Mike's Amsterdam Diary

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Saturday, 9th April

After some discussion, it was decided to play Reardon's round on Saturday 9th April. A handy choice, as it was Amal's birthday and therefore we could go out for a meal afterwards to celebrate and for the winner of the pool tournament to reveal his destination. The day started with myself and David at his house. We caught the 9.22a.m. train into London and met Chris at Reading. He arrived armed with coffee and muffins for the three of us and we continued our journey to Starbucks in Leicester square.

We arrived first, but were soon joined by Dave and Rupert. After chilling and discussing the possibility for a diplomatic immunity round in the mission 10 draw, we moved on to a chilling location outdoors in Russell Square. We drew for teammates in the pool tournament. Chris was drawn to partner David, I was drawn with Dave and Rupert was drawn with Steve (represented by Amal).

At about 1.30p.m. we had a phone call from Amal to inform us he'd finished work. We headed over to Rupert's office to begin the tournament. Discovering that Rupert's boss Phil was working there, we went to a nearby pub briefly and ordered some chips and a smorgasbord dish. Amal turned up after about 20 minutes and we returned to the office to play the pool tournament.

In the first match, myself and Dave played Chris and David. Matches would be best of three racks. In the first rack, a fluke on the black by Dave put us 1−0 up. In the second rack, a couple of missed opportunities on the black by Chris and David gave Dave and myself another victory to wrap up the match 2−0.

In match two, Rupert and Amal took on Chris and David. Chris and David began to play much better and soon wrapped up the match 2−0.

Dave and myself then took on Amal and Rupert. A further 2−0 result in our favour followed, to put myself and Dave through to Reardon's pool tournament final.

The final would be best of five racks. After a relatively speedy first two racks put me 2−0 up, a long drawn out third rack was finally won by me with only the black ball on the table to give myself victory over Dave.

With the tournament concluded, we settled down for a six player game of micromachines and discovered what Rupert and his office mates called "Flame trail". Rupert eventually won, with Dave and David hot on his heels. I finished a respectable 4th with Chris and Amal failing to grasp the steering and never really getting off the mark.

We headed back to Amal's house before going out to the O2 Centre for dinner. Amal led us into an American-style diner and we settled down with burgers and fries. I then revealed my choice for being the winner Reardon's round. I selected Geneva. It had been my own choice last time and I went for it for that reason—I didn't want to limit my own options further and I felt it would be a good destination. Dave shortly left to attend a party and, after the remainder of us spent a while chilling in the nearby Wetherspoons, we returned to Amal's house, watched a bit of the Masters golf and then punched the sack.

Wednesday, 18th May

The day before the Colonel's break would normally be a chilling day but, with lots to do at work, David and I had decided that we would miss the chilling day for Amsterdam. Therefore, the day before the break found me at work, slaving away behind my desk. I had a brief communication with Dave, Jon, Steve and Rupert during the day, to arrange meeting in Amsterdam the following day. At about 4p.m., I decided that I'd had enough, and I went home. I was excited about the prospects for the Colonel's break and was keen to get myself out for a run before Chris and David arrived. I set out for a decent run across the fields, arriving back pretty exhausted.

Back at home, I readied myself for a rehearsal for "The Noble Spaniard". I received a phone call from David to say that he was waiting for Chris to arrive and they would be on their way to the Star Inn in readiness for meeting me. I headed off to the rehearsal and, after a brief chat with the director, it was agreed that I'd be able to leave early to pack, as I didn't have much to do that night.

I eventually got away just after 9p.m. and headed home. I went upstairs to pack and about half an hour later Chris and David arrived. The Amsterdam experience had started for me. I'd previously told David that I'd discovered I'd never seen one of the episodes of "The Office", so we settled down to watch that episode, before deciding it was time to punch the sack. With a flight at just after six in the morning, I set an alarm for 3.15a.m. As I drifted off to sleep I could hardly contain my excitement that the Colonel's break was about to begin.

Thursday, 19th May

I woke up at 3.15a.m. and hurried through the shower. David and Chris followed suit whilst I prepared coffee. Fortunately, as we were flying from Coventry, the journey to the airport would only take about 20 minutes. Once we were all prepared, we left my house and wandered over to my car. We climbed in and set off to the airport with "That Thing You Do!" accompanying our journey on the radio. As we pulled off the A45 towards Coventry airport, David took charge of the directions towards the airport. We soon arrived and gave our details to a guy waiting at the airport entrance. He issued us with a parking pass and told us to turn around and drive back out to one of their designated car parks. We followed his instructions and found ourselves at a large car park at the other side of the airport. After a brief discussion with a security guard there, we drove in, parked the car and made for a bus to take us to the airport. The airport turned out to be pretty crowded, with several people clearly taking the flight to Majorca which left at around the same time as our's. David took a quick pot stop and then the three of us joined the queue to check in for the Amsterdam flight. Once we'd deposited our bags we wandered outside and around the corner to the only cafe. We couldn't believe the size of Coventry airport - it was little more than a pair of small warehouses. The cafe was crowded and we were lucky to find a circular table in the corner. We all got it coffees whilst I bought a muffin and the others ordered bacon baguettes. A huge delay followed, whilst the woman at the counter served about ten different groups with their bacon baguette orders. We were beginning to get a little worried that we would miss the flight, but eventually David and Chris' food arrived. Once they'd finished, we decided to go through security to the departure area. There was a brief delay whilst we bustled past an annoying woman who was queueing up with a pushchair to get through security whilst her husband was still checking in, but we eventually made it through into a very crowded departure room. We wandered over to the shop and loitered around looking at some books whilst we waited to board the flight.

Boarding was called and we found ourselves at the front of the queue for the flight. We boarded our plane - David took a window seat, I slid into the middle and Chris took the aisle seat. The flight only took about 50 minutes and we happily passed the time by getting in a round of coffees whilst Chris did a crossword. We soon landed at Amsterdam Schipol airport, slightly earlier than planned. However, at this point we realised that the airport was not in sight. After about fifteen minutes of taxiing around deserted runways, crossing over roads and streams, the airport came into view. David and I speculated that budget airlines were forced to use that runway and it was actually part of a completely different airport several miles away, thus explaining how such a cheap airline could afford to run a service to Schipol in the first place. Eventually we disembarked and walked towards baggage reclaim. We passed a bizarre statue, with a couple of figures sitting back to back on the floor, descended an escalator and found ourselves in the baggage reclaim area. I went to take a pot stop and discovered that the urinals in the airport had flies painted onto them, which I thought was pretty strange.

I rejoined David and Chris and we wandered over to our baggage carousel to wait for our bags. Whilst we were waiting, we decided to make use of the train ticket machine nearby to purchase tickets to central Amsterdam. A young French couple were in front of us and they put some money in and got a single ticket out. They couldn't understand what was going on, so they asked us. We didn't know either, but a Dutch guy behind us looked at it and told them they'd been shafted - the ticket they were holding was simply a receipt for the two tickets they'd bought and the machine had not printed their tickets at all. After the French couple got shafted, we decided to ignore the machine and buy tickets elsewhere. Once we'd picked up our bags, we left baggage reclaim and wandered over to the train area. Chris succeeded in purchasing three tickets to central Amsterdam. We noticed, with amusement, that the French couple were also attempting to buy tickets at the same place. We wandered down a long conveyertron ramp to the train platform. Whilst we were waiting for the train, I investigated the chocolate machine, deciding to purchase a packet of mints called "King". They looked very similar to Extra Strong Mints. I shared them around and we discovered that they weren't very strong. The train soon arrived and we climbed on board to take the short, fifteen minute, journey into the centre of Amsterdam. On route, we passed a prison with prisoners exercising in the yard outside. Eventually our train arrived and we disembarked, went down an escalator, turned right and wandered up a ramp to exit the train station. We soon discovered that the station had been turned into a building site. Fortunately I had a fair idea how to find our hotel, so I directed David and Chris past the tram area, across a road and down a very busy (and somewhat tacky) street. We passed the Sexmuseum on the right, promising to visit it later on. I led David and Chris across the road and down a side street which seemed to be packed with tramps (and, randomly, a sofa in the middle of the pavement), before we turned right into the street with our hotel on it. I spied the hotel nearby and we soon found ourselves in the lobby of the Hotel Terminus, our venue for the next three days. Two of our rooms were ready, so we picked up the keys and wandered to the third floor to the first of the rooms. The staircases were very narrow and we all had to duck down on the way up, but the room seemed pretty decent. David decided that he and Chris would be taking that room, unless the other one we had was much nicer. Chris suggested heading out for breakfast, so we left the room, deciding to call in briefly at the second room on route. It was some distance away on the second floor, but when we found it David was very relieved he'd selected the other room - this one had a very strong smell of smoke. It was the other twin room, so Rupert and Dave would have to take it, as it had already been decided that Steve, Jon and I would take the triple room. We left the hotel and walked towards the centre. Two doors down, we passed a hotel called the Hotel Ben. I suggested going in for a shower but David pointed out that that would preclude me from having a cocktail later in the day. As we walked into the centre, I asked David to tell me again about the hash bars. He told me that it was legal to buy it, legal to own it and if I was a proprietor of a hash bar it was legal to sell it. He then completed the Pulp Fiction quote to much hilarity between the two of us.

