My friend and I have returned from a mini cruise trip overnight to Amsterdam, courtesy of P&O Ferries (staffed entirely by Filipino people, strangely. They're wonderfully polite and full of hospitable smiles. It's your birthday? Fine,
we'll just don a sombrero and do a little mariachi band turn for you at the table, anything you want). Journeys to and from the ferry were, for some reason, bedevilled by detours. Problems on the train lines meant my train direct to Hull for the
ferry was cancelled and a race against the approaching boarding time, to make it via Huddersfield and Leeds in three hours instead of two, added a certain frisson to the occasion. After all, who doesn't enjoy standing up on packed commuter trains from
West to East Yorkshire whilst sending frantic updates via 'Whatsapp' to the friend trying to co-ordinate a reorganised lift to the ferry at the other end?
Our one and a half hour coach connection to Amsterdam turned into two as we dropped a couple of
folk off in Rotterdam and the return one became three due to roadworks, as far as we were told. I fully understood the mood of the potato pickers in the famous Van Gogh painting as we continued on for absolute ages through flat fields, mist rising as rain
poured on to a water logged landscape where only punctilious lines of poplar trees stood out. Fortunately, I had a bag of crisps to hand, which my friend and I heartlessly scoffed in the envious faces of fellow passengers who had a visibly serious case of
the munchies after enjoying what Amsterdam has to offer. Not only that but we entertained ourselves with a scathing critique of the singer from the night before on the boat, at some length. We later saw the nice young couple in full earshot of
us on the coach on stage after dinner, clearly having been the act in question (whom we hadn't recognised as we had been sitting in the balcony bar while it all belted out full pelt previously) and felt suitably guilty.
Amsterdam itself was a pretty
city of canals and bridges and striking Dutch buildings. The Rijk's Museum was full of treasures, some old and some new, even the new following the memento mori theme of the Vermeer still lifes. Cyclists are everywhere in the city on their stately
sit up and beg bikes with baskets but they give no quarter and never stop for the hapless tourists still looking for traffic from the right, silly fools. On arrival, we enjoyed Dutch pancakes in a busy cafe where the waitress placed us on the end of
a long trestle style table where there were only two other pairs of people eating, having asked the middle aged ones nursing pints at the end if they'd mind moving into the middle. Of course they minded, they were from Manchester too it turned out, and didn't
see why 'them lot' (us) couldn't have been shifted instead because they were there first and anyway, he couldn't get anything on his internet now except the Manchester Evening News website when he wanted a street map of Amsterdam, the inference being that
we were interfering with his signal as well as his territory. His wife, trembling slightly from the effects of whatever had led to the need for a mid morning lager, was furious throughout and being Mancunian, saw no need to hide it. We pretended
we didn't notice and thanked them profusely, which sent her right over the edge because she had to put her head on the table after that. I have to say that the pancakes were delicious. We saw a lot of the streets of Amsterdam on the way to the
museum, having decided to walk there because it was only seventeen minutes away, or in our case, more like ninety, as we had meandered in some kind of bizarre route after being misdirected by the man in the souvenir Gouda shop, which I can't help but feel
was deliberate, since we hadn't bought any cheese.
Amsterdam was followed by a little beer festival in St Mary's church in Beverley, where the ciders had names that sounded fruity in more ways than one, 'Fanny's Bramble' for a start. I don't know why
I was surprised to find that my train home was cancelled too, so came back this time via Doncaster, again a longer journey, along with some very anxious people with suitcases trying to make it in time for their flights from Manchester Airport. I hope
they did, as we had to the ferry, just in the nick.
All this led to a strange dream last night, where I was trying to get to a meeting with one Mr De Witt, being shown through long empty chambers somewhere, where I had always just missed him and
was directed on. I knew him to be a merchant by trade, with a full auburn wig and wearing flamboyant dress, circa the 1700s. I realised afterwards that his origin was in one of the paintings of the local militia in the Rijks museum, where
men of standing were dressed in lavish silks and satins with gold brocade and the most impractical of pompoms a chap could hope to have on a proudly pointed out boot. I don't know, though, if any of them was a Mr De Witt, and in any case, I never did
manage to meet him.