Pleasures of life in Belgium 2015

Group picture

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!

Johnny (notice the longer beard)

Johnny (notice the longer beard)

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.

st_bernardus_12The 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.

Frituur Zodiac

Frituur Zodiac

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.

Willem and Jan

Willem and Jan

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 sausagebreads. 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.

Rob

Rob

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.

IMG_2681Peter, 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…

Winslow bamboo B-Grade

Winslow bamboo B-Grade

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.

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Matron digs up a surprise for Marielle..

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.

Whisky AND beer?? Germans.... ;)

Whisky AND beer?? Germans…. ūüėČ

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.

Martijn and Monique

Martijn and Monique

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.

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Freek, winner of the crap-price

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.

Capstan_1898Someone 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!

Willem and Carro want you to come (again) next year!

Willem and Carro want YOU to come (again) next year!

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.

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Hospitable Heukelum 2014

October 12th it was time for the annual “mother” of all the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers forum meetings. The one in a town in the Dutch province of Gelderland called Heukelum, inside brewery “‘t Kuipertje” and organized by Martin: the Heukelum meeting! For weeks the forum was buzzing with anticipation and whole check-lists of what to take with you were made so nobody would forget anything. Meanwhile Martin was busy collecting the entrance money: ‚ā¨26.50 (¬Ī $33). A bargain if you ask me because for that sum you not only gain access, you also get two drinks, there is a big BBQ with all kinds of tasty fresh meat, sauces, salads and baguettes and last but not least you get one bottle of special forum-beer with a label designed by myself! Whoehoe!

Johnny

Johnny

Unfortunately for some the entrance money still was too much. Recently forum-moderator and respected member Johnny went through some tough times (private stuff) which left a hole in his finances. My good friend Ed, Mark and I said that he could drive together with us to Heukelum but Johnny was not sure if he was able to manage it money-wise. We were all bummed out because after a tough time there is nothing better for a pipe-smoker than a cosy, relaxing pipe-smoking meeting. Suddenly we got a mail from a happy Johhny, he was going! Apparently he got a message from Martin which said that all his expenses already were paid for. And that is the true heart-warming spirit of the forum.

Shrewd judge Jos

Shrewd judge Jos

So on the day itself Ed first picked me up, then we went to the Deventer train station to get Mark and somewhere along the way Johnny joined us. When we arrived in Heukelum we clearly were not the first. Lines of cars we neatly parked beside each other under which the gracious Volvo Amazon owned by Jos. He was one of the first I looked up because I had something for him and he had something for me. In my “Zestful Zutphen 2014” blogpost I wrote that Jos had bought a “smoking area” sign for me on a Amsterdam market. He had brought it with him and as a “thank you” I had not one but two presents for Jos. For a living he does something with laws so every time I smoke Orlik Golden Sliced and see the “shrewd judge” illustration on the tin I have to think of him. Jos often comes across like a person with some loose screws but beware, he is very, very “shrewd”. So I gave him a tin of Orlik Golden Sliced and a wrapped package. Jos had to laugh hard when he saw the contents of the package: a judge wig. He immediately put it on his head and looked amazingly shrewd to my delight. This week I mounted the sign on the door of my tobacco closet in my working-room.

Paul

Paul

Paul also had something for me. As some of you perhaps know he does whisky nosing & tastings under the name of Whisky Info Plus. On the latest Inter Tabac in Dortmund he had met a company who could print tables. “Hmm, precisely what I need for my nosing & tasting” Paul thought. “A nice bistro table with a picture of whisky-barrels and my logo”. Only, he once made his logo in Word and it was not suited for printing. So he asked me if I could re-make the logo as a proper illustration file. Of course I could, but for a price. “Some tobacco or whisky?” Paul asked. Since I was making it for a nosing & tasting of whisky I choose that. Paul gave me a round box with on it “Ardmore Traditional“. He explained a bit about it and it really sounded yummie in my ears. And it also tastes yummie, actually, I am having a glass of it right now while I am typing this. Thanks Paul!

Martin

Martin

I also had to see Martin, but not for anything smoking related. A week before the meeting I got a mail from him asking if I wanted buy a Dragon-clock from him. At first I said no, it had no room for it but then I looked to my pipe-cabinet. Hmm.. That clock would look nice on top of it.. So I asked Martin what he wanted for it. According to him it was pretty expensive new but perhaps some tobacco would suffice? As it happened I just had laid my hands on a bag of Esoterica Stonehaven, perhaps that was ok as a payment? Eagerly (I know he loves the stuff) Martin said yes so now the clock graces my pipe-cabinet.

