17 Jun 2005
14 Jun 2005
I lived there for about a year and a half some six or so years ago and left because I became increasingly bored with what the, actually, quite small city had to offer. Its plus points include the diversity of its inhabitants in their ethnicity which was most often brought to my attention by the numerous ways one had to celebrate having a glug of beer. “Cheers!”, “Scholl”, and, well fuck, I can’t remember any more at the moment, wait, hang on, wasn’t “Nostrave” one? Anyway, I knew them all once because I drank with Brits about as often as I drank with hulking Norwegians, bellied Danes, sultry Israelis and bronzed Brazilians. The city is warm because it is positioned in the path of the warm Indian wind current and it has some wonderful parks. However, it is basically quite dull once you have emptied your balls for the umpteenth time in some wank-cubicle or with the help of some lady of the night on a passing whim, once you have skinned up in front of the police for the fiftieth time with a huge and ungainly grin on your face and once you realise the majority of the Dutch are really rather dull.
Not many of them enjoy the plethora of vices that most tourists make a bee-line for and once you have seen the potential outcome lying curled in a doorway who can blame them. I cannot remember one really enjoyable night that I had with the company of the Dutch. Nor was it a result of any failure on my behalf to get out there and meet them. It was almost a personal rule that for every time I went out with a group of friends I would then spend one night roaming the streets on my own making new and strange friends and ending up in some mild trouble cackling like a demented hyena with some new fellow conspirator. The Dutch, as a nation, just never really seemed ‘Up for it.’ They lack attitude. It became clear it was a lack of edginess, a lack of danger and a lack of attitude that made Amsterdam boring for me. I had relocated there from London where, in certain clubs I frequented, being a young skinny white boy, if you spilt certain people’s drinks the easiest and least painful way of leaving that club was to buy a round for everyone at the bar, just to be on the safe side. If you stood on someone guy’s brand new white Nikes you apologised, smiled, made sure he wasn’t reaching for a blade and then scarpered. In Amsterdam when you stood on a similar shoe you were normally apologised to with something along the lines of ,”Oh, no, I am very sorry my foot was under yours when you put it down. Would like some peanuts?”
Of course the architecture is wonderful, the museums very special, the history interesting and the food complete and utter swill, but that aside, I stand by my opinion.
However, it was truly a pleasure to be setting off in a big white van with Cris and Des to visit the place under the slight pretence of checking out the international tattoo convention that was being held at Stadium RAI over the weekend. We left Bude at about 4pm with a five hour journey to Dover, an hour and half crossing to Calais and then a five hour burn through France, Belgium and the Nederlands. Personally I wanted to fly but I joined the expedition late in its planning so the idea was generally poo-poo’ed. Of course, it turned out that I was right and instead of having to leave whatever party we were immersed in at midnight in order to catch the last train home to our hotel in Zoetermeer, in between da Dam and da Rotterdam, we could have stayed until it became imperative, for reasons of sanity, that we escaped and crawled home to a local and close hotel. Alas and, yes, alack of foresight was to blame. Anyway, no problem. Whatever. I’m rambling.
Cris and Des, happy campers
The journey over included passing by Stonehenge. Being mildly druidic Cris almost pissed himself with excitement and insisted that I photograph it. “But mate, there’ll be thousands of decent pictures of it on the net.” I whined. “Take some or we’re going home!” So I did, what with it being Cris’ van and all.
Yeaaaaaaa. Stonehenge man.
Errmmmm, yeah, those some stones man.
Des had thoughtfully brought along a case of Strongbow which, since I was not driving until the return journey, I laid into. Pretty soon we hit the M25 circular around London, a busy road upon which pulling onto the verge for anything less than an emergency is illegal. I tried to argue my point that a burst bladder would constitute a medical emergency and so we would be legally within the law to pre-empt that by pulling over and letting me out so I could drown a tree or three with my waters, but the lads were having none of it. I felt like a five year old again in the back of a school coach being told that, “No Campbell, we cannot pull over just for you. You should have gone back at school. Here’s a milk bottle. Go into that.” Ahh, the humiliation I suffered to avoid a puddle. I’m sure that’s why Melissa Ellis never saw me as potential boyfriend material. Anyway, twenty minutes later and I’m looking for containers to re-enact said sorrowful chapter of my life. Des helps me out by pointing out ,”You know Bruce, if you hadn’t crushed all those Strongbow cans for recycling, you could have gone in one of those. Haha!” I’m not proud of it but at this realisation a small tear born of desperation and pain escaped my clamped eyelids and Des and Cris took pity and pulled over. This theme was to be repeated continually during the journey, by everyone.
