Fatal distraction reaches fever pitch

Bored already by Euro 96, Jojo Moyes prepares to flee

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They think it's all over? I wish it were. Euro 96 lunacy has descended, and tough luck to those, like me, who think it is all a load of leathery balls. Gone are the days when football was restricted to grounds and Grandstand. From now until 30 June, there is no escape. With an estimated 700 hours this summer, both BBC and ITV are clogged up with it, with fans of soaps, drama and documentaries brutally shoved offside.

Newspapers are bulging with it; it is, apparently, no longer enough to receive pre- and post-match analyses - we have to know what the players drink in nightclubs, what they demolish afterwards and which leggy blondes comprise their three-in-a-bed-shockers.

The pop charts are full of tone-deaf players warbling Euro-tunes, while even classical music is corrupted by it; who now can hear Puccini's exquisite "Nessun Dorma" without the accompanying mental image of Paul Gascoigne's puce potato face screwed up with tears?

England's men, meanwhile, become Velcro'd to their sofas. Worse still, they start wearing those ridiculous nylon shirts. Repeat after me, boys: These are not attractive. Nor will wearing one mean that women somehow mistake you for David Ginola.

Eurostar is happy, with a record number of reservations for June - 110,000 in one week alone. "We're ascribing a lot of the traffic to Euro 96," said a spokesman. I disagree. What they don't say is that there are as many people fleeing the country as there are coming in. And for those who believe that Euro 96 poses a greater risk to the nation's health than BSE or Anthea Turner, I propose a few remedies.

One is, of course, to leave the country. This will only work if, for obvious reasons, one ventures beyond Europe. Another solution is the immediate adoption of a red-card system. These could be worn either on the breast pocket, to denote an anti-Euro stance, or held up as a brisk warning at the start of any conversation likely to contain the words "Bobby Moore" or "1966".

The other dream solution, of course, would be for England to drop out in the first round. Perhaps I won't book that Eurostar ticket just yet.

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