That February Saturday I emptied the bin from my flat in the main bin downstairs. My flat was in a boarding house of a school. The boys had all left the day before. I was due to go to the airport and fly to Holland that day. The housemaster’s wife came up to my flat for the first time ever. I shall call her by an apposite name: Mrs Ugly. Mrs Ugly berated me for putting my rubbish in the bin downstairs. I suppose I ought to have tipped it onto the floor. ”It is gonna stink.” although I had assumed the slow-witted janitor would empty it. He was not THAT slow-witted, I hoped. ”What is it with you?” she inquired. She lowered her eyes, ”you lazy bastard.” I chortled at that one. No wonder she could not say it right into my face. I wanted to tell her what I thought of her. ”Thank god you are moving out. The sooner you are out of here the better. I hope you fall flat on your face in Edinburgh.” In view of what happened to me over the next few years I think the old bitch’s curse may have had some power to it.
I took the bus to the Big Town. I had to go to a public library to print out my flight details and then I made my way to the airport. It was Heathrow. Heathrow had had tanks around it in recent days because of heightened terrorist threat. Ken Livingstone in his usual repugnant manner dismissed it all as a hoax designed to increase support for the liberation of Iraq. In fact the result could be quite the reverse. People may conclude that an attempt to free the Iraqis would lead to more such attacks. They may have been right.
The only thing I remember about the flight is two people. I sat there and the plane sat there in the dark by the terminal. A South Asian child walked up to me and asked tentatively, ”Do you speak English?” I said yes. He asked me to swap seats so he could sit with my family.
I sat in some other row and a South Asian man a few years older than me broke the ice with the typical British intro, ”you all right mate?” He was small and inclined towards chubbiness. We talked about Amsterdam. I had not been since I was 10 and therefore a tad too young to sample its finest attractions. He had been many times and raved about it. I told him I only wanted to see strippers. I did not intend to fuck any prostitutes. He said everyone said that but in the end they are irresistible.
In a trice the kite put down in Schihpol Airport. Sorry, let me spell airport in Dutch for you – ayerpoort. That is a joke by the way. I had passed through Schipohl so many times. It seemed like home to me. It was always shiningly clean and ultramodern.
Once I was at the airport station I made a call. I picked the first youth hostel in my guide book – the Shleter Jordan. I spoke to a Dutch female who of course spoke outstanding English. That was it I had my booking. There was one pause for thought. It did say that it was a Christian hostel. I was there on a pornathon. Not exactly what Jesus preached from the cross. WOuld they know? WOuld they care?
I boarded the train to city centre. I liked the double decker trains. They have them in France, Germany, Italy, Romania and perhaps other countries. In the British Isles we have double decker buses. Why do we not have double decker trains? I suppose the bridges were built too low and no one thought about it. To make doubel decker trains we would have to redo all the bridges. But double decker trains would solve the overcrowding problems on those London commuter trains. My choo choo was lovely – I am a train spotter, ok I will come out of the closest. My beautiful train whisked me to Centraal STation. No that was not a typo – Centraal.
I walked out of the building onto a huge open space – I cannot quite call it a square. People were walking in and out. It was oddly busy considering it was quite late on a chilly night. I saw buildings a few hundred metres away. I got on the tram to my hostel.
The man selling the tickets came up to me. I handed him a 50 Euro not the smallest I had. He chided me in good English. He was a black Netherlander with a reddish complexion and a woolly grey beard, a shortish man. ”I will let you off this one time.” He wagged his finger. Pretty generous to let me off at all. The poor chap had a tongue too big for his mouth and it stuck out as he talked muffling his words.
I stayed on for several stops. I got off and found I had gone too far. I retraced the tram track. I navigated via a map – well how else can one navigate? I did not look at the stars and this was before Sat nav.
There was the street Rosengracht. That meant Roses Canal. Amsterdam is in effect hundreds upon hundreds of islands. They are separated by canals and connected by countless bridges. Much of the Netherlands was marshland. Over centuries canals were dug to drain the marshes. This meant there was dry land to walk on and channels deep enough for boats to sail through between the myriad islands. It must have been very labour intensive to construct and maintain all this.
