Wednesday, July 21, 2010

393. With the World Cup Over, Is There Nothing Left to Live For?

Oh well, another disgusting final. I'm glad Spain won (mildly) since it would have been an affront to see the brutal hacking Dutch walk off with the prize. I like the Dutch, who doesn't, but not this team.

What's to do now for the next four years? Slip back into the black hole of anonymity ... if that's even a word. Work. Earn less money than I spend. Spend it anyway. Write. Enjoy cooking. Drink less. Eat more pickles. Avoid young & beautiful women. Search Google Images for pictures they'll ALLOW me to use to illustrate this shoestring Blog. Go to Peking next Wednesday ... that should be good.

Friday, July 09, 2010

392. Spain Brings Germany to Heel 1-0

 The Germans had been doing so well, racking up four goals in three separate matches, and they'd been playing a very attractive kind of football. They were so lightning quick on the counter-attack and could move the ball down the field in seconds. England looked absolutely stodgy and clueless against them and the vaunted Argentines simply fell apart. Then they came up against (arguably) the best team in the world. They certainly didn't buckle under and held on as dangerous contenders throughout most of the game. The Spanish were just the better team. The score doesn't really reflect the psychological game. The eager young German team tried everything and none of it worked. The Spanish foiled all of their moves and took over the game, inexorably imposing their superiority. The Germans simply couldn't rattle them. The header was brutal, to be honest, had nothing to do with the finesse of the passing game till then, but you could almost see the Germans losing heart. Schweinsteiger (pig-climber?) started losing his cool as did Ozil and Klose -- my personal bete-noir for reasons below -- and desperation began to set in. They began to realise they couldn't crack the Spanish defence. It was an absolutely intriguing game to watch.

Fair dues to the Germans, though. They were a young team with many players brought up from their Under-21s -- England take note!! -- and they played excellent attacking football against the big-name stars of the Premier League and South America. Spain simply contained them and then struck for the winning goal. Germany were hardly humiliated but they were taught a lesson in football all the same. You can be sure many of these same German players will show up in World Cup 2014 with more experience and could prove to be even more lethal. They played extemely well and they have nothing to be ashamed of.

I was hoping for a Holland-Germany final, if only for the drama. It would be like Celtic-Rangers on the world stage. Every match these two teams play is a mini-war with sheer hatred being the driving force. In the runup to the England-Germany match the British tabloids were plugging the Battle of Britain and World War Two but the Germans were basically indifferent. They are never indifferent when they play against Holland which they see as their main rivalry.

Too bad about that. Spain-Holland (a European Final, who says we've lost the plot and become a shower of wimps?) is almost as good, but the Dutch are going to have a hard time cracking the Spanish nut. The Dutch are tough, spirited and opportunistic in the best traditions of high-seas piracy but this Spanish team is so good, so confident, so abundantly bursting with talent that they'd be very lucky to win. Even so, this is football. You can never predict what is going to happen. We have a good match to look forward to next Sunday!

In my unbounded enthusiasm for the Spanish team I nearly forgot to add on the reasons I dislike Klose and would like to give him a good root up the arse. It goes back, as many things do, to the World Cup in Japan/Korea in 2002.

It was impossible to get tickets. People who were here then can remember that distinctly. Anyway, a pal from Ireland was coming over with spares and I could go to all three matches in the qualifying round if I wanted. This was June, but with the end of term exams looming I couldn't go mad altogether. Choose one, I told myself. Obviously that would be Germany-Ireland.

We met up in Tokyo and went off in a cattle train to the ground in Ibaraki. You can read the details here.

The Irish fans outnumbered the Germans by about 10-1. It was a Sea of Green and the Japanese wearing German kit were suitably intimidated. We had the bodhrans going ratatatat and we were roaring out The Fields of Athenry. The German team looked rattled when their national anthem sort of drifted away into the sultry air and ours shook the very foundations of the stadium. The match was nervy to start with as many first round matches are. The Germans were the superior team but the Irish were doing what they do best, tackling very hard, chasing every ball, and mounting unexpected counterattacks. The first half was inconclusive until Klose, an incomparable predator it has to be said, got his head to a high ball in the area just below where we were sitting and flicked an unstoppable header past Shay Given. It was a brilliant goal, but it's what happened next that pissed us off. He did his usual run and slide along his knees, fists pumping. So far what you'd expect. Then he stood up and shook his fist at the Irish fans in the stand with a look of pure malice on his narrow face. What?? This was met with a shower of Boos. Righty-o, mate, your card is marked!

End of first-half. Ireland down 1-0 ... I mean, it was a good goal ,,, but the fans are seething over this arrogant bastard. Second half goes back and forth, a few chances here and there, nothing serious, time starts running away. Next thing you know we're into overtime -- 4 minutes. First minute, nothing happens; second and third minutes, ditto, and then in the last thirty seconds of the game Robbie Keane bursts through into the area and slots one past the large and hairy German goalkeeper, Kahn. Goal! For a moment there is stunned silence and then the whole stadium erupts in a roar of delight from the throats of 5 or 6000 Irishmen. Tweet! goes the whistle and that'ts the end of the match. The German team seems to disappear in about twenty seconds and the Irish do the rounds of the pitch soaking up the cheers of the fans for ... oh, I don't know ... 10, 15, 20 minutes?

