Welcome back, my dear readers. Our topic for today is Change.
The reason for this topic is this: in just 2 months, on the 4th of January 2012 to be precise, it will have been 5 years since I moved to Ireland.
People often ask me if I have noticed things change over those 5 years. Ofcourse I have. In 5 years time a lot of things change, no matter what. As I have been away from Holland for extended periods of time since I moved, I am not as much part of my friends’ daily routine as I used to be. This is normal and I did not really expect this to be different. It was a thing I knew when I decided to migrate and I was prepared to take this for granted, in exchange for the experience of living abroad and in a different culture. Fortunately, ofcourse, due to ever improving technology and things like Facebook, Skype and messengers, I still keep up to date with what most of my friends do and, thanks to my friends at Ryanair, I can still come over and hang out with them on a semi-regular basis.
Still, things have changed. Instead of 3 times per week, I come down to the local bar 3 times a year. I miss birthdays of friends that I would never have missed had I still lived in Holland. People buy and sell houses, and I’m not there for the house warming party. People get married and divorced, sometimes to my astonishment, because I never knew something was amiss (which is normal because if your friend from overseas is in town, the last thing you want to do is waste the entire afternoon detailing every problem in your marriage). People have children, which I am normally informed about, but a couple of months ago, I spoke a friend I hadn’t seen in nearly a year and when I asked him what was up with him these days, he nonchalantly mentioned inbetween sips of lager that his second child would be born within 2 weeks. Up to that point I wasn’t even aware that his wife was pregnant again.
In short, people keep going about their lives, doing things that people in their mid-30s do, with the difference that I’m not in the middle of it anymore. This does not mean that we’re not as close anymore, just that interaction has changed.
Whenever you move to a different country, it is inevitable that you encounter change. When I just moved to Ireland, I was happily amazed by certain things, like the fact that every other door leads into a pub that opens at 9 in the morning, that you can gamble at any time or in any place because there’s a bookie on every street corner and that complete strangers greet you or start a conversation while you are on your way to a supermarket the size of an airport terminal or waiting for the bus. In Holland, pubs don’t open until late in the afternoon during the week, gambling is frowned upon (there are no bookies in Holland, except for 1 lone Ladbrokes shop in Amsterdam that is there for the benefit of British tourists) and when you address a stranger in Holland, even if just to ask for directions, you are met with a frightened stare that hangs somewhere inbetween ‘leave me alone you creep or I’ll call the police’ and ‘I hope he just takes my wallet and camera and doesn’t rape me’. Dutch people, as you may know, are not generally the most trusting people when it comes to strangers.
Apart from the improvements that I gained from moving to Ireland, there were obviously going to be downsides to my relocation too. Public transport in Holland is brilliant. It is frequent, reliable, efficient and affordable. Dublin has a transport system that I would deem sufficient for a midsize market town, not for a metropolis with over a million people in it. There are scores of beggars on Dublin’s street and they are nowhere near as creative as the ones in Holland. Beggars in Holland generally try either the ‘I do something for my money’ approach and recite poetry, play songs to your request on a guitar with 3 strings or try to sell you their magazines, or go for the ‘hey at least I’m honest’ approach and hold up signs saying ‘Need money for beer’ or ‘Ran out of heroin- please help’. Beggars in Ireland are very unpleasant. They walk alongside you on the street and stick their filthy hands or paper cups in your face. If you politely reject their invitation to part with your money to finance their next 6pack of cider, they will shout obscenities at you and swear on someones grave that, the next time you do not comply with their request, they will kill you, or they will throw an empty plastic bottle or cigarette pack at you. It really is quite unpleasant. As you see, there are always ups and downs to every move, but in general I am quite happy that I have taken the step and moved abroad. All on my own to a big unfamiliar city.
My parents’ biggest concern when I walked out of their house as an inhabitant of Holland for the last time, on 3 January 2007 was that I was going abroad all alone. They had no doubts whatsoever that my job would go fine, that I would find a place to live and find my way around. What they were worried about was that I knew practically nobody in Ireland and had to start pretty much from scratch. Now, let me first point out that I did have a number of connections in Ireland, mainly through the music scene, so I had at least someone to call when I first got there. I knew a bunch of guys from an Irish band that I knew through the Dutch band that I used to be a roadie/free beer drinker with. So after doing all the normal stuff that you would do when you arrive in a new city for an extended period of time (buy a mobile phone, study the bus schedule, get new plugs for your electronic equipment) I decided to give one of them a call. We went for a beer and everybody back home expected that I would slide effortlessly into their group and spend my weekends hanging out with them. Well, things didn’t quite work out that way. Not because there was any bad blood or anything, I just decided to do something else. Rather than hanging out in their pub every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I decided to look further afield to see what else was going. I started to become a regular visitor at a pub called Frazers (Now Murray’s) where I met an array of football fans that I still hang out with now, and later the Woolshed entered the picture, where I also met loads of interesting people.
And this, my friends, brings me to the biggest change that I have seen happening to myself over the past 5 years: the people I spend my time with. Before I moved to Ireland, for over 15 years I spent 95% of my time hanging out with people whose lives revolved around heavy metal or punk music. Meeting people outside the traditional circuit of heavy metal bars and concert venues also meant meeting people who didn’t give a rats ass about punk or heavy metal, or even about music in general.
This took some getting used to from my part, I have to admit. All of a sudden, I had friends who wanted to go home and change before going out. I had not encountered something like this for 15 years when , back in high school, my friends would want to change into a fancy new shirt so they would have a better chance of picking up a girl (or so they thought). In my circle in Rotterdam, nobody ever got changed before going out because everybody was wearing black boots, black cargo pants and a black t-shirt with a band logo on it all the time anyway. The only person who went home to get changed before going out was the guy working at the city’s waste collection department because if he went to the pub straight from work nobody wanted to play darts with him or even accept a beer from him, on the account of him smelling like bin juice, rotting vegetables and discarded diapers.
Women wearing make-up that went beyond black eye-liner was also a novelty that I had not seen in over a decade, as were men in dress shirts. A couple of months ago, I found myself thinking ‘wow what a great song’ during a song that was played in the Woolshed and found that it was a song called Stereo Love by one Edward Maya and a girl called Vika Jigulina. Last month I again heard a song in the pub, thought ‘now that’s a nice song’ ,consulted my phone to see what the artists name was and, to my considerable surprise, found that it was Rihanna. I would not have thought this possible 5 years ago.
Ofcourse, I also had to alter my subjects of conversation somewhat as my new friends would stare at me quizzically if I brought up next week’s Misfits gig or the newest Cannibal Corpse release (one of my friends still refuses to believe that a band by that name exists).
I am in the fortunate position that my friends here in Dublin are nearly all as crazy about sports as I am, and over time you get to know each other and find that you have a lot more in common than you originally thought, so you don’t have to get stuck in talking about exciting new releases on Head not Found records or small-town life in rural Australia, for example. My new friends have made the transition to my new country a lot easier than I ever thought possible.
On occasion, when there’s not much happening on a Friday or Saturday night, I miss living with my friends in Holland, and think back about the times when we were sitting at the bar together every week. But things change, it’s the way life goes.
Billy Connelly once said ‘Every succesfull culture must be subject to constant change’
I must say that I find the change of scene and the view-beyond-metal refreshing and eye-opening and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this experience for the world.
So, with that thought, I leave you for today.
Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve got some Bestial Warlust videos to watch on You Tube.