Sunday, March 21

A ROOM WITHOUT NOISE

Last night I arrived at the Wellington Hotel. From the outside everything looks fine. The building is built in Edwardian style, and reminds me of a Harry Potter castle or an English boarding school. My room is located on the ground floor, right next to the reception desk. The good news is that I have a room with a view. The windows still have an authentic Edwardian look, and if you open the windows you can see a large old fashioned square. I can almost imagine being at an all girls Catholic boarding school, with strict rules, a matron and a prayer and fixed times. Before going to bed my brother and I explored the hotel. There is a chapel, a small lounge with leather couches and a gloomy library. Showers and toilets are communal, which gave me the giggles at first. The bad news is that I have not been able to sleep last night. People of all different nationalities kept on slamming their doors. Given the choice between a room with a view and a room without noise, I would have to say I choose the last. So that’s why it’s so important to travel. You learn new things about yourself.

LIFE AT THE WELLINGTON
The Wellington Hotel can be described as Harry Potter meets Fawlty Towers. This morning I decided to have breakfast before nine. At first it took me some time to figure out how to get to the breakfast hall. There was a large delegation of employees gathered in front of the entrance. A young man, dressed in a red jacket with polished silver buttons, gently asked me for my name. He then checked the list in front of him. I felt like all staff at the Wellington had been casted by a special agency. After my name and room number had been checked I was allowed to enter. I followed some blond Scandinavian girls who were chattering away in front of me. Scandinavian girls always intimidate me somehow, especially if one feels rather sleep deprived. After taking two croissants I couldn’t figure out how the coffeepot worked (which button did I need to push?). This made some Spanish youngsters laugh. Staff quickly came to rescue and showed me the correct procedure to get coffee from the pot. Drank my coffee with dignity and humbly ate my two croissants. I was glad no one knew I was Dutch.

MOVING UP
Yesterday I moved from the ground floor to the third floor; a small step for humanity but a huge improvement for a girl. For some reason I have signed up for a course to become a teacher. This turns out to be mistake. The course takes four weeks and is rather intensive: we already started teaching English on our second day. Doing this course has made me realise that I don’t really want to be teacher, at least not in the coming month. The only reason why I stick around is for the students, who are mainly from Japan. They seem so eager to master this language, it’s really heartbreaking at times. Every morning I take the tube to Holborn station, have a macchiato or an earl grey and then try to recollect why I am here. I was hoping that being in London would give me a clear idea about what I do and don’t want to do with my life. So far I’ve reached a very simple conclusion: life can be lonely anywhere.

THE REST OF THE WORLD
Yesterday was a very good day. I got up at 5.30 to prepare my final interview. Put on a smart outfit, took a taxi to Holborn and pretended to arrive by tube. Had coffee and croissants at a local bakery, while rehearsing what I planned to say. This interview, so I was told, would be decisive, obtaining my final degree as a teacher would depend on it. To be honest, I had not been this nervous since the age of twelve. Doing exams reminded me too much of my childhood, which was not necessarily a good thing. After the interview I felt very happy and relieved. A fellow student suggested a trip to the British museum, which seemed to be the right idea at the right time. We walked around Chinese statues and Egyptian mummies, and I felt like I should always feel, grateful for being alive.
My fellow student (a graduated linguist from Cambridge) asked me what the rest of the world was like. I told him it’s a dark place full of strange people, not very different from England perhaps. We stared at some mummified cats and kittens, discussing the possibilities of an afterlife. I knew he wanted to kiss me but I also knew he wouldn’t do it. Not in front of ancient mummies, that would not feel right.

Wednesday, January 27

SQUEAMISH

Leaving for London on Friday. To get an idea of what the hotel is like I googled some reviews. The first review I found started with: “this B&B is a nightmare.” Some of the other reviews mentioned that the stairs always have a bad smell. Another review stated: “Avoid if squeamish.” And: “When I got to the showers there was a sign saying out of order. Staff were the most unfriendly I’ve ever seen in a hotel.” Last but not least someone wrote: “It would be really useful for you to have a sense of humour.” I guess it does take courage to leave the house.

