Anyone need some new bathroom tiles?
A few weeks ago I was asked by the people from Expatsblog.com to take part in one of their interviews. Naturally I jumped at the chance (while trying keep my calm British composure).
“Stuart’s transition from Britain to The Netherlands didn’t exactly go to plan. In fact, it wasn’t even part of the plan. That’s what happens when you are a self-declared accident prone Englishman. Originally from London Stuart has spent over the last decade living in the land of clogs and windmills otherwise known as The Netherlands and has even started a family of his own. Language misunderstandings, cultural confusion, bizarre adventures and a few cases of mistaken identity are just a few of the things that have happened to him during his time in the country.”
In the full interview I explain the bizarre events which led to my arrival in Holland, the virtues of having a friend who regularly calls you an idiot, and how a broken ankle can sometimes be a good cure for home sickness… Click here to read the full thing
Many of the long term readers will already know the story of my long and difficult struggle with Speculoos addiction. For a long time I was powerless against the desire and the uncontrollable need for its delicious goodness. My addiction to the Speculoos sandwich paste was particularly bad.
When the addiction was at its worst I was on two, sometimes three jars of the stuff a month. Sometimes the need would get so bad that I would lick the empty jars clean. In fact, I would continue to eat the stuff even when it made me feel unwell. I tried to seek help but apparently you can’t actually OD from Speculoos addiction according to the so called doctors who dismissed me from the hospital emergency room.
I just couldn’t stop myself. One time, when the shops were shut and I desperately needed a fix, I tried crushing Speculoos biscuits and mixing them with butter to make my own. It was not a pretty sight (also, it didn’t work) .
It took hitting rock bottom to make me realize just how serious my problem was. I knew something had to be done.
It was not easy. It was a long and difficult road to recovery but I got myself clean. I got my addiction under control and I got my life back. I have not touch Speculoos for three years. I am no longer tempted by its delicious goodness. I am free of its control… At least I thought I was until I saw this…
Oh my god. It’s sooooo good! I can’t help myself.
There are some very unique places to live in Amsterdam but possibly none as unique as the apartment I first lived in when I arrived in the country. It had all the features you might expect to find in a typical Amsterdam apartment; stairs so steep they could be reclassified as a ladder, a slightly un-trust worthy looking cylindrical gas heater that clunked loudly every time it was turned on, a general level of disrepair and very territorial mice.
It also had a few slightly unusual design additions of its own, such as a spare bedroom without a door, a window looking out onto a brick wall and a toilet that was accessed via a door in the kitchen. But it was none of these features that made it stand out. They were odd but they were nothing compared to the strangest part of the apartment… The Master Bedroom.
The Master Bedroom took up the entire top floor of the building (but somehow managed to seem smaller than the floor below). Once upon a time it had been the attic and it was still accessed by a set of stairs that simply emerged from the floor in to a corner of the room. The stairs creaked as they were climbed and made it possible to view the entire room for floor level if you stopped half way. It was from this slightly odd view point that the feature responsible for making the room (and by association; the whole apartment) so weird suddenly became obvious…
Every single surface of the master bedroom; the walls, the two halves of the angled ceiling that met at the top, the cracked wooden beams that supported them, even each individual floor board that formed the uneven floor had been painted… bright… red…
It is probably important to mention at this point that I had not seen the apartment before I moved in. It had been ‘kindly’ arranged for me by my work before I had even arrived in the country.
Everything in the room was red. The only surface that had escaped the insane colour scheme unscathed was the glass windows. The frames themselves had not been so lucky.
I don’t know if the interior designer had been colour blind, or insane, or there had simply been a heavy discount on red that day but it certainly gave the room a very striking look. A look that said, “Those of a nervous disposition may or may not wish to sleep with the lights on.”
I certainly didn’t recall the landlord saying anything about the room being evil when he handed me the keys but the questionable colour choice seemed to suggest otherwise. It was entirely possible that I had just taken up residence in the Dutch version of The Amityville Horror.
As if the room itself was not creepy enough it was also completely empty apart from the bed which had been carefully positioned in the very centre of the room like some kind of alter. There was no other furniture. No other decorations. No other distractions. It was just the bed, the endless colour red and nothing else… Unless you count the spiders.
I’m not afraid of spiders but I might have developed arachnophobia within the first few moments of standing in that room. They were everywhere. They had hung their webs in every possible spot that you could hang a web. I suddenly had visions of waking up in the middle of the night to discover that I had been cocooned to the bed by a group of arachnids who had decided they didn’t want an extra room mate.
I knew I was supposed to stay in that place for three months but I didn’t know how I would be able to hold onto my sanity for that long. So I did the only logical thing I could do. I went down stairs, found the vacuum cleaner, brought it upstairs and evicted all the spiders.