It all started in A's kitchen one drunken Bank Holiday afternoon.
"I want to try drugs so I can tell my kids I know what they're like and they shouldn't take them," she said. Or something like that.
"Why don't we go on a girlie trip to Amsterdam then? It's legal there," B replied.
"Right. I'll find a place for us to stay and email you!" Frenemy declared.
C and I just sort of drooled in the corner. We were the only ones in the group who actually had done drugs -- from marijuana to LSD, in C's case. And the prospect of trying them again, and legally, was almost too much for our wine-sozzled minds.
A few days later the email arrived.
"I have found a canal house that sleeps six. I've put down a deposit for the first week in June. I'll book the flights with EasyJet and let you know how much you owe me."
And that's why we're still friends with Frenemy. Her organisational skills can be frightening.
I'd been running 5K three times a week in preparation for the Race for Life. I was a lean, mean running machine, in good health and ready to get stoned.
We all arose around 5 a.m. for the taxi that C had organised. Groggy but in good spirits, we joined our fellow passengers in the departure lounge -- the middle-aged couples, the Hen Party, the Stag Party. We all milled around till the flight was called. I sat next to B and D, neither of them good fliers. We passed around magazines. D clung to my arm and B clung to D's as the plane lifted off. Frenemy was ready to pop open some Champagne, but it was a bit early for the rest of us.
When we landed at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, I joined the immigration queue. "Wait for me," I called to the group, and, amazingly, they did. This was a good sign. It meant I didn't already feel like the odd one out. It meant solidarity. It meant we were headed for a good time. We collected our bags and found the van awaiting us outside. As he pulled up next to the canal house, the booking agent was waiting for us.
"He's cute," Frenemy declared.
"He's gay," I countered. "Look at his sweater."
"You can't tell if he's gay by his sweater!" A insisted.
"OK, I may be wrong, but he's gay."
Mr. Not Gay Sweater showed us the canal house. The kitchen was on the bottom floor. You had to walk down three steps to get in it. The sitting room was on the next floor. From street level, it was six steps up. On the next floor was the first bedroom, which D. and I shared. Up more stairs was the bathroom and A and B's room. Up a ladder was C and Frenemy's room. If you looked out the window in their room you saw part of the roof. There was a skylight in A and B's room just outside the bathroom. The canal house was narrow, as the houses in the old part of Amsterdam are. The steps were extremely narrow. Over the next four days, every one of us would fall down at least one flight of stairs once. We helped each other with our bags up the numerous steps. Then we decided to go buy some wine and food (for the munchies we planned to be having later.)
At the corner shop, Frenemy purchased 10 bottles of wine and five bags of crisps (potato chips), eggs, bread, orange juice, milk, tea, and coffee. I bought an umbrella because I'd managed to lose the one I'd borrowed from the house.
We put away our purchases and set off to find somewhere for lunch. Emboldened by a bottle of wine, Frenemy suggested we find our first coffee house. I'd done some research on the internet on which coffee houses were the best, but Frenemy wasn't interested in quality. A, B, and D wanted to do more shopping, so C, Frenemy, and I headed for the first coffee house we saw.
It was a Jamaican one. I stepped through the door to find three Rastas playing pool and a young girl behind the counter. Should we buy readymade spliffs or roll our own? C, Frenemy and I started to argue over this. C bought some pot and rolling papers, drew out a cigarette from her bag, tore it open and mixed some of the tobacco with the pot and rolled a joint. I stared speechless.
"That's not how you roll a joint," I declared when I regained my voice.
"Yes, it is. Everyone mixes pot with tobacco. Don't they?" she looked at the girl. The girl was impassive.
"That's not how we did it in Florida," I insisted.
But I smoked it anyway.
While we were arguing and then smoking, we didn't notice the poor Rastas trying to play pool. As I waved the lit joint around I nearly stabbed one in the eye. They politely asked us to move so they could continue their game. A, B, and D returned from their shopping, and we decided to move on to another coffee house. This one was done out like a Moroccan souk. We decided to order the marijuana-laced cakes. I remembered from my younger days that ingesting it can take longer to feel the effects, but then it's a stronger high. We walked back to the house and sat round the kitchen table, waiting to feel high (I already did thanks to the Jamaican place).
A felt it first. She got up to boil the kettle. Then forgot what she was doing and sat down again. Got up. Sat down. Got up. Sat down. She started to giggle uncontrollably. We all started to giggle uncontrollably.
"This isn't a happy feeling," she wailed between giggles, tears streaming down her face. Someone took photos, thinking they might be incriminating.
Somehow we pulled ourselves together to go out and find a place to eat. It wasn't easy finding a table for six, and we ended up at an overpriced, decidedly mediocre restaurant. Frenemy pulled out a joint and started to light up at the table. We all told her to put it away NOW.
"What's the matter? It's legal here, isn't it?" she asked.
"But there's a time and a place," we told her.
We'd all agreed we weren't going to tell our husbands about our coffee house experiences. But Frenemy of course immediately rang hers.
"Guess what I've just done!"
So we all had to phone our husbands and tell them before Frenemy's husband did.
After our meal, we went back to the house and gathered round the kitchen table again. C and I ate our body weight in crisps. A made a nice cup of tea because she didn't like the unhappy feeling of being out of control the cakes gave her. Frenemy drank a lot of the wine. The others remarked on how laid back I was. And I did feel remarkably relaxed and self-contained.
Soon we all decided to turn in. We slept very soundly that night.
Tomorrow: Mike's Bikes