The houses were brown brick and exceptionally bland even for the Netherlands. The Low Countries do a fine line in dullness but they seldom manage ugliness – it takes Eastern Europe for that or Birmingham.
I walked into the shelter Jordan. The place was hopping. A good two dozen backpackers sat around the communal area chatting or tucked into food. I sidled up to the reception. I cannot remember who checked me in. The staff were all pleasant and efficient.
I found my way to my dorm upstairs and dumped my paraphernalia. My dorm had ten bunk beds at a guess. The window faced a courtyard. The boys had the first floor and the girls had the second. I have noticed this pattern in other places such as halls of residence. This is to make it more difficult for rapists to break in unless of course they are gay rapists.
The ground floor had some books in English and Dutch. There was a telly and some board games. There were quotations from the Bible painted in English on the walls.
I went for a long walk through Amsterdam. It was one of those evenings when I felt unaccountably happy. There was a spring in my step. The world was at my feet. I was so glad to be heard and I had boundless energy. I only had to hit the main street and turn left and follow that to the centre of town. I passed a large church on my right and the homo monument. The homo monument was to the gays persecuted under the Nazi regime in the Netherlands during the second World War. The Netherlands led the world in gay rights.
I saw many Dutch signs that I could translate. It is easy given the context – what the signs are on. Many restaurants had a ”specialiteit” – a speciality. Fast food joints offered portions that were klein, middel or groot – small, medium or large.
Soon I was staring at the back of Dam Palace – that is the residence of the royal family in Amsterdam. As every schoolboy knows (ok only geography geeks) the official capital of the Netherlands is the Hague which is the main residence of the royal family.
To the right of the rear of the palace was a tiny fast food place staffed by an equally tiny Levantine with tidy hair and half-moon glasses. It was Middle Eastern fast food. This clean-shaven Ishmaelite served with the poise and courtesy. I munched down his nameless fare with gratitude.
I walked around on to Dam Square. I remembered being here about 13 years earlier. We had bumped into some American tourists there – a young couple. They asked us for directions. My father had told them, ”This is Dam Square, I am damn sure of that.” I like his verbal jokes however bleeding obvious.
I looked up at the palace. It was a mid grey colour. Somehow this did not make it seem depressing. All the lights were off. It was several storeys high. It was imposing but not quite handsome. I counted how many windows wide it was. I am into counting. Infantile I know – that’s just me. It was a little smaller than Buckingham Palace but that s to be expected – the Netherlands is smaller than the UK.
I looked towards Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky at the far end of the square. I had breakfasted here when I was about 9. I remembered the raven haired hot waitress telling us about people who had their bags snatched, ”it is crazy” she lamented. It was supposed to be sympathetic. No it is not crazy stealing a bag or having it stolen. It is criminal and unfair – it is nasty to be deprived of one’s possessions but crazy is not the right word. However, I had not corrected her.
I remembered Dam Square pretty well from when I was a child. But then there was a white war memorial. I had not remembered that at all. It is odd how one’s memory can just blank things. There was no reason why I would choose to forget it. That is how unreliable memory is. In fact this monument is the kind of thing that I find fascinating.
I walked to the left – as one looks at the front of Dam Palace. I wandered around by one of the canals. People were spilling out of bars and laughing raucously. I saw some gorgeous wide-eyed Dutch girls cycle along on their way to a night out. Their duffle coats and denim skirts somehow won me. They all favoured rickety black bicycles that looked like they belonged in the 1930s. I saw a couple of doors surrounded by neon lights. Much though I like debauchery I knew the price would be too high.
I walked over some bridges and ended up in a residential area a few islets away. I found a bench by a tiny patch of grass. I studied my tourist map. I sat down and felt elated. It was so wonderful to be in Amsterdam. What a fantastic city. I was almost laughing with joy.
Late that night I sauntered back to the Shelter Jordaan. I tiptoed into my dorm. I saw down on my bunk, a lower bunk. I dozed off with only a little disturbance from the snorers around me. I found that having been to boarding school from the age of 7 it is not difficult to sleep with such background sound. I grew accustomed to it. It was either that or not sleep. That said I have little tolerance of girlfriends who snore. It is unladylike. My girlfriend snoring is likely to be met with a poke in the ribs. At school I learnt from a midget named Craig that steady pressure (not acute) will induce a snorer to turn on their front or side and stop snoring. People only ever snore when they sleep on their back.
