Koninginnedag (Queens Day) is almost upon Holland once again.
No, this does not mean myself and my fellow men all over Holland will be getting out our dresses and applying enough make-up to pass for Mardi Gra dancers. It is in fact the birthday of the Dutch Queen (Royalty not drag). It’s a national holiday and the whole country joins in on the festivities. Amsterdam becomes one big party with beer tents, food stands, market stalls and live music performances every where. You will never see Amsterdam more crowded on any other day and you will also never see so many people wearing orange. Since it is the national color it is every where at the moment. I even had a special Koninginnedag donut with orange icing today.
Koninginnedag would normally be on the 30th but when it falls on a Sunday (like this year) the powers that be move it to the Saturday. This is probably to avoid the productivity of the country taking a sharp nose dive on the Monday when everyone is far to hung over to work. It also avoids people telling their bosses to blame the Queen when they phone in ill.
This weekend is also the last weekend my current flat mate will be in the country which give us both another reason to go out on the town. Once my head and liver have recovered I will report on the days festivities.
There are a few stories I am well known for amongst my friends. Stories like the time I got stuck in an elevator, or when I walked on a broken ankle for four hours to drunk to realize. However, the most bizarre story by far is the tale of the time I got my eye lashes dyed to help someone in trouble. I mentioned it briefly on my Stuart’s fact list but I was asked to shed a little more light on this strange story. It started one day when I was still in College. I was in the student art shop looking for (strangely enough) art supplies when a very upset looking girl suddenly approached me. She was almost in tears as she asked for my help and explained her situation. She was a student on the beauticians course and it was the day of an important practical exam. She had to dye someone’s hair. It sounded simple enough. The only catch was it had to be someone with light colored hair and this was the reason for her distress. The person who was going to be her model had fallen ill. She needed to find a replacement fast and since I have light ginger hair she practically pleaded with me to be that replacement.
I wanted to help and seeing what I looked like with dark hair for a little while sounded interesting. So I said yes. She told me where and when the exam was, thanked me again and left. I felt good about myself. I had made someone happy and I went on about my day. Later that day when I arrived she was happy to see I kept my word. After all I was a stranger and might not have shown up. I sat down as the examiner started taking notes. I felt good for helping this girl. She had seemed so upset when she had found me in the morning. I was a knight in shining armor. But then came the question:
“Would you prefer it to be your eye lashes or eye brows?”
“WHAT THE HELL?” shouted my brain.
“Hu?” my mouth said dumbly.
She repeated the question while looking a little nervous. The examiner was standing right there. If I made it to obvious that she left out what part of me would be getting the color change she could lose marks and fail. I tried my best not to let on and told her I wanted my eye brows dyed. She quietly pointed out I might look strange with two caterpillars over my eyes. I told her I wanted my eye lashes dyed. In my mind I was thinking I could just wash it out afterwards.
So I sat there with my eyes shut as she did her work. Eventually it was all done and I could open my eyes. The examiner was happily taking notes. The student asked me if I had any questions so I asked how easy it would be to wash the dye out.
“Oh… it’s permanent.”
“WHAT THE HELL?!” goes my brain.
“Hu?” goes my mouth.
I don’t know if she forgot to tell me these things or she did not want to for fear that I would say no when she asked for my help in the morning. I never found out. I stayed polite so as not to get her in trouble but left as fast as I could.
It was not long before my class mates were enjoying the joke of what had happened and pointing out that I looked like I was wearing mascara. I must have looked like a transvestite who got cold feet at the make up stage. For the following weeks I was wearing sunglasses most of the time, trying to explain to everyone who asked why I looked like a Rocky Horror Show fan as well as spending every available moment in front of a mirror trying to pull my eye lashes out. All that and I didn’t even get her phone number.
I’ve already written about one of Hollands well know vices, the drug culture. There is of course another vice which the country is very well known for. Something that brings a particular kind of tourist to certain shady areas of the country to indulge themselves in special ways. Yes, you’ve guessed it. I’m going to talk about windmills.
Alright. I’m not really going to talk about windmills. I’m going to talk about the sex industry in Holland. Holland has a very open view towards sex and prostitution is legal and regulated in most cases. If you want to see just how open the dutch view towards sex is (or you are on a stag night) you will find no better example then the Red Light District in Amsterdam. It is a network of alleyways containing hundreds of tiny one-room apartments where prostitutes wearing just underwear or bikinis offer their services from behind glass doors. Its also a place where you can find live sex shows, peep shows, sex museums and shops that sell the kind of toys you wont find in London’s Hamleys. Amsterdam has the most well known Red Light District but a lot of towns have there own versions as well. Its also not unusual to pass a sex shop in the main street of some towns.