I'd told my school I'd be away for two days. But the match is on Tuesday (or Wednesday, or whatever, it was a weekday) and you can return that night or the next morning, surely? Ahh, no, I don't think so. My friends want me to show them around Tokyo. Total bullshit. I knew damn well that win, draw, or lose we'd be legless until 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning either celebrating or commiserating and that I'd be in no fit state for any sort of social intercommunication until well into the following afternoon and possibly for some time thereafter. Good thinking for so it proved. The Irish took over half the bars of Tokyo that night with our flags and songs. Ah, Klose, you miserable bastard: it's never as easy as you think!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

391. Saved from the Flames

Excerpts from Granddad's Diaries
(the bits Grandma couldn't find to burn)

In my younger days I'd gape
at famous people: I was a fool,
when I think about it. I’d forgotten
the old and everlasting rule
that nothing, nobody lasts forever.

Too many friends
having topped themselves,
not very well, hardly
artistically, often with rather
messy consequences

I thought, I felt, well ...

My dear! Have you seen
what a train can do to a human body?
Grotesque! I had to identify
Emil in his various pieces.
Only his signet ring was conclusive.

I thought, but thinking
in those days, as in any day

was not encouraged … I harboured doubts,
let's say, as to whether literature was the path
to tread, waiting for my mind to be pure or totally dead
among many high-strung fine-featured females,
who never once, not once, were seen naked and beguiling,
and who had no intention ever, never,
of becoming naked, or of being beguiling,
as they could have ... so easily done, the bitches,
by sliding happily, gloriously into bed,
by being nice to you, making the whole world
in a moment ten thousand times better.

They carry around their god-given bodies
nervously, without an ounce of comprehension:
words, words, so many words instead.

The mustachioed pale-faced gentlemen
held delicate scented handkerchiefs
to their bony twitching noses, ultra refined,
leaving no echo of the sweat the blood and stink
of Arminius, of the looming Nazi hooligans,
who were coming on, like Werner.

He came up to me at the ‘Babalanka’
one of these forgettable but fantastic
cosy places we used to love in Berlin:
fizzy very bad champagne on the tables,
young girls pretending to be loose and wild
while thinking about Papa, of their riding lessons
on the weekend. Hello, Jew.

That’s what he said. I was so incensed,
amused, I let him believe it. After that,
throughout all my outrageous spying forays,
he protected me. He thought I was a Jew homosexual,
not one but two counts against me. He was
visibly startled and in spite of himself, impressed.
After the war started, not long after,
the Yanks, the Irish, pushed out the boat of neutrality
while the Brits, Canadians and the rowdy Australians,
and even the quiet New Zealanders (all three),
swiftly skedaddled. I was able to pick up
some used furniture on the cheap. The Germans
were not keen on the idea of war. It was obvious
they hated the whole idea. Um Gottes Will,
they said, downing liters at the local, Was soll denn
das alles sein
? (the fuck’s this all about then?)

So, no enthusiasm. None whatsoever.
I was scribbling all of this happily down
and sending it out through US embassy pouches
thanks to Nick and weird Oklahoma Julie
because the so-called Irish embassy was run by
one of our very own anti-British fascist manqué,
a total blinkered idiot, so shaming, you didn’t
even want to go to the receptions. But I did

occasionally, so that’s how I first met Hermann Goering.
I’d brought a wee tin whistle and that's what got him going.
I played a few tunes, a jig, a reel, and then a plaintive air
and the fat fucker just went berserk, mouthing off
about Aryan purity and asking me up for the weekend,
so I went off to his place up at Karinhall. My God!
You wouldn’t believe the luxury this fellow lived in,
wall-to-wall paintings and tapestries and sculptures
and the whole bloody house lined in marble. He was
on his best behaviour, slapping me on the back,
bad-mouthing the English, saying the Irish were so pure.

Idiot. The fuck he knows about the Irish.
Anything that happens outside of Germany,
these people simply don't have a clue, I mean,
look at Ribbentrop: he says “Heil Hitler” to the King.
Then he hates England because the English laugh at him.
I laugh at him too. That’s normal. Even the Germans
want to laugh at him but that, of course, is not allowed,
Strengst Verboten! not in a land where an unguarded remark
can send you straight to prison. I'm sorry I bought
the furniture; I really think I ought to leave.

I got back to Berlin and who’s sitting in my room,
there in the chair at the foot of my bed, but Werner?
The hell you doing here, I say, pass over my pajamas!
I have message for you, Bernd, you must send please.
O God, that’s how it started. Neutrality, I’d have to say,
went out the window. The Americans got chucked out
in ’41 after Pearl Harbor, the Irish stayed on. Not many.

By then we knew what side we were on. Oh, but listen,
must tell you! Must tell you about the time I met Herr Hitler
and taught him a few words of Irish, Conas ata tú,
which I hope, you know, he took with him to the grave
along with Eva Braun. He could have turned to her
in their last moments, smiled and said: Conas ata tú ?
How are you? How are you? How are you?
She'd have had no reply, she never did, I only met her
the one time and it was Hermann who introduced us,
and after that to some sly sarcastic little dwarf,
a very nasty little piece of work who faded out of the picture
after I’d challenged him to a foot race: a name with “b” or “g”.

Werner was gobsmacked when I left for Sweden
so casually in the winter of ’43. You could still do that then,
even after Stalingrad. The truth hadn’t quite hit them.
I met him after the war in Hamburg, running a bar on the Reeperbahn.
People like Werner never go under, they just bob to the surface
while others are dying in droves all around them. They flourish,
eat well, screw and drink. He looked at me cagily, benevolently,
still thinking I was a corkscrew Jew so I pretended to kiss him,
but his smile went rigid when I whispered in his ear.
Crooks (this is the good thing) don't write books.

390. Germany Annihilates Argentina 4-0

Golly, this is no joke any more!

I am nearly praying for a Holland-Germany Final!!