Although Alex was still off school this week (study leave before finals), Fiona only had one week off and was back on Monday. I dropped her off at school around 10:10. Her class has PE first thing on a Monday, and as Fiona was getting out of the car, three girls from her class walked past on their way back from the playing fields. Fiona casually skipped to catch up with them, tapped one of them on the shoulder, and jumped into their conversation. The group fluidly changed step to absorb her, and they walked up the steps to the school entrance looking completely natural and at ease.

I sat in the car and watched this with wonder. This time last year something so apparently simple seemed almost impossibly far away. It has been a long road, but we’re getting there.

In April three years ago we gave Alex and Fiona their first “Independence Quest”. I took the bus to Amsterdam with them and we walked to the Dam. I gave them each €20, and the Quest was to go off together…and spend it. They could go and buy some lunch, visit a bookstore, scout for clothes, load up on sweets, whatever. But they had to spend the money on their own, in a big city they were mostly familiar with, without an adult hovering over them. And then meet up with me while I was off getting my first tattoo, or call Abi for a pick-up. Alex was just short of his 14th birthday, and Fiona was 11. They got on fine, and had a great time.

Flash forward to this Wednesday, when I was back at the House Of Tattoos again. Fiona wanted to be around for me getting the new tattoo, just like she wanted to be there for Abi getting her hair cut last month. The timing meant I couldn’t pick her up from school that day, though. So the plan we made was that she would finish school, and take public transport from Amsterdam Zuid to meet me at the tattoo studio. And because Fiona had an appointment of her own in Amstelveen at 18:00, but I wasn’t sure if I would be done by then, she might have to take public transport on her own back south again. NBD.

This, too, was a marvel to me. Not just that Fiona was able to do this on her own, but that she wanted to.

It was Emilia who did my tattoo this time. We spent some time discussing the design, and when we were happy with it Emilia made a carbon paper stencil and positioned it on my arm. Fiona showed up while Emilia was preparing her station, and she admired the design. She was looking hot from the walk, and wanted to find a shop or a café to get herself something to drink. When she wasn’t back after half an hour and Emilia was well underway with the tattoo I had a twinge of concern that she was OK, but she showed up bright and happy and (cautioned not to touch anything) came over for a close look at the process. Shortly after that she decided to head off early to make sure she had enough time to get to her appointment. Seeya! NBD.

Emilia did beautiful work on the magpie tattoo:

Magpie tattoo just after completion
Magpie tattoo just after completion
Me and Emilia with finished tattoo. I look slightly pained.
magpie tattoo
After settling in for a few days

Afterwards I got on public transport myself and headed south to Amstelveen to meet Fiona after her appointment. (I’d parked the car there earlier to make it easier for us to drive back home.) I stopped off for some food along the way at Burgerlijk Amsterdams on the Van Baerlestraat. Weird burger, poor service. The staff seemed surprised I was there and somewhat offended that I wanted to interrupt their conversation with my order. The bun and fries were good, but the burger tasted stewed rather than grilled, and the burger sauce was a sickly sweet barbecue confection. ? Avoid.


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