If you come from a more reserved country the red light district is the kind of place you have to see to believe. In someways it is a tourist sight seeing attraction and that is why a lot of tourist go there for a game of Eye-Spy-Ho. Even my parents want to have a look around when ever they visit (at least that’s what my dad tells my mum). I’ve seen other families walking around there too to see if all the stories they have heard are true. However it is still a sex industry area and has its seedy side. You will often see men lined up out side prostitutes doors waiting for their turn and illegal stuff does still happen.
I had a look around a few days after I first arrived in the country (and I’ve only ever looked). It was a time when I still looked very much like an out of place tourist so as I walked down one of the alleyways all I heard behind me was doors opening and calls of…
“Hello English boy. “
“Over here Ginger boy. “
“Hi red head. “
… I just kept on walking.
When my friends come to visit from England they also want to do a bit of window shopping (even the girls) because like everyone else they can not believe it until they see it with their own two eyes. This is how I ended up going to see one of the live sex shows. This might sound very seedy and in someways it was but in others it was quite an eye opener. I don’t mean that I finally found out the true story of where babies come from that night. I mean I was surprised to find out the place was more high tec then some normal theaters I have worked for in the past. They even had a revolving stage and a lighting set up which would make most bands envious. Not all the clientele were brown rain coat wearing men either. Again there were a lot of tourists and couples who just wanted to see the show for the novelty/curiosity factor.
As for the performance itself? Yes, there really where two people on stage having sex and sometimes just a woman alone with more of those toys that are not stocked by Hamleys. Some of the performers looked very bored as if they were following a script which they had done a thousand times before (which is probably just what it is like for them).
Part of the show was interactive as well. There was the woman who fed a banana to a member of the audience but she was not holding it with her hands or even her feet. There was a scary moment when she almost picked me and a friend out of the audience but we sank very low into our seats at that point.
If you are ever in Amsterdam the Red Light District is one of those places you have to see just so you can say you have seen it. However, don’t take any photos unless you want a very angry prostitute trying to take your camera away (cameras are banned in the area).
We’ve just had our land lord visit to check if everything is in order with the house before we move out next month. Its the first time we’ve ever met the man face to face since we’ve usually dealt with another member of his family. I woke up early this morning to tidy the house even though I was feeling a little hung over from a night of drinking with co-workers and making drunk plans to challenge other games companies in a series of dance offs.
Our landlord runs one of the Italian restaurants in town which also seems to be a family business. He’s a man of few words and seems to prefer wearing suits. This all added to the effect of him looking like an aging Don when he arrived with his wife and a plumber in tow. We suspected if he really is a Don the plummer was actually a hit man who is involved in ‘wet work’ that does not include pipes and water.
The whole process had to be done in Dutch since they did not speak much English. Luckily my Scottish flat mate is flaunt in Dutch but this meant I was reduced to smiling and nodding. However so was he when they started talking in Italian amongst themselves.
The reason for the plummer was to check the damaged shower (and luckily not to whack us). We where never able to get them to do anything about it before so I had to fix it myself in my own un-skilled way. Now they are going to have to take the whole floor out to see where the shower is leaking and fix it. The good thing is it seems like they are not going to charge us for it. Maybe it was the day of his daughter’s wedding when no Don can refuse to do someone a favor.
However this might mean Don Landlord will ask us for a ‘favor’ in return one day.
http://www.invadingholland.com/So you can get to know a bit more about me I have put together a list of random Stuart facts. However, to make things a little more interesting one of these facts is a lie. See if you can spot which one:
- I was born in 1978 in England.
- I don’t have any brothers or sisters.
- I don’t smoke.
- I drink socially but still sometimes too much.
- I’m right handed.
- I’m dyslexics.
- I can’t spell dyslexic with out the aid of a spell checker.
- I’m not a morning person.
- I get sun burn easily because I’m a red head.
- The cartoons on this site are all my own work (the ginger kid is me).
- I moved to Holland in the summer of 2001.
- I work for a computer games company in Amsterdam.
- Since moving to Holland I suffer from a lot less migraines then I used to.
- I love movies.
- Horror is my favorite genre.
- I really like movies with a clever twist at the end.
- Ghostbusters is still my favorite movie from my childhood.
- I hate l33t speak.
- I broke my ankle and walked around on it for eight hours with out realizing.
- I got stuck in the elevator in the office once after everyone else went home.
- I have operated a real bomb disposal robot.
- I worked in the theatre business as a designer.
- I’ve also worked as stage crew.
- I worked at the Millennium Dome before it closed.
- I accidentally got hit in the privates once while on stage during a live show.
- I played the clarinet at school because it got me out of sports lessons.
- I once went bungee jumping for a bet even though I did not want to do it.
- I think South Park is one of the greatest social commentaries on the world.
- I once had my eye lashes dyed to help someone who was in trouble.
- I’m very organized.
- I’ve been trained by a member of the magic circle.
- I love Chinese food.
- I’ve lost at strip poker… and I mean completely lost