England in shock World Cup exit

I find myself in London, watching the game with my sister as England take on Germany in the World Cup.

“Great tackle.  GREAT tackle”, emphasised Mark Lawrenson as Ashley Cole went in studs first on a German ankle.

“The referee got that one right,” the commentator asserts not long after, as replays showed Rooney throwing himself melodramatically against a German defender.

My sister can’t understand why I am not fervently rooting for England.  I find it hard to grasp why she is.  Alison, though, lives in England, where the hysterically one-eyed media coverage of England’s various footballing campaigns doesn’t seem quite so inappropriate as it does in other parts of the UK.  For my part, I take no specific pleasure in England losing, as some of the natives in my adopted country do.  An English exit from a major tournament brings relief, rather than glee.

Germany’s keeper whacks a long goal-kick down the middle, and Klose holds off the attempted foul from Upson to poke it into the corner past James.  “Sunday pub league goal,” dismisses Lawro, as if the Germans should somehow be ashamed of themselves for scoring it.

Podolski makes it two after 33 minutes.

I was midway through explaining my Brits-don’t-have-the-right-psychological-makeup-to-win-consistently theory to Alison, when England, rather inconveniently, scored.  She shrieked.  I slumped.

This seemed to be a good time to ‘catch up’, my sister having paused the match near the start on account of retrieving baby Sebastian from his slumbers.  She fast-forwarded the TV back to normal time, just in time to see Lampard’s shot crash off the crossbar and over the line.  Not given.  Cue a studioful of half-time experts who, it would seem, have been campaigning vociferously for goal-line technology to be introduced for years.

Mercifully England’s overall ineptitude meant it finished 4-1 rather than 2-1, or there may have been riots in the streets.  Not in Hackney, probably, where there may well be more local support for Ghana than England.

Two days later, Peter Singer, writing in the Guardian, has a pop at the German goalkeeper for ‘cheating’ by not owning up that the ball had crossed the line.  As, no doubt, the England goalkeeper would have done in similar circumstances.  He quotes cricket as an example of a sport where players sometimes walk even when they haven’t been given out.  Tellingly, to find a high-profile instance of this happening, he has to go all the way back to the 2003 World Cup, when Adam Gilchrist walked against Sri Lanka in a semi-final.  Walking is not common in high-level cricket, or even at lower levels, for that matter.  Besides, Gilchrist once walked thinking he’d been caught, when replays proved his bat had hit the ground rather than the ball.  Gilchrist’s approach was laudable, but at that level a player is entitled to allow the umpire to make the decision.  And if Neuer, the German keeper, had insisted to the referee and his assistant that the goal should stand, they would most likely have waved away his protests.

Having sweated my way into town yesterday and exhausted myself by simply pootering around the South Bank in the heat, I have decreed today to be a rest day.  Sitting around, mostly outside, reading Marcus Berkmann’s Rain Men, has been the order of the day.  My sister is just about to go out for a walk with Maggie and the little girl she looks after on Tuesdays.  Sebastian is upstairs asleep, and I am instructed to get him up at 3.45pm.

“Do I need to do anything after that?” I enquired, hoping that I wouldn’t be expected to do anything too complicated, like change his nappy.

“Change his nappy.”

Deep breath.

“Ok.”  How hard can it be?

Spotify and Steve Earle

Summer is definitely here.  I know this because I drove to Aberdeen and perpetrated mass bug genocide with my windscreen.  Several weeks later, my windscreen still remains a memorial to the fallen bugs of Fife, Angus and Aberdeenshire.

It appears that the Eyjafjallajökull (yes, I copied and pasted that) volcano has stopped erupting.  Hurrah.  Perhaps they have blocked it up with shredded tyres and golf balls.  Just in time for my flight down south to London.  With BA.  Although their strikes haven’t been affecting London City.  Double hurrah.

I am listening to Spotify right now, as I write.  And, marvellous though it is, I have discovered a second reason to dislike it.  As they are wont to do to us free subscribers, they interrupted my listening pleasure with an annoying advert.  “Ha!” I thought.  “I’ll fox them.”  I muted my speakers and switched them back on after a minute or so.  The advert was still running.  I muted my speakers again.  After another minute or so I switched back on.  The same advert was still playing.  In fact, it seemed to take up exactly from where I muted it.  They can tell when I mute my computer speakers and pause the advert until I put them back on.  The cads.  Whatever next?

The first reason to dislike it, of course, is that guests in your house can put on whatever music they like when your back is turned.  This is an embarrassingly obvious example of music snobbery on my part, but honestly, when someone hijacks your computer, in your own home no less, and forces everyone present to listen to irritating teen-pop, I am liable to splutter something I shouldn’t.

Having left my entire music collection in the seat pocket of an aircraft, I do hope the nice steward or stewardess who trousered it is enjoying my carefully crafted playlists and smart albums.  I’m not, obviously, and have had to resort to old-school listening techniques in the car, such as putting on a CD.  Due to a rediscovery of the joy of listening to a good album over and over, along with general inertia, I have become very closely acquainted with Steve Earle’s Transcendental Blues.  What an album this is.  Edgy country, bluegrass and an awesome ballad to finish.  I met Steve Earle once, just before Christmas in 2004.  He was playing a show with the Dukes at the Usher Hall, and they needed ear impressions taken to have new in-ear-monitors made.  I shuffled up the road to the Usher Hall on the day of the gig, and took impressions for Earle and his band in a very dimly lit Green Room.  I have no idea how the impressions turned out, my hands were shaking a fair bit.  I hoped the inadequate lighting would mask my obvious nervousness.  I chatted with him a little, asked him if he was looking forward to getting home for Christmas.  He wasn’t, really.  Loved it on the road, he said.  He went on to explain that his band (The Dukes) lived all over the place.  The bass player, Kelly Looney (real name, I believe.  Well, you probably wouldn’t choose it) lives in Paris, for example.

I have subsequently become very familiar with, and very fond of, a Steve Earle song called Ft. Worth Blues.  Wiseman will testify, wearily, to this.  It names a number of cities and places in the world – Amsterdam, London, Paris, with a recurring phrase: “It never really was your kinda town.”  And so at this point, if, as the man himself said on another occasion, I knew what I know now then, since Paris had obligingly popped up in the conversation, I might have casually suggested that it never really was his kinda town.  Many, many times since, in my imagination, I have relived this moment, and delivered this show-stoppingly dramatic line.  In my imagination, Steve Earle is impressed with my knowledge of his lyrics.  In reality, he might have thought I was taking the mick, and this could have been a dangerous thing given that he’s spent time in jail on a firearms charge.  Perhaps it’s better that I didn’t know the song, really.