Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Watching Spain while half asleep

Two monstrously early mornings and two long very full days means I am in sleepwalking state by the time I get home after the MA class and the tutorials that follow. It's about 7pm and there is not a cell in my body that is not half asleep, so after dreaming my way through a plate of spaghetti bolognaise I am ready for nothing but sitting on the sofa to watch Scotland play Spain.

Ever since finding out how keenly the Scots yearn for England to lose at just about anything, that being the greatest pleasure life can afford a true Scot, I have grown increasingly indifferent to Scotland's fate at sporting contests and am quite glad to see them lose to just about anybody. Or so I say, but my heart's not in it. I like the Scots I know and I put down their meanness of spirit to a particularly florid post-imperial schadenfreude under the spell of which they, the great governors of half the Empire, like to imagine themselves not the gainers by such imperial adventures but the colonised victims. Self-pity is strong drink. Apart from that they seem a most intelligent, capable and genuinely democratic bunch so Tam O'Shanters off to them.

I don't glory in their defeat, but on this merely symbolic level of existence, I am reasonably unbothered if they get stuffed by Uzbekhistan, San Marino or Andorra.

Not so much by the Spanish at the moment. There is too much genuflection in the direction of the Spanish for my taste now. The Spanish football team are indeed absolutely and deservedly top dogs, though there is something half-asleep about them too. Wonderfully skilful as they are, I think roughly 70% of their game goes across or backwards and, were it not for their propensity to suddenly thrust through the opponents' defence in the most spectacular and elegant manner, it might in fact be a touch tedious: tedious, I mean, to the point of actually putting you to sleep, as it did me at certain points tonight. But then they scored three splendid goals, and provided almost ten minutes, all told, of entertaining forward play. The fact is I didn't actually want Scotland stuffed because while the Scots persisted, admirably enough, in chasing everything and even showing some flashes of skill of their own, the TV commentary, in as much as I was listening or even hearing it, was one long eulogy of the genius of over forty other Spanish footballers, of whom they could probably not name twenty but of whom everyone was, guaranteed to be a world beating genius. It became nauseatingly tedious after a while and it was this, as much as the long periods of possession play that sent me to sleep.

It's interesting that what we so admire in others we often deprecate in ourselves. At home, sideways and backwards passing are proofs of a craven, unadventurous spirit. In Spain or Brazil we take them for signs of mesmeric power.

But then come those moments of spectacular elegance. They're good at that.

What are the shoes about? Just liked them. They come from here where there are more.


Dafydd John said...

Have you been too tired to watch the rugby, George?

There is some excitement over here by now, not that you'd notice from the 'British' media - as even John Humphrys has pointed out!

Maybe that has something to do when it comes to other nations' support for English sports teams.

George S said...

Don't think so Dafydd, not really. Failure is always big news here, and the oddest thing about the English failing to beat the French is that they had won the rest of their games, so they just lost one, but then the earth and heavens opened, and the England rugby team was the greatest disaster and disgrace ever. That is news. The English love such news of disaster. I can't quite understand the masochism but there it is. Besides, there is the ancient feud with the French, which is like playing the Germans at football or the Australians at cricket. The Welsh team beating the Irish is news but no more news than if the Irish and beaten the Welsh. No disgrace either way. Therefore less news.

And for the record I haven't watched any of the rugby, not England, not anyone. My schedule has been madness itself and still is. I haven't watched television apart from MoTD for months and have been to the cinema once in about two years, which was last week just to relieve the pressure.

I say this since I sense a Welsh grudge coming my way: You watch England and don't watch us and don't talk about us. ('Have you been too tired to watch the rugby, George?) I haven't talked about England either. I didn't see the Welsh game. because I don't have the sodding time. Which is why I occasionally get tired.

Dafydd John said...

Thanks George.

No, no grudge. I was just wondering whether you'd been watching or not - as I say, we're rather excited over here at the moment, and, although I'm no expert, I find myself discussing the intricacies of back row play to anyone who'll listen. They don't even have to listen!

But whether it was bias or masochism, it was startling. It would have to be for John Humphrys to have noticed!

George S said...

Och, I am pleased for Wales, Dafydd. I read that they played very well with a young team, which is always heartening. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you beat France. I do have memories of the great Welsh team of the seventies.

Humphries is a proud Welsh patriot of course. But then presumably if Ireland had beaten Wales we would have had to get excited about Ireland. I feel pretty sure the English audience will back Wales against France. Just as, in the past, they'd have supported Scotland against Brazil. That may be because while England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are separate countries there are a great many Welsh and Scots and Irish in England and people get along.

I rather suspect it is the very fact that the English don't hate them that really annoys the others. Being hated means being recognised as powerful. It bestows status. I know this may seem extraordinary to a Welshman, a Scotsman and an irishman, but I have lived among the English for fifty five years and I actually like most of them.

I remember the times (late fifties early sixties) when only the Welsh could be true poets, Later only the (Northern) Irish could be true poets. More recently it has been the Scots.

It is not that there is disrespect of Sots and Welsh, it is, perhaps, as I suggested, that Wales beating Ireland or vice versa, is not such big news. Besides, here had been scandal in the England camp and the French were supposed to be imploding. That is all news.

I am pretty sure that if Wales win the World Cup or even get to the final there will be plenty of attention from the UK press and broadcasters.