Tag: pipe smoking

The briar listener: Romijn Pipes

Martin

Some years ago I did an interview with stone-cutter extraordinaire Martin Romijn, who makes pipe-accessories out of stone. Throughout the years we kept in touch and saw each other at meetings. It was at the end of 2016, beginning of 2017 that I learned that he also was making pipes. This piqued my interest because I know that Martin has a feeling and eye for lines and shapes. Something one can not learn. With his first pipes I had to laugh a bit, he treated the wood like stone but his style was undeniably unique. A bit further along the way his talent really began to show and his pipes became more refined. Always trying to show off the beautiful patterns of the briar just like he did with the fossils in the stone. Now I consider him one of the best if not the best pipe-maker in The Netherlands.

Martin’s workspace

So last month I paid him a visit. Martin still lives in the city of Leerdam and behind his house he has a shed where the magic happens. I have been at the work places of several pipe makers and where some are pure unadulterated chaos Martin absolutely has one of the tidiest. Everything is neatly and orderly arranged and the machinery looks reasonably clean. Talking about equipment, Martin has a wood turning lathe in stead of a metal turning one. It was a gift from his parents when they saw his pipe-making talent. Besides that he thinks he has more freedom shaping pipes on it. Also he has a sanding disc and a slack belt sander, which he took over from another pipe-maker (Vandaahl) who had stopped. Further you can find in his workplace a bandsaw, dremel, some hand work tools (files etc.) and a polishing machine. Last but not least on one of the shelves stands a laptop that powers a loudspeaker which blurts out non-stop music of the great Johnny Cash, one of Martin’s heroes.

Egg shaped pipe

When I asked how and where he did learn to carve and shape briar wood he answered that he is mainly a self taught pipe-maker. In previous years he refurbished quite a lot of estate pipes. Also because of his stonecutting day-job (and all the tampers, ash-trays, stands etc. he made) Martin has 25 years experience of shaping and modelling. At one point he started experimenting with some briar blocks and when it turned out he did pretty well it became more serious. Nowadays Martin uses briar from Italy and in the future he wants to try his hand at olive wood. His mouthpieces are made from ebonite and acryl and some have the craziest colours and patterns. But Martin makes sure that visually the stem goes together with the bowl.

Twisted Pickaxe

Martin has a pretty unique way of making pipes. Other pipe-makers decide what shape they want to make and begin. If a sandpit surfaces, well too bad, next one! But not Martin, this is what he has to say about his method: “I start with watching, studying, “reading” the briar. Every block has its own story. How does the grain go, what can you expect when you cut it in a certain angle etc. It can be that I have had the briar piece in my hands dozens of times before I know which pipe it hides. And even then, sometimes the wood has its own plan. When I come across a sandpit or another irregularity I have to adjust my plan to fit the briar. In such a case I always say that the briar speaks to me and that I should listen. This way you often get the most surprising and beautiful results.” I have to agree with Martin. All his pipes are showcases for the stunning grains they possess. Because of this he does not make shapes on request. It would be a waste of a piece of briar to make a pipe out of it which does not agree with the grain. When asked what is the most favourite pipe he ever made Martin hesitates. “That is a tricky one.. They are all my favourite. The process of making a pipe takes up lots of hours of hard labour. When you work that long on a piece you get attached to it. It is your design, your creation, born from your creative thoughts and moulded by your hands into something tangible. But if I really have to pick one it would be the Twisted Pickaxe. Recently made, beautiful organic shapes, stunning grain, a pickaxe but with a twist. My twist.”

Martin, when did you start smoking pipes? “30 years ago I began smoking pipes. My first one was a Tattoo pipe, made by Dutch pipe maker Gubbels/Big Ben. I saw it at someone and decided to also give it a try. I liked it and soon I bought a regular pipe to go with it, and another one, and another.. Well, you know how it goes.. Of course then also began the search for the finest tobaccos. A journey which never ends but which I enjoy to the max.” Ok, so what is your favourite tobacco? “Ehrrr… Can I name two? Esoterica Stonehaven and GL Pease Embarcadero. Oh! And Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader and hmmm.. Damn, there are so many delicious blends, hard to pick out one.”

What are your favourite pipes and why? “My collection is rather large, about 75 pipes. They all have something special, that can be their smoking qualities but also some have their own story that makes them special. I especially like to smoke Winslow pipes. Good smokers, nicely shaped, good open draw and handmade by a pipe-maker I admire very much. In 2018 I got to meet Poul Winslow himself at his home and saw how he worked in his workplace. Very special and informative! What an experience, I watched with growing admiration how he creates a stunning pipe with breakneck speed. Since then I like these wonderful pipes even more.”

Do you have any famous last words for the readers? “I hope to make pipes for many, many years. I hope my creations will find their way to the people who love them. That they will find owners who will experience delightful moments of relaxation and pleasure thanks to good tobacco and a pipe I worked on with love and dedication.” With that our conversation was over for the time being. Martin began working on one of his new creations while I sat back sipping a good whisky, smoking a pipe, listening to the soul-wrenching voice of Mr. Cash and watching the magic hands do their job on the immortal briar.

https://romijntampers.nl
https://www.facebook.com/romijntampers/
https://www.instagram.com/romijn_pipes_tampers/

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My no. 1: Abingdon

Sometimes it is with tobacco as it is with music. You hear songs that are ok or ones that suck until suddenly, whoaaa.. What is that?? You listen to it more closely and slowly feel yourself falling in love with it with every time you hear it. After that the song sort of becomes part of your life and you keep listening to it until the day you die. Luckily I am not yet in that last phase but master-blender GL Pease’s creation Abingdon certainly has ingrained itself in my existence.

Unfortunately I can’t remember exactly when I first smoked Abingdon. My First Pease blend was the then hyped Chelsea Morning. With trembling hands I popped that tin, filled the bowl, lit the pipe aaand… It sucked. Perhaps I was expecting the nectar of the pipe-gods or so but it wasn’t on par with anything I had in my mind. I never had it since, maybe I should because during the years my taste-buds have vastly improved. After that I got a sample of Westminster from a friend and it blew me away. Ok, perhaps this “Dark Lord” Pease-guy does know what he is doing after all, I thought. It must have been after that when I tried my first bowl of Abingdon. Apparently I liked it really, really much because when I look at my tobacco tin purchase history the name “Abingdon” often pops up. Nowadays about once a year I open up a tin of it as a treat to myself. It never fails to deliver.

Thanks to Troy Lloyd

Backstory:
I quote GL Pease here: Some may have caught the hints of the inspiration behind this one when I’ve written about it in the past, but for the rest of you, here’s the back story. When I began to think about what I wanted to do with the Classic Collection, I had it in mind to pay tribute to some of the tobaccos of the past that had inspired me over the years—not to attempt their recreation, which is always something of a fool’s errand, but to produce blends that were reminiscent of what certain blends meant to me. It was my desire to paint something of a leaky memory picture of what the now old 759 was like in its relative youth that inspired me to concoct Abingdon. First, there was 759 and there was 759. The blend went through some changes during its life, and not every vintage is like every other. Too, while many have claimed to “clone” or “replicate” particular blends, I have never once found one of these copy-cats to successfully reproduce one of the old blends. In most cases, they’re not even really close. Later vintages of 759 seem to have been more dominated by Latakia. For those, I think Abingdon may be a little closer, though certainly not identical. Abingdon was named after Abingdon on Thames, the home of the legendary MG motorcar. For me, something about that wonderful, oily, intense smokiness of the tobacco recalled the wonderful smells of my old MGA, so it seemed fitting.

