Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness? If you say so, Mr Keats….
Enough is enough. The Rugby World Cup is three days old and I’ve already had my fill of pumped-up, grunting men sticking their heads up other men’s backsides, and prissy referees demanding endless video replays of squashed bodies writhing on top of a white ball.
The sight of these size-thirty superheroes is almost as unedifying as that of the size-zero ghosts currently drifting down the catwalks of London, New York and Milan in the name of fashion.
It’s time to alienate many of my friends and probably one or two readers of this blog. Sorry, but rugby is boring and fashion is not sexy. And both cause people to distort their bodies into unhealthy extremes in the name of what? Sport? Beauty? No. They’re are both industries. It’s all about money, isn’t it?
At Friday’s opening ceremony for the World Cup – and by the way, opening ceremonies are an industry in themselves, unnecessary and often cringeworthy – Prince Harry talked about values engendered by the game. What values? Teamwork – yes, I can understand that. Fairness – I can appreciate that referees are at least respected in rugby, whereas soccer players have turned the abuse and cynical manipulation of officials into an art form. But what else? That might is right, that brute force carries the day?
It was entirely apt that the Japanese, who gave sumo to the world, should roll over South Africa in Saturday’s shock of the tournament, because rugby players are increasingly looking like lumbering wrestlers rather than the fleet-footed springboks that gave their name to South Africa’s national team.
I’m profoundly grateful that I have no sons who might have been tempted to risk their necks – literally – playing this brutal game, just as I’m happy that neither of my daughters have felt tempted to starve themselves half to death in order to look good in the “creations” of clothes designers quite happy to employ borderline anorexics to show off their rags, and send them down the catwalks staring vacantly in front of self-important harridans in their premium seats.
Why anyone would encourage their sons to grow thighs the size of the average person’s waist, and their daughters to look like stick insects, is quite beyond me. There are enough twenty-stone hulks waddling in and out of MacDonald’s, and wasted victims of war and food shortages, without our having to create more in the service of commerce.
I admit that my own experience has left me permanently biased. I was put off rugby when at the age of fourteen I spent many afternoons gasping for air at the bottom of piles of evil-smelling, sweaty, pubescent boys. What values were instilled by being half-suffocated against the muddy nether regions of overweight teenagers I completely failed to comprehend, and still do.
Neither was modelling my thing, though I do think my effigy would be an attractive addition to the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds.
So I suppose that leaves the annual political party conferences as the only remaining seasonal entertainment in Britain over the next few weeks. Gatherings where reasonable, high-minded people spend their time drinking lots, lusting after each other plotting against their leaders when they’re not insulting their equally high-minded opponents. People who want to improve our lives, whether we want them improved or not.
Looking beyond the UK, there’s always the theatre of the grotesque in the US: the Republican presidential debates, starring that paragon of self-effacing modesty, Donald Trump. But I’m afraid I can’t look at the ghastly Donald without getting the feeling that the conspiracy theorists who claim that the world is in the control of a cabal of half-human, half-lizard oligarchs might actually be right.
What’s left? Well I suppose there’s always the Oktoberfest in Germany, where old men in leather shorts and silly hats down vast quantities of beer served by young women dressed as extras in the Sound of Music. Not an option really, since I rarely drink beer, and never the gassy effluent to be had in the dark cellars of Munich.
But all is not lost. I shall be away from my country for most of October, partly for pleasure and the rest for business. When I get home it will be time once again to burn the plotters who tried to blow up Parliament five centuries ago. And this November, courtesy of Jeremy Corbyn, we shall be arguing the merits of wearing red or white poppies to commemorate our war dead.
A reminder that our ancestors had less trivial things to worry about than fashion weeks, rugby tournaments, bake-offs and dancing competitions. As do far too many people today.
Never mind. There’s a perfect antidote to the end-of-summer gloom that embraces us as the days grow shorter and the nights get chilly. Downton Abbey returned this week. Another good reason to escape the country.