After a short walk, we found ourselves in Dam square. The Royal Palace was to our left and a war memorial was to our right. We took a couple of photos, before heading towards Madame Tussauds in front of us and walking down a street to the right of it. It was a busy shopping street and we wondered whether we'd find any places for food. David spied the Golden Arches and suggested going there, but I looked down a side street on the right and spied a potential candidate restaurant called Pannenkokken. We checked it out - it was almost empty but looked reasonable. If the name was anything to go by it was likely that the pancakes would be pretty good. We went inside and were greeted by a waiter who bore a distinct resemblance to the darts player Raymond Van Barneveld. He told us to take a seat so we selected a table by the window. I slid into a seat facing the restaurant. David sat opposite me whilst Chris sat to David's right. We ordered hot chocolates and pancakes all around. David and I opted for the chocolate and cream pancakes whilst Chris went for one with honey. Whilst we were waiting for our order, we decided to text Jon, Rupert and Dave to tell them where we were. Chris went outside to find out the name of the restaurant and we typed out a speedy message giving them directions to the place. Our hot chocolates and pancakes soon arrived and we all agreed that they were pretty fantastic. After a brief discussion about the comedic pancake making rotundatroid talk turned to plans for the day.

We were soon interrupted by the arrival of the next group of Colonel's men. Jon, Rupert and Dave entered the restaurant (which we now referred to as "Barney's" and took seats next to us. We decided upon another round of drinks whilst we discussed our plans. David commented that the "Grand Unified" Experience had begun. Jon appreciated the humour. After a quick pot stop, I requested the bill. When it arrived, David and I noticed that our pancakes came "mit Slagroom". We were aware of Amsterdam's reputation, but were a little surprised that slagrooms were included with all food. We eventually realised that Slagroom was actually whipped cream. It caused much hilarity. We paid up and left Barney's, vowing to return later on during the break. We turned left, walked down an alleyway, turned left again and walked down a wide street. We soon arrived in a little square and stopped briefly to take a photograph of the Little Lucky Leprechaun with a statue of a boy. Once we'd done this, we walked towards a canal in front of us, past a bar called Kilroy's and headed towards a bridge. Several bikes went past us. We observed that lots of them had labels on the front of them which said, "Macbike". We wondered whether McDonald's was doing some sort of promotion in Amsterdam. Crossing the bridge, we turned left again and wandered past a canal side market. There were various souvenir and tulip shops and we spent a little while browsing for mascots. There weren't many options - most of the possibilities seemed to involve clogs. At the end of the path, we crossed another bridge, turned right and found ourselves at the Amstel river. We crossed a very busy road and I commented that the multiple lanes - bike lanes, car lanes and tram lanes - made crossing roads in Amsterdam similar in many ways to playing Frogger. After taking in the view from the bridge, we headed out with the river on our left, over a little bridge and past several cars parked by the side of the Amstel. David pointed out that it would be very easy to push one into the river. We paused for a while to look at a bird making a nest in an old tyre in the river, before arriving at what appeared to be some sort of swing bridge. We relaxed on the bridge whilst Dave took some photos. I offered the King around. Rupert declined, saying that he wasn't hungry. I pointed out that they were just mints, but David agreed that King were indeed very filling. This caused much hilarity as we walked away from the Amstel. Having crossed the river, we walked down a side street away from it, coming to another major road. I noticed a rather weird looking metal sculpture with hair coming out of the top of it to our right. We went to take a look at it, but it didn't appear to be very exciting, so we crossed the road and continued our walk. After another twenty minutes or so, we arrived at the Amsterdam Zoo. It was clearly an expensiveamead, so we crossed the road and walked back towards the centre of Amsterdam. We soon arrived at a small park with a monument in it to people who were killed at Auschwitz during the war. We walked around the park and arrived at the monument, which was actually a large sheet of broken class on the floor. A group of school children arrived so we decided that it was time to move on. Whilst we were deciding where to go, Dave sat down on a bench. David and I noticed that tramps were sat either side of him, so we took a picture. We left the park and wandered over a swing bridge which seemed to jolt every time a tram went over it. As we paused on the bridge, a clocktower bell chimed for 1p.m. and we all came in with a cry of "Well team!"

After a short walk along the road, we decided it was time for lunch. We stopped at a bar on our right and sat outside. Across the road, David noticed a building with "The Holland Experience" written on it. We couldn't believe it. How did they know that the Holland experience was happening? We decided to get our photos taken outside it after lunch. A waitress came out and we got in a round of toasted sandwiches and soft drinks. The sandwiches were okay and we chilled for a while admiring the view. A truck pulled up and two guys began to unload something from the back. Dave spied two traffic cones on the truck ramp and suggested doing a "Stop telling me what to do!" but we decided against it. We got our photos taken in front of "The Holland Experience" and then walked down the side of the nearby canal (with accompanying canalside market) discussing Van der Valk (which was filmed in Amsterdam). I'd been reading about a potential stammtisch location in the guidebook, so after a lengthy walk alongside canals, dodging bikes and engaging in brief diversions to look for traffic cones, we arrived at my suggested stammtisch bar, a place called "Cafe de Jaren". There was seating out the back overlooking a canal and the Amstel river. David, Chris and I took one table by the river whilst the others took another table slightly set back. Jon, Dave and Rupert ordered Malt beer whilst the remainder of us ordered cokes. When the drinks arrived, the boys discovered the malt beer was non-alcoholic. They got another round in relatively quickly, choosing a different kind of beer. The bar was pleasant, but we were unsure of its merits as a stammtisch location, owing to its long distance from the hotel and potential restaurants for the final night meal.

We paid up and left the bar to wander back to the hotel. We decided to head back via the red light district, to see what it was like. Jon guided us there (we expressed surprise that he knew how to find it) and we were soon confronted with a long canal with sex shops on both sides, rather grim looking stage shows advertised everywhere and scantly clad prostitutes stood in windows in various strange poses. We couldn't believe how seedy the place was. We wandered past a couple of punters haggling with some prostitutes and dodged a couple of guys trying to get us to go into a stage show, before heading back towards our hotel. We passed the Hotel Ben and David briefly suggested going in for a cocktail, but the idea was dismissed. Jon and I returned to our room, organising to meet the others in the hotel bar before dinner. I'd found a suitable restaurant in the guidebook called "Haesje Claes" which apparently served traditional Dutch food, so I suggested heading there. Back in the room, I flicked through the television channels and was shocked to discover that there was no block on the porn channels. I expressed concern to Jon and we wondered whether these channels had somehow been activated and we were paying for hard core porn that we didn't want. I rang through to David and Chris' room and they turned on their television. It seemed that they had the same problem. However, David wondered whether it just timed out after a certain length of time. Unwilling to watch these explicit channels to test the idea, I turned over to a movie channel showing "A Series of Unfortunate Events" and watched it for a while. It appeared that David was right - after a few minutes the channel turned itself off.

