Diary of a single father: Where's the beef?

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It's a family tradition to watch the Cup Final at Hendon with my dad. Seth humours us and agrees to join the party, though he's 15 and a man about town (St Albans, that is, not London).

As we wait to turn right into Folly Lane a car pulls up alongside, on the wrong side of the road. We move out simultaneously, but the bend is in his favour. In an instant, mild-mannered Dr Sinclair has become wild-eyed Mr Sinbad. My hairy alter ego gives chase, honking like a banshee. "What's the matter with you?" asks my son. "I've got mad driver's disease," I cry. Seth resembles my dead wife, his late mother, never more so than when he is sitting beside me in the front seat of the car. "For goodness sake, Dad," he says, "slow down." Actually, I have to do more than that, because Dick Turpin has suddenly stopped in the middle of the road. He quits his van and marches in my direction. I lock the door. Fisticuffs, or worse, are not advised if you've recently had a kidney transplant. "Let that be a lesson to you, my son," I say sagely. "Newton's Second Law of Dynamics does not apply in the quotidian. Actions do not always provoke an equal response; often, they are greater and, what's more, beyond your control."

Seth was born in Santa Cruz, California. When he was 26 days old, I took him over the mountain to see George Best play for the San Jose Earthquakes. Alas, the magic didn't rub off. "Who do you want to win?" he asks indifferently, as the 1996 final kicks off. "Manchester United, of course," I say. "Why?" he asks. "Because I'm Jewish," I reply. "I don't see the connection," he says. Footballers really need to know just two words, "Only connect". They connect with the ball, I connect with the facts, which are these:

Like the Jews, Manchester United has its own creation myth. Instead of Jehovah and Adam, there was Sir Matt and the Busby Babes. "Adam" means red. Manchester United are also called the Reds. "Adam" also means man, as in Man U. The Jews had their holocaust; so did Manchester United; the epicentre of both being Munich. The Jews rose from the ashes; so did Manchester United. The Jews had Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Manchester United had Charlton, Law and Best. Redheaded Judas was regarded by many as evil incarnate, cf. the Red Devils these days. Their supporters are accused of being arrogant, triumphalist, and greedy for gold. Where have I heard that before?

The match, as usual, is a disappointment. "Where's the beef?" asks Seth. Secretly, I sympathise. Too many processed emotions are generated by television, which has turned soccer players into actors, and the real thing into Pepsi. Instead of Brie, we're being served La Vache Qui Rit.

Not that cows have anything to laugh about, these days. "Don't tell me," says Seth, "you're going to compare their plight with that of the Jews in pre-War Europe." "I wasn't intending to," I say, "but, since you mention it, the role of Germany is worth considering; whatever the problem, always ready with a Final Solution." "Dad," cries Seth aghast, "you sound like a Eurosceptic." "That was a low blow," I reply. "I would rather be reincarnated as a cockroach than a Eurosceptic." In our house, Tories are considered the lowest form of life. An opinion confirmed when Mr Gummer re-enacted the sacrifice of Isaac, forcing his daughter to eat a hamburger to sanctify the Golden Calf. Since when we have eschewed its flesh. Now that Mr Major has declared war on the rest of the continent, we are, in effect, conchies. Surely it will not be long before beefy patriots with toilet-brush haircuts invent their own test of Englishness, and force-feed those who fail. And, when they have finished with us, there will be meatier enemies to face.

Victory in the World Cup is supposed to have assisted Harold Wilson in the polls. Unfortunately for Mr Major, England's team of graceless artisans (with exceptions, of course) has little chance of winning the European Championship. But that is no reason for the Tories to ignore the opportunities the competition provides. England's supporters may well triumph on the terraces, if not on the field of battle. I see them puffed up with prepackaged patriotism and shrink-wrapped burgers, all taunting the Froggies, Krauts and assorted Wops with their copywritten war-cries: Beef for Brits, Not Chicken Shits. Johnny Bull, Meat with Balls.

Hitherto pariahs, but now licensed by the Government and their propagandists, they will gleefully take on their traditional role of cannon fodder: as always, pawns in a larger game. Charging not at enemy guns, but at slices of beef which may or may not be the death of them. And all for a single cause, the re-election of a Conservative government.

But Mr Major had better beware, lest the ersatz autobahn angst he has provoked goes supernova; lest blood flows, blood that isn't only bovine. He must put on the brakes before it is too late. How? By making the supreme sacrifice. I'm not talking resignation; things have gone too far. There is only one way out; Mr Major must take the bull by the horns; must selflessly order a universal cull in the cabinet room itself. Only then will I be able to cheer England with a clear conscience. "Dad," cries Seth, "you've gone too far. They'll hang you for treason." "Shut up and eat your tofu," I say

This is the first of four columns by Clive Sinclair

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