Robert-Jan checking out the wares

Robert-Jan checking out the wares

A while ago forum member Robert-Jan visited me but he forgot to take with him a tin of Hajenius My Own Blend. I kept it for him until I had the chance to give it back. I also smoked some of it (I was allowed to) but mwah.. I did not like it, I was a bit under the impression that cheap tobaccos were used. So I was glad I could give back the tin at the meeting. Oh!! I silently cursed.. Robert-Jan had asked if I could bring a sample of Esoterica Penzance with me for him. And I had totally forgotten about it.. Of course I made up for it later.

Dre unveiling the new forum year-pipe

Dre unveiling the new forum year-pipe

Some time later we were all asked to gather around. The time had come for the unveiling of the 2015 PRF forum year-pipe! Normally Shaun arranges the whole project but sadly he had been very ill this year (luckily he feels a lot better now).. Despite his sickness he managed to reach out for help and Dre answered his call. Dre (Andre) has very good connections with the Gubbels family from the Big Ben pipe factory and regularly visits the place. So he asked if they could mean anything for the PRF pipe project. Unfortunately Big Ben only fire up their machines for a minimum of 500 pipes and the forum can never reach that number. BUT they had an alternative solution. Throughout the years Gubbels kept Barbados shape pipe-bowls behind with an exceptional grain and we could have those! Plus they added a metal ring on top of the bowl which makes the pipe look even better. When Shaun and Dre told this and showed the pipe they got a very well deserved applause.

On the left me and Franz

On the left me and Franz

After some chatting with a lot of forum members it was time to eat! As I told last year the meat provided is of excellent quality and comes from a nearby biological butcher. Just as I expected the beef was gone first, I also have to thank myself for that.. After dinner I sat down beside Franz. I am a bit of a Dunhill collector (if I can get them cheap) but he collects all kinds of English non-Dunhill pipes like Sasieni and Charatan. He has a stunning Sasieni prince and.. Wait, just a moment.. Sorry, every time I think of that pipe I have to wipe off my drool. I can’t stop admiring that one. Franz also had brought with him some Germain Rich Dark Flake which I never had smoked and was very curious about. Luckily I was allowed to take a sample with me so now I can finally compare it to its famous brother: Esoterica Stonehaven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGradually darkness fell all around us, the lights went on and I just had to think of the atmosphere Dutch painter and graphical artist Anton Pieck summons in his creations. Slowly one by one people were going home until just a few were left. I bought some more bottles of the tasty forum-beer (which was a bock-beer this year!) and we all helped owner Henk a bit with putting back some tables and chairs. Then we said goodbye to each other and thanked Martin and Henk for the wonderful day. Johnny was a bit quiet. Apparently upon entering the brewery he had received a stash of consumption-coins from Martin so he had free drinks all day long. But he also had gotten a small bag, a gift from our forum-Sint, Rob. I opened it and literally my jaw dropped, eyes went a bit wet and I immediately understood why Johhny was so quiet. The contents were a Winslow and two Dunhills under which a gorgeous gold-band shell briar. And that is also the true heart-warming spirit of the forum and I am proud to be a member of it.

Heukelum 2014 group

Heukelum 2014 group

Henk and Martin, thank you for the organization of the meeting! Ed, Johnny and Mark, thank you for the pleasant rides! The rest of the members, thank you for a great day! All pictures were made by Klaas, Janneman and myself.

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Zestful Zutphen 2014

Panoramic view of Zutphen

Panoramic view of Zutphen

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.

Left in the back: Freek and myself

Left in the back: Freek and myself

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.

Overview of Willem's smoking room

Overview of Willem’s smoking room

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.

Freek and Jos

Freek and Jos

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..

Inside the basement of the Stadsbrouwerij

Inside the basement of the Stadsbrouwerij

As an extra activity Willem had organized a tasting at the local Grand Caf√©/brewery in Zutphen; Stadsbrouwerij Cambrinus. Just a short walk from the store across the public square. Upon entering the Grand Caf√© 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..

Stanley's son Arthur

Stanley’s son Arthur

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.

Robin

Robin

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!

At the Chinese restaurant. I am already eating..

At the Chinese restaurant. I am already eating..

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!

The Zutphen meeting 2014 group

The Zutphen meeting 2014 group

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.

 

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Pleasures of life in Belgium 2014

Group picture

Group picture

Saturday 15 March it was time for the 2nd (for the first one, see here) annual Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum meeting in Wuustwezel, Belgium. For weeks the forum had been buzzing with anticipation because it was going to be the biggest meeting yet. About 70 people were coming to the farm in the outskirts of the tiny town! Reason for this is, I think, because Wuustwezel is in Belgium but near the Dutch border. So it is very accessible for forum-members from both countries.

