Je suis Européen.
Ich bin Europäer.
I am European.
How about you ?
I bet you bloody are, even if you don’t know it.
This morning, I read an article in a national broadsheet about the Premier League. It stated quite plainly that the traditional long ball game the English lovingly call football is no more. According to the stats, the EPL now leads the way when it comes to short passing, tiki-taka style, with just 18% of passes in the Premier League having been over 25 metres, the widely used metric for a long pass. In Ligue 1 that figure is 27%. In the Bundesliga and La Liga it’s 23%, in Serie A 21%. So we’re now the rinky-dink fancy dans of club football.
Note the key word in that paragraph is “club” … I doubt we’ll ever get the national team to stop hoofing it, unfortunately.
(stats via ProZone and The Guardian)
What’s that got to do with me being European or not, I hear you ask ?
Well, that’s a valid question – allow me to continue …
This week I ventured to my local suburb, namely Shirley in Southampton, to procure some comestibles. It was the first time I’d been there for a while, and by that I mean the first time I’d actually parked up somewhere and walked around. Normally, like most people these days, I go to a large, out-of-town supermarket to do my “weekly shop”, so I was quite shocked at how much the landscape had changed. Known (less than) affectionately as The Mutant Mile mainly due to the high proportion of chavs and knuckle-draggers there, Shirley High Street was in fact chosen by the BBC a few years ago to represent a typical British thoroughfare and was frequently featured in news stories as the recession took hold. Over time, more and more businesses folded and more and more chipboard was seen in place of what were previously bright and shiny shop-fronts and it became almost a national barometer of how tough things were out in the real world.
But all that seems to be changing …
Once known for its charity shops, pubs and bookmakers, Shirley High Street is now a coffee connoisseur’s paradise. Not only have four or five new outlets opened up in the last year or so, but there’s also a large Costa store about to open. If that wasn’t enough, there are also two brand new gelateria (that’s Italian for ice-cream parlour, in case you were wondering).
These, I was staggered to see, are open till 10pm. Every. Night. Of. The. Week.
I’ll say that again … ten o’clock. In the evening. When it’s dark and freezing.
I can’t think of many things I’d be less likely to want to eat on a winter’s eve than something ice cold. Seriously ? How many customers do they get after, say, 6pm ? Presumably anyone after a hot beverage like, say, oh I don’t know … a cup of coffee, would surely go to one of the half dozen or so specialists within a few moments’ walk ?
I doubt the fashionistas of Paris and Milan have the kind of choice on offer that the denizens of Shirley are able to enjoy on a nightly basis.
All that and they’ve got a Cash Converters, a Lidl and a Wetherspoon’s down the road.
So I’ll ask you again: when did we suddenly become so continental ?
How is it that swathes of pubs are closing only to be replaced by swanky barista-bars ?
Are you trying to tell me that Sid, having been turfed out of his local years ago for being a dirty smoker, now sits reading his Racing Post over a mocha choca latte at a little table outside so he can puff on his rollie at the same time .. ?
Eat your heart out, Christian Dior. Move over, Karl Lagerfeld.
Let’s see how long this fad lasts, shall we ?
I give it till Easter. By then, I bet Costa and maybe one other will be last man standing.
Apart from Sid, of course … but by then he’ll be standing in line at Gregg’s to get a cup of tea to go, with the paper under his arm having tired of this European muck …
In a way, I think it’s a good thing that pubs have been forced to clean up their act and improve what they do, from the drinks and food on offer, the level of service, the environment itself, the entertainment, etc …
But it seems to me that fundamentally we’ve changed as a nation.
Not into a coffee-drinking, sunglasses-wearing, Armani-clad country like Italy or France, but we’ve changed from a people who enjoyed going out into a bunch of lard-arses more content than ever to stay at home to watch Strictly Jungle Factor over eight cans of lager and a Tesco’s Finest curry.
Like the generation that no longer buys music in any physical way, there’s a whole chunk of the population that simply won’t know what “going out” means apart from the odd birthday and – please no – at Christmas when they’re on the “works do” …
I think that’s depressing.
I’d go and have a lie down to forget about it but I’ve drunk so much coffee today I doubt I’ll get a wink of sleep …