By Twisted Blood and lxndrnthrtn
According to Oscar Wilde, the only three certain things in the universe are death, taxes, and the misattribution of quotes. But while death gets a bad press at times, it’s a fundamentally reasonable business: it’s coming at some point, there’s nothing you can do about it, and you can’t say fairer than that. Taxes, meanwhile, pay for nurses and teachers and other component atoms of society, and should be embraced as the joyful duty of every citizen. If you don’t like death, you’re out of luck; if you don’t like taxes, become a mobile phone company.
That was satire.
There is a third, though (or a fourth if you missed the gag). Everybody you have ever loved will let you down. We know this – not just us two; you lot as well – and we know that we know. So knowing, the sensible thing to do would be to work with it. To protect yourself. To draw the shades of your heart down and keep the outside world, and those bastards that live in it, away from anywhere they might hurt you.
We don’t, though. We get stupid; we forget. A smile, a twinkling eye, a fetherlite ultra first touch, and any thought of being sensible vanishes like smoke in the breeze. In comes hope, that hideous mistress; in come all her dancing, capering, snickering children, joy and pleasure and the rest of the clan; in comes the promise that in amongst the muck and nonsense there might just be somebody worth believing in. Suckers, each and everyone of us. Suckers and patsies and fools.
For this Boxing day, Dimitar Berbatov played football, and that was fine. And this Boxing day, Dimitar Berbatov scored a goal, and that was nice. And this Boxing Day, Dimitar Berbatov revealed a homemade t-shirt reading ‘Keep Calm and Pass Me The Ball’, and that was the worst thing that has ever happened.
The Keep Calm poster, originally published by the British Ministry of Information in 1939 shadow of an impending scrap with some thoroughly un-calm Nazis, returned to the public conscious around the year 2000. Initially a nostalgic curiosity, the culture-sapping ubiquity of its seemingly endless, deathless variants has since seeped across the country like vomit over a paving stone. It has been embraced as exemplifying a fundamentally British stoicism in the face of circumstance, which is not only misguided – the stiff upper lip began quivering post-Diana and hasn’t stopped since – but actually harmful. By promulgating a desperate, homogeneous parody of chuckle-and-shrug-in-the-face-of-adversity, it engenders apathy and compliance. For their subjects to keep keeping calm and carrying on is exactly what the Tories want. It is the meme of a populace with its cap surgically grafted to its hand.
Keep Calm and Drink Tea. Keep Calm and Do Burlesque. Keep Calm and Rule Britannia. Keep Calm and Drink Wine. Keep Calm and Wear Glasses. Keep Calm and Grow Courgettes. Keep Calm and Watch Television. Keep Calm and Play Darts. Keep Calm, I’m an England Fan. Keep Calm and Buy The Sun. Keep Calm and Commit Adultery. Keep Calm and Beat Your Wife. Keep Calm and Abduct Children. Keep Calm and Weep, Weep, For What We Have Become. Keep Calm and Look At The State Of It, I Mean Really. Keep Calm and Smash Your Forehead Into The Table Until The Blood Runs Like A River And The World Slips Away.
That last is available on a tea cosy or oven gloves.
Which is not to say it doesn’t have its uses. It works as a kind of plague warning, a handy red cross splashed across a person that you would really rather not talk to, or look at, or permit oxygen. Like a fondness for cupcakes, or an interest in the writings of Caitlin Moran, it functions as a shibboleth, identifying the vacant and the lightless and the blank, the shudderingly malign and the dangerously unoriginal,.
So back to Berbatov. He was supposed to be none of those things. He was supposed to be dignified and intelligent, sensitive and sensuous. He was supposed to be plague-free. Then suddenly the sun folded in the sky. The universe, once again, revealed itself as a bleak procession from disappointment through regret onto hatred. The human condition is to be smashed in the heart, over and over again. Lie down on your bed, turn out the lights, and repeat with me: Everybody you have ever loved will let you down. Everybody you have ever loved will let you down. Everybody you have ever loved will let you down.
Alex and Andi both feature in the Surreal Football Magazine, available in all formats including hard copy. You can order a copy at www.surrealfootballmagazine.co.uk. It rivals, and ultimately beats, Shakespeare in terms of quality.