Ah, football. Football football. Kicking. Goals. Headers. Footers. All of that.
So far, summer 2012 is really delivering. Like a well-choreographed national cabaret, just as the Jubilee ends and we all need something new to get in a tizzy over, the rain reaches biblical proportions, David Cameron leaves his kid in a pub and the Euros begin.
I am not, you might have gauged, a football fan. Aside from a brief stint in year 5 when I borrowed my brother's Adidas t-shirt and started my own girls' football team, The Black Panthers, which after three sessions devolved into a cheerleading squad because we didn't have enough people and didn't know how to play football anyway, the beautiful game and I have kept respectful distance from each other, like awkward relatives at a party.
But I don't hate it. That's the problem. We're not feuding relatives, just relatives who don't quite understand each other and maybe once had a falling out over some egg mayonnaise. I'd like to be more into football. I'd like to watch a game without taking a book along. A few weeks ago, in the role of dutiful girlfriend, I found myself in one of North London's grimmest bars, sat right next to the screen while 50 fans bellowed at me like I was trying to steal their first born. Well, not at me - towards me. But still, it was stressful. I read Middlemarch and had to be placated with a Magnum at half time.
The first step, of course, would be learning enough to maintain a proper conversation about football that doesn’t end up with me arguing that cotton kits would be so much nicer and less sweaty. At the current moment, I could probably name about 15 players (Steve McManaman still counts, right?) and tell you roughly how well Brighton and Hove Albion are doing based on when I last saw my father cry, but that’s about it.
For several years I got by on borrowing The IT Crowd's catch-all phrase, "the trouble with Arsenal is, they always try to walk it in…", which would produce sufficient nods of acceptance and leave me to retreat peacefully back to my packet of peanuts. But then that wore thin because too many people became familiar with the reference, or Arsenal stopped trying to walk it in (I have no idea which) - and then I was back at square one.
It would be much easier if I just hated football. After all, when people are getting really worked up over a match, I do enjoy cutting in with a quick "you know it's not you on the pitch, right? Just some men you've never met, and probably wouldn't like if you did." But my heart just isn't in it, because in truth I'm a bit jealous. It would be nice to be that passionate about something. As I sat watching the roomful of polyester-kitted men, women and children screaming at the screen, I realised that I hadn’t been that enthusiastic over any result since Will Young won Pop Idol.
But there are upsides to ambivalence. When I do get involved, I sit in a really comfy middle ground where I can be happy if we win, and not care remotely if we lose. It’s quite nice. It saves energy.
‘We scored? Hurrah!’
‘We lost? *blank face* How about this RAIN, eh?’