Apparently Argentina has got messy…?

A Dummies View of the World Cup

I enjoy a bit of sport as much as the next person; there is nothing better than willing your favourite team to victory. If you were playing yourself, you would feel tired and at times defeated, but from your vantage point at the sofa, you have no weaknesses or fatigue. You are the master and the king of sport. You would have scored where they missed and your defence would have remained strong when theirs slipped. But I am not going to lie to you; I am no expert when it comes to football. Despite all the stereotypes, I do vaguely understand the offside rule (I think we called it goal loitering at school), but I have no idea about the tactics or strategy involved in the game, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the occasion.

As with any kind of national event, our office is running a sweepstake; the Grand National, Wimbledon, who killed Archie Mitchell… you name it and we’ve done a sweepstake for it. However, one particular member of staff *cough* Charlotte *cough* is incredibly lucky and wins every single time, so we tried to make it fairer by picking a couple of teams each and winning money for first, second and most excitingly, the most goals conceded in the group stage.

To be English is a curious thing; across the world, people are taught to be competitive and to make the most of themselves, but the English seem to have a strange pride in our own failure. I’ve mentioned them before and no doubt, I’ll do it again, but the Top Gear boys epitomize this. Unlike our foreign counterparts, like the Aussies and the Germans, we are quite happy to have had fun and winning makes it all the better. I expect some of the best Aussie athletes left Beijing in 2008 gutted that they only won the bronze medal, whereas the Brit went home delighted to have a bit of a suntan and met loads of great people. I’d like to say that we know the value of fair play and as such, we are happy to have taken part. But I think it’s more likely that we protect ourselves a little from the imminent failure by not being seen to be bothered by losing. I’m the same with board games and pool; if I don’t think I can win, I will put all my efforts into making it harder for the other side to win.

There are certain people who we really don’t like to see winning. Sometimes this depends on the sport; in cricket, we detest the Aussies. (I refer you to Jiggery Pokery- – for full proof of that.) In eventing, we hate the Germans beating us and in rugby it’s the Scottish. Actually, as a country we are quite hateful. As a small island nation, we are like little Jack Russell Terriers, knowing that we are vulnerable, so jumping in first. There are two nations that we particularly hate seeing win anything and by the luck of the draw, I pulled them out in the sweepstake; France and the USA. My third team was South Korea, which I am not altogether convinced is going to be a winner.

Having drawn my teams, I have busied myself with decorating the sweepstake board in true English spirit; I have covered the USA in a very large oil stain and as for the French, well there are white flags, monkeys and cheese, so I think that all the bases are covered. I daren’t even start on Korea. As for the games, well I will not religiously watch them. I will watch the England matches, but I have to say the most exciting element of them is the fact we can finish work early to catch the matches. Now that is a way that sport really can benefit everyone. We can all finish work early and do what the Brits do best; run down to the pub and get obliterated, which my local is encouraging by offering free drinks for every England goal scored.

My favourite World Cup moment so far happened today when a colleague of mine was foolish enough to leave his car (complete with England flags flying proudly in the breeze) at work to go out for the afternoon. So I did the only thing that was right and fair and just. I snuck outside and pilfered the flags from the car and ran as fast as my legs would carry me back to the office. The menfolk at work tried to convince us that it was mean, cruel and unfair, especially as our first match was tomorrow, but we have done it anyway. As a compromise, we have hung them from our second storey windows so that he knows no one has stolen them. I know that I don’t celebrate the football in the way it is intended, but I struggle to celebrate sportsmen who are paid hundreds of times more than anyone of equal standing in any other sport and I can’t really think why. The World Cup being in South Africa is a little like the Beijing Olympics in that the local community is so impoverished and has probably been destroyed to make way for these millionaires to kick a ball around and so I can’t take it too seriously, but don’t you worry I intend to have plenty of fun along the way. I will watch the matches and get as involved as every sofa expert, but it won’t stop me from poking fun out of my colleagues for taking it all a little too seriously.


