I’ve been quiet. I haven’t been posting quality content which could go viral and make me Internet-famous, possibly an influencer, advertising… uh… trips to Iceland at €1 million per sentence. Husby and I were busy with real life. In a nice way.
Surgery Battle of the month!
It looks like my fifth (I couldn’t figure out whether it was fourth or fifth until I counted the anaesthetic injections – you don’t forget injections in your eye socket easily) plastic surgery might be a success! Knock on wood. Hopefully I can do a visual newsletter again in a month or so. My modelling days are behind me – although never say never – so I only have to worry about never forgetting to wear sunglasses when in public. Also, I’m not sure why I tell people the truth when they ask me whether I was in a fight… Wait. YES. I forgot. It was an epic battle. I have slain dragons, then eaten their still beating hearts. I sat on the Iron Throne and shook hands with the Gods. (And with Cersei Lannister.) So much blood was spilled that I could extract iron from it, then forge a sword out of it. And I only got one wound!
The depression calmed down. Possibly because I was too busy. Since we also bought a house.
I used to love Amsterdam to pieces. In fact, I used to be a city boy who loved nothing more than crowds, meeting people of various nationalities, faiths, races, and learning as much as I could from and about them. As years passed, Amsterdam kept becoming more and more crowded. I have the misfortune of living very near the city centre. I’m aware that there are people who would give their left nipple to live in this spot, but twelve years after I moved here…I’m tired. I’m tired of having to push through crowds to get downtown. Of tourists who are everywhere. Cyclists who treat pedestrian crossings and street lights as sort of vague suggestions. I crave peace and silence, nature and company of animals rather than people. I couldn’t have picked a worse place…well, I could have, but Amsterdam definitely wouldn’t have my choice today.
Which is why we are moving. Sadly – I’ve had tons of people ask me – not to Iceland (yet). There is a small town near-ish Amsterdam. In that town, there is what I think/hope is the most boring spot in the entire country. By Dutch standards it’s practically desolate, meaning that we will only have 20 neighbours instead of 500. You can’t park a car near the door, which will be a problem during the move, but once we’re actually there we’ll live in blissful peace. I hope. My mind is the sort of machine that keeps telling me “just wait till you meet Neighbours From Hell”, because my brain is running Windows Millennium. But… right now we live on top of a bar, next to a hotel, the bar is next to a café, which is next to a shisha lounge, which is next to a restaurant. It’s summer holiday, which means that in addition to tourists there are tons of kids running outside and screaming. One sweet little boy just screams “AAAAAAAA”, barely pausing for breath. He’s loud enough for me to hear him through the shut windows, closed curtains (yes, I’m desperate), noise-cancelling headphones, AND music playing in the headphones. He was bad enough on his own. Then he started teaching other kids and they started competing to see which can scream the loudest. So now every now and then four kids gather to shriek “AAAAAAAA” at each other.
I wish I was exaggerating.
Anyway, a friend who found out where we wanted to go said to me, bewildered, “why would you move there? There’s nothing there!”. I answered “yes, EXACTLY”. I became extremely boring, just sitting with my laptop and my books and groaning about the noise, worried that Husby would throw me into a sensory deprivation tank, then put a lock on it. Instead both of us became cranky. I actually felt a bit guilty, thinking that it’s my fault that he started noticing it as well, but when the noise level just goes up and up all the time you don’t need to be cursed with perfect hearing to get tired. Then remain tired for months and months until you start idly wondering how to build your own flamethrower…
We went to visit three houses. One was light and modern. The second I only wanted to see because it had the most bizarre shed in front and I wanted to look inside that shed. The third was wonderful – bricks, wood, warm colours, a woodburner. I expected to like the first, cackle at the second, bid on the third. The opposite happened in all three cases.
The first place was nicely done up. Everything was grey, metal, marble, glass. I am… not that kind of person. I felt that we were somebody’s guests, afraid to get something dirty. Then I looked outside to see the garden. “Garden.” 40 square meters seems to be quite a lot – until you’re actually there.
The Dutch simultaneously like their outdoors and have no space, unless you move to a small village located near nothing in particular. I’ve been told at the very beginning that it’s very important for Dutch people to have a “piece of land” for themselves, even if it means a glorified balcony. This one looked like a shoebox. The grass was made of plastic. There were two small “trees”, which – we were informed – would be down to one, since the owner was taking one of them. This was how an entire class of houses went out of the window, saving us a lot of time we’d spend on viewings.
The second house…
Look at that triangular thing in front. Who wouldn’t want to take a look at that?
To my surprise… I loved everything. But it wasn’t until I stepped into a particular part of the garden when I felt something. This was it. This was my place. When I close my eyes I see myself sitting there, that table and chairs gone, a fire pit in the middle, middle of the night, listening to the crackle of the wood. I am happy even though it didn’t happen yet and won’t for a few more months.