A FULL DAY IN AMSTERDAM.
I woke up the next morning to the sound of people getting up around me. I shut my eyes again and tightened the duvet around me and tried to sleep on. It was to no avail. There was too much noise with all those youths dressing. I looked up and saw a curly-haired fat ugly woman with odd-shaped breasts. Only then did I realise that this person was a male with manboobs. He turned out to be a Brazilian bloke and no transvestite at that. He looked like a young and overweight version of sideshow Bob with dark blond hair.
I came to know some of the staff in the hostel. I cannot remember most of the names so some have been invented.
Davin was 18 – a tall and very slim American. He was a gentle boy and no one could have disliked him even if they had tried.
Michelle was a Canadian brunette. She was good-looking and aged about 20. She had a charming smile. She told us all with excitement that she had been accepted into a Bible college in the UK.
Treasure was an American of about 25. She had jet black hair and the poor thing was very unattractive. She was dumpy and had a monstrous face but was always upbeat. She was a very giving person. They must have been paid a pittance there and someone told me she gave most of her money to charity.
Nwabia was a Nigerian in his early 20s. He was of average height and had a little beard. He was in a good mood and had a great sense of humour.
Willem was a Dutch guy in his 50s. He had grey hair and was a dead ringer for Jack Straw. He was quiet and spoke brilliant English. He was very tidy and a bit on the bland side.
Duco was a Netherlander who was about 30. He had thin, short brown hair. He was lean and tall. He too spoke terrific English.
They were all hardline Christians who worked there. They were very agreeable because hardcore Christians are sometimes disagreeable. There was a prayer room and prayer meetings were at advertised times. There was a book on a table with profiles of the staff. The staff explained how they had become Christian.
I breakfasted in the hostel and headed out. Valentine’s Day had been just before so many Valentine’s couples were still in town. There was a war in the Middle East in the offing. There had been a gigantic anti-war protest the day I arrived. Of course it had broken up hours before I landed because I arrived late at night. All around I saw discarded placards. I read their slogans, ”Geen Oorlag vor Olie”. This translates, ”no war for oil.” I knew the word ”oorlog” meant war because I had read about the First South African War of 1899-1902 which the Afrikaners called ”De Tweede Vreihydes Oorlog” – ”the Second Freedom War.” There were slogans in English, ”to start a war is a crime.” I found it mirthful to say this to myself in a Dutch accent – to shtart a vor is a crime. There were images of Ariel Sharon and the words ”the greatest terrorist.”
I strongly believed and still believe that Iraq should be liberated. Setting Iraq free was justified many times over. The 1991 Gulf War had ended by a truce agreement. Saddam Hussein’s regime repeatedly and flagrantly breached the terms of this. Therefore the truce is over the war continues. Saddam funded terorism in Israel. He aided attacks on Kuwait long after 1991. It was up to him to publicly and verifiably rid himself of Weapons of Mass destruction. Because he did not do so one had to assume that he still had them and to act accordingly. He had murdered thousands of his own people – perhaps tens of thousands. I am not talking about killing rebels in combat. I mean people who were arrested and often horiffically tortured before being killed without any form of trial. He deliberately killed women and children who had taken no action against him.
I walked to Dam Square again. I looked up at the balcony. It seemed only just out of reach. I had seen some footage of Queen Juliana retiring – Dutch monarchs do that when they feel they are too old. Queen Juliana seemed very casual when she did so but the people loved it. She said I now present your new queen – it was Queen Beatrix, the daughter of Juliana. Juliana did an informal little wave, it was almost comical. A cry of approval went up from her adoring subjects. They are so down to earth the Dutch monarchy. The Scandinavian monarchies are similarly approachable. It begs the question what the point of having a monarchy is if they are to be so ordinary. The Netherlands had a queen regnant since 1880 and no king. A queen regnant is one who reigns because she inherits the crown from her own family as opposed to a queen consort who is someone from another family – a queen consort is only queen because she marries the king of the Netherlands. Queen Wilhelmina ruled because she had no brothers. Queen Wilhelmina had no sons and only a daughter. Queen Juliana again had a daughter and no sons. However, Beatrix has sons so the next monarch will be a king – Willem Alexander.
