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.