In 1932 Franklin D Roosevelt came to the conclusion that: ‘this would be a good time for a beer.’ In 2019, and after three days of intensive culture, I reached a similar conclusion but went one step further: a brewery – one, in my opinion, deserving as much time as an art gallery. Chris, a friend we met up with, agreed and took me to the Brouwerij ’tIJ in an obscure but pleasant suburb of Amsterdam. I loved it on sight, the beer even more. So much beer. So little time. And a rash but firm commitment on my part not to get drunk.
What I like about a good pub is the ‘random.’ Random events or conversations at the bar or sometimes the toilet, though the latter can sometimes verge on the dubious. It’s also quite a melancholy business, talking in the toilet, flushing out what you’ve just spent your pension on. Even so, it was in the toilet I enjoyed the classic random conversation, in this case with an American. At first I thought he was Canadian. “No, sir.” he assured me. “Indiana, sir.”
“Oh,” I said. “I know someone from Indiana.” (And no, I didn’t make the cardinal error of asking whether he knew Natalia C. ) “She lives in Zionsville, I think.”
“Zionsville. Hot dog. Zionsville. ” And from that moment we bonded for as long as the conversation lasted, and I remembered again the American fondness for ‘Sir’. I love its courtesy, its formality, and how the smallest nuance of tone can add an element of threat.
We talked about beer. He’d been there longer than me and made his recommendations, adding sir to emphasise the beers he liked best. We never met again and never will but the Brouwerij ’t IJ brewery will forever bring to mind a beer loving American, and a man and a woman passionately making out in the men’s toilet. It was Amsterdam and likely it was cheaper than beer.
And so on to the general and things learnt.
a) Some people rave on about Dutch Apple Cake. I found it sweet with a slight taste of cinnamon and even less of apple.
b) The architecture forces you to look to the sky:
A series of random streets
c) My first time on a double-decker train.
d) Trams are punctual to within seconds. They’re unaffected by traffic jams
e) Dutch toilets are beautifully quiet with paper towels instead of the infernal electric hand-dryers. When four or five are in use together it's like being in the flight path of a Harrier Jet. In Holland you can ponder on what you've just done as you dry your hands.
f) The Dutch are very friendly. (When they’re off their bloody bikes)