Wednesday, July 07, 2004

June 21 (longest day of year Monday): All happy families. A new week, a new weak. I've just experienced one of those weekends that leaves you drained for the week ahead, leaving your body yearning another weekend NOW!

I toddle into work with a spring in my step. Ivan has called in sick, funny he hardly looked sick running around in Tottenham yesterday. I'm genuinely chipper, even to the point I am telling a client (Phil at Design And Print) about the tournament. Jimmy overhears me bemoaning my penalty giveaway and tells me not to blame myself. We talk about the tournament and add to the fact it was fun, the fact that our players were running around like headless chickens. Next year Jimmy says HE will pick the team, one with shape.

At lunchtime me and Stevo go for a well deserved Chinese buffet at Zentral. We are a couple of bloaters. Today is England v Croatia. It should be easy but after their great result against France (compared to our result against France), who knows. Mark has said we should go out and watch it tonight. I text Ben to see if he's interested (he said he was Saturday). By the end of the day though, enthusiasm for going out to see the game is a bit low. Stevo however whines to the point I naturally give in, so I get in touch with Mark and plans are hatched to go watch the game at Yates. Insanely Stevo goes all the way back to Chelmsford to change and we arrange to meet up at 7pm.

We arrive in Yates at seven and the vibe is really good and the place is still pretty empty. Tonight I intend NOT to drink. And it kind of helps that I am broke. Cokes away.

By the time the match has started the place is filling up. It is fantastic summer evening and I have clocked that I am one of only a few people in the pub wearing blue and Croatia are wearing blue. Whoops. Now I know there are a lot of Croatians in Colchester but surely I won't be accused of supporting them will I? Also it seems it is actually much better to watch one of the flat screens instead of the big screen. Then a girl comes who looks like a good looking version of Amy Winehouse, I am immediately smit.

All this attention to detail though is soon scuppered when Croatia score after eight minutes from a set piece (Kovac). We look so fucking sloppy and James really seems to drop a bollock on that one. We come back though, completely at Croatia, this is the most offensive/attacking I have seen an England under Sven. We throw attempt after attempt at them and nothing happens. I make comment to Stevo "it's going to be one of those days" meaning we're mostly likely to shot the shit out of Croatia and still not find the net.

When Paul Scholes scores and equalises it is the biggest relief in the world. I have to be honest, the game was dying for me and I found myself really losing interest, instead finding myself checking my phone for love text messages and hate emails. Scholes ending his three year drought comes as a sign, a signal of a turnaround in fortunes for England and an end to our run of bad luck; surely it must only be a matter of time until Owen breaks his drought also. Schole's goal really does turn out to be the turning point, especially when Rooney does a Rooney just before half time and once more I/we are left wondering whether to believe our eyes. I think they're gonna find Maradona-drugs in him, I've been saying it all day. Regardless, the effect it has on the room is the special kind of stuff that is hard to describe and yet so easy to experience, best of times. It doesn't hurt either to hear that Switzerland are drawing with the scum France which puts us on top of the table.

I text Ben to ask where he is, to see if he still wants to hook up. Over enthused I also text Sara in Dubai to ask her if she's watching. To my surprise, Azmei texts asking if I want to go to the cinema with her and Syra Friday to see Troy. I jump, say yay. However when I point out that England will now probably be playing Friday instead of Thursday and originally expected she accuses me of avoiding her and asks me "what's rong (sic)?".

By the second half Yates is roaring and everyone is buzzing, the crowd here is singing for, fuck's sake its fantastic. The second half begins with Croatia looking lively and me having to deal with Azmei on the phone. The best thing possible happens when Rooney pops in a workmanlike, unspectacular third, personally I can't believe it, I just am not used to things going England’s way. I think about in 1996 and when we thumped Holland 4-1 and when we rose to the occasion, tonight it seems we are headed the right way again.

Feeling so confident feels like a flaw though when Croatia pull another goal back as once again the defence is ripped to shreds on a set play and James appears to blame again. And then news filters through that France take the lead against Switzerland through Arsenal scummer Henry. It begins to look like I will be available for the cinema Friday after all, so I text Azmei with the "good" news.

The rest of the game hangs pretty tense until Frank Lampard, god bless him, scores a fourth which seals our evening. As long as he's knocking in goals the world can forgive (and his dad) for those god-awful Jamie Oliver Sainsburys adverts which make him look a total wanker. News filters through that Henry scores a third for France to beat Switzerland 3-1 but that's beside the point at this juncture in the evening. When the final whistle blows, the joint erupts and security and police alike look relieved that England win and tonight our rabid fans will not be wanting to burn our town down (unlike after the France game when the scenes in Colchester post-match actually made The Sun!).

Jubilant, we exit for fresh air and new pastures. Tonight England looked good, like Sven has finally got his shit together. We end the game with six defenders on the food and confident enough to have substituted/saved all three of our goal scorers. It's great to be young and insane.
We head to the Hogshead and it is Hogsdead tonight, the opposite of a full house. Immediately upon entry we are greeted by two females sniggering at us from a table in the corner. What the fuck? One is mutton dressed as lamb and the other is just lamb, smoking lamb. They'd be an odd couple at the best/worst of times but in the Hogshead? Tactically we sit kinda close to them and I observe/people watch because the smoking lamb is actually quite pretty. And it seems I am not the only person people watching, the odd couple are clocking, grading and judging all men in sight (I don't think us three scored too well). However they're actually really really odd for people in the Hogshead, it's a funny relationship and being that they're so dolled up I wonder if they're actually on the hustle and maybe the older lady is Madam to the younger ladys whore. I so think the worst of people sometimes. By now this is taking up my whole attention whilst Mark and Stevo, two relative strangers/mutual acquaintances through me, are left to chat it out. Things get weirder on the ho front when around 10pm an old guy meets up with the ladies looking really out of place albeit not awkward though. It looks very strange. He then proceeds to also buy champagne for the three of them, here is a man obviously going to effort (more than I would anyway). By now, as hard as I try to eavesdrop, I have no idea what the hell is going on. Sadly however, Mark and Stevo are boring of my ignorance and I am forced into making moves towards home when really I just want to go up to the young lady and go/say/ask "how much?". We put the night out of it's misery remembering, just in time, that England are through to the quarter finals of Euro 2004 and these are the best of times.

np: PJ Harvey - Working For The Man


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