27 Apr

This coming Monday is Koninginnedag (Queens Day) in Holland. As I mentioned last year Koninginnedag is the day that everyone in Holland celebrates the Dutch Queen’s birthday and it has nothing to do with men up and down the country putting on dresses and applying a little make-up to make them selves feel pretty.

The whole country joins in on the celebrations and Amsterdam becomes one big party. It is obviously a party with a very colour blind doorman since everyone wears orange (the national colour) on Koninginnedag. There are performances of live music on every city square, second hand sales out side every house and beer tents on every street corner. This means you can buy a beer at one tent, walk around a bit, finish drinking your beer and then find yourself almost magically at another beer tent, ready for a re-fill.

It’s the only time of year when it is socially acceptable to be drunk by 11am, hugging lamp posts by noon and passed out in the middle of Dam Square at 2pm as you’re friends shave your eyebrows off.

Since the drunkest person at any birthday party is usually the birthday boy or girl it raises the question; what how drunk does the Queen gets? Does she end up drunkenly telling each member of the royal court that she really means it when she says she loves them? Do the royal guard desperately try to keep her away from all the canals as she stumbles around? Does Prince Alexander have to act as the designated driver? Can the Queen be found at 4am in the morning at a Febo some where, eating a state kroket? Or is it just me that will end up this drunk?

If both myself and my liver survive Koninginnedag I will let you know what happens and hopefully have a few photos to share as well.

23 Apr

The following takes place between the hours of 11pm and 12pm last Saturday night at a crowded night club somewhere in Amsterdam. Minimal alcohol was involved during the events you are about to read. The names of those involved have been changed to protect the not so bright.

Unknown Girl 1
(Nervously leaning over)
“Excuse me. Do you mind keeping my seat for me while I go to the…”

Irish Friend
(Suddenly interrupting, obviously having a little difficulty hearing her over the music)
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand Dutch… I’m a little dumb.”

(Trying to fill the puzzled silence that followed)
“Yeah, you are kind of dumb. She’s speaking English.”

Sometime later:

Irish Friend
(Returning with two drinks and a puzzled look on his face)
“I don’t know what I just ordered.”

(Jokingly but with detectable worry in my voice)
“I’m scared to find out.”

Unknown Girl 2
(Interjecting enthusiastically)
“I’ll drink it.”

17 Apr

Last weekend we had the perfect weather for going out side and exploring the world. By ‘exploring the world’ I mean sitting outside on a riverside café terrace sipping a beer with a friend (not the same beer because that would be creepy) and watching the ducks play chicken with passing boats.

As relaxing as this environment can be there are a few things to be wary of. At any moment you could be dive bombed by a duck, sprayed by a passing boat or accidentally drop something into the water. The café had obviously taken this last risk into consideration since all of the menus had little foam flotation devices attached to them. This seemed to suggest that the menus were frequently lost to a watery grave. Unfortunately I found out just how frequently when a sudden gust of wind pulled the menu out of my hands and dropped it into the water amongst a group of ducks. The sounds of people from near by tables trying to suppress their laughter told me that my menu dunking had not gone un-witnessed.

The menu was already too far out for me to reach myself and the ducks showed no signs of helping as it slowly drifted farther away. Instead they simply looked at it with confusion, then disappointment and finally utter disdain that it was not food. If they had taken the time to examine it more closely they might have realized they could have used it to order as much food as they would care to eat (as long as they had a way of paying the bill of course).

Since they were too rude to help I had to embarrassingly inform one of the waitresses of my lost at sea menu. They obviously had a plan for just such an event because one of the waitresses retrieved a rather long fishing net from behind the bar. The only other use I can imagine it had involves a customer ordering the fish meal. Since the ducks did not seem bothered when she started waving the net around near them (in order to retrieve the menu) I got the impression that the café did not server roast duck. However, I had not had enough time to study the menu to really be sure.

Unfortunately the menu had already drifted out too far for the waitress to reach with her net. When she then climb over the railing and lean out above the water I started to wonder if I would be held responsible for the drowning of a waitress as well as the lost menu. Since the café had already seen fit to attach flotation devices to all the menus it might have been a good idea to also make inflatable water wings a mandatory part of the waitresses’ uniform just in case they followed the fait of the menu they were trying to retrieve.

As the waitress leaned out over the water the ducks finally started to show some interest and approached. Maybe they had finally worked out what the menu was for and thought she was coming over to take their order or they just find the idea of watching someone fall in the water as funny as humans do.

Luckily the waitress was saved from an early bath when she was able to enlist the help of a passing boat. The boat had to circle a few times acrobatically to get close enough but managed to avoid spraying us.

By this time the whole café had stopped to watch the events unfold and clapped when the menu was spared a death at sea. I almost felt like I should have taken a bow but instead I returned to my seat with my soggy menu. This time I clutched it very tightly as I browsed its offerings.

Some where down the river a ducks quack sounded a little too much like laughter.

11 Apr

Drugs Space Cake Side Effects

Everybody loves cake, even the Dutch. Maybe this explains why they combined it with one of the other things they are famous for (and I’m not talking about cheese, tulips or an open view towards sexuality). The resulting combination is the kind of cake that would be ill advised to serve at a children’s birthday party unless you wanted to keep the normally hyperactive mini humans very quite and docile for the whole day. It is in fact the kind of cake that can be purchased in Dutch coffee shops where (despite the misleading name) coffee is not actually the main product they sell. I’m talking about cannabis cake, other wise known as space cake.

I had tried space cake myself once before when a friend wanted test subjects for his baking (I don’t think he was following a Jamie Oliver recipe). I found main side effect of space cake to be an uncontrollable ability to giggle at anything and everything but with one bad side effect. It made me recommend a very dull movie to a few friends as the most hilarious thing I had ever seen (upon my second ‘space cake free’ viewing I realized my mistake).

