This year the road to the annual Zutphen-meeting was a bit bumpy. Willem Schimmel, the tobacconist where the meeting is always held, was full of ideas and enthusiasm but a lot of Dutch/Belgian pipe smokers forum-members said they could not come. It turned out that the original date was the day after Fortarock and for quite a few of them a meeting after a day of metal and beer was just too much. So Willem set a new date with the help of Mark and about 30 folks responded. Still not as much as last year but enough pipe-smokers to make a cosy, smoke-filled day.
Unfortunately one of the forum-members who could not make it was my dear friend Ed. Which meant that we all had to do without his pleasant company but also meant that I could not drive along with him. So I was forced to take the train, not a long trip, only 22 minutes. From earlier blogposts you could know that I believe the Dutch railways are pretty sh*tty. To my utter amazement I arrived without any delays precisely on time! When I stepped out of the train-wagon onto the platform I almost immediately heard an unfamiliar voice behind me: “You must be Arno!” I turned around and saw a rather big, middle aged man who turned out to be forum-member Freark (real name: Freek). “I hope you know how to walk to Schimmel because I really have no clue..” he said. Of course I knew the way, it was not my first time in Zutphen. So while chatting we strolled through the streets to our mutual destination.
When we arrived at Schimmel we clearly were not the first. As with every meeting I attended so far the first minutes mainly consisted of shaking hands. Luckily in the smoking lounge on the first floor there was a chair free to sit on. I filled up my Dunhill cherrywood shape pipe with some Rattray’s Hall O’ the Wynd, a full flavoured excellent Virginia with just a pinch of perique. Paul sat beside me and I told him about my clumsiness with the Dunhill I was smoking. From the first moment I bought it at the Lohmar show the stem was difficult to screw off. I already applied some graphite from a pencil on the tenon but one fateful day the stem just would not come off. While silently cursing I grabbed a towel and a pipe wrench (a fitting name) and wrapped the towel around the stem to keep it from harm. Then I carefully screwed off the mouthpiece and just as it got loose I slipped and made a deep scratch just beside the towel on the vulnerable ebonite.. Argh! A couple of months earlier forum-member Arjen had fixed the mouthpiece of a GBD prince for me so I mailed him with some pictures of the scratch and the question if he could repair it. Of course he could! After a short while I had it back in pristine condition! Then I saw Klaas entering the already smoky room together with his lovely wife Yvonne. She “sacrificed” herself so Klaas could be with us, the darling, and brought a huge camera with her which she aimed at us again and again.
Opposite me sat Wilfred with a big beard. Normally he is cleanly shaven in summertime and has facial hair in the winter. However he decided at the beginning of spring to just let it grow with a great result for which I envy him a bit. My beard is almost non-existent.. But I had something for him. Before my trip to the Semois-region this year he asked if I could bring a pack of Didot’s Langue de Chien so of course I bought it for him. As an extra “thank you” he gave me an old tin of no longer available De Graaff’s Seamen’s Club, (extra) matured dark Virginia which I often use in my home-mixtures. And there was more generosity! Jos approached me with the tale that he had been at a market in Amsterdam, where he lives, and had to think about me. He saw a stand which sold little signs for in the house like “kitchen” and asked the vendor if he also had a “smoking area” sign. Unfortunately he was out of stock, otherwise Jos would have bought it for me. Last week I received an e-mail from him saying that he was able to buy the sign, he is going to give it to me at the next big meeting in Heukelum. Nice! Then to find out where to hang the sign, I don’t think Ellen will appreciate it when I put it on the front door..
As an extra activity Willem had organized a tasting at the local Grand Café/brewery in Zutphen; Stadsbrouwerij Cambrinus. Just a short walk from the store across the public square. Upon entering the Grand Café we were led below to the basement and greeted by the friendly master-brewer. We all sat down at tables with at each place 6 little glasses upon a placemat with numbers. One of the first things he told us was that the basement we sat in was 800 years old! Wow! And the nice thing is, in that time it was already a brewery so the walls must have been soaked with the fumes of alcohol. No smoking fumes sadly, it was not allowed.. Damn laws.. Anyway, the stories of the master-brewer were so good and vividly told that I totally forgot about my pipes. The tasting of beers went from the lighter beers to the dark and heavy ones, similar to Paul’s whisky tasting I once attended. And with each new beer the master-brewer told a story about its origins, very interesting. Paul himself did not want most of the beers, he still had to drive, so the content of a lot of his glasses disappeared in the bellies of Johnny (the Undertaker) and myself. I am no beer-expert but all beers were decent (I am spoiled by all the great Belgian beers I guess..) with a couple that were really nice. The glasses were small but afterwards I could really notice the alcohol coursing through my veins..
During the tasting a forum-member joined us that I had not seen for a while. The man with the most difficult nickname of all, Gypscoprotheres. Try to say that 10 times in a row. His real name is Stanley and he is an utmost friendly, good bloke. Reason for his long absence was the fact that he and his stunning Brazilian wife had become parents of a son called Arthur. To celebrate that Stanley had ordered a General MacArthur corncob pipe with the date of birth engraved. He took a picture of Arthur together with the pipe and posted it on the forum, but I could not help myself doing a tiny bit of photoshop to include the iconic glasses and cap.
Back at the store our youngest member, Robin, proudly showed off his new Zippo. It had a pin-up lady from the 1940’s on it which is something he obviously loves. When he opened the lid I saw it was an ordinary Zippo insert, not a pipe Zippo insert with a round hole in it. I know that one can freely exchange a regular one for a pipe one so I asked Willem, who just passed by, if he had a new pipe insert. He mentioned Robin to follow him and later I saw to my delight that the pin-up Zippo now had a pipe insert. And that was not the only luck Robin had. Downstairs he came to me with a tin of Capstan he just bought and asked if it was MacBaren made or Orlik made. After a good look I came to the conclusion that it was Orlik made, the lucky bastard!
Just after 6 o’clock Rudi came into the smoking room and said it was enough for today, we had to leave. So we thanked Willem and his friendly ladies for the great day and went outside. A small group was left and we all were hungry. Mark knew a nearby Chinese restaurant with a buffet option which sounded great to my ears. Once inside we all sat down and drinks were ordered but before they arrived I already went to the buffet and started eating while the others looked a bit strange at me. Well, when I am hungry I don’t like to wait and a buffet is a buffet, just go and get it. I am not really a conventional type. After dinner we all said goodbye to each other and together with Wilfred I walked back to the station which made waiting for the next train more enjoyable. On the way home the clouds broke open with loads of rain so I looked wet as a drowning rat when I finally stood dripping before Ellen. Luckily all day it had been dry so I was not complaining!
I hope I am not forgetting someone but I would to thank Willem (and his ladies) and Mark for organising the meeting, Martin and Freek for the samples and the rest of the group for the nice conversations and excellent day! All pictures you see were made by Yvonne, Klaas, Stanley and Janneman.