Once Jon and I had both showered we wandered down to the bar and chilled with some Amstel beer and supporting bowl of nuts. The others soon joined us and once everyone was ready, we headed across to Spuisstraat (just around the corner from Barney's) for dinner in Haesje Claes. We arrived and Chris went in to negotiate a table, but it appeared that they didn't have one ready immediately. We therefore put our names on the waiting list and wandered back down the street to a bar called "Cafe de Koningshut" for a drink whilst our table was prepared. We sat in some chairs outside and a waitress came to take our orders. I got an Apfelkorn, whilst David got a coke and everyone else had beers. We chilled until 8.30p.m. by which time our table was ready. We wandered back to Haesje Claes and were led through one room into another to be allocated a long table by the wall. I sat down opposite Chris, with Rupert to my right and Dave to Rupert's right. Jon sat opposite Dave whilst David sat next to Jon. At this point I had a text message from Steve to say that he'd arrived in Amsterdam and was on his way to the hotel. It appeared that he'd be just in time to have dinner with us. We put our orders in - most of us went for the traditional stamppot for main course, whilst I (and David) went for fish soup for starters. Steve arrived before our starters had been delivered, so he took the seat next to me and put in an order himself. David commented that the "Experience of Everything" had started. Jon again appreciated the humour. The soup turned out to be excellent, but David and I were unimpressed with our red bean stamppot. The meat was okay, but the lack of significant amounts of potato products left us feeling relatively short changed. It appeared that Chris' mixed vegetable stamppot was the best choice. We chilled for a while with coffees, before paying the bill and heading back to Cafe de Koningshut for a final drink. Dave said that he was planning to take the train to a nearby village to see some flower market at around 7a.m. the following morning and wanted to know what our plans were. Rupert suggested that he might go with him depending upon when he got himself out of bed. Chris began to sort out the tabulus and I tried to help him, only to get shouted at for my efforts. I couldn't understand what I'd done wrong and everyone was amazed at Chris for his outburst. He'd put a slight dampener on my evening and I was a little upset as we walked back to the hotel.

After a brief suggestion of a final drink in the Hotel Ben, we returned to the Hotel Terminus and I bade goodnight to the others before returning to my room with Jon and Steve to punch the sack and get some well-earned rest.

Friday, 20th May

I woke up around eight in the morning and, once I'd showered and got dressed, wandered down to breakfast with Steve. David and Chris were already there, examining the breakfast items. The hotel seemed to provide the usual cold buffet items. I picked up a glass and wandered over to the orange juice machine, with Steve just behind me. I filled my glass up, downed it and filled it up again, just to make Steve wait. He was slightly annoyed, as it was reminiscent of a breakfast incident in Oslo. We sat at a table near the door and David said that he'd woken up and immediately wondered whether Dave was on a bus on the way to see the flower market. This caused some hilarity. Jon soon joined us and I tucked into my slices of toast which I'd toasted on the rotating toaster (we discovered it was necessary to put the slices of bread in to the rotating toaster twice to actually get them to toast properly). Rupert and Dave eventually arrived. It appeared that Dave had been too tired to go to the flowers that morning and would join us on our proposed trip to the Hague instead.

Once we'd had breakfast, we left the hotel and walked to the station. After some hesitation, we used the automatic ticket machines and purchased some tickets for the Hague. We discovered that the Dutch called it "Den Haag". Wandering up to the platform, we realised we had a while to wait for the train. David and I noticed a small bloke walking behind us who bore a distinct resemblance to Danny Devito. Dave shouted out "Danny Devito, I love your work!" in a parody of a scene from "Mean Girls". Eventually the train arrived and we were delighted to discover that it was a double decker. We boarded and sat upstairs. The journey to Den Haag took a little over half an hour and we soon found ourselves at the station. We got off the train and walked down the platform. Chris found a side exit and suggested we take it. David and I were unsure as it appeared to be leading us through some sort of dodgy council estate. However, Chris seemed to win the debate so we followed him. We walked through the council estate, across a busy road and turned left towards the centre. As we were walking, Steve, David and I were not sure about the directional ability of Jon and Chris and suspected that dicking around might be taking place. At this point, David said, "I have a letter here from Jon Gair. There's been a lot of dicking around today. If only I had listened to Steve Arnold..." This caused much hilarity. We also began to discuss the fact that Jon would potentially take over tabulus duties from Chris. This brought on the application between the three of us, "You talk the talk, but you do not walk the walk. I.e. You have not completed a full Colonel's break tabulus. However, the guy in charge of the tabulus is a personal friend of mine. Chris you old slag! The Poopmeister General. Have you found someone to help you with the tabulus yet? Don't bother, don't bother. I've got the man here. Has he ever done a tabulus before? He invented the tabulus. Yes, yes, he's completed a tabulus in more than one currency. Okay, I'll get some completed tabuli over to you this afternoon. How is Becky? Has she left you yet? Okay, bye. She has left him, I forgot about that." An early candidate for application of the break had been born. As the applications were flying, Chris turned round to tell us how far it was to the centre, at which point we all came in with, "Did no want to hear that, no!" and proceeded to repeat this at various intervals throughout the day. We soon arrived at some woods on our right, so we decided to take a quick detour. We found a stream with a bridge over it, so David and I stopped for a game of poo sticks. After we'd completed this, we had a big seven player game. I found a massive log to use, whilst Jon picked up a leaf and David uprooted a rather large weed. Jon was soon declared the winner whilst David's weed appeared to sink and plant itself in the stream. We continued to walk through the wood, eventually arriving back at the road. We crossed over it and walked down a side street before arriving in a little park with a statue of a woman sitting in front of a marble monument. After a couple of photos, we turned right, walked along a gravely path and left the park. We spotted the South African embassy, so crossed the road to walk past it. At the next junction, we stopped to discuss what we intended to do. After some debate, we decided to catch the tram to the beach, so we made for the tram stop across the road and caught the next tram. Dave and Chris bartered for some tickets with the driver whilst the remainder of us sat down. We disembarked at the seafront and walked to the beach. There were numerous restaurants on the edge of the beach so, whilst Steve went to buy a postcard, the remainder of us found a place for lunch. We discovered a restaurant called Paviljoen Golfslag and it became immediately obvious where we would be eating. We walked to the edge of the beach and acquired two tables. Jon, Steve and Dave took one whilst myself, Chris, Rupert and David sat at the other. At various intervals along the beach we noticed a variety of impressive sand sculptures. The one nearest to us was a mock-up of Mount Rushmore, with the American presidents substituted for famous Dutch people. As we took in the view, the waiter arrived to take our order. Our table ordered a Calimari to share and toasted sandwiches, except for Rupert who ordered something distinctly weird. I also asked for a hot chocolate "mit slagroom". The waiter replied, "Slagroom. Nice try." Rupert asked what Boeren is, pointing to it on the menu. David then said, "Do you mean Boeren?" and he then asked the waiter if he'd pronounced it correctly. The waiter said he had and was very impressed. He disappeared to put in our orders, whilst I decided to go for a pot stop. The toilets were mobile and really grim. There was some sort of payatron outside, but since no one was around I decided not to contribute.

Our drinks arrived and David noticed that the medium drinks were virtually the same size as the large drinks but were much cheaper. Dave didn't agree and, once we'd eaten our food, he decided to buy a medium drink and pour it into the large glass to prove that the relative pricing was accurate. He did and it was. As we were chilling, David and I observed that the seafront bore a distinct resemblace to Lowestoft. We then realised that Lowestoft was just across the North Sea from Den Haag and we speculated that before continental drift occurred and the UK split with mainland Europe, Lowestoft and Den Haag were in fact the same place, with the current beach of each place being the main street of the old town. Once we'd eaten and relaxed, we paid up and left the restaurant to look at the sand sculptures. After a brief stop at Mount Rushmore, we walked to the next one, which was of a massive camera made up to look like a rather large gun pointing down at a very small woman. We wondered who the woman in the big hat was and speculated that it was Mary Poppins. A random Dutch bloke behind us then said, "No, that is the Queen!" His manner drew immediate parallels with Tomas' comment regarding Steve's Geordie phrase, when he said, "That is English? No, it is Norwegian!" We walked away saying, "That is the Queen? No, it is Mary Poppins!"