Description from the producer:
Abingdon: Dark, Mysterious and Full. Abingdon is the fullest Balkan style blend in the collection. It is rich and robust, powerful and forthright, yet still possessing subtlety and finesse. Dark flavours of wood and leather mingle with delicate undercurrents of sweetness, and deep earthy notes, while the oriental tobaccos provide hints of their verdant, sometimes herbaceous character. A big Balkan blend, reminding us once more of what these blends used to be. Because of the high percentage of dark and oriental tobaccos, it’s recommended to pack Abingdon a little less firmly than you might a lighter blend. Abingdon was released in July, 2003. And another quote from GL Pease himself: Abingdon is not topped or cased. It, like most of my blends, relies solely on the flavours of the leaf to make it what it is. It’s actually a fairly simple formula, but the result is delightfully complex. It’s an interesting mixture as it is quite heavy with latakia, but the orientals are more subdued. The virginias form the backbone of the smoke, but the latakia makes quite a statement.

Package/tin:
A typical American round pop-lid tin with paper wrapper. I must say that for this review I have an old production tin (from 2012). Not too long ago the artwork changed a bit. But still on the front there is a picture of a bulldog shaped pipe on top of a fountain pen and a piece of writing paper. On the back it says: A full Balkan style blend with a generous measure of Cyprian Latakia, seasoned with fine red and lemon yellow Virginia tobaccos, and enhanced with rich oriental leaf. Abingdon is bold and assertive, while retaining a stylish finesse. The Classic Collection draws inspiration from the great tobaccos of days past. The blends offered are not meant as attempts to replicate them, but to pay them homage to capture some of their essence.

Contents/Ingredients/cut:
Upon opening the tin I am greeted by the light and dark blended ingredients: Cyprian latakia, red and lemon yellow Virginias and orientals. The cut is a kind of rough ribbon cut with chunky pieces throughout it which you sometimes have to rub out a bit.

Smell from the tin:
The smell from the tin is wonderful to my nose. Sweet, salt, leather, smoke, spice, autumn, wood, earth all mixed into one like the instruments of an orchestra. I would have expected to notice more of the latakia. Perhaps it is the age of tin (6 years) so that the tobaccos inside have mellowed but this does not smell at all like the “bold and assertive” which is promised on the tin label.

Taste:
Upon lighting the blend there sometimes can be a slight bitterness, but it usually goes away after a few puffs. I have to think of my old and trusty Toyota Starlet. When I first start it there is lots of smoke and the pungent smell of petrol but after some hitting the gas it runs smoothly. Sort of the same with Abingdon. When the blend awakens and I am lucky I get some dark fruit/raisin/apricot taste-swirls throughout the rising smokiness from the latakia, the Virginia sweetness and the oriental sourness. For me Abingdon is not a complex blend. Once it gets going basically the same taste stays throughout the bowl with some little nuances here and then. But that basic taste is… So damn yummie! The balance between all the tobacco components is unbelievable. Lots of contradictions but somehow they work together like a well composed symphony. The instruments are soft, creamy, smooth, full, leather, musty, earth, sour, spice, wood and smoky. The resulting piece is Abingdon. Like with the smell I had expected more latakia “oomph” but I am glad it is not there. The dark leaf is almost like the conductor who supports the other instruments and let them play better. In some of the Tobaccoreviews.com reviews I read comparisons with my favourite whisky: Lagavulin. And I have to agree! The two make a perfect pair. Like with Abingdon Lagavulin boasts a lot of smokiness but if you compare it to some other whiskies (Laphroaig, Ardbeg) it really is not that much. Also Lagavulin possesses that rich, full harmony of flavours that Abingdon has. Anyway, in the end the tobacco burns down to a fine grey ash.

Miscellaneous:
Abingdon can bite a little bit if you pack the bowl too firmly and the tobacco is too moist. But if you take that into consideration, no problems at all. It stays pretty well lit throughout the smoke, nicotine hit is mild to medium. In my opinion and experience Abingdon performs best in somewhat larger (Dunhill group 4) prince shaped or pot shapes pipes. It certainly is not an all-pipe friend.

Room-note:
Whenever Ellen sees this tin on the table in our living room she starts to shift uncomfortably. “Is this that blend, you know? Well, I am afraid it is darling.. Oh.. Ok, eh, I am going to sleep/play music/do the laundry/get the f*ck away from here/etc.” As I write this I am smoking a pipe of Abingdon, Ellen just came downstairs and immediately got a red face. “Are you smoking it again? Yes darling. Grrr.. I really wish you waited until I had to go away for work. You can write in that blog of yours it is the most vile, evil smelling tobacco there is! I just did that darling.”

Price:
On Smokingpipes.com a 2 oz. tin will set you back at $10.63 (± €9,30). An 8 oz. tin will cost you $35.70 (± €31,25).

Conclusion:
From all the still available tobaccos I like Abingdon the best. Period. Of course I prefer blends like London Mixture State Express, Renaissance or De Graaff Kegelbaan but eejj, I can’t get them any more. Abingdon possesses an old world quality which only improves with age, a timeless mixture. I can totally imagine myself sitting in my living room decades from now when I am old, wrinkled and slightly senile, while smoking a pipe of well aged Abingdon, enjoying the hell out of it and thinking back to the good ol’ days before tobaccogeddon. Just before Ellen whacks me with her walking stick while shouting “You are not smoking it again aren’t you??”

Of course I wish all my readers a merry Christmas and a smoky 2019!!!

Hospitable Heukelum 2017

Label of the 2017 forumbeer

As every year the annual meeting in Heukelum of the Dutch/Belgian pipe-smokers forum marks the beginning of dark and rainy autumn. At least, that is what the weather-forecast said. And when I looked outside the window on Sunday 29 October I believed it. Oh well.. Like always I picked up Mark at the Deventer train station and together we drove to the carpool place where Ed would be waiting or us. Normally Johnny would also be there but he had to finish some work first and came later. So the three of us rode to Heukelum and to my surprise the weather cleared up; blue skies, sunshine. Very un-Dutch-like. When we arrived at ‘T Kuipertje owner/brewer Henk had made a tent at the front of brewery with most sides closed. As the inevitable rain began to fall we were glad about Henk’s foresight.

Martin’s new self-made pipe

Inside I almost immediately walked to stone-cutting tamper-maker extraordinaire Martin, who like every year organised the meeting, to get my name-badge and drinking coupons. Yup, for the money (€27,50) you get two drinks, there is a big BBQ with all kinds of tasty fresh meat, sauces, salads and baguettes, the rent of the brewery is included and last but not least you get one bottle of special forum-beer with a label made by myself! Since this year Martin is also active in the field of pipe making. And like with stone also wood seems to have no secrets for his hands. He had brought his latest creation with him and I immediately loved it. A perfect mixture between a classic and organic shape.

