Friday, 19 September 2014

Never lonely

I was reminded today of a 1984 hit by Brood & Vrienten, called "Als je wint" (When you win). The immediate trigger was a sentence in a tweet from Will Smith (the one that this week scored 142 not out to save a draw against Kent and move Hampshire closer to promotion to the County Championship Division One, of course.)

I think the song, together with the mania around and subsequent break-up of Vrienten's band Doe Maar shortly before this was published, informed me about the costs of fame on a subconscious but very profound level, so when Smith tweeted: "Never had so much love on social media!" it was like setting off a musical grenade in my mind.

I was a teenage girl at the time and I was a fan, but I never behaved like the screaming girls at their concerts (or anywhere else they went, in The Netherlands at least). I genuinely liked the music and especially the (ideas behind) the lyrics. Relationships, sex, drugs, angst, what's not to like? ;-).

I've tried my hand at a translation, trying to follow the original as closely as I could, but making a couple of adjustments and ignoring the rhyme on a few occasions. I know I could've done it more justice, given more time, but the lyrics are quite naive and that still shines through, I think!

Looking at it so closely again, I should have known why this stuck with me so much, because at the time I was a big cycling fan (you could not get me away from the TV or radio for the three weeks' duration of the Tour de France, for instance). Plus watching Jens Voigt's World Hour Record last night will have primed me to remember a song that involves cycling.

When you win

He looks ahead, blank eyes;
He doesn't think, he rides.
Although his legs may ache,
He is in a break.
They'll never catch him now,
He thinks I've won somehow!

Never alone,
Never alone.

Half-naked she walks by
The judges in a row.
Flashes her teeth at them,
They're looking at her tits.
Tears streaming down her face
She's crowned Miss Netherlands!

Never alone,
Never alone.

When you win, you have friends,
Row upon row, real friends.
When you win, never lonely.
As long as you win.

No matter how tired you are,
They're knocking on your door;
You could be half asleep,
Or in your underwear.
No party starts before
You've made it through the door!

Never alone,
Never alone.

written: Henny Vrienten
performed: Brood & Vrienten

Closing thoughts:

Perhaps I should blog about cycling songs. Anyone interested? (Except all the ones I can think of are in Dutch, that's a bit tricky. I don't know if I want to translate all of them...)

I'm always surprised how many people, at work, or at church, know me or know about me. And most of all, that this hasn't put them off.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


'Kolpak' countries (Cotonou Agreement)

Yes I went there with the title, someone was bound to, don't moan.

Picture this...

It is September 3rd and it's late in the day on the third day of the Roses match in the County Championship. Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale side is fielding and he moves himself closer to Lancashire's South African batsman Ashwell Prince. Then an exchange of words takes place.

At first Gale was reported by the umpires for a level two offence (seriously insulting or obscene language). Because this was his second time this season, he received an automatic two-match ban. Very sad for Gale, as his county was about to win the Championship.

On the eve of Yorkshire's win over Nottinghamshire that sealed the county's first County Championship victory since 2001, they were told that Gale would not be allowed to receive the cup or be part of the official ceremony, pending further investigation.

Today it was revealed in The Telegraph that Gale is to be charged by the ECB with a level three or four charge, for using racist and abusive language. A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

The article quotes the following exchange:

Prince: "F*** off back to cover point."
Gale: "Well you can f*** off back to your own country you Kolpak f*****."

Which part of Gale's sentence is racist? On its own, the "Well you can f*** off back to your own country"-part does appear to be. If I heard this on the street, racism would be my first assumption. But it was not said on its own. In fact, the Telegraph transcript continues with "you Kolpak f*****." without allowing for a pause, not even in the form of the humble comma.

It now becomes important to understand what a Kolpak is.

In 1995, the Bosman ruling had ensured that players from any EU country could not be prevented from working in any other EU country, according to the EU's own principle of freedom of movement of workers. This put paid to rules that prevented teams from fielding more than x foreign players. However, there was no such protection for non-EU players and the German handball league (as many others) still imposed a maximum of two players per team, only now it was directed at non-EU players.

Maroš Kolpak had been playing for TSV Ostringen in the second division since 1997 and was a legal resident and worker in the country (i.e. if he had been a chef or a bank teller, this would never have happened). In 2000 his team decided that there were two other non-EU players they wanted to play more badly than they wanted Kolpak and therefore, under league rules, they could no longer employ him.

In 2003 the European Court of Justice ruled that the Association Agreement that Slovakia had with the EU (at the time, it is now a member) meant that workers and players from that country and any others with similar agreements should be considered equal to EU players.

Back to that fateful third of September:

When seen as a whole, as it should be and as it has been reported, I do not believe Gale's remark had anything to do with race. It is clear to me that his focus was Prince's Kolpak status, a ruling the effects of which the ECB itself has tried to negate ever since it was made.

I certainly do not agree with the Telegraph, which argues that "Kolpak could be construed as racism in this case because Prince is black and was brought up in Apartheid South Africa." I can't even see how they came this conclusion. (You know, like in school when you get marks for the process even when the final answer is wrong.)

I would advise Mr. Gale never to use that phrase again, though.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

I have a problem

I wrote this yesterday as an explanation to one of my therapists, in a stream-of-consciousness type e-mail that was meant to clarify my tear-strewn phone-call to her, as to why I couldn't face leaving the house and coming in for group therapy.

Sunday night I couldn't get to sleep. Nothing unusual and not really a problem most of the time; it happens to me once every two or tree weeks, without any identifiable cause (I'm not brooding, nothing's different from other nights, I just don't feel sleepy) and generally I get through the next day without complications.

But on Monday morning I woke up with my heart pounding and a lump in my throat. I couldn't think of a reason why, but I was upset and very emotional. Perhaps I dreamt something, I seldom remember my dreams (by coincidence the last time was only a few weeks ago, but in that I helped fix someone's computer problems.) Probably because I was so fatigued, I didn't manage to roll down the heavy shutters like I would usually do; and started to feel overwhelmed by emotions.

The emotions weren't in any way specific, but I felt very exposed and unsafe. It felt as if every raw emotion that I've been trying to suppress for 41 years had been laid bare. I was afraid I would panic and scared to lose all control.

I tried to 'man up' and make myself go to therapy, but the thought of interacting with people just made me feel worse. I didn't think I could handle all the other emotions rushing in at me, even from strangers (in our phone call I mentioned the bus driver, who could be curt, or very friendly; I feared this would be the straw that broke the camel's back.)

However, somewhere in the rising panic I found a smidgeon of common sense and decided I might as well try to consciously experience it. This is something I talked about with my psychologist*, that I would try (albeit in a more controlled fashion) to allow it to happen and to experience that nothing bad would happen. This too is very scary to me and I am still shaking and my heart's still pounding, but I'm still here. So maybe there's something to it...

For the record: I have suffered several depressive episodes, at the worst of which, in Februari 2012, I was convinced there was nothing else I could do but kill myself. I had been in bed, crying for eight hours straight, I had played in my mind and analysed about eleven different scenarios of how I could kill myself, but with the final spark of hope, or whatever it was, I called a friend and told them I had a problem.

Despite yesterday's setback, I am feeling like I'm well on the road to some semblance of normality.

* I'm seeing, in different capacities: two psychologists, a psychiatrist, a sociotherapist and a dietician. My anti-depressants are prescribed by my GP.

Don't wait as long as I did. Talk to someone before it gets that bad.