What that means is that, if we care about the sport as a story, we have to hope that the people in charge of running it do their jobs just badly enough to ensure that the Hand of God is possible. The wider the circle within which you’re willing to see the game as aesthetic, in other words, the more you wind up relying on chance and accident. If soccer is only a game—that is, aesthetic only in the most limited and technical sense—then it can achieve perfection as a deliberate design or as a successfully realized intention. If it’s a story—that is, aesthetic in a more primary sense—it can’t. If you want a masterpiece, the artist has to screw up. The lamest defense of bad refereeing in the world is “human error is part of the game.” It isn’t; but it is certainly, and problematically, part of the story.
O Winter! bar thine adamantine doors:
The North is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs,
Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car.
He hears me not, but o’er the yawning deep
Rides heavy; his storms are unchained, sheathed
In ribbed steel; I dare not lift mine eyes;
For he hath reared his sceptre o’er the world.
Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.
He takes his seat upon the cliffs,—the mariner
Cries in vain. Poor little wretch, that deal’st
With storms!—till heaven smiles, and the monster
Is driv’n yelling to his caves beneath Mount Hecla.
20. Best place to buy: Olive oil
Turkish embassy electrical supplies, London
The most unlikely olive oil vendor in the world? At his electrical supply shop in London’s Clerkenwell, Mehmet Murat sells wonderful, intensely fruity oil from his family’s olive groves in Cyprus and south-west Turkey. Now he imports more than a 1,000 litres per year. His lemon-flavoured oil is good enough to drink on its own.
76 Compton Street, London EC1, 020 7251 4721,www.planet mem.com
26. Best place to eat: Filipino cuisine
Lighthouse Restaurant, Cebu, Philippines
“The Lighthouse in Cebu in the Philippines is my favourite restaurant. We always eat bulalo (beef stew), banana heart salad, adobo (marinaded meat), baked oysters, pancit noodles, lechon de leche (suckling pig) and, to drink, green mango juice – my daughter is addicted to it! The staff are so friendly and welcoming. The chef has been there for more than 20 years, so the food is very consistent.”
Gaisano Country Mall, Banilad, Cebu city, Philippines, 0063 32 231 2478
I don’t mean to be too flippant here, nor to accord cricket too great an importance in the great kerfuffle of life—I simply say that the reason that test match cricket exerts such a tremendous fascination is that is shares so many qualities with the greater, more terrible dramas that make up the human experience.
It does so in a condensed, peaceful form and triumph and failure on the cricket field are ultimately trivial but the game moves us just as great art moves us. To pretend otherwise is, it strikes me, silly. That is, sure it’s only a game but it’s also not just a game.
In other words, it is life. And like war, and life, that sometimes end in stalemate. Which means a draw. There are winning draws and losing draws and plain old dull draws. But without them, or the possibility of them, everything else is too neat, too simple and, in the end, too unsatisfactory.
When people sit down together in a public place — a place where none of them is sovereign but each of them at home — and when those people pass the evening together, sipping drinks in which the spirit of place is stored and amplified, maybe smoking or taking snuff and in any case willingly exchanging the dubious benefits of longevity for the certain joys of friendship, they rehearse in their souls the original act of settlement, the act that set our species on the path of civilisation, and which endowed us with the order of neighbourhood and the rule of law.
When, however, people swig drinks without interest in their neighbours, except as equal members of the wild host of hunter-gatherers, when their sole concern is the intoxicating effect and when the drink itself is neither savoured nor understood, then are they rehearsing that time before civilisation, in which life was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Understandably, the first and natural effect of this way of drinking is an implacable belligerence towards the surrounding signs of settlement — an urge to smash and destroy, to replace the ordered world of house and street and public buildings, with a ruined wasteland where only the drunk is at home. Binge drinking may look like a communal act. In fact, it is an act of collective solitude, in which the god of modern puritans, the Self, reigns supreme.
