Going Dutch (OS032)

;Previously: We had an awesome time in Amsterdam and decided to sleep off the coffee on a park bench, if that makes sense. It doesn’t to me. I’ve never had coffee like that. Anyway, we are where we are and unfortunately, we don’t know where we are and more importantly, we don’t know where we left the campervan.


As we couldn’t recall a single landmark near the campervan, we decided to backtrack our route. Pam spotted somewhere familiar.

“Look there’s the crossing where you threw yourself in front of a bicycle and there’s the park bench. You can still see where you drooled whilst sleeping off the coffee.”

Blunt but true.

I then spotted a sign for the Christmas market and Ice Rink. Nearby was the tram stop we used. So far so good. We got on a tram hoping to recognise where we left the campervan. We didn’t manage to do that and got off when we had spent much longer on the tram than we should have.

To cut a long story short, we got on and off the tram every stop until we practically stumbled over the van. I made a mental note to record the road name whenever we leave the van, in the future.

Much relieved and ready for moving on, Pam set the GPS to Ghent.

“540.47 Kilometres” she said

“540.35 Kilometres” to be precise, I corrected.

“You know the distance?” queried Pam.

“Well, yes.”

“Do you always plan the life out of everything? Are you ever spontaneous?”

“Unfair, I was once. That’s why I’m jobless at the moment. I walked out from my job, at the biscuit factory/”

“Just stop it. We’re arguing like an estranged couple and we’re only just married.”

We both laughed, as Pam described our wedding in great detail (in the last blog) to a lady who assumed we were. Totally, fabricated.”

“I’m still wondering why you did that” I queried, with no response.

No matter, it was a long drive and we parked up (somewhere) overnight. This was fortunately and surprisingly uneventful. Pam confessed that she was quite enjoying the adventure and promised to stick with the trip “through thick and thin, me being the thin one.”

She’s a one for proverbs and sayings but I can’t help thinking this was a thinly veiled insult.

The next morning, we drove into Ghent. It was fascinating. The buildings by the canal were amazingly colourful. I think this photo (which I downloaded from the internet) is Ghent as neither of us took any photos. That isn’t strictly true. Pam took some on her ‘posh’ camera. Unfortunately, she had a catastrophe and dropped it in the canal narrowly missing a passing punter (if that’s the term).

Thanks to David Vives, downloaded from Unsplash.com

I remember that some of the traditional, stone terraced houses lined the edge of the canal with the water lapping against the walls. “I bet they’ve got damp” I commented.

“How can you look at something so awesome and make such a mundane comment?”

“I’m being practical. I might want to move here and punt tourists for a living or maybe open a proper coffee shop.”

“Maybe you could breed fish in your cellar” she scoffed.

“I bet they don’t have proper plumbing. I bet it’s all chamber pots and look out below when they empty it, like the olden days in York.”

“That’s disgusting. It’s really expensive here. They have probably got gold taps, hot tubs, flushing toilets and bidets.”

“Just saying. You’re right though, it looks like a great place.”

We admired the scenery for some time, although I kept one eye on the upper windows. Walking further down the canal we came across a contemporary art gallery. Pam wanted to visit.

“I’ve never been to an Art Gallery” I admitted.

“What, you can’t be serious. You’re about to get an education. I used to visit museums and art galleries all the time in Manchester. I once went on an outdoor art treasure hunt to search for an original signed Mancsy illustration which had been hidden in the grounds of Manchester Cathedral. I was just pipped at the post by a homeless person who was searching through discarded rubbish next to a bin. ‘One person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure’ I thought to myself at the time hopeful that this poor soul managed to benefit from his find in some way. As he wandered off with the said illustration tucked under his arm, I mentally wished him well and hoped the black cat illustration might have brought him good luck.”

Some of the paintings in the gallery were amazing but I had to beckon Pam over to one exhibit. “What’s this about, Pam?” I asked “It’s like a body part suspended in oil or something.”

“Shush” said Pam and don’t say that. You’re reminding me of Mal when he was cooking something vile in the kitchen.

