This evening, I was suddenly reminded of what my life was like a long time ago, in the early 1980s, when I was working in tourism and hospitality in Amsterdam. I wasn’t making tons of money but I sure was making a lot more than what one third of England’s population needs to get by on, for whom life is mostly a cruel punishment for having been born. But that’s beside the point. Or is it? We’ll see.
I wore Cool Cat jogging pants from Fiorucci in the Kalverstraat and got to enjoy tons of music and dance performances as well as modern art exhibitions.
If you work in tourism and hospitality, you work shifts.
One of the best things in my life, one of my nicest memories, but I have plenty more, was to stop by at a particular “avondwinkel” on my way back home, often exhausted. It was really wonderful to stop by there on your last evening shift – get out of the tram or bus and then hop back on again or, hey, walk home if it was after midnight after I had moved from the “Gooi” to “De Pijp” – and take some goodies with you to enjoy when you got home. Utter bliss! That stuff was so good. It made you feel that it was really really GOOD to be ALIVE.
It was called Heuft, I think, just around the corner from the Vrijheidslaan. In the Rijnstraat.
They had the most delicious foods!
That kind of experience, that’s something that, I reckon, 90% of Brits have never had and will never have.
I can’t put this into words well enough so that you’d understand.
Heuft still exists, but I know it isn’t what it used to be. I know because I stopped by again, also quite a long time ago by now, and even then, it no longer was what it used to be. These days… it makes me weep… it seems to sell burgers and French fries. Okay, they’re home-made. But… oh man, you guys who go there now have no idea what the place used to be like, in spite of the fact that it still sells champagne.
If you’re from Portsmouth and want at least some idea of what I may be talking about, consider that little precious treasure we lost when Le Café Parisien (Lord Montgomery Way) closed. It served very different foods but what they served was delicious and the ambience superb. Le Café Parisien was one of the reasons why I moved to Portsmouth. There is nothing else like it, not in Portsmouth, not in Southampton. If you’re from Portsmouth, and you’ve never sat down there and ate some of its goodies, you’re poor.
The News called it “popular among students” when it closed, indicating that the journalist who wrote it was sadly clueless about the place or clueless about food or was living in poverty.
It was that place that gave Portsmouth its cosmopolitan allure.
Portsmouth University held its Café Jurist meetings there and it was also where people flocked to Café Scientifique meetings (both held after regular opening hours).
Here’s MIGRANT and human rights lawyer Conor Gearty (LSE), and yes, I attended that event and yes, he’s been one of my heroes ever since. That guy rocks. Boris Johnson? David Cameron? Theresa May? Priti Patel? Not so much…
Here is another one, one that I did not attend. (I was unwell, I think. A bit of flu or something.)