Des driving through a tunnel with me in no fit state to operate a camera.
We made the ferry, crossed the channel and Des took over the driving whilst Cris entertained us from the back with sad songs about being a jellyfish. I carried on with the consumption of the Strongbow joined by Cris and before you knew it I could hear a tinkling coming from the back. Say no more. For the next five hours Cris and I left a trail of scented urine across three countries, pissing into a can and then emptying it out of the window at eighty miles an hour. Some truck driver pissed Des off so at about four in the morning his windscreen became wet, sticky and slightly yellow. Biological warfare at its gentlest.
Cris and a conveniently, and momentarily, empty can of Strongbow.
With Cris slumbering in the back and Bruce pretty fucking pissed by this point, we made it to our turning off on the A16 in Holland and we entered suburbia. I was reminded of exactly how flat Holland is and exactly how many flowers they grow. All I could see were greenhouses, the odd canal and some low lying mist. I become hugely excited. “We’re in fucking Holland Desmondo!” I took about sixty pictures of Dutch cats, Dutch trees, passing Dutch all the time with my head out of the window extolling the wonders of Dutch everything-in-sight. Des was very patient with the drunk keeping him awake whilst he drove.
Me and my mate Strongers!
Anyway, we hit Amsterdam about five hours later and the sun had come out and I was in heaven. “No guys, I’m sure it’s this way, c’mon, look, bicycles, wow.” Dragging the pair of them about showing them the sights, “..and that’s the bridge that me and Jani jumped off into that canal and my arm got cut open by a rusty shopping trolley under the water and Jani spent three weeks in bed with a flu that the doctors said was only normally contracted by pregnant gazelles., and Look! That’s where I used to score off a guy called Black, who was black, but he liked me to call him Black too and he gave me a lift to work a couple of times when I was late, a really nice guy really, I wonder where he is now, and Look! Daffodils.”
Cris and Des eventually nailed me to a seat when we stopped for a drink in Leidesplein, a tree covered paved area surrounded by cafes where there is normally a show put on by the local Capoeira school in exchange for kind donations. They used to do it when I lived there and they still do.
Just before two of them get to it they shake..
...getting to it...
...getting to it some more....
...and a little more...
We watched that for about an hour, enjoying the sun and the seriously eclectic mix of people passing by. And the hot lass doing the Capoeira. Hyaaah! It was good to be back.
8 Jun 2005
A large proportion of the air inside me is knocked out as my belly hits the dirt and I slide the three yards along until the top of my head strikes the gnarly tree stump that I had been aiming for. “Fucking Ow!” I utter as I come to an abrupt and uncoordinated stop, quietly though so not to give my position away to those yellow bastards who are waiting for us somewhere over the ridge up ahead. I had been in-country for only about thirty-three minutes and already I had come under fire from the enemy. Even now, as I crouched for cover behind the stump, I could hear the high-pitched screams of the projectiles flying over head, snapping tree branches and showering me with leaves, making the dust pitch-up and dance momentarily as the shot buried itself into it. As I waited for support to come up on my six my mind wandered back in time to the briefing the Commander had given my unit just before we were deployed.
“Listen chaps. This is a dirty conflict. Hell, they’re all dirty conflicts, but this one is as goddamn mucky as I’ve ever seen it and I seen it pretty goddamn mucky. Hurumph. So, you gotta stick together as a unit in the field of operations, watch each other’s back, keep your heads down and be sneaky bastards. I ain’t gonna shit you, some of you won’t be making it all the way through. Some of you are going to die. Just make sure you take two of them with you. That’s it, saddle up and move out!”
