Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Oh, how I miss those lazy, crazy days of summer

There is a legendary episode of Hancock's Half Hour, Tony Hancock's seminal 1950s radio sitcom, in which Hancock, housemates Sid James, Bill Kerr and Hattie Jacques, plus an annoying neighbour played by Kenneth Williams, endure a dull, wet, Sunday afternoon stuck indoors.

The brilliance of the Sunday Afternoon At Home episode is that, like a Miles Davis song, it's the silences that are the most telling. Being radio, the timing of Hancock's yawns and complaints ("Stone me, what a life!"), Sid James' retorts and Kerr and Jacques' helpful but irrelevant interruptions, add to the wonderful conveyance of a claustrophobic, housebound Sunday in the days before round-the-clock television, shopping or 24/7 anything.

What prompted me to think of this is the silence since last Sunday night, and the ending of the World Cup. Because, after five weeks of total immersion in what was surely the best World Cup of modern times, the silence is as deafening as the noise of a clock ticking in an empty room.

It has been an incredible, euphoric ride: a group stage in which goal-scoring records were broken, goalkeepers became cool again (after having been traditionally the drummer in the group - sat at the back, drunk and going bald), the knockout stage became as exciting for its lack of goals, the Old World fell apart, and the New World became everybody's darling. Even America came to both understand and appreciate what it is we in the rest of this planet have loved all along.

That said, it hasn't been without its pain, most notably mine at having to endure a party of loud Americans on Sunday night in an Italian restaurant asking after every decision, along the lines of: 
American Lady: "Why isn't that a goal? The ball clearly got kicked past the 'goalie'. The dee-fence did nothing to stop it."
Fellow Diner: "It's because it was offside."
AL: "It was off...what....?"
Me: "Good grief... Pass me that steak knife, I have a wrist in need of slashing." 
I jest, of course. And Dempsey, Howard & Co deserve as much credit as possible for their contribution, not least of which, pushing the now-world champions all the way.

And what of the Germans? Never exactly a fashionable pick at the outset, they powered their way through to hold the World Cup trophy aloft in Rio on Sunday. And, yes, they did so with efficiency and utter ruthlessness (just ask Brazil). There's no need for cultural stereotyping or, indeed, cheap jokes about the events of 70-odd years ago, but there's a way the Germans go about most things, and they certainly applied it over the last few weeks.

The 2014 World Cup served up far too much good stuff to contemplate in one simple blog post. Plus, by now, you would have read most of it in the papers' round-ups. Still, all I can hear now is the ticking of that grandfather clock. The good news is that the Premier League kicks off again exactly one month from today. Which means that between now and then I really would be wise to actually get a life. Stone me...

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