I found this half-finished blog while clearing out stuff and tidied it up. It's almost 6 years old and is about the journey to, rather than events of the EM411 meetup that took place at New Year 2005 in Amsterdam. Well you know what they say, better late than never…
I’m standing in a cold dark rain soaked street in Glasgow waiting for the night bus to London. It’s 11 pm and I’ve been standing here for almost 45 minutes; all that time getting progressively wetter. There is a bus shelter but it's fully occupied so I've had to put up with the rain. I look around at the others waiting and it is quite a diverse crowd…there are Australians and I believe New Zealanders as well, the couple in front are Spanish and off to the right, I suspect Turkish. A group of Indians further along, and I heard eastern European voices as well. I’m on my own and I’m casually drifting in and out of other people’s conversations, but I can’t understand a word.
The bus eventually turns up 30 minutes late. The crowd piles toward the bus door, passengers from Aberdeen and Dundee who were already on the bus get off and force their way past, luggage is put into the hold but just when it seems we’re about to leave the driver spots a lonely item of luggage lying on the pavement. The driver asks three times 'who owns the bag?' but no one wants to admit responsibility…eventually there’s arguing at the front of the bus…and someone finally does something about the bag and the bus pulls away.
I can’t hear any Scottish voices nor any English being spoken. I can hear Spanish…I tune in and hear 'Ferrari' repeated, then it becomes clear, 'Italian'. Behind me I can hear Polish or another Eastern European tongue. And what’s that? 'Danke?' someone definitely said 'Danke'. Who invited the Germans? Did they sneak on when I wasn’t looking? Maybe they were already on-board, as the bus arrived fully laden with passengers from north-east Scotland. The journey for me will take around 8 hours, for those from Aberdeen around 12 hours! Ouch.
The Italian couple opposite me are kissing...constantly. Every few minutes I hear the smack of lips. I swear they do it on purpose…deliberately picking the most sexually frustrated person on the bus to sit opposite. I look around and there doesn’t appear to be anyone else kissing…in the corner of my eye I can see them, but he has friends in the row behind and he'll turn and talk to them and then suddenly he’ll place a kiss on his girlfriend’s cheek and then he’s straight back into the conversation as if the kiss was an integral part of the conversation. Perhaps it is, I’ve no idea what they’re talking about, and all I can make out is yet more references to ‘Ferrari’. Maybe he's comparing his girlfriend to a fast Italian car...or a prancing horse.
I’ve started reading, but the book isn’t holding my attention. I have 3 books with me, 2 are packed in the luggage compartment so I’m stuck with what I’ve got…I’m bored, so I’ve started counting the kissy noises…41…42…the man sitting in front looks like David Coulthard…perhaps they're joking about David Coulthard in a Ferrari, mind you if Eddie Irvine can do it...Kiss.
The roof is leaking. drip, drip, kiss. The driver takes the main lights off so I stick on my overhead light to attempt reading again while the rest of the bus is in darkness and everyone is trying to sleep. Even the kissing has stopped! Wind and rain batters the bus. The leaking gets worse. This is going to be a long night. I have a small bottle of Jaggermeister which I take out and start drinking in the hope it will knock me to sleep as I really don’t want to be awake for the next 7 hours…¾ way through the bottle and I need to pee but the toilet on board is out-of-order. I’ll compose myself until we stop…10 minutes pass…20 minutes becomes 30, this can’t be good for my bladder, I ask the driver if he’ll stop…he says we’ll be stopping ‘soon’.
Another 20 minutes later we stop. We switch drivers; the new driver announces that he is “Magic Danny”. No one is allowed off to pee instead a man comes on to look at the toilet but says there is nothing wrong with it. So I’m first in. A fat woman tries to push her way in while I’m peeing. She goes in once I’m finished and then as I’m back in my seat she walks past me to the driver, apparently the toilet is broken…don’t look at me! I didn’t do anything! We make a proper toilet stop this time at the next motorway service station, which adds more time to the journey…
I fall asleep listening to a Yann Tiersen CD…but I’m awoken by the sound of my CD player crashing against the floor and smashing apart. It must have been loud; people are looking at me as I pick up my broken CD player…either that or I was talking, or worse singing in my sleep.
The Jaggermeister is down to the last 1/3 but I’ve only slept for about an hour and am wide-awake as we come into London. The bus stops and “Magic Danny” announces that we’ve arrived on time thanks to his “superb” driving skills! Pfft, that was nothing; bring on the 9-hour journey back home!
At Victoria railway station I meet up with Chris (Zanf) and we go back to his flat. In the evening we meet up with Eric (Lowlifi), his girlfriend Rebecca and her friend Daniella in Chandos pub near Trafalgar square. Later that evening we go to Tower Hill and are introduced to Daniella’s extended family who are all American but are staying in Cambridge and together we go for an Indian meal in Brick lane.
In the morning one of Chris’ flatmates drives us to Stansted airport, we check in and go for coffee and a bite to eat. I’m looking forward to the flight. This will be the first time I’ve been anywhere other than Glasgow for New Year. I've been listening out for flight announcements but there's been none. The flight leaves at 1:15 and we realise that time has crept up fast and it is now 1:00. The screens say the flight is now boarding and we realise that we're miles from the gate. I've never flown from Stansted before and wasn't aware that a train was required to get to the gates. We hop on the next train, run up the escalator and along the corridor and arrive bang on 1:15 but the gate has already closed and they refuse to let us board even though we can see the plane on the ground from the window.