Johnny, not really looking like The Undertaker huh?

Johnny, not really looking like The Undertaker huh?

The day of the meeting I awoke early and after a shower and breakfast I started to pack, I had a long list of things to do.. My girlfriend Ellen had to laugh, she thought I behaved like I was going on a field trip. Well, it surely felt a bit that way. Around 10.15 the bell rang, it was Ed who was going to pick me up. After a cup of coffee we drove to Deventer Central Station where we were, once again, going to pick up Mark. For a change his train was on time, he was already waiting for us. We had one more member to pick up: Johnny (nickname: The Undertaker, after my favourite WWE wrestler). He had conveniently parked his car at a big parking place near the highway so with almost no delay he joined us and we could continue the journey to Belgium.

st_bernardus_12With me I brought a bag of empty Belgian beer bottles so I could return them at a liquor store for their deposit. In Belgium alcohol is much cheaper then in The Netherlands (as is tobacco) and since my supply of Belgium beers was running dangerously low a visit to the local liquor store in Wuustwezel was mandatory. We were a bit early thanks to the lead foot of Ed so I had all the time to explore the immense store. Yes, immense! I have never seen a liquor store that big! Alcohol Valhalla! Whoohoo! After a bit of looking around we came to the section of the Belgian beers. In my head I had a list of them which included brands like St. Bernardus, Corsendonk, Chimay, Ciney, I’m getting thirsty now, Rochefort, Barb√£r Bok, Kasteel Rouge and Julius. Happy as a child I filled my cart with bottles and went to the pay desk. ‚ā¨53 for the vast amount of beer I had put together was NOT much! In the Netherlands I surely would have paid around ‚ā¨100.. So that fact made this cheap Dutchman very happy.

frieten-met-vleeskroketA lesson we learned from last year was that we had to have lunch before the meeting. Since Belgium is also famous for its fries (no not the skinny French fries but a somewhat thicker version) we decided to go to a snack-bar alongside the road. It was around 1 o’clock so we were the only customers. Most of us ordered fries and an extra snack, mine was a croquette. The friendly lady behind the desk asked if I wanted Belgian mayonnaise with my fries or Dutch. Hmm.. Belgian mayonnaise is sour and Dutch is sweet. I am bit ashamed to say this but I choose the Dutch mayonnaise. Usually when I am in a different country I adapt to the food that is being eaten there. But I really do not like sour mayonnaise.. Sorry!

Shaun, Jan and Willem

Shaun, Jan and Willem

After we had filled our bellies it was finally time to go to the meeting. At the farm lots of cars were parked and when we did go inside the crowd already was large. First went to the table where Shaun and Jan were sitting. They were collecting the cash for the rent of the farm and the sausage rolls which would come in later. A new member, Willem (nickname: Meester W.), also stood at the table. We shook hands and I made a mental note to look him up later. Unfortunately he went away early, he had some other things to do so I never got the chance to really speak to him.

Arjen and a forum corncob

Arjen and a forum corncob

I wanted to place my bag with smoking gear and tobaccos somewhere so I could fill a pipe when I was stopped by Arjen (nickname: Bananabox-Ninja). In the months before the meeting he had arranged Missouri Meerschaum corncobs with the forum logo for forum-members. I had ordered a Country Gentleman together with some some black Danish bits which he gave to me. I tend to gnaw a bit on my mouthpieces so some spare bits were very welcome. But I also had something for him. Due to a sharp eye-tooth there was a hole in the mouthpiece of one of my GBD princes. Arjen learned a method from Steve from Reborn Pipes where you fill up holes like that with some kind of glue. I hope it works! (EDIT 15 May 2014: Arjen has done an incredible job with the mouthpiece and it looks like new!)

Dre and Jorg

Dre and Jorg

When I had put my bag away I finally could light up a pipe and talk to some people. I had some things for them and other people had things for me. Jorg tapped me on my shoulder, he had a generous sample of Davidoff Flake Medallions for me. I had never tried it but after having recently smoked a couple of bowls of it, it now is on my wanted list. Thanks Jorg! When I saw forum administrator Nick (nickname: Massis) we shook hands. He had a bouchon de Semois and asked if I still had those. No, I gave away my last one to Kevin, the owner of PipesMagazine.com. So he graciously gave me a bouchon. When I turned around Carro asked what I was holding. I answered it was a bouchon de Semois and explained how one should smoke it. Of course I gave it to him and got a pint of Vlaamse Leeuw beer in return. Then I bumped into Dre (nickname: Annie69) and he had a sealed tin of vintage De Graaff perique for me! A gift from a friend of him and fellow forum member Ignoro, who could not attend the meeting. So thanks Ignoro!

