Jim McLennan is melting...

Have I said, "I told you so" yet? Except that even in my wildest dreams, I didn't envisage England cocking things up so spectacularly. As Oscar Wilde said (or would have, had he been a TV pundit), "to lose one half-time lead is a misfortune; to lose two smacks of incompetence". To go down to a penalty, for a Sunday pub-team tackle, was merely the icing on the cake, and made losing five quid to the guy on the next desk at work, not just bearable, but a wholly satisfactory investment. Though even if England had got through, it would have been Italy in the quarter-final, and does anyone really think you'd have beaten them?

I suspect the best thing is, it absolves me from the need to track down football...sorry, "soccer", during the upcoming holiday in America, and concentrate on the matter in hand: survival. For, while plans to move out there at the end of the year advance apace, this will be the first time I've been out in Phoenix in the summer, previous visits have been in months like February or October when, while it's still warm, the heat is rather less pronounced. And when I say "heat", I'm not kidding: remember how hot it was over the weekend? Chuck another 30 degrees on top, and you'll be there or thereabouts.

Told of such things, it's no surprise to learn that I am preparing for a week spent scampering from air-conditioned home to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned mall to air-conditioned baseball stadium. Yes, baseball stadium. It has a retractable roof, which they close a few hours before each game, and then crank the coolers up to eleven in order to get the temperature down to comfortable by start time. I quite like the idea of working there...or perhaps even moving house under the stand somewhere.

You may have realised heat is not a favourite commodity of mine. Cold can always be countered with another jumper, but especially for those who work in a bank, there are certain minimum dress standards one is expected to meet -- in quantity, if not necessarily quality. It's really quite unfair: women get to flounce around in loose skirts, or anything this side of G-strings, while us blokes aren't even allowed to loosen our ties without the risk of a fatwa from the office God-Emperor.

I do have to say that I feel certain quality thresholds should be required, and this applies both to men and women. Now, I'm no Adonis, but I do at least have the decency to keep myself largely covered. As one friend commented, "Englishmen shouldn't wear shorts" (unfortunately, choosing to make the statement while sitting next to...yep, you guessed it, an Englishman wearing shorts), and there's something to be said for this. Countries where hot weather is common have a far better idea of what looks good than places like Britain, where the summer lasts seven days, scattered between June and September.

Love for the sun makes people do strange, self-mutilating things, which result in large areas of pinkish skin. I'm firmly in agreement with the Victorians, who regarded a sun-tan as evidence of a life spent labouring in fields, and thus something to be avoided. However, this is probably tied in with my hypochondria, which inevitably elevates any mole to a malignant melanoma, and puts going into the sun in roughly the same risk category as unprotected sex with a male prostitute.

You will, given this, probably be wondering how I am going to cope with the thermonuclear temperatures to be found in the American South-West. But it's not an issue that concerns me (though we'll see how it goes for the next week). I'm perhaps more worried about wildlife which bites, stings, or simply looks as if it does. What do we have in this country which can compete? One slightly poisonous snake, which no-one I know has ever seen, and which would trigger reptilian laughter from its Arizonan siblings, were it to slither along and try to gain admittance into the annual VenomCon.

Because, let's face it, we in Britain are remarkably insulated from such things. As well as having fauna that belongs in a petting zoo, there are effectively no earthquakes, volcanos, or other natural disasters to speak of. The weather is temperate, without tornados and hurricanes, and the political situation is stable to the point of utter tedium -- if Britain was ever to have a military coup, it would probably involve the consumption of tea and biscuits, and be so well-mannered that no-one would notice it had happened.

I have to say, if you look at what made Great Britain great, it's all in the past; these days, we are associated less with empire and industry, and more with football hooligans, the Millennium Dome, and a bunch of dysfunctional aristocrats. Which is why I have few qualms about leaving this place; America may be screwed up in a million and one ways, but at least they are good at the sports they invented, albeit largely because they don't let anyone else play them. [Conspiracy theorists may care to ponder whether the real reason behind the USA's embargo on Cuba, is because they were getting a bit too good at baseball.] Seen in this light, the failure of the English football and cricket teams is less a cause than a symptom.

Do I care? Only in a strange, abstract sort of way, in much the way I feel for a relative I've never met, and only been told about. At one time, I used to be quite patriotic -- that's just ebbed away and, now, I'm not sure whose country this is any more, but it's not mine. And so, having set what I think is a new record for editorial topic drift, I'm going to pack a bag full of every light-coloured T-shirt I possess, and head off. Ice-cubes ahoy!


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