Being an active member on the Dutch/Belgium pipe-smokers forum is fun. Up to a certain level you get to know a lot of like-minded people. But what is even more fun is meeting them in real life! Internet is fine but nothing can substitute actual human contact. So some people from the forum organize a meeting once in a while. And I really thank them for that because it is a LOT of work.
Last Saturday we had a meeting in the Belgium town of Wuustwezel. It was organized by forum member Jan (nickname “Paasei”, which translates as “easter-egg”) and his wife. They had been busy with it for months and on the day before the meeting… Jan’s father died.. Of course the man was devastated. He saw it coming but when it happened it still was very hard to cope with. Nonetheless he wanted the meeting to go on. So some of the participating members put their heads together and in no time all the tasks were divided. A great example of the camaraderie of the forum.
A few minutes before 10 AM Ed (forum nickname St Patrick) rang my doorbell. He was going to pick me up because he drives almost for free; a car from his business, very handy. I just made coffee (essential on an early morning) and we chatted away while I packed my stuff (read: pipes and tobacco).
At 10.45 AM we picked up Mark (forum nickname Deadl0ck) at the train station of Deventer. He has no car and public transport all the way to Belgium was not an option. We had space left in the car so.. The more the merrier! Mark is a BIG guy and luckily he has got a heart to match that. Both Ed and me were very glad we took him with us.
After a 2 hour ride we arrived at Wuustwezel. The meeting was held at a farm in the outskirts of the town. There was a large room complete with beer-bar besides the building. Very nice! We opened the door and were overwhelmed by the warmth of both the room and the people. To my surprise Jan was present. He already had arranged a lot for the funeral and was glad he was able to make it. A welcome distraction for him and his wife.
I wanted to buy a beer but only after an hour of non-stop chatting I was able to do it. Talking about beer, we Dutch may be (in)famous for weed but the Belgium claim to fame are their more than excellent beers. Dutch beer, German beer, English beer, Irish beer etc. forget it. Belgium beer is THE best. And that was proven once again by the lovely ladies behind the beer-bar. I had a Vlaamse Leeuw (never had it before) and drank it for the rest of the day.
It always amazes me how many different types of people come to a meeting. Not only old and young, rich and not so rich (like me hehehe), small and large but also real characters. A member new to meetings was Jorg (forum nickname Sidekickelvis). Hair straight to the back, curled moustache, vest with pocket watch and that combined with a jovial personality and a booming voice made it easy for me to remember him.
The generosity of forum members often knows no limits. I was chatting with Klaas (forum nickname Upper Ten), he is a pensioned man and smokes pipes for quite a while. He complimented me with this blog and said he learned so much from me. Out of gratitude for that he presented a vintage tin of De Graaff Abu Riha to me. I was flabbergasted! I smoked it once before and it is my favourite latakia flake (even better then Penzance). Unfortunately it is not made any more. I know that Klaas only has a few tins left of it so his gift meant a lot to me.
Also near the end of the meeting I walked over to Paul (forum nickname Winslow Collector). Besides a devoted aromatics smoker and free-thinker Paul is a whisky expert. He brought some (expensive!) bottles with him so everyone could try some. I already had a glass with dinner (more about that in a minute) but now he was gathering his belongings. There was half a bottle of 12 years old Springbank Cask Strength left. “Ah, that is something for you”, Paul said. “Slightly peaty, you’re going to like it. Here, take the bottle. I can’t use it for a whisky tasting any more”. “Ehm, take the bottle? Still half-full? You’re sure?” I asked. And he was sure. So nice of him!
At 16.30 PM dinner was served. Jan had arranged for the local bakery to bring some kind of sausage rolls. Puff pastry with one or two tasty sausages inside. A real belly-filler, yummie! Fortunately I pre-ordered more than I could eat so I was able to take some of the food home for Ellen, my girlfriend. The next day at home we both enjoyed the Belgium sausage rolls again.
Pipe smokers often have a good sense of humour. One of the Belgium members is Ghislain (wonderful name, forum nickname is Pacco). An enthusiastic small elderly man with big black glasses and one of the most tuneful accents I’ve ever heard. In the days after the meeting somebody said that he looked a lot like Carl from the movie “Up“. To illustrate that he put together a picture of Ghislain and Carl who indeed bear a striking resemblance.
Like all men most pipe smokers like women. And behind the beer-bar stood a pretty example of the female species called Sofie. I am a lover of Belgium women (love the accent, they can even arouse me by reading the phone-book out loud) but Sander (forum nickname Hagar666) took a special liking towards Sofie. Sander is well known for smoking out of a pink poker pipe. It is just his style. 50’s, 60’s, bright colours, flame tattoos and loud music. And also for a big part the style of Sofie. So with twinkling eyes and a big smile Sander flirted away with our beer-girl. He even got her to take a picture with him and her while she lurked on a pipe. Nice sight.
And so the hours flew away until it was time to go, hora ruit tempus fluit. I thanked everyone who was left and in special Jan. He stayed all day and was really tired. Respect! When I wanted to walk out the door I was called back by Robbin (forum nickname Robb). I totally forgot to take all of my pipes with me.. Whoops.. Maybe it was the beer.
Ed and I decided to bring Mark home, in Zutphen, and to have one last drink in Mark’s favourite pub. A beer pub with the music I like (hard rock/metal) and… where you can smoke! Very rare in The Netherlands. So I will be back there pretty soon!
After the beer Ed brought me home through the snow. Snow that unfortunately prevented Janneman (the pater noster of the forum) from coming to the meeting. He only rides a motorcycle and with slippery snow that is not an option. But luckily for him and the other forum members there will be other meetings!