Another day, another bench, this time close by the botanical gardens.
The bench is a “gezzelig” meeting point for residents of the Salvation Army centre across the canal.
Every time I pass, a regular crowd seems to be hanging out there, just enjoying a beer and a smoke and some idle chit chat. That’s what “gezzelig” is all about – a friendly, comfy, relaxed atmosphere where you can just be at ease with the company and the surroundings.
It’s a sort of Dutch state of nirvana.
Anyway, as I walk past here quite often on my walks around town, I am a recognisable face to the people on the benches. Enough to get a nod and a hello in any case.
Today, walking past with the dog, Sydney catches sight of me, or rather, he catches sight of the dog, and he calls over to me to come sit down for a chat.
Sydney loves dogs. Back home in Curacao, before he came to Amsterdam about 20 years ago, he had his own dog.
An Alsatian Great Dane cross. A monster of a thing that weighed in at a whopping 95 kilos!
The last time I saw Sydney, he’d been telling me about this dog – about how fantastic it was. A gentle giant, but make no mistake, if you came onto his territory unannounced, then the guard dog in him took over and he attacked.
When Sydney related this tale to me a few months back, he could see I was amazed and not a little dubious about his claim that this dog was so monstrously huge.
I mean, 95 kilos is weighty even for a grown man, so for a dog – well phew!
I go over and Sydney is rummaging in his bag. He has something for me.
Turns out it’s photos. Photos form Curacao, of his dog.
He’s been looking out for me, but I’ve been away the past couple of months so he’s been keeping these precious photos there in his bag for a long time and now, finally, he can show them to me.
So I sit beside him while he flicks through various photos of family and friends, of nieces and nephews, of parties and long lost afternoons.
He takes me through every shot.
“Here’s my garden back home. My father, he built that house…”
“This is my mother, dead two years now, she took care of the garden…”
“Ah there’s Monique and Kevin, the twins. They’re just a few hours old there. Now they’re up in Hengelo, studying…”
We look for a moment at the two tiny newborn babies and try to imagine the twenty somethings they are now but it is impossible – even for me, a complete stranger, I can’t seem to grapple with the notion that those tiny heads peeking out of the blankets are now full grown sassy kids.
“This here! This is the school across the road from my house. There’s a church too, but I don’t have a photo of that…”
“Here he is! This is Dennis!”
He holds out a photo of what is indeed a very, very, very large dog. In the photo, Kevin and Monique are now about eight or nine and the dog’s back is at their shoulders.
He could very well have been 95 kilos if not more.
But the kids seem at ease around this behemoth. They smile and the dog is grinning.
“He always ate from the pot that dog. Always got the scraps from the table. That’s the best. None of that stuff from tins, or that dried stuff. Eeuch!”
“Does he eat from the pot too?”
He points to Nikki.
“Only a little bit – a few scraps. He’s on a diet actually. He needs to lose about 4 kilos.”
Sydney is shocked.
“No! No he doesn’t, he’s not fat. I mean he must only weigh about 8 kilos.”
“Actually he’s 25 kilos, which is the absolute maximum for a dog like him…”
His pal is looking down at Nikki, who in the meantime has managed to cadge a piece of sausage from someone and is now snuffling around looking for more. He’s eyeing a can of beer so I have to pull him away before he gets to it.
“He is a bit fat actually, now you come to mention it” the pal eventually determines. “Keep him on that dry stuff. You’re quite right…”
Sydney is having none of it.
“No! Scraps from the pot are the best. That’s the healthiest.”
“But,” his pal points out “Your dog was 95 kilos!”
“Yeah well he was a big dog….”
“That’s cos you stuffed him!”
I decide to take my leave before they ask me what I think.
If it was up to Nikki of course, he’d be with Sydney all the way on this one ….