Amsterdam diary: my titanic moment in the canal

While I was still sprawled out on my big doughy bed on Jan van Galenstraat, my travelling companions, No.1 & No.2, were exchanging vigorous hand gestures and multilingual swear words with their landlord, Jumanji, which subsequently resulted in their eviction.

To be fair to them, it wasn’t actually No.1 & 2’s fault entirely. The elusive Jumanji – who reminds me a bit of Dexter’s Laboratory in that he must have an entire wardrobe full of the same outfit (always white flowing linen) – seemed to be after a surrogate family rather than tenants, and was becoming increasingly intrusive to the point where he was just short of suggesting that the three of them go on a spa weekend together.

The forty-something-year-old man was a lofty, crafty, philosophical character – one of those “big picture” kind of guys who let small details such as beds, water and curtains dissipate into irrelevance – preferring to focus his time more on taking the 14th floor flat apart and putting it back together again, and replacing the girls’ junk food with healthy alternatives “for their skin” – a habitual action that didn’t go down well. He also managed to accelerate the Hindu laws of reincarnation by actually achieving rebirth in his own lifetime – Dutch born and bred, somewhere along the line Jumanji changed his name and adopted an Italian identity; he maintains that he remembers nothing up to that point.

Friction began with miscommunication – or maybe selective interpretation. Jumanji’s English wasn’t half bad, but the heavy burden of his wisdom and moral compass led him to make obscure and impractical decisions. One of the first days in the apartment, the girls politely asked Jumanji if he would mind picking up a full length mirror for the room. Jumanji agreed, and disappeared for the day. That evening, he returned with two potted plants for their windowsill – a lovely thought, but not exactly hitting the nail on the head. We think he might have had a ponder in the park and come up with this notion about promoting natural beauty rather than encouraging vanity – we’re not too sure. This kind of behaviour continued for a week – and the girls were also asked to stay out of the apartment for an entire afternoon because Jumanji wanted to fumigate the place, or ward off evil spirits or something.

Somehow, an altercation arose and next thing they knew, the girls were once again trawling Craigslist for a place to live. Thankfully – cheap, comfortable accommodation was secured in a much more central location (Rembrandtplein) and they said their final “ciao” to Jumanji.

The sweet escape coupled with our acquisition of stable employment – the girls in two Irish pubs and myself in a Uruguayan Steakhouse (slightly ironic as I don’t know where Uruguay is on the map and I hate steak) – meant we felt well entitled to do some celebrating. No.1 &2 had two friends come to stay during the week, so a group of us decided to head out for drinks to what has become our regular haunt – the late-night live jazz bar Bourbon Street in Leidseplein. Drinks are expensive there but the music and atmosphere is well worth it, and sure none of us have quite grown out of the sneaky naggin phase anyway.

Since the very first day, No.1 has been plaguing us with requests, well, demands to rent a boat. However, the only boats we can afford are the little plastic pedal ones that look like fairly battered Toms, and our arguing over who has to do the pedalling has stunted the notion’s coming to fruition. Seeing dogs glide along the canal on the luxurious gilded contraptions with their owners feeding them charcuterie and rubbing their bellies has really put us in our place as we glower enviously, sellotaping our spokes to our bike wheels with the grand sum of 4 quid jangling in our pockets.

Anyway, on the night in question, while having a cigarette on the canal, No.1’s face lit up as she spotted what was clearly an abandoned old dinghy, and I could more or less see the Ikea logo in her eyes as she dreamt of what she would do to fix it up. Needless to say, the pair of us took a wander over, dragging our less enthusiastic friends behind us. We decided to check it out; so we each hopped in, but soon discovered it was full of old food and something we think was a voodoo doll. As we were weighing up the pros and cons of adopting the boat, one of the lads pointed out that we were beginning to sink. Terrified of whatever septic surprises lay in the canal water, No.1 hoisted herself onto the harbour. I wasn’t so lucky. The now unstable equilibrium of the boat meant that what happened next was a small scale re-enactment of the Titanic. The boat was tipping vertically and I was now knee-deep in canal water. Thankfully, my friends acted quickly and yanked me out as the poor little boat drifted to the waterbed (which I’d say is actually only about six feet).

Regaling my manager with my tale in work the next day, she reiterated our suspicions that the canal is absolutely filthy and dangerous to swim in – she also muttered something about injections. This raised some concern in me so I asked her more about it. She told me not to worry, that as long as I had no open wounds at the time I should be right as rain – or whatever the Dutch version of that proverb is.

I have since found a scrape on my knee with a slightly green tinge to it – I’m sure there’s no connection… No, definitely not… I hope…

Follow Caoimhe's Dutch adventures here: @OConnellCaoimhe