You know when you go to the supermarket and you find yourself searching aimlessly for your favourite brand of gingernuts? You cross between the aisles and gaze into the shelves, seemingly without real purpose. Then you march up to that fifteen-year-old kid stacking the biscuits, look him in the eye and say, “Arnotts. Where are they?’’ But he just stares back blankly and shrugs. You can still hear the music on his headphones, so you just turn around and head the other direction.
Traveling around the Netherlands can be a bit like this sometimes. It can be avoided by NOT…
1. Booking your tickets the night before.
2. Finding a place to stay the day of arrival.
3. Deciding that the public transport system is way too confusing to use.
4. Refusing to pay three Euros for a map.
Choosing to do any of the above will more than likely lead to…
1. Bed-less, sleepless nights.
2. Constant lostness.
3. Going to Rotterdam, splitting a beer with Randy Randall from ‘No Age’ mid song, discussing what to play next with him, then embracing him with a hug after the show.
4. Boogying with Belle & Sebastian on stage, meeting the band after. Walking out the front door with the official music festival bean-bags.
5. Running very fast.
Warning: The Red Light District in Amsterdam is not a tourist destination at two o’clock on a Friday morning. This will frighten you. You will not sleep for three days. I’m just kidding – but Jesus fucking Christ, when I heard these two British lads shout “Five Euros fo’ th’ botha us!” to the girl inside the window, I made quick haste for the other side of the canal before shit got weird.
I did laugh though when this 70ish-year-old, seedy-looking man came up to us and asked us if we wanted some marijuana. We were like, “Mate, there’s a coffee shop right there. You know it’s legal here right?” He smiled and then said “oh yeah, s’pose it is then” whilst pulling out an enormous joint from his pocket and lighting it as he turned away.
Meanwhile, I have decided where I want to retire. It’s a tiny village on the Thames, about an hour or two West of London. I have never seen a cuter place in my life. It hasn’t changed in about a hundred years. Nearly every person you meet on the street greets you with a warm smile and a quick witty comment about life in general. Most houses still use the old AGAs in their kitchen. There are no stray cats or gnarly pigeons. It’s a place where your name wouldn’t be Joe Smith. It would be ‘old Joe up-the-road” instead. You know, you’d go down to a good old Anglican chapel on Sunday, sing a few psalms, then trot back home for a nice cup of tea.