By Dr Billy McGraw, Fellow of the Institute of Certain Things and Resident Psychologist at the North Circular Road Hospital, Southgate with special responsibility for football fans who want the club they claim to love to fail.
“The human race, to which a number of my patients belong, has been playing children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.”
Thus spake GK Chesterton, and how right he is, as I was reminded on doing my clinic this week in the build up to the “new season.”
Because of the cuts in the NHS my consulting room has now been moved from the main hospital into the near-by Toppled Bollard public house, and I have to say I found the chance of a change most conducive, enabling some of my more difficult patients to “open up”.
My specialism brings me primarily into contact with patients who have what we psychologists call “Views”. The worst cases have “Fixed Views”.
The very worst cases have “Fixed Views” on everything, from the activities of the manager, a Mr Wenger, through to the line up that might or might not occur this “opening weekend.” From the way in which one should address a passing Tottenham fan who comes along the street, to the correct response on seeing something you disagree with on a blog.
Now for some mild cases, such a situation is not too difficult, and a few boxes of Marzipan a day usually fixes the problem. But for some who have had “Fixed Views” for more than a few months, the situation is serious and can result in one believing that the Seven Sisters Road outside the tube station is a charming example of post-modern chic design, and a desirable place to eat a bag of crisps.
Such folk (“Viewers” in technical psycho babble) have “Views” which become disconnected from their own wants, thus causing much grievousness, teeth gnashing, depressive conjunctions of the liver, and the tendency to play the later music of Roy Orbison. In footballing terms, the desire builds up that Arsenal, a footballing team to which purport to offer their support, should lose, and in losing should then sack everyone, bring in new people throughout the club, and then automatically win everything without any of the other clubs responding in any coherent manner.
I try to counsel these people with bon mots and mots justes, but some less linguistically experienced than me do become molto agitato as we say in the medical world. However the appearance of Mrs Dog (motto: “If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it ain’t been in the microwave long enough”) persuades all but the terminally attached to West Ham (two stops from Barking) to calm down.
“It is not the easiest thing in the world,” I tell the few with “Fixed Views” with whom I can actually communicate. “The only way out is,” I add, provocatively, “to generate very high positive feelings, but first you have to get rid of your fixed views”, or “Fixed Views” as we prefer to say. “Remember,” I add, solto voce.
“But,” said one terminally fixed viewer, and of course we can only agree.
“Simplicity my dear fella-me-lad,” I said to that particular soul, adopting the vernacular. “Ask genuine open questions. Not questions that imply any sort of meaningful meaning, because life by and large is meaningless except where you make it so. Be happy and your world is happy. Be a miserable sod, and your world is miserable.
“Remember it is not the the world that causes reality, but the way that we see the world. Snarl not, use not sarcasm, and handle irony with the lightest of touches. We are post-modern and soon that will be past as we move into the past-post-modern, but still irony is a dish best tasted with a large Merlot.
It was at this moment that I paused for a sip of what I considered to be definitely not Merlot provided by the innkeeper as a method of keeping me lucid during the rigours of the oration, and thus disaster struck. I was talking to Bob “the Spider” Fanshawe-Hughes, a lower north bank regular. He was, I noticed, wearing a t-shirt carrying a picture of a large hammer with the moving text, “This is not a drill”, writ large underneath.
I giggled a little as this petit jeu de mots tres drole as we say in Iceland, but unfortunately found I was still holding my glass of wine, and my chortling resulted in some of the inferior plonk finding its way from my glass, in a downward manner, onto the Spider’s jacket.
A growl arose from the Spider’s larynx, which I gathered was his way of demanding an apology.
Now I must admit that by and large I don’t apologise. The best patients don’t seek apologies, while the wrong sort tend to take advantage of such offerings and inevitably move on to demanding a loan of my season ticket so that they can abuse the players from within the stadium.
As commotion flowed outward from the Spider I thought it best to cut my clinic short. “Rule one,” I shouted above the rising din, “is to be entertaining, informative and interesting when down the pub so people buy you a drink. There is no rule two but rule three is never to talk about yourself when there is a psychologist in the room.”
It was only as Harry the Hampster cleared up the debris after the sundry emergency services had left that we found the Spider propped up in a chair, looking rather like a member of the Tottenham Hotspur second XI, who, after doing the round of strangling his mother, divorcing his wife, and throwing his only friend into the reservoir, finds out that the pub has run out of vodka.
I had but one patient left and he asked me what he should avoid. I gave him a clear answer.
“Do not say,” I said, “‘Is this meant to be funny’?” It is a sure sign. Do not be abusive or depressed. Do not resort to criticising any view of the world that you don’t like as a conspiracy theory. A conspiracy involves two or more people getting together to make a plan. That is what life by and large is, so get on with it and enjoy it. Smile – that helps too.
“Football is not more important than life and death just because some old Scouser said so. Nothing is. Also BI.”
“BI?” he asked curiously.
“Beware initials,” I said.
And so finally, to the game. Dennis Bergkamp and I met at the Cambridge Road allotment after my clinic, as is our wont, dug up some carrots, and tossed back a few beers and a bacon sandwich. He thinks we’ll stroll it. So do I.
And there I think you have it. Quite simply, if your team loses, you are in the wrong universe.
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