Zack has been in shock most of the week. Nothing to do with the football or indeed the work he isn't getting because of it. The silly sod should know in his bones that the whole of the advertising industry is in France on all sorts of freebies, so this would have been an ideal time for him to pick up work if he hadn't superglued his eyes to the television. So the shock may have done him good.
It came during the news bulletins from Marseilles last Sunday. Zack was shouting about these blokes just not understanding how naff football violence is these days. I daren't tell him that my company is just about to publish Stanley and the Knives, the true story of a Scouse football hooligan who slashed his way across Europe - both violently and urinally - before getting on to Malcolm Bradbury's contemporary writing course at East Anglia. But then suddenly Zack leaps up and presses "record" on the video. I asked him what the panic was and a few moments later he plays back a picture of a bare-chested English thug who has a pit bull terrier in a Union Jack waistcoat tattooed across his stomach. The lower half of the dog descends into the man's trousers, so I wouldn't mind betting that the tattoo goes on to incorporate his own private parts into the overall design. I mean this guy is serious - the dog's lead is a real one, a silver chain connected to two nipple rings. Ugh!
"That's Mark!" Zack exclaimed. "Mark bloody Braithwait-Smith!" Apparently he was Zack's head of house at Bedales before going to Oxford and then the City. I remember us having dinner with him at The Ivy one night and he seemed a placid sort of chap. Now he appears to have gone completely off his trolley. I got Zack to talk about it, not because I wanted to be sympathetic but because some of his reactions, as a male, to football violence would be handy for my press release on the book.
Zack guessed that it might all be a compensatory response for the fact that men no longer have manly jobs. They push buttons, scan computer screens, sell things over the telephone - but they don't make ships or go down those coal shaft thingies anymore. So there's this great post- industrial angst, allied to a primitive urge to hunt and fight. That's his theory.
I thought that was tosh. It's all the biffing and bashing on the telly and the ads that does it. Zack himself went through a bit of a funny phase while he was working on the "You've Been Tangoed" campaign. Jumping out at people, baring his stomach and beating it like a drum, sticking his tongue out as far as it would go. This may have been what really shocked him. Not that an old schoolmate should turn loopy but that he, as a media mini-guru, might have been sending out messages of incitement all these years. Those chaps smashing up Marseilles were his emotional babies, he thought.
The rest of the week was understandably muted, especially when the players started imitating the fans and kicking each other. But I just adore the Brazilians. They're just so groovy it's not true. Zack caught me looking rather too closely at Ronaldo's injured thigh, and out of the blue he asked me if I'd ever slept with a black guy. I shrugged off the remark with the contempt it deserved. My past is private.
I'm beginning to get worried about Zack. All he does is shop for food, cook and watch football. He's becoming an amalgam of two gender stereotypes - the housewife and the footy anorak - and he just doesn't seem to notice it. I suggested that he should get out more. Maybe meet me for lunch in Soho, but he says he doesn't want to risk missing a phone call telling him that he's won two tickets for the final.
I haven't got the heart to break it to him yet that I'm actually going. We've bought David Ginola's Modern Male Beauty Tips before anyone else could get to him. It's quite a coup, and I'll get to meet him in Paris on the final weekend. The girls in the office are desperate for me to pull him so that I can tell them what he's like, but I hear he's happily married. Tant pis!
Anyway, it's Argentina against Jamaica today so should be fun. Zack's doing a rice and peas and jerk-chicken buffet on the terrace, and he's managed to persuade the only West Indian guy he knows to come along. He's actually an old boyfriend of mine, but let that pass.
Oh my God! The door to my study has just opened and Zack is standing there, bare-chested with his head shaven. He is also draped in the Iranian national flag and chanting "Down, down USA!" and "The world ends at eight tonight!" Too much football, too much sun on the head, too much to drink. That's what's behind it all, you silly bloody boys!
Next week: Fiona bids for David Batty's Guide to World Soccer.Reuse content