Unguarded John Handpicked Therapeutically

When the lovely Jo gave me unguarded John handpicked therapeutically to write about, I was hit by a metaphorical wave of John. Thankfully, there are no Johns that I know that fit into this category, but Johns from the media past and present? There are many. John Major, John Terry, John Prescott, John Sessions, John Sargeant, John Humphries… I could go on, but then I would risk losing my reader. In my eyes, there are only really two Johns in that list who could be described as unguarded. John Terry and John Prescott.

John Terry has been the subject of more text jokes this week than Michael Jackson. Now, I know very little about football and don’t really understand the ins and outs of the situation (hence why I shall move fairly swiftly onto the easy joke of John Prescott), but I’m not sure I understand why John Terry is in quite as much trouble as he is. Yes, I know he slept with the wife of one of his colleagues, which is undefendable. If you do that kind of thing, you are a git. But if I had an affair with a workmate, would I be at risk of losing my job? I’m not sure that I would. Obviously if it was affecting my work, that would be another matter, but the real issue itself is not the business of my employer. I think the problem comes with John Terry because he earns an extortionate amount of money. Footballers earn more money in a week than most of us would see all year, which I can’t even begin to justify or explain, but it’s just the way the game is. The problem is that people (and mostly down to papers, specifically the Daily Mail) think that they are then morally superior to anyone else. The fact that they are such high earners means that we put them on a pedestal and wait for them to fall. If, perchance I had been given Tiger as a noun, I could have said exactly the same thing. Yes, John Terry and Tiger Woods are meant to be disciplined sportsmen and they should act properly, but they aren’t in a position of moral responsibility. Not like someone who is paid with our money and decides how we live our day-to-day lives.

Cue John Prescott. Now here is a man who is in a position of moral authority. A small minority went out to vote in 2005 and a percentage of those thought he was someone who would represent the country well. I think everyone (especially any mirth-meisters out there) was saddened when Harriet Harman replaced him as Deputy PM. There is something adorably childish about John Prescott; I think it’s that innate ability to misunderstand the words live and pre-recorded. The way that he persistently says the wrong thing and looks socially inept all at once is quite incredible. In that way, I would describe him as quite unguarded. Displaying or feeling little wariness. That seems to describe the man, whom most people remember for punching a guy with a good old-fashioned, eighties perm. Now there is unguarded, if ever I saw it. A man of professional standing, who cannot control himself when having an egg thrown at him. In the event of being egged myself, I would not be overly happy, but I think that the good old-fashioned British stiff upper lip would keep me in check.

The notion of handpicking initially sounds like such a good one; something, which by its very nature is selected personally. In this day of over-hyped organic produce in supermarkets, one assumes that the worst is removed and you are left with the best possible sample. What is wrong with that, I hear you cry. Well, if you look at it in another light, think of the leftovers. In retail or supermarket terms, this means that someone is left having to buy the inferior product. In a work environment, there may well be someone who cherrypicks their workload, thus choosing things that highlight their strengths and leaving others to cover for them. Anyway, I digress (and all to vocalise a personal slight), politicians, such as John Prescott (and John Major come to that), are renowned for cherrypicking their workload. They promise you so many things in their manifesto, which they simply cannot manage to fully complete in one term. So, they begin by choosing what will make the biggest positive effect on our lives. Obviously, if this change goes swimmingly, then it makes them look efficient and like they’ve got our best interests at heart, and even if they haven’t, it doesn’t matter they are still making our lives that little bit better. The general goodwill that they may receive after completing such a task could be described as somewhat therapeutic. Doing a good deed for others always serves to make us feel better about ourselves. You often see politicians handpicking their work and choosing either something that is highly emotive to a large group of people or a problem that is easily resolved; afterall, everyone feels better when they’ve got something in the bag. I’m not saying that there is anything bad or immoral about this, we all do it from time to time and most of the time it has a positive effect on us, but as the Chilcot Inquiry tells us, sometimes they let these decisions get out of hand. Blair was so convinced that he was right and that he had to follow Bush into war. In my mind, this is one of the finest acts of political cherrypicking ever; did Blair feel better at the end of it? You bet. To this day, he offers no sympathy or even doubt that he made mistakes.

Now I would like to raise a toast to next week’s blog. And let’s hope it’ll be a little easier!