By Billy “The Dog” McGraw, Professor of Post-Postprandial Philosophy, the University of Certain Things, Frinton on Sea.
Arsenal travel this weekend to the Manchester Riviera for a game next to the sand dunes and beaches of the exotic ShipCanal on Sunday.
It is a game of some significance for me, as I have been invited to spend the weekend with Sheikh Yerbooty, owner of the club, and indeed owner of the local holiday resort with which it is so famously and closely associated, six fish and chip shops in Blackpool, a gala festival holiday camp in Skegness, and a rat catching agency in South Kensington.
Indeed it is a fine example of the esteem with which the Sheikh holds Untold that I found myself mingling on Friday night with the great, the good, and a handful of elemental representatives of the riff-raff as a guest of the Sheikh and his entourage.
The topic of conversation was, perhaps inevitably, Wayne Rooney. “It is obvious, your graciousness,” I ventured, as I used the silver tongs to lift another pate sandwich from the tureen and dip it in the pot of rarely cooked steak a la steak du bon steak, “that Mr Rooney has been bought by a gang of petty crooks and tyrants, who between them own several of the lesser known states of northern Europe and several milliners in the Old Kent Road.”
The Sheikh waved aside the attention of one of the serving wenches and replaced her with another, urging me to continue my discourse.
“The imminent attack on our security by cyber terrorists has surely been brought closer now that Rooney is under their control, uttering their words, and using his club for money laundering purposes. Stalin, that fellow who ran Cambodia, Lee Harvey Oswald, Michael Heseltine, John Major, Norma Major, and Arry Redknapp’s mother – they are all involved, although I fear it is the historian of the future who will dictate to coming generations which is to be seen as the greatest tyrant of them all.”
His overlordship graciously nodded once more and indicated with a crook of his little finger (of the left hand, mark you, not the right) that the subject was exhausted, and we would move on.
Matters were then progressed by Mr Paul Simon, who apparently is quite a fan of Manchester City. He offered me a joint. I declined.
“You don’t partake?” said the writer of Homeward Bound and Bridge over the River Tyne.
“I do not,” I replied with some verve.
“What you never smoke?” asked the composer of You can Call me Al, and Fifty Ways to Leave Crewe Station.
“Only when I think of the sadness that has come over post-modernist football following the advent of insane levels of money introduced by the obscenely rich which disrupts and destroys our ‘winter game’ and uproots our clubs from their great and glorious past as they build careers upon ideas and invent a new future which has everything to do with the rape of the poor and the aggrandisement of the insane, and nothing to do with honour, hard work, devotion to duty, and the equality of women. No offence your highness,” I added as I forwarded a curt nod in his direction.
“But surely in your hunt for a return to the pre-post-modern world,” said the world’s greatest songwriter and friend of the inventor of the Italian restaurant, “you stop football progressing. But on the other hand maybe I should give up smoking too. Cup of tea?”
I accepted with a kindly nod and conversation turned, as it does. “Where do you stand on the issue of the blind man?” he asked, and we chuckled knowingly in the way that great philosophers and thinkers of our generation do when they perchance to meet, and having established their contra-temps engage in a moment of frivolous back slapping. We know a conundrum when it hits us in the face like a damp fish thrown by a Chinaman on a wet tuesday night in Hull.
“Unresolved, unresolved,” I said, and of course he at once got the quote, the source and the meaning, and patted me on the back, recognising my verbal dexterity and mental well-being.
However, private though it was, our conversation was overheard, for unknown to us, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who was (I forgot to mention) also at the table, had caught our jolly verbal cantering, and forcibly interrupted the giggles. “One doesn’t get it,” she said, and we both uttered deep words of sympathy, until an aide whispered that Her Majesty meant to imply that she required an explanation of the ‘blind man’ puzzle.
“Ma’am,” I rejoindered. “It was first proposed by that noble philosopher and outside right for Reading, Rowan Atkinson, who upon trying to hold a conversation with Harry Redknapp suggested that it was rather akin to a blind man in a pitch dark room of infinite size, searching for a small black cat that isn’t there.” And the good Lady of State nodded profoundly, before adding, “so what of the teams?”
“For the Beachcombers of Manchester Arabia I cannot speak,” I said, “for they are unspeakable, although I hear Mr Adebayor may or may not play. But for us, I suspect Fabianski will command the goal.
“In front of him we will see Sagna, Djourour, Squillaci and Cliche who are becoming something of a standard in the back four department, if you catch my drift, ma’am.”
She caught; I proceeded.
“For the midst of the game Jack is sadly unavailable, so we have Fabregas and Narsi ahead of Song – but not your kind, Mr Simon,” and he again agreed that he has seen the vigour of my debate, and showed with a shrug of the shoulder that at this juncture he would not be seeking to counter the thrust.
“And thus to the line going forward. Chamakh is a cert for the centre, as is Arshavin, leaving a spare place for Walcott, with perchance Rosicky instead. Or Denilson who could play with Song in defence (if you get my drift) leaving Theo on the bench and putting Nasri further forward. In reserve aside from those mentioned there is Vela, Jay Emmaneul Thomas who scored a hat trick for the reserves in mid week, Eboue, Gibbs, and maybe once more the Danish Prince.”
“Hamlet?” said Her Majesty.
“Quite so,” I demurred since it is not good to argue too much with one’s Sovereign in case issues of the Tower, the gallows and the oil on the boil, come to mind. Satisfied she moved on with a genteel wave of one hand and a bottle of stout in the other.
“I fear I cannot agree,” said Rhymin Simon. “I would play…
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, René Descartes, Heidegger
Jean-Paul Sartre , Albert Camus , Simone de Beauvoir
Alain Badiou, Jean Francois Lyotard, Claude Levi Strauss
There was a sudden hush in the room, as everyone waited to see how I would respond to such a suggestion which challenged not only my team sheet, but the entire philosophy faculty of my university at Frinton. I took a deep intake of breath.
“Alain Badiou on the right?” I asked, and there was relief that I was not going to shoot the songsmith, or at least demand his being thrown to the sharks that the Sheikh famously keeps beneath the kitchen floor. “But yes, a post-structuralist forward line – I can go with that. Although I feel sorry for Heidegger – does he speak French?”
“English only on the pitch!” said Mr Simon, and we smiled once more. I let it go. But really… Lyotard leading the attack? No wonder the world of American songwriting is in such decline.
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