The balcony did not seem far above the street. I felt I could almost touch it. I reached up. Of course it was out of reach – 3 m up. It appeared to be deceptively low.
Dam Square – wow., this was it. It was the very heart of the Dutch world. By the Dutch world I mean not just the Netherlands but of all the lands where Dutch or a derivative of it is spoken. The Flemings in Belgian are part of this Dutch world. The Afrikaners in South Africa speak a dialect of Dutch. At one time Indonesia, Sri Lanka and even Brazil were Dutch colonies. This square was the centre of power.
The nineteenth century buildings denoted commerce and stolidity. They were pleasing to look at but not quite gorgeous.
Just off Dam Square there was a large cinema. It boldly advertised the films that it showed – gay pornography. I knew that the Dutch are radically liberal on such matters. Yet I was still surprised and amused that the gay porn should be shown so close to the royal palace. It was not the gay aspect of it but the fact that it is pornography. What is wrong with porn? Everyone has sex so why not show it? SHowing it cannot harm anyone? Doing it can lead to unplanned pregnancy and even fatal diseases. Surely there is less danger and less immorality in watching it than in doing it. I guess the Netherlanders take the view that there is nothing shameful in porn so why not have a gay porno cinema right by the main square.
As it was February is was very cold. I was surprised at just how cold. Amsterdam looks to be well in off the sea connected only by some twisting waterways. However, bone chilling winds somehow gusted across the square. I wore several layers topped off by a big blue jacket – it was only just enough.
When I approached a Netherlander the person would greet me in Dutch. After a moment’s hesitation they would switch into English. I never met someone there who did not speak English. Since about 1990 te Netherlands had a law that any form or any exam could be done in English. They are close to the UK in geography and have alwAYS TRAded a lot with the UK. They had many opportunities to practise their English and their language is similar to English. Many of them were sailors and businessmen leading to even more reasons to get good at English. Their country is so tiny and only two other countries speak Dutch. It was either learn English or never leave the country. It seems to me that everyone but everyone in the Netherlands speaks English and good English at that. Speaking English there is not part of being an educated person it is part of being a person full stop.
I remember visiting the Netherland passing through to Saudi Arabia when I was 8 and 9. I passed through it on the way to Chad aged 11. I remember walking down some back streets and seeing places with naughty T-shirts and signs saying, ”I like the Pope. The Pope smokes dope”. I also saw signs for porn. I was religious then and had little testosterone. i IMAGined coming back as a priest years later and scolding the hookers – they would mock me but I would retain my sacerdotal dignity. How things changed. I had come back to Amsterdam but as a porn addict!
I made a beeline for the Red light district. It is a little way south of Dam SQUARE, beyond a wide canal. It must be half a mile by half a mile. I got to know it very well. My word – what a place. There were porn shops aplenty. There were many girls behind glass doors. Punters walked past and could be invited in for sex. These window booths were very appealing. I saw the sign on them, ”kamer te huur”. I thought that meant, ”chamber the whore.” I found out that it is ”room to rent.” The prostitutes normally wore frilly lingerie often black. Well no surprises there. They mostly conformed to the most popular demographic – 18-25, slender, busty with well-proportioned features. However, every taste was catered for. There were girls of every conceivable size, shape, colour and age. When I say age I mean they varied upwards from 18. My mate Tony who frequents bawdy houses tells me that one of the most important things is to have a diverse stable. Some boys like obese chicks, some like very short ones, some like women over 50. So there must be something for everyone. It was like a human zoo. I notice that some alleyways seemed to be people by girls of certain ethnic groups. Some were for whites, some for Orientals, some for backs and some for Indians. I have read that 95% of these whores are not Dutch. The whites are mostly Eastern European.
Occasionally a prostitute would catch me looking at her. She would open her window and beckon me in but I never succumbed.
There were public pissoirs on the street. These consisted of upright metal almost folded up. This was so one could go in and be out of sight for a minute when taking a leak. It being very cold I had to take a slash often. When it is cold when one goes outside the shock of the temperature change causes one to need to urinate. The smell from these pissoirs was not too bad – being so cold the urine’s smell did not reek that bad. Besides most people have blocked noses at that time of year.
