“You know what’s wrong with English men?” the lady said to Walker.
“Don’t ask me,” said Walker, “I’m Scottish.”
Walker the rambler was in a town somewhere north of somewhere else in England where he’d rested his boots. Time for a watch of the World Cup semi-final and a pint of heavy was his light refreshment. But England had lost and what started so sweet on the park ended in a pitch battle on the carpark.
“They can’t stand the heat,” the lady said.
“Because you didn’t qualify?” asked Walker.
“Not just because we didn’t qualify,” she qualified. She was a beautiful lady, petite, friendly-faced, bright-eyed, no make-up required here and a toothy smile that welcomed, probably in her fifties but young enough for his son back in Glasgow.
“We’ve had a long hot summer,” she went on, “Some like it hot but not the English.”
“You think so?” said Walker.
“I know so,” she said, jabbing a thumb in the direction of the brawlers, fractious noises off at this theatre of the absurd. “That lot are living proof of many things: the dying art of being able to hold a beer for a kick-off, the testosterone, the long hot summer, the fact their mother cut the chord, oh and the tiny penis.”
“That’s a lot of things,” said an interested Walker, in fact interested and surprised at the usage of the word penis to a stranger, “so nothing to do with losing?”
“Losing’s an issue,” she said, “we can’t handle success but failure’s even harder. I’ll tell you what I’ve seen. I’ve seen men like them high on the sense of camaraderie, the togetherness whipped up by the media, the quintessential Englishness, the lingo of the jingo, the it’s coming home mantra that crept into every conversation, every text, every shop window and every red-top headline. Hype and hysteria, yes, the hysterical myth that football made the sunshine or it shone out of Harry Kane’s arse. It’s understandable, vital and bollocks. But if you shake a bottle of warm beer like that you open it and boom. What’s happening out there is the boom.”
“It seems to have quietened down,” said Walker.
“Yes,” she said, “the bottle’s empty now. And tomorrow it will rain.”
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