There you are, having a nice quiet discussion at a dinner party or at the local, when someone opens up their over-wide mouth and raises one of those ‘do not mention’ burning issues that not only divides opinion but can in extremis split up longstanding friendships and families. Often made worse when fuelled by too much cider or prosecco, some discussion points are particularly divisive and should never be mentioned in polite society for fear of social breakdown or an outbreak of world war three in the village pub. Apart from the ever-red historical favourites of politics, religion, abortion and doctor-assisted suicide, in the 21st century we can now add ‘iPhone versus Android’, McDonalds, Brexit, Online dating, Facebook, Kanye West and ‘Keeping Fit’ as subjects that are best avoided, unless you enjoy long futile unresolved arguments between friends. It’s as Black and White as arguing about Marmite. Or Marzipan (yuk). Pointless discussions like these are also incredibly boring for everyone else to listen to.
Jeremy Clarkson used to be on my taboo topic list because opinions about him were so divided, but he rather dropped off my radar with his move to the ‘Grand Bore’, although he may come back onto it with his rebirth on ‘Millionaire’. Likewise, the other ‘Jeremy’ (née Paxman) has mostly vanished from popular gossip after leaving Newsnight, and we obviously can’t discuss the third ‘Jeremy’ (née Corbyn) since he is filed under ‘politics’ and is consequently an automatic ‘no-go’ discussion area. And don’t forget burning local issues such as new housing in the Blackmore Vale or the Chideock A35 bypass—both of which can cause normally nice citizens to wax furious and walk out of any party.
Other once touchy subjects have now become surprisingly OK to talk about. The subject of Donald Trump is so universally upsetting that he has in his own way become a force for unification. Everybody seems to loathe him so he brings us all closer together in mutual scorn. Likewise (although for a very different reason) the issue of our Royal Family has gained a huge lift after the public triumph of Harry & Meghan’s wedding. Royalty is therefore now off the ‘don’t mention it’ list. It can come back again perhaps when Prince Charles becomes King. In the meantime, if your dinner conversation ever develops to drawn daggers, just change the subject with a brief “Yes, but isn’t Meghan’s smile so wonderful?” This will force any anti-royal supper partner onto the defensive as he/she can’t argue without incurring regal fire and brimstone from the rest of the party.
There is yet another totally divisive subject that splits our house in two… I’m talking about the noble game of Football. Sorry to say, but yes—it’s one of those years again. That one year in four when the normally football-free summer month of June decongests into a global conga party of World Cup footie. Up till now, it’s been kept quite low key mostly because of the frenzied hoopla of the Royal Wedding. But watch out—here it comes… four weeks of bum-numbing TV wall to wall coverage. Apart from the recent FA Cup Final (which was so boring I fell asleep at halftime), it’s about the only time the BBC is contractually able to broadcast any footie on telly, so you can bet your bottom (numb or not) that there’ll be no escape.
I am unashamedly a footie fan when it comes to the World Cup. Not just the sport itself or who wins, but the international glory, pride and stop-watch torture. I watch the crowds in the stands as well as the pitch itself. It is high opera and heart-stopping drama with 32 teams from all over the world—Italian angst, Latin flair and African dash with Germany still winning on penalties! Here are some key June dates for your diary…
June 14th: the opening game—a vain but glorious hope that Saudi Arabia beats Russia (this year’s hosts—Boo, Hiss).
June 22nd: Nigeria takes on Iceland—what a clash of climate, style and culture!
Can Senegal crush Japan on 24th or underdogs Morocco defeat their richer Spanish cousins (25th)?
The more observant of you will have noticed that I didn’t mention England. Sorry if I sound a bit manic, but I’m psyching myself up for another summer of sadness if we—possibly, even probably—get eliminated by Belgium on June 28th? I live in hope…
It’s exactly like another recent festival of huge international importance… the Eurovision Song Contest. Both events have much in common—foreign supporters pursuing their own open agenda and throwing beer cans or voting against rivals. Also, neither the song contest nor the World Cup features the USA which is a good thing. However, both of them feature Australia which doesn’t do much for our understanding of European geography. And the one is hopefully not a forecast for the other, otherwise, we’ll be looking at England… Nul Points.