We headed over to the pier, and walked inside it. There was a long corridor with shops inside and steps at various intervals leading up to a walkway on the roof. At the end, the pier branched into two. The left fork went towards a restaurant whilst the right went towards a tower with the word "Bungy" written on it in capital letters. We assumed it must be a bungy jump tower, so we climbed up it and took in the views. In the distance we noticed what appeared to be some sort of watch tower, so David said, "Shall we head for that defensaroid?" After a couple of photos, one of which was of us queueing for the bungy jump, we walked back down the tower, briefly took the left fork to look at the restaurant, before walking off the pier, turning left and heading towards the defensaroid. We passed a section of the beach which was roped off and had various sand sculptures in it. It appeared that you could pay and be taught how to make them. We turned down the opportunity, deciding instead to continue our walk to the defensaroid. At the end of the parade we crossed up some sand banks, walked away from the beach and up a road towards the defensaroid. There was a path up to it, but it was unnecessarily winding, so David, Chris and I took a short cut across country and arrived before everyone else. In the distance there was another tower, but we decided not to walk to this. It was unclear how far it was and there appeared to be a marsh between us and it. A bird was singing in the distance and David shook the Leprechaun in response. The bird replied and the leprechaun replied back. After a lengthy conversation, the bird got bored and flew off. We chilled for a while on the wall of the defensaroid and discussed the plan. Jon had already been to the centre of Den Haag on a previous trip and was keen to go to an outdoor "mini-Holland" museum. David, Steve and I were keen to check out the centre, so we suggested splitting up. Eventually it was decided that Jon and Chris would go to mini-Holland whilst the rest of us would catch a tram into the centre. We walked back down the hill to a nearby tram stop. Chris walked into the employees building to illegally use the toilets whilst the rest of us waited for our trams. Jon and Chris' tram arrived first, so they got on board and left. As the tram disappeared, we watched them bartering for tickets. We boarded our tram and left Dave to do the ticket negotiations. Ten minutes later we got off the tram and were walking around in the centre. We checked out the building which housed the European court, walking through the archway into a courtyard, before leaving at the other side, passing a museum on our left and entering a large square. At this point, we started on a mammoth Alan application, which went "I've got a climate model, it's not working. Steve, will you fix it?" "I'm not going all the way to Warwick to fix your fortran code." "There's no need, because Mohammed has moved the mountain to you. It's not a mountain, it's a fortran code, though it was FTP'd here by the computer officer at Warwick biology department, whose name is Mohammed. Steve, will you fix it?" "No." We then did an impression of Rupert coming in saying, "Go on, it'll be more embarrassing if you don't do it." At which point we had Steve saying, "You're underestimating the size of your boundary layer. You haven't put PBL=2.*PBL. It's basic. Oh, this is interesting, where do you put your comments?" "Just on the end of lines." "Yes, you can't read them. Put them in a block there." "But why does the compiler not crash?" "You put c's in at the start. The compiler is programmed to ignore them. I don't do that shit any more!" "He's fixed it! He's fixed the code!" A very strong challenger for application of the break had been born.

David did a quick statue recreation at the statue in the centre of the square, before we headed over to a bar and sat down outside it for some drinks. It was pretty smoky, which we weren't impressed with. There appeared to be some Czech people sat at the table next to us deep in conversation. We ordered in a round of cokes and some apple cakes and cream. Dave was reading the guide book and told us that apparently it turn smokers' feelings in Holland if you got offended when they lit up. David couldn't believe this. We chilled as long as we could stand the smoky environment, before paying up and crossing the square again. We walked around the front of the European court building, pausing to take some photos of the rather impressive lake with the building behind it. Dave and David posed for a "Whole world is my!" photo. At the far end of the lake was a large green statue of a man running. We wondered whether Slobodan Milosevic was in the building and we speculated that he was actually imprisoned inside the statue. We skirted around the edge of the lake, paused briefly for a photo with the Little Lucky Leprechaun, Shaft and Reardon, before crossing the road, walking through some old archway and into a square beyond. We wandered the streets for a while and soon found ourselves at a large church. At this point we decided we should probably head back to the station and think about catching a train back to Amsterdam. We hadn't heard from Jon and Chris, but assumed they would ring us when they got to the station. After a lengthy and uneventful walk, we got back to the station and discovered that our train was already on the platform. We climbed on board and sat upstairs. About five minutes before the train was due to depart, I got a phone call from Chris asking where we were. I directed him to our carriage and he and Jon joined us. The train pulled out and Dave got up from his seat to go to the toilet. At this point, an old bloke decided to pinch Dave's seat. David and I thought it was hilarious, but he moved to sit with some of his friends before Dave got back. Everyone except David and I fell asleep on the journey back, clearly exhausted after a long day. We soon found ourselves back at Amsterdam station, so we disembarked and took the short walk back to the hotel. We arranged to meet in the hotel bar when we were ready to go out for the evening. Jon, Steve and I returned to our room and chilled for a while, before going through the shower and heading down to the bar. Chris and David were there already, relaxing with a drink. We got a round in (most people opted for the local Amstel beer) and had some nuts delivered to our table by the barman. Rupert and Dave arrived and we got another round in. Jon also took the nut bowl up to the bar to barter for some more. Eventually we decided to head over to the Jordaan area of town for dinner that evening, so we left the hotel and headed in that direction. It wasn't looking too good, as we passed several restaurants on route that looked really busy.

We crossed over one of the main canals in Jordaan and turned left down it, but we were beginning to get a little concerned as there were no obvious restaurants in sight. Eventually we paused outside a bar and studied the map, trying to work out where to go. David, Chris and I were huddled around the map and at this point I heard someone say "Alright!" in a really creepy voice. I thought it was Jon and turned around to make a comment, but I was confronted with a drunken vagabond who appeared to be on something. A little perturbed, David, Chris and I looked at each other and decided to leave. As we all walked away we heard the drunk say, "Time to go!" A little further down the canal, Dave stopped to take a photo of a heron that was sat on top of a car. We eventually arrived at a busy street and turned right down it but didn't find any obvious restaurants. At this point we decided to head back in the direction of Spuisstraat, where we'd eaten the previous evening. We turned left down a side street, then left again and crossed once more over the canal where we'd found the mentalist. As we were walking, David, Steve and I kept recreating the "Alright!" incident, to much hilarity. Just the other side of the canal, I spotted a possible restaurant. It wasn't great, as it was on a road which was being resurfaced, so there were roadworks all over the place (but no sign of cones, much to our disgust). However, the restaurant itself seemed okay. I suggested going in, but Dave refused point blank as it seemed too "seventies". I couldn't understand what he meant, but he insisted that he didn't want to eat in a seventies restaurant. Had this have been earlier in the evening and our choices not so limited, I would have been fine with this. However, we'd been walking around looking for a restaurant for about an hour so I felt it was a little silly to turn down a potential food venue just because of its seventies decor. However, Dave wouldn't budge, so we walked on and eventually found ourselves back on Spuisstraat. We first checked out Restaurant Caprese, but as it was an Italian restaurant we decided it would be more suitable for the following evening. Across the road was a place called Restaurant November and so we headed over to that and looked at the menu. It seemed okay so we went in and were allocated a table on the top floor, up a windy staircase.

The upstairs portion of the restaurant appeared to be completely populated by English people. We speculated that we were being deliberately grouped together. We were directed to a table in the corner. Chris moved in to take the seat in the corner facing the wall, whilst I sat to his left with Steve to my left. Rupert took the seat on the end whilst David sat opposite Steve, Jon sat opposite me and Dave sat opposite Chris. The waitress came to take our orders and Steve immediately tried to get some banter going with her as he thought she was quite nice. I ordered soup and steak, whilst the others ordered a variety of dishes. The food turned out to be pretty good and we all agreed that we'd made a good choice. After our main courses, our waitress finished her shift and was replaced by another one. Steve and Jon were disappointed as they didn't think she seemed quite as nice. It was late and they seemed eager for us to leave, but we ordered desserts anyway, along with coffees. After a very pleasant meal, we paid up and left the restaurant, saying farewell to our original waitress (who seemed to be merely propping up the bar downstairs) on the way out. Steve and Chris headed over to book Restaurant Caprese for the final night, whilst the remainder of us turned right and wandered down the street to a nearby bar on the right hand side of the road for drinks. We were allocated a table on the veranda outside and we spent a while chilling. After a while, I decided to go and find Steve and Chris, so wandered back down the road, meeting them coming in the other direction. It turned out there'd been lengthy negotiations but they'd managed to acquire us a table at the restaurant for the following evening. We all returned to the bar and joined the others. Our table was very close to the cycle lane along the pavement and we were a little perturbed that one of the bikes might lose control and crash into us.

