This is a video impression of an excellent meeting I had with Dutch, Belgian and German pipe-smokers in Düsseldorf, Germany. There we visited tobacco shop Linzbach, Hausbrauerei Zum Schlüssel and the Cigarworld lounge.
Adieu, vaarwel, goodbye café De Waagschaal… For years your smoking room was the last refuge for the smoker in the region I live in. Myself and other pipe smokers had so many great and cosy meetings there over the years. Also I just liked to sit there alone with a good cigar/pipe, read a book, have a cup of coffee and look at the people outside walking over De Brink (the central square in Deventer). Now a (grumpy) owner closed it down due to recent regulations, although those are not enforced until April 2020. I was hoping for one last warm winter of smoking but unfortunately there is a small club of anti-smoking people here (Clean Air Nederland) who sued the Dutch state about their smoking room policy, and won… Unbelievable… I fetched my own drinks in the café below and carried them to the old smoking room, personnel did not even had to come there, and I bothered no one. Civilisation, don’t make me laugh… Luckily I still have the pictures, thanks to all who took them.
Halfway March it was time again for the annual meeting of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum (PRF) at Wuustwezel (Belgium). Normally for me this always marks the beginning of spring. You know, sunshine, flowers, birds and bees, girls in short skirts etc. But when I awoke the sky was dark-grey with rain coming out of it and it stayed that way throughout the day, even in Belgium. Argh… This year about 60 people attended and like the previous time Matron, a Scotch-man and Florian, a German, both from the (in)famous Kaervaig Pipe Club, were there.
In the morning I drove to Deventer to pick up Mark at the train station. When I had parked there I got a message from him. He had to go for a no. 2 when he would come out the train so it could take a while. Well, when nature calls you have to answer right? Surprisingly quick he came walking to the car. “Damned, there was a line where I wanted to change money and there is a long row before the toilet. But I know a McDonald’s just before we get on the highway, let’s go there.” Not wanting Mark to explode in my car I put the pedal to the medal and in no time we had reached our destination. While Mark was inside unleashing hell I texted Ed, who was waiting on the carpool spot further along the route where we were supposed to meet him. “Mark is doing a no. 2 at the McDonald’s in Deventer, you know he likes to take his time so it could be a while until we get to you.” But Ed, who was waiting in the rain, had no patience. “I am not going to wait in this shitty weather, I am coming to you, stay there.” So when Mark came back to my car with a face of relief I said we had to wait for Ed. Luckily he got here fast so we could begin the journey to Belgium. The only sad part was that Johnny, who normally is also driving along with us, could not make it due to private circumstances.
After a pleasant ride we arrived in Wuustwezel. Like always the first thing was to stop at the local liquor store. This time I did not need much. Last year I had bought so many beers that I still had a reasonable stock in my cellar. The only thing I wanted to buy was some bottles of Piedbœuf Brune, a table beer of only 1.5%. Not because I like to drink it, but I use it to make hachee. After that we went for something to eat. Throughout the years I discovered that the snack-bars in Wuustwezel have a kind of rotating system about who is open on Saturday afternoon. So this time snack-bar Manneke Friet was the one we could go to. Only thing, the tiny place had no room where you could sit and eat, you could only order food. Which resulted in the snack-bar being crammed with lots of hungry pipe-smokers. I choose the long frikandel XXL with mayonnaise, curry and onions. We took the food to the location of the meeting, the Bellekeshoeve, where we could eat it. When we arrived and I unwrapped the frikandel I immediately got a friendly pat on my shoulder from pipe-maker Meindert who said with a wink: “You will keep your thick head if you eat that stuff!”
When I had finished the long frikandel I was looking forward to a glass of delicious dark Vlaamsche Leeuw beer. But to my astonishment it was not available. I looked at Jan, the organizer, and he apologetically shrugged. His supplier could not get the mouthwatering brew. So I opted for another beer instead. It were all Belgian beers so in essence I could not pick wrong. I then bumped into Freek. Earlier on the forum he offered a jar of Tinder Box pure latakia for free. Since I was almost out of blending latakia I responded. Since I was the first I got it! The generosity of some people knows no bounds. Throughout the years Klaas gifted me quite a lot. Samples of Balkan Sobranie, Upper Ten tobaccos, De Graaff tobaccos etc. Now he had a tin of John Patton’s Latakia Junction for me, thank you very much!
And still the Pipe-God was not finished blessing me. Matron called the Fuming Four and Florian together, all members of the Kearvaig Pipe Club. Who also belongs to that exclusive society of fine gentlemen is Bob Gregory, the master-blender from Samuel Gawith/Gawith & Hoggarth. He had given Matron some tins to divide under the KPC members. They were packed per 2 so you could not see what tins you got. I choose… Wisely! When I opened my pack I saw a tin of St. James Flake and Kendal Cream Deluxe Flake. I have never smoked the latter so I am very curious! Afterwards I had some time to chat with Matron, who surprisingly knows a bit of Dutch. Turned out that in time he still looked like a young god he had a girlfriend from the Dutch province of Friesland. When I walked around a bit I was stopped by stone-cutter Martin Romijn. He showed me his new shirt which was pretty hilarious, and beautiful! On it was an image of a pipe-smoking weasel. The story behind it is: the town where the meeting is held is called Wuustwezel. If you roughly translate that to English it is something like “fierce weasel”. Hence the picture on the shirt.
