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: €26.50 (± $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!
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gradually 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.
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.