First encounter

It’s the first week of September 2013. I arrive at my flat in Amsterdam via a ninety euro taxi ride from Schipol airport. Ninety euros!! The driver must have clocked me coming out of the airport from a good distance away. With my four ‘wheeled’ cases and my bulky big cello, am I wearing a big neon sign that says ‘Tourist!’. Alas, I concede to it and proceed to reward him with a tip. A tip?! This brand of British politeness in the face of embarrassment, of having been duped into paying a huge amount of taxi fare, was by no means unnoticed by me when I handed it over graciously.

But, I was rewarded back.

The driver hands me a small welcoming gift of some home-grown leaves and says with a beaming smile, “Welcome to Amsterdam”.

So here I am, the first week of my year-long sabbatical in Amsterdam. It’s quite brilliant to think that I’ll be staying here for a period of time longer than any other time I’ve spent abroad. This is good. Time to fling off the shackles I’ve been weathering for a while and to rediscover an excitement for exploring, and find a clarity of thought that I seem to have lost over time immemorial.

Yes, it’s been a long time in coming. And whilst I have been dreaming of this opportunity for a long time, I feel a bit muted today . I guess perhaps the realisation of living somewhere for a good while will hit me sooner or later. Someone said to me a while back, that I seem not to have found my ‘pot of gold’ yet (this is true indeed). I suppose what they are trying to say is that I am still searching for something and that I haven’t found peace with where I am and with what I am supposed to do. Do I agree? Well, I guess so, in a way. I find myself, after all, in Amsterdam. And I am here to find new thought processes, new social networks, new ideas, musical freshness, and a whole big pot of steaming hot culture to observe and weasel my way in. Perhaps this Amsterdam sabbatical is all about getting one step closer. What will happen? Where will I be at the end of this year? What will I have become?

I must include a HUGE ‘Thank You’ to the Katherine McGillivray ‘Get a Life’ Fund for this opportunity given to me. I don’t know yet how much it will affect me but I hope to discover, and bring to the table, as much debate and observations that I become duly aware of.