Let’s be honest, we bought a garden with a free house thrown in…
We still went to see the third house, because I simply liked the interior. (It inspired Thor’s hall’s interior in my work-in-progress second novel.) But… our agent came with us. The first thing he did was tap his boot on the tiles on the floor, then declare them to be in need of complete replacement. The bathroom had what I naively thought was a glass window towards the bedroom, which was weird in itself. There was no glass, though, meaning that all the humidity would go into the bedroom and the ventilation wouldn’t work. We then found out the heating installation could be politely described as “ancient”, the windows needed replacement… and that ended our excitement.
Surprised, we went to see the second house again, this time with our agent, so that he could tap-dance a bit and knock on other bits, only to find out that there was nothing wrong from the technical point of view. After lengthy consideration he came up with the idea of perhaps replacing the vent system. That was it.
The garden shed doesn’t contain any bodies. We checked.
The interior is, uh, slightly dated. I like “dated”. We are going to redecorate some bits, especially the bright orange stairs, repaint the walls… yeah. That’s all that needs to be done.
We… will change a few things here and there…
We placed the bid and waited to hear the good news. We already talked about “our house” and “our garden”. It just felt right.
Enter Old Vumman, the owner.
Some of my friends already know who Old Vumman is. Let me introduce you to her.
Imagine that you’re looking at house worth, say, 100 thousand. (Ours isn’t actually worth 100 thousand.) You place a bet of 101. You hear back that the owner “likes the number 105”. Her own realtor confesses that she’s a bit difficult, because the place is valued at 103, but she refuses to even think about it. She just says dreamily “I like the number 105 and I decided this is what I want”.
We raised our bet to 103 and waited to hear 104 would be good. Then the owner rejected our bid. She didn’t do a counterbid. She just rejected it. Bewildered, we asked “what does she want then?” and heard from her realtor that she decided she likes the number 108 even better. I think it was at this point that I decided she was either getting a bit demented or had a very weird understanding of how negotiations work. But I also got angry enough to declare to Husby that she is not getting any of the numbers she liked. We were actually willing to place a higher bid, but once she just rejected ours and decided she wants even more I went full-on… uh… childish, I suppose. I said that I am willing to agree to 104.099,99 – but not to 105. When after two days from bidding 104.500 we haven’t heard anything, I decided it simply wasn’t going to happen and started looking at other houses again.
A day later Old Vumman accepted the bid, which confused me an awful lot. In my head “our house” already turned into “feck the Old Vumman, then”. I had to switch back to “our house” (at the dead end of the street). But since we already knew that Old Vumman was slightly special, I kept telling myself – don’t tell anybody quite yet, it might not happen, she might suddenly decide that her favourite number is 124120498102984, etc.
We signed the papers yesterday.
For American standards this place barely qualifies as a “house” at all. I base this knowledge on my experience with Chip and Joanna, and the Property Brothers. (See? I am perfectly well informed on all matters American.) We don’t even have a special room with space for 20 people for entertaining! For Dutch standards, however, the garden is practically a park. It’s a big mess. It doesn’t have shiny pavement tiles and artificial grass anywhere. I happen to love messes and hate tiles and artificial grass.
We’re going to get the keys on my 42nd birthday, which proves that Douglas Adams was right. (Also, I’m old.)
Storytellers is now an award-winning novel. A day after we signed the purchase papers I read this:
The historical detailing in this book has to be commended. This era has been painstakingly researched, and it shines through in Larssen’s writing. The realism in this story is almost tangible. I cannot praise this book enough. I loved every syllable, every word, every sentence. Storytellers is a real treat.
The novel might not be a runaway hit, JK Rowling style, but… When I started, I knew that it wouldn’t make me rich – on the first anniversary of its release, March 28, I am going to post a full breakdown of the spending and the revenue. Let’s just say that we are not going to pay for the house with the royalties. My biggest worry was that I’ve spent over two years producing a nicely wrapped turd. I… apparently haven’t.
I am still thrilled with each review and each sale. I expected to sell a few copies to my friends, who would know they’re buying something barely readable, but they’d do it out of politeness. By now the impostor syndrome shrivelled, then… didn’t die. It moved on to the second book. “Well, you were lucky with Storytellers, but wait till the second one is out and everyone finds out you’re a one-trick pony.”
I’ll elaborate on the impostor syndrome in the newsletter, which is coming soon(ish) now that we’re no longer buying houses and I hope not to need a sixth surgery, which I was warned might be necessary. So far, so good. Please keep fingers crossed for a bit longer, though. Maybe not at all times (I am not responsible for you losing fingers from supporting me too much). Get some sleep. Do some writing or reading. Can I recommend an award-winning historical fiction novel with a bonus free elf?