So, Christmas is done, New Year looms, and I find myself in a situation which 5 days ago seemed almost unthinkable. We spent an excellent Christmas Day in the company, first of Mike and his family, and then, sat down in the local bar, for Christmas dinner with a bunch of friends. From that, stemmed what appeared to be a chance to learn Dutch basics, from a guy who I’ve known for quite some time, and also, for Esther, the arrival of a new friend.
I’ve been here over 5 and a half years now, but I think I finally believed from this day, I could feel that Holland might be a place I call home, instead of perpetually feeling like an outsider. Friendships I was still wary of, were confirmed, and for all of my cynicism about Christmas, and the associated commercialism/religious idiocy, there was a community spirit which transcended our location, our respective birthplaces/nationalities, ages, and idiosyncrasies. It felt good, and with it, so did I, not just for me, but for Esther too, as I have waxed lyrical many a time about the community spirit in the rock community back in the UK, and how we work as friends together to make the most of what we have. This was comparable, and she was here, a part of it, in stark contrast to how her “friends” operate, remembering that, in the aforementioned 5.5 years only twice have her so called friends seen fit to visit, and one of those times was to borrow her playstation, and not once has anyone called her to say “Fancy a night out?”. And to top it off, she met someone there who I suspect, might have indeed shown her the difference between what she seems to have been exposed to as what is friendship, compared to what I think is integral for such things.
And so, all was well at 8pm (ish) as I set out for what was advertised as a 90s night in the same venue as our dinner. Esther was not feeling wonderful so I headed out alone, knowing that this would be the last time I would be for a while as funds are short and New Year this year will be spent at home. I plonked myself at the end of the bar, and took pleasure just from being out and amongst people, while looking forward to some music that would remind me of my halcyon days, mid 20s, when i was fit, rampant, and mostly carefree. Rather than get suitably hammered, I was sensible, having only taken €30 out with me I knew I was only going to have a few drinks, €5 a pint is not conducive to heavy drinking anyway, but tonight was going to be about taking stock, and looking forward to what was seemingly a promising New year to come.
It has to be noted at this point that, the 90s music turned out to be god awful! No Shamen, KLF, Pulp, Blur etc, it really was just indeterminate dance music, which was a shame. So, I stayed nicely ensconced in my corner of the bar, watching the world go by, and chatting to people as they passed. Mike took time out to chat, as did the lady whom Esther had befriended on xmas day, which was cool, and time passed. The Djs set finished and so Daniel (Pub owner) had the music controls, thus rendering the music quality up about 10 notches, although to be fair, that might be due to the requests, (notwithstanding “Right Said Fred” lol) and so the mood brightened. Still all was good and after having frolicked with Mike for a while I took my place back at the end of the bar to finish my final beer and head home.
And here’s where it went downhill. Where for a large part of the evening had been Denny, (whom I had spent a good part of the evening discussing the differences between how it appears friendships are conducted here, compared to what I am used to in the UK), was the guy who was going to be running the Dutch course. We talked for a while about the language thing, and as he was there at Christmas dinner I asked him how he’d enjoyed it. Bad move by me it seems. “Everything was great apart from Esther’s behaviour”, he replied, and then proceeded to bitch and moan about her. To me. Her husband.
Now, I like to think I am a fair person, and that, if indeed Esther had been guilty of some social conventional breach, I could accept it being pointed out. Actually, knowing me, i would probably have been the one pointing it out to her. It’s been known to happen before. However, in this case, as far as I can see, it was absolutely and completely, for want of better words, a load of bollocks. So I told him. I then asked him to leave me alone and stopped talking to me. He wouldn’t, pushing his points about Esther. This time I TOLD him, shut up, and leave me alone, but still he persisted.
So, what do I do? Punch him, in the venue (by that I mean building, not some sort of anatomical euphemism) where only days before, I, nay WE, had had such a good time, and risk a: trashing the place, b: police involvement c: he’s also about 19 stone and so if I hit, I need to break something/ensure complete incapacitation, or I’ll end up being mangled, or…. I can leave. Respect where I am, take myself out of the situation, and go home. I chose the latter, got up, and left.
Or rather, I tried to. The front door was locked, I was stuck! The only way to get out, is to get Daniel to come open the door for me. So, I wander in, slightly sheepish grin on my face, “Damn door won’t open, can you open it? Trust a damn awkward door to spoil a good walking out” so Dan comes out, questioning why I’m leaving. “It’s simple, if I stay here, I’m going to lay him out, referring of course to the chap in question. “So i need to go. No one bad mouths my wife.”. By now we’re in the porch way, a locked door between me and escape, and a swing door between me and red mist, but with Daniel not opening the exit door, and standing between me, and the door back in.
Now… here comes the part that baffles me. Daniel says, “If you walk out that door, you’re never coming back in!”. I’m like, Eh?? I’m leaving, because i respect the place, him, and myself too much to end up fighting inside there, and yet, if I leave, I’m barred? How did I become the bad guy in this? I’m being the better man, the bigger man, leaving, when all I really want to do is pick up a stool and disembowel the guy at the bar with it. “It’s like this,” I say “If you don’t let me out, I will go in there, and I will break him. This is why I am trying to leave. No one bad mouths my wife. If you wish to stop me leaving, then I have to go back in, and to do that currently, I will have to go through you. While I have no reason to want to fight you Daniel, I will have absolutely no problem in nutting you in order to get to him. So, which is it to be? You let me out, or I go through you, and break him?”. He opened the exit door.
And so, outside, we talked for a while, and one line he said, sticks in my mind. “You’re doing this, even after all that went on with Christmas?”, presumably referring to the spirit mentioned earlier. Again, I’m still baffled at how it’s me being the bad guy here. A bad guy would’ve not walked away. A bad guy would’ve glassed the person sp0uting shit about his wife, rather than walking away. Especially as, this bad guy, was so certain that the “spirit” he’d felt, was a shared experience, and was proud as hell to be a part of it with his wife, only to find out that in fact, his wife is considered to be the only thing at fault with the whole event!
In the end, I just held up my hands and walked away. It occurs to me now that maybe I had let my guard down after Christmas. Maybe, I’d expected a friend, to understand that, if someone slags off his wife, there HAS to be a response, even if that response is leaving. Perhaps, because of the change of status, from, could be proper mates, to ACTUAL mates, I had then imposed my own principles and values on our friendship. However, if it cannot be seen and acknowledged that my leaving was best for A: me, B: My no longer dutch tutor, and c: the bar, and instead it all only equates to : Alistair = Bad Man, then I guess I’m glad this never made it past New Year.
So what now for me? Interestingly, the lady who Esther was so enamored with spoke to me that night and said I looked “Lonely”. While I don’t believe I was at the time, maybe she was more insightful than I realised. They say you cannot be more lonely than when surrounded by people, assuming you are within a certain frame of mind of course. It would appear that, my friendships here might be based on fallacious reasoning and the venue in which they have been cultivated is now off limits. Maybe my unconscious was radiating something which my consciousness has been attempting to subvert by inventing and then investing in relationships which were intrinsically floored due to differences in values and principles rendering the obstacles insurmountable. In which case, it is neither the fault of Daniel or the Dutch tutor, that events such as this came to pass. It is my own selfishness in seeking out human company, and allowing myself to compromise my own defense mechanisms in order to sate this desire. In doing so, unintentionally, it’s entirely possible I might have maybe offered a friendship that I really didn’t have to give in the first place. Which I guess explains Daniels question “You’re doing this, even after all that went on with Christmas?” And, I suppose, within those parameters, and those eyes, might make me the bad guy after all.
If so, then I’m sorry.