20. Peer Gynts Morning, an Advocaat with Grolsch Chaser and Trim the Cat.

The Princess Seaway is a ship. Also a ferry and vehicle carrying eleven deck monster that power forges across the North Sea. The sea the Vikings travelled. We leave Newcastle UK for Amsterdam’s Port, The Netherlands. The lower two decks are where the brr brrm’s are, then three vehicle decks chokas with cars, campers, semi trailers, tankers and I hope thats not fuel and a tad of accommodation where paupers, us, are on deck five. Fortunately, its above sea level. The upper decks, six thru eleven is where all the wizz bangs are and the ‘Commodore’ cabins for the well heeled. Its not that busy, just truck drivers, tourists, weekend holiday makers and us. The ship can take 1,250 passengers but we seem to have far less than that. Theres lots of room at the long bar and tables empty. Take your pick. Its an overnight 5pm to 9.45am arrival in Holland, a total 267 nautical miles from Newcastle to IJmuiden, Amsterdam’s port, the fourth busiest in Europe. The ‘IJ’ part refers to a former large bay which now forms part of the port. Thanks Des.

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Small island with WWII fortifications at entry to Amsterdam’s Port or ‘Hook’.

Thankfully for Sue, it was a calm crossing with swell a max half metre. My years muckin about in small boats at Mullaloo, Exmouth and the Harvey Estuary, have provided me with sea legs and a sea stomach. Not so my Susie.

Why is it that once a company/firm has you captive for a period of time, airlines, shipping, movies, the price of every bloody thing skyrockets. Here at the semi-sumptuous on-board lounge, ‘The North Sea Bistro’, some middle aged ‘boys’ are getting fired up on tankards of beer costing 14AUD each. A G & T costs 15 AUD and a Jamies 13 AUD. Peanuts, small packet, 5 AUD. The salt in them makes your tum tum and mind want a G & T!!! Oh, you want a cup of tea, thats 5.73 AUD. Then theres the Duty Free shop, ha ha, taking up half a deck where one can offload their English Pounds, Irish Euro’s or Scottish Breeks for some whisky, biccies or chippies. The lovely Sue and I came prepared, well this was Sue’s idea as I failed the ‘idea’ test oinks ago, with a huge bowl of salad, water bottle, a bottle of pre-mixed Highland 10 year old, yay, biccies, bananas and other delights suitable for Desmond’s Gut Orchestra. I like it when that Orchestra plays Peer Gynt’s Morning rather than Tchaikovsky’s War and the March of the Mis-Firing Exhaust Pipe. Sorry Mum, thats alright sonny boy, but make sure you have a clean hanky and did you wash behind your ears? ‘Yes mum’.

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Amsterdam’s Port with busy industry. The fourth busiest port in Europe.

We are entering Holland, oops, The Netherlands. In the night I spied heaps of trawlers their lights twinkling as they contribute to the demise of the oceans as its food chain breaks down. Then a long, low slung freighter or two. Thankfully we avoided them. In the early light, must be close to the coast, there on the port side off a bit, are 37 wind turbines only about 70% of them doing any work the rest having a sook. I must report this to Don Quixote as he was involved at tilting windmills.

Approaching port, theres long long sea walls, their Holland end disappearing into low coastal dunes covered in weeds, a small island with WWII fortifications, a wide as wide river or estuary then into a yawning murky charcoal river. Ships, tugs, oil rigs having a rest, factories belching smoke, industry and what looks like works to build movable seas doors to keep out the coming Armageddon of flood. No hills or mountains to see but ominous grey white topped peaky clouds low on the horizon a setting for the Himalayas. Berthed, we bid the the Princess Seaway Ta Ta and enter a long rectangular tube as rain starts to fall. Its fair crowded as the ship passengers move forward a few paces, stop, forward a few paces, stop, then a left turn where just ahead is an escalator.

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Massive Oil Rig having R & R. There’s ant sized humans walking about on the rig.

