Here We Go Here We Go Here We Go
I was eleven, jet-lagged in my uncle's apartment in Putney looking out at a common garden with nondescript flowers blooming. The plane trip was a distant blur and this was just like being in a warm, wet part of the South other than my idiot cousin bouncing off the wall suggesting we play something like Hold Your Breath Until Treacle Comes Out Your Nose.
My uncle was in the diplomatic corps then, posted to London which is funny in that he is the most undiplomatic person I know of. Astonishingly, Great Britain did not declare war on Pittsburgh that year which just proves how restrained and civilized they are.
My second impression of England came thirty years later in the form of a dog sticking his nose in my crotch at Heathrow as I walked down a narrow corridor off the plane with the laughing goat girl who had kept me awake from her seat behind me for half the flight watching comedies and laughing, well, like a goat girl.
But that was all right. The dog I mean, not goat girl. This was Europe and despite it being pre-nine eleven security considerations were different here. People were getting off in Heathrow from all corners of the world trying to smuggle penises under their clothing. Pooch had a serious job to do.
I was there for a good friend's wedding. She was English, marrying an American and they agreed to have dual ceremonies in the States and back home. I had been to the U.S. ceremony where I was enlisted upon arrival to fix their car or the day would be otherwise shot since nobody felt like tying tin cans to a bicycle.
Here in England, once the formalities were over, she had promised to take me around to her haunts like her favorite pub, her parent's garden and out to a real football match.
I was excited, she was excited, England was excited and responded by pissing with rain for the next four days it was so happy. That was all right, the English cope and generally ward off the inclement weather with pints of ale, proportional to the general shittiness of the weather.
That year was the coldest, wettest April on record so I'm astounded I can piece enough together for a short story.
For the football, we hopped a tube ride to the north of London for a long walk to the stadium to watch her team, Tottenham Hotspur, play Wembley, Woolsley, Barrington, Thurbridge or Bird In Hand, I really can't remember.
As I say, it was cold and wet.
The Spurs, as they were known since alternate nicknames like the Tots, the Hams or the Hots didn't carry the same or for that matter, any cachet at all, were in the championship league. That was the second most exclusive league in English football, the highest being the premiere league. They had been premiere league but had not kept the points up for continued membership so they got into the "gold star anyway just for turning in your homework" league.
In the States, no such thing exists. You either win it all or go home a dog. Ok, there's the Pro Bowl; football's special olympics but its an exception.
We have the NFL and the AFC, the National and the American League (who play the same game with different rules) but those aren't ranked by performance. Mostly they are a reflection of our independent settling and development of our nation and our inability to organize anything sensible at all.
First thing I remember about the game was that the gates to the stadium were about half a human wide. That was to prevent rushing and stampeding which was fine but my only thought was if we have to get OUT of here in a hurry I'm not looking forward to being squeezed out like so much toothpaste.
Then I remember that the fans for the opposing team, let's call them Bird In Hand, were isolated into a second storey gallery with police posted at every sixth seat. Football's something else here.
Then of course there were the pitch level seats we had, the great game, the beer, the dash to the souvenir shop for a blue and gold Holstein Pils jersey. It was euphoria which settled just as quickly as the cold, wet bus we got onto for the ride to the tube for the ride to the hotel and ultimate collapse.
Caught the plane home the next day and a week later when the pick up soccer team I played on met, I had me a Tottenham Jersey to stand out it. Mostly along the lines of "who's the uncoordinated idiot in the blue shirt," but you take what you can get.