Ficklish Blog

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Summer in the City

It’s been a geological age since my last post, and for that I apologise. So much has happened! Well, not really, but no matter. I plan to make up for my absence with a little gift from me to you at the end of the post. Hang in there, I promise it will be worth it.

SO! Since I last graced this page with my (virtual) presence, Australia has been bundled out of the World Cup in tragic circumstances. I believe that I have recovered, though it was very disappointing at the time. Like everyone else, I was upset more than anything else at the way it happened – that’s not how I wanted the story to end. Still, I was comforted somewhat the next day when I read an article that basically said, ‘well, Australia, if you’re going to become a soccer nation, then this is exactly what you have to get used to. It’s like a rite of passage, we all cop it at one time or another. Welcome to international football!’

So, you know, a good performance that exceeded all expectations coupled with a dodgy decision to gnash our teeth over for the next four years means that we finally belong. It made me feel all warm. Still gutted, mind - but warm.

And, I have to confess, a teeny tiny part of me noted with some glee that England only made it one stage further than the Socceroos. Not that I would ever say anything like that, because that would be mean. English people are entitled to their own sadness. Or something.

Anyway, the strangest thing happened when I was watching the England game on Saturday afternoon. I was at a sports bar in central London (not by choice) which was packed full of lagered-up lads with flags tied around their necks, shouting and singing their way through the match. The tension mounted all throughout extra time, and the room was all a’frenzy during the penalty shootout.

Then. The minute Ronaldo’s winning penalty hit the back of the net, the screens went black and the bar plunged into silence. ‘Goodness!’, thought I. ‘What an unfortunate time to have a power blackout!’

But no! That was it, all over, goodnight. My friend informed me that this was a tactical move on the part of the drinking establishment: “they do that so people don’t throw shit at their precious flatscreens.’

It was bizarre. The tension had slowly built and magnified to a taut, quivering peak – and then all of a sudden, it was gone. No comedown, no wallowing in the bitter post-match vitriol, just an abrupt anti-climax as the deflated patrons shrugged and filed silently out of the bar and back into the evening sunshine.

I am sad that the World Cup is nearly over, I have enjoyed it very much. As the matches remaining become fewer, I have been busily trying to remember how to conduct a social life that doesn’t involve shouting at televisions, pint in hand.

What helps is that it is really, properly summer here now. It has been downright HOT these last few days, which has been most excellent. Something I love about English people – and Londoners in particular – is that they never take good weather for granted. At the first hint of warmth, they flock to all available parks and public spaces, remove as much of their clothing as possible and revel in the sun. There’s a handkerchief-sized park across the road from my current workplace, and every lunchtime it is full of worker-bee types with their sunglasses on, ties loosened, shoes off and stark-white toes wriggling in the grass.

On Sunday I joined two young gentlemen of my acquaintance (who will be very familiar to some of you) at the beach.

Oh yes, my friends – a sunny Sunday afternoon at the beach. In London.

Picture it: a large, concrete carpark in the East End. A truckload of sand, dumped right in the middle. Beach umbrellas, picnic tables, vendors selling all sorts of frosty beverages and delicious-smelling food, reggae music wafting through the air and hordes of people soaking up the sunshine. It was fabulous. We kicked back, Spanish beers with thick wedges of lime in hand and it felt like another world.

You know you’re feeling properly relaxed and tropical when it seems that the only thing to do is drink a coconut through a straw:

I love this photo of the boys, it captures the afternoon very well (many thanks to Rob for permission to reproduce it here). Of course, once we have coconuts in our possession, this is what inevitably follows:

And I hope THAT, my friends, was worth waiting for. I would hereby like to announce the first Ficklish Caption Competition. If I’m going to post possibly the most ridiculous photo of myself ever taken, then I want some high-quality wit right back. Hit me.