I’ve finally stopped moving. It’s the first time in a week I’ve been able to say that. I flew from Southend to Amsterdam, back again, and then on to Glastonbury. Today is the first time I’ve not had to go go go. It feels pretty sobering, and sort of awful with it. I’d like to continue this model of just disappearing off on jaunts, of having adventures, but that’s what my whole writing gig is about, it’s what I want to do. I need to fund these things by working and until someone pays me to write, I work for a living, rather than getting to live for my work.
Our trip to Amsterdam was rightfully magnificent though. I call it ours because I took Kate. It was her birthday present, and although I would never have thought of it as being her cup of tea, she mentioned how much she would like to go there at the start of the year and I made it so. The joy of Southend airport now flying to Amsterdam is just awesome. It didn’t feel as though we were up in the air long enough for us to have crossed any real kind of boundary and so we found ourselves dragging our confused selves onto a train at Schiphol airport and wondering why tannoy announcements were not in our mother tongue. Twenty minutes later we were in Amsterdam. Ten minutes later we were on the Overtoom apologising to the owner of our rented apartment for being quite so timely. We left her to clean and wandered around the Vondelpark, eating paprika crisps and taking photos. When we returned to our 70’s themed lodging, we just dropped everything and took off for Central, not really knowing what to do or where to go exactly.
The trick is to follow the trams. All the trams of Amsterdam appear to have a final destination of Amsterdam Centraal station and you don’t need to go far for the famous sights of prostitution, magic truffles and marijuana. Of course Kate wanted to do all three, simultaneously, whilst racking up lines of coke, kicking children with clogs and throwing brownies at swans. I kept her on the straight and narrow. We wandered lonely as a cloud, of hash pipe smoke, and eventually came across Baba, a cafe made famous by it’s appearance in my book of short stories Where Did All The Money Go?
(I should point out it was famous before I wrote about it).
Now, I have been told the best coffee shops are to be found on the outskirts, away from the well-worn tourist traps of Amsterdam central and that may well be but I’m all for embracing my inner tourist, especially when on a city break.
Baba is just cool. It has everything you need, the staff have always been friendly and helpful, and their brownies are delicious if not somewhat paranoia-inducing. I treated Kate to a coffee and a brownie and then bought a couple of joints before we tried to walk back to our apartment. Somehow this proved to be a lot harder than finding Amsterdam Centraal had been. We walked alongside canals, over bridges, over more bridges, beside canals, over canals, beside bridges and eventually found our way to the Vondelpark, which we assumed was a small park set back from the city. By this point, I felt light. My eyes were a bit heavy but I was walking on the moon. I mentioned this to Kate. Being the man of the world I am, I wanted to make sure she was okay because she’s not one for sporadic drug use in any way, shape or form, and I have something of a history of it, especially during my student days. Again, it’s all in the book.
Our conversation went something like this:
Paul: I feel really light
Kate: Do you?
Paul: Yeah, do you?
Kate: No. I’m wearing Doc Martens, it’s impossible to feel light in Doc Martens.
Paul: Good point.
We started on our way through the park. It was picturesque and dusky. Everything was beautiful and at peace and suddenly a deranged homeless man in double denim started rambling towards us. Ordinarily, I would have used the powers of reasoning and deduction to deal with the situation. For some reason they seemed to abandon me and so instead I entered into a game of Chicken with this poor man who had been fucked over by life. He reached out for me, and for a split second the delusional state I was in meant my brain was screaming ‘HIT HIM! HIT THE HOMELESS MAN!’
Luckily, another unfortunate sort on a bicycle came past and distracted him so we were free to go. For some reason the Vondelpark was constructed to meander all over the place like a snake playing jazz. We walked for what felt like three hours, trying to pretend everything was fine, and then it started raining and we ran back to the street to get our bearings. We were only about halfway back by this point, but being back on the main road made everything seem that much easier.
