A couple of weeks ago I was midway through a big drinking session with my fellow ale-junky Keats. On the Tube, full of the joys of beer, we were standing there with our feet at 90 degrees, in a sort of Laurel’n’Hardy act of stupidity – only the kind of thing you can do when you’ve had a few, and we found the whole thing hilarious. Opposite us was a massive, rotund underground worker – bored, intent on engaging us in conversation – who said “Tsk. Yeah. Not allowed to laugh darn ‘ere no more”. And he’s right. The Tube is an odd second world, where making eye contact is tantamount to asking someone to strip naked and sing like a budgie. Talking to one another, let alone laughing, is not on. It’s not what we do. Mr Rotund was right; here we were, laughing our heads off and receiving scornful glares from scared commuters. “Why are they laughing and talking? Haven’t they read the Tube Etiquette?”
Anyway, this has very little to do with anything. But it’s one aspect of Britain I hate; there is an underlying feeling of fear in London that anyone you talk to will carry a knife and plunge it into your chest. Another instance last week. I’d been to O’Neils by Kings Cross station and was walking back to the tube when a normalish-looking person stopped the lady in front of me to ask for directions. She didn’t stop her frenetic pace, quickening her stride if anything, and the bloke gave up. He stood there aghast, arms outstretched! “You lost?” I asked, and he was. He was just wondering where the British Library was, so I pointed him in the right direction and off he went. I appreciate women might feel more vulnerable in the city than men – and that’s not sexist, even if you think it is – but she was nothing more than plain rude. And this isn’t me being massively naive; I just cannot accept that everyone is a terrorist and is out there to kill me.
Right, now then. Back to cricket. Another crap aspect of Britain is the nanny state and Martin Johnson has found plenty of evidence that Australia are following America’s lead and wrapping the entire country in cotton wool, in a great piece at the Telegraph.
Everywhere you go in Australia, you’re reminded of the American way of treating its inhabitants as though they’re mentally retarded, such as warning consumers of salted peanuts that the packet may contain nut products, or advising purchasers of household bleach that once the bottle is empty it should “not be used as a beverage container”.
So what can we say about the prospect of an England victory? Well, for one thing their chances are not to be sneezed at. But even more in their favour is the fact that Australia’s cricketers are dangerously close to breaching their government’s own zero-tolerance policy (announced over the public address system before each day’s play) forbidding anyone from holding up anyone else to ridicule, contempt or humiliation.
So if Australia go 2-0 ahead here, their players will all be removed from the premises, ordered to do community service for the rest of the series, and the Ashes â€“ as compensation for the severe hurt to their feelings – will be formally awarded to England.
A positive for England, then…