After a while spent chilling, we decided to head back to the hotel, taking a detour through the red light district on route, since Steve had yet to see it. About ten minutes later, we found ourselves walking alongside the main canal through the red light district. It appeared to be almost completely popularised by drunk English blokes. We walked alongside the canal for a while, becoming more and more shocked as we did so. Steve noticed the erotic museum and suggested going in for a look, whilst David pointed out the rather shocking array of late night shows on offer. At this point we decided to take a detour to look for traffic cones, so we turned right, just past an open doorway where a prostitute appeared to be striking a bargain with a dirty old man. We found ourselves in a narrow alley with prostitutes' bedrooms on each side. We hurried on and emerged next to a church. Deciding we probably weren't going to find any cones, we turned left, left again and headed back towards the hotel. We crossed the main red light district canal, crossed the next one and turned left, finding ourselves outside a circular church. Rather oddly, the buildings around the church were packed with little bedrooms with prostitutes parading in the windows. As David, Chris and I walked past one, the door opened and a prostitute shouted at us. Just beyond this, an English bloke left one of the bedrooms wearing next to nothing. Somewhat perturbed, we skirted round the church, walked back along the canal a short way before taking another alley to our right. Steve noticed that the prostitutes along this alley seemed more attractive than the others and speculated that room rent was higher here. Eventually we found ourselves back on the road with our hotel on. We walked past the Hotel Ben and, after a brief suggestion to go in for a final cocktail, we arrived back at the Hotel Terminus and returned to our rooms to punch the sack.

Saturday, 21st May

I woke up at around 7.30a.m. and wandered down to breakfast with Steve. David and Chris were already there, seated at a table at the far end of the breakfast area. We joined them and selected some toast, orange juice and coffee. Rupert soon arrived and stood in front of the orange juice machine for some time before making his decision as to whether he wanted any juice. Eventually Jon and Dave joined us and we discussed plans for the day. We eventually decided to go to the Sexmuseum first and then wander through town in the direction of the Rijksmuseum. Once we'd finished our breakfast, we stopped quickly at the rooms before heading out and taking the short walk to the Sexmuseum.

Once we'd arrived, Dave decided he didn't actually want to go on, so he went off for a walk instead. The rest of us paid up and entered the museum. It turned out to be a mixture of top comedy and grimness. We climbed the stairs to the first floor and stopped off at some phone booths. Upon lifting the receiver, Steve discovered that a woman on the other end of the line spoke seductively to you in Dutch. We all had a go before moving on. Up some more stairs, we came across two giant penises which had been converted into seats. David sat down on one and I took his photograph. After briefly looking at some rotatameid showing sexual practices throughout the ages, we walked on, briefly looked at some bawdy films from the 50s and 60s, before moving into the photo gallery. This area was dedicated to sexual photos from the mid 19th century onwards. It mainly had pictures of guys with very big beards with no clothes on and fat women in 19th century sexy lingerie. It wasn't entirely pleasant. Chris lingered, clearly enjoying himself. At the far end of the room there was a clay statue of Marilyn Monroe standing over a grate. Air was blowing up through it and the famous scene was recreated. David went for a closer looked and succeeded in setting off the alarm. Steve, David and myself quickly made for the staircase leading down to the "bondage room". There was a sign at the bottom of the stairs warning us not to enter the room if we were liable to be offended. We decided to check it out. We soon wished we hadn't, as we were confronted with pictures of the most depraved acts we'd ever seen - animals were featured prominently, as were ladyboys (which looked like women, but were, in fact, men - we didn't find them attractive, just confusing). We also discovered the watersports section. David pointed out that he was quite pleased to see the old "wet T-shirt competitions". I pointed out that that wasn't what watersports was. We continued the Alan application, trying to pretend that pictures of watersports were not immediately behind us. Chris was studying all the pictures intently. David and I continued around the room and, just as we were about to leave, we confronted a picture that nearly made both of us physically sick. Fighting back the urge, we exited the room as quickly as possible and waited for the others outside. None of us were impressed with the bondage room, though Chris did contemplate joining the queue of foreign tourists and going around the room again. We continued through the museum into the final room, which was the "French room". On our right was a window and, as we looked through it, we had a chuckle at a bloke urinating on it. As we continued walking, Steve suddenly let out a huge scream. David and I turned to him and saw that a model of an old, naked woman had leapt out of the dark and was attacking him. We all burst into hysterics. This room was much more to our taste. We scanned the rest of the room and made for the exit of the museum. As we did, we passed a model of a man in a dirty mac. As we walked past him, he opened his coat and flashed us. Amused, we exited the museum and waited for the others to join us. Jon, Chris and Rupert came out about 5 minutes later and we then waited for Dave to arrive. I popped into the souvenir shop next door to look for a mascot but there wasn't any possibilities, so I joined the others again. Dave soon arrived and informed us that he'd been and bought some King, which he offered around (some of us were still too full after breakfast to accept), and then he'd gone back to the hotel for a massive dump. David, Steve and I thought this was hilarious - he'd taken the idea of being disgruntled to a new level. So disgruntled with the idea of going to the Sexmuseum, he'd shown his disdain in the only way possible - used the time whilst the remainder of us were dicking around to go to the hotel and take a big shit. I commented that he'd get a fair few disgruntled points for that. Dave replied that he didn't do it for the points.

After a brief discussion, we decided to take the long walk to the Rijksmuseum. As we walked down the road towards Dam square, David, Dave and I checked out a couple of souvenir shops. There were a couple of possibilities for mascots, including some bears sat in cardboard boxes with jumpers which said "Amsterdam" on. Dave commented that if we bought one of those we'd get our first disabled mascot. David and I laughed and admitted that this was a good point, but decided against a purchase at that time. Jon took charge of directions, taking us through Dam square, along past the street with the restaurants on, past Kilroy's and followed the tram lines down a long shopping street beyond. After about 15 minutes, we walked past a shop selling caramel waffles. Jon and I stopped and purchased a packed between us. Delighted with our purchase, we continued the walk, happily munching on the waffles. We passed several souvenir shops and I checked out the options, but none seemed better than the disabled bears. We arrived at a major street and soon found ourselves at the Rijksmuseum. There was a building site outside it, but no cones in evidence, which was disappointing. We had the horrible feeling that we may fail in our attempt at a "Stop telling me what to do!" Having walked around the edge of the museum, we arrived at the entrance and discussed plans. Jon was keen to go in (even though it turned out that half the museum was closed), as was Chris, but myself, Steve, David and Dave wanted to find somewhere to chill with a drink instead. After a debate, it was decided that Jon, Chris and Rupert would go into the museum, whilst we would go for a drink and then a wander around Vondelpark which was near the museum. We would then all meet in Barney's for lunch.

