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About A Week: An Anxious Time

Peter Hinchliffe experiences acute anxiety on his first visit to Amsterdam.

We’re sailing into Rotterdam on a sunny morning, sipping coffee, munching croissants.

Hey, this is good coffee. Think I’ll have another cup. And why not a third? It isn’t every day that you get to sail on the world’s biggest luxury ferry boat.

No sooner is the third cup drained than the boat is tying up at the quayside. Out through the arrivals hall. My wife nods discreetly, indicating a toilet. I shake my head.

It’s only an hour by road to Amsterdam according to the holiday brochure. Let’s make sure we get a seat on the bus.

Off we go, heading north on he motorway. Within two miles we’re in a traffic jam. Stop, go, crawl, stop, go crawl… Grief! This road is worse than the M62.

An hour goes by, and we are still dozens of kilometres short of our destination. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that third coffee. No problem though. There’s a toilet on the bus.

Eventually Joyce scurries down the narrow stairs leading to it. Within half a minute she’s back in her seat.

“That was quick,’’ I say.

“Can’t use it,’’ she says. “Notice on the door.’’

Oh dear, oh dear! I definitely shouldn’t have had that third coffee. Or the second.

Time to concentrate the mind. Think of a desert. A blazing sun. But what’s this? A spring bubbling up from the hot sand…

Quickly, look out of the window. And everywhere there’s water. Dykes, canals, rivers…

I try to imagine dusty old libraries, the surface of the Moon where rain never falls. But a picture of the River Calder in flood perversely intrudes. A vision of water splishing and splashing across Steanard Lane, Mirfield.

Now we’re in Amsterdam, stopped at a red traffic light. The next light is also at red, and the next…

All right, I’ll admit it. I’ll sign my name to any confession, but first let me go to…

Ah, here at last! Amsterdam station. Time to disembark. We grab our cases and hurry through the tunnel leading to the main booking hall, with the taxis and trams out front. And there at last is an arrow pointing up a staircase, and the much anticipated sign.

WC.

“You go,’’ I say. “I’ll watch the cases.’’

Greater gallantry hath no man than to accept a place at the back of the queue when the need is dire.

Eventually it’s my turn. I scramble towards the gents. There’s a turnstile. A woman collecting money.

“How much?’’ I ask, fumbling for my cash.

“Twenty-five.’’

I put a 25 note in front of her and hurry inside On my way out I suddenly realise that I‘ve handed over 25 guilders instead of 25 cents - and the woman who accepted the note is no longer at the cash desk.

I’ve just paid the equivalent of £8 for a - for a sixteenth letter of the alphabet.

Never mind. It was worth every cent.

This happened in pre-Euro days. We’re hoping to visit the Netherlands again. Now how much is 25 Euros in pounds sterling?

On the other hand I could keep well clear of he coffee pot on the Pride of Rotterdam ferry.


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