Amsterdam, Van der Valk and a “Lost Weekend”

Ever since I got back from my trip to Amsterdam last week I have been meaning to write a short post about it all – Problem is, I’ve struggled to come up with anything particularly “Dutch” to include as a featured song. Tonight however, as I made my way home from my regular Friday night rendezvous with my mum at her retirement complex (the fun just never ends around here!), I switched on the radio to partake in a bit of Friday Night Is Music Night. I do love the affable Ken Bruce, and he does a great job of hosting this show, which is apparently the longest-running live orchestral music programme in the world. In terms of the particular inspiration for each show, you just never know what you’re going to get and this week it was Espionage, so a night of great spy theme music got underway. The programme included music from The Ipcress File, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Third Man, The Avengers and, of course, 007 himself James Bond.

Listening to some of those great TV Theme tunes reminded me of the wonderful Van der Valk, that ’70s television series produced by Thames Television. It starred Barry Foster as Dutch detective Commissaris Piet van der Valk. The stories were mostly based in and around Amsterdam, where Commissaris van der Valk was a “cynical yet intuitive detective”.

Watching this very old piece of footage (wasn’t the colour poor in those days) reminded me of the very locations where I spent time last week, as in a city of canals the street pattern of central Amsterdam hasn’t changed much in about 400 years. The best thing about the show Van der Valk however was its very memorable theme tune, Eye Level, composed by Jack Trombey and played by the Simon Park Orchestra. Unbelievably, it even reached the UK Chart’s No. 1 spot back in 1973. I’m pretty sure that just couldn’t happen today but I still remember them well appearing on TOTP, as those were the days when I religiously taped the show on my little cassette recorder and carefully entered all the chart positions, in my “Chart Positions Notebook”!

thBut what did we get up to last week? The big irony of course was that despite the fact that Mr WIAA and I were also celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary, off I went gallivanting with one of my best female friends. It had all been booked a long time ago and the bad timing was down to that old chestnut, the annual leave window. Of course I am no longer even in the job that I couldn’t get leave from at any other time, but no matter, Mr WIAA was more than happy to hold down the fort and is now promised a trip of his own sometime soon.

Day 1: Headed down to Dam Square where an enormous Ferris Wheel was in operation – Great to get a view of the whole city I thought not realising that my poor friend has a massive fear of such things. She did it though and yes, we did get a great view of the whole city.

Day 2: The obligatory boat trip around the canal system. No room for any more house boats though as all the berths now taken. Also paid a visit to the Museum of Bags and Purses (it’s a thing) and the infamous Red Light District, De Wallen. Learnt a lot in the Museum of Prostitution (yes, it’s also a thing).

Day 3: Visited the Rijksmuseum where you could seriously get lost for a whole day – Pondered over probably some of the most valuable paintings in the world (Rembrandt’s The Night Watch?) and enjoyed glasses of mint tea – Maybe I’m just unsophisticated but up here in Scotland our tea doesn’t come with a bunch of mint leaves and a small pot of honey but very, very nice.

Day 4: Our last day so spent time in the harbour area where our hotel, which used to be the accommodation for Naval Officers, was based. A fantastic table with artwork depicting the harbour took pride of place in the dining room. Oh and it had its own brewery – Bonus.

Although I did say that I couldn’t really think of any songs with a Dutch theme, it was inevitable that this 1985 recording of Lost Weekend by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions would form a bit of an earworm whilst I was away. The lyrics however were not particularly appropriate for our trip as: a) we didn’t catch pneumonia b) the price of the medicine therefore wasn’t an issue and c) we came home before the weekend, so not really a lost one. Great excuse to include a song however that I have always really liked and I’ve now worked out why a band from Glasgow just didn’t sound very Scottish. Turns out Lloyd was from Derbyshire and formed the band whilst studying Philosophy and English at the University of Glasgow. Every day’s a school day.

Lost Weekend by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions:

Until next time….

Lost Weekend Lyrics
(Song by Lawrence Donegan/Lloyd Cole/Neil Clark)

It took a lost weekend in a hotel in Amsterdam
And double pneumonia in a single room
And the sickest joke was the price of the medicine
Are you laughing at me now may I please laugh along with you

This morning I woke up from a deep unquiet sleep
With ashtray clothes and miss lonely heart’s pen
With which I wrote for you a lovesong in tattoo
Upon my palm ’twas stolen from me when Jesus took my hand

You see I, I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it
Drop me and I’ll fall to pieces too easily

I was a king bee with a head full of attitude
Wore my heart on my sleeve like a stained
My aim was to taboo you
Could we meet in the marketplace
Did I ever hey please did you wound my knees

You see I, I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it
Drop me and I’ll fall to pieces

Yes it’s too easy and there’s nobody else to blame
Will I hang my head in a crying shame
There is nobody else to blame nobody else except my sweet self

Again it took a lost weekend in a hotel in Amsterdam
Twenty four gone years to conclude in tears
That the sickest joke was the price of the medicine
Are you laughing at me now
May I please laugh along

I was a king bee with a head full of attitude
And ashtray heart on my sleeve wounded knees
And my one love song was a tattoo upon my palm
You wrote upon me when you took my hand

You see I, I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it
Drop me and I’ll fall to pieces too easily


Apologies for the quality of these pictures – Not up to my usual standard but when on a short trip like this we just didn’t want to spend lots of time fiddling with our camera equipment, so done on the hop on our phones. Sometimes the best way to go.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days. I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 57 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team, Bacharach and David. The opening line to that song was, "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

16 thoughts on “Amsterdam, Van der Valk and a “Lost Weekend””

    1. Unusual but not uncommon in those more “family friendly” chart act times. Yes love Lloyd and his Commotions so a great excuse to slip this great song into the blog.


