Blogging has just got a whole lot more difficult as the laptop on which I usually write is also our principal means of viewing the World Cup. Watching the matches has, however, sparked memories of previous world cups, some of which are vaguely related to the topics about which I write on this blog.
The last World Cup, in South Africa, doesn’t really fall into this category. My most substantial memory is, ironically, not watching a match. We were at the Glastonbury Festival and chose (wisely, as it turned out) to see Ray Davies perform on the Pyramid Stage rather than go to the big screen to watch England v Germany. We were cheerfully singing along to “Sunny Afternoon” as England fans were converting en masse to become enthusiasts for goal-line technology and David James was picking balls forlornly out of his net
The 2006 World Cup coincided with a very busy period in the EU’s intercalibration exercise, which I have written about before (see “Still travelling, still thinking…”, “Remembering Jean-Gabriel”). I have my mobile telephone bill for June/July 2006 as a strange memento of that period, as it records calls from no less than seven different countries as I criss-crossed Europe (two, to be honest, were for calls from airport transit lounge and our visit to Portugal was no more than a quick hop across the border from nearby Vigo one evening for some sightseeing and a drink).
I was in Vilnius, Latvia, for a large meeting of national representatives involved in the intercalibration of rivers from across northern and central Europe. Each evening, small groups would peel off from the post-dinner gatherings in the hotel bar to go and watch their country play. On the second evening, it was England v Trinidad and Tobago and I headed into the old town of Vilnius with a colleague to find a sports bar showing the match. The final 2-0 score line, as I remember, flattered England whose opponents that day included a player who I had seen a few weeks earlier turning out in a League One match against Hartlepool.
En route home from one of these trips I visited the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead where there was an installation that consisted of a tunnel lined with TVs each tuned to stations from around the world. The idea was that the dark tunnel full of these flickering images would provide a dislocating experience that emphasized the world’s cultural diversity. They had, unfortunately, chosen a bad time to display the installation as about three quarters of the television stations were showing the World Cup in one form or another. Instead of highlighting our differences, it had the opposite effect showing how, for that short period, the world was remarkably united in its preoccupations.