11 July, 2011

A Hard Choice Lies Ahead

You’ll be faced with numerous choices in London. Where shall I live [Edgware Road, Marble Arch, Earl’s Court, Bayswater, West Ken, Fulham, etc.]?  With whom shall I live [Tom, Dick, Prince Harry, or with an English family, or maybe solo in Clapham]?  What kind of phone network should I use? Should I go to Brussels, Bruges & Amsterdam on fall break OR would Vienna, Budapest & Prague better suit? Should I date that charming Italian bloke, or the German guy? Decisions, decisions, decisions. What would life be without them! Descartes summed up the human situation 400 years ago with his famous ‘cogito ergo sum’, or ‘I think therefore I am’,  but perhaps events in the 20th century have eclipsed Cartesian rationalism in favour of the free choice implicit in ‘eligo ergo sum’, I choose therefore I am.

Tough decisions all. But there can be one even tougher as you are coming to a tribal country. As in North America, with its tribal native peoples, so too Britain had its indigenous tribal groups like the Belgae, the Cantii, Iceni, etc. They are long gone, their only legacies being hill forts and place names like Belgium, Kent and Scotland [after the Irish ‘Scoti’ tribe]. The real tribes today are football tribes. Altogether there are 92 professional football teams in England, almost three times the number of NFL franchises in the much larger USA. Most big cities have two: for example, Manchester has United and City, Liverpool has Liverpool and Everton, Sheffield has United and Wednesday, Birmingham has Villa and City, Bristol has Rovers and City. One is usually red and the other is blue, which are also the colours of our two principal political parties.

Your ‘eligo ergo sum’ dilemma is that, strangely enough, the ICLC is in London, by some distance the largest city in the UK. As such it has 11 pro teams, 5 of which are in the top division. It’s like New York, Chicago or LA having 5 major league baseball teams and/or NFL franchises. The big five in London are [alphabetically], Arsenal [north], Chelsea [south-west], Fulham [south-west], QPR [west] and Tottenham [north]. The next tier has 3 teams, Millwall [south-east], Crystal Palace [south-east] and West Ham [east], and the remaining three are Charlton [south-east], Brentford [west] and Leyton Orient [east]. Identifying with one team, adopting it, and wearing its colours explain some of the violence associated with football in the UK and globally.
A big moment in Claire's life
 So whom are you going to choose? The easiest choice would be Chelsea. After all it is the closest to us, it is very successful and the London centre is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  But a lot of people dislike Chelsea with a passion. Our Sarah is one such: she supports ABC, Anyone But Chelsea.  She would probably go for Swansea this year as they are a Welsh team and Sarah is Welsh. I am a little schizoid in that I support two teams: my first love, the super hoops of QPR, and my new love, Arsenal. [Yes, my wife knows about it: she’s OK so long as the bigamy of my tribal loyalties do not set the template for my domestic arrangements.] I will be torn when the two play each other in the Premiership. Heather, meanwhile, is ABMU, anyone but Manchester United. Otherwise she is pretty secretive about her affiliation, but I have a suspicion that she has an affection for Preston North End as she studied at the university there. Claire meanwhile has never shown much interest in football, but recently she came out of the closet in a big way. Her support for Charlton Athletic is plain for all to see. They are a solid, friendly community club based in south-east London. The first game we will attend this term will be the game between Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday. You will also meet Claire’s friend Floyd who is generally to be found in her office.
This looks like more than bigamy...
Many of you might end up living in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. If so, Fulham and QPR are strong possibilities. If you don’t care much for footie, you can choose your tribe by colour. Most are either red and white or blue and white; notable exceptions are West Ham who are purple and blue and Crystal Palace who are red and blue. Meanwhile, because of my tribal bigamy, I will look like a rainbow most of the term.

-Bill

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