Five people are dead and several injured after a man tried to drive a car into a bus carrying the Dutch royal family news reports. — The Scotsman
I should have known there was going to be trouble when I arrived last night. You can tell the moment you cross from Germany into Holland by train — first station over the border, the doors open, and that curl of smoke, smell of monkey sh-t, wafts in to remind you that you’re in Protestant Europe’s rumpus room.
It seemed different as we got closer to Amsterdam though — kids getting on dressed in orange, the girls wearing little plastic crowns, everyone drinking, party-time. Big concert somewhere.
“What’s the occasion?” I asked a very white kid in a Bob Marley sweatshirt, the late genius’ eyeballs relaced with cannabis leaves.
“Oh sure hey it’s Queen Day. Like her birthday.”
“Oh … big event?”
“Oh sure, tomorrow the whole city closes down for a big party. It’s wild man.”
“In ten years time you’ll be in a suit, managing Euro-compliance benchmarking in Eindhoven,” I thought, but did not say.
Oh crap, the city closing down? Big party? This is not what I came to Amsterdam for. Coupla days of befuddled torpor in a coffee shop, read Patricia Highsmith on a canal barge, maybe catch the donkey show at the Candy Club, look up an old colleague from — no, better take the fifth there.
Chill out in Europe’s equivalent of a student union building. This relied on the city being its usual bicycling, three-hour workday self. What was a party of Dutch people going to be like?
Reader, it was worse than could possibly be imagined. It was like the Lygon Street Festa populated exclusively by soccer hooligans, all dressed in eyeball searing orange, the national colour. Hooting, shouting, tests of strength and wrestling in footpath vomit, and the boys were even worse.
So anyway I’d just adjusted to that, and then bloody news actually happened near where I was. “Queen’s Day seems to have died down quickly”, I said to the concierge.
“That’s because someone tried to kill the Queen”, he said, with neutral aplomb.
A quick glance at CNN made events pretty clear. A black car had screamed through the crowd assembled in the town of Apeldoorn, aimed at an open bus carrying the royals before their adoring fans (thinner on the ground than in Amsterdam — the concierge’s colleague, a Surinamese young woman — had cheerfully told a bunch of tourists that “someone tried to kill the royal family because they take a lot of money and don’t do anything.” Ramming a bus probably counts as pointed throat clearing in Paramaribo).
There was no alternative. I would have to go to Apeldoorn. It was halfway across the Netherlands. The train ride alone took almost eighteen minutes.
When I got there of course, as always with these things, I may as well not have bothered, for all the new info anyone could give. The car had tried to get through the crowd a couple of times, and eventually just drove over a bunch of people. The rest was caught live by the procession coverage — the car aiming for the bus, missing and running straight into the base of a stone war memorial.
Lycra-clad cops — on pushbikes of course — rushed over and gave the driver a massage with essential oils while waiting for the jaws of life. Well, that’s what it looked like anyway, compared to what one imagines would have gone down had it occurred in the US.
The driver, to some unspoken relief, turned out not to be a Muslim kid, but a 38-year-old European Dutch guy, who had just been laid off — possibly another crack-up in the wake of the GFC.
“I was watching and then I heard this noise and bang everything was crazy, said one woman.
Said another ”I was watching and then I heard this noise and bang everything was crazy.
While a third added “I was watching and then I heard this noise and bang everything was crazy.”
Oh Mr Pulitzer! I’m ready for my award now!
The incident has pretty much wrecked Queen’s Day, with Queen Beatrix appearing on TV later in the afternoon to express her sorrow etc. Funny thing is, in Amsterdam, about a half hour after it happened, one could tell something had occurred, without knowing what. It was a moment of sudden draining away in the crowd, of energy and noise.
In retrospect this initially seemed like some psychic moment, but then I realised that, as all over the country, the official entertainment — in Amsterdam, bad rap shows on every street corner — had had the plug pulled to wind down the celebrations.
The dead include one military cop, though thankfully no kids. Fair to say that this celebration is wrecked for a few years.
More interestingly, it also throws a crimp in some conservatives’ attempts to paint the Netherlands as the ideal example of a European country ravaged by witless multiculturalism, and the creation of a social fifth column, i.e. Muslims — as evidenced by the murder of the Right’s favourite anti-Semite Theo Van Gogh, by an Islamist outraged at his film Submission.
Now a far more lethal nutter has come along, and he’s home-grown — emphasising that violence comes from within society, not without.
And I missed the donkey show. There was a later one, but by then I’d eaten.