Hans is in charge here and he has his arm out preventing anybody getting on his escalator as theres no room down the bottom where we can see Gretel with a stern look on her face, arms crossed. She has a natty uniform on, whereas Hans has a Hi-vis Yellow jacket. No stairs, no lift, its take your heavy large suitcases, backpacks and trunks down the escalator. Sorry elderly citizens and ladies with children and prams. Right ho Hans, no prob. We do, down we go, Gretel puts out a lazy arm, that way, turn a corner, join another queue, shuffle forward, stop, shuffle and theres Coos and Dirk lazily checking passports. We pass the Dutch passport test, then we are outside where people are milling around as we wait for our pre booked, pre paid bus ride into the city. By bloody cripes, the facilities, the queue, the wait outside, its drizzling, the crowd is getting bigger as more people come through from the Ship and we all wait. Forty five minutes later buses appear. Theres been a traffic jam so we are told. Bullshit. Its a stuff up. Sorry Mum. Thats alright sonny boy I wont tell your father but you will have to do the washing up. Cripes Mum, cant Snake Boots* do it. No sweetie pie. Alright then Mum.

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Amsterdam’s Central train station. Busy busy busy.

Astrid, the lovely Dutch girl who came to Oz land oinks ago on a holiday, had the excellent good fortune to marry a strapping Oz lad up in the wilds of the Gascoyne, they then followed a fortuitous bread crumb trail south to a new life. But Astrid, Astrid, Holland needs you back for a month or two to get these port facilities organised. Get rid of Hans, Gretel, Coos and Dirk, take over the bus company, sack its directors, instal lifts, a staircase, splash a bit of paint about, tulips in vases, issue visitors with clogs and a tulip shaped shot glass of Advocaat followed by a Grolsch chaser. Yay.

Five buses eventually arrive all at once with grumpy bus drivers. It seems as though they were dragged back on duty when they thought they were off for the day to go out in their clog sneakers, Klepbroeken pants and drink Grolsch with their cobbers at the Windmill Inn.

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Cute buildings, trees, big ones and they seem to be Plane Trees.

Finally our disgruntled crowd of near a thousand are off. Us to Central Station from where we need to catch a train to our hotel some k’s out of central Amsterdam. Its a nice comfy ride, perched up high, passing ponds, lakes, canal after canal some higher than the road contained by earth banks or walls, boats, hundreds of push bikes, scooters and tiny tot electric cars with grandma going shopping. Its all fairly neat, tidy, orderly, lots of green damp fields, cows, more canals, houses, steep roofed, built of then 50mm high red or cream bricks all pleasant to the eye. Trees, parks and as we approach central Amsterdam, the houses are cheek by jowel, two three storeys, then four to five, apartment blocks, retail premises, bicicles tearing along some with children perched on the handlebars, scooters weaving between the bikes at a fearsome speed both on designated pathways with abutting walkways for pedestrians. Trams, trucks, cars its busy. But the overall impression is, ‘We Like’. Well done Dutchies. The housing and streets are organised as is everything else all in its designated place all doing their bit to keep it orderly but gee, all the water about the place is a bit of concern. But wait, theres flood mitigation locks, lots of them and I guess thats a way of life here with North Sea storm surges, rain flooding and climate change because Mother Earth, Gaia, is angry at us.

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Higgly Piggly street scene in Amsterdam. I love Higgly Piggly.

The Netherlands, do not call it Holland, has a population of 17.02 million crowded into an area of 5,488km square which includes ‘water’. Tasmania has an area of 68,401 km square with only 515,000 Tasmaniacs including a tribe called ‘Relatives’. My brother in law is one of this clan. He barracks for the Bulldogs and stands in a circle when excited with his mates and sings, ‘Zippedee Doo Dar Zippedee Yay’. Otherwise he’s rather sensible as he drinks whisky and goes fishing.

Amsterdam City has a population of 851,373 and in the wider metro area, 2,410,960 million. Its fair crowded in fact overall, the country has 1,200 people per K square. Australia has 3.1 people per K square. Amsterdam’s population is made up of 47% Dutch, 9% Morocco, 7% Suriname they descendants of contract workers from the Dutch East Indies on the isle of Java, 5% Turkish then a liquorice allsorts of nationalities including several Aussies adding a bit of cultural diversity in the whisky dens. Amsterdam, name comes from the River Amsel which as rivers go, is a johnny come lately as it was only formed when those early people started messing with the marshy deltas hydraulics without consulting a Tea Leaf reader. After a bridge and dam were built across the river near a fledging town 3 or 4 centuries ago, Amster-dam came into being.