I went into some porno shops. I would choose a film and go into the video cabin and watch it. I was able to control it. I would have a chop. Regain my sperm count. Take a slash into the bin. Then I would wank again. I would hurry out before the guy discovered that I had pissed into his bin. I never went to the same place twice. I always got away with it.
I walked past many coffee shops – mainly between Dam Square and the red light district. These coffee shops gave out cannabis free with the coffee. It is said that cannabis is not legal but just tolerated. Shop keepers are not allowed to sell cannabis they just give it away. I passed some of these. I considered going in and trying some. However, I genuinely dislike the smell of marijuana. I chose not to go in. Maybe that was a shame – perhaps smoking cannabis is part of the Amsterdam experience.
I went into one of the department stores on Dam Square. I saw some English girls there – one of them black. They chatted to the Dutchman at the makeup counter. They were over for the weekend. He made up the black girl’s face for free. Amsterdam is such a friendly city – where Europe goes to let its hair down.
I walked along Dam Rak – meaning Dam Reach. A ‘Reach’ is a stretch of riverbank – an unusual English word that. The sea wind whipped along – it cut through my coat it felt.
The weather got colder while I was there. I always find this. One gets to February as the winter seems to be ending. Then Winter comes back and bites you in the arse. In the morning I found ice in the canals. The ice would melt a little in the daytime but the ice that was shaded never melted.
I considered taking a train to Luxembourg but funds were running low. In the end I decided not it. As it happened I went there three and a half years later. I have noticed this has always happened. There are places I wished to go to but did not. I always got there a few years later. The next one is Cuba.
I like the the broad-minded Dutch attitude. They believe that the twin pillars of freedom are soft drugs and hard porn. However, I have seen the negative side of the drugs policy. People say that cannabis is a gateway drug. It is not only harmful in itself but when people have tried it they are more likely to move on to more harmful substances such as ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin. In the red led district I saw a a group of young men who were patently under the influence of some psychotropic drug. Ok I am not quite sure what psychotropic means but it seems to fit. These men were ‘rattling’ as they say in the United Kingdom. They were staggering around, dead eyed, trembling and shouting madly. I suppose they were suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
I normally write chronologically. This is often made easier because I traveled from one town to another. I stayed in Amsterdam for the whole week so it is harder to rememember when things happen. This will not be quite so chronological. I developed a more or less daily pattern.
I often went to a fast food joint just south of Dam Square. A tall Pakistani with a large moustache worked there. He was a smiley soul and we exhanged words of Urdu. There I bought low grade sausages drizzled in cheese. Part of my new healthy lifestyle.
I went to a bit of the university of Amsterdam near the red light district. As I was turning away my jacket caughts on some razor wire attached to the gate – the waterproof layer was badly torn. I had to find a place that did such repairs. I left my coat there. They would not do it for a day. This was quite a loss. The cold was oppressive. The gales seemed to penetrate my jacket but penetrated any other material even more so.
I used to sit around the communal area chatting to people. There was an American guy well over 50 there. I shall dub him Stanley. Stanley was from a Mid Western state and had brown-grey hair and had very pale skin. There was a look of Stephen King about him. He wore large glasses almost rectangular in shape. He appeared to have a mild personality disorder. The very fact that someone so long in the tooth was lodged in a youth hostel was strange. Stanley spent most of the day on the same chair and mouthed off his radical left opinions to anyone whether they were listening or not. He was sardonically amused by George W Bush. Stanley was implacably opposed to the United States taking military action in the Middle East. He would shake his head, snort and smile when he heard something on the news he disliked. It was his way of saying – the right wing, there they go again. Stanley told me of a man who had been very special to him. ”We were lovers for years” he informed me. Since civil partnerships he got himself adopted but his boyfriend. Even though both were adults one was able to legally adopt the other. This gave them some rights in law. One time a Japanese-American guy who worked there came up to Stanley. He said to Stanley that people over 35 were not allowed to stay there and asked, ”you are over 35 aren’t you?” Stanley confirmed that he was. This would have to be his last night.
I chatted to a Vietnamese girl on one occasion. She was pretty and soft-spoken if a trifle dull. I told her of my time in Vietnam and having money stolen. I was tolerably certain that it was the railway staff.
