Saturday, July 30, 2011

Not so proudly South African

The problem with trying to watch any rugby in this country is that the sport is not readily available on a private level. It is certainly not to be seen on local or any commercial TV providers. If you want to avoid the smelly after-taste of pub patrons, you can stream most games in the comfort of your own home... sort of... but usually through back-end online distributors and at very unhandy low-res. So we usually go to sports pubs.

The pubs themselves aren't necessarily the problem. They're as grimy, greasy and gritty as can be expected. This can be tolerated on most occasions. What bothers me more is that other South Africans frequent these places too. I don't mind meeting up with SAffers, as long as they are my friends. My friends are cool; these are people I want to see. But there's always that element of patriotic supporters who go to games with the apparent end goal of actually accruing new friends. Yuck. These are the ones who also assume that because we're shouting for the same team, in the same location, we should therefore be chums for life. More often than not, they are wrong.

When we first arrived in The Netherlands, I was amazed to see that there were so many young South African girls - dotted all over the country, and gathering in noticeably wild packs for any rugby game. They are predominantly Afrikaans, so the language is an easy transfer*, they are cheap labour (aaaah, the subjugation of Africa lives on) and they are out of their parents' control for the first time in their lives.

When they amass in the pubs, it's never pretty. It's usually downright embarrassing.

They always travel in packs of 10 or more. They are usually very, obnoxiously drunk - or get to this stage very quickly. They make a sport of screaming often, and are as shrill as humanly possible, any time anything representing their chosen team is shown. This includes: the players, the coaches, the mascot, the bench, supporters, team shirts or even just the associated colour. Blue Bulletijes are particularly fond of this tactic. They seldom actually watch the game, choosing instead to scream in each other's faces through the full 90 minutes. And after the game, they will try to strike up conversation with anyone wearing a shirt that might vaguely be construed as South African.

For this reason, I've become hesitant to wear my cute little rugby top to international games. Dear god, those kids might try to communicate with me. Worse yet, people might think I'm one of them! I cannot be having with that. I can be patriotic incognito, right?

* I have to admit to a stage when I contemplated similar employment when I first arrived in the UK. It was a desperate and short-lived fragment of an idea. A bolus of bile gathers in the back of my throat at the very recollection.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Poor Priscilla

Oh poor Priscilla. After my glowing account of our adventures together, I climbed on my beloved bike and immediately noticed a steering problem. Just a small one... the front frame had completely snapped down one side of the wheel. I'm not sure how it happened and I noticed it fast enough to be sure that I certainly hadn't cycled on her like that earlier the same day. 

My initial thought was "someone has sabotaged my bike!" because apparently I live in a world of espionage and subterfuge, where unseen enemies want me dead. Suspicions immediately jumped to volatile Mentopausal, as she has been particularly nice to me recently... obviously lulling me into a false sense of security. But then I took the paranoia down a notch and realised that the Prissy's frame had quite simply snapped like an osteoporosis-weakened scapula. One too many rough jolts, of which she's had a few. Poor thing. 

There was only one thing to do. I climbed back on and cycled her home, feeling completely guilty, like I was forcing a lame donkey to limp home with me on its back, despite suffering from a broken bone. Her tendons, I mean, cables are still fully connected, so the brakes still work just fine, but the the steering is completely shot. It was a bit like trying to direct two separate wheels home, one under my bum, one under my hands. Health and safety conclusion? Stupid. 

We have three bikes between GBM and myself. Well, technically four, but it's the landlady's and we don't have the key to the fourth, it just gets in the way in our basement storage. So I figured, I'd just use one of the other two and we'll sort out poor Priscilla's health situation on the weekend. 

Then, this morning... making breakfast, I managed to throw a full container of blackberries across the kitchen and dining table. The lid came off as I was removing them from the fridge, and instead of just letting it happen (this is sometimes a better option in my experience), I tried to catch them from underneath... which resulted in me changing their trajectory and hitting them back up in the air. Instead of leaving them all to fall on the kitchen counter, possibly onto the floor by my feet, I effectively splayed them in 270 degrees, across multiple dimensions. Some went down, some went up and forwards, others went left and right. It also turns out a few went behind me, which I learnt as I stepped back to assess the situation. It's amazing how many things look like a blackberry when you're at eye level with the floor. Dead flies, previous cooking remains (I think), possible rodent droppings...

Anywho, so once that was cleaned up, I went downstairs to assess the bike situation. GBM had removed himself from the vegetative carnage I had created in the kitchen and pottered off to gym, unfortunately taking both sets of keys to the remaining two spare bikes. I was left with two options a) tram b) cycle on my two-wheeled unicycle. 

I chose option B, but not before creating some semblance of a splint for poor Priscilla's shoulder blade. Insulation tape is a girl's best DIY friend. I hope it holds for the cycle home. And I hope it doesn't rain. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My bike, I like

The other day I stupidly cycled over broken glass. I was on the phone at the time and admittedly was not paying as much attention to my path as I should've. I'm too much of a girl to fix my own punctures, so this required me to take my bike in to the repair shop and pay someone to do it for me. It's not the money that bothers me, it's the time lost. Sometimes they can fix it on the spot, but most of the time, it has to go in the queue and you pick it up later. A whole day later.

Me taking my bike in for repairs is not the point here. The point is my sense of loss when I have to do it. I'm without an appendage. I never thought I would get to that stage. But since I moved to Amsterdam, I cycle everywhere. I actually feel pretty pathetic, even incapacitated somewhat, catching the tram when I don't have a particular reason to do so (like travelling with other people who aren't on bikes, or typhoon weather). Of course, there are times when catching the tram is dryer... but it's also smellier, noisier and more crowded.

Cycling in the rain is not pleasant, don't get me wrong. I've just realised that I don't melt in the rain. I also realised fairly quickly, that unless there is absolutely not a breath of wind, I cannot cycle with an umbrella. At the first gust, my brolly is inside out and I am inelegantly trying to remain upright. So I don't bother. I simply don my sexy "regenbroeken", and my train-driver-hat as GBM likes to call it, and I am hot to trot.

I don't know if I could take up a hobby in competitive cycling though. I like the upright posture of my oumafiets, the gentle exertion required to get up and over a small canal bridge, followed by the brief exhilaration of free-"wheeeee"ling down the other side.

For the last four years, I have maintained that there is absolutely no better past time than cycling in the Netherlands - when the weather is good, and there is no wind to impede your blissful progress. It may not happen often, but when it does... sheer bliss. It's probably akin to the reason why so many amateur golfers stick with the love-hate sport.

I also delight in the fun of loudly ringing my bell to disperse flocks of pigeons and tourists when required. Bird and sightseer alike, the dull aimless expression followed by frantic flapping to get off the bike path never ceases to amuse me.

I never, ever thought I would say this, but I love my bike. Prissy Priscilla and I clatter around the cobbles and canals so happily, but we do get on much better when the elements are fair and I'm not in a particular hurry. I even managed to cycle with no hands the other day. Admittedly, I didn't realise I was doing it - I needed to button up my jacket and unthinkingly, just did it. As soon as I realised what I was doing, I wobbled dangerously and flung my hands back on the handlebar. I haven't had the courage to try it again.

Maybe tomorrow...