September 10th, 2005


The football

blonde222 asks:
so did you watch the football the other night? were you metaphorically dancing in the streets of Belfast?
I've been pondering my own reaction to this a bit, balancing on the one hand the joy from the McDonald/Crowe household, with additional contributions from here and, south of the border, here, against someone else on my f-list who put in a locked entry:
I don't really give a shit that Northern Ireland beat England. I was once asked why I don't support NI as a football team. My answer? The blatant, disgusting bigotry that is inherent both within the team, and even more prevalently, within the community of supporters over here.
My own peak of interest in football came around the time of the 1982 World Cup when I was 15, and Northern Ireland qualified for the World Cup finals in Spain and actually made it through to the second round of matches. (They managed it again in 1986, but I was working in Germany then and it was much more difficult to follow because of the times of the matches - also they were squashed in the first round.) I have to say I cheered for them then, not having any particular reason not to; but I also have to admit that I cheered more loudly for the Ireland team in 1990 and 1994. (Checking back I see they qualified again in 2002 - I had completely forgotten.)

Sports back home reflect a peculiar distortion of the divide in society. (Rugby is, by and large, a Protestant game in Northern Ireland but has no such division in the Republic.) The Irish Football Association is based in Northern Ireland; the Football Association of Ireland in the Republic. Derry City FC has switched between the two. I suppose I was vaguely aware of this political baggage when I was a teenager, but I was also reacting a bit against the knee-jerk Republicanism of some of my class-mates, and supporting the Northern Ireland football team in matches a long way away was a low-cost way of making the point.

So, my reaction on Wednesday? On the whole I would have shrugged it off as just another football match, except that my hackles were raised by two things. The first was that my Google Alert for news stories about Northern Ireland flagged up this piece on Wednesday morning:
Northern Ireland will be lucky to get nil in this match and the only way they will score first is if they get into the brothel off that side street on Great Victoria Road [sic] before Rooney does.
Complacent bastard, I thought. That, combined with the hysteria about the cricket, a game which I simply do not understand, but which seemed to be taking over even the relatively civilised pastures of the Today programme - I cannot believe that they interviewed Mick Jagger and John Major about a game that hadn't actually started yet! - made a little corner of my heart hope that England would lose.

Not with sufficient enthusiasm for me to find out the result on Wednesday evening. But there was a gleeful spring in my step as I went to work on Thursday.

September Books 2) The Da Vinci Code

2) The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

Hmm. The roots of this book are pretty obvious. Some of the basic plot lines have been done much better elsewhere. For instance: Young woman who has been educated in cryptography - Neil Stephenson's The Diamond Age. Dubious proceedings involving a plane flight from France to London - Agatha Christie's Death in the Clouds. Half-baked ancient lore - Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln's Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Bad guys who are masters of disguise and preposterous conspiracies - Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence. Half-baked ancient lore combined with bad guys who are masters of disguise and preposterous conspiracies - Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, or alternately any episode of Scooby Doo.

The prose of the first couple of chapters is thunderously bad, but after that it settles into fairly routine rubbish. Some of the plot twists, like the first anagrams, the first password, the mysterious script, and the identity of the Teacher, seemed pretty blindingly obvious to me. None of it was particularly elegantly executed, and many historical details are simply wrong - as are some contemporary ones - Opus Dei members are not monks! In the book's defence, he doesn't overdo the mystical explanations, relying in the end on simple human explanations of his characters' far-fetched actions. And there is a certain charm in that most of the book takes place within a single twelve-hour period. But I really don't understand what people see in it, or why it has been so popular.