I steal a peek around the stump and see one of those yellow bastards taking a bead on my position. I pull my head back just in time as I hear two, three, four shots striking the wood behind my back. I’m pinned down, can’t move out of here until I get some support. I check my gun, check the magazine, test the trigger, in preparation for some royal bloodletting just as soon as my unit catches up with me. Where the fuck are they? I can hear whispering coming from the enemy’s positions. They are getting closer and still no sign of any backup. Goddamn it, perhaps they were cut off or got themselves lost or maybe they’re all dead, lying in a heap somewhere in the bush. Well, fuck it, I’m not going to wait here to get my nuts shot off! I’m going to charge those bastards, do like the Commander said and take as many with me as I can, down to rot and burn in the hell awaiting every soldier. I move myself around so I am facing the enemy, stick my head out to the right of the stump and then pull it back as I see one yellow scum fire at me from behind that hump and hear another let loose some flying death and pain over to the left. I bend my neck and bring the barrel of my gun up and rest my forehead upon it. I say a quick prayer, take a breath, grit my teeth, and then launch myself up and over the stump.
Everything slows as if someone has spilt a jar of honey onto the cogs of time. I can see the heads of three of those yellow devils and they are all aiming at me. I can see the shots flying through the air like I was Neo and I was in control of the Matrix. Something hits my helmet and I stumble slightly but keep running forwards. I think I am screaming something incoherent and full of hatred. I can feel wetness pour into my ear and I loose the hearing from it and I think I’ve been shot in the head, I’m going to die. My momentum carries me onwards and I reach the first ridge and run up it and come face to face with the enemy. I pull hard on the trigger and I feel my gun buck in my hands as I pour death down onto this person. I hear them grunt several times and then they must be dead because the body stops jerking. I shot someone, killed them on the field of combat. Just as this thought sinks in and fills me with a surprisingly warm sensation of satisfaction I hear the actions being cocked on guns behind me and before I can turn I feel the hits in my legs, back and neck and then I am falling forwards onto the body in front of me to join it in the gloom and ignominy of an early death.
I have no idea how long my body lies there but about five minutes later and a shout goes up: “Time up! Yellows win, Blues lose by three players. Put your guns on safety and meet back at the camp for burgers and drinks. The next game starts in forty minutes.”
“Ya loser!” says the body under mine.
“Yeah, well, who shot who?! I seem to remember blowing you away.” I reply as I push myself to my feet and then reach down to help Debbie up.
“That was just a set-up. A sacrifice. I lured you out and Will and Tammy slaughtered you. There is nothing I won’t do for the Yellow flag!”
I look over my shoulder and see the pink paint covering most of my back. “Jesus Christ, I hope this shit comes out. Ow! Fuck! My back is covered in bruises. Just wait ‘til I get Willem in my sights!”
Yeah, so, went paintballing for the first time ever a couple of weeks ago with a bunch of friends as a diversionary tactic for Jack’s surprise B’day party. The sun was out, the location was green and wooded and ideal for the scene of multiple pogroms of the Yellows on the Blues. Most of us swore our allegiance to the Land of Blue whilst Willem and Tammy and her friends united with the ranks of the Jaundiced who proceeded to efficiently slaughter us. The fact that the Yellows had five seasoned players who were all using hand signals and knew the terrain alarmingly well (“Head for D-9 bunker!”) as well as Willem, who unsurprisingly turned out to be a master sniper, all hastened the many deaths of us Blues in the early games but not so much as Marlon, fighting for the blues but seemingly unable to go for one game without mercilessly shooting a fellow comrade in the back of the head. The three brothers Chris, Jamie and Marcus worked as a tight unit as did Cris, Jase, Jack (who was Rambo) and I but we all got shot incessantly and our side was losing drastically on points.
Things started to change after lunch as us beginners all started to find our Warrior Spirit and after a valiantly fought last ditch stand at our base in the Jungle, there were high fives and shouting and firing of paintballs into the air. There was no stopping us from that point on. Shit, well, yeah, I should mention that just after lunch the girls and Will left leaving the Yellows four men down. Who cares though, all is fair in Love and Paintball! Eventually it all came down to the last game which we managed to win comprehensively. The yellows argued briefly afterwards that they had lost it because of Jason and his threats to beat two of them to death with the gas-cylinder on his gun if he saw any of them cheating again. I heard it all and I think he worded it somewhat like this “You two little pricks better fucking lie down and die the next time I hit you or I’m gonna beat fuck out of you!” Said by Jason towering above them in their small bunker, I know they were thinking that they hadn't signed up for this at all. “Just some friendly paintballing in the woods, please, god, keep this gun-toting maniac away from us!”
Very much fun indeed. Booyakka.