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Den Haag: Report

From: Leo Breebaart <>
Subject: [F] Jennifermeet 4.0 Meet Report
Date: 16 Nov 2000 10:15:32 +0100
Message-ID: <8v08jk$h68$>


    Grand Restaurant Le Connaisseur
    The Hague, The Netherlands

Guest of Honour:

    Jennifer Barber

Cast of Thousands: 

    Leo Breebaart, Olaf Leimann, Sindy Leimann-Chan, Jos Dingjan, Eelco
    Giele, Jeroen Burger, Kimberley Verburg, Uwe Milde, Rolf Milde,
    Patrick Dersjant, Cybercat, Jeroen Metselaar, Melusine,
    Gideon Hallett, Sorcha, Noora, Martin Wisse, Mike Knell, Rutger,
    Menno Willemse

Every year, us-afper Jennifer Barber visits Europe to get a fix for her
musical-addiction. Every year, we organise a Dutch afpmeet in her
honour, which she then proceeds to sleep through. It's become a bit of a
tradition, and we *like* tradition. So, apparently, does Jennifer,
because she keeps coming back, without -- and this is the crucial bit --
bothering to hide that fact from us.

This year, The Hague was again chosen as the afpmeet location, but I
decided to try and find a different venue from last year's Irish pub.
Although the atmosphere there was great, and we ended up having a very
good meet, the food was too expensive, had to be chosen from a severely
restricted menu, and turned out to have been prepared by what we can
only assume must have been a deranged carnivore chef with a terrible,
terrible grudge against vegetarians.

My first choice this time had been a nice little Caribbean restaurant
located in the mediaeval catacombs of the old The Hague city hall. When
I called a week or so in advance to confirm the reservation I had
discussed with them earlier, they politely explained that for more than
twenty people they were not prepared to let us order a la carte, and
would only serve us a fixed buffet instead. At about twice the price.

Exit catacombs. Enter a brief moment of hyperventilatory panic, with
visions of me having to take twenty-odd people to the McDonalds for
their dinner, and then not *ever* being allowed to forget about it (as I
said, Dutch afpers are nothing if not fond of tradition, and "tormenting
Leo" is a perennial favourite). A couple of phone calls later (thanks
Jos, thanks Kimberley) disaster had been averted, order restored, and
reservations made at Grand Restaurant Le Connaisseur. Phew.

Benelux meets have always attracted many afpers from foreign shores, and
this time was no exception. Apart from our guest of honour, we had
Gideon and Melusine attending their second Jennifermeet, Sorcha and
Noora attending their first, Rolf and Uwe -- well, they are such a
familiar face that by now nobody even notices anymore that they're not
Dutch, and Mike Knell as surprise last minute extra special guest star.
The rest of the meet attendees consisted of the usual native regulars
and semi-regulars, this time without even a single meet newbie, which I
do think was a bit of a pity.

Le Connaisseur is a large but cozy restaurant that looks rather like a
cross between a library and a pub. We had an upstairs balcony-type space
mostly to ourselves, although a second large group of people arrived
later in the evening. They took our toys, noise, gadgets, and occasional
ballistic missiles in good stride, and at one point even asked if they
could play with our scary willies. Thus do we corrupt the innocent.

The evening unfolded in a pleasant sequence of drinks and food and
conversation. Of the aforementioned toys and gadgets making their
appearance, special mention should be made of Patrick's semi-sentient
bunny-wabbit (sniffy!), the scary willy thingies (squishy!), and
Gideon's watch-PC (spiffy!).

The discussion topics at our section of the table ranged wide and far.
American politics featured heavily (fancy that), but suffered from the
fact that everyone kept agreeing with everybody else all the time.
Moving the discussion into the realm of movies showed a bit more
potential for meaty conflict, as I have my doubts that *everyone*
recognises _Some Kind Of Wonderful_ as the best romantic comedy ever
made, but Mike and I advocated that particular theory so forcefully that
I don't think anyone dared to disagree with us.

Dispensing potentially embarrassing gifts from discreet brown envelopes
is another Dutch afpmeet tradition that was proudly upheld, with Karen
from the UK once again being the prime facilitator. The usual rubber
aliens and plastic thingamajigs featured, but the highlight this time
was a trio of pink bunny hair scrunchies (plus matching clip thingies)
for our longest-haired attendees: Kimberley, Jennifer, and, um, well,
Martin. It's amazing how much applying fluffy and colourful elastic to
one's hair can transform one's appearance from serious, adult, and
business-like into adorable, cuddlesome, and, in Martin's case, very,
very frightening.

Another event that should probably not go unchronicled was the
ceremonial unleashing of Stephen Baxter's _Longtusk: Mammoth Book Two_.
The original _Mammoth_, generally acknowledged as one of the worst books
ever written in the English language, and suspected of causing actual
brain damage in those unfortunate souls who try to read it, had been
circulating at our afpmeets for months, being "given" as a prize to
whomever was considered to have come up with the evening's most
inexcusable pun. At last month's meet, the book had been dumped on
pun-Meister Jeremy, who no longer lives in the Netherlands and was not
expected to attend a Benelux afpmeet for at least another two years.
Sighs of "good riddance" were heard throughout the continent.

Until, that is, I happened to visit an Oxford book store when I was in
the UK last month, chanced upon the newly released *sequel* to
_Mammoth_, and saw an opportunity to finally do some revenge tormenting
of my own. Everyone at the London Entmeet was asked to sign the book,
and to keep its existence a secret from the Benelux afpers. I never
expected this to actually work, but apparently everyone played along
nicely, and the gasps of horror and dismay as I presented the book and
read from the Prologue ("It is 16.000 years before the birth of Christ,
and every human alive wakes to the call of... mammoths.") were music to
my ears. The book is now, I believe, with the Milde brothers, who richly
deserve it, if only for their remark about Al Gore inventing algorithms.
I have all confidence that _Longtusk_ will continue to haunt our
afpmeets for a satisfyingly long time to come.

Since Le Connaisseur is a restaurant and not a pub, they closed slightly
before midnight, which was just as well: the lack of airconditioning
(the one unexpected, but big, big, *big* minus point of this venue) had
been causing the temperature to rise way beyond and the oxygen levels to
drop way below what was comfortable, and people had to go take walks in
the fresh air just to keep themselves from fainting. So we settled our
bill, collected our junk, and set off to our respective crash-spaces
relatively early.

The next morning, most of us convened at Patrick's place for the
customary post-afpmeet chill-out breakfast. Gideon and Melusine had
brought us *tons* of muffins and crumpets, and so we spent a pleasantly
quiet morning toasting bread products, listening to Finnish music,
playing with PalmPilots and mobile phones, and doing some more
wholehearted agreeing on American politics. In the early afternoon,
Jennifer had to leave in order to attend her multiple showings of
_Elisabeth_, and soon after the other guests readied themselves to board
their planes, trains and automobiles for the journey home.

And so ended Jennifermeet 4.0. I had a fun time, I hope everybody else
enjoyed it as well, and I look forward to doing it all over again next
year for Jennifermeet 5.0.

Leo Breebaart  <>

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