16 June, 2006

Two, nil

Yesterday's England World Cup match was watched in a state of near-hysteria by my work colleagues, which wouldn't have been so bad were it not for the fact they were watching it ten inches from my right ear.

It's my luck - or misfortune, depending on what's going on in the world - to sit virtually underneath the office television sets, which are suspended from the ceiling to try and make the place look like an American newsroom and which are ordinarily tuned in to the lamentable outpourings of Sky News or the bland but worthy utterances of BBC News 24.

For the duration of the World Cup, however, both TVs get switched over whenever there's a game underway. And because these are the only two sets on the whole floor, folk cluster about them like pedestrians at a car crash, which coincidentally was precisely how you could describe yesterday's England World Cup match.

Beer was also introduced onto the premises. Sport and alcohol: a toxic combination, obviously, but an inflammable one when applied to a bunch of bored workers labouring through the arse end of a weekday afternoon.

Everyone downed tools at 5pm and clustered round the crystal bucket to practice the usual business of being alternately desperately optimistic and petulantly impatient, swigging from cans and shouting. I had stuff to do but with one of the TVs in my eyeline it was impossible not to follow what was going on, or rather what wasn’t, and to feel some involvement in proceedings.

One of my tasks, ironically, was to get a picture ready to publish on the homepage of the website as soon as the final score arrived. Much pleasure was to be had, therefore, in spending the best part of 80 minutes finding the most miserable looking image of the most depressed looking England player imaginable. Less fun was the scramble to find the complete opposite in the dying seconds of the match in order to reflect the last-minute turnaround.

In retrospect, there's always some fun to be had in being an impartial outsider, but you have to watch what you say and to resist the temptation to inject pithy comments which may sound witty and wise to you but will only be deeply irritating to others. With this in mind I quickly resolved to shut up for the 90 minutes, letting the whole farrago wash over me, reflecting on my own vocal prediction of a 0-0 draw and how this almost, almost, came true.

Then, just before 7pm, I escaped - unfortunately just as everybody else was fleeing anything with a roof on, and found the walk back to the station took twice as long thanks to a profusion of flags, fat bellies and foul mouths.

And that was just the kids.


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