"Ladies and gentleman, welcome on board KLM flight 0925 to Amsterdam." I sit back and fasten my safety belt, the way you're supposed to.
"Life jackets are stowed under your seats. In the unlikely event of evacuation......" Beginning to relax, I close my eyes. She is there. No, not now, please. I find travelling difficult enough these days. I feel stressed as it is.
Soon we are airborne. Her thighs feel like they are mine. The dragon tattoo. She digs her sharp heels deep into the flesh just behind my buttocks. A steady pulsing starts up, and energy begins moving up my back. These days it's hard and straight, like a sword extending up the spine. Even at 20,000 feet.
"Would you like a snack, sir?" A friendly young KLM man offers me a sandwich. It's tasty wholesome wholemeal, enclosing tasty smooth cheese. It's at this point that I know I'm not travelling with a British airline.
Strangely, my wife has been allotted a seat a half-plane length from mine. Instead, I am seated next to the grumpiest man in Europe. He made bizarre gesticulations with his arms and hands when I asked him to move so that I could get to my seat. And he makes similar dismissive movements at the friendly young KLM man when he offers him a drink. Now he has noticed a woman resting with her seat in reclining position, and he is trying to adjust his seat into the same position. Not knowing how, he is flapping about and isn't having any luck. I decide not to help him.
Amsterdam. The first time I've visited the city. Bicycles, canals, sex shops, cannabis smoking places ('coffee shops'). I am generally allergic to larger-then-Aberdeen cities nowadays, but strolling around Amsterdam makes for a highly enjoyable evening. Sex shops, bicycles, and dope make for a far more human, far less threatening, environment than the normal alcohol-and-smartphone-saturated recipe for human non-civilisation. It's so obvious, not even up for discussion.
The wedding. We're here for the wedding. In Cologne. I have never set foot on German soil, and am interested in doing so. Getting to Cologne necessitates a three-hour trip by train. Long enough to get angry...
Holland is a small, densely-populated country. The impression I get, at least of the bit of Holland around Amsterdam and to the south, is of a nation managed by fairly intelligent, balanced human beings. Despite the pressure on the land, things are generally neat, organised, and with a reasonable aesthetic sensibility. I sense a little love and care.
Scotland is a small, frequently-sparsely populated country. Its landscapes and wild areas are not managed by intelligent balanced human beings. The people whose decisions impact upon Scotland are either completely inadequate individuals, or have interests well outside those of the well-being of the land of the nation. They have overseen decade upon decade of trashing, a process which has proceeded at an unprecedented pace over recent times, with the invasion of the windfarms, and now the omnipresence of ugly, largely useless, run-of-river (ruin-of-river) hydro schemes in all sort of wild place. It is a global disgrace; my brief experience in Holland confirmed to me that my feelings are not just subjective funk, but have a firm basis in reality. The management of Scotland is an ecological perversion and scandal.
And so to Cologne. Not quite the vibe of Amsterdam, but a city with a laid-back feeling all the same. A warm evening, and street life. It could almost be the Mediterranean.
The few Germans I have known in my life have all been friendly, courteous people, and this is the overall feeling I have of the goodly folk of Cologne. Germans have experienced a raw deal from the medium-term effects of official history. Any sign of them getting out of order, and you say 'Hitler' or 'Holocaust' to them. Immediately they return to being meek, timid, guilty, and compliant to the whims of those who would control them. It's a great formula, never fails.
The thing is, the Second World War is actually quite a long time ago now. Also, if you shout 'Pearl Harbour' or 'Hiroshima' or 'Vietnam' at the American establishment, it fails to have the same effect. Funny, that...
And back to Amsterdam. On the train. A big bunch of tall, drinking German males get on in Cologne, continuing to be tall, drinking Germans as we begin our way towards the Dutch border. Their behaviour would most likely get them kicked off the train in Britain, but on we go.
Alcohol culture. It's a weird thing, isn't it? As globalisation has proceeded apace, it has become the planet's drug. Noise, hysteria, aggression: not for everybody, but in general these are the three qualities that I would associate with drinking, especially social drinking. It is the approved drug, and these are by consequence the approved ways of behaving. I have enjoyed a glass or two of red wine with a meal myself for many years - at least until kundalini kicked in, and removed any attraction that an alcohol-affected brain might have had. But it is both bizarre and speaks volumes that alcohol is so tolerated, so culturally-ingrained, while almost any other drug is viewed with suspicion, fear, if not demonised, in the mainstream. Official Britain is near the bottom of the global scale of common sense when it comes to mind-alterers. I hate to have to write it, but Britain is nowadays near the bottom of the scale on quite a few things.
So back to Amsterdam and the pervasive sweet smell of dope. Then home......