Paul and me

Paul and me

Near the sliding door at the corner of the room Paul had set up a small table with all kinds of whiskeys for everyone to sample. Very nice but I decided not to taste any of the “water of life”. That could not have turned out well for me in combination with the heavy Belgium beers. Once in a while Paul orders at Dan Tobacco in Germany and people of the forum can add their wishes to his list. So that way I ordered a tin of Skipper’s Flake through him only to discover that he bought a tin of Skipper Special Navy Cut Mellow Mixture instead. Whoops! Luckily I did not have to pay for that tin and on top of that, as a surprise, he gave me a tin of… Skipper’s Flake! Thank you Paul!

Klaas (on the left)

Klaas (on the left)

In the distance I spotted Klaas (nickname: Upper Ten), I still had his forum-tobaccos. “Keep them until the Wuustwezel meeting, that saves me the postal costs.” He said. “I have enough tobaccos in my treasure chamber to go by”. Which is true, he really has a tobacco treasure chamber. For years Klaas invested in his tobacco collection by buying brands like Upper Ten (hence his nickname), De Graaff (the famous house-blends of the De Graaff store in The Hague) and Balkan Sobranie. The first time I smoked that legendary blend it was from a pouch which he gave me. Klaas has a fondness for latakia so I had a sample of GL pease Gaslight for him. It has a kind of cigar-like heaviness which could be just Klaas his cup of tea. I also gave him a sample of Heinrichs Curly Block. At my visit to Heinrichs I bought a tin of Dunhill Deluxe Navy Rolls for him because he wanted an impression of the taste of current production Escudo. He did not like it very much, in his memory the old Cope Escudo version was way better. Unfortunately he did not stock up on that one.. But according to lots of German pipe-smokers the Curly Block is similar to the Cope Escudo. So I am curious what Klaas thinks of this tobacco.

Geoff

Geoff

At the meeting there were lots of new members who had never attended such an event. Geoff was one of them. He approached me and said he was a fan of this blog, how nice! Normally I am having a hard with speaking to people I do not know, but with pipe-smokers you always have something to talk about: pipe-smoking! Duh! He said he had an avatar of a smoking monkey but that did not shone a light in my brain. It was not until later, back home, that I saw him on the forum. Ahh!! The smoking monkey avatar! It was nice talking to you Geoff! Another new member, Rinus, asked me if I was the one who knew a lot of tobaccos. Well.. I do not know a lot, but I do know something. Rinus discovered he had a fondness for latakia. He was missing something in the blends he bought and found out that was the dark leaf. So I made a list for him with mixtures containing latakia that are available in The Netherlands. I hope he finds something he likes.

Dwayne and Martin

Dwayne and Martin

Then I had something special. I approached Martin and asked if he could help opening a 90-year old tin of Capstan Navy Flake. Well, he is an old Dutch marine man so if someone could do that job, it was him. I grabbed my camera and just at the moment Martin pierced through the foil of the knife-cutter tin my battery died.. Arghh!!  Luckily Martin was able to make some pictures with his smartphone. But those will be for a another blog-post. Astoundingly the condition of the tobacco inside the tin was perfect! I had brought a mason jar with me and quickly transferred the contents. In the mean time Dwayne had joined Martin and me. He his an American pipe-maker who now lives in The Netherlands and was also amazed about the vintage Capstan. Needless to say both could fill up their pipes with this old treasure.

Tommy and his girlfriend Joyce

Tommy and his girlfriend Joyce

When ordering a beer at he bar I saw Tommy. We had e-mailed a couple of times before because one of his hobbies is to sing and write lyrics for songs. Only, he can’t make the music that would go with those so he asked on the forum if someone could help him with that. I have made music for years so I definitely was interested. When singing Tommy has a warm, baritone voice that resembles the one of Dutch artist Ramses Shaffy. What followed was an animated conversation about our passion for music. When I have the time I will definitely try to make some music to match the lyrics.

Franz shows his British pipes

Franz shows his British pipes

After dinner, which existed once again of the delicious Belgian sausage rolls, I sat down. My feet were hurting from standing and walking around. I already talked to so many people. I joined a group who was talking about buying tobacco abroad, which I frequently do. The big man next to me said if he could get all the tobaccos he wanted in The Netherlands he would buy them there. An honest opinion. I detected a strange accent in his soft voice and asked if had lived abroad for a period of time. Franz (that is his name, nickname: Dinck) told me he was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but already lived for quite some time in The Netherlands. While talking my eye suddenly went to his pipe-bag. With a smile he took a couple of pipes out of it. All of them were made in England. It appeared we both had a passion for English pipes. Only, I (try to) collect Dunhills, he collected everything but Dunhill. He pulled out a Sasieni prince which made me drool. Immediately I, quasi joking, asked for how much I could buy it from him. Of course it was not for sale. Damnit! I hope it brings him great smoking pleasure.

