A while ago I was kindly invited to leave my midlife crisis behind and attend a stag reunion in Amsterdam. Bizarrely, I never actually attended the first stag event, but due to some dropouts and a thoughtful friend, I took over a vacant plane seat and a hotel room to the city of weed and women.
I had never been to Amsterdam. I have travelled across Europe and spent many a compromising night in a Prague bar as a student. My gap year was an experimental study on eastern European culture. I decided to concentrate on a select few topics to make my experiences more intense: Beer, brothels and the Bolsheviks. In that order.
It turned out we were doubling up on the rooms and I was sharing with a hippy from Goa who was unable to start or end a sentence without using the endearing term: 'Man'. "Hey man, thanks for letting me share the room, man". Idiot!
My pal, who had invited me, owns a legal firm in London-the very same 'git' who kindly introduced me to my wife-and I was surprised at his association with an ageing flower power panderer who had just returned from a long spell of semi consciousness in western India.
I met my friends in the hotel bar-entering to rapturous howls of laughter. "How’s you’re roomy?" they asked playfully. "A bit chilled your hippy pal" I retorted. My good mate Dave reassuringly put his arm around my shoulder and shifted me towards the bar while explaining all, accompanied by continued chuckles of amusement.
It turned out that the hippy turned up at the hotel without a booking and had no association with the stag reunion whatsoever. While I had gone to unpack, my 'mates' had generously sold the other bed in my room to him at a discount price. Nice one.
Having got over the fact that I was sharing with a Hawaiian shirt wearing pot pusher who was probably going threw my personal possessions at that very moment, we headed for the bright red lights of town.
The great thing about Amsterdam is that everything is very orderly: black girls in that part, big girls in this part and Bangkok chick boys in the other part. Choose your preference and dont forget to stop at the cash machine on the way.
But no matter what direction you go, someone acting suspicious will undoubtedly approach you, normally wearing a dark jacket, continually sniffing, bloodshot eyes and with a common disjointed question. "Need something?" they ask. "Eh?" I will reply, perplexed. "Something, I can help you with?". Well, I could do with someone removing a roadie from my room. Now, I like beer and I have a right hand substantially more muscular than my left but I just never got into drugs.
The other remarkable thing about Amsterdam is the ability to urinate in the street at your leisure. Across the district you will find green metal meshed pillar-boxes where your head and arse remain openly on view to the general public. You can stop and take a leak while talking to passers by about the weather. Now this is a novelty when away from home and drunk, but would it be the same if you were a local?
With your cock in hand and pissing into a metal bucket at 2oclock on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, along passes your Dentist. "Hi Danny, nice day Ja? See you tomorrow for that root canal". Bizarre.
In short, Amsterdam was brilliant and just what I needed. But the choice of either a having sex with 'Stefana' who had already entertained twelve sweaty beer-bellied builders by 11am or a young man from Thailand who had recently sold his penis on the internet to a paedophile from Wigan, did not appeal.
Still, the hippy didn’t pinch my wallet - just my fags. Bloody hippies!