Amsterdam (OS031)

Previously: Circumstances forced Pam (one of my lodgers) and myself on a European trip in my campervan. It was all to avoid my other disturbing lodger, Mal Evolent. That reads like Pam is disturbing. She’s isn’t, merely challenging. Anyway, we caught the ferry and are now in Zeebrugge. On landing, a customs officer descended on us looking a bit serious, for some reason and waved us to drive into a kind of car port. We exited the van and walked over to the counter. Officers entered the van and the serious one asked Pam to empty her bag. Pam seemed strangely concerned about this.

Pam proceeded to empty her bag on the counter revealing a surprisingly diverse array of objects; clothes, battery lantern, candles, multimeter, folding spade, torch, Mr Muscle oven cleaner, dream catcher, jigsaw, spirit level etc. etc. etc. Once the counter was full, the officer urged Pam to stop.

He had a quick look into the still mostly full bag and indicated that she should pack it all away. Meanwhile, the other officers, who had been in the campervan, exited. One was covered in crumbs and what looked like instant coffee. I guess he must have opened the top cupboard. Been there. Done that. He confiscated my semi skimmed milk and it looked like we were home and free, that is until Pam blurted out, “I have a Baloney.”

The customs officer looked confused, as did I. “You know, a Boloney, a Sausage, cold meat.” she clarified.

This resulted in the unpacking of ‘the’ bag again, to locate the offending article. This was confiscated and we were able to leave at last. The head officer waved us off with some comment about driving on the right and not passing the dutchy on the left-hand side. He obviously took offence at my rendering of ‘Pass the dutchy on the left-hand side’ which I used to remind me about driving in Holland. No offence intended.

“I told you Oliver. Keep your songs to yourself. You have a habit of making enemies; walkers, garage attendants, people whose car you break into, customs officers.”

“Hardly breaking into. I just opened the door. I was just throwing the walkers off our scent. Long story.”

“I worry about you Oliver.”

We drove the short distance (78.8 Km) to Amsterdam as Pam informed me, using her new GPS. I hadn’t the heart to tell her that I’d planned the trip in some detail and knew all the distances, 78.6 actually. Fail to plan. Plan to fail.

Driving in Amsterdam was an experience. I was cut up by a mountain bike, a tandem and a bike with a toddler in a sort of trailer. The GPS directed me over a bicycle only bridge. Fearing for our lives, we abandoned the van on the outskirts of Amsterdam and caught a tram.

It was a great time of year to arrive in Amsterdam. The Christmas market was on and it was awesome, food and, drink and crafts. The Gluhwein went down well and all of a sudden it didn’t feel quite as cold which is just as well as Pam spotted ice rink. It was in an amazing setting which looked like a castle or Mansion. She convinced me to have a go, telling me she spent a lot of time on the ice as a youngster. I only went to few times but also spent a lot of time on the ice, horizontal. I’d like to know who invented ice skates. Surely, they must have fallen on ice at some point. We all do, even in Manchester. What possessed them to come up with the idea of putting a thin bar of metal on a shoe and then as if that’s not bad enough, polishing it, adding some wax for good measure and then going out on the ice. Maybe they were a physiotherapist or a cushion sales person, short of business. Now, the inventor of Ice Grips for putting on boots, there’s a person who knows about friction and gravity.

Today was as expected, slipping and sliding and lying on the ice. Strangely, I wasn’t unhappy, lying on the ice. At least I hadn’t all that potential energy ready to be converted to pain. Youngsters were circling around me lying on the ice much to Pam’s amusement. Fortunately, a local took pity on me and brought me one of the children’s sled things which converted me into a kind of 4×4. Pam was speechless with laughter. The sled thing was a bit small and Pam said I looked like Quasimodo on ice. After a while, Pam decided that I had suffered sufficiently and agreed to leave, returning to the market. She wanted a souvenir of the trip and she bought a silver  ball, which she insisted were called baubles. Ha, I thought she was a bit of a linguist. We decided to calm down with a coffee. I’m a bit of a coffee aficionado and we couldn’t miss sampling the blends and pastries in one of the many cafes in Amsterdam. I bought a couple of coffees and cakes. They looked a bit like Parkin but they had the label ‘Special’ and I figured I’d buy these as a treat after the traumatic drive and ice experience. We sat a while and feeling a bit more relaxed we walked along the canals. They were wide, tree lined and Pam took loads of photographs. She wanted to carry on walking but I’d been feeling a bit queasy and needed a sit down saying “I don’t feel good, a bit heady and tired. I need a sit down in the park over there. Look, there are lots of benches and not one is un-available.”

“Do you mean, they’re all free? Just say that. Drop your ‘ands’, ‘ors’, double negative stuff Mr computer.”

At that very moment, Pam grabbed me and pulled me backwards.

“What are you doing. You just walked into the road.” she said chuckling, which seemed pretty inappropriate.

“I didn’t. That cyclist was on the pavement shouting at me in Hollandaise.”

“Dutch, they speak Dutch. Sit on that bench over there. I’m feeling a bit odd myself. That coffee was so S T R O N G”.  We both found ourselves having a nap lying on the park bench in the middle of the afternoon.

Eventually, I woke up feeling a bit heady and brushed the pigeon off my head.

“Pam….Pam. Wake up. Why didn’t you use another bench? You’re a bit heavy.”

“Oh! I don’t know what came over me. That was a weird blend of coffee. Don’t they do Nescafe?”

I admitted “I didn’t feel like driving. I need to clear my head. Let’s have another coffee but maybe find somewhere familiar, Costa or Starbucks maybe.”

We found a Starbucks and spent ages in there. Finally, we were both feeling more together and able to carry on with our trip. We’d walked miles around the city and along the canals and being unsure of where we were, I asked “Pam, where did we leave the camper?” Pam still not 100% (I’d say 75%) looked around and pointed in several directions.

…Oliver Sudden

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Going Dutch (OS032)