Humble Beginnings part 1.

Young me with a pipe.

As far as I know I always had a fascination for pipe smoking, even in my younger years. I think because of 2 family members and the father of a life long friend of me who practised the “art”.

An uncle (who I really looked up to) of me smoked pipe. He was (and still is) a very intelligent man and studied anatomical pathology which he practised at the  hospital in Groningen in the far North of The Netherlands. Being a well respected and well earning doctor he lived together with his wife and some dogs in a large house in a picturesque town nearby the hospital.
As a kid my parents and me visited him once every 2 years and for me it was a big happening every time. I grew up in the fast urbanizing town of Uden in the South of The Netherlands. The journey to the peaceful and quiet North with it’s still almost unspoiled nature felt like going to another country.
My uncle and his wife spend their evenings reading books, painting and listening to classical music. They did not have television and that fact flabbergasted me as a child. No TV?? Whaaat?? I can still remember my uncle sitting on the sofa, fuming away on his pipe (often a straight billiard) while at full volume listening to The Bolero of Maurice Ravel. I was impressed.
He did take his pipes everywhere together with his favourite tobacco: Amphora. Walking, cycling, sitting, I always saw him smoking.

Another member of my family who smoked the pipe was my grandfather. Well, actually he was not really a member of the family. He married my grandmother several years after my real grandfather (who I never knew) died.
My grandfather looked like a relaxed kind of guy to me who enjoyed life. Besides smoking pipes and cigars he also liked to drink Dutch gin once in a while. Typical things to do for old men in those years.
Because of his pipe smoking I always called him “opa van de pijp” (grandpa with the pipe) and it was from him that I got my first pipes: A plastic Falcon rip-off and a nice small pipe with a metal cap on it. See the picture below.

First pipe given to me by my grandfather.

First pipe given to me by my grandfather.

Of course I was way to young to smoke but playing with the pipes was fun. Nowadays people would be shocked when they see a kid playing with a pipe but in those days it was pretty normal. Unfortunately I do no longer have the pipes my grandfather gave me. The Falcon rip-off got lost and the one with the metal cap broke and I threw it away..
I can’t remember which tobacco my grandfather smoked but I guess something like Voortrekker or Clan which were very common tobaccos in those days.

The father of my long time friend

The father of my long time friend.

The father of a life long friend of mine also smokes pipe. As a kid I visited them often but I can’t remember him smoking in the house. Probably because his then wife (he is divorced now) hates smoking. But the times that I saw him puffing away he smoked Amphora in a straight billiard.
Nowadays I don’t see him very often any more because he moved to Brasil a long time ago. But just a couple of days ago I met him at my friend’s place. He is moving to America for a couple of years because he found a job there and had to finish off some business here in The Netherlands.
Of course the subject of the conversation soon steered towards pipes and tobacco. To my surprise he never liked the typical Dutch tobaccos. “Blah, too sweet!” he said. “But why did you always smoke Amphora?” I asked. “Ha! Because it was the cheapest tobacco that was widely available.” Later I asked him about his pipes. I remembered him smoking Big Ben pipes. “Oh I don’t care about brands. I just care about the shape. I want a straight billiard with a large bowl. Preferably as cheap as possible hahaha!” Later he asked me if I could mail him some good online tobacconists in the States. “You will be delighted when you order there” I said. “In the States the assortment of natural tobaccos is far better than in The Netherlands. And besides that, it is a LOT cheaper then here..”. So yesterday I mailed him all the info he wanted. Very interesting because he can buy tobaccos for me in the States that I can’t buy from here hehehe.

This story continues in Humble Beginnings part 2.