I don’t normally write about sport. The English, minus the Agincourt archers, are to do battle today for the World Cup in a game which one famous, sadly deceased, journalist once described as ” the game you invented and the rest of the world whips you at”.
But, not today. The Kiwis are out for blood in the final and we shall see in a few hours’ time whether they have the bowels to see off the England squad and get their hands on the Cup.
Cricket, unlike baseball, is a gentleman’s game. Etonians play it well – I was in the First XI the day we beat them through sheer Midlands brutality, facing their fastest men. I was a nasty spin bowler and caught their captain out at mid-on with an incredibly lucky catch, overarching and backward. I still remember the thud as I hit the ground.
Sport is like war. It’s strange how we have replaced our thirst for battle with a thirst for victory in the arena. But, rightly so. There are no widows or orphans, No fire, demolitions or rape. Even chess, the most benign of conflicts, rouses passion in its adherents .Yet there is never blood on the chessboard, Queen’s Indian defence notwithstanding.
It may be that even the Australians, the semifinal losers, will gather in Melbourne bars to see if the bastard colonials get their asses’ whipped and the pride of the Pacific will be restored.
On the obverse side of the coin, today is Juillet Quatorze when French armed forces parade down the Champs Elysées, the final march being from the Légion Entrangère. They have to be last because the pace of their march is slower than all the others. Here, as of now, there is thunder, sheet lightning, as if the horses of the gods are girding for battle. Quite the metaphor. As if the gods are at war.
I used to love the fireworks. On a hilltop in St Germain, we could see the displays from at least seven different locations, including the spectacular one on the Champ de Mars where half a million gather.
I miss Paris.