Last weekend, while sitting out side an Amsterdam café with a group of visitors, the idea of trying space cake was raised again. Although I had turned down the previous offer of a smoke I said yes to the idea of space cake after some thought. Using cannabis is something I have done very rarely (I can count the amount of times on one hand) and the decision to do so usually involves a few drinks but how could I turn down a chocolate cake (even a chocolate space cake). After all it would only make me a bit giggly.

To protect the identities of the other members in the group I will simply call them; Veteran Smoker, Experienced Smoker and Newbie Smoker. An hour after the consumption of our space cake based cannabis the effects started to present themselves. Newbie Smoker started having uncontrollable giggling fits. Even the simple act of walking seemed to be enough to produce high levels of mirth. Experienced Smoker on the other hand started to get paranoid that our efforts to calm him down were an attempt at hypnotising him for our own diabolical ends. Veteran smoker seemed unaffected but had a sudden and strange interest in McDonalds. I myself was feeling quite aright as well despite having eaten as much space cake as everyone else. My head was a little light but I was able to keep it together.

Veteran Smoker and myself returned Experienced and Newbie Smoker to their hotel and then set off home ourselves. I was quite pleased with myself and the way I had managed to stay level headed and in control during the whole experience.

At least I was until I started to forget what I was saying mid-sentence. My communication skills had suddenly put on the emergency break as the words that would have formed the rest of my sentence went into hiding. The sudden and desperate need for a dictionary was not the only oddity. I had also completely forgotten the subject I was talking about. The fact that we were sitting on a train and the subject was also about trains did not seem to help my temporary amnesia.

It’s worth mentioning that I was not worried at any time during this experience because I understood why it was happening. This is a good thing because at one point I completely forgot where I was for a few seconds. If my brain had not decided to take a sudden vacation at that moment I might have been able to peace together the subtle clues that would have told me my location. Clue number one; I was sitting on my sofa. My sofa, as if by coincidence, happens to be in my front room, in my house, in Holland, on planet Earth. I should not have needed a global positioning device to work that one out.

When my brain decided to return I was able to start putting the clues together. I realized I was sitting on a sofa. It’s was only a small victory of spacial awareness and memory recall but it was a start. Unfortunately my brain must have still been in holiday mode because it took leap at the answer before it had taken in the rest of the surroundings. For a split second I actually thought I was sitting on my parents couch. It just so happens that my parents couch is not in my house. My parents couch is in their house which happens to be in the UK, across the sea, on planet earth. However, this fact did not stop me being concerned for a moment about what they might say when they realized I was not feeling myself. A second later everything came back into focus and I realize I did not have to worry because they would never know (until they read this that is).

A little while later I got the munchies and found a new deep and spiritual meaning behind the movie Twister before going to bed only to have a very confusing moment when I was woken up by my flat mate’s cat which I thought was trying to communicate with me. I think it’s safe to say the space cake turned out to be a lot stronger then I thought it would be.

I didn’t have another encounter with cannabis until a few years later when a weed plantation was discovered in my apartment building which caused a few of my neighbours to get unintentionally stoned.

4 Apr

Anyone who has ever overindulged in the consumption of alcoholic beverages will have more then a passing familiarity with the condition known scientifically as drunkenness. Symptoms can include slurred speech, impaired balance, poor coordination, reduced inhibition, memory loss and uncharacteristic behavior. In my case this list also includes the rather odd ability to get inanimate objects and their functions mixed up.

A few years ago after a night of drinking I found myself having great difficulty opening my front door. Normally this could be blamed on the degradation of coordination coursed mainly by the consumption of alcohol. However, I think at the time my problem was else where. The main root of my dilemma (if I had to guess) might have had something to do with the fact that I was attempting to open the lock with a 50p coin. After a while I realized my mistake put the 50p away and took a 20p coin from the collection of currency in my hand and tried that instead.

I know I did this because when my parents heard what probably sounded like an incompetent burglar they opened the door to investigate and found me. They asked me what I was doing to which I replied with a slur, “I’m trying… to f-find… the… r-right one to open the… door.”

Either my intoxicated brain had mistakenly thought the front door worked on a coin slot system or maybe I was planning to melt the coins down in some kind of MacGyver or A-Team fashion to forge a new key. All that matters is my parents had a lot of fun retelling the story to family members to embarrass me.

However, when I returned home drunk again a few months later I had learned from my mistake. Realizing I was far too drunk to attempt opening the door again I decided to delegate that responsibility to my friend who had accompanied me and seemed far more sober. I handed him the keys happy in the knowledge that I had save myself from an embarrassing repeat of the previous events. At least I might have if I had not handed him my bank card instead of my actual keys.

It must have seemed like I was suggesting that he slide the card between the lock and the door frame, allowing us to slip in like cat burglars. Luckily he was sober enough to inform me of my inebriated mistake. When we finally got inside I am happy to say I did not try to make hot drinks by putting tea bags in the washing machine.

Although it might seem like I have an almost Freudian association between keys and money these moments of confusion have not been limited to keys alone. After a night at a friends house that involved a few movies and a rather large bottle of Vodka things got very confusing for me and probably the driver of the bus I was trying to get home.

When I stumbled onto the bus the driver asked me to show my bus pass. I started to rummage around in my bag looking for it but suddenly produced a copy of A Bugs Life on VHS cassette instead which I then proceeded to present to him. He was obviously not impressed with my taste in movies and informed me that I still had to pay. I then found out he was not a fan of Toy Story either. Eventually my friend had to pay my fair because I found the task far too confusing in my intoxicated state and I was running out of videos to impress the driver with.

It’s probably a good idea that I have never tried to write a blog post after a few drinks. I might end up attempting to type it on the microwave or even the cat.