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July 25, 2006 > Across the Pond

Across the Pond

by Frances Payne

Greetings my friends from a somewhat subdued Newark, England. The flags are off the cars, England is out of the World Cup. I feel vindicated, now everyone can see that Sven Eriksson, England's manager (now departed) is rubbish. No I'm not being wise after the event, I said the same years ago shortly after he'd been appointed at stupendous cost "Because he'll ensure we win the next World Cup." Now people are falling over themselves to say that disloyalty, cheating and an enormous ego in one's private life may suggest similar traits and lack of focus in one's highly paid professional life too. However I doubt the media would have referred to him as "That snake oil seller" if we had won!

At least T.V. can get back to normal. Some of us here in "Little Old England" still survive on just four stations of choice; and those not flooded with football coverage were flooded with Wimbledon tennis. A brief spell of happiness there for the Scots, not only had England been defeated in Germany but Scotsman Murray was the last remaining Brit at Wimbledon.

So the group was devastated to be coming home from Germany. Not just the football team but the newly named WAGS (wives and girlfriends) Appropriately described as "Beanstalks with balloons" they've steamed through the designer clothes shops like a swarm of locusts, hair extensions flying, freshly applied  Fake Bake tans gleaming, partners credit cards flashing at the speed of light. Nights of heavy drinking and table dancing have ensured abundant magazine coverage. Publicity that promises lots of lucrative contracts for these previous unknowns. Funny world isn't it? No doubt the same one that Deputy Prime Minister Prescott inhabits. "Inappropriate use of office furniture" has led to a hefty advance fee for his autobiography.

On a more mundane level, here in Newark at last the rain has stopped. Now we're being warned about the dangers of heat exhaustion and given emergency numbers to call. Being British we're always given something to worry about, just in case we start to relax and lose our identity!

Next year we celebrate the centenary of my old Grammar School in Nottingham We aim to locate as many from our year as possible. Four of us met a newly discovered classmate off the London train on Tuesday. We hadn't seen her since we were all eighteen. Ah memories! "You look just the same." We all lied. Once we'd have been a group of sultry brunettes, now we were a group of "blondes". Reminiscences moved to school dinners; Cornflake tart, green liver you could have soled shoes with and tapioca (frog's spawn) brought back different emotions. I liked school dinners (apart from "good for you" liver). One of the highlights of my school career was; age fourteen being a server, clearing away untouched food and eating as many roast potatoes as one could between tables and kitchen. Friend Sandra had no happy recollections. Her mother would pack her stilton cheese and cress sandwiches every day.

Later we caught one of the new trams in Nottingham up to the Arboretum where we would be marched in a long crocodile wearing our bottle green uniforms every lunch time. We retraced our footsteps and were pleased to find the aviary and lake untouched by time, still complete with ducks and ducklings. "Probably the same ones that ate my stilton sandwiches," added Sandra.

As we walked the quiet route back to school we remembered the day we bumped into Tom Jones! We deliberately took absolutely no notice of him, being super cool teens and not wanting him to think we were in any way impressed. Sorry Tom. Now I am impressed. He must have been having a discreet between performances stroll with his minder. We remembered spending the rest of the day discussing how he obviously wanted us to scream over him and make a fuss. And we didn't. Teenage girls can be very negative (no change there then).

So, as the sun sinks in the west......along with England's World Cup dreams, I'll bid you all a fond farewell from Newark on Trent, where there has just been another  committee meeting to decide where the Jubilee Arch should go (how many years is it now?) Don't want to be making any rash decisions we might regret!

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