Like always there was also a little business to be done. The week before I had mailed Rudi, the tobacconist who always comes to our meetings, if he could bring with him a tin of the new Danpipe Fred the Frog, which I already smoked at the Inter Tabac fair in Dortmund. €10 for 50 gr., not bad for this fine blend! Friend and mentor Klaas had offered some vintage tobaccos for sale a couple of weeks before the meeting. I mostly was interested in a couple of older Robert McConnell Pure Latakia tins with in them perhaps some Syrian dark leaf so I bought 3 of them. When I met Klaas he immediately apologised. “Hello Arno, I am sorry, I made a mistake. I thought I had more Pure Latakia but I only had 1 left for you. So you know what, I am going to give you 2 De Graaff Latakia tins.” Wowwww!!! Very generous! Once upon a time De Graaff in The Hague was one of the best tobacconists in The Netherlands and they had their own range of house-blends. They were made by a company in London but exactly which one De Graaff always kept a secret. Nowadays the blends are sadly discontinued. Klaas still has quite some tins under which the pure latakia. And that is not some regular pure latakia, no, it is the Syrian Mountain Blue dark leaf made famous by the legendary Balkan Sobranie 759. Soon I am going to do some home-blending and these tins will come in very handy!

For Frisian pipe-maker Meindert I also had something. Weeks before Heukelum I was looking on ebay when I suddenly saw a beautiful Dunhill. Most of the times it is an auction and in the end the price is way too high for this cheap Dutchman. This one had a Buy It Now price of €100. Hmm.. There must be something wrong with it, I thought. So I took a better look and to my surprise the Dunhill dated from 1943, a patent era wartime pipe, pretty rare! Only thing I could discover was that the rim was very slightly damaged but that was it. So I bought it. When I received the pipe in the mail and unwrapped the package it even looked better than on the pictures, it even still had the inner tube. But still the Dunhill needed some work with the rim and stem. So I handed over the pipe into the skilled hands of Meindert.

I had to laugh when I saw the entrance of forum member Kees (nickname Kiske). For a while he was absent from the forum due to ehm.. differences of opinion with the administrators and moderators of the forum but now he was back. For some time he had been (jokingly) saying that our usual name badges were no good and that we all should wear tiaras instead. Of course you should never say that aloud on the forum because someone made an actual tiara for him. Luckily it was no problem for Kees to actually wear it, it suited him!

Erik Stokkebye and me with the pipe I won

Thinking back the weeks before the meeting the Pipe God really was smiling upon me. On a Wednesday afternoon I had a meeting with other pipe-smokers and forum members at tobacconist Willem Schimmel in Zutphen. Erik Stokkebye, blender and son of the very well known Peter Stokkebye, was there to promote his 4th Generation tobacco range. We had a fun evening, it truly was a delight to speak to the very knowledgeable Erik, which culminated in a contest in which you could win a 4th Generation pipe made by Neerup Pipes. Several questions were asked and the one who had everything right in the end would win. I can’t remember all the questions but the last one was where the 4th Generation tobaccos were made. So I blurted out “In the Orlik factory!” Well, not entirely correct… “In the Orlik factory of the Scandinavian Tobacco Group!” Which was the right answer, I had won the pipe! Back home I quickly noticed that it was a rather large pipe, I mean, my thumb fully fitted in the bowl. Too big for my taste. So I decided to put up a lottery on the forum which was won by Frans. In Heukelum I gave him the pipe, I hope he gets many enjoyable smoking hours from it.

Ton

Last year I bought some pipes for the father of a friend of mine, Ton. At that time he was visiting The Netherlands because he lived abroad. Since a month he moved back to our wet, cold and flat country so I invited him to the meeting. Since he is living alone some company is always welcome, so he accepted my offer. Afterwards he told me he stared his eyes out. Ton is an old-fashioned smoker, preferably he smokes the same blend in the same pipe over and over. “What a pleasant gathering of people and what a lot of pipes they did bring with them! And so many bent ones!” Ton only smokes straight billiards  and thinks everyone smokes those because they smoke the best. Well, ehmm.. Ehrrr… Guess I have to teach an old fox some new tricks. Later I was approached by Jos, “Arno, I have something for you, do you want it now or later?” Ehmm, now? He presented me a wrapped package, so I unwrapped it and saw a bottle of Huppelolie (hopping oil)! Yummie! Huppelolie is a tasty “kruidenbitter” (no translation), sometimes my stomach pains me and a small glass of Huppelolie does wonders. But why the bottle? I asked Jos. Because years ago I gave him some tips about buying tobacco overseas. So kind of him!

I also was glad Shaun was there all the way from Belgium and of course all the others of the Fuming Four. For months they have been pestering me that I should go with hem next year to Scotland again. Not only to the beginning of the Highlands this time but all the way to the utmost North point at Kearvaig, where the home-bothy stands of the Kearvaig Pipe Club. An almost spiritual journey. But I still don’t know if I want to go.. I mean, beautiful country, Scotland, but a big chance of bad weather, cold, midgets ehrrr.. midges, mediocre food (although Matron’s curry was excellent!) and the worst of all, no comfort! The bothy has no shower, no soft bed and no toilet which means digging a hole outside if you have to take a dump.. I admit that throughout the years I turned somewhat into a sissy boy, I just like a little bit of luxury mmkay? But who knows, I like organizing such trips so perhaps while doing that I fully decide to go. The other guys of the Fuming Four had a request for me. I am a bit different from them as I don’t have a beard and I don’t have tattoos. Now they wanted me to design the latter. And I also should get it. Ehmm.. I have a virgin skin and I like to keep it that way. But in Shaun’s eyes I already could see his evil plan: Get Arno piss-drunk and then…… *evil laugh*

The rest of the afternoon and evening in Heukelum was very pleasant as usual. So many people, so many conversations, so little time. Around 5 o’clock Henk told us that the BBQ was ready and we could eat. I don’t know what it is but when someone says something like that no one wants to be the first one. But when Arno is hungry Arno is hungry you know? So I began putting tasty meat on my plate and the rest soon followed. A bit earlier then expected the majority of the forum members began to pack and went home. So not long after that Ed, Mark and I also decided to leave. When I got home Ellen was snoring on the couch and woke up when I entered the room. “Did you have a good meeting?” “Yes darling, it was another great day.”

I would like to thank Martin for organizing the meeting! All pictures were made by Klaas, Dirk, Martin and myself.

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Pleasures of life in Belgium 2017

Shitty weather…

Halfway March it was time again for the annual meeting of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum (PRF) at Wuustwezel (Belgium). Normally for me this always marks the beginning of spring. You know, sunshine, flowers, birds and bees, girls in short skirts etc. But when I awoke the sky was dark-grey with rain coming out of it and it stayed that way throughout the day, even in Belgium. Argh… This year about 60 people attended and like the previous time Matron, a Scotch-man and Florian, a German, both from the (in)famous Kaervaig Pipe Club, were there.

Mark on the left

In the morning I drove to Deventer to pick up Mark at the train station. When I had parked there I got a message from him. He had to go for a no. 2 when he would come out the train so it could take a while. Well, when nature calls you have to answer right? Surprisingly quick he came walking to the car. “Damned, there was a line where I wanted to change money and there is a long row before the toilet. But I know a McDonald’s just before we get on the highway, let’s go there.” Not wanting Mark to explode in my car I put the pedal to the medal and in no time we had reached our destination. While Mark was inside unleashing hell I texted Ed, who was waiting on the carpool spot further along the route where we were supposed to meet him. “Mark is doing a no. 2 at the McDonald’s in Deventer, you know he likes to take his time so it could be a while until we get to you.” But Ed, who was waiting in the rain, had no patience. “I am not going to wait in this shitty weather, I am coming to you, stay there.” So when Mark came back to my car with a face of relief I said we had to wait for Ed. Luckily he got here fast so we could begin the journey to Belgium. The only sad part was that Johnny, who normally is also driving along with us, could not make it due to private circumstances.

