Last weekend I found myself in Eindhoven, where I will be for the next two weeks on a business trip, or what the French call “a mission”.
“On a mission” adequately describes my behaviour on the night flight out of Nigeria, sitting as I was beside a Scottish friend who was demobilising after several years in Lagos. Sitting at the front of a KLM plane in business class, there is only one thing to do in such circumstances: drink lots.
We did. Even in the four hours spent in the lounge before boarding (you need to check in early for flights leaving Nigeria to give the customs officials adequate time to rifle through everyone’s bags and steal anything of value) we spent drinking plenty, and once we boarded we didn’t slow down. I think I finally got some sleep at about 2am after at least two stewardesses asked us to kindly shut the fuck up as people were trying to sleep, but not before vodka, wine, cognac, and port had gone downrange. I arrived in Amsterdam at 5am jetlagged as hell, regardless of the time difference being only an hour. I’ve written before about the efficiency of the Dutch train system out of Schiphol and I took full advantage of it again to get me to Eindhoven with minimal fuss, into my hotel, and to bed before 11am.
I was not due in the office of our contractor until Monday, having taken the Friday night flight because there was no space on the Saturday flight. So I did some research online and found that Eindhoven has a pretty lively nightlife, one of the main parts of which is the Stratumseind, a 200m stretch of some 40 bars and clubs which the various guides said was the place to be on a Saturday night. So off I trundled at about 11:30pm, it being only a few minutes’ walk from my hotel, and poked my head into several places, necking a drink in each one. And at some point between the fourth and fifth whiskys it dawned on me that perhaps travel guides (or at least those pertaining to nightlife) were not aimed at 35 year olds. I recall the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides being pretty much written for my age group, but now I think about it the last time I used one was about 8-10 years ago. The Stratumseind seems to be a student area, for attendees of both universities and secondary schools. I was the oldest bloke in each place by about 15 years. I was even older than the bouncers, I think. What made it worse was that this street is where kids go when they’re 16 and 17 and want to drink underage, and half of them were being let in. The other patrons must have been wondering who brought their dad along.
So feeling a bit disappointed (having hoped for at least a live band), I wandered towards Wilhelminaplein where I had spotted a small but lively looking bar earlier in the evening. It was lively all right, filled as it was with men and women between 45 and 65 absolutely smashed and behaving like teenagers. It was the most bizarre pub I’ve ever been in, and having spent a few years last decade seeking out every weird spot east of the Oder, that’s saying something. The men were old, sported lumberjack shirts or shell-suit tops, and had dodgy, grey porno ‘taches. The women had short, bleached hair, lots of cheap jewelry, too many wrinkles, and a good many had big fat arses. And as I said, everyone was absolutely hammered. Not a bit drunk, I mean proper arseholed. One couple, who did not leave together, were deep snogging at the bar as if they were 16 and in Magaluf. Another crashed into me while trying to dance, lost her balance, and had to be caught by the doorman before she went head-first into the ladies toilet door. Everybody seemed to know everyone, and I stood out like a sore thumb. The other patrons must have been wondering who brought their son along, and I skedaddled before any of the grannies made a move to find out for themselves.
I wandered back to the hotel feeling even more disappointed, and plonked myself at the hotel bar, which had closed 20 minutes before. I must have looked like a right sad-case. Anyway, I was directed down the street (fortunately, the city centre in Eindhoven is tiny) towards a street where all the adult clubs were, and set off with slightly higher hopes. When I got to the street I found three people pissing into an outside urinal, which I suppose is better than just pissing on the street which they do back home. But not exactly a good sign nonetheless. There were two clubs almost right next to each other, both with huge queues controlled by large gorillas and looking very much like the noisy, expensive, crowded, and ultimately shite nightclubs back in the UK. I didn’t even bother trying to get in. I started back to the hotel and passed a pub with what seemed to be a club in the ground floor. I went in and found myself in the bar in Star Wars. There were women sporting full-length arm tattoos and wearing leopard print welly-boots. There were hard looking men with neck tattoos, barging into anyone who was deemed to be in their way. Drinks were served in plastic glasses of the type which coffee machines dispense. A 40-year old woman in a track suit danced like she was still 17 and going to Rotterdam techno nights in warehouses, only stopping now and again to snog a Surinamese chap wearing a football shirt. The place was a serious shithole of British seaside resort proportions. It was time to leave.
The next day I met up with a colleague who is a native of Eindhoven, who had a hearty laugh when I told him of the granny bar and the teeny-boppers down Stratumseind. Apparently there is a somewhat more sophisticated area the other side of the town centre which I had missed, so next weekend I will have another go. This is just as well, because I had recently read that the allies bombed Eindhoven to rubble in support of Operation Market Garden, and as I went to bed last Saturday I was thinking it would be a good idea if they did the same thing next time the Parachute Regiment do their annual remembrance jump at Arnhem.