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Just got back from Amsterdam. It’s a totally fabulous city to visit when the sun sparkles on the handles of the shopping trolleys that lie partially submerged in the befouled canals, when the homeless junkies surround you like leprous locusts offering small packages of flour for 60 euros and it’s warm so they have bare arms and you can count the tracks running from wrist to shoulder, when the hugely ethnically diverse female population wander around with tastefully sparse vestments on leaving me dribbling into my Hoegaarden white bear which some barman has drowned a lemon in and tastes likes joss-sticks as I sit with friends watching the Capoeira demonstration at the Leidesplein. And breathe.

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 driving....

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.



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