I really hate autumn. There, I said it. Yeah I know, lots of people like it, the falling leaves, the smells, the colours etc. Well, for me autumn is made out of dark, grey, rainy and cold days which suck the joy out of my life.. Blagh… I prefer summer with the warmth and comfort of the sun. Luckily not all is bad in these dark days, there is even some light. Light coming from a small brewery located in the tiny Dutch village of Heukelum. There one of the annual meetings of the Dutch/Belgian pipe-smokers forum is held. People from all layers of society sitting together, chatting away, drinking, eating, in general just having a good time. As it is supposed to be. Like the previous years stone-cutting tamper-maker extraordinaire Martin organised it. The price remained the same as last year so we all got excellent value for money. I mean, you get two drinks, there is a big BBQ with all kinds of tasty fresh meat, sauces, salads and baguettes, the rent of the brewery is included and last but not least you get one bottle of special forum-beer with a label made by myself!
Like always I picked up Mark at the Deventer train station and together we drove to the carpool place where Johnny and Ed would be waiting or us. When we got there it turned out to be quite busy with cars so I had to park mine beside the road. Suddenly a pissed-off guy approached me that I had to park my car elsewhere. It turned out to be the owner of the ice-cream van who stood there, he was afraid his clients did not have space to manoeuvre with my car there. Bullshit of course but since the guy is a total nut-case (he was in the news because he conned customers) I opted to park elsewhere. To my amazement and joy the weather actually was nice when we arrived at ‘T Kuipertje. A bit of sunshine, hardly any wind and a decent temperature made it feel like a very late summers day. One of the first things I did was fetch my ordered PRF shirts and sweaters. Peter did an excellent job ordering, handling and packing all the fine quality PRF textiles. Thanks mate, now I have some decent clothes to wear this winter and coming summer. Second I approached Dre, who refurbishes estate pipes as a hobby. I mailed him earlier that week with a request.
As I told in my Humble Beginnings part 1 blogpost one of my influences to start pipe-smoking is the father of a long time friend of mine. Well, he is in The Netherlands right now because of his bad health. Ok, bad health is a bit too exaggerated, he has some physical issues which are better addressed here (better hospitals) than in Brazil, where he lives. He brought some pipes with him and when I took a good look at them tears welled up in my eyes.. He is an old fashioned smoker, and by that I mean he likes to smoke the same blend over and over again (he took a liking to my Phoenix Graveyard Mixture (basically all my natural tobacco leftovers mixed together) in just a couple of pipes which are hardly cleaned. One of his pipes has the mouthpiece of some other pipe which is duct-taped more or less to the shank and the underside of another one bubbles up because it is almost burned through. Time for some “new” pipes I thought, so I approached Dre and asked him if he had any straight pipes (preferably billiards) for sale. “Just wait, I will bring some pipes with me”, he mailed back. And indeed, Dre showed me a billiard and some canadians which looked just fine. “I’ll take them all!” I happily said. Dre asked a very friendly price and even threw in another pipe for free! Thanks very much Dre! The father of my friend is a happy man now.
Time for a drink! The previous years the beers of ‘T Kuipertje were good although sometimes a bit on the watery side. However, this year I was surprised by full, round tasting brew! With a smile I walked to Robbin, some weeks before the meeting I bought a straight Dunhill patent era prince from him for a very good price. He once bought the pipe from a man who turned out to be a swindler and that turned him off so much that he never smoked it. I have no such problem with that pipe so Robbin brought it with him. Happily I filled my new acquisition with some tobacco and went outside. I put the pipe in my mouth, brought the flame from the lighter to the bowl and *crack!* bit through the mouthpiece.. While silently cursing I took the pipe out of my mouth and inspected the damage, a piece of the lip had broken off. The mouthpiece was already very thin by decades of buffing and my strong teeth did the rest. Just bad luck, not any one’s fault. Frisian pipe maker Meindert saw me inspecting the damage and carefully took the pipe from my hands. “Just give it to me, I will make a new mouthpiece for it, everything will be ok.” So to be continued..
Then it was time for me to ask for everyone’s attention. For some time I am busy with a new PRF forum tobacco called “Flatlander Flake” made by Samuel Gawith and imported by (Elbert) Gubbels. Just a couple of days before the meeting I received 2 sample tins from Elbert so the forum members could try the blend. I wanted to give a longer speech in which I explained and told about the new forum tobacco journey but sadly my throat (I still was having a nasty cold..) protested heavily. So I decided to give a shorter version and let the tobacco speak for itself. During the rest of the day I (luckily) got nothing but positive response about Flatlander Flake, mission accomplished!
Suddenly when I was talking to some folks I heard a strange monotone noise coming from outside. It turned out to be Sander who was gearing up his hurdy-gurdy. Such a strange instrument but Sander proved to be surprisingly skilful in playing it. The folk melodies coming from it brought me visions of merry drinking and eating people. Hmm, pretty much the group I was looking at! Rob (one of the many Robs on the forum) also brought instruments with him; his self made (from used cigar- and pipe tobacco boxes) ukeleles. They look really great! He also brought a regular ukelele which I could not resist playing. I painfully discovered that having experience in playing guitar and bass does not mean one can play an ukelele..
I was saved by the announcement of brewery-owner Henk that the BBQ’s were ready. Time to eat! Henk gets his meat from a local butcher and you really can taste that, premium quality! Normally I would not notice that so much, but because I am more or less on a diet I took no (fat and sugar-rich) sauces with my meat. Some weeks ago I had a BBQ with my brother-in-law and he had meat from the supermarket. Well, it was not nearly as good as what Henk had to offer. So I sinned and filled up my plate 3 times before I contently sat down with a full belly. Needless to say the gym awaited me the next day..
The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent chatting away with all the present folks. Because of the heat coming from the BBQ’s we could sit outside for a long time. Talking about heat, on a table stood a small bottle with some red sauce in it. It belonged to hurdy-gurdy player Sander and on the label was an ominous name that indicated the contents were very hot. But according to Sander that was not really the case, he used large amounts of it on his meat. Curiosity got the better of me, I put some sauce on the top of my finger and licked it off. At first nothing happened. I proclaimed “Hah, this stuff is not as ho….” when suddenly my mouth started to burn, my eyes began to water and I got hiccups. Holy damned sh*t, this stuff is HOT! The whole table laughed at my attempts to control the effects of the hellish sauce. In the end I fled inside and asked Henk for a glass of milk, the best liquid you can get if you have eaten something hot. Unfortunately he did not have that but the glass of water he offered disappeared in my mouth within the blink of an eye.
Around 8 o’clock it was time to go home. We said goodbye to each other and stepped in the car. The ride home was pretty quiet, obviously everyone still had the fantastic day in their minds. Until Mark asked if Ed could stop the car, he needed to take a shit badly. Not so funny because he suffers from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrom). So we halted at a gas-station where Mark quickly went to the toilet. Which took him quite a while. At one point some men where waiting in front of the toilet. Funny were the faces of disgust they pulled at the sounds and smells so to say. But I felt pity for poor Mark, luckily he was feeling pretty relieved when he joined us again in the car.
I want to thank Henk and Martin for organizing yet another great meeting and all who attended for the interesting conversations, the laughter and camaraderie. All pictures were made by Jan(neman), Klaas, Nick and Roelof.