Just over three years ago, we left Amsterdam. It was a time of upset and dark black anger and as I drove away, I was sure I’d never be back.
When I started writing Having it all, I knew I wanted to set my story in Amsterdam. As I put together ideas and tried out characters and scenes, I wasn’t sure how it was going to spin out. It could so easily have become a rage against the city. As the days went by and the words came together, I realised it was more affectionate. I began very slowly to recall why I loved the city and allowed myself to cut it some slack.
I realised that people are people, no matter where they happen to cross your path. It wasn’t the city that I needed to understand, it was those who left me in that horrible place.
Time heals, of course and just recently, I felt able to return to Amsterdam for my 50th birthday. Three years, they say, is how long you should always leave between visits to places that mean so much.
The first night was difficult. We walked familiar streets and went to places we once took for granted. It felt like being inside photos, things captured in my head and locked away. We remembered our dear friend Bertie and his joy and I won’t pretend I didn’t cry a little.
Coming home after was a real thumper. I’ve never felt a crash so complete and sudden.
Having it all now means so much more to me. It’s a love story between a city and the writer, whose voice sits on top of the crooked canal houses and the murky canals. I hope I’ve done it justice.
Above all, I hope some day soon I can return again.