The disgruntled boys thus bade farewell to the dicking around boys and we wandered around the corner and sat outside a bar. We got in a round of cokes and spent a pleasant half hour chilling and chatting about the break. I popped in for a pot stop whilst the others paid the bill. Once we'd settled up, we left and took a short walk to the entrance of Vondelpark (after a brief check out of the nearby souvenir shops). The entrance to Vondelpark was a long, narrow path with small grassy areas on either side. We walked down it, under a bridge and found ourselves in a large park with a lake in the middle of it. Walking just in front of us was a large sheep dog that bore a strong similarity to the Dulux dog. We commented that it was probably looking for cream cheese. After a pause for photos, we walked around the lake, past some mentalists dressed in period costumes and headed back around towards an exit near the place where we'd entered the park. As we arrived at the exit, we spotted a rollerblader. He had lined up several yellow mini cones on the ground and was practising skating around them. Dave pointed out that this could be our only chance to perform a "Stop telling me what to do!" However, we didn't want to anger the skater. The target was two cones. I said I'd do it if one of the others did and Steve was eventually persuaded to take the risk. We waited a couple of minutes and, when the skater sat down to take a rest, we took our opportunity. We rushed quickly in to the cones furthest from the skater, picked up the last two and shouted, "Stop telling me what to do!" as Dave and David took pictures. We had to pose for slightly longer than we'd have liked, as the first picture was ruined by a cyclist going by in front of us. The skater looked on puzzled, but made no effort to stop us as we clearly weren't trying to steal his cones. We replaced the cones and made for the exit of the park, in high spirits after our success.

After a successful rendition of "Stop telling me what to do!" it was decided that we should head over to Barney's for lunch so we left the park, walked down a road past the Van Gogh museum and, 20 minutes later, we were sat outside Barney's. We got in a round of pancakes with slagroom and soft drinks. We waited for about an hour, but it became obvious that the others weren't going to be joining us. As we were preparing to leave, we got a text message from Rupert to say that they were leaving the museum. However, we didn't really want to wait, so we decided to have a walk around and meet them back at Barney's after a short while. We walked across Dam square past lots of people stood on boxes and posing. When people put money in the pots by their feet, they posed for a picture. Most of the statues were rather impressive, but one guy was stood on a box in a Tigger outfit. We thought this was rather amusing, as he'd clearly gone to far less effort than everyone else. Even the guy dressed up as "The Mask" was getting more attention from the public. Our first port of call was at the souvenir shop which sold disabled bears. We purchased one with an Amsterdam jumper on and christened him Barney. It seemed appropriate somehow. Complete with disabled mascot, we walked back to Dam square. Just before arriving at the square, we saw another human statue. A couple of tourists walked by and wanted to take his picture without paying. As they stood next to him, he started waving his arms to show that he wasn't happy and when they took the photo, he swore at them and yelled abuse as they walked away. Myself and David found this very funny. Back at Dam square, we decided to check out the large church next to the Royal Palace. We walked inside and discovered it had been converted into a museum which you had to pay to get into. Unimpressed by this, we walked into the museum shop and climbed up to the balcony to look at the church for free. It was pretty impressive, but we all agreed that it wasn't as good as York Minster. I noticed that the shop sold Lonely Planet guides to Amsterdam and I was a little concerned that I may get challenged for the copy I'd bought in England and was carrying around, but the shop assistant didn't ask any questions as I walked out with it.

It was about an hour since we'd left Barney's, so we walked across the square, passed Tigger and arrived back at Barney's again. Jon, Chris and Rupert were finishing their pancakes having had a pleasant time dicking around in the Rijksmuseum. As Jon was leaving the following morning, he was keen to walk out to an island he'd read about to visit an interesting bridge and a windmill. I was really tired and keen to go back to the hotel. We all chatted about our plan and eventually decided that we'd unofficially start the stammtisch, which would take place in a bar called "Gollum", which we'd walked past the previous day, just around the corner from Restaurant November. It was only a small place, so if it was really crowded we'd decamp to Cafe di Koningshut across the street. Dave, Steve, David and Rupert decided to come with me back to the hotel, whilst Chris and Jon finished their food at Barney's and then headed out to find the bridge. Back at the hotel, a big screen had been erected in the bar and the FA Cup Final was on. Arsenal were playing Manchester United. We all chilled in the bar and watched the football. It was a good game but neither side could score in normal time. Two minutes from the end, Dave decided to take a walk and join us at the stammtisch later. The remainder of us decided to go to our rooms and get ready whilst extra time was playing. I went through the shower first, before coming out and letting Steve do the same. As extra time came to an end, it was becoming likely that penalties would decide the outcome. At this point, Steve and I wondered what we should do. It was likely that David and Rupert would leave for the stammtisch as soon as the match was over, thus probably bumping into us on route. We didn't want this to happen, so I suggested going to the bar and watching the penalties there. That way we'd get a head start, provided Rupert and David didn't have the same idea. We wandered down to the bar and watched the penalties. After several players scored, Paul Scholes stepped up to the spot and missed, causing Arsenal to win the penalty shoot out 5-4. Steve and I quickly left and jogged down the street in order to get a head start over Rupert and David. We were pretty pleased with the result of the match - not only had Manchester United lost, but the ginner Paul Scholes had missed the crucial penalty. That had to be amusing. Upon arrival at Gollum we were expecting that Dave would be there, but it turned out that he wasn't. The place was deserted, but we quickly checked out Cafe di Koningshut to make sure that no one was there, before going back to Gollum. I sat down at a table at the back up a short flight of stairs, whilst Steve got a couple of beers in. Gollum was pleasant, if small. There were about one hundred different types of beer available, with empty bottles of all the different types on a shelf around the wall. Steve selected a decent Belgian beer and joined me at our table. Ten minutes later, David and Rupert arrived. It turned out they'd gone through the same thought process as us regarding the penalty shoot out, but had made the decision to stay in the room and leave about five minutes after the end of the match, to reduce the possibility of bumping into us. Dave soon arrived, having had a pleasant walk and the five of us had a lengthy chat, speculating about who would arrive next. About an hour later, Jon arrived, with Chris nowhere to be seen. We were quite surprised, having expected that they'd arrive together. We got in another round of drinks and about half an hour later, Chris eventually joined us. Clearly he'd been dicking around in the shower. He told us that the police were putting a huge number of traffic cones in Dam Square. However, it was no help, as we'd already done our "Stop telling me what to do!" with little yellow cones. After a final round of drinks, we wandered over to Restaurant Caprese, but it appeared that our table wasn't ready, so we walked to Cafe di Koningshut and had another drink (beers for most people, Apfelkorn for me and coke for David) whilst we waited. Fifteen minutes later the waitress came down the street and told us that the table was ready, so we wandered back to the restaurant.

We were directed to a table next to the bar. Rupert took the seat in the corner, with me sat next to him and David sat next to me. Jon took the seat on the end, whilst Steve was opposite David, Chris was opposite me and Dave was opposite Rupert. As we looked at the menus, I prepared the initial draw which would determine which mascot would be controlled by which person. Jon was to play the role of Amal, so I handed the envelope over to him. A glass was handed around with mascot names in and everyone, except Jon and myself, drew a piece of paper out. David drew the Little Lucky Leprechaun, Steve drew Grosser Vass, Chris drew Shaft, Dave would play the role of Glogg and Rupert would be Kurt. Having won Reardon's pool tournament, I would automatically take the role of Reardon. The mascots were handed around. Steve was a little embarrassed to be controlling Grosser Vass so he hid him in his pocket. At this point, the waitress came up to take our order. She was very amused about the mascots and the pieces of paper with things written on them. Steve explained that we were selecting a place to go on holiday in six months' time. She told us to keep her informed as to what won. As she took our orders and left, she commented that her son had a toy that looked like Grosser Vass. As the drinks arrived, I prepared the draw to see what order people would reveal in. Once this was concluded, we began the process of revealing destinations.

Reardon's choice had already been made several weeks earlier and was:


David was the first to go. He explained that Reardon had already taken his first choice of Geneva, so his choice would be:


As the first course arrived, Dave revealed. I tucked into my soup as he explained that he wanted to go back to Eastern Europe. His choice would therefore be:


Not too bad, I thought. Rupert was next up and as he started to talk about his destination, it became clear that he hadn't decided. He was umming and ahhing and eventually David said, "For goodness sake, say something". Rupert merely said, "Hello", which didn't help matters at all. David then got annoyed and Chris weighed in as usual. Things were not looking good. At this point, Rupert eventually made a decision and said that his choice would be:


David and I were unimpressed since virtually everyone at the table had been there before. I was next. I explained that I'd thought of a destination but had changed it that morning when I'd had a novel idea. Having been there when I was about 14 and remembering it as a fascinating city, my choice for the draw would be:


People seemed surprised, but it wasn't clear whether people thought it was a good choice or not.