Frikandel XXL 🙂

After a pleasant ride we arrived in Wuustwezel. Like always the first thing was to stop at the local liquor store. This time I did not need much. Last year I had bought so many beers that I still had a reasonable stock in my cellar. The only thing I wanted to buy was some bottles of Piedbœuf Brune, a table beer of only 1.5%. Not because I like to drink it, but I use it to make hachee. After that we went for something to eat. Throughout the years I discovered that the snack-bars in Wuustwezel have a kind of rotating system about who is open on Saturday afternoon. So this time snack-bar Manneke Friet was the one we could go to. Only thing, the tiny place had no room where you could sit and eat, you could only order food. Which resulted in the snack-bar being crammed with lots of hungry pipe-smokers. I choose the long frikandel XXL with mayonnaise, curry and onions. We took the food to the location of the meeting, the Bellekeshoeve, where we could eat it. When we arrived and I unwrapped the frikandel I immediately got a friendly pat on my shoulder from pipe-maker Meindert who said with a wink: “You will keep your thick head if you eat that stuff!”

Freek on the left

When I had finished the long frikandel I was looking forward to a glass of delicious dark Vlaamsche Leeuw beer. But to my astonishment it was not available. I looked at Jan, the organizer, and he apologetically shrugged. His supplier could not get the mouthwatering brew. So I opted for another beer instead. It were all Belgian beers so in essence I could not pick wrong. I then bumped into Freek. Earlier on the forum he offered a jar of Tinder Box pure latakia for free. Since I was almost out of blending latakia I responded. Since I was the first I got it! The generosity of some people knows no bounds. Throughout the years Klaas gifted me quite a lot. Samples of Balkan Sobranie, Upper Ten tobaccos, De Graaff tobaccos etc. Now he had a tin of John Patton’s Latakia Junction for me, thank you very much!

Me, matron and Jan

And still the Pipe-God was not finished blessing me. Matron called the Fuming Four and Florian together, all members of the Kearvaig Pipe Club. Who also belongs to that exclusive society of fine gentlemen is Bob Gregory, the master-blender from Samuel Gawith/Gawith & Hoggarth. He had given Matron some tins to divide under the KPC members. They were packed per 2 so you could not see what tins you got. I choose… Wisely! When I opened my pack I saw a tin of St. James Flake and Kendal Cream Deluxe Flake. I have never smoked the latter so I am very curious! Afterwards I had some time to chat with Matron, who surprisingly knows a bit of Dutch. Turned out that in time he still looked like a young god he had a girlfriend from the Dutch province of Friesland. When I walked around a bit I was stopped by stone-cutter Martin Romijn. He showed me his new shirt which was pretty hilarious, and beautiful! On it was an image of a pipe-smoking weasel. The story behind it is: the town where the meeting is held is called Wuustwezel. If you roughly translate that to English it is something like “fierce weasel”. Hence the picture on the shirt.

My François Dal tomato shaped pipe

Suddenly Nick called for attention. Like the last years he had been busy with the forum pipe and he wanted to unveil the new pipe-maker. It is… Drumroll… Bruno Nuttens! He is a French pipe-maker (with Belgian roots) and is going to make a cutty shaped pipe with a beautiful silver coloured ring. Since my pipe-cabinet is getting a bit too small I don’t know yet of I will be ordering this one. But it is a beauty for a good price, that’s for sure. One of the reasons that my pipe-cabinet has almost no more room walked around in Wuustwezel: maître pipier and pipe-maker François Dal. Since some time he is a member of the PRF forum and he continues to impress us with his craft. He brought some of his pipes along and I immediately fell in love with one of them: a tomato shaped beauty with flawless cross-cut and flamed briar. I smoked it several times now and I can honestly say it already belongs to the top smoking part of my collection.

No one can smoke a cigar as tasty as Ed

Sometimes I looked around and thought I had gone to the wrong meeting, a cigar smoker one. Many folks around me were smoking the phallus-shaped rolled tobacco leaves. Don’t get me wrong, I like them very much, especially in the summer, but on a pipe-smoker meeting.. Mwah.. At the end of the afternoon the delicious mandatory sausage rolls were served. I am a big fan of the Brabants worstenbrood but these one are also very yummie! Slowly it got dark outside and the Bellekeshoeve quieted down a bit. I sat at a table with d’Artagnan and had just fetched some tobacco from a jar I brought with me. As a mean of experiment he added a bit of the Tinder Box latakia. I did the same and.. Great! How easy it sometimes is to blend a decent tobacco..

Before we knew it it was time to go home. We almost were the last ones left so we did not have to say goodbye to many people. The ride home was pretty silent from my side, I was tired. I had spoken to so many people.. But it had been utter fun! I would like to thank Jan for organizing the whole, the bar-crew for serving us delicious drinks and Ed and Mark for the conversations on the road. By the way, Mark made a brilliant and funny photo-bomb! As usual I was oblivious to it all..

All pictures were made by Dirk, Klaas, Nick, Marielle, Roelof, Thomas and myself.

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2017 PRF-pipe made by Sabina Pipes

Sabina Santos

Sabina Santos © Sabina Pipes

As some of you know annually the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum (PRF) has a forum pipe made by a (well-known) carver. Throughout the years people like Elie, Dirk Claessen, Ian Walker and the Big Ben and BriarWorks International companies delivered us exquisite smoking gear. This year organizing it all was a joint venture of Nick (from Massis Pipes) and Shaun. I’ll give you Nick: After Shaun had managed this project for several years to a successful conclusion on his own and a first ‘cooperation version’ with Dre in 2015, we now opted for a similar direction as last year where Shaun will take care of the financial side of the story and I keep myself busy with contacting the pipe maker and later the distribution of the pipes. After a lot of consultation and contacting several pipe makers and factories, we finally came to a decision. It is with some pride that I can announce that the 2017 PRF Pipe is the first to be made by a woman, to be precise Sabina Santos from Portugal.

Rusticated and Honeycomb version © Sabina Pipes

Rusticated and Honeycomb version © Sabina Pipes

Sabina is relatively new in the world of pipe-making (she recently celebrated her 3rd birthday as a pipe maker), but has already managed to develop an unique style. Moreover – fun fact for our forum – her roots lie in the Netherlands. She was actually born in Tiel and spent the first three years of her life there. As a result she is very excited that we have chosen her this year, as evidenced by the total package and the price at which she is willing to do this for us. After extensive consultation we opted for a squat Rhodesian, the signature shape of Sabina. She works exclusively with wood from the world’s best briar supplier Mimmo Romeo. The mouthpiece is made of black acrylic, the accent ring is made of “turtle” acrylic. The top of the pipe will always be finished smooth. At the bottom you have the choice between two options: rusticated or Honeycomb. The rusticated version is €142 and the Honeycomb €157 including shipping costs. As always the forum pipe is supplied with a certificate from the maker. But especially for us Sabina has decided to make separate pipe bags and put our logo and the text “by Sabina” on the cork tags. Normally Sabina engraves her pipes by hand or let them engrave by laser at an additional cost. However, especially for us Sabina has decided to have her logo, the serial number and PRF logo laser-engraved in each pipe without extra cost.

