Great news everyone! My bicycle and I have been reunited!
That’s right. After a week of searching everywhere I have finally managed to find the spare keys and free my bicycle from its chains… Well… To be more specific; my wife found the keys… after less than five minutes of looking… in the bowl were we keep the spare keys… The bowl I had forgotten about…
But details are not important. The important thing is that I have my bike once more and it did not involve risking arrest while attempting to saw through my own locks (but thank you for all the suggestions. They will come in handy the next time this inevitably happens again).
I didn’t even recognise the keys at first when my (wife held them out in front of me). It was only after successfully unlocking my bike that I was sure they were the right keys, at which point I proceeded to cheer loudly and fist pump the air. This coursed several nearby people to give me worried looks and take a few steps away. But I didn’t care. I was just happy, happy to be reunited with my faithful bicycle once more. I cycled off, with a warm feeling inside, thinking about how lucky I can be at times and how I will never let anything bad happen to my bike ever again… and then the bicycle chain snapped… and I nearly crashed.
If one day you find yourself wondering through the bicycle racks of Amsterdam and you happen to see a lonely and forgotten red bicycle, please stop for a moment and spare it a thought.
This poor bicycle will never know freedom again. It will never be able to do all the thing that bicycle’s enjoy and are supposed to do. Never again will it cycle… anywhere…
But it does not know this yet. Instead it waits faithfully, each morning, for its owner to return. It becomes excited by every passing tourist with ginger hair who looks slightly like the owner it loves and adores.
But time will pass by and it will stay where it is… forever chained… slowly rusting… silently waiting for a freedom that will never come. And then one horrible day it will finally lose all hope and realize that no one is coming, no one will ever ride it again. And in that tragic moment it will know the fate it has been left to suffer… Because its owner (me) is an idiot and lost its keys (again).
I’m actually really sad about this (even more so after writing this farewell). It is true that this is not the first time something like this has happened. My bike has been lost to me before. But I fear this time might be the last time. With each fruitless search for the spare keys my hopes of freeing my bike from its bicycle rack prison diminishes a little more.
I’ve had my faithful little red bike ever since I first arrived in Holland in 2001. It is… was… the only bike I’ve ever had. I don’t know if I will ever learn to love another bike again but I guess I must try to get on with my life… somehow. I will always treasure the happy cycling memories that we had together… me and my little red bike.
Good bye old friend. I will miss you.
“You are irritating.”
“Excuse me?” I ask, puzzled by the sudden opinion of my character.
I was very surprised by this. It was not something I was expecting… That’s not to say that people are not allowed to find me irritating. I’m sure there are people who do. However, it’s always surprising when they say such a thing to your face. Especially when it comes from your Dutch dentist who has just spent the last ten minutes cleaning your teeth in total silence. I’d heard of Dutch directness before but this was taking it to a new level.
“Your gums are irritating.” He added, somehow managing to make the earlier statement even more confusing.
It was not a question. It was more of a confused ‘should I be apologising about this’ apology attempt.
I had not been aware of anything my gums had been doing to offend people or even that gums could be offensive to some people, especially dentists. And if it was possible… well… maybe he had made the wrong career decision.
“You’ve not been brushing properly. They are irritating.”
That made a little more sense I guess… in a strange sort of way. It must be pretty irritating as a dentist when people don’t brush and floss properly. Every day must bring a new level of frustration as cavities and infections that could have been prevented slowly chip away at his soul piece by piece. At night he must go home, infuriated by the insanity of it all, not knowing how he can possibly face another day of drilling and root canals. And when his wife finally breaks the silence by asking him how his day has been he does the only thing he can do. He screams out in an anguished reply, “Why can’t these damn people take oral hygiene seriously!”
I’m suddenly snapped out of the imaginary scenario by the sound of my dentist (the real one) saying something.
“You have to look after your gums better. Otherwise they will become more irritating.”
