Slowly slowly, catchy monkey. That's what my life feels like at the moment, and I'm sure it'll feel like that for most of this year. It's simply a matter of getting my head down and chipping away at the various giant blocks of metaphorical marble in my figurative living room, whilst simultaneously spinning a long line of euphemistic plates. Then I reckon, sometime around September, the monkey will be mine. The monkey is real. Now — here's week number four...
bulk :: Dunno. I ate cake this week. I also drank Guinness. I wanted to buy a cucumber today to compensate, but it was so outrageously expensive that I bought a packet of chocolate biscuits instead. pints of Guinness consumed :: 7 visits to Mulligans :: 2 copywriting jobs completed :: 9 physical gym visits :: 0 metaphysical gym visits :: 0 moths rescued rather than killed :: 1. It took me a while but I managed to cup it in one hand and toss it out onto the balcony. I'm talking small, scabby moth by the way, maybe a centimetre long, in the kitchen all raggedy-ass, quite annoying. moths killed rather than rescued :: 1. It just caught me at the wrong time. Yes, I felt bad. I still do. I'm better than that. approximate number of hours spent learning Dutch :: 0 cinema visits :: 1 film reviews finished and about to go up :: 17 plants kept alive :: 7. Since last we spoke, I bought a new basil plant. money owed to Donald Trump :: none. extraordinarily important appointments completely missed :: 1 extraordinarily fortunate strokes of luck :: 1 routine adhesion :: 3% week 4/52 overall rating :: 8
"Go on, mate! Little bit further! You'll be fine...."
In less than two hours I have an appointment with the City of Amsterdam. It's been a long slog getting here. Originally my appointment was on the 23rd of December. Or at least that's what I thought I heard, when the lady behind the counter at the local council headquarters originally said it, but when a week or so later I checked on the piece of paper she'd given me, it said January 23rd, 2017. But I was sure I'd heard her say December. So I went along on December 23rd anyway, just in case the lady had made a mistake.
She had not.
The gentleman to whom I spoke on the 23rd was very pleasant if slightly bemused. He confirmed with a smile that yes, I did indeed have to return in a month's time, in 2017.
Then something went wrong.
I think it must have been the 7 in 2017 that fooled me. My brain - my increasingly befuddled brain - took a photograph of the slip of paper with the date of my appointment on it: the 27th of January. That's the photograph my brain took, because my brain is not one of those cameras that never lies. My brain is a broken camera.
So without checking the piece of paper, I wrote my appointment — my very important appointment — on my calendar on the wall in front of the makeshift desk I rarely use.
Then this morning, an hour and a half before my appointment, I thought I'd better check the time and there it was: the realisation that I was four days late, and the latest piece of irrefutable proof that my brain is actually dying.
I cursed myself.
Fuck it. You know? What's the worst that could happen?
Well, the worst that could happen is that they say: No. Sorry. You're a fucking idiot and you can't stay. Go back to England, where you belong.
So I cycled down to the council anyway and happened to see the same lady with whom I'd made the original appointment at the beginning of December.
"I've made a terrible mistake," I told her. "And I'm very sorry."
"Oh," she said, "What have you done?" Her smile faded. I guess she was fearing the worst. To what was I going to confess? Murder?
I explained the situation and she sucked in her breath. "You're probably going to have to wait a long, long time," she said.
My heart sank.
The longer I'm not registered, the less secure I feel and the more Lloyds bank steal from me. But it doesn't really matter. It's only money.
As she began to look for the next appointment, I said, "I keep hoping, and praying, every time I'm here, that you'll find a cancellation and say, "Ooh, you're in luck! You can see someone right now!'"
"I'm looking now," said the lady.
"I'm praying," I said.
I wondered if I should point out that my prayers were of the atheistic variety, this being Holland, and that being the case.
Then she said: "Ooh you're in luck! You can see someone this afternoon!"
She didn't really say, "Ooh you're in luck!" But she did say the other part.
I was - and indeed I remain - cockahoop.
We made some jokes about me being sure not to miss this appointment and I spurned her paper reminder and wrote 13:20 on my hand in big ink. Then I left the council building and rode home in the springy winter sun feeling very very blessed indeed.
So I got back there 15 minutes early and spoke to a chap at the appointments desk. He asked for my Confirmation of Appointment letter.
I explained to him that I'd never been sent one. I gave him my passport instead, and threatened him with my birth certificate.
He took the passport and checked his computer.
My name was not on there.
I told him that my appointment had been made only a couple of hours ago. He seemed dubious.
He went back to looking for my name. He looked for a long time.
My name was not there.
His colleague — the lady from this morning — had still been sitting next to him when I began to talk to him, but then she'd gone off somewhere.
Time passed. Things were going wrong.
Then the lady from this morning came back and confirmed that she'd made the appointment for me, but then when she checked her computer, she couldn't find my name either.
Time passed. They spoke in Dutch together.
Neither of them could find me.
I felt like a ghost. I was there. I knew it — I could hear myself breathing. But I was also not there, not really.
Then, just as I was accepting that it wasn't going to happen today, the lady gave me a ticket — the kind you get at a deli — and told me to wait somewhere off to my left.
Oh, how grateful I was!
And then — a doubling of joy! — I was seen pretty much immediately by another lady in one of a row of cubicles.
I showed this new lady my permission-to-register form and my passport and my birth certificate, laying them out in front of her like a smarmy git.
"I believe that's all you need," I said.
"Not quite," she said.
Turns out I need my parents' birth certificates, or proof of them, and I need my own birth certificate to be notarised by someone in the UK.
"But don't worry," she said. "You have three months to do that." Then she said, half-confidentially, "More like six or eight."
"Phew," I said.
"All we need now is a copy of the passport of the person with whom you are registering."
On hearing these words, my face literally slipped down my head and onto the floor.
I felt for it with my hands whilst maintaining startled eye contact, and managed to reattach it without too much anguish.
I told her I hadn't been informed of this.
She told me it was written down on some form I should have read.
I told her I was a bit thick when it comes to forms.
"No," she said. Which was nice of her. But I had to insist.
So that was it.
All of my efforts (minimal, frankly, and poorly directed), for nothing. I'd have to wait another couple of months, during which Lloyds Bank would keep me tied to their radiator of European admin charges, visiting me every couple of nights and taking yet another pound of flesh. I would, for the time being, remain an illegal immigrant. And vulnerable to the whims of authority.
But then the nice lady said: "Could you not get him to send it to you now?"
I gasped at the air as if grabbed from behind.
I swear, the administrative staff in Amsterdam town hall are absolutely delightful. Every last one of them.
Supermarket and restaurant staff in Amsterdam haven't got a fucking clue, frankly, but the people at the council, where it really counts, have been fantastic.
So the nice lady waited as I arranged for a scan of the passport in question to be taken and emailed to me. I then forwarded it to the council, and at around 2pm this afternoon, I became — for the first time in quite a while — legal.
It comes as quite a relief, I can tell you. I was getting fed up with this Littlest Hobo nonsense.
Now as soon as I post this scintillating memoir of my journey toward legality, I'm going to go and open a bank account.
After that, give me another three to five years, and if all goes well, I might even go properly Dutch. Aaaaah, back in the EU. Imagine that.
I leave you with a teddy bear I rescued the other night after four pints of Guinness and a few cheeky pipes.
Have a great weekend.
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I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you'll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven't already.