Jan is waiting to let us all out

Jan is waiting to let us all out

Too fast the hours crawled away, when you are having fun time always goes (too) fast. Hora ruit tempus fluit! So the time came to say goodbye. We thanked Jan, his wife Sas and Dirk and Miep who had stood behind the bar the whole day. The journey back went swiftly and before I knew it I stood before Ellen, who had fallen asleep on the couch and slowly woke up. “How was your day?” “It was wonderful darling.”

Overview of the place

Overview of the place

Big thanks to Ed for driving, to Johnny and Mark for the conversations in the car, to Jan and Sas for the organisation and everyone I talked to! I can’t remember who took which photo so all pictures from the meeting were made by Klaas, Janneman, Dirk, Mark, Rik and myself.

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Hospitable Heukelum 2013

Brewery 't Kuipertje

Brewery ‘t Kuipertje

Like I told in my Zestful Zutphen post the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum currently roughly has two big annual meetings. Well, three with the meeting in Wuustwezel, Belgium. But the “mother” of all our meetings is the one in a town in the Dutch province of Gelderland called Heukelum. Well, this is not entirely true.. First Martin organized the meetings in his nearby home-town of Leerdam on the upper floor of a restaurant housed in an old train-station building. Unfortunately after 2 cosy meetings the owners did not want us there any more plus the group got too big. So Martin had to look out for another location which he luckily found in brewery “‘t Kuipertje“.

Henk Kuiper

Henk Kuiper © K.H. van der Linde

In 1987 brewery ‘t Kuipertje first started when Frits Kuiper, after a reorganisation at his day-job, could work for half days only. The first beer was brewed on February first 1988. Frits, an amateur-brewer, soon decided to completely leave his (half) day-job and go full-time with the brewing. After being an apprentice at several breweries he made his own brewing-installation and started his business under the name “Gelderse Bierbrouwerij ‘t Kuipertje”. In 1990 he moved into the former coach-house of an old stone-factory at the border of Heukelum where the brewery is still located today. At January 1th 2002 Frits left the brewery, his son Henk took over business.

The big nightmare of the Dutch railways: leaves on the tracks..

The big nightmare of the Dutch railways: leaves on the rail-tracks..

So on October 27th at the end of the morning Ed arrived to pick me up. Also in the car was Maurice, the more the merrier! Together we drove to the train station of Deventer to pick up another forum-member, Mark. But after some waiting there was no sign of our big friend. Suddenly I got a text message from Mark, the train which he was supposed to be on was delayed.. Grumble, bloody Dutch railways.. If you are ever in The Netherlands, do not go by train unless you don’t mind delays. In wintertime there is snow, in autumn there are leaves on the rail-tracks, in summer maintenance is going on.. Grrrr.. Anyway, Ed, Maurice and I had enough to talk about and before we knew it Mark arrived, his train finally had come.

Rob from Brabant

Rob from Brabant © K.H. van der Linde

Because of the delay we were a bit late in Heukelum. Normally we are amongst the first ones to arrive so you can greet everyone more easy as they come in. Now we immediately were immersed in a cloud of friendly pipe-smokers who all wanted to say hello. While shaking hands I first began with some “business”. When I visited the big Heinrichs store I bought a tin of Heinrichs Golden Sliced and Dunhill Deluxe Navy Rolls for forum-member Klaas. He was curious about the famous Escudo and Deluxe Navy Rolls come very close in taste to that one. And he also had something for me. The week before the meeting he and his wife went to Prague where he bought some Stanislaw (made by Samuel Gawith) tobaccos. This were the ones I saw at the Inter Tabac fair at the Samuel Gawith stand! Wonderful! Apparently they are only obtainable in the Czech Republic. After we exchanged tins I tapped Rob on his shoulder. I had a bag of rare Penzance for him. Really a treat because Rob loves to smoke latakia blends. Well, you can’t go wrong with Penzance then! When I turned around I saw another Rob (many folks called “Rob” on the forum). He lives in a place near the town I grew up in the province of Brabant and has that typical joviality and accent of most people there. Rob has a passion for Ireland and I happen to have some authentic Irish Murray plugs (Erinmore Plug, Warrior Plug) which were gathering dust in my tobacco-closet. “Aah!! Fantastic! What do you want for them?” he asked. “Absolutely nothing, smoke them with much pleasure” I answered. I always like to see tobaccos I don’t smoke get a good home. Last but not least I walked over to like-minded Robbin. We both love old English blends and prince-shaped pipes. I had an opened tin of the German version of Presbyterian for him which he was curious about. I also presented him a sample bag of a nameless mixture I once made which I knew he liked.

