What an odd 24 hours. It has felt like Ground Hog Day - that film where Bill Murray plays a reporter forced to repeat the same day until he discovers what the real purposes of life are: fun, love, loyalty, solidarity, faith.
In Brussels, chatting and laughing with my old flatmates from Chez Leyla's (a slum on the ring road, where we battled the landlady, mould in the bathroom and recalcitrant builders) it was like the past five months were simply an illusion. How could I have lived an entirely different existence? It doesn't seem plausible.
But yet, while everything is the same, I myself feel different. Stalking those familiar corridors, greeting old faces, even laughing with the woman I signed the familiar shorter-than-expected contract with about the wiles of bureaucracy - while a year and a half ago I had cried with fright at the whole experience.
I know it but I don't feel entirely part of it. I can predict responses, topics of conversation, what happens next. But people have hardened, concretised, behind their smiles. The benefits of distance which transforms old acquaintances into strangers? Or the fact that I now have my eyes open to the world?
Whichever it is, that naivety I was always getting warned about has gone. Perhaps I just don't need this to be the great European dream any more. Life itself will do, with no frills. That's growing up I guess.