Suddenly Nick called for attention. Like the last years he had been busy with the forum pipe and he wanted to unveil the new pipe-maker. It is… Drumroll… Bruno Nuttens! He is a French pipe-maker (with Belgian roots) and is going to make a cutty shaped pipe with a beautiful silver coloured ring. Since my pipe-cabinet is getting a bit too small I don’t know yet of I will be ordering this one. But it is a beauty for a good price, that’s for sure. One of the reasons that my pipe-cabinet has almost no more room walked around in Wuustwezel: maître pipier and pipe-maker François Dal. Since some time he is a member of the PRF forum and he continues to impress us with his craft. He brought some of his pipes along and I immediately fell in love with one of them: a tomato shaped beauty with flawless cross-cut and flamed briar. I smoked it several times now and I can honestly say it already belongs to the top smoking part of my collection.
Sometimes I looked around and thought I had gone to the wrong meeting, a cigar smoker one. Many folks around me were smoking the phallus-shaped rolled tobacco leaves. Don’t get me wrong, I like them very much, especially in the summer, but on a pipe-smoker meeting.. Mwah.. At the end of the afternoon the delicious mandatory sausage rolls were served. I am a big fan of the Brabants worstenbrood but these one are also very yummie! Slowly it got dark outside and the Bellekeshoeve quieted down a bit. I sat at a table with d’Artagnan and had just fetched some tobacco from a jar I brought with me. As a mean of experiment he added a bit of the Tinder Box latakia. I did the same and.. Great! How easy it sometimes is to blend a decent tobacco..
Before we knew it it was time to go home. We almost were the last ones left so we did not have to say goodbye to many people. The ride home was pretty silent from my side, I was tired. I had spoken to so many people.. But it had been utter fun! I would like to thank Jan for organizing the whole, the bar-crew for serving us delicious drinks and Ed and Mark for the conversations on the road. By the way, Mark made a brilliant and funny photo-bomb! As usual I was oblivious to it all..
All pictures were made by Dirk, Klaas, Nick, Marielle, Roelof, Thomas and myself.
Like every year for me the annual meeting of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum (PRF) at Wuustwezel (Belgium) halfway March always marks the beginning of spring. The lengthening days, the slowly rising temperatures and the anticipation of the meeting make all the shadows in my mind from the dark, grey and rainy winter disappear. For some reason (probably the location in Belgium near the Dutch border and cheap beer) the Wuustwezel meeting always has been the best attended one. This year about 70 people applied and like last year Matron, a Scotch-man and Florian, a German, both from the (in)famous Kaervaig Pipe Club, were there. Tobacconist Rudi even brought a special guest, more about that later.
The day of the meeting began at 07.30 am but I was already awake because of my bad back… Great, ageing… But when I came from under the shower and had a small breakfast (their would be plenty of food and drinks during the day) I felt re-energized and ready for the day. Normally good friend Ed would have picked me up but he moved away from his old town near me to a location pretty far away due to some private stuff. So now I had to first pick Mark up at the train station in Deventer. I parked my car there and texted him where I stood but no response. And I waited, and waited.. In the end he turned up. At the train station they have small gates and Mark’s public transport pass malfunctioned so only after a lot of trouble with the security guards he could get through. That soon was forgotten and we drove to a parking lot somewhere beside the highway where Ed waited for us together with Johnny.
After a pleasant ride we arrived in Wuustwezel where, just like the other times, our first stop was the local liquor store. Only once a year I get the chance to properly re-fill my beer basement and I take that chance with both hands (while carrying a stocked beer-crate of course). “No cash payment because we got robbed” said a sign on the door. How sad.. I mean, Belgian beer is so delicious that one could steal it but to actually do that.. Bastards.. Inside the store I noticed I was not the first Dutchman there that day because the shelf with the delicous St. Bernardus Abt 12 was already half empty. Luckily there was enough left and together with my standard favourites and a few tips from Johnny my beer basement bulges out again now. Then we went to the snack-bar. Unfortunately Zodiac from last year closed down permanently. No not the recession, the owners were old and decided to quit. Thank the fried-heavens another snack-bar was open, the one we went to in 2014: Fritsnack, with the remarkable choice of Dutch (sweet) and Belgian (sour) mayonnaise. I went for the Belgian one this time together with a snack called “Twijfelaar” (doubter), which includes small bits of all their meat snacks on one stick, very yummie! Half the establishment was already taken by hungry familiar looking pipe-smokers under which Matron and Florian (this time with no hang-over from the previous evening). Matron had brought the prices which I won at the KPC raffle with him: a tin of Bothy Flake and Holger Danske Royal Navy Flake. Thanks! I sat across Arjen who had a big portion of fries (and in Belgium that is BIG, I had a medium fries which was too much for me..) together with two more snacks. While we were talking I watched with amazement how he devoured it all in no time. Wowzers!