Mr Bain was followed by a white-face, the classic circus clown, like Grimaldi himself, reading from the Gospel of St Mark. His eyebrows, one a smile, the other a frown, formed a sharp, black contrast to the pallor of his face and the red of his ears. The gold, pink and blue sequinned glory of his harlequin coat sparkled as he meandered up and down the aisle playing a tiny saxophone.
Cheerful though his appearance was, the melody was melancholy, as clowns themselves often are. Sadder still was the recitation of names of clowns who died in the past year. As the poignant litany of departed jesters was recited—Bozo, Boxcar, Uncle Dippy and the Unknown Clown—beaming children placed a thick cream candle for each clown at the back of the church.
The clowns then joined together in the Clown’s Prayer. They gave thanks for the gift of laughter… The final words of the prayer offered a gentle alternative to the financial hubris with which the world has been confronted: “As your children are rebuked in their self-importance and cheered in their sadness, help me to remember that your foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.”…
At the end of the service, a organist who resembled Groucho Marx bashed out Grimaldi’s favourite song, the Hot Codlings polka, on the church’s squeaky instrument. Mr Bain led a prancing procession of clowns down the aisle and out the door where they put on a proper show in the church hall. As they left, one of my friends, who is a devout atheist, leaned over to me and whispered: “If church was always like this, I’d come every week.”
For reasons that are obscure to me, those qualities we cherish in our artists we condemn in our politicians. In our artists we look for the many-colored voice, the multiple sensibility. The apogee of this is, of course, Shakespeare: even more than for his wordplay we cherish him for his lack of allegiance. Our Shakespeare sees always both sides of a thing, he is black and white, male and female—he is everyman. The giant lacunae in his biography are merely a convenience; if any new facts of religious or political affiliation were ever to arise we would dismiss them in our hearts anyway.
Reading is a very complex art - the hastiest examination of our sensations as a reader will show us that much. And our duties as readers are many and various. But perhaps it may be said that our first duty to a book is that one should read it for the first time as if one were writing it.
One should begin by sitting in the dock with the criminal, not by mounting the bench to sit among the Judges. One should be an accomplice with the writer in his act, whether good or bad, of creation. For each of these books, however it may differ in kind and quality, is an attempt to make something. And our first duty as readers is to try and understand what the writer is making from the first word with which he builds his first sentence to the last with which he ends his book. We must not impose our design upon him; we must not try to make him conform his will to ours. We must allow Defoe to be Defoe and Jane Austen to be Jane Austen as freely as we allow the tiger to have his fur and the tortoise to have his shell. And this is very difficult. For it is one of the qualities of greatness that it brings Heaven and earth and human nature into conformity with its own vision.
London’s new School of Life, based in a Merchant Street storefront, offers courses on “the five central themes of our lives—work, play, family, politics and love.” The school’s courses treat the classics (like Shakespeare’s sonnets or Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina) as works with practical, not just academic, value. It’s a refreshing approach. “Real” college literature and philosophy courses are often too distracted with their cerebral exercises (”deconstructing the narrative,” or whatever) to consider whether these works of genius might have actual applications in everyday life.
Stone age people drove animals hundreds of miles to a site close to Stonehenge to be slaughtered for ritual feasts, according to scientists who have examined the chemical signatures of animal remains buried there. The research suggests that Neolithic people travelled further than archaeologists had previously realised in order to attend cultural events.
Durrington Walls is a stone-age village containing the remains of numerous cattle and pigs which are thought to have been buried there after successive ritual feasts. The site is two miles north east of Stonehenge and dates from around 3000 BC, 500 years before the first stones were erected.
“We are looking at communication networks and rituals that are bringing people from a large area of southern England to the Stonehenge area before the Stonehenge stones were in place,” said Dr Jane Evans at the British Geological Survey in Nottingham. “I think what we are seeing is basically a sort of bring-your-own-beef barbecue at Durrington Walls.” The evidence points to groups of people driving animals from as far away as Wales for the feast events.