La Trappe bockbeer

La Trappe bockbeer

Then I finally could relax a little bit and order a beer. I asked Henk, who also was the bartender, if he had a dark beer, for which I have a fondness. He offered me his self brewed Bokbier which is a special kind of dark beer that in The Netherlands is brewed only in autumn and often has a bit of a dark sweet caramel taste. After I gulped down the tasty liquid my nerves went down a bit. Nerves because I had to introduce the brand new forum tobaccos!

Get that hand out of the pocket boy!

Get that hand out of the pocket boy! © K.H. van der Linde

For those of you who read this blog regularly, last year and this year I have been busy organizing 3 specially made tobaccos for the forum-members. This because this year the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum exist 5 years. If you read the last comment on that post you can see my “quest” continued because master-blender Hans Wiedemann from HU Tobacco took me under his wings. What happened after that is a story in itself which I shall tell in a future blogpost. I introduced the three tobaccos, told what my inspirations were, said what the tobaccos roughly were made of and encouraged everyone to try some. Of course I brought sample tins. After my speech Paul walked towards me and presented a gift to me from the forum members for all my work on the forum tobaccos: a bottle of peated whisky! Yummie! And not just a regular bottle, no, a very special one! A 23 years old Jura ‘Signatory’! So to all the forum-members who contributed to this great gift, a big thank you!!! And because this was the 5th meeting organised by Martin he also got a well deserved bottle of whisky.

The meat gets grilled

The meat gets grilled © K.H. van der Linde

It is always remarkable how fast time goes when you are having a good time. You chat with someone for a bit, walk around, somebody starts talking to you, you go outside for a fresh nose while continue having conversations etc. So many nice folks and so little time.. In the mean time Henk had ignited the 2 BBQ’s and soon the coals were hot enough to begin with dinner. Like always the provided meat was of excellent quality. We could choose¬† from beef, bacon, cutlets, hamburgers, meat skewers, all kinds of sauces, baguettes and salads. Aahh.. Grilled meat, tasty beer, a good pipe-smoke and great people. What more can a man wish for?

Group-picture of the 2013 Heukelum meeting

Group-picture of the 2013 Heukelum meeting © AJ Verstraten

After dinner we sat down for a couple of more drinks and conversations and too soon it became time to go. We said our goodbyes to the remaining people, picked up a bottle of the specially brewed 2013 forum beer and went to the car. Once home I thanked Ed for the ride, said farewell to Maurice (we already brought Mark home) and went inside the house. I kissed my girlfriend Ellen, put away my bag full of tobaccos and went to bed where I had some nice smoke-filled dreams.

Here are some more pictures because they tell more than a lot of words!

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Zestful Zutphen 2013

Zutphen

Zutphen

With the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum we currently roughly have two big annual meetings. One of those always is held in the city of Zutphen at the beginning of June. Zutphen is very old, it received city-rights between 1191 and 1196, which makes it one of the oldest cities in the country. With my love for history I very much like to look at all the old buildings and wander around there. And smoke a pipe of course.

The store of Willem Schimmel years ago

The store of Willem Schimmel years ago

The place to stay for the Zutphen-meeting is always the store of tobacconist Willem Schimmel. Willem is a very friendly, although a bit chaotic, host who knows the fine trade of being a salesman. He has just has that gut-feeling, is able to tune in on his customers and make them feel very welcome. A rare talent these days. In 1972 at the early age of 21 Willem started his business in the building in the Sprongstraat where he is still located today. Since 1919 a tobacconist is housed there. Originally the business was founded by the Jewish family Gies. Later Bennie Smolders took over and like I said, Willem himself began in 1972.

The store of Willem Schimmel today

The store of Willem Schimmel today

Since the sixties his father had a cigar store in Doetinchem. When Willem came back from military service he initially did not really know what he wanted. But with a lot of support from his parents and the three Smolders brothers he then started the business in Zutphen as a 21-year-old rookie. Willem had it not easy in those early years. Of course he was still young and a stranger in Zutphen, so he really had to prove himself. It was always all about hard work and making long hours. His parents had put their savings in the business and he got 25 guilders pocket money and 15 guilders petrol money, he had to do it with that. His father was a true entrepreneur. At that time Willem had some candy standing on the counter, but if he took one for himself it was expected of him that he would put sixty cents in the cash register. His father would say that he had to sell a few packs of cigarettes for that money.

