The youths were much too youthful at this Youth Hostel. I felt as old as Berlin felt new. After a long day of falling in love with the city, I sat at the bar to watch them, and the Holland v Sweden match.
No one looked a patch over seventeen, eyeing each other across smoky pool tables and discounted beers. There were shy smiles and cocky grins, some still smothered in braces. Boys belched; girls shrilled and readjusted scraps of clothing. I tried to remember a time when I too was young and sprightly and thought youth hostels were thrilling dens of debauchery, rather than a last resort for a cash-strapped bore shuffling towards thirty.
By the end of extra time they'd started to pair off. What is the criteria for hooking up in hostel? It's too loud to talk, and chances are you wouldn't speak the same language anyway. I observed the couples littering the hallways and concluded that you simply latched onto the person of the opposite sex who mostly closely resembled yourself. Tall rangy blonde boy gravitated to tall rangy blonde girl. Dingy dreded tattoo boy found dingy dredded tattoo girl.
I was feeling lonely. After weeks of new people and places, I craved some familiarity. My weary brain scanned the room, attempting flimsy but consoling connections back to to Scotland. I stared at my glass of Fanta and felt warmed by how Fanta was orange much in the same way Irn-Bru was orange. Then Henrik Larsson lined up for his penalty shot, and I thought fondly how Henrik Larsson used to play for Celtic and Celtic are from Glasgow and Glasgow is in Scotland therefore Scotland was really quite close at that moment, even though Henrik Larsson was actually in Portugal which was further away still.
Now five days later I'm back in Edinburgh, plunged abruptly back into reality and already wishing I was back in that Berlin bar. Mercifully, I don't go back to Job #2 til next weekend (Geriatric Rescue), but yesterday I resumed Job #1 (World's Crappest Secretary).
I was fuzzy and disoriented after three weeks of cityhopping. At the bus stop I riffled through the dregs of seven currencies to find my fare and muttered, "80p. What's that in pounds? Oh. 80p". I thanked the driver in Swedish and the Bacon Roll Man in Russian.
Before I left I'd written in the team diary, SHAUNA WILL BE BACK TODAY TO OPEN YOUR MAIL AND TALK ENDLESSLY ABOUT HER HOLIDAY. And I did, between power naps in the bathroom.