square but when I ask for a black coffee I get blank looks from the barristas.  The other day the guy even asked me: ” Do you mean an espresso?” No. If I wanted an espresso I would have told you. Just a black coffee. ” We have cappucinnos, lattes, Americanos, mochas.” Sigh. Ok I’d like an Americano please. “Would you like milk in that?”  ….

poached eggs - 8

Eggs
If your chef can’t poach eggs, don’t put them on the menu. I’m also happy with scrambled (actually if you’d ask me the million dollar Runaway Bride question, the answer would be ‘soft boiled’) in any case, like the burger: just don’t give me the option.

Croissant, of unknown origin, associated with ...

Croissants
Many a great start to my day happen with a croissant. It’s a little pastry of happiness. Just a plain croissant: no chocolate, no apricots, no sugared almond paste. A plain croissant, beautifully risen golden, flakey pastry glowingly shining goodmorning to me. So when I order one and you take your tongs to it because of hygiene reasons – fine: BUT DON’T CRUSH IT, YOU PHILISTINE!

Right. I think that was it. Rant over. Step away from Soapbox. Please feel free to go on with your day.

Americans…

 ….an endless source of entertainment. Conversation overheard between three Americans on the Tube.

” You know what is really good for when you’re sick?”

This got my attention as I wasn’t feeling too perky…

” Coca cola.”

Huh?

” Well it was when we were kids,  but there was this other [ couldn’t understand] but I think that was like illegal in New Jersey.”

This is apparently really funny – I guess it’s a cultural thing.

“Here it would be what? Red Bull? Probably?”

” It’s that energy drink. ”

” Yeah like Coke. But you see, my sister…. she’s like all no-sugar right.”

“Really?”

“Yeah completely sugar-free.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah I know, but like one day we were in Amsterdam and we just wanted a drink…”

“Oh no…”

“Yeah… and she kept  going like… and I mean… we’re in the middle of nowhere right….”

“Right!”

“And we had to ask:’hey is this sugar free?’… I mean like in the… you know… anyway after awhile we were like: ‘just pick something! We’re thirsty! Come on we’re in Amsterdam!'”

“Yeah…”

“I mean… how do we know whether its like ‘sugar-free’ or not – we just wanted a drink.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s probably not even for the sugar.”

“Nah, it’s something to do with calories.”

I guess it is tricky… Diet Coke is billed as Cola Light… but there is that infamous drink called water. Which in Dutch if anyone with sugar-fears ever needs go translates as: water.  I know… but might be worth trying it.

The Bus

As I came out of the Tube station I saw the 21 bus, I ran towards it waving my Oyster card… but the bus still left without me.

I swore under my breath while an elderly Indian woman stared at me.  I ignored her and looked at the bus map. She kept staring at me and approached me: “Are you from Japan?”  As she seemed harmless and her son and daughter-in-law looked quite embarrassed, I went into my ‘ My parents are from Indonesia’ -spiel, upon which the 141 bus went passed without even stopping. I signalled for it, the bus seemed to stop. I ran towards it and dropped my umbrella, by the time I picked it up the bus had gone and I walked back to the busstop.

There a lady who had seen me run, pitied me: ” I’m sorry.” ” Two busses…” I muttered.  ” Where do you need to go.” she asked. I told her, she smiled then turned to the road: ” Do you need the 43?”  There it was: the 43. I signalled for it. It stopped.

” There you go,” she said kindly, ” even after all the running…”

I guess patience was never my forte.