We are told to wait and someone will speak to us about putting us on another flight. No one comes, we ask again; we’re told someone will be with us soon. Time passes 1 hour and 15 minutes later someone meets us and takes us back to the check-in. There are no more flights to Amsterdam from Stansted, but there is one from Luton, but it leaves in just over an hour. We’ll never make it…I’ve we’d been told that immediately instead of wasting 75 minutes we could've made it. No matter, we book on flights for the following day and Rebecca has a plan.
After trying various credit cards, coins and numerous numbers Rebecca finally gets through to Daniella and it’s decided that we’re going to Cambridge for the night, and to spend New Year there.
We get on the next bus to Cambridge and take a taxi to the address Daniella has given us…but then we realise that she neglected to give us a street number! Luckily Chris spots Daniella’s uncle in one of the windows. Rebecca chaps the window and then we wait for someone to appear at the door…nobody comes, then we realise that the entrance to the flat is actually round the corner and we've been chapping someone else's door. It transpires that some of Daniella’s family have already left so there’s a room with 5 beds which is free for us to use, complete with fridge full of food, which would only have been thrown out anyway!
I email the hostel telling them we’ll be a day late…I’ve already amended the original booking as Martin/Filarion pulled out (so asked for only 4 beds instead of 5) but then Pietro/Pierlu and his friend were going to come (so I asked for 6 beds) but they couldn't make it either but Rebecca thought she could persuade Daniella to come so I asked for 5 beds again...
We make some dinner from the mountain of food left in the fridge and head out to see what exciting nightlife Cambridge has to offer. In the process we even manage to witness drunken a fight between toffs. After a few pubs we eventually end up in a club called the Fez. It was shit. It was just like New Year in Glasgow.
The following day we awake early. There's a number for a taxi company pinned to the wall but it ain’t working, we’re running late (again) so we run through town and only just catch the bus. Today's departure time is the same as yesterday's and we find ourselves in the queue at the gate at the exact same time as when we arrived the previous day only this time we are standing waiting and the queue for check-in is not moving far. Sod's law. While we're waiting an announcement is made asking the stragglers to board...where was the announcement yesterday?!
A mere 30 minutes later and we've touched down in Amsterdam Schipol. We buy 2nd class train tickets and board one of double-decker trains to central station and arrive at our hostel in the red light district located next door to sex show and on the same street as the cock fountain where I say to the man at reception “Hi, I booked a room, we were supposed to arrive yesterday but…”
“Ah, Mark Murphy!” the man laughs. I explain how we booked a room for 5 people but now we only need a room for 4 and if we can pay for a 4-bed room instead. He says he’ll have to speak to his boss. He phones his boss, he talks away in Dutch…”Mark Murphy” he says while looking over at us “yes, MARK MURPHY!” he emphasizes. We get a 4-bed room and he knocks some money off the original 5-bed room price.
Over the next few days we did the usual tourist things, like visit Anne Frank's House (moving but I can see where Ricky Gervais is coming from regarding his bad taste 'nazis were rubbish' joke!), the Van Gogh Museum (very busy), the Rijksmuseum (also very busy) and we went on a canal boat trip, although there are different companies running them and I think we picked the worst one, highlights included "on your right is the Mayor of Amsterdam's house...from 1984 to 87" We also paid a visit to the indie film theatre and asked the woman on the desk if there were any films in English or with English subtitles. She said there was only 1, a movie called “The eye of the day”, in Dutch but with English subtitles, so we agreed to come back when it was showing...but when the time came once again we were running late so we caught a taxi but the driver didn’t know where the movie theatre was so he dropped us off at the wrong end of Vondelpark, we then ran through the park but by the time we got there we’d missed the first 15 minutes of the film, no big deal we thought but then it quickly dawned on us that the film was actually in Indonesian with *Dutch* subtitles. I could only pick out a few discernable words like “Fuck you.” But other than that I’ve no idea what was going on. As soon as the film finished all the subtitles were in English, perhaps the woman on the desk only caught the end credits before.
As if we hadn’t already tortured ourselves enough we went back to the hostel and watched “The Gathering” starring Christian Ricci, the film was dubbed into German so once again we had no idea what was going on. Regardless we all concluded that it was crap.
Anyway, onto the EM-meet itself!
We met in the Abraxas Coffee Shop, where I was ID’d by the same bouncer at the door pretty much every time I went in and out. Myself, Zanf, Lowlifi (and Rebecca), KidQuaalude (and Jenny), Akida (and girlfriend), Cbit (and Esme) and Raapie who even brought along a guitar were there and the mysterious Jajah appeared briefly and Zanf brought a few mates along who also happened to be in Amsterdam. Most of us had a stint at laptop DJing but I thought that being a coffee shop they would have wanted…well, something laid back, maybe a bit trippy…stoner music if you will, I intended to play a lot of DJ krush, but we got a few complaints from the manager that the music wasn’t fast enough…'as it helps the staff work'…I think they wanted trance like the majority of Amsterdam bars. Why anyone who is getting stoned out their face would want to listen to trance is beyond me, but well, there ya go…so I made a fair amount of mistakes and thought I was a pretty poor DJ but the doorman who ID’d me gave me the thumbs up and one of the girl’s who worked there asked me if I fancied DJing at a bar she worked at in a few days time, I would’ve loved to but had to decline as I had a flight in 2 days time to catch…
PS Despite staying in the 'red light district' we'd seen a lot of blue lights. Cbit explained what this was, basically if you see one, don't go in! Unfortunately I also forgot my camera so no photos from me this time...