My Sabina-made forum pipe

My Sabina-made forum pipe

When I saw the first example pictures I just had to order the pipe with the unique honeycomb finish. I always loved the Rhodesian shape and already had my eye for some time on the pipes Sabina made. Despite she only has been carving for 3 years she makes wonderful and creative pipes with a good eye for lines and shapes. At the day of Christmas Eve my doorbell suddenly rang. “A package sir, merry Christmas!” Quickly I ripped it open and to my utter delight it was the forum pipe! I loved the size and shape of it with the delicately done honeycomb finish. Unfortunately I had caught a cold that lasted for several weeks so only at the beginning of the new year I finally could smoke the pipe. And I was not disappointed, it is a good smoker and will earn a place in the pantheon of my smoking pipes. I mailed Sabina and asked if she was willing to do an interview for this blog, and she was.

Sabina and her family © Sabina Pipes

Sabina and her family © Sabina Pipes

When how and where did you learn to carve and shape briar wood to make smoking pipes? During my professional job (I have a Communication Degree but I always worked in a Financial area) I always missed an activity in which I could express myself. When my husband, a long time pipe smoker, began to explore the pipe making as an hobby, I began to find it very interesting too. After all we take a block of wood and carve  it into a pipe! Amazing! I’ve been following  his development and I began to love the idea of carving a pipe. So I wanted to learn and try it. When I was pregnant, I decided to be a stay at home mother. However I missed an occupation that I could conciliate with the role of a mother and one in which I could give wings to my creativity. So I decided to go ahead with the idea of making a pipe. I carved my first pipe, a Poker, on July 2013 and it was the beginning of my journey as pipe maker. I feel that I learn every time I carve a pipe. Pipe making is really a delight! When I started making pipes, as my son was newborn, I only had time to make the drills in the workshop and finish the pipes in my kitchen while the baby was sleeping. For that reason, each one of my pipes is unique because it tells a story, my story as a pipe maker and a mother. Each person who gets one of my pipes, also receives a part of me. Now, I work in my workshop in part-time. It’s very relaxing being at the workshop  carving a pipe. A unique piece, made by me with all my love and care.

Morta Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

Morta Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

What kinds of woods do you use for your pipes? I only use Italian briar and sometimes I use Morta (Bog Oak). I also use some exotic woods for accents. I tried several briar suppliers but now I exclusively work with Mimmo Romeo.

© Sabina Pipes

© Sabina Pipes

What materials do you use for your stems? During some time I used pre-made acrylic stems which were hand finished by me. Then I started making my own stems and now I prefer to use German ebonite and cumberland.

Workplace © Sabina Pipes

Workplace © Sabina Pipes

Can you tell something about the equipment you use for the making of the pipes? I was lucky and from the beginning I already had a workshop with some machines and tools my husband bought. After some time I took control of the workshop an now it is my “cave”. The main machines and tools I use are a metal lathe, a powerful Dremel, a sanding disc, a sanding belt and files. My workshop is my space, my world, where I can find myself. There, I can finally give wings to my creativity! Working in a workshop is something much more masculine, I think. It is not every day I meet a woman working in the middle of machinery, wood and dust. But I just love it!! I mean, I’m a woman, a wife and a mother, that loves make up but I also love to work in my workshop! I love work on  lathe and my Demmel is my best friend!

© Sabina Pipes

© Sabina Pipes

When making pipes, do you have a favourite pipe shape and if so, why that one? I love Rhodesians and all the related family. I carved several Rhodesians and in the future I would like to explore the Bulldog and Eskimo shapes for example. I love the hand-feel of the Rhodesian and it is also a great shape to play around with finishes, for example a smooth top and rusticated bottom.

Dark Soul Pot © Sabina Pipes

Dark Soul Pot © Sabina Pipes

You are very creative with coming up with new finishes, my compliments! Can you tell more about the inspiration for the Soul collection and how you make them? Many thanks! I love rusticated pipes and some of my favourite pipe makers are Masters in rustications. I always loved the work of Konstantin Shekita, he carves some stunning lattice pipes. The inspiration for my Soul pipes came from his work. I love the concept of the lattice and as in Portugal we have a traditional hand craft, “Renda” (hand made lace), I decided to give it try. So I took the concept of the Portuguese “Renda” and applied it to my pipes. My Soul pipes are quite unique because the lattice is all open, just touching the pipe in the top and near the stem. So in the end you get a visual effect of a pipe inside the lattice, despite they are carved from a unique piece of briar. To carve this pipes I use my Dremel and lots of patience and love.

Bone Honeycomb Poker © Sabina Pipes

Bone Honeycomb Poker © Sabina Pipes

Can you tell more about the inspiration for the Honeycomb pipes and how you make them? I like to play around with rustications and one time when I was exploring the effect of a rustication with “holes”, an image of a Honeycomb came into my mind and I started to recreate it. Nowadays it is a kind of signature rustication from me.

Iced Green Prince © Sabina Pipes

Iced Green Prince © Sabina Pipes

Can you tell more about the inspiration for the Iced Green pipes and how you make them? They look like they have been in the fridge for some time! The inspiration came from one of my husbands hobbies. He likes to paint war miniatures and has great techniques for that. I liked one of these techniques, the “Dry Brush” and decided to give it a try on my pipes! The first attempt was with blue and I also made one in red but the Iced Green one is the most popular for sure.

Broken Shanked Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

Broken Shanked Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

Can you tell more about the inspiration for the Broken pipes and how you make them? I really like the idea of something broken but beautiful at same time. I like the philosophy of a “Broken Body, Strong Mind”. Other pipe makers already explored the idea of a broken shank; Ser Jacopo, Werner Mummert and Eder Mathias for example. As it is something I love, I decided to give it my own approach and created the Broken Pipes. When we look it seems the shank is broken but in fact we have a regular pipe ended in plateaux skin with a hand made stem with a plateaux skin ring chosen by me especially to match with the stummel.

Soul Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

Soul Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

On which pipe you made are you most proud? The Smooth Soul Rhodesian. I was sanding all night until 5 AM because I was super excited to see the result.

Morta Bent Billiard © Sabina Pipes

Morta Bent Billiard © Sabina Pipes

What makes a Sabina pipe a Sabina pipe? You have certain “golden rules” that you apply with every pipe you make? What makes a Sabina Pipe is my own style I guess. I still have lots to learn in order to improve my skills. But during this 3 year journey I always tried to follow my own style. I like to play around with textures and finish and I don’t have fear of it. Despite there are lots of more conservative pipe smokers, there are also many space for new creations and that is the beauty of the pipe community. I also love a classic pipe, but always with a twist, something that gives it an unique personality.

© Sabina Pipes

© Sabina Pipes

Do you smoke pipe yourself? If so, what are your favourite pipes? I started carving pipes a long time before I tried to smoke one. First I fell in love with the shape and then I started wanting to try it because I should know my work and how a pipe should be smoked. But I’m not an experienced pipe smoker, I just smoke occasionally.

