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Before I do anything else on New Year's Day, I book flights.  

Two days later I travel 5 minutes on a bus, 8 minutes on the Overground and 15 minutes on the DLR into London City Airport, where I walk through security, sit for half an hour at the gate, get on a plane, spend an hour in the sky, and land in Amsterdam in the late morning, just in time for lunch.

At the hostel, a huge ex-laboratory across the water from the main station, I put my bag in the luggage storage room because my bed isn't ready yet, and padlock my valuables into a locker by reception, then I leave again. I take the 3 minute ferry from Noord to the city centre. I don't ask for a map. 

The sun is breaking through the clouds by the time the tram drops me at Westermarkt, and I make my way into Jordaan, where lights span the streets above my head and New Year fireworks still litter the concrete under my feet. I walk along the canals all day; crossing back and forth over bridges, glancing into the first floor windows of impossibly tall houses, and away from the women who stand behind red-lit glass. I listen to music and feel my mind slow down and relax; this trip already feels like one of the best choices I'll make this year.

And it is a choice, there are always other options: and this time I choose to be in Amsterdam, and I decide to be there alone. 

Because, I realise, going away alone isn't the lesser option, just as being single isn't a consolation prize, and renting in a house share isn't Plan B. These aren't poses you just have to hold, grimacing, until the thing you really want comes along. You can be there because you want to be, and choose that way with just as much agency as other people choose theirs. It's not a case of this will just have to do.

In Amsterdam I walk for hours, and fall asleep wearing an eye mask and earplugs in a dorm room shared with three other people, and order an afternoon Glühwein in the candlelit confines of a Bruin cafe, and eat two dinners by myself in a food hall, and sit in the bright, busy, communal area of the hostel and read my book, and make friends with people from Canada and Australia, and we all stay awake until nearly 6am. 

And three days later I check out, and get the ferry across to Amsterdam Centraal, and catch the train to Schipol Airport, and have a McDonald's in departures because I'm hungry and anyway, no one needs to know. Then I fly back to London; happy with my choices, ready to get through the bleakest time of year in this city; all the things I didn't feel before I booked those flights. 

Read more thoughts from London here.

Three things I think you might like.

2. Listen to the playlist I made while I was in Amsterdam. The rogue Christina Milian song is because I was the only person who could name the artist in the hostel's 90/00s music quiz, and of that, I'm proud.
3. Go to King's Cross and get on a train to Amsterdam because you got yourself some cheapy cheap Eurostar seats in the January sale. Stay here, it's great. Failing that, go and sing along to my favourite film

More things you'll actually want to do in London.


It's 2019, this is newsletter number 40 (!!!) and therefore I have a tiny request. This takes a chunk of time to put together (yeah I know, I'm going for that understated look) so if you could forward it on or share it or get a mate to sign up or casually mention its existence to anyone you've finally coerced out of winter hibernation to go for dinner with, that'd be good. And don't just assume someone else will do it because they probably won't, and the more people who read, the more guilty I'll feel when I don't write. Thank you. That is all. Happy New Year x 
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