The Return of the Writer

Who doesn’t enjoy a trip down memory lane? There are several good reasons why I haven’t been cracking on with my writing this year – and one of them is because of travel. Yes, Mr T and me have too many holidays, but my most recent excursion has been a solo trip to catch up with friends in the Netherlands.

We lived in the beautiful Dutch city of Haarlem for two years from 2014 to 2016. We then moved down to Den Haag for a further year. I haven’t been back to the Netherlands since we left in 2017 (apart from the cheese buying pitstop in Schipol Airport on our recent journey back from South America).

During my time in the Netherlands I joined an international women’s group in Amsterdam –  I didn’t partake in a great deal of the activities on offer, I’m fairly unsociable, but I did enjoy the organised walks and the yoga sessions. After we left, a few of us stayed in touch, meeting up back in the UK a couple of times. Then Covid struck, and we hadn’t seen each other since.

A catch up was long overdue. As one of the gang permanently resides in Haarlem, she offered to host. Flights were arranged, the hotel booked. I must admit I was worried my memories of the city had become blurred; that my rose-tinted spectacles had fogged up entirely and nothing would be as charming as I remembered. But on the flight over, I discovered the passenger in the next seat was travelling to a conference in the city, and I felt like the native, able to give helpful hints and directions. This was then followed by the joy of dragging my suitcase over the cobbles, the forgotten pitfalls of negotiating bicycle lanes, inhaling the lingering aroma of cheese and chips…

It was soo good to be back, eating my appeltaart met slagroom in the Grote Markt. I never learned to speak more than the most basic Dutch because the locals understood me better when I spoke in English, but it was heartwarming to be surrounded by the buzz of those guttural conversations. Haarlem hadn’t changed; I noticed a few of my favourite shops and cafes had gone, but others had replaced them. I trod the well-worn streets, soaking up the atmosphere like a drug, all the while acknowledging how lucky I was to have lived in such a beautiful part of the world. We took the bus out to the beach at Zandvoort to sit as the Dutch do, in a windy open-air bar, admiring the grey skies and the even greyer North Sea. And talking of bars – I’ve never been kicked out of one in my life, until our last night, when the young hotel barman switched off the lights and asked if we’d mind finishing our drinks in the lobby because he had a home to go to. Midnight already? Surely not? I thought the Dutch liked to party….

Anyway, that was my trip back in time, pure nostalgia and I left feeling warm and fuzzy inside with the promise to return again with Mr T.  But the Netherlands is not the only place I’ve revisited recently. I’ve picked up on an old manuscript that’s been stuck in the drawer for the last seven years.   To be honest, I am struggling with my historical weepy, and I thought revisiting something more lightweight and in my usual style, would be a good way to get back into the writing zone. It’s worked! As I re-write huge chunks of my contemporary romcom, ideas keep popping into my head for the war time love story. It’s like a part of me that had been missing has now come back, the words are tumbling out as quick as I can type. How long this euphoria will last, I’ve no idea. At the moment I’m escaping to my desk at every opportunity – especially as we’ve another holiday in a couple of weeks…