Driving for long stretches around the East Midlands the past few days, I’ve noticed the principle characteristics of the English landscape remain reassuringly unchanged.
First, because England is top of its World Cup qualifying group, England jerseys are massively back in vogue, especially among fat blokes with short hair. The red away shirt, the ‘lucky’ one England was wearing when it won the World Cup in 1966, is the most popular, a good omen for when Lamps, John T and Stevie G inevitably go all the way to glory in South Africa next year.
With the spell of warm weather, though, Tubby England Fan is confronted with a dilemma. While sitting outside the pub drinking pints of lager and staring at passing drivers, does he take it off and free his lard-white, wobbly guts up for the rare chance to absorb some Vitamin D? Or will that open him up to accusations of not fully backing the lads, even though England’s next game is a couple of months away? Judging by the extremely hard looks I got, one thing is for sure - with or without the shirt, Tubby England Fan is always ready to defend his pub table, especially if you’re going past him at 35 miles per hour.
Second, a lot of the pubs are now boarded up, perhaps as many as one in every three. Worryingly, some English people are cutting back on their ale and are maybe doing yoga classes instead. Or perhaps they’re staying in to watch the DVD of the 1966 World Cup final. My picture above shows The Memory Lane in Heanor, Derbyshire. Like England, it has seen better days.
Third, it seems that any boy outside the grounds of his school, no matter what the time of day, is bound by law to be holding a polystyrene tray of chips, which he consumes vigorously and without regard to etiquette. Who says England is not planning for the future? In a few years time, he will have accumulated enough belly flab to sit outside the boozer on a hot day wearing a sweaty replica football shirt and defending his table.
Finally, all young mothers with prams and pushchairs are obliged to look like they are on the point of killing themselves. In America, young mothers walk down the street looking radiant, and smilingly invite you to stop and bestow compliments upon their shrivelled, bleating offspring. In England, they look as though they have forsaken the right to live, let alone party. They would rather be out defending their man’s pub table. Albeit with an expression of forlorn, haggard misery, English Mum has sacrificed her place at the lager taps to nurture the Johnny Bulldogs of tomorrow and ensure that England’s tri-partite heritage – alcoholism, football-based patriotism and hard stares – survives unscathed for at least another generation.