When we arrived at the Bellekes Hoeve, the location of the meeting, organiser Jan sat beside the door to collect the money for the traditional Belgian sausage rolls and rent of the place. Which by the way was only €1 per person due to the fact we drank so much last year. Jan used the profits he made then to keep the entrance fee low for us. First thing I did when I put away my belongings and shook a few hands was order a Vlaamsche Leeuw at the bar. Utterly delicious! Which was also the opinion of Matron, Florian and Ed who all praised the Belgian beer. Then I bumped into Rob who had made a guitar out of an empty tin of WO Larsen Indigo, hilarious! On a table I made some space to place a mason jar which had to serve as a money box. In September my girlfriend Ellen is going to climb the Mont Ventoux in France for a cancer fund. Louis, one of the forum members, suggested that I put a money box at the meeting so people could make a small contribution. Well, small, in the end €131,60 was put in the mason jar! So unbelievably great! By the way, supporting Ellen is still possible through this site.
For Marielle I had some Amphora pouches. The evening before the meeting she asked on the forum if anyone had some and could bring it to Wuustwezel. Last year on the Inter Tabac PipesMagazine.com host Brian Levine gave me some Amphora pouches since MacBaren produces them. I never smoked Amphora and to be honest the blend not really seems my cup of tea, so giving hem away to a lovely lady was pretty easy. And in return she gave me a tin of one of the only aromatics I smoke: DTM’s Sweet Vanilla Honeydew. But I had more for Marielle. For some years I own a small 1980 Dunhill group 1 pipe which in essence is a ladies pipe. It came from the time when I snatched up every Dunhill below a certain price but I never had a click with it. So Marielle could have it, I mean, a pipe is meant to be smoked. But surprisingly she did not want it. What I did not knew was that Marielle is a filter-smoker and the Dunhill is non-filter. So she said “Give it to someone who really wants it and is really going to smoke it.” Ok, so if any female pipe-smoker reads this and you want this Dunhill, mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a picture of yourself while smoking pipe and perhaps you are the lucky one! And gents, please no pictures of yourself in a dress or lingerie while puffing away ok? Thank you.
Talking about Amphora and MacBaren, Rudi tapped me on the shoulder, “Look there, our special guest, he wants to speak you”. I turned around and saw Per Jensen, the product manager of MacBaren who I already met at the Inter Tabac. Wow! I know he goes to big American meetings but a humble Dutch/Belgian one.. So nice to see and speak to him again. He brought all kinds of MacBaren tobaccos that are not for sale here so we could try them out. I lit up a pipe filled with the excellent HH Pure Virginia. Per had a question for me, he was busy with re-creating an old Amphora blend but he could not find any info of it. So if I perhaps could dig up some information. I’ll do my best Per! Of course I also had question for Per. This year I am busy with a new forum tobacco made by Samuel Gawith, but over 2 years perhaps MacBaren is a nice option. So a bit hesitant I asked Per if he was interested in producing one of our forum tobaccos. Hesitant because I know MacBaren only produces large quantities and around 250 tins is just total peanuts for such a company. But surprisingly he was willing! I get back to you in 2 years Per!
The generosity of the people on the forum never ceases to amaze me. I saw Freek sitting and he motioned for me to come closer. Last year at the Heukelum meeting I got a bottle of Westvleteren blond from him. One of the best blonde beers I ever drank. But now with a sly smile he produced 2 bottles of the mythical Westvleteren 12! “Here, these are for you. They were a gift to me but I don’t really like the beer.” Wowowowowowow!!! I mean, Westvleteren 12 is chosen as best beer in the world multiple times. What Balkan Sobranie is in the pipe-tobacco world, Westvleteren is in the beer world in my opinion. Last week I drank one bottle and I must say, a truly exceptional brew! Thanks Freek!
Still with a smile I bumped into Klaas, one of my pipe tobacco mentors. “Arno, I enjoyed your Upper Ten blogpost so much, here is a tin of De Graaff Kegelbaan for you.” Wow again! One of the earlier latakia blends I smoked through Klaas was the no longer made Kegelbaan, one of the house-blends of the once famous tobacconist De Graaff in The Hague. This mixture is really something special and spoiled my taste buds. It contains Syrian latakia, Old Belt Virginia, Brown Cavendish and the elusive Yenidje. Thanks Klaas! Later I spoke with Andre, who has a very good site where he sells refurbished estate pipes for beginning pipe smokers or people with a small budget. At Heukelum he gave me a blasted Orlik bulldog, a surprisingly fine smoker, and now he produced another Orlik, a good looking billiard. I could also have that one. Thanks Andre!
