Why I Love Den Haag

I love Den Haag because it is a free city. It is free thinking and prizes the right to air controversial views in public. When I was going through my Christopher Hitchens phase (still in it mostly), I got much pleasure from listening to him praise The Netherlands for their tolerance and acceptance of unusual ideas. I first came to Den Haag when my father got a job as a Garda Lisaon Officer. I remember the night before I went over. I was upset, largely because I had drunk too much and was listening to Mother by John Lennon... Yeah. I know. That was just the way the night went.

Noel, my Dad, came down to me in my bedroom and gave me a big hug, and he said that he was going to give me all the things I missed out on. My father was a loving man, but we had our issues. I don't think it's unreasonable to say that when my Dad left our family, it hurt me. It did. I spent many years trying to wrestle with the fact that I loved Noel and he didn't seem to love me. This was a silly youthful thing. Of course he loved me. It was just a relationship that went bad. I know now that he never stopped loving me, or my brother or my mother. He always cared for us. He just couldn't stay in a relationship with my mother, not because he didn't love her but because his own issues made it impossible.

Den Haag is the centre of The Netherlands. It is where the International Criminal Court operates. The first thing I did when I got here was get on a bike. I lost probably twenty pounds the first month. Cycling in The Netherlands is not like in Ireland. Here, everyone respects each other's right to be on the road, and cars give you the space you need to operate. I remember one time when I was cycling to the cinema in Wassenar and a car came too close for comfort. The driver pulled down the window and apologized to me for getting too close. THAT is The Netherlands ladies and gentlemen.

Noel was a man who loved his drink. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't an alcoholic. But boy could he drink. I remember some of our best nights in Berger on the Plein. We would have six La Choufe's and cycle home. The things we talked about still stick in my mind. We would discuss every worry and every fear and put it in its right place. Noel liked Berger because they appreciated his hard won innocence. Noel was somebody everybody liked to see coming. You knew that he would be fair and gracious. Sure he liked to drink but he was never a drunk. He never got angry or morose. He always got happier and kinder as he drank more. This is something I try to emulate today. Other pubs he liked were the Hathdor and Murphy's Law, which was until a few years back a pub right beside the Irish Embassy.

We met a lot of people during our time in Den Haag. The best person however was a woman called Caroline Whelan. A better person I have not found in my time on Earth. She is so generous with her time and always made me feel like a fully functioning person whenever I would call in to her. Fun fact: I am currently staying with Caroline in her apartment in the centre of The Hague. She takes care of me, in a way that makes me feel safe and happy. I will always be friends with her and I will always appreciate all she's done for me.

Let's talk about some of the best times in Den Haag. The one that sticks in my mind was watching the England match in Sherlock Holmes, a British ex-pat pub. I am not a Nationalist dullard so I was rooting for England, my brothers and sisters. I had a lot of fun quoting Alan Partridge during the game. "That's liquid football!" We had some lovely beers and good fun talking and enjoying the game. England unfortunately lost that match, in spite of a wonderful goal by Wayne Rooney. Still, it didn't spoil our night.

Den Haag is a beacon of free speech and love that comes in any form or kind between two consenting adults. I have met many great people here, and was even picked up by a beautiful woman with multiple sclerosis. I will always be thankful to my father Noel for giving me this opportunity and helping me to grow up and become a full human adult. I miss him terribly. I wish he was here with me now. I know we would have great chats and get down to all the good things. I love you Noel and I miss you.


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