The main courses arrived and I tucked into my steak. It was pretty good. Steve was next up and he explained that someone had already taken his choice, so he wasn't sure what to do. Eventually he made a decision and said he was going for:


With 5 destinations gone, the make up of the draw was a little strange. It was now Amal's turn, so Jon opened the envelope from him and said, "Does it count if the destination is spelt wrong?" He turned the paper towards us to reveal Amal's choice of:

BERN (spelt BERNE).

Interesting. With two destinations to go, three of our choices were in Switzerland. Chris was the last member of the regiment to reveal. He explained that he was going back to a previous choice and wanted to go to:


I wasn't too impressed with this choice, particularly for a winter break.

Finally, it would be the turn of the Little Lucky Leprechaun. We discussed possibilities and eventually decided it was a choice between Poland and Finland. We took a vote around the table and decided that the Little Lucky Leprechaun's choice would be:


We ordered desserts and began the process of going through the mascot rounds. First up would be Glogg. I wrote all the mascots' names on pieces of paper, put them in a glass and passed them to Dave. He drew one out and revealed that it was Reardon who might be affected. I immediately began to get worried as I feared I might lose my choice. I handed the second glass over with three pieces of paper saying, "Bummed", "He's not been bummed" and "Kiss my face". Dave pulled one out and revealed, saying, "Reardon has not been bummed". I breathed a sigh of relief. Given it was Reardon who had been selected, I felt this was the best result.

We then prepared the veto round. Steve asked if the leprechaun could be vetoed. I said he could. Everyone wrote their choices on pieces of paper, put them in a glass and handed them to Rupert. I wrote down Prague, realising that David, at least, would follow suit. Rupert said he would count the votes, so he pulled the pieces of paper out one at a time and revealed, "None", "Bern", "Finland", "Prague", "Prague", "None". Dave had attempted to veto Bern, whilst David and I had gone for Prague and Steve had apparently found it amusing to try to veto the leprechaun. Chris and Rupert had once again failed to use their veto vote.

I then handed the glass to Chris for the Shaft round. Amal, Reardon and the Little Lucky Leprechaun would be in the hat for the Shaft Round. Chris drew out a blank piece of paper, so no destination would be shafted. The glass was then handed to Steve for Grosser Vass' round. He also pulled out a blank piece of paper, so no destination would be made grosser. Steve then said, "Are you trying to say that we've done all of those mascot rounds and nothing's changed?" He seemed to find this pretty amusing.

Our desserts had arrived by this point and I was finishing off my tiramisu. We ordered coffees and proceeded with the rehearsal draw. Things were beginning to get serious as we sensed that the destination for mission 10 would soon be revealed. I put the destinations into the glass, handed it round for people to mix them up and received it back to eliminate for Reardon. As I began the rehearsal draw, David reminded us that it was "just a bit of fun", in the voice of Peter Snow. I chose Steve's Budapest. Steve commiserated himself with a Barthez. David then eliminated Luxembourg City on behalf of the Little Lucky Leprechaun. I wasn't impressed. Chris eliminated Bern, Jon eliminated Lisbon on behalf of Amal, before Steve picked Zurich, I eliminated Prague (much to David's delight) and Rupert eliminated Dave's Budapest. With two destinations left, we realised that the two mascots had beaten us all and were the only ones left. Dave picked a piece of paper and David took the other one. Dave then revealed Finland as the runner up and David revealed Geneva as the winner. Reardon celebrated with a Shearer.

The coffees arrived and we settled down for the draw. The waitress asked us if we'd decided our destination yet and we told her it was about to happen. She said she'd come back when we'd chosen. I mixed up the destinations in the glass and handed it round, before receiving it back once more. I picked a destination on behalf of Reardon and revealed:


Rupert commiserated himself with quite a poor Barthez. David then received the glass and, on behalf of the Little Lucky Leprechaun, revealed:


Chris was then passed the glass and eliminated:


Another self-elimination. The seemed to happen so often. Jon then received the glass and eliminated:


He seemed pleased as he'd been there before, but I thought this was the first bad elimination. The glass passed to Steve and he eliminated:


Yet another self-elimination. Amal was still in the hat and we wondered whether he would win again. I received the glass next and eliminated:


Apparently Amal wouldn't win this time. With three choices left, David and I realised that it was just the two of us and the Little Lucky Leprechaun left. Rupert received the glass and eliminated:


Two destinations left. David against me. It was only the second time I'd been in the final two whilst it was the fourth time for David. I went round the table and asked everyone what they wanted to win. It seemed that Zurich was the preferred choice. Dave received the glass and changed his mind several times before finally picking a piece of paper. David chose the other one and waited nervously. Dave then opened his piece of paper and revealed the runner up to be:


David revealed the winner as:


He then leapt out of his chair, left the restaurant and ran up and down the street doing a Barthez. He was clearly delighted to win his first ever draw. As he came back in we all commented that it was Zurich next time. The waitress returned to our table and asked us what the result was. When we told her, she waved her arm and looked unimpressed, before looking at the rest of the choices and declaring that Prague and Budapest were the best choices. David and I disagreed. We paid the bill and bade farewell to the waitress, before heading down the street for a final drink at Cafe di Koningshut. I was absolutely exhausted and found it difficult to engage in conversation. Chris was working on the tabulus and, once he'd totalled everything up, we bought Jon out of it as he was leaving early the following morning. After a quick drink, we decided to return to the hotel, so we left the bar and walked back. As we were crossing Dam Square, we noticed the huge number of traffic cones Chris had told us about, being laid out for the market the next day. Five minutes later, we passed the hotel Ben, declining David's suggestion of going in for a final cocktail or shower and arrived at the Hotel Terminus. Dave, Rupert, Chris and David bade farewell to Jon as he would be leaving before breakfast and we all returned to our rooms to punch the sack.

Sunday, 22nd May

At about seven in the morning, I woke up to the sounds of Jon padding around the room gathering his stuff together. Feeling somewhat knackered, I summoned enough strength to say goodbye to him as he left the hotel. The experience was over for the first of the colonel's men. It also meant that the "Experience of Everything" was over. Slightly downhearted that Jon was leaving, I went back to sleep. About an hour and a half later, I woke up and showered before I Steve and I went down to breakfast.

Chris and David were there already and had secured a table. Dave and Rupert soon joined us and we discussed plans for the day. Dave had found some gardens in the guidebook that he wanted to visit. They were apparently quite near Barney's restaurant, but only opened until about 10.30a.m. He therefore left breakfast to go and check it out, promising to meet us in the hotel lobby before we all went out for the day. After breakfast, we returned to our rooms and packed up. Dave was waiting for us in the lobby as we all checked out. He'd apparently had a good time dicking around at the gardens. We deposited our bags and left the hotel. Our plan was to make for the windmill which Chris and Jon had visited the previous day. Chris therefore took charge of the directions and we turned right out of the hotel, right again and cut through the edge of the red light district.

We soon found ourselves on a long road with seedy shops on it. We passed a bar called the Lord Mike on the left and David insisted I pose for a photograph outside it. Further along the road we found a buddist temple on the right. We thought about going in for a look but weren't sure whether we should so we carried on walking. Eventually we arrived at a market area selling lots of tacky stuff. We looked around at the usual collection of clogs for a while, before leaving at the far side of the market and heading down a side road. Eventually, we emerged near the building with the "Holland Experience" sign that we'd discovered on the first day. To our left we spied an old galleon, so we turned towards it, walking alongside a canal. Arriving at a busy road, we took the underpass and looked over the bay towards the galleon. It looked pretty impressive. We paused for some photos and Dave took the time to sit on the wall and chill out. Once we'd satisied our photographic needs we crossed a bridge onto an island and continued on towards the windmill. We were all pretty knackered by this stage and, by the time we'd arrived at the windmill (which was pretty impressive) we decided it was time for a brief sit down. We found a cafe which appeared to be closed, so we sat outside it for a rest. Whilst we were trying to work out what to do, a woman arrived at our table with the intention of serving us with drinks. No one really wanted anything, but we thought we might get told to vacate the area, so we got a round of cokes in a chilled for a while. Chris and Dave perused the map and suggested a route that would take us back towards the Amstel. I was keen to continue so we got up and carried on walking. At this point, Dave mentioned that he was thinking of replacing the draw paper with tiles for Zurich, so we got into a lengthy discussion on how many draw tiles we thought we'd need. This discussion soon brought us back to the Amstel and we stopped on a bridge for some more photos, before crossing the river and walking back towards the centre of town. Dave suggested a detour to see a collection of canals surrounded by several bridges. We weren't sure what else to do so agreed to his suggestion. The canals were about five minutes' walk away and turned out to be in quite a picturesque area, so it was probably worth the detour. We took in the view then decided to go into a bar for a drink. It seemed a sensible decision as the heavens opened and it started to pour with rain. We chilled upstairs whilst David and Dave set up some photos of the mascots for the website. Once we'd chilled, we got up and decided it was time to go to Barney's for lunch, so we exited the bar, turned left and headed back towards the centre of town.