Suddenly every one was being hushed to silence. Nick took the floor and directed himself towards Arjen. In a couple of months Arjen is getting married with a lovely Canadian woman called Misty. Behind his back the forum members collected money so we could give them a dinner at a restaurant. Well, we ended up with giving the soon to married couple a 5-course meal at the fancy Las Palmas restaurant, a night at the Hotel New York Rotterdam and two glasses and a bottle of bubbles.
You probably know the feeling when you see a pipe and that it just speaks to you like in, I am beautiful, I will smoke good, buy me! I got that when I looked at a pipe amongst Rudi’s wares. A gorgeous D-grade Winslow bamboo. It was precisely what I was looking for, a small to medium sized pipe in which I could smoke Virginia or VaPer mixtures and flakes. And Winslow bamboos are relatively rare. I already have one (a B-grade) which is a terrific smoker. I must say, all my Winslows are excellent smokers and I can’t say that of all my Dunhills.. Rudi saw me (almost drooling) looking at the pipe but the only thing holding me back was the price. But Rudi knew he had the fish on the hook and only needed to haul it in. He made me an offer I could not refuse, a discount. I immediately shook his hands, the deal was closed.
I am a big fan of Lemmy from Motörhead and so is Matron. When we heard about his death we were both devastated. During an e-mail conversation we came up with the idea to bring a toast to Lemmy in Wuustwezel. Of course that would happen with the favourite drink of Lemmy, a Jack Daniels/cola. So I brought half a bottle of Jack with me (the other half I drank on the evening of the day I heard Lemmy died..) and to my delight I saw that Matron had taken 2 Motörhead shirts with him. His shirt was without sleeves. “You know, this shirt once had sleeves. But on a day when I was hiking I realized I forgot to bring tissues with me when I just had taken a shit. So I ripped off the sleeves of my shirt…” The shirt he had for me was a perfect fit, “size fat bastard” he said to me with a wink. We filled our glasses and raised them in honour of our fallen hero. R.I.P. Lemmy!
In the morning when we drove to Wuustwezel Johnny said “Always when I go to a meeting time suddenly goes very fast from the moment I enter the building until I leave it.” I also precisely had that. It was a fun day as always, I had spoken with lots of people, also did not speak with lots of people (better next time!), the sausage-rolls were delicious, the tobaccos great, the beer tasty etc. Around 20.30 we shook hands with the remaining forum members and half an hour later (you know how it goes..) we finally sat in the car on our way home. After a long journey which seemed short we arrived at the parking lot beside the highway. It appeared our cars were well guarded by some men around and in a van who were.. Ehmm.. Jerking off. So we hastily said goodbye to each other (and of course wished the masturbating men a pleasant evening) and went on our merry way.
I want to thank Jan, Sas, Miep and Dirk for organising the meeting and keeping us all hydrated. All pictures were made by Klaas, Jan, Dirk, Nick and Jef.
EDIT 09-05-2016: The Dunhill ladies-pipe has a new owner! Lots of pictures of ravishing pipe-smoking ladies were send in. Some even showed me totally new and quite interesting ways to smoke a pipe.. And no you pervs, I won’t show those photos! In the end there was a clear winner: Italian pipe-smoking lady Emilia. She is the vice-president of the Pipa Club Italia and owner of one of the biggest pipe-smokers website communities: Fumare la Pipa. She started smoking when she was 21 years old. Her first pipe, a Savinelli, was given to her by a friend. Her second pipe she bought at the Peterson factory during a study-holiday in Dublin. Today Emilia attends many events where she had the opportunity to meet many pipe-smokers and pipe-makers (like Tom Eltang and Manduela). For 90% Emilia smokes Italian made pipes. Her favourite is the Kronos pipe, made by Bruto Sordini from Don Carlos. Surprisingly (for a woman) Emilia likes the taste of latakia! Her favourite tobacco is GL Pease Maltese Falcon and she often likes to smoke Tuscan cigars. Emilia is also participating in the slow smoking Italian Championship for several years. Last October she even contented in her first World-Championship in Italy near Venice: 71st out of nearly 300 participants. Currently she holds the women’s title in Italy. Emilia, I wish you lots of happy smokes with your Dunhill!
Luckily in these dark days there is also 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. Unfortunately the entrance price went up a little bit, but eejj, everything is getting more expensive. Despite that it still is 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 designed by myself!
With every meeting there is a lively trade going on between the forum members. Pipes and tobaccos are being sold or exchanged to such an extent that the members have to write down whole lists on the forum in order to keep track. I also had to do that.. To start with I had a pouch of the dreaded Clan (by Theodorus Niemeyer) for Louis. The good man must have taste-buds of solid steel! And how did you get that damned pouch huh? One might think. Well, it was given to me by a friend, for my birthday. Needless to say he is no longer a friend. For some hilarious reviews of Clan please go the blog of the Demented Dutchman. For Freek I had some Jurewicz Neumarkt Special Mixture No. 99, Peter Heinrichs Dark Strong and Boswell Northwoods. All blends I did not really enjoy so I only asked a couple of drinks in return for them. Freek came up with something better, a bottle of one of the best beers in the world: Westvleteren blond. Woww!! That stuff is even harder to get than the new Balkan Sobranie! Normally I am not really a lover of blond beers but this one.. Whoah.. Something special!