© Sabina Pipes

João Reis © Sabina Pipes

What (beside your own pipes) are your favourite pipe-brands/makers? That would provide an extended list… For example, I really love the work of the pipe makers João Reis, Konstantin Shekita, Alex Brishuta, Chris Asteriou, Uwe Maier… But there are many others in my top favourite list… Again, I like the work of pipe makers with an unique style.

em_1582What is your favourite tobacco-blend (to smoke or to smell)? I like to smoke aromatics, especially with a Cherry taste. I usually love the smell of all pipe tobaccos, but some of them are a bit strong for me to smoke. For example my husband likes Latakia, Perique, Black Cavendish… All strong stuff for me.

© Sabina Pipes

© Sabina Pipes

Any last words for readers? If there are some readers who have a dream  (pipe making for example) I would like to say to always follow your dreams and always give something you really want a try. Learn from the mistakes and get stronger with each fall.

As I write this Sabina is in Denmark to improve on her already considerable pipe making skills by learning from masters like Tom Eltang, João Reis, Tao, Kai Nielsen and Kurt Balleby. Below are pictures of the process of making the forum pipe in general and of course images of my own forum pipe.

https://www.sabinapipes.com/
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Hospitable Heukelum 2016

Label of the 2016 forumbeer

Label of the 2016 forumbeer

I really hate autumn. There, I said it. Yeah I know, lots of people like it, the falling leaves, the smells, the colours etc. Well, for me autumn is made out of dark, grey, rainy and cold days which suck the joy out of my life.. Blagh… I prefer summer with the warmth and comfort of the sun. Luckily not all is bad in these dark days, there is even some light. Light coming from a small brewery located in the tiny Dutch village of Heukelum. There one of the annual meetings of the Dutch/Belgian pipe-smokers forum is held. People from all layers of society sitting together, chatting away, drinking, eating, in general just having a good time. As it is supposed to be. Like the previous years stone-cutting tamper-maker extraordinaire Martin organised it. The price remained the same as last year so we all got excellent value for money. I mean, you get two drinks, there is a big BBQ with all kinds of tasty fresh meat, sauces, salads and baguettes, the rent of the brewery is included and last but not least you get one bottle of special forum-beer with a label made by myself!

Dre and some of his wares

Dre and some of his wares

Like always I picked up Mark at the Deventer train station and together we drove to the carpool place where Johnny and Ed would be waiting or us. When we got there it turned out to be quite busy with cars so I had to park mine beside the road. Suddenly a pissed-off guy approached me that I had to park my car elsewhere. It turned out to be the owner of the ice-cream van who stood there, he was afraid his clients did not have space to manoeuvre with my car there. Bullshit of course but since the guy is a total nut-case (he was in the news because he conned customers) I opted to park elsewhere. To my amazement and joy the weather actually was nice when we arrived at ‘T Kuipertje. A bit of sunshine, hardly any wind and a decent temperature made it feel like a very late summers day. One of the first things I did was fetch my ordered PRF shirts and sweaters. Peter did an excellent job ordering, handling and packing all the fine quality PRF textiles. Thanks mate, now I have some decent clothes to wear this winter and coming summer. Second I approached Dre, who refurbishes estate pipes as a hobby. I mailed him earlier that week with a request.

The father of a good friend of mine

The father of a good friend of mine

As I told in my Humble Beginnings part 1 blogpost one of my influences to start pipe-smoking is the father of a long time friend of mine. Well, he is in The Netherlands right now because of his bad health. Ok, bad health is a bit too exaggerated, he has some physical issues which are better addressed here (better hospitals) than in Brazil, where he lives. He brought some pipes with him and when I took a good look at them tears welled up in my eyes.. He is an old fashioned smoker, and by that I mean he likes to smoke the same blend over and over again (he took a liking to my Phoenix Graveyard Mixture (basically all my natural tobacco leftovers mixed together) in just a couple of pipes which are hardly cleaned. One of his pipes has the mouthpiece of some other pipe which is duct-taped more or less to the shank and the underside of another one bubbles up because it is almost burned through. Time for some “new” pipes I thought, so I approached Dre and asked him if he had any straight pipes (preferably billiards) for sale. “Just wait, I will bring some pipes with me”, he mailed back. And indeed, Dre showed me a billiard and some canadians which looked just fine. “I’ll take them all!” I happily said. Dre asked a very friendly price and even threw in another pipe for free! Thanks very much Dre! The father of my friend is a happy man now.

Me, Robbin and Ed

Me, Robbin and Ed

Time for a drink! The previous years the beers of ‘T Kuipertje were good although sometimes a bit on the watery side. However, this year I was surprised by full, round tasting brew! With a smile I walked to Robbin, some weeks before the meeting I bought a straight Dunhill patent era prince from him for a very good price. He once bought the pipe from a man who turned out to be a swindler and that turned him off so much that he never smoked it. I have no such problem with that pipe so Robbin brought it with him. Happily I filled my new acquisition with some tobacco and went outside. I put the pipe in my mouth, brought the flame from the lighter to the bowl and *crack!* bit through the mouthpiece.. While silently cursing I took the pipe out of my mouth and inspected the damage, a piece of the lip had broken off. The mouthpiece was already very thin by decades of buffing and my strong teeth did the rest. Just bad luck, not any one’s fault. Frisian pipe maker Meindert saw me inspecting the damage and carefully took the pipe from my hands. “Just give it to me, I will make a new mouthpiece for it, everything will be ok.” So to be continued..

Jeujjjj!!!

Jeujjjj!!!

Then it was time for me to ask for everyone’s attention. For some time I am busy with a new PRF forum tobacco called “Flatlander Flake” made by Samuel Gawith and imported by (Elbert) Gubbels. Just a couple of days before the meeting I received 2 sample tins from Elbert so the forum members could try the blend. I wanted to give a longer speech in which I explained and told about the new forum tobacco journey but sadly my throat (I still was having a nasty cold..) protested heavily. So I decided to give a shorter version and let the tobacco speak for itself. During the rest of the day I (luckily) got nothing but positive response about Flatlander Flake, mission accomplished!

Finger tapping the sh*t out of that ukelele like Van Halen. NOT!

Finger tapping the sh*t out of that ukelele Van Halen style. NOT!

Suddenly when I was talking to some folks I heard a strange monotone noise coming from outside. It turned out to be Sander who was gearing up his hurdy-gurdy. Such a strange instrument but Sander proved to be surprisingly skilful in playing it. The folk melodies coming from it brought me visions of merry drinking and eating people. Hmm, pretty much the group I was looking at! Rob (one of the many Robs on the forum) also brought instruments with him; his self made (from used cigar- and pipe tobacco boxes) ukeleles. They look really great! He also brought a regular ukelele which I could not resist playing. I painfully discovered that having experience in playing guitar and bass does not mean one can play an ukelele..

Yummie meat!

Yummie meat!

I was saved by the announcement of brewery-owner Henk that the BBQ’s were ready. Time to eat! Henk gets his meat from a local butcher and you really can taste that, premium quality! Normally I would not notice that so much, but because I am more or less on a diet I took no (fat and sugar-rich) sauces with my meat. Some weeks ago I had a BBQ with my brother-in-law and he had meat from the supermarket. Well, it was not nearly as good as what Henk had to offer. So I sinned and filled up my plate 3 times before I contently sat down with a full belly. Needless to say the gym awaited me the next day..