When we got in, we shook off the rain, made tea, sat on the balcony and had a joint together. As I’ve said before, there’s something beautiful and bonding about sharing a joint with someone, it’s like the peace pipe of the modern age. It was a really nice experience. Then we settled down to watch Kill Bill and freak our freaking noggins off. I can’t really remember what happened but Kill Bill is a very intense film to watch when high. The colours seemed sharper than blades. We didn’t say a word for over an hour and then my intense cotton mouth meant I had to head to the kitchen for some juice. Then, something like this happened.
Paul: Here you go
Paul: It’s tropical
Kate: Goddamn, that’s some good juice.
Paul: I know! Do you want some crisps?
Kate: Really badly
Paul goes for crisps
Kate: Bring the biscuits in as well
Paul returns with both crisps and biscuits
Paul: I need to shut the curtains, people can see in
Kate: Don’t worry
Paul: I’m not, I just need to shut them
Paul gets up and shuts curtains
Kate: Oh my god, it looks like the walls are closing in on me, open the curtains
Paul: Kate, don’t be silly. It’s fine.
Kate: No, I don’t like it
Paul: Oh wow, come and feel this fabric, these curtains are amazing.
Kate: I can’t! My legs don’t work!
That seemed to settle the matter and I returned to the sofa. Everything became very funny, see.
At some point, I put Kill Bill Vol. 2 on, but I couldn’t remember doing it, and we freaked out over the fact we had forgotten which parts of which films occurred in each. Then we went to bed.
The following morning we went to Anne Frank’s house. Kate had recently read her diary, and it was to be a key part of our trip. We arrived at about ten o’clock by which point there was a queue of about two hundred people already outside. The problem of being in a city for three days is you can really only do things if you aren’t going to spend upwards of four hours queuing for them. We decided to take a canal boat cruise around to the other side of Amsterdam and visit some museums. The boat ride was really nice, and we pulled stupid faces at each other to pass the time.
We went to the Van Gogh museum, made famous by it’s appearance in Doctor Who, or if you’re not a fan, then it is made famous by the fact it is a museum dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh. I’m still unsure how to pronounce Van Gogh.
Seeing his artwork was really inspirational. The famous pieces (Sunflowers, self portraits etc) are all there, and it’s nice to see such a memorable piece of art live up to it’s name and reputation (go fuck yourself Mona Lisa).
That evening we went to the Hard Rock Cafe, which boasts some marginally memorable pieces of memorabilia, like the thing someone wore once, or a guitar held by a guitarist etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a geek for that sort of thing, but when there are so many Hard Rock Cafes around the world, the genuinely impressive pieces can get a little sparse. That being said, their Alabama Slammer went down a treat.
After that we went back to the apartment, I had another joint and we watched Donnie Darko, until I fell asleep and missed the ending, and Kate had to carry me to bed.
Note: This is not actually a part of the Red Light District, and is in fact a picture of the back of Kate’s head (excellent bob), beneath a sign in the sex museum. Kate is not a part of the sex industry.
It turns out that Amsterdam don’t really bring their A-game when it comes to girls in windows on a Tuesday afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, they were all charming, insightful and delightful creatures but they didn’t inspire lust in the way I guess it is expected for the whole thing to work. I’m not sure I could ever pay for sex. Not beyond the way I do currently, the way we all do currently in fact. You buy a girl a drink, technically you’ve paid for sex. Take her to see Frankenweenie at the cinema, technically paid for sex. It’s a tightrope and we’re all dressed in macs, pressed against windows, dribbling.
We also went for pancakes. One of our favourite films (500 Days Of Summer) has a brilliant scene in a pancake house which spells the end of the relationship between ZDC and JGL.
Wow, I’ve just realised they have initials like airport abbreviations. Cool.
Where was I? Right. There’s a scene in 500 Days where Summer says “I love these pancakes”, and it’s something we say to each other a lot. If you aren’t us, which odds state you aren’t, then you might not get it, it’s fine. It’s just one of our things.
So in summary. Go to Amsterdam. I described it once as “Disneyland for students”, but it’s also Center Parcs for drugs, Alton Towers for drink, and a donkey ride down Brighton beach for prostitution.