The trip back home from Amsterdam became a Trip back home from Amsterdam. It started with a run through the east side partly to effect the G-Had, partly to investigate the Science Park (which I haven’t seen since I worked there 10 years ago. AMOLF moved to a new building a few years back and the old place looks empty and forelorn:
But, it was a nostalgic day, indeed. An Elvis Costello song popped up on my mp3 player and it dawned on me that the records I checked out of St Louis Public Library were overdue 30 years to the day (the ASMS Annual Conference is there next year, though, so maybe I can return them then).
I finished my run and was heading to Centraal Station to get back to Schiphol and the bowling pin struck me as surreal and immediately I decided to pick up the run again and go see if the Magic Mushroom place was still open near the Oude Kerk…and it was! Hooray! I picked up a dose and a half of P. atlantis and then had to think about timing: going through customs with nothing would be okay and I’ve had enough psychedelic experience that the UK passport control would be a snap but I didn’t want to deal with any security on the Dutch end. The plan, then, was to drop off my baggage and drop my dosage 45 minutes before boarding. This was perfect and I was just starting to feel a little weird as I arrived at the gate.
In fact, I arrived about 20 minutes early and popped into the Irish pub for a beer to even things out. Lighting was awesome in there and the beer was good and no more expensive than in a pub in the UK and by the time I drained it everything was cracking between crystalline and cartoon and I needed to get on a little bus to head out on the tarmac to the plane.
The plane was not really thought through and I got to my seat to find the one next to me empty. Could not have planned it better, except it got even better. Another busload arrived and the first group down the aisle was a family with a baby and a 5-year-old and they didn’t sit near me! BUT, a 5 foot tall, 400 pound overly pierced and angry-looking black lesbian came down behind them and plopped in the wee seat next to me…for about ten seconds before flagging down a sky waitress and asking if the two spot I hadn’t spotted was free (it was and I was free, as well).
Oh, and the mushrooms were especially nice…and I still had residual the next morning. It really was like going home, or at least what I imagine other people feel about going home.
So, four years now (or, rather, next week it will be…here’s the annual reports for years Three, Two, and One for historical perspective).
We just received our new visas valid until 2016 but plan to take the next step toward citizenship in a year, Indefinite Leave to Remain…sort of the British Green Card. There is an exam, first, but in general it is all downhill from here.
The view from Western Street near the new house…also all downhill
Additionally, we are in the process of moving house (which is why I rushed the annual report a week forward) from just north of the Oasis over to Old Town to a house situated close walks to either the Beehive or the Castle or the Globe (recently reopened!)—three locals instead of one and all three of high quality—and dozens of others a short walk. The new house has three bedrooms each larger than its counterpart in the old house, the two receptions are larger and made into more of an open-plan configuration, the bath is larger and has a tub (not just a shower), and there is a finished basement; on the down side, the kitchen is a little narrower and more primitive as is the small garden but everything we do and everywhere we normally go in Swindon (save for the butcher) is so close.
The only races I did this past year were the London Marathon (5 pubs plus a can of Carling on the last mile) and the Beerathon (5 miles with a pint and a hefty food item between each) and the mileage run for the year suffered from this lack of focus—1950 give or take about 25 (most estimates pretty good using gmap-pedometer), while the last several years (except for the year of the wreck) were in the 2200-2500 range.
On the runs, I visited 255 new pubs with a stunning 67 new ones (steep part of the graph) in September when I took two weeks off work and ran at least 10 miles per day in new territory each day. The 1000th wasn’t as big a thrill as I thought it would be, but I saw some really nice places and met some really fine folk. The September holiday found me visiting Gloucester, South Wales, Slough (exotic, I know) and Exeter along with some nearer-to-Swindon trips. The 100 Yellow Beer Challenge was responsible for a lot of second visits to pubs I might not otherwise have gone to after an initial stop and many of these seemed better the second time around. Oh, and my Workingman’s Club appears to have failed or at least hasn’t been open the last several times I’ve popped by (I have a grand one scoped out for the new neighbourhood, though).
Best pubs in Year Four (reverse order by First Visit write-up):
The Southgate Inn, Devizes
The Hop Inn, Swindon
Dicey Reilly’s, Teignmouth
The Brass Monkey, Teignmouth
One Eyed Jack’s, Gloucester
Ye Olde Red Lion, Tredegar
The Rose of Denmark, Woolwich
The Volunteer Rifleman’s Arms
The Green Dragon, Marlborough
The British Lion, Devizes
The Blue Boar, Alsbourne (for the Dr. Who connections)
British Citizenship Exam Prep
Assize Court, Bristol
Paul Simon in Hyde Park
The Bremen Musicians (German children’s story)
Sex Tourism in Wiltshire
Modern Algebra for Omid
Burns’ Day Lunch
There are others search for ‘made me laugh.’ The blog may or may not have made some of the over 100,000 visitors laugh, but the damn fools keep checking in (that’s you, that is).
If you haven’t been in a headshop in 10 years let me assure you they haven’t changed in the last 40. And, if you’ve never explored one outside your hometown, county, district, state, etc I can also assure you that they are the same the world over. That said, The Lazy Frog is a pleasant enough one and has some nice additional features.
I went to the shop in the Swindon covered market to pick up a piece of equipment for a trip to Amsterdam on my horizon. When I moved away from there I stashed a clay pipe but have little hope that 8 years on it will still be there and I don’t want to have to make two stops on my way to my B&B (Coffeeshop El Yamama, one of my past regular haunts, is en route there but otherwise off the beaten path); so, it seemed reasonable to go ahead and get some clean, Customs-proof items to carry over with me.
Travel notebooks, passport, drug paraphenalia…ready to fly.
The Lazy Frog has the items you expect–bongs, papers, reggae playing in the background–but the psychedelica is largely the work of a local pop artist, a Sarah Dixon who I suspect from the accent could have been the person who fixed me up with the little bullet. Go buy some stuff…better than a black light poster of the Zig Zag Man (although I bet you could commission one for a reasonable rate).