Free Writing: Vit

Free Writing: Vit

It seemed impossible to begin with. Ultimate happiness diet. I’d tried all the fads before. This was just the latest one. No one ate meals of course, not really. I can’t remember the last time I chewed something. Gum maybe. Nicotine gum. I remember mint covering something awful. The latest diet was proving popular and more importantly effective. The principle is this, Vitamin D is in sunlight, it makes you happy in summer and the lack of it makes you sad in the winter. Like, it’s literally SAD. Seasonal attitude dysfunction or something like that.

So the latest trend has you basically taking a VD overdose. It gives you a happiness kick, a much needed happiness kick. But it’s like everybody says about these vit diets, you’re body takes what you need and you’ll pee out the rest eventually. It’s like back in ’89, everyone was getting really sick so VC was the one to take. I heard rumours of real oranges but that was Up Town where everyone has money. I buy my vits, like most people in my town, from the Academy. It’s group of guys that make the pills, the vit pills. The purest this side of Up Town, everybody says.

My neighbour was using everything especially cal, calcium for her bones. She in her thirties now so is likely to break a hip any day. She broke an arm not too long ago. She tried to sue the Academy. They broke her other arm. She got taken Up Town. I think they helped. I like to think they helped. I take iron mostly, VC when the cold hits. I’m old enough for periods and the Academy said iron will help with the blood lose. Nan says I won’t until I put on some weight. I’m four stone.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

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As I sit in the Library, waiting until 3pm to get the train to the airport, I realise I’ve written more about this trip than any playwriting or free writing. I underestimated this city; thinking I could do or see what I wanted in a limited number of hours and afternoons not realising how rich the culture and history would be. How fascinated I would be. How I would be in a constant state of awe. It’s true what they say, the world being a book and those that don’t travel.

But I now appreciate how lucky I am; for me, the journey is easy and it is cheap. I had perceived a £60 return ticket to be a lot but compare that with my new Australian friends who paid not hundred but thousands of pound each and they have to tolerate hostels for six weeks to explore cities I could visit in a weekend without breaking the bank and fly in a matter of hours. Their trip had two changes. I am lucky. I am lucky to live in Europe where there are so many cultures to explore, histories to learn and pages to turn.

I want to say Amsterdam is my favourite city but it’s the only one I’ve seen outside of the UK. There’s one thing I know now for certain; I can do it on my own. And if I can then I will. Maybe not soon what with America in April, but I know now what is possible. I’ll still have pen and paper and I may write about the city I’m in instead of the cities I create for the stage but that’s okay because that’s means it’s a worthy city to be in. Not only does it get your attention, it demands it.

Learning About The City

Learning About The City

I didn’t write a single word on Wednesday because I was having too much fun and learning so much. The day started with a waffle hunt. I’d missed the hostel breakfast of cheese sandwiches (I found the toaster checking out!) so went searching for waffle places that I’d seen everywhere. But Wednesday morning, they’d all disappeared. I eventually found one and had a quick sugary one before setting out to the Amsterdam Museum. I had planned on hitting museums hard in an effort to get a good amount of bang for my buck. Waking up late and yet still tired, I decided against that and set out to learn about the city I was in.

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As the name suggests the museum was about Amsterdam’s history, how a dam was built on the river Amstel and then it all got interesting. Amsterdam is a strange city; it was ahead of its time but also stuck in its way. When it was given to Napoleon to sort out, before he fobbed it off to his little brother, he was disgusted by their lack of street numbers and surnames. Both were established in the rest Europe 150 years previous. Despite the French, it never lost its liberating acceptance; Catholics may have been driven out by Protestants but they turned a blind eye to the odd hidden church if it kept the forgien merchants happy because those merchants made money. If there’s one thing Amsterdam loves almost as much as equality and freedom, its money and everyone’s freedom to make money, as long as they paid taxes. As well as an ancient wooden pile, an example of one of the millions of piles that support the city on this marshy land, Amsterdam Museum also had real cocaine on displays, as well as a donated spliff. Clearly too perfectly rolled to ever be lit. Amsterdam truly has it all. I have fallen in love.

I found myself leaving the museum around 1.30pm after spending about two and a half hours there, thankful that I took my time there rather than rush. In 45 minutes, a free walking tour of the city would begin in Dam Square, named so because that’s where the dam was built. Fuck it, I thought, let’s check it out. I have been to the museum and I am writing this post canal cruise Thursday morning, and I have to say the walking tour was the best way to explore and learn about the city. Our guide Paul added personality and humour that reflected the city.

For example, the oldest church in Amsterdam doesn’t happen to be in the centre of the Red Light District, the Red Light District grew around the church. Being a thriving harbour, Amsterdam saw its fair share of sailors; sailors with needs. They would visit the ladies and then repent their sins in the church which specialised in selling forgiveness. You’d hate to be called back to the sea after visiting a lady only to die and find yourself in hell. For efficiency, the church also sold forgiveness in advance.

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We also learnt about trade, drugs, architecture, politics, a house 1.8m wide, drugs and canals. The tour ended at a restaurant where I started making conversation with an Australian couple doing an epic 6 week European city bonanza and an American pilot that came on a whim and was here for less than 24 hours. I ate a giant meatball on a bed of mashed veg, given the chill that was in the air that day, it was perfect.

