It’s been a Football World Cup month, and therefore a danger once again to hear far too much of the ruined popular song from England’s near-miss of 1996: “Football’s coming home” – a song that regularly haunts all England supporters and reminds them of West Ham United’s glorious World Cup win in 1966. But should the word really be “football”? The word “soccer”, as in “Association Football”, divides the USA from Britain, and there is a belief that its popular use is American not only in practice but in origin. However, it’s one of many international border-busting high-flying words arrested by expatriation, migration and settlement that have embellished the open-source mongrel lingo that is modern English. Words do not fade away or care to stay at any fixed abode. They are too impatient, careless, free-spirited, and radical to resist hopping onto the next passing caravan or to scuff their heels on granite gravestones. For words as for people, freedom of movement is not just creative but vital. Words do not enjoy coming home.
Covid, which comes home repeatedly, made an unwelcome visit by striking my brother-in-law Nick, who promptly shut himself up in his study to pull through after a few days and in time for him to go away for a needed week’s holiday in Dubai. Covid also struck his brother Ant for the second time in a month. A persistent but Covid-free cough has afflicted Alli for some weeks, confining her for long periods. I have managed to steer clear of most ailments but I did at long last have a long-delayed musculoskeletal scan of my lower back to find out why my hips and knees feel like lead weights.
I went to see the Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus at St George’s Church in Kemp Town in an energetic and sprightly concert of semi-seasonal classics with Jessie, Jurrat and friends Sam and Liz, after a drink in the Well in St George’s Street. The highlight of the evening was the rendition of Kylie’s “It’s raining men” complete with collective gestures and wavey body sways, reminding me of the England rugby fans’ crowd classic “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. Later, I also saw the film of “Roald Dahl’s Matilda” with Kay, Ella, and Gwen at the local cinema, just before racing home with them through empty streets to watch a football game. Gwen celebrated her birthday with presents at Broad Oaks after being taken to London to dinner and to see a show (“Elf – the Musical”) by her sisters.
I spent some time this month in Brighton to dog-sit Jaxon, Jessie and Jurrat’s much-loved Staffie. Spooked all too easily by sudden sounds outside in the street, Jaxon spends most of the day contentedly but cautiously indoors, exiting only for Nature’s calls at the back of the patio and to scare off foxes, and a daily work-out with the pull-toy. He is somewhat reluctantly taken for a walk by Jurrat in the mornings around the neighbourhood, but generally likes nothing more than to snuggle and snooze morning-long under a pile of bed clothes. I have never heard him bark so I have no idea whether it is worse than his bite, and his capacity to guard the flat against unwelcome intruders is untested, although I fear he might try to befriend human intruders rather than scare them off. I spent the last days of December and celebrated New Year’s Eve in Jaxon’s company, as Jessie and Jurrat went on holiday back in Bangladesh to see their friends and Jurrat’s family. Despite the pouring rain there were still loud noises from firecrackers outside, so Jaxon and I hunkered down beneath the bedclothes with Classic FM to muffle the noise.
A great shelf of snow was pulled down over a few hours in mid-month, yielding later to hours of rain, making dog walks difficult before warmer weather arrived just before Christmas. Our car was randomly hit by another in the village, forcing an insurance claim that made little sense of the comparatively small damage done, and prompting the apparent collapse of all meaningful customer service among car insurance companies, reinforcing my belief that the algorithms of insurance come close to regulated extortion. Such companies are better in recollection, apology, and remission than in operation or action. Costly computer decisions continue to override human contact, causing unmeasured anguish and aggravation. But somehow the randomised process allowed Jessie, who has just passed her driving test, to drive our car until next summer, as well as its temporary replacement, while it is repaired (which hasn’t happened yet).
Sam’s parents and siblings, the Chisletts, arrived to stay with him and Ella for Christmas and we all went out together to a local vineyard. They then joined us for a Boxing Day buffet lunch at Broad Oaks. Jessie, Jurrat, and Gwen stayed with us over Christmas and we had a Secret Santa present exchange. 90% of my received presents were books: I am set up for months of good reading ahead. I shall also be going to see the Jayhawks in London with Jessie and Ella, ditto to see Ryan Adams, and to the West End show “Something rhymes with Purple” with Ella in the New Year. I have already started on the books, reading a brilliant short novel, “Small things like these” by Claire Keegan, and back-filling with Helene Hanff’s “84 Charing Cross Road”.
With my heartfelt wishes for all to have a happy and friendly New Year.