The story you are about to read is not for the faint hearted or weak of stomach. In fact, if you value your sanity at all you would be wise to stop reading these words before it is too late… If you are foolish enough to continue reading you have been warned…
Never before has such a story been told. To read a single word of it is to invite madness. It has given the bravest and manliest of men nightmares. It has reduced the strongest of minds to quivering wrecks and it has made things that go bump in the night cry out for their mummies! It is a story of true horror. Turn back now and read no further!
Still here? Have my warnings done nothing to scare you away? You must really want to know the horrors of my story. Very well… If that is the case, come closer and I will tell you…
The other night I accidently ordered fries with pindasaus… and it did not taste as bad as I remember.
I do not know how to live with myself any more.
“You are irritating.”
“Excuse me?” I ask, puzzled by the sudden opinion of my character.
I was very surprised by this. It was not something I was expecting… That’s not to say that people are not allowed to find me irritating. I’m sure there are people who do. However, it’s always surprising when they say such a thing to your face. Especially when it comes from your Dutch dentist who has just spent the last ten minutes cleaning your teeth in total silence. I’d heard of Dutch directness before but this was taking it to a new level.
“Your gums are irritating.” He added, somehow managing to make the earlier statement even more confusing.
It was not a question. It was more of a confused ‘should I be apologising about this’ apology attempt.
I had not been aware of anything my gums had been doing to offend people or even that gums could be offensive to some people, especially dentists. And if it was possible… well… maybe he had made the wrong career decision.
“You’ve not been brushing properly. They are irritating.”
That made a little more sense I guess… in a strange sort of way. It must be pretty irritating as a dentist when people don’t brush and floss properly. Every day must bring a new level of frustration as cavities and infections that could have been prevented slowly chip away at his soul piece by piece. At night he must go home, infuriated by the insanity of it all, not knowing how he can possibly face another day of drilling and root canals. And when his wife finally breaks the silence by asking him how his day has been he does the only thing he can do. He screams out in an anguished reply, “Why can’t these damn people take oral hygiene seriously!”
I’m suddenly snapped out of the imaginary scenario by the sound of my dentist (the real one) saying something.
“You have to look after your gums better. Otherwise they will become more irritating.”
I blink. I’m suddenly confused again…
There is something strange in the way he is using the word…
It does not actually sound like he is annoyed with me or my gums…
And then suddenly, as if from a great height, the penny drops…
Oh… He means ‘irritated’.
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.
I am very happy to announce the birth of Little Invader Sophie. She arrived in the world just a few days ago and has already made both her parents extremely happy. I myself am extra happy with this of course because it fulfills stage two of my invasion plans: introduce an undercover sleeper agent in to Dutch society.
I’ve experienced this whole childhood thing before from the point of view of the kid. Now it’s time to experience it from the point of view of the parent.
My blogging schedule is bound to be in flux for a little while (you might have already noticed) as we adjust to our new family life. Those nappies won’t change themselves. This means there might be the occasional gap and some posts might be shorter than normal for a little while but fear not, this blog is not going anywhere. I enjoy writing for it way too much. Plus, I still have those exciting new plans I keep on teasing about (which are in motion).
This blog will not suddenly turn into a Daddy blog either. There might be the occasional Daddy post but for the most part I don’t think Sophie will be very happy with me if twenty years from now a potential boss googles her just before job interview and finds a story about her first bath or the time she decided to decorate the living room walls with crayon and called everything Elmo.
Our lives have changed forever. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be a great adventure.
And now, a very Dutch tradition, Alex eating a beschuit met muisjes:
On a related subject; I recently wrote an article for Amsterdam-Mamas.nl about the very strange and often funny advice that pregnancy books give to men. You can check it out here if you like: Books for Expectant Fathers
“Excuse me. Did you drop this?” I hear an unfamiliar voice ask from behind me as I lock my bicycle.
Wondering what it is they could be referring to I slowly start to turn around to face the owner of the helpful voice. Whatever it is I have apparently dropped I’m very lucky that it has been found by an honest and upstanding citizen. It’s nice to know that in this day and age there are…
“I think you dropped this! Did you drop this? I saw you drop it! Is it yours?”
Before I can say anything I am caught off guard by the sudden appearance of a passport mere inches from my face. It happens so fast that it actually takes a moment for my eyes to refocus and work out that it is a passport and that it is being held at arm’s length by the owner of the voice. It takes another moment for my brain to catch up and process his rapid line of questioning.
“Er…” Is the best response I find myself able to come up with.
The whole situation is already slightly odd but it is the passport itself that makes the whole thing really bizarre. I have no idea how to react but there is one thing I know for certain… the passport is not mine.
There are two main reasons why I know this to be true. Surprisingly the first reason (the fact that I know my passport is safely at home) is not the most compelling out of the two reasons even though under normal circumstances it should provide enough evidence.
The second and yet most compelling reason why I knew that the passport now being held inches from my face is not mine is because he is holding it open at the photo page… The face staring back at me from the page is not of myself… it is of him.
“Err… No. It’s not mine.”
“Are you sure? I saw you drop it… over there.” He points in the direction I’d cycled from moments ago.
I look from the passport, to the cycle path and back again as my brain tried to work out how that scenario is even feasible.
Possibly taking the look of puzzlement and confusion on my face as an indication of uncertainty on the subject of ‘my’ passport he slowly stretches his arm out even farther so I could get a closer look at the photo, as if questioning my eye sight too.
I am so confused by the whole situation at this point that I checked the photo again anyway… just in case. It had been almost ten hours since I’d last seen what I looked like in a mirror (while brushing my teeth that morning) but I was still fairly certain that I did not have black dreadlocks.
“I’m really sure it is not mine.”
“But I saw you drop it.”
I’m still not entirely sure what is going on but I’m starting to suspect that the stoned expression on his face (which is not included in the photo) has something to do with it.
“Sorry. It’s not mine.”
“I think you might want to check the photo.”
And I slowly start to back away as he looks at me confused and puzzled, unable to understand why I would not want he believes to be ‘my’ passport back.
You meet some strange people in Amsterdam.