Waiting devours agency, like a necrotising fasciitis of the human will. There is nothing like sitting around helplessly twiddling your thumbs to utterly dismantle your sense of self. I am just an object to the lady at the Help Desk. I am just a number in the system. As Sartre famously said in his existentialist play ‘Huis Clos’ (‘No Exit’), ‘Hell is other people.’
Sitting by the suitcase carousel, another hour passes slowly before my bag emerges from the bowels of Schiphol Airport and my time in Luggage Limbo is finally at an end. Two trains have come and gone since I bought my ticket and there aren’t anymore connections to Blankenberge tonight. Brussels or Amsterdam may as well be Scylla or Charybdis. I check the big board. The next train is in thirty minutes. To keep moving or hunker down? I board the train. “Eh bien, continuons…”
On the train, I take out my computer, edit some ‘Chip Race’ segments, do some writing and stare out the window, reminiscing about my week in Nottingham. It’s fair to say that it’s not been my favourite poker destination in the past and I’m certainly on record whining about hotels there (mostly the Britannia) and the food options (or lack thereof) next to Dusk Till Dawn. So it is with great pleasure that I can say that this time around, I really enjoyed my time in the Crowne Plaza, the Alea Casino and the city of Nottingham itself. Unibet put on a great event with money added to the prizepool and bonus bounties for knocking out the ambassadors. The atmosphere was more like that of a giant home game and every night ended at the bar in the casino or back at the hotel.
On and off the table, I got to spend time with Unibet regulars, the highlight of which was hanging out with my Twitch Moderator and Unibet Community Mother Hen Donna aka ‘DarkAngel’ who generously presented me with gluten free brownies as well as toys and a blanket bought for my baby son Hunter who she has been watching grow up thanks to his occasional appearances on my stream. I also got to chat with legendary Irish sister and brother duo Bridie and Barney Gribbin, who made an appearance in one of Fergal Nealon’s brilliant segments back in Season 1 of ‘The Chip Race’. It was lovely to see them both – Bridie looking stylish as always – and to have a natter about everything from GTO to GAA.
The train begins to slow and I listen out for the word ‘Brussels’ or ‘Bruxelles’. The announcements are in French and Flemish but I’m confident I won’t miss my stop.
“Le prochain arrêt: Antwerp.”
“De volgende stop: Antwerp.”
Ok, so we’re in Antwerp. Not long now. Almost certainly the next stop is Brussels. I go back to my reminiscences. I remember a fun hand I played against my fellow ambassador Daiva Byrne. I remember Ian Simpson getting heaps of chips as usual yet still finishing well short of the money. I remember railing the McGregor/Mayweather bout with Daiva, her husband John and TD Doug, relieved not to blow a hole in my roll, I remember spiking a 10 on the final table to keep my hopes of winning alive. I remember Unibet Community regulars NMPfan and MathrimC flipping for a Last Longer European Open package to Vegas. I remember laddering to 4-handed like a cockroach, sucking out on the turn versus NMPfan only for him to hit the river and deservedly bust me!
Half an hour passes and I feel as though we must be close. I pack away my computer and ask the waiter how much longer to Brussels. His brow furrows. My heart sinks and I pray that his confused expression is because he doesn’t speak English. In a French accent but perfect English, he tells me that the train doesn’t stop in Brussels. “Where does it stop?” I ask meekly. “There are no more stops”, he says, “The train terminates in Paris.”
I look sombrely at the blue dot on my GoogleMap. I am only 10 kilometres past Brussels, 250 from Paris but there is, quite literally, ‘no exit’!