The Australian couple then said they were off to an ale house they found on the internet and I joined them. I drank ale! I tried IPA, I know what IPA is, and I appreciated it and could tell the difference (ish). We bonded over Doctor Who and Joss Wheaton. I tried to describe where Essex was with coasters. We took the American to see the Red Light District at night and paid €2 for a peep show. Well, a peep show and a shift change, I should have asked for a refund. I then headed back to my hostel where my bunk mate was asleep and for the first time, I had to sneak in. Slightly wobbly after 2 glasses of wine and 2 glasses of ale, and my locker too noisy to open, I slept in my dress. Fuck it, I was going home tomorrow. Sniff sniff. I was going home tomorrow.

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Despite the water pressure, I thought about trying to wash my hair tomorrow, the narrow alleyways of the Red Light District had left my hair smelling of weed.

Thoughts from The Red Light District

Thoughts from The Red Light District

It was all rather underwhelming and equally upsetting. It was a little tricky to find, I over shot it while walking but when I found it, it was obvious and surreal. It’s a place on Earth I never thought I’s find myself. But curiosity got the better of me. I got there early judging by the closed curtains. It was around 7pm as I didn’t want to walk by myself too late. So I decided to visit the Museum of Prostitution to understand where I was better. This was the part that upset me the most.

So in my head, the Red Light District was like Alecky Blythe’s The Mistress Contract. Women on display, you pick, you go into a bedroom, do it, leave. It would be a typical bedroom with carpet and wallpaper. I knew not to expect Belle Du Jour or Moulin Rogue luxury but I wasn’t expecting hospital like quarters. Tiny tiles rooms straight through the windows that are doors. Simply express an interest, she’ll open the door and close the curtain behind her. She gets an average €50, you get an average of six minutes and everybody’s supposedly happy. It would appear making it legal has made it a business, cheap and efficient for maximum profit.

The museum also told the heart breaking story of a woman who had been trafficked here. Despite the happy ending of her pimp being imprisoned, she felt she could do nothing else but keep prostituting herself to make enough money to get back home to Poland. Another wasn’t so lucky. She was murdered in that very museum. That’s right; the museum was a working brothel before someone was killed there. They should tell you that shit before you go in. I joke but it’s all too common and her murder is still unresolved.

I was also struck by the windows themselves. I was expecting clean cut; just the window, the iconic strip light and the girl. Most of them had shelves with drinks, hair spray and cigarettes because the windows are an extension of the room. I witnessed the odd iconic slow beckoning finger but most of them looked bored, playing on their phones, straightening their hair, sharing a laugh with the girl opposite. It all seemed normal. Like another day at the office, but I suppose that’s what it was; it’s just a job. It’s a novelty to the people on the other side of the glass. You wanted to stare, I wanted to stare, I wanted to understand but that felt rude. I didn’t want to be rude.

The people (why do I say people, it was mainly men) who worked the doors of the sex shows weren’t as tactful. Neither were the prices, €2 for a peep show. Constant live sex acts. Constant! Even in my prime, I don’t think I could go constantly, even if you paid me. Needless to say, I didn’t go in. The museum changed my perspective. I imagined in legalising it, it became a woman’s choice to enter that profession. That was true in most cases; but sex trafficking and pimping is still happening, even in Amsterdam. I didn’t want to encourage this behaviour if young women were being forced into it. But I did, didn’t I? I visited. I stared. I saw groups of tourists being taken around. They must give the tourists a show. There must be a Red Light District.

The Morning After My First Night In Amsterdam

The Morning After My First Night In Amsterdam

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I knew I would be fine travelling alone; it was my first time doing so, I’m allowed to be nervous. One thing I did not account for was eating alone. I was okay at lunch, sitting in cafes and reading, keeping myself to myself. But it was dinner I found difficult. It is more of a social occasion, full of chatter and wine in my experiences of dining with a second human being. It’s also slightly embarrassing when you decide to eat soft tacos with fatty stringy cheesy pork. It was amazing and messy, too much filling, not enough tacos.

I am sleeping with one other gentleman which wasn’t so bad. He kept himself to himself as I did. I though it must have been difficult for him as I went/tried to sleep around 8pm last night. I was so tired, the stress of my cancelled train, rushing through the airport and walking around this amazing city all day in awe with my head in the air wondering what on earth the hooks are for. (It must just be one of those things as even the more modern looking builds had them.)

Went off topic there. Anyway, I find myself back in Bagesl and Beans. I was hoping for a seat by the window over looking the Keizersgracht. Look at me, speaking like a local. But, alas, all the seats were taken so I went to the back. One black coffee later and I’ve planned the rest of my trip. I was going to wing it but I didn’t want to miss anything. I had to prioritise and ask myself: what can I do here that I can’t do anywhere else?
• Red Light District (what does it say about me that I put that first? It’s research!)
• Ride bikes around the canals
• See real Picasso and Van Gogh paintings
• Learn about Amsterdam
Then there are things I want to do:
• Zoo
• Science Museum
I found a good mix of all of the above and planned my remaining three days, with writing sessions as well. I was quite proud of myself.

Before I left, I’d hand written a monologue I’d submitted and got feedback on. It didn’t look like much on a computer screen but hand writing it turned it into ten pages. I’d also hand written the email too. So armed with a strawberry smoothie, I attempted to turn my ‘lecture with potential’ into an emotional roller coaster.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

While I’m in Amsterdam having a computer free writing holiday, here’s a book review for you. Thankfully the hostel has wifi because I forgot to post something before I left. I also hadn’t packed and didn’t get to write about the amazing play The Play That Goes Wrong. That’ll happened when I get back then Amsterdam adventures.

This book is everything I wanted it to be and more. I adored the film and, as is the way with most of these things, the book was better. It is a fairy tale for grownups with a happy ending, unlike those Grimm Brothers. It has action, adventure, sword fights, poison, revenge, a six fingered man, magic, torture and best of all, love. Who could ask for anything more?