After about ten minutes, we arrived at Barney's, sat outside and a waiter came out to take our orders. David looked inside and commented that Barney himself wasn't on duty. We were slightly disappointed. I opted for a baguette whilst everyone else decided to order pancakes of some variety. We chilled for a while whilst Chris opted for an apple pie to follow his pancake. I opted for another of the delicious hot chocolates. Once we'd eaten our fill and David had had his final pancake with slagroom, we paid the bill and headed for an alley just around the corner which passed the garden Dave had visited earlier. Dave pointed out the little garden to us as we passed it. We headed into a little courtyard with a museum in it. David noticed a fat bloke sat on a bench and took a photo with myself and Steve in the foreground. Around the corner we discovered some armour in a glass case and a corridor with some art on the walls. Having checked out the art briefly, we left and walked out the far end of the courtyard. After a discussion, we decided to head back to the Jordaan region of Amsterdam and find the Anne Frank Huis. We crossed the road with our restaurants on, took the snicket past Gollem and eventually found ourselves at one of the large canals. We crossed the bridge and ended up at the Amsterdam Homomonument, a monument for gay rights or something. It appeared to be made up of stone squares on the floor and wasn't really a monument at all. The final stone slab jutted out into the canal. On the edge of this slab, down some stairs, there was a collection of flowers which David assumed was "a dedication to a dead homo". We sat on the steps and took some photos of us at the homomonument. The Anne Frank Huis was a short walk away so we crossed the square behind us, walked around the corner and arrived at it. We couldn't believe that she'd managed to hide there for so long given all of the advertisements outside it. It appeared to be a ripoffamede so we decided not to go in. Having made this decision, we carried on up the canal, before backtracking on ourselves slightly as Dave wanted to see a house which had faces carved on the front of it. The house overlooked one of the main canals in Jordaan and we were somewhat unimpressed when we eventually found it. We passed the house and walked up to a canal running perpendicular to this one, turned left and walked away from the centre for a while, passing several house boats. Eventually we crossed the canal and turned back, deciding it was time to head back to the hotel. We arrived at a large church covered in scaffolding and paused to admire it for a while, before continuing on past a hash bar called "Barney's". We paused to look at it, realising it was nowhere near as good as the actual Barney's, before walking on. Dave spotted a church with a dome on top and said, "Shall we head over to that dometroid?" We did, and it was fairly impressive. It was approaching time to get back to the hotel, so we crossed a busy road and headed back into the maze of streets which led to our hotel. Steve spotted a rather ugly prostitute in an upstairs window and made an appreciative sound as if he was admiring her. We all laughed, as did a middle aged Dutch lady walking next to us. This caused more hilarity.

We emerged from the maze of streets near the Sexmuseum, crossed the main road and headed past the road with the settee on it and various tramps, before turning right into the road with our hotel on it. Chris asked the receptionist for our bags and once we'd all picked them up, we took the short walk back to the station and got on a train to the airport. Upon arrival at the airport, we wandered through to the budget airline check in area. Steve was unsure where he should check in, so he asked someone and was directed to a counter. Dave and Rupert queued up at their check in desk whilst David, Chris and myself were directed around to some self-service check in area. It was unclear how this automated system worked and we spent a while puzzling over it before we eventually received our tickets. We then had to walk around to a desk to check our bags in, making the whole self-service system completely redundant. Once we'd all checked in, we wandered through passport control and decided to get some food. We went up an escalator and arrived at a golden arches, so decided to spend our remaining Euros on a meal each. It seemed that the value meals included free sundaes, though we didn't receive this immediately; instead we were instructed to bring our receipts back to get our ice creams. I was a little dubious about this, but Chris seemed to think it would be okay. Dave, who wasn't eating, made for a table and sat down. The rest of us joined him and began the laborious task of sorting out the tabulus. Chris calculated Steve's deficit first and he succeeded in buying himself out of the tabulus. Chris and Steve returned to get our sundaes in and Steve wolfed his down rapidly. He then bade farewell to the rest of us and headed off to catch his flight. We were left with a somewhat depleted "Grand Unified Experience" and we were all starting to feel a little dejected. Eventually, the tabulus was completed and we were all square with each other. It was now time to head over to our gates for our flights. We walked past the statue of two guys sitting back to back, turned right past a pub and arrived at Rupert and Dave's gate. We all shook hands and David commented that the "Grand Unified Experience" was about to end. We walked on and arrived at our own gate. We had to queue to get into the secure area around the gate, going through a metal detector and passport check in the process. The area inside the gate was absolutely crowded and there was nowhere to sit. Shortly, an announcement came over the tannoy (speaker system) that the flight was delayed by about an hour. This caused general disgruntlement amongst the passengers and several tried to leave the gate. They were stopped by the security guards, who said that no one was allowed to leave. No one could believe this - we had about an hour and a half to wait for our flight and were stuck in an area which didn't even have pots. After some discussion amongst the gate crew, we were informed that we could leave but would have to pass through security again. This seemed reasonable and everyone poured through the gate in search of somewhere to go. We decided to head back to the main terminal area as it would probably be quieter than the nearby pub. Back at the main terminal, we looked around for somewhere to go and eventually decided that we should have a drink in the Cone bar, since virtually everywhere else appeared to be closed (even though it was only about 9.30p.m.). David discussed shouting "Stop telling me what to do!" as we bought drinks. I was the only one with any Euros and I had just enough to buy the three of us a small drink each. We nursed our drinks and sat on some bar stools either side of a high table. We were all absolutely exhausted and eager to get home. After about 45 minutes of chilling, we wandered back to our gate and discovered that our plane had finally shown up. We proceeded through security and were soon allowed to board the plane. As the plane made its way down the runway, we contemplated the fact that Amsterdam was about to be over and as the plane lifted off, David and I both said "Amsterdam is over. But it's Zurich next time!"

The flight was fairly uneventful and we landed back at Coventry airport about an hour later. Our bags were almost the last ones off the flight so as we emerged into the car park the bus to the car park drove off full of passengers. David wasn't too happy about this, but there was another bus behind it so we climbed on to this one. After about five minutes, the bus driver decided to depart with just the three of us on board. Five minutes later, we arrived at the car park and climbed off the bus, thanking the bus driver in the process. A short walk later, we were in the car and leaving the car park. As we did, we spotted another bus pulling into the car park and realised that this was the bus we'd missed. Having ended up on a bus on our own, the bus driver had been able to come straight to our car park rather than driving around the others, so what had seemed like a bus-shafting situation had actually turned into a blessing. The journey back to my house took about 15 minutes and we were soon parked up in Ebourne Close. We were all exhausted and disappointed that Amsterdam was over. We unloaded the car and within about half an hour we had all punched the sack.

Monday, 23rd May

I woke up at about 8.30a.m. I was absolutely knackered and Amsterdam was over. At this point I remembered that Chris and David were still in the house, so the experience was still going on. I showered and went downstairs.

After an idle breakfast, Chris and David loaded the car and I bade them farewell. The Amsterdam experience was finally over. For me, it would be a busy day as I was flying out to Copenhagen, the Holy Grail of Colonel's destinations, the following day. I hurried into work to prepare. I did a few quick updates to the website, happy in the knowledge that it was Zurich next time.