    1. Glad you enjoyed it. We were just thinking the same actually and both of our daughters have visited recently and also loved it so can also imagine living there for a while. All you would need is a “sit up and beg” bicycle and off you’d go!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That Van Der Valk song and pic are so evocative – we always tuned into that programme when I was a kid (although I think a lot of it went above my head) – it’s also quite possible that my mum fancied Barry Foster just a little bit. Sounds like you had a great time in Amsterdam, a place I’ve only ever been to on a day-trip with a group of people from work when I had to do travel reccies, it included a lovely trip on a barge but it was raining and I seem to remember we also travelled across town on a double-decker tube train. But I wish I could’ve enjoyed it properly and with friends – another time hopefully. I’m really intrigued by the Museum of Prostitution, bet that had some eye-opening exhibits!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was my third visit – Once when I Inter-railed 37 years ago, another trip with DD when she finished school and this one. The big draw for us is that it is one of the few places we can fly to from our local airport so very easy to just “hop across” the North Sea. An amazing city with an amazing history.

      As for the Museum of Prostitution very interesting indeed although I am troubled by the whole thing – Amsterdam is a very open-minded place and they go to great lengths to keep the “oldest profession” safe, licenced and a bringer-in of tax euros, but sad for those who feel it is their only economic option. Here’s an interesting titbit of information – The average visit lasts 6-10 minutes!


        1. Fortunately for them there are gaps between clients. And, the windows are 150-300 euros a day to rent so got to get the costings right. Look at me – The expert!


  2. Sounds like an excellent trip: one of many, many places I’ve never been to.
    “Chart Positions Notebook” Yes, that was a thing.
    And you can’t go wrong with a bit of Lloyd.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh many, many places I’ve never been to either but as I said to C, Amsterdam quite an easy one for us to get to.

      No, definitely can’t go wrong with a bit of Lloyd.


  3. I’ve stopped off at Schiphol Airport many times en route to New York, yet never actually been into Amsterdam! I really should go one of these days as it’s a very accessible city from this part of the world, less than an hour’s flight time – I’ll need to get a passport first though! It sounds like you had a wonderful few days with your friend, the photos are great.
    I too remember The Simon Park Orchestra on TOTP and the Van Der Valk TV series. Hearing that theme tune again makes the years fall away.
    Funnily enough I saw Lloyd Cole in concert a few months ago. I had a review sketched out at the time, but for some reason never got around to posting it. He was performing acoustic versions of his Polydor material, his golden period, which of course included ‘Lost Weekend’. It was a very good night, so good in fact that when the tour winds its way back to my area in early 2018, I’m hoping to catch the show again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looking at the map it must be really easy to get to Holland via a ferry from where you are but maybe a flight would be easier – Definitely worth a visit anyway. The canals alone don’t make it a unique city but what with everything else, it really becomes so.

      Yes, Van der Valk, Simon Park and Lloyd Cole – This was very much a post for people of our vintage and like you, the years roll away when I watch the intro to the show and listen to the theme tune. Only, (cough), 44 years ago!

      Good to hear Lloyd is still out there plying his trade and he seems to have worn quite well which is good. When I first read the 2018 I thought, gosh that’s ages away. Then I realised it’s only next year!


  4. Seems you managed to fit in quite a few things while in Amsterdam. Brave of your friend to go on the ferris wheell! I also went on a boat ride (on my recent Berlin trip), nice to sit down as can be tiring standing up for hours.
    Amsterdam sounds like a free-spirited place, I heard soft drugs are legal under condition of so-called “personal use”. (you learn these things from movies). Not that I would ever buy them or think you would either! But I’m sure it’s part of the charm for some tourists/residents.
    Never heard that orchestral Van der Valk theme until now, it’s pretty good. Think the most talked about Dutch movie is probably The Vanishing (1988), an excellent psychological thriller that got a weaker US remake. It’s quite a dark story though, so not for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right the boat trips are a real treat as city breaks can be so tiring on the feet.

      As for the free-spirited nature of the city, you can say that again. I kinda like how you assume I didn’t just go for the “special” coffee shops. We must really paint a pretty accurate picture of ourselves via our blogs, but who knows, one day I might surprise you all!

      Had forgotten about The Vanishing – Will have to check it out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I prob took my assuming a step too far there, sorry about that. I sometimes say things I regret. After all, I don’t really know you well, and it’s really none of my business what you do or don’t do. Hope you weren’t offended. If you want to surprise, we’ll take it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh Chris I was just teasing again – I wasn’t offended at all and you were spot on with your assumptions anyway! I will definitely have to throw in the odd surprise now and again though as I am obviously just becoming too predictable.

          Never regret anything you say – We all are all prone to doing it from time to time but if no-one left comments the blogosphere would be a much more boring place.

          Liked by 1 person

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