Ah, it’s like I’ve never been away.
Those of us with any sense have been stoutly ignoring the state visit by Emperor Bush to London this week (whilst those of us without sense seem to have spent the week attempting to scale the gates of Buckingham Palace, where the nice guards with silly hats have shown admirable patience. It’ll all change when the CIA are in charge). 100,000 people are expected to march on Trafalgar Square tomorrow, making difficult (amongst other things) my journey to work. Still, I always admire anybody who cares enough about anything to march for it. If there was an Apathy March I might go. Or maybe not, I dunno.
My opinion (and I know how much it means to you) on the Bush affair has changed somewhat dramatically in the past week – whilst I’d like to think it’s American arrogance in action, I think the consequences of a successful attempt on his life whilst in London would be too terrible to contemplate. The damage to our Special Relationship (“Tony and Georgie sitting in a tree…”) would be irreparable and our place on the Axis of Evil all but assured. But this is only one of three major security operations involving Britain and Britons this week. The security arrangements surrounding the England rugby team ahead of the World Cup Final is more the topic that interests me, and by default all of you too.
Talk that Jonny Wilkinson is set to become rugby’s David Beckham is late out of the blocks, to say the least – he’s already there. He has the image, the branding, the gorgeous girlfriend, and the respect of his peers. That it is all on a smaller scale than Becks is a sad indictment of rugby’s position as a very very poor (almost Alabaman) cousin to football in the UK. Fears for his security in Australia seem a little more unrealistic than those for Bush in London, though. In many ways, the smaller scale of rugby has helped keep Wilkinson a more believable icon. He is as stellar as Beckham, but in a sized-down way. Wilkinson is certainly at his most worryingly vulnerable on the pitch, where England’s defence seems incapable of protecting him – the most valuable property in world rugby, which must be their main job. Obviously they need to defend against the Australian attack, which won’t be easy (though Wendell Sailor’s inability to hold the ball will help them), but protecting Wilkinson, and therefore guaranteeing a (pessimistic) minimum of 15 points in the Final, is crucial.
I think Mike Tindall in for Mike Catt is possibly a foolish attack-minded decision, personally. Hopefully Saturday’ll prove me wrong, but when it comes to defence I’d rather Catt’s tactical kicking than Tindall’s headless chicken. They’ll be shouting that in the stands come Saturday in Sydney. Or maybe not – it rhymes and has unfortunate melodic potential, so we’ll be stuck with the dour Swing Low, and the bemusingly ‘English’ national anthem, God Save Our (and Scotland’s and Wales’s, and Northern Ireland’s, though that’s irrelevant because they play with the Republic and as Ireland for rugby purposes. Shame they went out – Ireland’s Call was the anthem of the tournament by miles) Queen. Speaking of Ireland’s Call, I particularly liked the way the cameraman, in the pre-match anthem line-up before every single match Ireland played, dipped the shot down from someone like Malcolm O’Kelly (6′ 8″) to Peter Stringer (5′ 7″) upon reaching the line “Ireland, Ireland, together standing tall. Shoulder to shoulder, we’ll answer Ireland’s call.“.
But this isn’t about rugby, or nice songs, or even King George Bush II. It’s not about Mike Tindall, Mike Catt, Jonny Wilkinson, David Beckham, security, iconism, or Australia. Because god knows I don’t care about any of those things, any more than I expect you to still be reading. It’s actually, and here’s the left-field ball, about the really cool stereo I’m getting delivered later this week. An Amstrad SM104 Vertical Music Centre, if you’re interested.