Loud-mouth Jorg had a 2004 tin of the divine Abingdon by GL Pease for me. In exchange he only asked for 100 gram of Peter Heinrichs Curly Block plus a sample of the delicious Motzek Strang. A fair trade in my opinion, Curly block is ok but no more than that. The Motzek Strang is way better. Because my pipe-cabinet is getting a bit crowded I decided to sell off some pipes for a friendly price: a Talbert Ligne Bretagne and an olive-wood mix between a prince and a bulldog made by Meindert. Reason? Both fine smoking pipes but I did not have a connection with the Talbert and the Meindert was too little for my taste. Just a few minutes after I put them on the forum I got a message from Willem, he wanted to buy them both! Talking about Meindert, the poor man got loads of defunct pipes at the meeting for him to repair. I also had one, a Dunhill with a broken shank from another Rob (we have loads of Robs at the forum). Last but not least I had some snuff tobaccos from the Kralingse Snuifmolens for organiser Martin. I hope he liked them.
Then I finally could grab a beer, one of the few that day. With earlier editions I had the advantage that my good friend Ed picked me up and drove all the way and back. Only, due to some private stuff he moved away from his old town near me to a location pretty far away. So now I had to first pick Mark up at the train station in Deventer and drive to a parking lot somewhere beside the highway. There Ed waited for us together with Johnny and we all got into his car. I really would not miss these rides, they are fun! At the meeting I was talking to Henry who just got into the wondrous world of latakia. He was raving about Samuel Gawith’s Squadron Leader and I suddenly remembered that I brought a tin with me of the excellent, spicy Charing Cross by GL Pease. I let him smell it and, the dick that I am, I totally forgot to offer him a sample.. I made it up later by sending him some through the mail.
Suddenly we were all asked to be quiet and we gathered around one of the forum moderators: Peter, forum name”Eliminator”. A tough name for a tough looking man, big and lots of tattoos, but with a heart of pure gold. Peter does a lot of work for the forum, he keeps it organized, keeps discussions in check with reason and sensibility and in general makes everyone feel welcome and at home. It was time to put him in the limelight and thank him for his continuing effort. This was done by giving him 2 tins of tobacco: his favourite Peter Heinrichs Dark Strong and Peter Heinrichs Golden Sliced. On top of that he was gifted the new forum-pipe made by Briarworks with an inscription of his forum-name and a tamper made by Martin. Neat and well deserved!
Around 5 o’clock Henk, the brewer, said that we could begin with the BBQ. He already prepared the coals so that we could instantly scorch the excellent meat, which comes from an actual butcher! Well, a lot of folks eat supermarket flesh.. But you can taste the difference! There even were some vegan products to roast for our veggie-man Robbin. During dinner I accidentally thought that the beer glass of Jos was my glass. So when he asked for it I said it was mine. But when I turned around I saw my own glass standing on another table.. Doh! Rapidly I brought Jos’ glass to him but he already had ordered a new one. Fortunately Jos made no fuzz about it and even gave me the beer he just ordered! So Jos, you are going to get a beer from me at the next meeting in Wuustwezel!
When everyone had their dinner darkness had almost fallen outside and inside everyone was sitting content smoking and chatting away at the tables in the atmospheric, dimly lighted room. I stood at the side with Ed and overlooked the whole. I am not an emotional man but that perfect moment got to me, seeing all the forum members peacefully and content together. I was so glad that we after all these years still were a part of it. Ed saw it and said with a smile, “Want a hug?” So we hugged. When I stood at the bar drinking a non-alcoholic beverage (boohh…) I got into a conversation with Philip. He is a doctor and he even gave a round of drinks to all. Earlier he got a patient with tuberculosis and he feared he was infected. If that was not the case, drinks for everyone! So you can guess the outcome. Philip also writes an excellent blog: The Tall Tales of an Urban Beardsman. He (amongst others) loves Castello and Peterson pipes so I asked if he could make an article about the latter for my blog as a guest-writer. And he was willing, so stay tuned!
At 8 o’clock the fun was over, Henk called it a day. He was surprised everyone politely thanked him personally for his good care. Not more than normal! The way home was fun! Ed had some radio-station playing in the car with all kinds of rock-classics. So I sang along with Deep Purple’s Child in Time and Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters. Even Johnny had tears in his (strangely panic-stricken) eyes, probably from the sound of my beautiful voice.. Anyway, I want to thank Martin for once again organising a wonderful meeting, the men in the car for all the fun on the road and all the forum members for the great day! All pictures were made by Martin, Klaas, Stanley and Dirk.