Sander

Sander

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent chatting away with all the present folks. Because of the heat coming from the BBQ’s we could sit outside for a long time. Talking about heat, on a table stood a small bottle with some red sauce in it. It belonged to hurdy-gurdy player Sander and on the label was an ominous name that indicated the contents were very hot. But according to Sander that was not really the case, he used large amounts of it on his meat. Curiosity got the better of me, I put some sauce on the top of my finger and licked it off. At first nothing happened. I proclaimed “Hah, this stuff is not as ho….” when suddenly my mouth started to burn, my eyes began to water and I got hiccups. Holy damned sh*t, this stuff is HOT! The whole table laughed at my attempts to control the effects of the hellish sauce. In the end I fled inside and asked Henk for a glass of milk, the best liquid you can get if you have eaten something hot. Unfortunately he did not have that but the glass of water he offered disappeared in my mouth within the blink of an eye.

Poor Mark...

Poor Mark…

Around 8 o’clock it was time to go home. We said goodbye to each other and stepped in the car. The ride home was pretty quiet, obviously everyone still had the fantastic day in their minds. Until Mark asked if Ed could stop the car, he needed to take a shit badly. Not so funny because he suffers from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrom). So we halted at a gas-station where Mark quickly went to the toilet. Which took him quite a while. At one point some men where waiting in front of the toilet. Funny were the faces of disgust they pulled at the sounds and smells so to say. But I felt pity for poor Mark, luckily he was feeling pretty relieved when he joined us again in the car.

I want to thank Henk and Martin for organizing yet another great meeting and all who attended for the interesting conversations, the laughter and camaraderie. All pictures were made by Jan(neman), Klaas, Nick and Roelof.

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The adventures of the Fuming Four in Scotland part 2.

Click here for part 1.

The bathroom

The bathroom

Day 3: Saturday 30 April
I awoke with a headache, a queasy feeling and a thirst for water. Ah, damn.. Hangover.. Well, things could have been worse, I thought. With some difficulty I climbed over a snoring Thierry (we both shared the upper part of a giant sized bunk bed) onto the ladder. I fumbled in my backpack for some painkillers and swallowed them with loads of water. Silently I staggered to the bathroom, hoping that a shower would freshen me up. Suddenly it dawned on me that for the electricity in the lodge British Pound coins were needed. So perhaps the boiler did not work and there would be no hot water. I took the risk and while standing under the shower I mumbled a quick prayer that it would be warm. A weak trickle of water emerged and.. Damnit, cold! No, wait! After a long while it became hot. Aahhh.. Such a good feeling!

Matron and I sporting a hangover..

Matron and I sporting a hangover..

After the shower I got dressed and went to the living-room/kitchen part of the lodge. There I saw that Matron was awake and one look at his face told me that he was feeling exactly the same as me. The dishes had to be done so we did them together while groaning softly sometimes because of our hangovers. Matron did not have a good night. He slept in a bunk bed (in another chamber as us) on the lower part with Darren above him. In the middle of the night he was awakened because his sleeping bag felt a bit moist. “Shit! Have I pissed myself?” he thought. Carefully he felt his crotch.. No.. Then looked to the mattress above him and slowly saw some liquid dripping from it. He gave Darren a nudge.. “Pssst, Darren, wake up, did you piss yourself??” Groggily the inebriated Scotsman lifted up his sleeping bag.. “Ay..”

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

One by one the rest awoke. Alf, Gregor, Shaun and Rob all felt pretty ok considering the night before. Darren was still sleeping but Thierry looked like the ghost of Christmas past. He had tried to drink some water but it had all come out.. 1 time at night and 4 times in the morning, the poor lad. Luckily Matron had the solution: a good, hearty breakfast. He started baking bacon and eggs but also had the curry from the night before. “Anyone also curry??” “Ay!” Answered Rob and myself. I must say, I seldom had such a great morning meal. Bacon and eggs on a bun with some sauce combined with a leftover bit of curry. Delicious! Thierry was thinking the same, bit by bit he began to feel better. Such is the resilience of youth.. There was a bit of drama when Shaun went for a shower. Suddenly he came out the bathroom with a pale face. “Oh boy, I am really f*cked now..” It turned out that one of his special contact lenses (€3000 a piece!) accidentally fell down the drain. Lucky for him Matron found it back in the drain pipe where it got stuck. *pheww* Outside the weather was surprisingly nice, sunny and even a bit warm. I sat on the bench before the lodge and soaked in the healing rays of the sun.

In front of the Dalwhinnie distillery

In front of the Dalwhinnie distillery

Just before 2 o’clock we left for the nearby Dalwhinnie whisky distillery, I had booked a tour there. Darren and Gregor were not coming along (in fact, Darren had gone to bed again after breakfast. He was utterly demolished by all the Westvleteren he consumed..) so it was just the six of us. The distillery is set in a desolate, wind-sliced, rain-lashed patch of Highland wilderness. Especially with the two distinctive pagoda roofs the building and its surroundings look like a scene out of the Lord of the Rings. We were greeted warmly inside and soon met our tour-guide; an old chap with almost spiky hair and hands and a face that looked like he consumed quite a lot of the brew that was made there. But he was a truly amicable fellow and guided us with clear stories and a bit of humour through the rooms and halls of the distillery. It was forbidden to take pictures inside which I really regretted when we saw the 2 enormous and impressive copper stills where a lot of the magic happens. At the end of the tour we all got genuine Dalwhinnie glasses and of course a bit of the stuff itself. Before I could say “no” Rob (who was driving) already poured the contents of his glass into mine. Oh man, and I still wasn’t feeling too well because of the hangover.. But like the brave Dutchman I am I downed the glass in one gulp. And felt a bit better afterwards crazily enough.

Real men

The Fuming Four: real men

Rob wanted to have lunch so we went to some snackbar/grill restaurant something at the edge of a nearby village. When ordering the Belgians made sure that this time their chips would be well baked. The Scots had a strange (for me) dish: beans on toast. Literally just canned beans in tomato sauce heated up and dumped over buttered toast. They seemed to like it. Once we got back at the lodge the weather was still that nice that the Belgians, Rob and I decided to do a group picture KPC style. So we took off our coats, sweaters and shirts and posed for the camera like real men with bare chests.

Haggis with neeps and tatties, yummie!

Haggis with neeps and tatties, yummie!

In the evening Matron was preparing a signature Scottish dish: haggis. He (traditionally) served it with “neeps” and “tatties“, boiled and mashed separately. Normally a “dram” (a glass of Scotch whisky) goes with it but after the alcoholic orgy of the night before some water sufficed. I must say, the haggis tasted remarkably excellent! Like a smooth mixture between black pudding and liver. For herbivore Thierry Matron had also made some vegetarian haggis. I had some and it tasted surprisingly great. The remainder of the evening was spend quietly in front of the fire. The rest was chatting away and I was reading on my new e-reader, such a great invention! Thierry dodged a bullet by the way, he fell asleep before midnight but just before Shaun and I were going to press our butts in his face he woke up.. Needless to say we all went to bed early.

Kirkcaldy

Kirkcaldy

Day 4: Sunday 1 May
After a great night’s sleep, shower and breakfast it was time to leave the bothy/lodge behind. The planning for the day was to go to the capital city of Scotland: Edinburgh. I rented an apartment there near the Royal Mile and opposite the castle. And the best thing was: we could smoke in there! The Scotsmen helped getting our gear to the cars where we said our goodbyes. In the short time we had together we all grew very fond of each other, that is for sure. Matron came along with us until the first stop: tobacconist G.T. Coventry in Kirkcaldy run by Maclean John Dorward. When we arrived in the coastal town at the shop Maclean was waiting outside. “The damn alarm won’t come off, I already called a mechanic but since it’s Sunday it can take a while..” Despite that he offered us a sneak-peak in his store, which was a bad move because the alarm immediately went off. And it made a truly hellish noise. Quickly we all went outside, Maclean kept waiting for the mechanic and we decided to go to a pub. Several streets further we could still hear the alarm..

