At the end of our street lives a man whose remarkable skills and talent I cannot laud enough, whose virtues and good intent it is impossible to exaggerate: He has refined the great art of vodka distilling. His products indeed excel in quality, and can usually be ranged somewhere on a scale between delicious and ambrosial, except the one or other misfired jugful every eight weeks or so.
The house where he lives is a curiosity in and of itself. Having initially been a glue factory, it was used after several years of emptiness as a building for the Dutch police to train themselves on evicting squats. They would move in once or twice a month, smash in doors just to replace them, saw through barricaded windows or even the roof. This sort of business went on up until the day before the squatting action. Reparing work on the building evidently represented an almost sisyphian task, but the squatters did an ingenious job of it and live in a very cosy and even rather swank place now, almost two years later.
But back to Aad, and why I write about him here. At the end of the nineties this guy went on a quite incredible round-the-world trip with his brother. In a small port on the Dutch island Texel, they "abducted" an over 20-metres long luxury yacht which was worth something to the tune of two million Euros; then they sailed it around the world for one and a half years.
They started off sailing down to Spain and Portugal. From there their prime intent was to move away as fast as possible from the police on their heels, choosing whichever direction the trade winds would take them. This happened to be first to Madeira, then across the Atlantic to Brazil.
Initially I was sceptical about Aad's story. You hear all sorts of people making up all sorts of tall tales after all. So, I tried to verify at least one partof it: Aad said at the end they abandoned the yacht in Senegal and he hydro-hitchhiked from Dakar North on a ship transporting French wines.
Having myself worked on a cargo ship in Senegal in the year 2003, I was in a good position to ask those of my sailor friends who were there before me, whether such a ship as Aad claimed existed. In my time in Senegal and neighbouring countries, there was no single other vessel transporting anything except the one we were on ourselves, the Oméga, a French owned, Tonga-flagged eighty meter long cargo ship which carried anything, from carparts to rice sacks. Those sailor friends I asked informed me from the nineties until 2002 there indeed was a ship that did the very route Aad asserted, that is from Senegal to France carrying wine. Its route was nicknamed Le Tour du Pomerol, Pomerol being a kind of French wine. The near-infinite stacks of alcohol sure must have kept Aad happy for the time of the voyage.
This is no proof, but I am not completely disinclined to believe Aad's story after all.
It usually being three or four in the morning when we chatted, I have forgotten most of the numerous anecdotes Aad told me from his journey. There is only one story I have been able to retain, one about Italy, from the very end, when Aad and his brother got arrested. The two of them spent the initial few weeks of their two year prison stint in Italian jails, before being sent to their home country, the Netherlands.
"Sure, the cells were more squalid, but on being transferred to Dutch prisons, there was one outstanding feature which made me wish I had remained down South: They gave you a pack of wine each Friday there. It wasn't enough for the whole week, but it got you sufficiently drunk for a day. In my second week, I went on a short, alcohol-fuelled prison riot. I managed even to kick down one of my cell's walls - it was a very old jail as you can imagine. In consequence they first they put me in solitary confinement, but later they had me change cells, and put me together with six Moroccans. They were all Muslims, so that meant I had six times the ration of alcohol. I could not have wished for a better result of my violent outburst! "
There is one question Aad is understandably asked a lot: Were two entire years of being locked up worth the 18 months trip around the world?
"Hell yeah", is his answer.