On a warm and sunny June Sunday it was once again time for the annual Zutphen meeting of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum. Unfortunately like last year my good friend (and part time driver) Ed could not make it, it was his birthday. Also it turned out once again that the original date was the day after the Fortarock festival and for quite a few visiting forum members a meeting after a day of metal and beer was just too much. So once again I waited on the train (I live in a tiny village but somehow it managed to have an intercity train-station!) praying it would arrive at all, on time and get me safe in Zutphen. With the Dutch railways you never know.. Luckily it did all that and when I walked out of the station building in my place of destination I bumped, like last year, into Freek. “Oh, you here again?” Some things never change. Together we walked through the old streets to the store of Willem Schimmel.
At 11 o’clock sharp we entered the shop, precisely on time. It was not too busy yet so I had enough time to greet Willem and his staff after which I climbed the stair to the smoking lounge on the floor. I fell into a chair and noticed a new face, Hans, who looked pretty tired. It turned out he had just worked a night-shift and then came to the meeting. No wonder! But a nice man to talk to, I hope to see him at a next meeting. After chatting away with some people I decided to look downstairs where I saw some new Tsuge pipes that had just came into the store. I already saw those at the Inter Tabac last year and I was still amazed at how small they were. I mean, it was optimistic to think that smoking some of those pipe would last 15-minutes. However, because I got some explanation by the Tsuge salesman I was able to tell someone of Willem’s staff that with a certain model you had to screw off the bowl and fill the space beneath with tobacco. Why? Because it then functions as a filter.
Further below like every year stood Mr. Josef Nöring with his wife. He always has very nice high end pipes (Wallenstein, L’Anatra etc.) but sadly too pricey for my budget. I just bought some tobacco and… some cigars. Huh? Cigars? Traitor! No.. I have no interest or ambition whatsoever to know a lot about cigars (I just learned the difference between a short filler and long filler so go figure..). But last year I had a mini-meeting at Willem and at the same time there was this dude who knew really a lot about cigars. Being naturally curious I asked if he could pick out 4 (not too expensive) ones for me so I could venture a bit in the world of rolled tobacco sticks. From those 4, after smoking them, one (the most expensive..) stood out: My Father Cigars La Antiguedad. So I bought a couple of those more so I could enjoy them at warm summer evenings. Mr Pease already said this once, but cigars are just designed for hot climates. They definitely are not made to smoke indoors in my house. Once I smoked such a cigar in the small living room and had to apologize to Ellen because the room literally looked blue with smoke.. Whoops..
When I was below an elder gentleman holding a pipe entered the store. Apparently he saw the shop was opened and he needed to buy some tobacco. While in essence it was a closed meeting Willem thought like, well, business is business! I talked to the man, he had never heard of the forum and asked for a contact card. Ehrr.. I did not have one on me so I just wrote the internet address on a small piece of paper. The pipe of the man was interesting, it had a white dot on the mouthpiece. So or a Dunhill or a Vauen. I was allowed to look at the bottom of the pipe, it was a Dunhill Shell from 1972. “Ah, that could be correct!” said the man, “I believe I bought that one in 1973. How did you see that so fast?” Well.. Ehm.. I am a bit of Dunhill nerd so.. I also asked what he liked to smoke to which he answered that he liked latakia. So for the most part the Dunhill tobaccos that contained the dark leaf. Quickly I grabbed my tin of GL Pease Odyssey and let him smell it. He put up big eyes and made approving noises. “If you become a member of the forum and tell what you think of the blend you may keep the tin.” I said. He thankfully nodded and shook my hand.
A new face to a forum-meeting was Frisian pipe-maker Meindert. Because of his health it was a bit shaky if he could make it (a 2 hour drive) but his daughter had come with him and drove the distance. It really was good to see and talk to him and I think he thoroughly enjoyed the whole meeting experience. I almost forgot I owned him a tin of tobacco but Meindert is the type of man that reminds you of that. Earlier he refurbished one of my Dunhills and the tobacco was his payment. I did not even need to ask what he wanted, “A tin of that new Peterson St. Patrick’s Day please!” So I got it for him. On the first floor I sat down for a while and chatted a bit with Mark when Willem came along with a fez which obviously belonged to Jos. Jokingly he put it on my head while Mark snapped a picture. It came out rather nice!
In the late afternoon at the end of the meeting it was time to eat. Willem had arranged a BBQ at Fort Bronsbergen in the Zutphen countryside. Luckily I could ride along with Rob(bie-San) and we took Pascal with us. After a bit of a detour (Rob his Garmin GPS device had other thoughts about the route) we arrived together with Jos. The friendly lady behind the bar guided us outside to the big wooden terrace on which we had a stunning view of the surroundings: a little lake with lots of green around it. Unfortunately when it came to drinks the choice was a bit limited. Rob could not drink a heavy beer because he had to drive and the only pilsner they had was Heineken. Ehrr… No, no sewage water please. “Do you have Coca Cola then?” he asked. Nope, just Pepsi. Rob buried his face in his hands and made crying noises. Luckily for him they had a brand of Weißbier and for me there was one excellent Belgian beer: Affligem Dubbel. On the good side, we were outside so we could smoke! Also, thanks to Rob I tried my first bit of snuff, some mint flavoured one from Pöschl. A not unpleasant experience.
