While my sister was here on a much needed break from the demands of a busy household I took her along to a music education conference I was speaking at in Estonia at the University of Tallinn. She actually wanted to visit me at that particular time BECAUSE I was going to Estonia. Before she decided to come we had a conversation on MSN. It went a little bit like this:
Me: … Estonia?…
Or something to that effect. The next thing I knew she was flying to Holland to join me on a 10-day whirlwind tour of Den Haag, Tallinn and Helsinki. I was so excited to have her. She’s the first in my family to see my Dutch digs. But little did she know that she was arriving in the middle of a huge crisis for Adam and me. Thank you all for the kind thoughts and and well wishes. Things seem to be calming down now. And we’re still here. Which is a good thing. A great thing.
Unfortunately when Tracey arrived, Adam and I had been at each other’s throats almost daily for several weeks and there seemed to be no way out. The stress from it was giving me wrinkles. And grey hairs. And pimples. And warts. And shingles. And… and… hemorrhoids. It was making me absentminded at home. It was making Adam distracted at work. We were edgy. Uptight. Not eating. Not normal. Not good. Poor Tracey. But she was heroic and took it all in stride. She handled my addled brains well. No matter how difficult I was. And boy was I difficult. I have compiled a list of Nicki-related incidents that occurred on our four-day journey to Estonia. Have you got your cup of tea laced with diazepam? Ok, HERE WE GO!
ONE: Head to Helsinki. First leg is a 07:10 flight from Amsterdam to Munich. Need to catch train to airport. Awake at 04:30 to leave house by 05:00 to walk to train station. Nicki’s running late. At 05:10 take taxi to train station. Arrive at train station at 05:20 to catch 05:28 train. Pay taxi driver €10.
TWO: Buy train tickets. Pay €8.50. But Nicki has made a mistake. Train goes at 05:58 not 05:28. May miss flight to Munich. Nicki starts to panic. Tracey calms Nicki down. 05:25 take taxi to airport. Pay taxi driver €80.
THREE: Make it smoothly to Munich. Nobody dies. Fly from Munich to Helsinki. Cool. Need to catch ferry to Tallinn. Ask lady at airport Information booth where to get ferry tickets. She suggests one of three travel agents in the airport. Go to first agent. First agent can’t help and suggests the second agent. Go to second agent. Second agent can’t help and suggests the third agent. Go to third agent. Third agent can’t help and suggests Information booth. Nicki starts to panic. Tracey calms Nicki down. Head back upstairs to the lady at the “Lack of Information” booth. She suggests a taxi to the ferry terminal. Ok. Nicki calms down. Not Nicki’s fault. But let’s read on.
FOUR: Sit in taxi to Tallink ferry terminal. Nicki silently realizes she hasn’t seen her handbag for a while. Figures it is in the trunk with the large luggage. Yes. That must be it. However, Nicki starts to panic. Nicki muses out loud that she hasn’t seen her handbag for a while. Tracey suggests to stop the car and check. Nicki says, Naaawww… She’s sure it must be in the trunk. Decide not to stop and check. Big mistake. Arrive at Helsinki ferry terminal 30 minutes later. Pay taxi driver €40.
FIVE: Check trunk. Guess what? Handbag is not there. Handbag is likely sitting on the counter at the airport Lack of Info booth. Contents of handbag: wallet, passport, digital camera, mobile phone, kitchen sink. Nicki starts to panic. Ask lady at ferry ticket booth for phone number for Helsinki airport information. Search for payphone. Find a payphone. It is not a normal payphone. It is a “Skype” payphone. What the?… Add up Tracey and Nicki’s university degrees. Decide that five degrees are not nearly enough to decode this new-fangled whozumawhatzits. Turn up hearing aid. Adjust bifocals. Rotate dentures. Determine that Tracey has exactly enough change and lint to make one 7 minute call to the Helsinki airport. Nicki’s money is in her handbag. Pray to the gods of travel and the internet that this mystical Skype phone will work. Offer Satan soul (not for the first time). Input airport phone number plus a required series of random digits that would stump the enigma machine. Solve pi to three million decimal places. Waste 6 minutes as phone connects. Finally reach airport lost and found. With 20 seconds left on call, learn that the bag has been found fully intact and will be sent by taxi to the ferry terminal. Nicki wets herself with relief. Bag arrives 40 minutes later. Pay taxi driver €50.
