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Friday, March 11, 2011

The Hague Takes a Sunrise Well

The forest was damp, dark and cold, much as to be expected for an early October in Northern Europe.  How I came to be here stems directly from my experiences at the Globe just the day before.  I had already began to become more and more aware of my declining financial situation, but the mystery of not being able to determine my remaining funds electronically meant that my funds would dry up before I would know about it.  This had just come to be and the effect was jarring.  Having been a bit reckless with my remaining cash, I wound up rather snookering myself.  All at once I hadn't enough cash for another night's stay, and precious little otherwise.  From having such a free and careless experience, I had to kick in to a sense of survival in very short order.  I had been getting on very well with the Irish lads, but found that my developing situation allowed me to so painfully envy the fact that they were returning to jobs and family and their regular lives that I turned to despise them for it.  Not being able to foresee how I'd manage to haul all of my luggage to destinations unknown, I stripped my kit down to bare essentials, packed into my old army patrol bag (that indispensable knapsack, designed to carry protective equipment to counter NBC threats)and moved out by foot along a bike path leading away from Amsterdam to the west.

The going was easy, nice and level, but I hadn't figured out exactly where I was going to.  That being said, I only had the vaguest of ideas what lay in the direction I traveled.  I knew, just about, that if I continued to walk I'd eventually bump into France.  So, for a brief period as I trudged along into the afternoon was that I would undergo a forced march, attempting to make Marseilles so that I could volunteer for the Foreign Legion.  It wasn't until it began to get dark and I still hadn't come along anything other than endless Dutch countryside that the folly of being able to make such a destination brought me back to the here and now.  I had fetched up alongside the main rail line that drove out to Haarlem, where the houses became very sparse and a large wood drew away northwards.  Taking towards the shelter of the close growing trees, I pushed into the copse far enough in that I could easily find my way out, but also not be seen from the road or tracks.  I did this as I didn't know whether or not I was trespassing, that and I intended to light a fire and I had no desire to alarm anyone.

As it was, I couldn't get one to light.  There was plenty of small twigs to kindle, and I had paper torn from a notebook, all placed in a little break I had dug out with the heel of my boot.  There was little wind, but I just couldn't manage to catch the twigs, and only had a few lively seconds of my paper igniting and crumbling to ash in the mesmerizing way it does.The one thing I did have in an ample enough quantity was a very large back of bright purple weed.  It had been discovered in an empty locker by a rather incredulous fellow who had just rented one of the beds back at the hotel.  Intending to claim the locker for his bags, he called out in a rather shocked tone "Somebody's left drugs in here!" as if he feared he would fall to blame for it.  I was rather amused to the naive nature of the guy.  Didn't he know where he was?  I told him not to worry about it, and that I would take care of it.  By which I took possession of the bud, all about half an hour before I left that morning.

Perhaps a bit unscrupulous, but it was quite probably left behind by someone leaving the country and being sensible about their own return to reality.  I have done the same myself on such occasion, generously proffering the remains of my stash before flying out.  Hell, I've even had no choice at times but to throw it away.  So I smoked a fair amount, and that settled my nerve a bit.  It was, though, growing cold.  I wrapped myself up in as much clothing as I could and tried to get some sleep.  I don't think I got very much at all, and decided to push on, as if I could keep moving, I could keep warm.

I pressed on along that seemingly endless bike path, passing small industrial lots and allotment gardens.  As it got early enough, and the sun began to return, I heard for the first time in my life roosters greet the dawn.  It was just about then I decided to take a break, and had found a bench by a bus stop to cool my heels for a few minutes.  I looked at the time table posted and found that the bus intended for this stop had as its destination the Hague.  An almost sublime clarity of thought struck my at that point.  The Hague was an international city, the host of foreign embassies.  I would present myself at the Canadian consulate and try to find out what my options were to extract myself from my dilemma.

A short while later, what must have been the first bus of the day emerged from around a bend in the road, and drew up along me.  My meager remains of liquid funds were greatly reduced for the ticket, but it was worth being in a nice warm bus and being whisked into the city that would become my home for the next six and a half weeks, and change my life forever.

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