Life

Nuala McCann: Remember, non-football fans, it only happens once every four years

Perhaps it's time to kiss goodbye to Love Island. There's football on the television. Resign yourself to never ever getting the off-side rule. Just pick a side and cheer

Egyptian fans gather to watch the group A World Cup match between Egypt and Russia round at Nuala's house Picture: Islam Safwat/AP

WE ARE standing in the television shop. The men of the house want a large screen. After all, it only happens once every four years.

We are in negotiations. My inner snob refuses to budge over and beyond 43 inches. It’s not as though we dwell in marble halls or even up the Malone Road.

We live in a small semi – I like my television small. I know people who wouldn’t have a telly about the place... but I could never go that far.

We go home to “think about” the big screen television... call it a marital truce. And when we come back, two days later and I have agreed on the big TV because what can you do, the problem is solved.

The television no longer sports a price tag of £350, it is now £600 and suddenly there is no argument and no massive TV.

It’s the World Cup. The television shop owner is getting the arm in. The world wants a big TV, it’s like selling snow to Eskimos but if I’m an Eskimo, I’m a tight-fisted one.

If, as with me, football is not the centre of your current world, where do you go? I’ve been mostly in the bedroom or the front room.

The males in our house kindly set up an alternative viewing station in the other room so I could gorge on hospital emergency dramas and dig deep into my inner psyche with a bit of dark film noir. My Swedish is coming on very well thanks. In fact, it’s brea, tak.

Occasionally in that other room with the other television on my own, I think that I might set sail for Love Island. Just switch it on and who’ll know?

Then, a sudden bout of shrieks will emit from the other room, followed by the thumps of a primitive war dance and somebody will burst in waving their arms – and you wouldn’t want to be caught watching any schmaltzy trash.

When we’re on the subject of the world cup and the nations of that world, what interests me is how every culture has a stereotype and although we fight hard to deny that stereotype, there is a seed of it in all of us.

Therefore it was not particularly surprising when, after Germany’s performance in their opening game, German newspapers sported headlines shrieking at the team to “Wake up!” and calling them wimps. Germany feels like that kind of a place. There are no back doors.

In the German hostels of my youth, you’d be woken in the morning with a curt voice over the tannoy instructing you to “Get up now please” and furnishing you with the correct time to be out of the hostel and off a-wandering with your knapsack on your back.

Cut to the quick. No beating about the bush. That’s a wonderful German trait.

The French, on the other hand, tended to be more gentle, but they also tended to beat around 1,000 bushes. To continue with the youth hostel analogy, the shift to the world of the French hostel was quite bizarre after the German experience.

In the morning, as we lay in our bunk beds, the warden came around and tapped us each individually on the shoulder, “Time to get up,” he whispered in our ears. I’m not over it yet. I think I liked the German way better.

There is something reassuring about knowing where you are even if that is World Cup season. For those of us not glued to our “at least 43 inch TV screens”, Twitter proved an escape into an alternative universe.

In that world, the French were philosophising as usual. It’s baccalauréat season – like our A-levels – and the subject was philosophy.

On the paper there were questions like Does culture make us more human? or Is desire the mark of our imperfection?

The questions baffled me.

All of a sudden, I’m back 26 years ago, in a small room on the left bank, Paris, where an academic is discussing Europe, the European Community and what it all means, spiritually, emotionally and philosophically and all in French.

Thoughts buzzed like angry bees about my head. Enough already.

Perhaps it’s time to leave Twitter and abandon the books. It’s time to kiss goodbye to Love Island.

There’s football on the television. Resign yourself to never ever getting the off-side rule. Just pick a side and cheer.

Do gulder: “Wake up, why don’t you?” or “Ref-fer-eee!”.

Don’t say: “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a 50 inch TV.”

After all, it only happens every four years.

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