What is it with the English, summer and balls?
Cricket balls, footballs, tennis balls, and graduation balls.
The gee-gees have finished breaking their necks over the fences (The great washed and unwashed having realised, yet again, that watching them run round on a flat surface is about exciting as a grand prix without a crash). Fortunes have been made and lost. The cleavage and cream brigade have shown us that you can change the proportions of a woman by sticking something ludicrous on her head – and we’re now all bored.
Thank god for balls.
Take football, which we only get in the summer every other year. Year one world cup, year two no footie, year three European cup, year four no footie.
This must be one of the odd years even though numerically it is even. It’s 2004 ( though it could be 2006/8/10 etc…) . This summer we have footie. This summer we don’t have a sea of geranium hanging baskets adorning our streets, This summer we are drowning in a jingoistic ocean of red and white flags.
Suddenly everyone is an armchair expert on the glorious game.
‘Beckham (Renaldo – Messei) is God!’
‘Bloody Scholes! (Terry – Rooney) He’s playing like a big girl’s blouse!’
‘Run you tosser!’
(I’m running out of names)
‘What the hell is Owen playing at?’
All this from the pragmatic female in accounts who barely musters a drop of perspiration when the footsie surges forward. Take out an ‘s’ and she has a personality transplant.
Red (not a good fashion colour) is a disaster as a uniform. Hop filled bellies take on EU food mountain proportions, women mistakenly believe that football strips are sexy, and pulling is confined to pints.
And then the ball goes out.
Beckham is relegated to tosser division.
Men remember how to dress again. Women go back to white wine and weight-watchers, and every Greek, Spanish and Portuguese restaurant in the home counties is boycotted.
Ah yes, the home counties that neatly brings us to another ball game, cricket.
Cricket, a game enjoyed by men and tolerated by women.
Lost in fantasy the men sit comfortably in their own space and revel in inarticulate intellectuality; Wind in the Willows for grown-ups.
The women have their partner’s presence, or at least a well-dressed semblance of it, and are moderately comfortable cutting the cucumbers while checking out who is possibly having an affair with whose husband and covertly grooming the young lad playing second stump or something, (they really couldn’t care less) for future adventures.
And then rain stops play which, coincidentally moves us forward to the yellow balls of tennis.
Wimbledon. This has to be the greatest of all the summer balls, (remember this is 2004 before Centre Court was given a lid).
The grey green canopy covering Centre Court has to the BBC’s most triumphant televisual achievement since the test card. Cameramen put in for the Wimbledon gig years in advance, knowing they can happily book their annual holiday to coincide and not even be missed.
The rain comes down and the nation is enthralled. True, Henman will go out at some point, quite possibly Cliff Richard will be in the crowd, and it’s always good for minor royalty spotting. Thankfully we have the re-runs of years gone by when boys knew how to play, long hair was the order of the day and shorts were moulded to the bits that matter.
And so we move on to the graduation ball often enjoyed with punting (yes I did say punting).
Tuxedos covering the manhood of future EU mountains. Frocks clinging to pre weight-watchers curves. The highs (and lows) of pulling your three year fantasy, all enjoyed with substances legal and illegal and often followed by a visit to the clap clinic, or the registry office or church before the unexpected offspring arrives, thus ensuring the embryonic butter mountain secures a well paid job within the privileged walls of banking or politics,
his future fantasies forever accompanied by the ‘thwack’ of leather on willow. While she, misty eyed, looks at the youthful ‘second stump’ (or whatever) and remembers a more playful use of cucumbers.
Let’s face it ball games are not about the balls, they are about the people playing with them.