The BBQ was not really a BBQ but (sometimes pre-grilled) meat on a hot plate. It was ok but only just that. I mean, perhaps I am a nitpicker but at least properly defrost the garlic-butter before serving it, provide a small trash can for bones and clean the hot plate now and then instead of baking all the meat in already charred black fat. I appreciate Willem’s arrangement but next year Rob and I will be eating in the old Zutphen city centre again where there is a restaurant which serves the most delicious spare-ribs. After the BBQ Rob hastily drove me to the station because otherwise I would miss my train. When I stepped on the platform it was already waiting so I quickly hopped on. While I saw the sun going down over the green fields, all by all I could look back at another wonderful day.
I would like to thank Willem, his staff and Mark for organizing the meeting. All pictures were made by Meindert, Paul, Mark and myself.
For me the annual meeting of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum (PRF) at Wuustwezel (Belgium) halfway March always marks the beginning of spring. The lengthening days, the slowly rising temperatures and the anticipation of the meeting make all the shadows in my mind from the dark, cold winter disappear. For some reason (probably the location in Belgium near the Dutch border and cheap beer) the Wuustwezel meeting always has been the best attended one. This year 80 people applied under which Matron, a Scotch-man and Florian, a German, both from the (in)famous Kaervaig Pipe Club. PRF goes international!
The day of the meeting began early at 07.30 am. After a shower, shave and breakfast I gathered all the tobaccos and pipes I wanted to bring with me and waited for Ed, who rang the doorbell at 9.00 am. I almost walked outside when Ed said, shouldn’t you give a goodbye kiss to Ellen? Oh! I forgot.. So I rapidly went inside, pressed a kiss upon her lips and went to Ed his car while Ellen shook her head and sighted “just like giddy schoolboys going on a field trip..”. Like last year we picked up Mark at the Deventer Central Station and Johnny near the highway.
The journey to Wuustwezel from Deventer Central Station takes about 2 hours but to me it felt like only half an hour. Conversations enough in the car. When we arrived in Belgium our first stop was the local liquor store where we also went last year. Of course I had to re-stock my supply of Belgian beers, can’t live without! I almost did not recognize the store, apparently it had a huge renovation. Some walls were broken down and now there was a big space which housed all the liquor. It did not matter to me, the beers were easily found. Johnny is somewhat of a connoisseur on that field so he gave me some advice about what to buy besides my old favourites.
When I planned our route I noticed that the snack-bar we went to last year was not open at the beginning of the afternoon. Luckily there are enough “frietkotten” (snack-bars) in Belgium so another one, “Frituur Zodiac“, was easily found. We arranged with some other forum members (and also Matron and Florian) that we would meet there, the more the merrier. To our surprise there was another PRF group present when we arrived. And just when we ordered our food other forum members walked in until the small snack-bar was filled with hungry and noisy pipe-smokers. I went for a small “frietje stoofvlees” (Belgian fries with a meat-stew). Yes, small, I saw someone who had a regular size and it was.. Huge.. But it tasted divine! I am sorry for the snack-bar we went to last year but Zodiac was much better. Mark struggled to devour a frikandel XXL so being the good guy that I am I helped him with it. Just when we left the place Matron and Florian finally arrived together with Wilfred, who picked them up. I advised a bit what they should take and later that day I (luckily) heard they ate very well.
Almost precisely on time we entered the Bellekeshoeve, the location of the meeting, where not yet everyone had arrived. I liked it this way because in relative quietness I was able to put away my belongings, order a Vlaamsche Leeuw beer and fill up a pipe before plunging into the busy crowd. We were all welcomed by Willem and meeting-organizer Jan, with whom we had to pay for the traditional Belgian sausage–breads. Talking about Willem, he is a real character, a large man who’s presence commands attention. Last year he only was there for a short while because he does not like big gatherings (“You know Arno, in the old days I was forced to go to receptions and I thoroughly hated those..”), and had things to do. But now he stayed right until the end! With him he brought his charming wife, the green baroness, who started smoking pipe! I believe Rob (Robbie-San) bought her an elegant ladies pipe and soon she was smoking some aromatic tobacco. “Much better than those awful smelly Davidoff cigarettes she uses to smoke”, Willem whispered in my ears.
I was glad that another prominent forum and another Rob (robvoorburg) was present at the meeting. At first he did not want to go, not because he dislikes meetings (I think Rob almost attended all of them), but because of private reasons. To the delight of us all he was able to come because in my opinion a meeting without Rob is no meeting. No one can visibly enjoy a gathering of pipe-smokers more than Rob. And a pleasant side-effect of him coming was that he brought friend and forum-photographer Klaas with him.
