Wednesday, 20 May 2020

A score years from Amsterdam


Arrival Schiphol
Twenty years ago, today was a Saturday, I had packed a suitcase, left for the airport and boarded a flight to Amsterdam. At Schiphol Airport, Dick van Galen Last, now deceased, who I had met in Paris some 3 years before was waiting to collect me having offered to give me boarding for as long as it took to find my feet.
Thus, began my over 12-year sojourn in the Netherlands, the culmination of a series of events that began in January 1999 when a relationship of almost 7 years came to an end. It presaged a turbulent year of career upheavals, house moves, job changes, and a period of interesting adventure.
I was in London, having gone back to work in Ipswich where I rebased myself for 6 months thinking things had changed in my head from the 3 years before, but I learnt that situation was not a solution to turmoil. The job I took up was not offering the fulfilment I had hoped for and so I resigned as the end of November, just at the cusp of the Millennium, depending on where you place it.
Mid-life marauding
In the New Year, I returned to my original lodgings in London and found that the search for work was fraught with difficulty, applications going out by the truckload, responses returning by the trickle and interviews rarely leading to offers. That was when John Coll, also deceased, suggested I see an occupational psychotherapist.
We met for a chat in Central London whilst I relayed what my circumstances were. His view was that I was doing quite well even if I was not getting the results I wanted. It was also a difficult realisation of having gone through probably half a million pounds in earnings without having much to show for it. There are two things I took away from our conversation, that I was going through a mid-life crisis a decade early and the need to change something radically in my life, location, career, or purpose.
A romance in Europe
That set me on the quest to look for work outside the UK, something I was quite reticent to consider for years. In that same conversation, I was informed that Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands presented the best choices for opportunities. Soon, I was on a flight to Munich for an interview with Compaq, I was not as forward-looking as was expected, I dismissed Intellisense in its infancy as bunkum. I stayed in Munich for a week, it was just before the Dot-Com bubble burst, how I tried to persuade a stockbroker in a Munich sauna to cash out as if I was that prescient.
Back in the UK, I scored an interview, it was conducted at the office of a recruitment agency where set questions were posed to us and the whole charade recorded on video for the customer to review in a team of technicians before selecting those they thought knowledgeable enough. I got the job and was commuting the Reading whilst still looking at prospects on mainland Europe.
A clean break
For the first time ever, I was in a shift pattern of work, 12-hour days every 4 days and 2 days off. The pay was not close to my peak, but the hours made up for it. In the second week of taking the role, I heard back from a prospect in Amsterdam, they wanted a face-to-face interview and as luck would have it, it fell on the days I was off. I took an EasyJet flight to Amsterdam, attended the interview and returned the next day when my laptop suffered a battering at the hands of baggage handlers.
I have not flown EasyJet since then. On my return, I received an offer for the job in Amsterdam. On having a conversation with my manager in Reading, we decided on a quick and clean break, it was fine with me. I hated the work environment, people were promoted beyond their capabilities to manage the team, it was cliquey and toxic, I was glad to be shot of the place.
That is how I began the Dutch phase of my life history, it would be one of the best decisions I ever made; the opportunity to begin again, make a new life, find new friends, and live new experiences. Much as I tried, my conversational Dutch was poor, I became an Englishman abroad.

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