Meanwhile, other things happened in the universe

Thank god, a newspaper without football all over the front cover. Better still, it’s not actually a newspaper, it’s a menu. Cake, please.

A few evenings ago I was returning home from a very long and painful day at work, carrying in my arms a large cardboard box full of groceries and also one pair of very cool luminescent socks (thank you, Lidl). But when I arrived at my apartment block, and approached the large gateway through to the back section where I live, I could not get any further, because it was the apocalypse. Or at least something like that, because there were explosions and showers of sparks and fire and people firing guns into the air and at each other, all right in front of the gateway to my safehouse. Actually, it was a bunch of idiots letting off fireworks in the middle of the street, only a metre or so away from human people made of vulnerable flesh, throwing other fireworks and firing cap-guns into the air and at each other. There were cars swerving around as fireworks exploded underneath them, and one of the idiots kept going back to the main, enormous, bomb-like firework they had erected in the centre of the road, in FLAGRANT CONTRAVENTION of the ‘do not return to a lit firework’ rule. Which I believe is one of the first constitutions of the United Nations. Now, I don’t know about you, but I remember watching TV when I was little and absorbing every harrowing second of those ads that would come on around the end of October showing teenagers missing an eye or with a huge scar across their face saying ‘Don’t play wiv fireworks, mate.’ Those adverts lodged in my mind and kept me awake at night. The minimum distance for me to be comfortable with fireworks is if they are at least far away enough for there to be a ditch, a crowd with glowsticks and some vans selling doughnuts and chips between me and them. So I was terrified and I just stood there with aching arms hoping that these cretins would get bored at some point and run out of explosives so I could go home. 

Anyway, football. Yes, that is why they were there; they were celebrating the football. That was the evening when Germany won their first match (interestingly they were Turkish blokes so it was at least a display of heartwarming loyalty). This city was so nice and pleasant and fun before the football. Now, it has become a weird and alien place. 

Firstly, every single bar, restaurant or caf√© now has a TV stationed outside for people to watch the game. It’s really quite astonishing; the majority of the time the owner has clearly just dragged his set from home, so it’s propped up on a crate of bananas and covered with tinfoil around the back and top to protect it from rain and tree sap (seriously, the trees are dripping gloopy syrup all over the place at the moment, it’s like part of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Sometimes they stick a kind of translucent parchment to their front window and project the TV image onto it from the inside, which produces a dark, blurry and frankly almost invisible image which people nonetheless are glued to. Sometimes they hang a sheet or tarpaulin up and project it on that; one establishment genuinely had their projector trained onto a repurposed canvas that seemed to have previously been an actual painting (granted, if it is a painting of the same quality and value as the masterpieces my dad bulk-bought off ebay this seems less of a tragedy). The effect of all this is that my entire walk home is like roaming through an incredibly large and windy living-room; I amble past and through groups of people watching tellies and drinking beer or coffee, sometimes sharing snacks or putting their feet up. It’s very unnerving. 

Secondly the shops have filled with stuff that I can only describe by inventing a whole new word for it, and that word will be ‘craperphernalia’. It is amazing what people will make out of plastic and sell for a few cents to try to make a buck or two out of the world cup. I have seen things for sale which make me wonder what is going on with humanity: German-flag knee-coverings (like a tube bandage which you put over your knee. No, I don’t know why), German-flag temporary face tattoos (as large as your entire face, complete with eyeholes, and we all know those things tend to take a while to come off, so if you are a lawyer or a gynecologist I recommend you don’t buy one), German-flag hula skirts, every kind of vuvuzela (aren’t those a bit 2010?), and so much more, including my personal favourite: an American-flag banner for those supporting the USA team, but with a large picture of a Native American Indian in the middle of it. I’m not really sure those guys are in the same team or really have anything to do with the World Cup.

The whole thing is just like being back in P.E. lessons all over again. Everyone is out on the field having a great time kicking the ball, hitting the ball or chucking it about using a long stick with a tiny net on the end of it, while I stand at the side with the two other unsporty kids, pretending to be involved and hating every second. I was too bashful to even pretend that I had my period like the clever girls and stay back in the school building finishing my Latin homework. There’s a World Cup sweepstake at work, which I don’t have a hope in hell of even understanding so I have just chosen my predictions entirely at random and now simply watch my gradual descent down the leaderboard with bemused curiosity. Everybody is watching it on their tiny TVs at the gym but I change the channel on mine to something else, anything else: the last time this worked out extremely well for me and I ended up watching some reality program where a couple of mechanics are called to repair a hearse in the middle of the autobahn and then they slide the coffin out of the back and a live woman bursts out of the coffin, furious and tearful at having been…discovered? Woken up? Resurrected from the dead? I’m not sure, I wasn’t plugged into the sound, but the silent movie version was fantastic.

In sum, I’m glad that everyone is enjoying the footy so much and I hope that all that junk in the Euro Shop doesn’t just end up in a binbag (spoiler alter: it will) but I also can’t wait for normality to return so I don’t feel like the only nerd in a village full of jocks. Until then, I beg the jocks to keep your firestorm shower of disfiguring explosions away from my front door and also to stop mocking me for having a packet of Kn√§ckebrot. The other day I was walking home with a packet of Wasa (that’s like Ryvita, for UK peeps) in my groceries and a bunch of footy watchers noticed and started chanting ‘WASA! WASA! WASA!’ at me – I mean seriously why? I feel so out of my depth. I’ve spent years getting fluent in German but once football gets into the mix I understand NOTHING. Roll on Wimbledon.

Rose T