Once upon a time About ten years ago in a land far far away Amsterdam a couple had gone away for a long weekend. Let’s, for arguments sake, call them T and B. This couple hadn’t been away before, they had only met a few months before having both recently got divorced. They were both fragile but wanted to learn to live again. And maybe love again, though the immediate thought was more of making the most of a free weekend.
They picked Amsterdam as B knew it well and because flights out of England that weekend were all full (due to it being a four day Jubilee weekend) but B knew you could drive from Calais. So they booked a ferry crossing instead. After a late night crossing from Dover they drove through the night. Stopping at one point for some much needed sleep, in a rest stop just off the motorway, trying to get comfortable whilst sleeping on the front seats of a VW Golf. Mr B remembered in the boot he had a double duvet. T knew at that moment this was one very special bloke.
Our couple had a lovely time in Amsterdam. They walked. They held hands. B showed T all the places he remembered from his time living there, places off the beaten track that you wouldn’t necessarily go to just by reading a description in a tourist guide. Simple but fabulous dinner in Humphreys. The amazing range of beers in a bar called Gollum. The tiny little counter that did the best chips in a cone with mayonnaise that they sat and devoured on the pavement. Literally on the pavement. The sunshine as they sat in a park.
B also booked dinner in a restaurant called The Supper Club and wouldn’t tell T much about it. Simply that the food was good and it was fun. They arrived at was just a big wooden door in a side street, with no indication this was a restaurant. Only a simple gold plaque showed it was their destination. Once inside it was a different world. A magical world. A grown up world that T had forgotten existed as she had been “just a mum” for so long.
A steep staircase led to a balcony and their “table” for the evening. Except it wasn’t a table. It felt like clambouring up on the top bunk, leaving your shoes in a big pile at the bottom.
At the top lay pristine white cushions, arranged around a small coffee table that was just big enough to hold an ice bucket and two glasses. The music was loud, the place was dark without being seedy. T peered over the balcony and watched the floor show below. Not a sleazy Amsterdam-esque floor show but two sculptors at one table, a model on the other. The sculptors started with two Champagne bottles and some wire, and slowly built a frame and then over the next few hours they built a life size model, with clay, of the girl.
T and B watched in amazement. The wine flowed. The food arrived (there was no menu, you had to trust the chef). More wine flowed. T and B spent a night just being them. Being adults. Two people enjoying each other’s company. Putting the past years behind them.
For years to come they would disagree about how they got back to their B&B. T would be convinced they walked. B would insist they got a cab. T knows they got a cab but likes to pretend otherwise because it adds to the story. T doesn’t remember because of the wine. Doesn’t remember getting back and into bed. Or rather on to.
But does remember waking up fully clothed like a star fish the next morning. A limb pointing to each corner of the bed. The room spinning. Becoming aware that B was nowhere to be seen. Gone for breakfast maybe? T walked to the bathroom.
There was B. In the bath. Fully clothed. Asleep.
Mrs Starfish hadn’t left him any room on the bed.
T was reminded of all of this last night when characters in a TV show went to Amsterdam and to the Supper Club. When a stranger on Twitter said “I have been there too”. And they shared their memories.
It made T smile and made her realise that it had been a long time since she smiled. A long time since her and B had wandered hand in hand in the sunshine. It has been a fairly rubbish few years and a particularly rubbish past few months. All sorts of things have been chucked at them in the past ten years and they have struggled to keep going at times.
But it reminded T of the good times and that it is the simple things that make her smile.
And that life isn’t a fairy tale. It’s hard work. But you have to work at it. That you have to take the rough with the smooth. You have to have the thunderstorms to then appreciate the sunshine that follows.
That you have to sleep in the bath once in a while if you live with a starfish.
Or buy a bigger bed.