Sarah Sands: If Heaven is a flat-screen TV, then God is surely a Murdoch

There was a solitary groan and the game had sort of fizzled out
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The Independent Online

The fabulous 100m television we had delivered by crane for the World Cup has started to freeze at key moments. We are behaving like members of the charmingly poor footballing nations, banging the television, cursing and trooping round to the Dixon shop window to watch the matches. So when I was invited to the home of Rupert Murdoch's son-in-law for the England-Sweden game I regarded it as the Mabrouk Zaid of saves. His house was indeed a temple to televisions, a gallery of screens, all so high res that you could shake hands with the television presenters.

We could also watch the screens from a distance on scattered, low, neutral coloured sofas. These were perfect match conditions. The only missing members of the Notting Hill media football cognoscenti were those who had flown by corporate jet to Germany.

The trouble is that you cannot watch and talk at the same time. This was the obvious flaw in Gordon Brown's PR decision to conduct an interview during the England-Trinidad match. If the Chancellor really supported England he would have just squashed up next to the journalist and heckled the screen for an hour and a half.

Most people at the Notting Hill party saw the first goal and we Sally Jockstraps leapt into commentary action on the consequences of the Michael Owen injury. After that I found myself in conversation with one of the boho-imperialists from MySpace about conquering France, and then there was a muted cheer and a solitary groan and the game had sort of fizzled out.

I saw only one guest fixed to the screen in the second half and that was because he needed to see if the next round would affect Saturday high street sales. The lesson is that hospitality and hearts and minds do not mix. The week before I had watched, as a guest, Tim Henman play Lleyton Hewitt at Stella Artois. Clutching my ice cold Pimms I looked through the haze of heat at the floral dresses and the Sloane stewards and the empty seats where corporate clients had failed to show and I said to myself: "Never mind Tim."

Today I will be back with my bottle of beer and salmonella Cadbury's bar, watching Wayne Rooney take out Ivan Kaviedes on our Third World screen. The correct state for a spectator is not comfort but exquisite torture.

* On Friday evening I dined at a Cambridge college with the Oakeshott Society. The subject of the formal conversation among the radiantly high-minded young men was Aristotle. My thoughts wandered to the maniac woman on sat nav who had taken me, unbelievably, through Euston and Homerton in rush hour and then in peculiar concentric circles outside Cambridge's park and ride.

* Julian Slade, the composer of the musical Salad Days and a friend, died this week. He was a gentle, amusing man who was philosophical that he had written his most famous work at 24 and the rest of his professional life was an epilogue. Salad Days is out of fashion now yet the group of Cambridge undergraduates on Friday could have stepped out of it. Their faces fell when I asked them what they intended to do with their lives. The modern Goldman Sachs style pressure on pre-school achievement had swept them along to their university destination. At last they were allowed the pleasures of independent thought and wasted time. Like the cast of Salad Days they did not want it to end.

Sarah Sands's novel 'The Villa' is published by Pan Macmillan

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