I thumbed through a book in Dutch about the Second World War. I was able to decipher some of the words. I was scintillated by the Nasional Socialist Beweging – the Dutch Nazis. Their views seemed so at odds with the rest of Dutch society. The Vietnamese lady asked me if I could speak Dutch and I told her no, I could only figure out some of it.
There was a tall, lean and serious-minded American there who had recently graduated from Washington STate University. He had trim mid-brown hair, very pale skin and thick-rimmed glasses. He said he had voted for Bush but was not so sure if sending troops into Iraq would be the right decision.
I flicked through trivial pursuit cards – testing myself on the answers, Boys love collecting things. They are stamp collectors, some collect mustard pots and other collect cars. Some of us collect information. A girl sat down to my left. She was tall, medium build and she had chin length blonde hair. She had green eyes with pupils that ran through her irises both up and down to touch the whites of her eyes. I have never seen such eyes. She wore a nondescript top and green combat trousers. She has very fair skin. Being a garrulous sort I turned to her and said, ”hello, what;s your name?” She murmured something demurely. ”Sorry, what’s that?” She mumbled again. ”I am afraid I didn’t quite catach that, could you repeat that please.?” Finally I caught it, ”Judith.” She was a little S-H-Y. It was not a promising start to what was to be the longest relationship of my life.
Judith was a German law student who had been at a students’ conference. She was making the most of the fact that she was in the Netherlands to do a spot of sight-seeing. She was the a year younger than me. I suggested we go out to a bar. She readily accepted.
We walked down the freezing street. I explained my jacket situation. We got to a nearby bar and went in. I had beer and she asked for tea. The barman was a Dutchman who was some way past 50. This ageing rocker had his grey hair tied back in a pony tail. He had a white shirt open to the sternum – revealing his pectoral pubes. He was red of skin and had a hacking smoker’s cough. His crow’s feet indicated a life lived to the full.
Judith ordered tea and sat delicately – enthralled by my conversation. Judith took milk with her tea. There was a very tall and slim Netherlander there. This bloke had long brown hair and a little moustache and was in his 30s. He told us he had an English wife and she always took milk in her tea too.
After a good chinwag there we went back to the hostel. I liked Judith and did most of the talking. I asked her about German history. I threw in the odd German word I happened to now. She found this a little funny. Finally it was time to go to bed. We walked up the stairs together. At my landing I said goodbye to her.
The next morning I had my breakfast and the German girl was not there. I hung around reading those cards until she came down. I made a point of speaking to her again. I fancied her a lot but did not fancy my chances. She had been sociable but had evinced no interest in me romantically.
I visited the Anne Frank house which overlooked a canal halfway between the hostel and Dam Square. I had heard of Anne Frank when I was little. I had seen a low budget British miniseries about it when I was 12. I had dipped into the diaries when I was 17. I took and especial interest in the passages where she described her lesbian proclivities – she desired to fondle the tits of her friend. Nice! So it was not all a sad story.
At the end of the house there was a cinema. They presented various controversial situations. They asked the audience to vote by button whether they thought that in each case freedom of expression should be upheld or some other public interest trumped it. In most cases I voted for freedom of expression.
Later I told Judith I ahd been there. She said it was almost compulsory for every German who visited Amsterdam to go to that house.
I went to the Joods Museum. It was informative and they even had the mikvah baths – ritual baths for women after menstruation. I saw video clips of interviews with Dutch Jews recalling life before the Holocaust.
I went to the ship museum. I saw a resplendent royal barge. I was captivated by royal majesty and pageantry. I was pleased that the Dutch too could put on a good show. I walked around an old wooden warship. In an officer’s cabin at the aft I met a Dutch couple and they pointed to the ceiling – klein, they remarked. They translated in case I had not got it. The ceiling was low.
I went to the porno museum in the red light district. There was all sorts of porn and sex toys. There was even cartoon porn. Someone had drawn cartoons of characters having sex – it was all very unrealisitc, They were not meant to look like real people. I saw a mock up of a hooker’s chamber and chose to listen to the recored voice in French. It said that the girls had no pimp and worked for themselves.
