Sunday, November 03, 2013

Call of the West: But Who's Listening?

If you were unfortunate to be dropped through a wormhole from a different place and time, and subjected to the salivations of South Wales football fans, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this weekend's derby between Swansea City and Cardiff City was akin to the last scene of a Kurosowa showdown; hardened samurai massed across urban battle plains heaving under the weight of steaming angst; unblinking cohorts of testosterone backed up by attack helicopters.  Of course you would. But then such white noise would also ooze from any sponsor-heavy polyester top-wearing enthusiast from Milan, Glasgow, Manchester and Bristol. Apart from Bristol.

Everyone thinks that their own fire ant mound is bigger and more vibrant than their neighbour's nest, and makes such a loud hum that the whole world cannot ignore the discord. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the animus embedded into 40 miles of soulless tarmac buttressed by the Welsh cities of Swansea and Cardiff; traversed by scenic bays, vertiginous mountains and industrial installations belching ash like a chain-smoking uncle.


Unfortunately these twin Cambrian outposts had over the years decayed to the point of penury, resembling a duet of addled tramps noisily waving blood-caked fists at moving reflections in a shop window. And this is where we resided over the generations; sucking at crumbs from the rich man's banquet. A soundtrack to the funeral march of coal mining communities smashed by the Tories.   Supporting Swansea since the 70's was like dating a toothless-yet loyal hag; always expecting something special on your plate but finding a crumpled note, crudely scrawled "there's only dog shit for tea." Our cyclical sense of demise framed by a penchant for loathing borne out of delusions of something better out there. 

Years of animosity festering for no reason other than idiocy channelled by the bellicose phobia of fat bigoted men in designer gear. Pubs smashed to pieces like the sacking of Carthage; young people chased into the sea (though luckily the mythical swimming Cardiff escapees didn't flee into the neighbouring Aberavon Beach waters, or an affliction of toxic shock from a sargasso of tampons and disused nappies would have flavoured the humiliation). Police escorted bus trips that would take us past a gauntlet of ire.  I recall our convoy passing the river Taff and sat open-mouthed as an OAP with his grandson, dropped his fishing rod and angrily waved his cock at us.  As a welsh football fan this was mystifying: both clubs were on their respective arses of bankruptcy, eking out performances in the horrible mausoleums of Ninian Park and the Vetch Field (I have written about this previously http://observation-point.blogspot.com/2011/02/ground-zero.html?m=0). Why should attending such sporting events hold more peril than a Barrymore pool party?


The games were nearly always dismal affairs; terse barrel-chested (mostly Welsh) yeomen kicking seven shades out of anything that advanced; almost aping the vein-distending nail-bitten terrace stressors. Attendances reflected the pointlessness.  For me the most memorable events of these dire basement clashes were: 1) someone's bathroom window behind the west stand smashed by a deflected clearance; 2) a Cardiff mod so overwhelmed by chasing our bus on his Lambretta that he crashed into stationery traffic; 3) repeatedly barracking a linesman with 'skidmark' due to the strategic brown streak on his shorts (he never appeared for the 2nd half).  And how could we object to Cardiff's 'The Ayatollah" -a spurious recall of Iranian funeral head-slapping-  when if a football landed on the roof of the Vetch Centre Stand, flakes of asbestos would rain down on our heads, resulting in the very same unison movements in brushing off the cancerous dust?

Of course, we've both finally found ourselves seats at the rich man's table; the toothless hag has been spurned for a vajazzled wag that feeds us cordon bleu and empties our wallets.  Gentrification and culture flows like fine wine.  But make no mistake; those ingrained passions and nail-bitten stressors will rise up again like the undead who were never rightfully despatched by a bullet to the head; and no perfumed wig effete continental fannying on the field will hold them at bay.  Hyperbole about 'the biggest derby in football' will foam from the Tawe and Taff rivers; but for the rest of the world it'll demand about as much column inch as a skateboarding wombat or a tweet from Melvyn Hays.  The next day we'll all just carry on, tattooed with some temporary bragging rights; wondering if there'll ever be anything left in the country to worry about.


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