Tuesday, January 26

QUICK LUNCH

Met up with C. for a quick lunch today. We are both unemployed at the moment, trying to decide what to do next. The only difference is that she also has to decide about having a baby, and I only have to decide about getting a job. While we were talking I spilled some hot coffee over the table. C. ordered bagels and water, I ordered some more juice. After half an hour an ambulance parked outside the window. Two male nurses walked in. I like watching male nurses, it reminds me of the fact some people make a conscious effort to be good. They walked towards a young man who was looking rather pale and asked him if he was allright. “I’m hallucinating,” the young man said. “I have the feeling I can’t breathe.” The male nurses entered the restaurant with a yellow stretcher. The young man looked as if he was about to die. C. and I looked at eachother and then looked towards the staff. What kind of cheese cake did they serve him? Did they bake a special kind of brownie here? When he was carried out of the restaurant I decided that perhaps this was a sign. Instead of thinking about life I should just live it: one never knows how your next cup of tea may end.

Monday, January 25

HOW TO BE FRENCH

On Sunday afternoon I went to see a French Film: Micmacs à tire-larigot. Even though I had no idea what the title meant (did it have something to do with haricots verts?) I was convinced it would be good. Amélie Poulain has been hugged to death, but I must admit that I love Amélie Poulain and on rainy Sunday afternoons I often wish I could be her. To me violence is not entertaining, but watching skinny French women eat crême brulée is more than entertainment: it is art. If all else fails in life one can always try to be French. In the cinema I bumped into an ex-colleague of mine. The questions he asked me sounded like he was preparing for an interview. Where do you work right now, do you like your new job, why did you leave, are you still writing, do you still plan to move abroad? It’s frustrating to talk to someone when you know their interest isn’t real. This weekend I’ve decided that in conversations I must train myself to be more French: I must learn to use a lot of words while keeping the essential message to myself.

Saturday, January 23

CANADA WATER

Finally I’ve made The Big Decision: I’ll be leaving for London next week. I'm not sure yet how long I will stay, but it will be nice to have a change of air. Finding an appartment or a room in Central London turned out to be a bigger challenge than I thought. The agency I contacted found me a room near Canada Water, which turned out to be miles away. To me the words ‘Canada Water’ sounded refreshing, like I would be living near a forest or a little lake. My brother, who has been living in London for ten years, freaked out when I mentioned those words. ‘’There’s no way you’ll rent a room near Canada Water,” he said. “That area is completely unsafe.” So I called the agency, explained the situation, asked them if they had a room uptown. I mentioned the words “Hampstead, West Hampstead” but the lady answered: “Hampstead is a wealthy area.” Finally they came up with a solution: I will now be living at a B&B. The idea of living at a B&B is quite exciting, even though there is no kitchen, and so I imagine to be eating fish and chips each night. The location, I must say, is perfect, very close to some museums and a shopping area. My brother taugth me this big city lesson: “London is all about location. Even if it means not being able to cook.”

Thursday, January 14

REPTILIAN

Now that I’m officially unemployed I have plenty of time to waste. Most days I make a conscious effort to satisfy my reptilian brain. Not being on the farm with the other animals has given me a tremendous freedom, but I’m not sure if I’m able to handle this freedom as such. Therefore I am now focusing on English grammar, which is always useful in life. Being able to tell the difference between nouns, prenouns and prepositions makes me feel at ease. Language somehow always calms the nerves.

Thursday, January 7

IT'S COMPLICATED

C. and I went to see a movie last night. Since she had to leave early we had a choice between two films: ‘Capitalism, a Love Story’ or ‘It’s complicated,’ with Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep. After some hesitation we decided that we’d go to see ‘It’s complicated,’ since Michael Moore would not make us feel half as good as Meryl Streep. It turned out that this was a mistake. The dialogue in ‘It’s complicated’ is as exciting as watching a cricket match. The face of Steve Martin (who obviously had plastic surgery) just gave me the creeps. If this was the Christmas movie of the year, then what was the world coming to? The only relaxing feature was watching Merly Streep bake chocolate croissants in her kitchen, the amazing Hollywood kitchen I would not be able to afford. I expect the actors needed the money somehow.