Willem and his two colleagues

Willem and his two colleagues © K.H. van der Linde

Willem now runs the business with help of two faithful colleagues. After all these years he is still not tired of his profession. He even can call himself now “Ma√ģtre Pipier”, a prestigious French title in pipe smoking. “What you do, you have to do with passion and I have that for this kind of business.” Willem says. “You have to, because otherwise you can’t properly advise your clients. You have to love the product and possess the desired knowledge.”

The smoking lounge on the first floor

The smoking lounge on the first floor

That degree of specialization, combined with the authentic look of the store probably made that Willem managed to survive. In the early eighties there was a renovation which was followed by a restoration in 2000. There it was tried to do justice to the old building (which dates back to 1724!) in the Sprongstraat and give it an authentic look as much as possible. Willem: “People are coming in here who do not even smoke, but simply want to see how it looks. We have quite a special historic building with an interior design to match that.” Upon entering you see a large wooden counter and high shelves with cigars, cigarettes and pipe-tobacco tins and pouches in all shapes and sizes. Furthermore, in the back of the store is a real climate-room for the storage of cigars. On the first floor is a smoking lounge where customers can sit and smoke and where activities are organised such as workshops and lectures.

The whole group in Zutphen

The whole group in Zutphen © AJ Verstraten

So last Sunday it was once again time for the annual Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum meeting at Willem’s store. Actually it just was a Dutch occasion since no folks from our neighbour country to the South came over. A pity but understandable since it is quite a long drive from the Belgium border to Zutphen. At half past eight in the morning my good friend Ed rang the doorbell to pick me up. We had to be early at the store because I had all the name-badges. Usually we have a bunch of regulars who visit a lot of the meetings (like myself) and know each other but there also always are some newbies. Then it is very handy to see the forum-names and real names on those badges.

Jos in his pipe-smoking coat

Jos in his pipe-smoking coat © K.H. van der Linde

When Ed and I arrived Willem was not even there, his colleagues were preparing the store for the meeting. Besides the folks from the forum, some people from German pipe-brand Vauen, Dutch tobacco-importer Pronk and a German gentleman with pipes and tobacco also were going to be present. Nonetheless we immediately got some hot coffee and cake. Shortly after nine o’clock Willem walked in, shook hands with us and asked how we were doing. We sat down and I lit up my first pipe, some Sweet Vanilla Honeydew to begin the day with. When I took the first puffs Mark (Deadl0ck) entered the store. Together with Willem he had organised the day. While chatting away it suddenly seemed that the grim-reaper had appeared! It turned out to be Jos in his pipe-smoking coat. At the back of it he had glued a large metal sign of his favourite tobacco brand: Troost. For me he brought a mouse-mat with the Hell’s Pipe Smokers design that I made for some forum shirts a while ago and a couple of home-made peanut-butter pots from the Hartog bakery. Yummie!

Monique and Carro © K.H. van der Linde

Monique and Carro © K.H. van der Linde

After a while more and more forum-folks trickled in and the store got filled up with people. Hands were shaken, pipes were drawn and soon the smoking-lounge saw blue of all the smoke. I approached meeting-newbie Carro (Calinero) because he had a book for me. He is a big bald headed man with tattoos and skull jewellery. Carro lives nearby the store which had that book so I asked him if he could buy it for me a week for the meeting. No problem of course. I decided to give him some extra money for his troubles but he stubbornly refused. Such a nice guy! And from Martin I got the tobacco that was the reason to buy the book. But more about this sometime in another post..

On the "Fluisterboot"

On the “Fluisterboot” ¬© K.H. van der Linde

Somewhat after eleven it was time for us to go the harbour where we were going aboard on two “Fluisterboten” (Whispering-boats), arranged by Willem. These boats are navigated through the canals of Zutphen by volunteers while they point out landmarks and buildings and tell all kinds of stories and facts about the city. We were really in luck with the weather, not too hot, not too cold so it was an enjoyable and educational trip. Once in a while we heard the other boat because Jos then blew loud on his brass ship-horn. So if you ever visit Zutphen with a couple of people, go on a “Fluisterboot” and soak up the history, culture and nature of the city.

Huub at the store

Huub welcomes other forum-members at the store © AJ Verstraten

When we came back at Willem’s store all kinds of sandwiches and drinks were waiting for us. Who was also waiting was forum-member Huub, he arrived just to late for the boats. I wanted to meet him for a long time because he is such a walking encyclopaedia of pipes and tobaccos. He was amazed at how many younger people were present at the meeting. “In my time you were seen as old when you put a pipe in your mouth” he said. “Well, we don’t care!” said someone else smiling.

Ed gestures it's ok!