“Sorry … How about this one then?” pointing to a brightly coloured painting. “I could have done that. Look it’s just some sort of acrylic paint with some resin dripped on a piece of hardboard.” “Shush, you’re going to get us thrown out. You’re looking at how it’s made not at the image. Can’t you see past the way it’s made? What does it make you think of?”

“I don’t know. The used paint area in my shed. A small explosion in a Dulux warehouse.””

“Come on Oliver. Read the title, it’s called ‘Metamorphosis of June’. What does that say to you?”

“I don’t know. I feel sorry for June or is it the month?”

“Does it really matter?”

“Not to me. I’m not buying it. Have you seen the price? I could murder a coffee. Is there a cafe here?”

“Don’t say murder. It makes me think of Mal?”

“It’s just a saying. Anyway, I’m sure Mal is not as bad as you think. He’s just a bit unsavoury”

“Yes, like his cooking.”

Having completed our appraisal of several exhibits, we wandered into the café, ready to give our culinary assessment. Pam paid for a couple of glasses of Pinot despite my protest. I wanted to go Dutch.

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“There you go again with the proverbs.” I said, “Bit harsh on yourself though.”

In the cafe, we chilled for a while and I checked my phone for messages and my bank account. There were a few from Mum; Going to Crete again. Got to Crete. Having a drink by the pool. Where are you? I made a mental note to work out how to explain where I am, who with and why? It needs some thought. I can only imagine what conclusions my Mum would jump to if I said I was abroad with Pam. To make matters worse, I found that Mal had not paid any rent this month. I told Pam; “He is so difficult. This is probably because of the power cut on the road. Not my fault.”

“I know let’s send him a postcard.” Pam said. She rushed off and picked up one from the gallery shop. “Right, no time like the present.” she commented slapping the postcard in front of me. “OK, let’s start. I think we should make it quite formal. I’ve got Dutch courage from the wine.”

“Luckily, they speak Dutch here in Ghent. Otherwise, you may bottle out” she chuckled.

Here goes ….. ‘Dear Mal, administration of your rent is not acceptable.’

“‘Maladministration’” queried Pam.

“It’s OK, don’t fuss. Let me continue.”

“Very well Mr Sudden.” Pam said in her best patronising voice.

‘Glad you’re not here. We’re having a great time.’

“Oh, do you think so?” Pam asked.

“Yes, considerably much better than working in a biscuit factory.” I slurred. That Pinot is strong.”

Pam laughed loudly. ‘ I notice that you’ve not paid your rent. I’m sure it was an oversight on your part. If it was deliberate, you should now pack your bags. Feel free to leave before I return. You can put your key through the letterbox on leaving and don’t slam the door on your way out.’ “Oh, that’s really good Oliver”.

‘Yours indelibly, Mr O Sudden’

“What’s that mean?”

“It’s a formal valediction.”

“Check you out. Right, I’ll hang onto that, get a stamp and post it later.”

We spent the night in the camper, so tired and slightly inebriated. I lay down and annoyingly discovered the sharpness of the cream cracker shards, which had not cleaned up after the unfortunate incident with the customs officer.

Waking up quite late, we drank a lot of instant coffee and decided to go for a walk along the coast. We drove to Cadzand and onwards to Dunkirk.

“How far?” asked Pam.

“378.34 Kilometres”

“You’re getting worse. 378.23 Kilometres.” she corrected, reading the GPS.

“I’ve been thinking Pam, now the Dutch courage has expired, I don’t think we should post the card to Mal.”

“Don’t be soft. We both want him out, don’t we?”

“Yes but, it was a bit blunt, wasn’t it?”

“I suppose so but …..”

“But what …”

“I didn’t mention, when I went back to the gallery shop, I bought you this fridge magnet of the painting you …. admired?”

I thanked Pam, sarcastically. “And I didn’t say but they sold stamps and had a post-box, so I sent the postcard.”

“PAM !”

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Amsterdam (OS031)