I tried, I really tried.
We had just finished watching the so-so Michael Douglas thriller on Sky. As I needed to check the progress of the match before heading out to meet A in the pub, I successfully negotiated a lightening-quick flick over to BBC1, in the few available seconds before Big Brother.
Only to witness, at that precise moment, Portugal’s extra time goal.
“Oh my God!” we shrieked.
“That’s it then”, I authoritatively declared, still labouring under the delusion that extra time operated on a sudden-death principle. “England are out of Euro 2004”.
And texted A in the sports bar:
I'll get my coat. 😦
And finally looked up again, and realised that the game was still going. A-hum.
“I feel like we’ve jinxed the match”, I wailed.
“Better watch the rest of it, then.”
Within seconds, the last two effete footie-phobes in town had metamorphosed into standard issue Come On Englanders. Why, I could hear our very vocal chords hardening over, even as our vocabulary contracted into guttural monosyllabics.
Shoe-horned into the collective consciousness. Helplessly abased before the Higher Power of Speuuurght.
As Engerland equalised, some deep-seated Pavlovian impulse caused us to rise up off the sofa as one, making those tight little fist-stabs as we did so.
“It’s going to penalties!”
I text A again:
Cheadling hell! 🙂
He texts back:
We’re not built for this.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Striding into town to make it to the Roberts for last orders, deftly weaving my way through the shell-shocked crowds spilling out of the sports bars, I am struck by the weird, subdued atmosphere that prevails. It’s so… quiet. Everywhere I look, lads are perched on the edge of the pavement; or stretched flat out on it; or slumped against walls, absently texting. Directing my own video-montage, I start mentally overdubbing the soundtrack.
Snatches of conversation:
“I wanna see Sweden f***ing smash them in the semis. No, even better; I wanna see them get to the f***ing finals, think they’re gonna f***ing win, then…”
“Can’t believe they just played that Britney Spears song at the end. Like that’s gonna cheer us up…”
“Yeah but, you gotta admit, it takes a lot of guts to come back and equalise like that, right at the end…”
I give K a quick call, just to bear witness.
“Honestly, you’d think Princess Diana had just died.”
Even in the Roberts, the queens are all a-twitter. At the bar, I tell the story of how my Nokia – the gayest mobile in the whole world, like, ever – had changed footie to ennui. People start checking their own.
“No, it just comes up with foothe.”
“Darling! Ennui simply isn’t in my lexicon!”
As the beers kick in, a sort of refractory queeniness has begun to steal over us. A necessary corrective process, no doubt. Excitedly, A starts to tell me all about his new bit-of-rough builder friend.
“Darling! Lucky you! How rough exactly?”
“Well, just before Euro 2004, the police called round to his house and confiscated his passport. I think he must be on some sort of List.”
“Darling! The sex must be fabulous! But does he know that you’re a native Portuguese speaker? He doesn’t? Oh, I don’t think you should tell him. At least, not unless you’re up for some extremely adventurous role play…”
In the late bar over the road, the mutual healing continues until stupid o’clock. Even the regular Thursday night trannies are bitching about that silly Swiss hem-hem of a ref. As ever, the more slurred and messy everyone gets, the more fulsomely articulate I become. (Why is this?)
It’s the landlord’s last night, so the final rounds of drinks are on the house. The wiry little skinhead in the corner has hitched his T-shirt up, his beltless waistband down, and is distractedly stroking the area in between, over and over and over again; the effect is quite mesmerising. Pints are sloshed onto the carpet, nonchalantly; arses are grabbed, inappropriately; no-one can understand a word that anyone else is saying, but no-one seems to care.
Good grief. We’re not even like this over Eurovision.
As you were, sisters. As you were.