Yummie food!

Yummie food!

Finding a pub was easy, but when we got inside we got the distinct impression we were not wanted there. It was a real Scottish pub for real Scottish people, not us. Across the street was an Indian/Nepalese/Chinese/Thai restaurant where an employee stood outside. “Are we welcome here?” Rob asked. (With an Indian accent) “Yes of course! Come in, come in, follow me!” We sat at the back of the place which had a lovely view across the sea. The food was more than excellent! I had noodles with chicken, mouthwatering good. On a small tray were some flakes of something which I fully added to the noodles. Rob looked amazed at me. “You realize you just threw in a bunch of spicy chilli flakes in you dish?” Whoops.. But despite that, great food, only my stomach pained me afterwards..

Maclean of G.T. Coventry

Maclean of G.T. Coventry

Suddenly Matron got a text message, at G.T. Coventry the mechanic had fixed the alarm. When we entered the shop we were (once again) greeted by Maclean. Looking around it was smaller than I though, but in a good way. It had a certain cosiness. Also because of the lovely old world style wooden interior. The building itself is really old. In 1720 it was a mill (horse-powered), in 1861 it was a chemist and drug-store and then a hatter in the 1890’s. Since 1906 a tobacconist has been located at this site. For a better and longer description of the store, see this KPC magazine.

Maclean weighing off tobacco

Maclean weighing off tobacco

Maclean proved to be a very nice, relaxed chap, answering questions and telling about the shop. Strange laws they have in Scotland, you are allowed to sample what you are buying but you can’t smoke it inside the shop.. Of course I had done some research about his store and in all honesty I must say, I was a little disappointed about the assortment. On pictures I saw that only a couple of years ago he had more pipes and pipe and snuff tobaccos for sale. Despite that, it was still pretty impressive. We all bought something and the loose tobaccos were measured in the old fashioned style on scales. I purchased 2 Gawith & Hoggarth bulk tobaccos (can’t remember which ones..) and a piece of black rope tobacco. I could not help noticing that things were going downhill for Maclean. “Alone last year I lost 8 regular customers..” Maclean sighed. How? “Well, they died of old age. And no new customers are replacing them..” When we left the store the good man gifted us a tin of Peterson Signature Flake (in the vein of Capstan). I really, really hope his business endures.

View from the apartment

View from the apartment

Outside the shop Matron said goodbye to us, he was going home. We all thanked him for some fabulous days we will never forget! On the way to Edinburgh we noticed that Shaun his bladder infection slowly healed, thankfully he brought medicines with him. In the capital of Scotland we parked our car near the castle, not cheap but the closest to our apartment. Once we got there I opened a small locked box beside the door with the key in it with a code I got from the owner. The apartment was more spacious than I could see on the pictures, excellent! There were 2 beds, 1 in the bedroom and 1 sofa bed in the living room. The one in the bedroom was large enough for 2 but the sofa bed not. Luckily I had brought an inflatable mattress with me. The view from the main window was great, we could see the castle and the Royal Mile.

Watching TV

Watching TV

At first we wanted to get some food at a supermarket and cook it ourselves but of course we could not find one in the city centre. After a short walk we decided to eat almost beside our door at Maxies Bistro. Since it was the last evening in Scotland Shaun and I both decided to dine a bit decadent with a Scottish border rib-eye steak served with black pudding in a rich Port sauce. Yummie! That also went for the friendly and good looking waitress. They had an excellent customer service by the way. Rob always drinks Coca Cola but they did not have that, they had Pepsi, which Rob hates. Suddenly a waiter came back with a can of Coca Cola. Turned out that a while ago they had run out of Pepsi and hastily bought some loose Coca Cola cans. Rob’s smile went from ear to ear. Back in the apartment Rob and Shaun wanted to watch Match of the Day, especially Rob is a big soccer fan. So we all sat there, smoking a pipe, watching TV. Afterwards Rob and Shaun decided to sleep together in the main bed, I had my air mattress and Thierry opted for the sofa bed.

Rob and his full Scottish breakfast

Rob and his full Scottish breakfast

Day 5: Monday 2 May
My air mattress was a bit empty when I woke up but nonetheless I slept well. Soon we packed our stuff and decided to have breakfast just beside our door at The Castle Arms. Shaun and I went for a simple bun with bacon & egg but Thierry and Rob opted for the full Scottish breakfast. Rob even had haggis with it! With a good “foundation” in our bellies we began the journey back to Newcastle. This time via the coastal A1 highway, well, highway.. Here in the Netherlands we would call it a provincial road. But it had some great views of the British coastline. On the radio there was not much. Luckily Thierry brought a little speaker with him which he hooked up to his phone so we could enjoy some decent music. Before we arrived at the ferry we wanted to get some food at a supermarket because of the high prices on the boat. On the outward journey we encountered plenty of supermarkets, now none.. Grrrr..

The bad-ass Fuming Four

The bad-ass Fuming Four

Entering the ferry went pretty smooth again despite Thierry and Rob receiving a warning from customs because they brought the wrong kind of pocketknife with them. On the boat our cabin proved to be a little bit bigger than on the outward journey, but just as hot.. Because we failed in buying food at a supermarket we were forced to dine on the ferry. This time we went to the Italian restaurant. I ordered a spaghetti bolognese (for a whopping €19!) and I must say, it was THE worst I ever had. Even when you get it from out of a cheap tin it tastes better.. Shaun also had a hard time eating his pizza quattro formaggi (4 cheeses). The crust was very weak and fat just floated on top of it.. Yuk.. On this boat there was no secluded bar where we could drink something so we just stayed in our cabin. Thierry was goofing around with his camera which ended up in one big hilarious photo-shoot.

It was wonderful!

It was wonderful!

Day 6: Tuesday 3 May
Once again I awoke sweaty because of the lack of air conditioning. Nevermind, it was the last night, today I would sleep in my own bed again. We decided to skip the expensive breakfast at the ferry and eat something along the road. But the journey home went so smooth and fast we did not stop. I said my goodbyes to everyone at Rob’s place and drove to a nearby aunt and uncle of mine to get some late breakfast. Before I knew it I was home again which surprised Ellen, she thought I would have been back later that day. We hugged and she asked how the vacation was. Well darling, do I have some stories to tell…..

I want to thank Rob, Shaun and Thierry for their great companionship during the journey, you’re the best! I also would like to thank Matron, Alf, Darren and Gregor from the KPC for their unconditional hospitality and friendship! You guys rule!

All pictures were made by Thierry, Rob and myself.

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Update 25-10-2016: Today I heard from Matron the sad news that on 20-10 Maclean-John Dorward of G.T. Coventry passed away at the tender age of 60. He had an inoperable terminal cancer and associated problems with his kidneys. Maclean said that he’d been feeling unwell for sometime and “knew something was up” before he was diagnosed with cancer about a month ago. G.T. Coventry is now closed and will be sold. Also see this link from the local newspaper. R.I.P. Maclean-John Dorward.