Ever experience a couple of cold winter, or pollen-strewn summer, days of coughing and wheezing, taking yourself off to the doctor and telling him you feel like sh*t?
In Holland you'd probably be diagnosed with a severe respiratory infection and chronic asthma and have prescriptions for fourteen different types of medication, an emergency referral to a specialist in pulmonary disease or find yourself quarantined and under sanitized scrutiny by the Centre for Disease Control.
However, back in the UK you'd wait a week to get an appointment with your local NHS GP for a second opinion, and after five minutes in his consulting room, would emerge empty-handed but with a new diagnosis. You have a cold.
Nobody's suggesting the Dutch are a nation of hypochondriacs (apart from me) but they do take their health as seriously as Brits take football.
But while stuffed-up orifices (nasal congestion and constipation) may be a common symptom on both sides of the North Sea, there is one disease that only our Netherlands neighbours appear susceptible to, and which they whinge about most : the 'heavy ankles' syndrome. I put it down to a psychosomatic disorder: until I caught a dose it myself.
Fascinated, and pained, by a malady to which British people previously appeared immune, I went to an Amsterdam pharmacy and asked the smiling young chemist if she could advise me on remedies for 'heavy ankles'.
"Oh, tough shit," she replied, "I only get it when I go hiking in the summer months," and indicated an entire aisle of pills and potions, then handed me a jar of stinking green ointment made from an extract of Brussels sprouts, tincture of tulips and clarified pike semen that I was suppose to rub into my legs, from ankles to groin, on a twice-daily basis. Did it work? No.
Odd thing was that while I was back in the UK the heavy ankles symptoms continued, and continued, and continued.
Bugger the doctor I thought, go see a chiropractor, and did. I related my problem had only recently occurred while in Holland and had continued since my return to Mother England. She 'ummed' and 'ahhed', took a single look at my feet and recommended I dump the hobnail clogs.
One week back in the Doc Martins, no more heavy ankles syndrome. My secret remedy. Fuck the Dutch, and their Uncles.