What Did You Learn? (11th May2012)

So the Furious tour crash landed back in the UK just in time for the coldest, wettest miserablist Spring since the last mammoth gave up living as an option. Charmed I’m sure but having spent the fat end of a year travelling the world – what did we learn?
Well, if you drive across North America on a diet which consists mostly of carrots and beer, the weight just falls off you. Carrots are loaded with vitamins but American beer is all rubbish. Costa Rican beer is magnificent and if you go (which you should) you have got a better chance of finding some than you have of finding the scarlet macaw that adorns most the guidebooks. By which I don’t mean a specific scarlet macaw (which presumably has a brilliant agent) I mean any macaw at all. There were no toucans either, but plenty of monkeys, f*cking each other in the tree tops. Yep we learned that, anything else?

Well you know how we English get all precious about the Argentineans invading the Falklands – did you know England tried to invade Argentina in 1806 and 1807? Argentina is massive, we sent two warships to conquer all of it, and we say their invasion was ill advised. So we actually started it and your actual Belgrano, the General they named the doomed battle ship after, he designed the modern flag of blue and white. During the country’s civil war both sides were fighting under the same colours and the good General was apparently the only person who recognised this was a problem. He died of Dropsy and was fair riddled with the clap.
I understand that I need to at least mention football by the third paragraph or half my readership will wander off; from our own anecdotal evidence the press in every country we visited expects its national football team to win the World Cup and gets annoyed when it doesn’t. People think this is a strangely English problem, it’s not. Every country, including New Zealand (who actually did win the last World Cup in so far as they were the only undefeated team in it) and Vietnam (where their National team is Manchester United) demand victory or the stories will spread that the coach is a fool and the players spend too much time in discos demanding blowjobs.
Many of the actual people in most countries along our route hate politicians and bankers as much as we do. I’m not sure if that is encouraging or depressing. The centre of Santiago in Chile smells often of tear gas because the young folk are perpetually cross about not being able to afford to go to school. Strange that the riots in London last year were perpetuated by people who having been offered free education demanded sports gear and electrical stuff out of Curry’s window instead. Kind of on the subject,; last year in Holland customers of the ING bank were so disgusted that chief executive Jan Hommen was awarding himself a £1 million bonus that they threatened to take all their money out of his bank if he did so. Nobody got arrested, nothing got set on fire but Mr Hommen and other Dutch bankers had to refuse their bonuses because of it. Meanwhile in this country according to the Observer, “Stephen Hester, head of state-controlled RBS in the UK, is in line for up to £7.7m, Bob Diamond of Barclays is to collect as much as £6.5m, and some senior bankers at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are looking at windfalls of about £40m each.” – why aren’t we told about what happened in Holland, it is such a feel-good inspirational story? I have already taken the £78.12 I had in my Barclays account and spent it – in your face Bob Diamond, how do you like them apples? Smash the System!
Oh I can sense some of you wandering off again…….. come back you’ll like this bit; something else I learnt is that sunderland’s club motto is apparently “Consectatio Excellentiae” which might sound like a spell from a deleted scene from a Harry Potter movie where Ron Weasley learns to make Hermione’s clothes fly off with a wave of his wand but in fact means “in pursuit of excellence”. I don’t know if this has always been their motto or if it is something they have awarded themselves recently in yet another act of failed and pathetic grandiosity but what a great motto for them. “In pursuit of excellence.” Not aspiring to excellence or wishing to be excellent but chasing it about like Elmer J Fudd pursues Bugs Bunny i.e. pulling a silly enraged face while being outsmarted at every turn. What, we all wonder, do they intend to do with this excellence should they ever catch us…. I mean it? Kick it obviously, experience has taught us that, but then what? “Consectatio Canis” again I suppose which means “In pursuit of the dog.” What the Latin for “with your trousers round your ankles” is, I can’t be bothered to look up and I doubt it would fit on their badge anyway. Another thing I learned is that the number of Aston Villa season ticket holders dropped each of the four years Martin O’Neil was in charge there. Do with that information as you see fit, I choose to find it reassuring.
Reassurance I have learnt is what we crave most as a species. Americans don’t want people with exploding underpants flying into their country and want reassurance that they can be stopped. New Zealanders want to be reassured that all their volcanoes won’t go off at once, Australians that the Chinese aren’t going to evict them when they have succeeded in buying the whole country, and millions of people elsewhere want to be reassured that next week, or next month or next year they will be able to feed themselves and their families.
Newcastle fans want to be reassured that the club won’t sell all our good players like the press keep threatening. It’s going to be a long and boring summer if we all get our knickers twisted every time that subject comes up and there is nowt we can do about it anyway. So what I’m still trying to learn is to not worry about it.
One thing that I would like you dear reader to tell me the answer to is this – if when England play France next month Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye are playing against Stevie G, J.T. and Ashley Cole – who are we supposed to want to win?

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