Rebecca Tyrrel: Days Like Those

'If the worlds of football and my book group collide, the outcome could be dire. Even Dr Who couldn't help'
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The Independent Online

As a result of watching the penultimate episode of Dr Who the Saturday before last, not only did Louis, a fan of the Doctor since he was three (he is now nine) find himself having to come to terms with the impending loss of Billie Piper, he also had to get his head around the unforeseen formation of a Dalek and Cyberman alliance. From behind the sofa, a place he has never, in six years, had recourse to before, he said, in a whisper: "They have infiltrated our world from a parallel universe. They came through a void. Two worlds have collided." And then he asked his father if it was in fact possible for two worlds to collide.

Matthew immediately, without any hesitation, said that it was absolutely possible. "It could happen at any moment, it could for instance happen in this house..." Sensing Louis' rising panic, I interrupted and said: "Don't be so bloody ridiculous. Louis don't listen to him, come and help me load the washing up machine."

"I am not being ridiculous," said Matthew. "It is true. Worlds could collide at any time. They could for instance collide on Tuesday night right here in this room and if they do the consequences will be a million times more terrifying than anything the Doctor is predicting." At the time, as I ushered Louis into the kitchen and Matthew slipped his new DVD of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café into the machine, (he has a thing about Mary Stuart Masterson). I thought he had plucked Tuesday night out of the air as a for instance. I thought he could just as easily have said that worlds could collide on Thursday morning or Monday lunchtime. Four days later, however I was able to see why Matthew had so precisely picked Tuesday evening.

* It was the night of my book club meeting and this month it was my turn to host the proceedings. We were scheduled to discuss Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility and while I had failed to read the book, I had seen the film starring Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson, which I had thoroughly enjoyed. My fellow members of the club, who never fail to do the reading, are, I have discovered, rather too erudite for the likes of me, which means that I always get into a panic before the meetings, especially when I am host. In fact I was only asked to join the club after a misunderstanding when the founding member passed a café window and saw me engrossed in a fat book. The next time I saw her at the school gates she asked me what I had been reading. Seeing a copy of Crime and Punishment in her Hermès Birkin bag, and wanting to seem every bit as literary, if not quite as well endowed on the handbag front, I told her I was reading Trollope. I just didn't say which Trollope, or that while I was more than happy to pay for the novels of Joanna, I would have to be given large amounts of money to embark on Anthony.

* Tuesday, then, was the big night, especially so because also on that very evening, as I only discovered on that very afternoon, there was a World Cup semi-final between Italy and Germany and Matthew had invited a few of his friends over to watch it with him. Upstairs in the sitting room, grown men gathered in front of a television with some pizza and beer to scream and shout obscenities, while downstairs, a group of "ladies" (as Matthew insists on calling us in order to annoy me) quietly debated the prose style, characterisation and narrative drive of a great novelist, and I asked them if they would like some fromage frais on their framboises. It was clearly important that these worlds be kept apart. Matthew was right, if they were to collide the consequences could be dire and there would be no David Tennant on hand to put things right.

* And, of course, the worlds did collide. It was at 8.47pm when Matthew ran downstairs to fetch more beer exclaiming: "Good evening ladies! And which timeless classic are you deconstructing this evening?" Often it is impossible to tell that Matthew is being ironic, and the lady who answered, "We are trying to decide if next month's book should be Proust's In Search of Lost Time and Remembrance of Things Past" had apparently taken him seriously.

Matthew smiled knowingly, an act that turned my stomach. "Ah yes," he said, and over went the stomach once more, "in honour of Zinedine Zidane, and his quest to recapture his past - to give new corporeal life, you might say, to the ghostly remembrance of his past glories in the French midfield." "I thought Italy were playing," said another lady.

"Indeed they are," said Matthew, "they are playing Germany. Please ladies do feel free to join us." It was decreed, between Matthew, his friends and the book club, that next month's read should be decided by the outcome of the match. If Italy were the winners we would choose the Pirandello play, Rules of the Game, if Germany triumphed then Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf would have been selected - I like the notion of reading about a man whose highly evolved human side collided with his low, animal side.

In the end it was Pirandello who scored the last-minute goals and the next day these two worlds of football and literature continued to collide; I was searching for the Pirandello on Amazon when I noticed another work with the same title, The Rules of The Game, by Pierluigi Collina, a famous Italian football referee.