I found the old headquarters of the Vereeinidge Oost Indisch Compagnie – the United East India Company. It is known in the Anglosphere as the Dutch East India Company. There was nothing to see but the VOC log on the wall.
I found West Indisch Huis. It is not that large – a distinguished red brick affair from the 18th century. It had no buildings adjoining it and is near Dam Rak. West Indies House was the headquarters of the Dutch West Indies Company. It is not widely realised that the Netherlands has territory in the Caribbean. Aruba, Barbuda and Curacao are all Dutch territory – known as the ABC islands. Surinam was a Dutch colony. Sint Martin is also Dutch. The Dutch West Indies Company bought slaves from African slave dealers in West Africa. In some cases Dutchmen attacked people and enslaved the Africans themselves rather than relying on other Africans to kidnap people and force them into slavery. These unfortunate people were taken across the Atlantic and set to work in dreadful conditions on plantations. This cruelty generated huge profits for the Dutch West India Company. Some other western European lands were at the same game.
Behind wEST Indisch Huis I saw little children playing in the playground – white and black. I thought the story had a happy ending.
I came to recognise the flag of Amsterdam. It had black and red bars. Three large white X’s are on the black bar that runs down the middle of the flag. It does not seem very dignified. It reminded me of my dad’s rugger shirt.
I got my jacket back once it was mended.
I met Judith again and chatted with her. She opened up to me a little. She was from Bavaria and was the eldest of three. She had a sister four years younger than her and a brother four years younger than that. Judith had spent a year in the US as an au pair. She spoke very good English but not quite fluent. She lived on a famr when not at university. She was very nubile but could make more of her feminimity.
I told her about my day and she toold me about hers. I said I wanted to go to the Van Gogh Museum the next day and I suggested that she come too. She agreed. She looked up her train times and saw that she could delay by a few hours. She had been planning to head out the next morning first thing.
We chatted till we were about the only ones left in the communal area. Again we walked up together and parted on the landing.
The next day I met her at breakfast. We set out for the van Gogh gallery. I had asked a Dutchman how to pronounce van Gogh. I had heard van go, van gog, van jog, van goj, van joj. I cannot spell the proununciation. A ‘g’ in Dutch (unless part of ‘ing’) is prounounced with a strangulatory sound almost like the ‘kh’ sound in some languages or the ‘j’ in Spanish. By the way the ‘v’ in ‘van’ is prounounced as an ‘f’.
We got to the gallery in good time and walked in admiring the art work. We soon realised that it was the wrong gallery. The van Gogh gallery was adjacent to the one that we were in but we did not care. I had eyes only for Judith anyhow.
There was a letter in English from an artist. It mentioned roosters and Judith used the word ‘cock’ in relation to them. I said this could be misinterpreted. She corrected herself and said rooster but was not embarrassed or amused. This was my attempt at flirtation.
We walked back towards the hostel. At a traffic lights we had to stop. A button of mine was undone. She seized her chance. She stepped forward and did it up on my green brown tartan lumberjack’s shirt. Maybe I still have that shirt. I recognsiedf this grooming gesture for what it was – an excuse to come into my personal space. Thank god I left that button undone! I made a move forward – and wavered. I saw her start towards me, then hesitate. We understood each other. In for the kiss. I made is a fairly lingering one. It was quite satisfying. Finally, no more will she won’t she.
I was glad that we had broken the ice. We walked hand in hand. We snogged now and then. We went to an upstairs cafe on our way back to the hostel. I saw a middle-aged slim Dutchman at a nearby table. He was in a formal shirt, tie and smart trousers. On a break from his office. He smoked as he chatted. His two female companions were well made-up though not sexily dressed. They were a few years younger than him. Yes, people could smoke in bars back then. It is ahrd to think now. It was the most normal thing in the world not long ago. Now it just seemes to belong to a different era. I wonder why I remember that threesome – by using tat word I am not implying that they got it on.
We sipped our coffee and chatted. Judith was growing on me. I felt my dick bulging. I wishED I could have sex with her that day. But where? Would she did it so soon? Would I see her again. I made some lustful remark that she did not seem to pick up on.
We walked back the hostel and got her rucksack. I volunteered to carry it. We made our way to the railway station. It was a good long walk. At one street corner we stopped as the traffic went by and had a good long snog. A white van crawled by. The podgy little middle aged man in the driving seat mouthed ‘awww’ at us – in mock disapproval.