Peter, one of the forum-moderators, had brought a lot of bags with him containing new PRF shirts and hoodies, designed by myself of course. Peter does the communication with the printing-company and the distribution. I bought one shirt and one hoodie with the new “smoking goat” design. With which we had some problems because the black print would not really show on the dark army green background I had planned originally. So we opted for a more.. Uhmm.. Visible kind of green. When I wore the hoodie at home Ellen almost burst out into laughter, “Finally you are wearing some colour!” Thanks darling…
Then I bumped into Fred, who had a lot of goodies for me. To start with 3 tins of Hearth & Home Magnum Opus. He has connections in the USA who can get the Hearth & Home range so when I heard that I asked him to order some tins of Magnum Opus. I smoked that blend once through my German friend Rainer and really liked it. When of the few blends out there containing the legendary Yenidje tobacco. Fred also had a pipe for me. And not just a pipe, no, a gorgeous Winslow bamboo B-grade! A while ago Fred had bought a collection of pipes from the family of a deceased pipe-smoker. He photographed them all and with the help of Peter put the lot for ridiculously low prices on the market-place of our forum. First come first served. And I was first so had the luck to buy this astonishing beautiful Winslow. The last item Fred had for me was the (in)famous Bothy Flake from the Kaervaig Pipe Club (made by Samuel Gawith). After the Inter-Tabac fair last year Fred ordered tins for anyone who wanted it at the forum and I was one of them.
Talking about the Kaervaig Pipe Club, Matron and Florian had brought presents for me and the forum. Florian gave me a bottle of German “Schnapps” from his home region and Matron presented me with an original KPC mouse-pad. For the forum Matron had something very special. From out of the unholy depths of his bag (which he suspiciously carried around with him all the time) he dug up a large package with 500 gr. of Samuel Gawith Golden Glow. “This is a gesture from the Kaervaig Pipe Club to the PRF, do with it what you want”, he said. Dumbfounded I thanked him and put the package away. Later at home I divided the 500 gr. in smaller amounts of 100 gr. and set up a lottery for all PRF members.
I especially liked talking to the German KPC member Florian. Before the meeting we had some short but pleasant mail conversations but that was it. In reality he proved to be a well-spoken, polite, intelligent man. I can understand German pretty good (speaking it is another thing) but for some reason we both stuck to English. We talked about all kinds of things; the forum tobaccos, German tobacco companies, German pipe-smokers forums etc. I can’t exactly remember any more what we all spoke about (the Vlaamsche Leeuw began to work) but we certainly had fun. I really hope he is going to be at the meeting next year.
It was also nice talking to Martijn, one of the new members, it was his first meeting. It always amazes me how easy it is to talk to new people I never met before, as long as they are pipe smokers. Because then you have at least one thing in common. And we had several things in common, amongst other things that we started smoking pipe because of our pipe-smoking grandfathers. Suddenly all conversation was stopped because Jos blew on his deafening brass ship’s horn. Time for the group picture. We went outside and when we all found our positions a huge banner was unfold with on it: Flakeroker sterkte (Flakesmoker lots of strength). Jorg came up with the idea (and it was executed by Peter), he wanted to let Flakeroker (real name Sandor) know that we all thought about him and wished him strength. This because Sandor has terminal cancer (in his whole body except his lungs..). In the weeks before the meeting Sandor sold all his pipes and tobacco because every day counts for him. I hope he lives long enough to properly say goodbye to all his loved ones.
On a more happy note Jos had decided to open a competition a couple of weeks before the meeting. Jos has a thing with.. Poo.. So the one who brought the tobacco which smelled most like poo would win the crap-price and an accompanying book. Freek won with a tin of Merde de Cheval, which translates as “horse shit”. What certainly did not smell like shit were the traditional Belgian sausage-rolls. Always a true delight, also the next day. I took a doggy-bag with me so Ellen and I could enjoy some later at home. I think the local bakery in Wuustwezel is very pleased with our annual meeting and accompanying sausage-roll order.
Someone who also was pleased was Robbin. On a Dutch market-place site he found a tin of ancient Capstan. I did some research and came to the conclusion it was even older than the tin I brought with me last year! Robbin was hesitating if he should bring his tobacco gem with him and open it and I was glad to see he did. The tin had lost its lid so he had to cut the thin foil open with a knife Matron dug up from out of his unholy bag. And… The tobacco was intact and still moist! Gotta love those old knife-cutter tins! I had the privilege of smoking a bowl and although different than the current incarnation, it undeniably was classic Capstan. I liked it even better than my old tin!
Too fast the hours went by, so many people and so little time. Slowly the group got smaller and smaller until only a few were left. Willem put his arm around my shoulder and said with a wicked smile “Please have another beer, you can put it on the bill of my wife!” But I graciously declined his offer, I already had enough of the Belgian nectar. It was time to go. After many handshakes and some hugs (especially Carro and Willem would not let me go) we walked to the car. The ride back home went smooth and I was glad to softly snuggle against the warm body of an already sleeping Ellen. I want to thank Jan and Sas for the organisation, all the volunteers behind the bar, Willem for the party-tent outside and Ed for driving! All pictures were made by Klaas, Jan, Rik, Dirk, Rob and Marielle.