Monday, January 07, 2008

Delhi to Europe

After leaving my job in Delhi and flying out of what I thought were icy, subcontinental temperatures, I landed in Paris where it was minus two celcius and I was minus a key essential is such weather... A winter coat. In spite of the arctic-like temperatures I had been surviving in Delhi, I had so far managed to make it through with long sleeved shirts and a layer of cashmere with the occasional denim jacket added for a little extra warmth when the temperature really plummeted. Suddenly I found myself at Charles de Gaulle airport without any protection from the elements. Fortunately for me, I only had to catch the TGV to Brussels, where I had booked a sleeper sofa at Joe´s place, on the very street where Audrey Hepburn was born. It was upon arriving in Brussels that the urgency of my situation really hit. I had to exit the station and wait for a taxi. The wind was blowing icy daggers through my Indian winter attire and I stood shivering and turning an ever-increasing deep shade of blue. My dangly bits were colder than ever and in danger of falling to the ground and smashing themselves upon the forzen terrain. Taking a lead from one of the tragic literary heroines, I searched my pockets for matches I could use to keep warm while peering in the windows at those warm sould clutching cups of steaming lattes and espressos, but alas the pockets were bare. It was just little cold and cashmered me against the elements. Fortunately for me, it was not long before a taxi pulled up and I was soon setting up house in the back seat of the heated Mercedes on my way to the street where she lived.
After arriving at Joe´s and quickly borrowing a n ice winter coat, it was off to the Christmas Market for sausages and Glühwein. It was odd to go from a place without any traces of Christmas and be dropped right into the middle of everything. Santas, angels, nativity scenes and candles everywhere... People bundled up in thick coats, scarves and gloves, noses all red from the cold and Christmas music filling the air. It was surreal to say the least. Normally there is a bit of a build-up to the holidays... The weather turns colder and then first we have Sinterklaas and then out come the trees and lights and made-for-television Christmas movies and shows and plans are made for parties, cocktails and gift giving. This year it was from 0 - 120 in the matter of a medium haul flight on an Air France 747 seated next to the lavatories, thanks to a last minute seat change by the check in agent, thank you very much. If there is one thing I don´t care for when flying, it is flying economy. But when combined with a seat next to an alley of lavatories on an 8 hour flight with people returning to Europe with a Delhi-belly souvenir, the terror simply increases. Yes, I had extra leg room, but I also had a perfect view right into the tiny cabines with the blue water. I was hoping to catch a couple signing up for the mile-high club but no dice. I pushed my earplugs in as far as they would go, pulled down the blindfold down over my eyes and tried to transport myself to a different destination. I would have been successful had it not been for the gust of wind and smelly air that hit my face everytime someone entered and exited the lavatory. And oh my God. Get people 36,000 feet off the ground and they become pigs. I will leave the details to your imagination, but if you have flown that long in economy, you know exactly what I mean.

So there I was, trying to air myself of the last traces of in-flight contamination walking around Brussels trying somewhow to summon the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future. For some reason, it just wasn´t happening. All that crap about Christmas being a state of mind need to go the way of the blue water. I was in a Christmas state of mind, I just could not summon the feelings that went with it. Perhaps it was due to the fact that my life as I knew it in Europe, just does not exist anymore. Ulco is in St. Petersburg. Ann is in Sydney. Other friends had either moved on or where too busy with other things to worry about the normal holiday trappings. I was also missing Manuel. It had been weeks since he left Delhi and it would be another week before I flew to Spain. We had never been apart that long and I didn´t really like it at all. So there I was walking around in what used to be my life but not really able to get into it. Like putting on an old favorite pair of jeans to discover they don´t really fit the same anymore and no amount of Santas were going to change anything. I had a great time in Brussels and it was great to see Joe and Graham and have some laughs and coctails at the old familiar haunts like Fontainas. I even c aved in and went to Chez Maman with Joe where we met up with Nik later and I left with the shirt off of Nik´s back. Literally. He came walking in with a red Abercrombie and Fitch shirt with the text that read "Hung with care". I had tried to get that shirt the year before but they were sold out and suddenly here it was. I told Nik how much I loved that t-shirt and so he took it off and handed it to me. My first Christmas gift! Of course he was wearing something underneath. While I would have been more than happy to send him out in the cold in exchange for the shirt, it turns out I did not need to. If I can saw one thing about Nik, it is that he is always prepared no matter what the situation. I wouldn´t at all be surprised if he carries a Swiss Army Cocktail Shaker for those emergency situations when only a well-shaken concotion will do the trick.

All to soon it was off to Amsterdam for a couple of days before needing to head to Paris for my flight to Sevilla. If Brussels was cold, Amsterdam took it to an all new level. lower one at that. Patches of ice on the gound and a thin layer of ice forming on the lesser used canals with the wind whipping a paralytic cold through the city. Thanks to Joe´s coat, I was a bit more prepared for the 5 minute journey on foot between the train station and my flat. I went home, changed clothes and then headed out to see Garad and have a few drinks. I met Garad about 2 years ago and we instantly fell into one of those relationships that is all about insulting and one-upping the other and for some reason this seemed to escalate whenever Marco was around. It woudl start out with a few slings here and there and would basically spiral downhill until there were either somewhat hurt feelings or we would all just get fed up with our inability to communicate on any level of quality. This went on for about a year and then during Christmas a year ago, Garad joined a few of us for Christmas at Nik´s and Garad and I shared a hotel room. Turns out, we actually got on very well. I was at least surprised that we managed to get beyond all the witty and insulting remarks and actually have conversations. I realised then that I actually liked Garad, something I wasn´t too sure about before. He was more someone I got on with because he was part of the group. So there we were, having drinks and discussing Garad´s moving into my flat in Amsterdam which I am hoping he will buy. It´s a cool place, right in the center and now Marco and Nik have just moved about 50 meters away from the place. Of course, it seems much further than that when carrying an Eames chair down the street, but at last, just as I am leaving the place, we become neighbours. I spent the a day packing as much of my place up as possible and unfortunately I had to leave the rest of Garad to take care of. It just wasn´t something I had planned for when arranging my trip here. But it all seems to be sorted now and my belongings are temporarily in storage, waiting for their big move to India. Who knew I had so much stuff? While packing, I agonized over what to do with my collection of Vanity Fair magazines that spans more than 10 years. I have them all. I took my dilemma to Nik who thought as I did. Save the best ones in tact, cut off the covers of the better ones to frame and ditch the rest of them. I left our discussion with my decision made to do just that. It was only when I opened the cabinet and looked at my little babies that I changed my mind. I am just not the kind of parent to toss my little ones into the street, and certainly not in sub zero temerpatures. Why, Giselle was practically naked. She never would have survived in that skimpy outfit.

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