Extreme weather (and let’s get this straight – by no means do I mean tsunamis and monsoons, just it being rather warm in summer or there being some snow in winter) brings out the best and the worst in people. I don’t know stats, but there always seems to be a surge in violent crime in a heatwave. There were two stabbings in one day in Liverpool this week. Teenage boys in London continue to wipe each other out in a phenomenally alarming rate. It’s easy to ignore it, to think that it only happens in other communities. That it only happens to scallies. That it only happens to kids whose slang we can’t understand and whose backgrounds we don’t recognise. That’s not true though, so we make an extra special effort to ignore it: it won’t happen to my son. Well it’s happening to a lot of people’s sons, so I wouldn’t be too sure.
On the other hand, the warm weather brings out more of the good stuff too: dogs hanging their heads out of car windows, barbecues for breakfast dinner and tea, and members of the public entering municipal bodies of water that they wouldn’t usually contemplate doing as the heatwave transforms them into giant sweaty toddlers who absolute must have a paddle at the nearest opportunity.
There is talk of hosepipe bans, fires on the moors, runs on fizzy drinks and lager. A heatwave gives the Brits material for their favourite pastime: chatting about the weather and how it is affecting us in different ways. There is a sense of kinsmanship when you find someone else whose office isn’t air conditioned, or tells you which corner shop still has a plentiful supply of Soleros.
The World Cup is on, and that too creates a sense of something that human beings like: a collective experience. It’s the reason why we’d rather watch a film when it’s on telly than on DVD, or listen to a song on the live radio than on Spotify or a CD. People like to know they’re part of something bigger. That’s why (some) people (still) like Royal Weddings. It’s a break from the ordinary, a shared occasion. The World Cup is like that, and that’s why it’s easy for people to get into the spirit of things.
There’s no Netherlands team in the World Cup this tournament, and I have been wondering from time to time this week how their squad or fans would have felt being in Russia anyway: the host nation was (allegedly) responsible for shooting down a Malaysian Airlines flight on its way from Schipol airport in Amsterdam in Ukranian airspace killing 193 Dutch passengers including children and families and medical professionals on their way to an AIDS conference.
In this collective experience of the World Cup, in the celebrations and singing and flag waving, I feel a sense of unease. The glossing over and the absolution and the money being poured into the tourism coffers of a country whose actions literally stripped adults and children alike of their clothes as they plummeted to earth, found broken and naked in crop fields. That is what happens when you shoot a passenger plane out of the sky. But nobody cares because World Cup. Nobody cares about the vulnerable woman who somehow came into contact with the deadly Russian nerve agent in Wiltshire this week and died. Because World Cup. The collective experience of the World Cup tournaments that brings football fans together all across the globe also places the spotlight on the host nations. And in this day and age I’m beginning to wonder if there’s any nation deserving of it. Roll on Qatar 2022.
Until next time,
It’s coming home etc etc ad infinitum.