The Ballards - Holland







 

Holland. Well known for windmills, clogs, the European Court of Human Rights, the biggest container port in Europe and of course those mysterious cafés in Amsterdam the Americans would dearly love to shut down.
After all, marijuana is close to Communism, ain't it?
Or something like that (insert State Department hit list of the month...).
After all, we can't have those Yooropeans enjoying themselves now, can we?

I still can't understand why marijuana is such a threat to modern society that Britain can't legalise it due to being "signatories to certain treaties". Evidently ones that Germany, Holland and Portugal aren't, then....
It doesn't seem to be an EU thing; it is the Americans that lean heavily on the British political establishment to retain the status quo, but to what end I can't quite fathom. We no longer have any preferential status with America, what have we got to lose?

It's blindingly obvious to our entire generation that the only reason marijuana is illegal and alcohol is legal rather than the other way around is the bureaucratic supertanker of state that will always stay on the same course unless enormous pressure is brought to bear. Or to state it simply: "that's the way it's always been".

I have witnessed in my lifetime the journey of both womens' Rights (to be equal to men) and that of homosexuality, both male and female, (to become a socially acceptable lifestyle). I have seen rolled out what were, with hindsight, the most ludicrously stupid arguments against both issues by well-educated, well-intentioned people who frankly should have known better.
And for generations their views prevailed, until people dug their heels in and said "No". Sadly, at present, no one is prepared to do the same thing for marijuana. At random intervals it pops in to the mainstream, only to dive back down again. Even Richard Branson can't seem to gain traction on this issue.
The current argument is that it promotes mental illness: yes, I'm sure it does, in a very small number of people. So does alcohol. So does coffee. So does horse riding.
Here's a classic one: "more people are killed by horse riding in the average year than by Ecstacy". So let's ban horse-riding......

And the ultimate irony is that marijuana is legal in, say, Illinois. It grows wild on the side of the road and picking/drying it is not illegal. Cultivation is, so people throw seeds out on to the verges instead, and the local councils then spray the verges with herbicide. You can only laugh.....

I first went in 1983 and thoroughly enjoyed every possible aspect of the country: the Dutch speak maddeningly good English, are tall, friendly and very diplomatic.
And here's the thing: the Dutch do prostitution in a friendly, non-confrontational, non-seedy way. Unlike Britain where the whole thing is just awful: the lowest common demonimator to satisfy a physical need.

You can drive around the country in a day and we did: even in the deepest countryside the locals all speak better English that wot I do. Quite sobering, really.



Nessa and I went back in 2012 to see the tulip fields, and arrived the day after they had all been cut for market, which was maddening. Mile after mile of neatly cut fields stretching out to the flat horizon....
But the Keukenhof Gardens near Amsterdam made up for the disappointment. Even for a non-flower man like me it's interesting, with sufficient distractions for the non flower-friendly.



After 30 years the Dutch were just as friendly, the urban transport system more joined-up and co-ordinated, the prostitutes still plying their wares in the same pleasant way and the cannabis shops still selling their wares to tourists and locals, looking entirely unlike the Terrible Threat To Civilization As We Know It that surely they must be if you believe the US State Department and the UK Government Information Service. Give me a break...