September. A rendezvous with my friend of 38 years in Amsterdam. Richy. This was an important trip. Lots of reasons.
Richy. Well, we’ve known each other since we were both six. But the age of 19 to 21 saw some critical moments happen in our lives, with lots of overlaps. Amsterdam tied into that. We’ve never been here together before but I came here for the first time in April 1991, 8 weeks after being beaten-up and knee-capped by 4 blokes with a metal rod outside the shared house in Osbourne Avenue.
Amsterdam in 1991 was significant. Richy also went there in 1991, with Adz, and he came back with my birthday present (Aug ’91). A book of hand-pressed paper. He wrote in the front, “This is your birthday diary – write in it every year.” And I have done. It is an integral part of my birthday every year. I went back to Amsterdam in 1997 (with the crazy Frenchmen – David M and Philippe T), in 1998 several times (joined briefly by Vega$ and Nice Guy Tony) and finally again in 2002 – passing through to visit my sister studying in Maastricht (which I loved so much I used it in the novel Iron Man Project). I was also in Amsterdam back in June 2014 (click to view photos and words)… first time in 12 years: on my own then, I walked out of Centraal Station and had that moment of flashback you get when you visit a place very periodically; the comparison of current self to past selves. And I realised that Amsterdam has always been there as a backdrop to significant moments in my life. So here I am again.
Sitting down with coffee and toasted sarnies, it was here that Richy showed me the first drafts of sections of the book he wants to write about his life. He has a story to tell. Motivated by the death of his mother he started to dig into the events that shaped his past, using freedom of information act. I’ve always said it’s a miracle he’s alive, never mind that he’s a superbly capable, high-intelligent, motivated, empathic, loving and unique human being. I read a few lines and felt the hairs tingle on my scalp. This stuff is dynamite. It’s a story that has to be told. So I have offered to ghost-write it for him once he’s finished getting all the notes down.
Jordaan district. Every time I walk around this area I see something new and unusual. Love it. This massive piece of artwork covered a large garage door. A familiar iconic image but with a twist. Look closely. I laughed aloud. Great sense of humour.
After breakfast Richy and I did our own thing for a while then reconnected at PLLEK in NDSM. Man, I LOVE this place. Slumped on big, wide, low leather sofas face a view of the channel of water that separates NDSM from Amsterdam central. Beautiful weather too.
Cafe De Barones. One of those nights that just didn’t start like it was going to turn out. I’d been drifting around the city for a couple of hours on my own and found this place in the late afternoon. Lovely vibe and the guy behind the counter was super friendly. And, he made AMAZING coffee. So when I said cheerio, and he said “Have a great night!”, I replied that I’d probably be back later. I did. And brought Richy. One drink… a brandy with coffee, I thought, before heading back out to some of our favourite haunts. Behind the counter was a slim woman in her late 40s with a quick-silver mind and razor-sharp wit. Meet Silvie. She owns the place. Funny; one-liner after one liner, a real character. It’s a place for locals and a few tourists that wander in now and again. The locals got to know Richy and I and they took a shine to us. Food was offered. And the drinks flowed. I crashed back into our hotel room at 5 a.m… what a night.
Return journey. Beautiful moment as the plane descended through layers of cloud, blue sky gave way to a stormy murk… The last few weeks has been a blur of airports, transfers and flights. I actually enjoy the process of travel. I consider a part of the holiday. But this return was special. One, I was fekked from the night before. Two, it marks the end of September and the end of traveling. October is going to be all about the big relax before I get deep into writing again. The whole return journey I felt like I was drifting on warm treacle. I had Pink Floyd on my headphones on repeat and an easy smile curving my lips. Being with Richy. Deep memories of our lives in the 70s and 80s. And for me, too much drinking the night before. I got back into Bristol and sat down outside the Arnolfini with a glass of red wine and felt OK. Pulled out my leather Santiago notebook and scribbled down some profound thoughts about where I am at…, and what had been going on with my head earlier this year, and much longer in fact. Booked a flight to Newcastle and made arrangements to meet Richy there and go to Holy Island mid October.
There is something important I have to do.
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