Sunday, 16 May 2021

Six o'clock swill in Amsterdam

Dutch pubs recently reopened. Hurray! But only outside. And only 12:00 - 18:00. Which immediately reminded me of Australia's Six o'clock swill. Another "temporary" WW I measure that lasted until long after the next World War.

Being unemployed makes these hours less problematic for me than for someone in full-time work. Luckily, my mate Mikey had Friday off. Why not go into town for a beer? No tourists, so it shouldn't be too busy. We arranged to meet at The Old Bell on Rembrandtplein at 2 PM. A bit of Amsterdam I usually try to avoid.

It's wall-to-wall pubs, hotels and restaurants. On, as this in Amsterdam, weed cafes, too. Mostly pretty dreadful pubs. Either full of drunken tourists, similarly drunken out-of-town Dutch youth, or awful Dutch music. Really not my cuup of tea.

Speaking of tea, sort of, Old Bell is, as you might have guessed a fake English. It occupies one corner of the square and has a large chunk of its pavement for outdoor seating. Hopefully, we'd have plenty of space and wouldn't be rubbing shoulders with other punters.

Walking along the flower market after jumping off a number 2 tram, I was struck by how many people there were about.  I'd expected town to be empty. A bit like central London after the Dalek invasion. Instead, it looked much like always. On, maybe, a quiet day, like a wet Tuesday in February.

We took a table right om the edge of the seating. To have as few people possible close by.

Mikey's first choice, Guinness West Indies Porter, they didn't have. Nor his second, Newcastle Brown. He had to settle for Strongbow. 

"Why are so many beers outs of stock?" Mikey asked.

"Because of Corona and being closed for over six months. We had to throw away so much beer. Dozens of crates." The waiter, very reasonably, explained.

No problem with providing me a Westmalle Tripel. A nice session beer. Bottled January 2020. But still well withing its January 2022 sell-by date. Throwing away Westmalle Tripel would have made me cry. Such a great beer. If not particularly subtle. I love its roughness.

The rest of the seats were soon pretty much all occupied. Uncomfortably close in some cases with neighbouring tables. Especially for Mikey, who moved to the other side of our table. I can see he isn't happy about how closely by some people are passing.

"Who are all these people?"  I wonder.

"That looks like a group of English lads." Mikey said, pointing at a group of eight youths. I'm sure he was right.

The couple on the next table were speaking French. On another Spanish. Behaving just like tourists.

"They're tourists, aren't they? How did they get here? Where are they staying?"

"By car, probably."

Only "essential travel" is allowed for us Dutch residents. It's a bit irritating that people from abroad can come in. Unfair, is the word that comes to mind. As well as the phrase, fucking annoying.

When Mikey tried to get in a last round, he was serving stopped at 17:35. Six is throwing out time.

"Park bench and Butcher's Tears next week?" Mikey said after weeing the bill. "That' s much cheaper." He's got used to cheapo can sessions either at his or a bench on the lake. The reality of Dutch pub prices is laid bare after more than six months of home-drinking supermarket beer.

"That's fine by me." I can't justify spending 40 euros on an afternoon session. I could get the best part of a crate of Abt at Ton Overmars for that money. It makes you think.

October. That was the last time I was in the town centre. A few days before the pubs were shut. I don't think I'll be going back soon.

That's Mikey's photo of his pint. I hadn't bothered to take my camera.

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