Ed says it’s ok! ¬© K.H. van der Linde

The rest of the afternoon I spent talking to lots of people. And smoking of course. As always you never get to speak all the folks presents but that really does not matter much. There will be other meetings. Who I did talk to was Rob, he showed me an exquisite gold-banded Dunhill billiard and wanted to know from which year it came. And since I am somewhat of a Dunhill-snob I could tell him that. Also present was a guy who brought some (home-blended) whiskies for us to try. A lot of pipe-smokers love whisky. I heard that the man was interested in trying a latakia-blend because he was curious if it resembled the taste of peaty whiskies. He had almost no smoking experience but brought a pipe with him so I fetched my tin of Penzance and filled up his bowl with it. He lit the pipe and I honestly expected the guy to start coughing and seeing green. To my surprise he actually liked the tobacco, he found it very smooth and recognized the peaty flavour. He kept his pipe pretty well lit and began enjoying it even more when the Virginias and orientals kicked in.

Jorg, Ed and a slightly intoxicated (?) Sander at the restaurant © K.H. van der Linde

Jorg, Ed and a slightly intoxicated (?) Sander at the restaurant © K.H. van der Linde

About half past six it was time to go. We shook hands with Willem and his colleagues and thanked them for the wonderful day. Outside the store one part of the forum-folks said goodbye and the other part made their way to restaurant Oriental. I had been there one time before with Mark and Wilfred (Wowbagger). The restaurant has the best spare-ribs in Zutphen and surrounding area. You know, a nice marinade and properly grilled so the bones fall of the meat. Yum-mie! Several other forum members had heard of that visit so we ended up with 15 people there. Luckily Mark had made reservations.. After the meal we all said goodbye and together with Ed I went home full and satisfied.

So thanks to Willem Schimmel & crew and all the folks of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum. I can’t wait until next year!!!

Here are some more pictures of Willem’s store and the meeting:

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On the “Fluisterboot” ¬© K.H. van der Linde

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Beautiful nature on the “Fluisterboot” ¬© K.H. van der Linde

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Walking through Zutphen © K.H. van der Linde

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Zutphen is very beautiful! © K.H. van der Linde

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The store was so busy that some forum-folks decided to sit outside © K.H. van der Linde

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(Other) Rob and Mark © K.H. van der Linde

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A bunch of pipe-smokers © K.H. van der Linde

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Pipes and tobacco for sampling © K.H. van der Linde

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Some Vauen pipes © K.H. van der Linde

IMG_2459

Inside Willem’s store

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Inside Willem’s store

IMG_2469

Rudi and the German gentleman

IMG_2473

Inside Willem’s store

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Inside Willem’s store

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Jan and Rob © K.H. van der Linde

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(Other) Rob, Jorg and Teunis © K.H. van der Linde

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Our forum-photographer Klaas who made most of the pictures

Pleasures of life in Belgium 2013

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.

Jan (forum nickname "Paasei" which means "easter-egg". Noo idea where the name comes from ;)

Jan (forum nickname “Paasei” which means “easter-egg”. Nooo idea where the name comes from ;))

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).

Mark (Deadl0ck)

Mark (Deadl0ck)

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.

Bellekeshoeve at Wuustwezel

Bellekeshoeve at Wuustwezel

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.

Jorg (Sidekickelvis)

Jorg (Sidekickelvis)

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.

Paul (Winslow Collector) and Ga√ętan (Jarnogab) comparing pipes

Paul (Winslow Collector) and Ga√ętan (Jarnogab) comparing pipes

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!

Belgium sausage rolls

Belgium sausage rolls

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.

Pacco and Carl from the movie "Up"

Pacco and Carl from the movie “Up”

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.

Sander (Hagar666) and Sofie

Sander (Hagar666) and Sofie

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.

Janneman staring at the snow

Janneman staring at the snow

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!

Rudi

Pipes and tobacco salesman Rudi

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People chatting away at the beer-bar

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Martin Romijn, his son and another Sander (Culann)

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Robbin and me

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Forum administrator Shaun (Nekker) and Jan

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Me babbling away once again..

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Floris (Godewinus), Peter (Eliminator) and Ed

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Tobacco pouches for sale by Rudi

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Tobacco tins for sale by Rudi

The large room inside the Bellekeshoeve

The large room inside the Bellekeshoeve

Rudi and me talking

Rudi and me talking

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You really should try that whisky!

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Smile before the camera

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Me talking once again

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Cheers!

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Roger (Generaal) and his wife Chris. Lovely couple!

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The lovely ladies of the beer-bar

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Richard (Luys) and Jos (Whitesnake) talking

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There even was a poker-game

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Rob (Robvoorburg) and Sander (Hagar666)

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Jan thanks everyone for coming