SIX: On the ferry to Tallinn find out by text that Adam will be taking an unexpected trip home to Scotland. He needs a break from Holland. Nicki gets upset that Adam is sad. Confides in Tracey about how stressful life has been. Tracey’s a star. Nicki feels better. Spend a lovely evening in the citrus coloured (and scented) Hotell Braavo in Tallinn.
SEVEN: Nicki goes to conference the next morning. Sets out early. Walking. Map in hand. Walks in exactly the wrong direction for 20 minutes and has to retrace route back to the hotel to get bearings. Nicki arrives at conference late and sweating. Nicki attends morning talks then takes afternoon off because she is knackered.
EIGHT: Tracey and Nicki spend the afternoon slowly walking around Tallinn in the sunshine. Later, Nicki gets ready for fancy conference dinner. Nicki is going alone because ticket costs €50. Yikes. Nicki realizes she’s missing her ticket. But she has a map the the event so she expects to be able to blag her way in. Nicki’s good at blagging. Unfortunately map to restaurant is marked only with an “X”. No exact location. No restaurant name. Nicki thinks it will be a piece of cake finding the dinner. How big is Tallinn anyway? Tracey accompanies Nicki because the walk will be nice. It’s not nice. Nicki and Tracey spend over an hour visiting every restaurant within a half a kilometer of the mystery “X” on the map. No luck. Instead they eat dinner together at an Italian restaurant. Fine.
NINE: By the way, Nicki is sick. She has laryngitis. The next day she gives her hoarse talk to the conference delegates. Nicki has to speak extra slowly and clearly so the Estonian translators can hear her. Successful talk, but Nicki is exhausted and wants to go home. She doesn’t ask anyone where the previous evening’s dinner had been held. She can’t face it.
TEN: That afternoon, a successful journey on the ferry back to Helsinki. Relaxing evening spent in Helsinki. Nice stay at the Sokos Hotel Albert. Nice breakfast buffet the next morning. Successful journey back to airport. Everybody happy. Fly to Munich. Fly to Amsterdam. Nobody dies. Buy train tickets to Den Haag using Nicki’s discount rail card. Nicki realizes she’s missing her discount rail card. Nicki returns first tickets and buys two more tickets at the regular fare. Pays an extra €10 for these tickets.
ELEVEN: Train journey to Den Haag sitting in peaceful “silent” car. Nice silence. Nicki looking forward to home and hot shower. More nice silence… suddenly Nicki bellows: OH. MY. GOD! Tracey jumps. Woman reading book across from Nicki jumps. Nicki realizes she left her house keys at home thinking Adam would be there when they got back from Estonia. But Adam is in Scotland and will not be back for two days. Nicki panics and begins making very expensive calls and texts to Scotland to try and find a way into the house.
TWELVE: Arrive in Den Haag half an hour later. Nicki realizes she’s missing her tram pass to get from train station to home and has to buy a new one. €21.60. Nicki is still madly calling and texting Adam and now the building superintendent. Still no way into house. It’s dinner time and Nicki decides to take Tracey to Los Argentinos while the key thing gets sorted. Best decision in four days. Tracey eats steak. Nicki eats ribs. They both drink beer and consider staying in a hotel for the night. This will cost €85. Yikes.
THIRTEEN: Mid-meal, Nicki finally reaches the LANDLORD. He has an extra key. BUT it is at his office and he’s reluctant to go get it. It’s a Sunday night after all. Nicki is dejected. Hangs up phone. Gnaws on ribs. Tracey has long finished her steak. Gnaws on Nicki’s ribs. Dammit, Nicki does not want to pay to stay in another hotel. Fed up with herself, Nicki calls the landlord back and insists he deliver the keys. He is still reluctant. Nicki tells landlord that her sister is visiting from Canada. So? So… so… her sister is PREGNANT and does not want to stay in a hotel. Nicki’s sister is not pregnant. Nicki is a liar. Landlord agrees to deliver keys. Tracey calculates her imaginary due-date. Nicki and Tracey head to apartment. Tracey sticks out belly. Landlord delivers keys. Tracey and Nicki are home. Tracey is cheery and unflappable. Nicki is beaten to a snot. Tracey has a beer. Imaginary fetus suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. Nicki goes to bed.