I blink. I’m suddenly confused again…
There is something strange in the way he is using the word…
It does not actually sound like he is annoyed with me or my gums…
And then suddenly, as if from a great height, the penny drops…
Oh… He means ‘irritated’.
“It’s not a circle party. I promise,” the host of the party that is apparently not a circle party tries to assure me.
Ever since I wrote about the phenomenon of Dutch Circle Parties everyone has become very nervous about inviting me to parties. It is as if they think of me as some sort of secret party critic who will sit in the corner (if I can find one) , quietly judging their party based on how Dutch it is. They will often take drastic steps in an attempt to stop their party becoming the typical kind of Dutch Circle Party that I write about. Unfortunately, in their desperation, they tend to take the name ‘Circle Party’ a little too literally.
“See. The chairs are not in a circle,” the host happily points out when I later arrive at the party. “We arranged them in a triangle instead.”
I silently nod and make a mental note to rate the party in my review book later.
This happens a lot. The problem is no one seems to realize that a circle party does not specifically require the chairs to be arranged in a circle. In fact, any attempt to arrange the seating in a different shape will still result in a circle party. Triangles, squares, rectangles, dodecahedrons, artistically abstract squiggly random shapes will all still end with the same outcome.
Allow me to explain it scientifically…
A circle party is actually any party where the chairs have been arranged in any shape or pattern that forms a closed loop. There are other scientific factors that must be present such as tea, cake and someone’s grandmother but the primary factor is a seating arrangement that creates a closed loop of social interaction. It does not actually have to be round. Dutch Circle party was just a catchier name then ‘Dutch Closed Loop Party’.
“It’s not a circle. See. We left a gap,” the host will sometimes say.
This might seem like a good solution to the problem. However, even if there is a ‘break’ in the loop it merely creates a section where the party guests have to talk a little louder to hear each other over the space between seats. The ‘circle’ still exists even if you cannot see it. It is being created by your guests. They will most likely draw their seats closer together anyway, thus closing the physical loop as well.
“We made two seating areas instead of one,” the host will try if they are getting desperate.
Good idea. Unfortunately all you have achieved is the creation of two circle parties in one, thus doubling the circle-ness of your circle party… In trying to stop the circle party from happening you have only made it stronger. Plus your Dutch guests will inevitably merge the two circles together, dragging the seating over from one to the other. It is their natural instinct.
“What are birthday parties like in England then?” The party host will often ask me in a slightly annoyed tone at the end of the mid-party scientific lecture as I put my flip board away.
The difference is usually that there are less seats than guests. Thus, guests are free to move around the party like particles colliding with each other, spilling their drinks. This is because they lack the constraints of a physical chair… This idea usually freaks the Dutch party host out because they cannot imagine a party without adequate seating… or with music loud enough to require occasionally shouting to be heard… or a party that starts after 7pm instead of finishing before it.
Find out more about Dutch Circle Parties by checking out these posts:
The Original Circle Party Guide
How to Identify a Circle Party
…or get your very own Circle Party T-Shirt
You people are terrible… I confess my terrible struggle with Speculoos addiction to you and what do you do? How do you help me? Do you offer words of encouragement? Do you organise surprise interventions? Do you help me through the difficult stages of Speculoos withdrawal? No. You find even more speculoos products for me to become addicted to.
“Hey Stuart. Did you know you can get chunky Speculoos spread too?”
“Have you tried this Speculoos ice-cream? It is so good.”
“Would you like a Speculoos Easter Egg Stuart?”
“Stuart! You simply must try this Speculoos pasta sauce!”
Ok, I might have made that last one up but that does not make my point any less valid.
Some of you have even sent me ‘free samples’ likes some kind of Speculoos drug dealer trying to get me hooked on the latest Speculoos product, each of you trying to find the strangest and weirdest Speculoos/random food combination possible.
And what is the latest product you have found? What is the newest thing you are all trying to get me addicted too?…
Great! Now my Speculoos problem is in danger of becoming a drinking problem… I never thought Speculoos would be able to give me liver damage. Thanks a bunch.