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Susie looking a tad chilly. The canal water is a murky brown and does not look healthy. Unlike Sue.

There’s a King Willem-Alexander but the real seat of power is at the Hague where many international institutions are. The highest point in the country is at 55 metres above sea level and the lowest 7 metres below sea level. About this location land and housing is relatively cheap but you may get a sinking feeling. Way back in the 10th century, early Dutch people wanting more arable land, drained extensive areas. Over time this caused extreme soil shrinkage causing the land in some places to lower by 15 metres. Wow. A few centuries later, wiser heads built extensive emergency dykes to keep tidal/storm surges and flooding at bay. And that work is still going on.

And, dear ol Oz was known for centuries as ‘New Holland’. This after the earlier moniker given to us on 25 October 1616 by Dirk Hartog of ‘Eendrich’ land. Dirk accidentally bumping into Oz, fortunately in day time. He should have made a left hand turn earlier to head for Batavia. Dirk was not impressed but ate lots of shark in Shark Bay which he named. He left a metal plate on a pole on his island. This is now in West Oz. Dirk beat Captain Cook by over 150 years.

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A moody Amsterdam. A bloke named Des took this shot.

Abel Tasman also left us with Tasmania. He was a Dutchman too. Go Dutch. Then, a Froggy came by in 1772, Louis St Alouarn and left two bottles on Dirk Hartog Island holding documents claiming the land for France. Alas, when the West Oz Museum team discovered these two bottles, only in the last twenty years, the parchment inside had deteriorated and thus a war between Frogies and Ockers was avoided. We could be having Ham and Cheese Croissants for brekky, smoke Gauloises, have dogs called Floffy, have dins of garlic snails, frog legs and affairs of the heart for dessert. Our leading actor would be Gerard Depardieu who is France’s answer to Sir Les Patterson. Gerard has wee wee’s on aeroplanes without going to the on board toilet. A loose cannon if ever there was one. Perhaps Tony Abbot should have given him a knighthood as well as Phil the Greek. They are all bloody stark crazy mad. Only Sue, you and I are sane and at times, I’m borderline. Matthew Flinders gave us the name ‘Australia’. Theres a great statue of Matthew in Sydney and just behind him, crouched on a window cill, is Matthews cat ‘Trim’. They circumnavigated New Holland together, the first to do so. Matthew died aged 36 after those pesky French arrested and imprisoned him for oinks when he should have been back in England being feted and spending time in a rose garden with his wife. How good was Matthew and Trim. Get rid of Perths new ‘Elizabeth Quay’ and re-name it ‘Trims Waters’.

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A meeting or a ‘murder’ of bikes. Each one chained or secured to a ‘something’. I checked.

I dreamt about Amsterdam’s bikes last night wanting to know why they do not wear helmets. Well, its not required, not legislated, not law so they dont. In Amsterdam there are 223 million bike journeys per year with 3 to 7 fatal accidents per annum. Fair enough, seems reasonably safe no doubt due to the 767 k’s of cycleways with 881,00 bikes using them. But if you witness the bike mayhem with 17 year old Wilhelm steaming along, his girlfriend Astrid perched on his shoulders, bikes with children squatting on handlebars, bikes with baby carriages in front and behind, pizza delivery bikes, rickshaws, scooters, vespas and granny in her small car come fully enclosed gopher, its obvious that Einsteins Law of Relativity relating to speed, mass and black holes, together with Newtons Law of Inverse Square Universal Gravitation, do not apply here. Murphy, an early Dutch mathematician and bike path designer, had a hand in it all. I think somebody in the bureaucracy has fudged those figures on bike accidents.

I have to go now as I hear the drumming of Clogs on concrete as Gretel appears with our Advocaat and a Grolsch chaser – yum and yay.

Ooroo from Sue 😊 and Des 🤪 *Snake Boots is my brother.

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Another ‘murder’ of bikes. This at Amsterdam’s Central train station. Just out of piccy, is a five story bike park chocas with them.