We got to Centraal in good time. We found her platform. She had a long journey – about 8 hours. She took a photo of me. She got out her filofax and we exchanged addresses and email addresses. As we sat on a bench canoodling a middle aged Hollander came up to us. This thin ne=er do well addressed us in heavily accented English, ”I am from Amsterdam” and went on to ask for money. Judith gave him short shrift. ”Don’t you think it is rude to distrub people?” She was a lady who was forthright in her views on some occasions. The man went away empty handed. I was impressed with her. I was to be the victim of her tongue lashing sin the future.
Soon she had to board her train. I smooched her farewell. I hoped to see her again but did not bank on it. I was to see her again. It was a splendid and a very difficult relationship. I lament that I am not with her still.
That evening I chatted to a hefty American girl in the hostel. I shall call her Staicey because I do not remember her name. Staicey was from Arkansas and had long brown curly hair. She had graduated from college recently and worked in a doctor’s office. I thought to myself that being a secretary was no fit job for a graduate one should be the doctor. But of course what being a graduate has changed. It no longer marks one out as an intellectual but only as semi-literate. She told me when she was born her mother was 18. I told her when I was born my mother was 36 – double that age. When I did the maths I realised I was a little out – my mum was 35 when I hatched. We agreed to go around a bit together. I was thinking of trying to score with Staicey but never tried in the end. I should have. It cannot have hurt and was not exactly infidelity to Judith.
We went to the church on Dam Square and had a good look around. It was a very historical church an treasure was on display. Signs told us a lot about the place. It was quite bare inside – Cavinistic as one would expect.
Later we went to a cafe where I dined but she chose not to. We went back to the hostel and then our separate ways.
I visited the Oude Kerke which is on the edge of the red light district. It is large and empty inside but very old. It was atmospheric but only plain – it had no beauty to it.
I had seen just about everything in Amsterdam. I walked through a park not far from my hostel. I found the HQ of Amnesty International. I was getting a little bored.
I stayed up all night with Sam. Sam was a red-headed Briton who worked there. He was a Christian and an oceanographer. I had eavesdropped on his argument with Stan the eccentric American. Some of what Sam did had to be kept secret by law said the government. Stanley denounced this as even more state oppression – freedom of expression is important he said. Sam responded, ”National security is also important.” I liked little Sam.
I stayed up all night with Sam. He said the Mormons were not Christians – they had unbiblical beliefs. He showed me a video about their views. It told me how the Mormons believed that before the world was created there was the war in heaven. The devil fought god. Some humans sided with the devil, some with god and some stayed neutral. The ones who took the side of the devil were annihilated. The ones who sided with god were sent to earth and blessed. The ones who had been neutral were sent to earth but were punished for being neutral – by being given black skin. It was a flagrantly racist belief. I was rather shocked.
I was to discover that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) defended slavery. They refused to allow blacks to be priests in their church until the 1970s.
I set out fro Centraal in the wee hours. I got my airport train. I was in adaze as I arrived at Schipohl. I remember seeing a Dutch family coming back from a tropical holiday. They had two children. The mum was about 40 and her age was ctaching up to her. She had flabby cheeks on a face that would once have been pretty. Her full lips were well made up and a tan adorned her body.
I asked for a stamp at passport control. The black haired young immigration officer looked at me from behind his little glasses. ”you are in the European Union so you do not need one.” I requested one. He declined. Ho hum/
Schipohl oh dear Schipohl – large and airy as ever. Tranquil, efficent is a tiny bit banal. I got my plane easy enough,
Later that morning I ran into a boy froms chool named Ormrod on the train. I also got chatting to a teacher on the train – he worked at Fulford Gate near York. I asked him about the battle of Fulford Gate. The man had thin dark hair and thick rimmed black glasses. His goattee suited him. He was a kindly if mundane tupe of person. He was about 10 years my elder. He had been marking papers which was how I clocked him as a teacher. We talked about Ireland in the 1920s. I must have got carried away as a girl my age came and courteously asked me to pipe down.
Back to Midlands school. I jumped into bed and dozed off my staying up all night.