Monday, 9 July 2007


My gamble paid off. I call it a gamble, but inattentiveness is more accurate. I didn't scan the whole horizon before leaving home without a coat.

I spotted the risk 200 metres into the tram ride to Centraal Station. Oh fffffuuu .. dear. A very dark cloud covered half the sky. Coincidentally, the half of the sky I hadn't bothered to check before setting out.

My kids have just started their summer holidays. I'm on permanent holiday. I'm trying to provide them with some entertainment. "Do you know where a 'Bridge Too Far' was filmed?" It's the question I asked Andrew, but it will do for you too. (I love the vagaries of the English language. In any other, I would need to commit myself to singular or plural in the second person. English allows to me imagine plural readers, without revealing my conceit.) "Where is home to the team with the craziest name in football, Go Ahead Eagles?"

I should have given this post another title. Not hard to guess the answer, is it - Leeuwaarden.

Leeuwaarden would have been our destination. (Andrew's choice). But engineering works mean part of the journey there is by bus. Bugger that. I've been meaning to go back to Deventer for years. Every time we've passed through on the train, I've bored my family with stories of my first visit to Holland with Harry and Johnny Ash. (If you're wondering when beer will appear in this post, here's an appetiser - on the same trip I had my first taste of Geuze and Düsseldorf's Altstadt. I've never been the same since. Or maybe it was that encounter on the Zeedijk. But I'm not going to tell you about that. You'ld think I was an idiot.)

Though it pissed it down for most of our journey, when we arrived in Leeuwaarden, sorry Deventer, it was dry. It wasn't just nostalgia attracting me to Deventer. My Dutch Pub Guide lists five pubs in the town. Three are on the same square.

You may be shocked to hear that I haven't visited every pub in my guides. I'm not Superman. Or even Plastic Man. I'm a poor, weak human, who can only move at sub-light speeds and has an eight-pint capacity stomach. Oh yes, and I have to work, too (usually). I say this, but I have met people who have visited more than I have. Humbling. And Embarrassing.

Deventer. It's the title and deserves more than a passing mention. It really does. It's an archetypal Dutch town - spiky outline, gabled houses, main square lined with pubs. Quite pretty, too. There's a leaning tower. Punters love that sort of thing. Two of the pubs I dragged the kids into had a great view of it. We were inside in the first one. Dark clouds were gathering overhead. The terrace was out of the question.

Life's unpredictability is what keeps me from sticking a shotgun in my mouth. The impromptu piano lesson given to Alexie in De Waagschaal was definitely unexpected. And all the better for that. Andrew was very keen on the outdoor armchairs of De Buren van Schimmelpenninck. Kids today. Can't they sit up properly? "But what's in it for me?" The proper beer pub Bierencafe de Heks.

I mentioned my holiday with Harry and Johhny Ash earlier. One of our stops was Halle. Then still home to the Vander Linden brewery. They brewed a mix of spontaneously-fermented beer and ale called "Duivel's Bier". I can remember drinking it in Halle. It's recently been revived (though at a greatly different strength and without the sourness I recall the original having). They had it on draught in Bierencafe de Heks. Guess what I ordered ? Correct - Rochefort 10.

If you can remember the start of this twaddle, my gamble really did pay off. I got home dry. All the rain fell while we were safely inside pubs. Thank you supreme consciousness thing.

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