It has been a truly terrible month in England on
three counts: the economy, the weather and sport. This is what happens whenever I leave the
country – it goes to the dogs.
The economy, the papers report incessantly, is poised
on the brink of a ‘triple-dip recession’ – whatever that means. It obviously means something to the ratings
agencies, since one of them has already reduced our credit rating and another
is preparing to do the same.
The month has been bitterly cold and dank – the
coldest March for half a century, the meteorologists inform us – and April is
predicted to be scarcely better. The
airlines are apparently inundated with enquiries from people looking for Easter
holiday flights to warmer climes (which does tend to mock the growing cacophony
of middle-class complaints of severe financial hardship).
To add a final insult to the economic and climatic infirmities,
sporting heroes, perhaps still basking too complacently in the Olympic
triumphs, have all gone into some kind of swoon.
Could causal factors be at work in linking the three
Perhaps it was the dire state of the economy that contributed
to the failure of England’s football team to beat Montenegro – a country most English
supporters couldn’t locate on an atlas even if it were opened to the right page
– thus endangering the prospects for qualifying for next year’s World Cup tournament
Meanwhile, our cricketers, second only to South
Africa’s in the world rankings, visited New Zealand, placed in the same league
table only above Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and not only failed to overcome their
hosts but came perilously close to losing, saved only by a last-ditch stand that
commentators in relief hailed as some kind of triumph. It was a triumph in the manner of Dunkirk.
Incidentally, the English cricket season opens in a
week or so, a sure sign of approaching spring – providing the pitches in the
northern counties can be cleared of snow in time.
The sportsmen of England completed an embarrassing sporting
trifecta when the rugby union side, visiting Wales with the chance of executing
a rare Grand Slam – a season without a single loss –succumbed so ineptly that
the headline writers who, on the morning of the match, had bandied about the
word ‘triumph’ with gay abandon, were the next day using ‘humiliation’ with the
same nomenclatural zeal.
Ah, well, things can only get better, we tell
ourselves, though more in hope than expectation.