Well yesterday was a great day really. I headed in to London to see my old friend J who runs a very funky graphics design agency. We had a great meeting on how I might be able to help build awareness for him and his creative work now that I’ve sharpened up his online presence. All very exciting. En route to meeting up with him near Waterloo, I drove in to north London and parked up my car very close to where we used to live on Muswell Hill Rd. It was lovely to walk through Highgate Woods again on the way to Highgate underground station. Now you may not know it but because of the hilly terrain, the station was built in a deep cutting excavated beneath Highgate Hill. During the war, the deep-level platforms at Highgate were used by many as a shelter from the bombing of London by the Luftwaffe, and, later, V-1 and V-2 missiles. The entrance is a long way down. You can in fact get an up escalator to the surface from the booking hall but there’s only one way down via a steepish path. I’m not sure these pictures do it justice….
As I got to the top of the pathway a memory came back to me from the 70’s and made me smile. And shiver a bit. Now I may have told you this story before as one of a huge number of embarrassing moments in my life but I can’t remember for sure. Anyway it’s worth re-telling. It was winter time and very cold – it had been snowing for days and the heavy footfall meant that the snow-laden pavements were now covered in ice. It was around 7.45am and I was heading to work near St Pauls using the underground. I remember I was sporting a leather coat against the cold and though warm it wasn’t much help on the slippery pathways. Anyway I’d negotiated the length of Muswell Hill Rd and reached the top of the path without falling on my arse. ‘Almost there’ I thought to myself, prematurely as it turned out. I started walking gingerly down the slope holding on to that freezing cold metal handrail. I was alright for a few steps but then my leather-soled slip-on shoes turned traitor on me and gave up all pretence of grip. I just couldn’t stop as I started sliding down the slope, clutching that rail and shouting at the poor startled commuters ahead of me to get out of the way. They all did. I picked up speed rapidly and made it down to the stopping point you can see in the second picture – probably around 200ft in distance. There were lots of cheers and laughs, though not from me. But the biggest guffaws were reserved at the sight of me standing there all stiff-armed. I couldn’t understand what had caused it at first until I realised that a slew of snow had been forced up the arm-holes of my coat, making me look like a leather-clad Michelin man. Oh how they laughed when I took the coat off to empty it of two stone of frozen white stuff.
Hey ho. Anyway I made it down the slope yesterday without mishap. I was intending to catch up with my daughter Rebecca after the meeting but she too busy to see me, ha! So by late afternoon I was driving home and doing one of the things which gives me great pleasure; listening to a great commentary of a top footie match on the radio. And yesterday it was Germany v South Korea and the Mexico v Sweden games to decide the outcome of Group F series of first round matches at the World Cup. Incredibly there were over 400 possible outcomes because the teams were so tightly matched. Everybody had to win effectively to stand a chance of going through. I’d picked up Carol to take her to an appointment and the excitement kept building and building. Sweden scored, then South Korea scored. Oh my lord were Germany about to be knocked out at the Group stage for the first time in their history? Yep! O sweet baby Jesus yes. And their ignominy was sealed with the help of a comic goal involving their hitherto imperious but now hapless goalie Neuer. Because I was listening rather than watching the events unfold I think the experience was more intense. It’s not life and death of course but to an old footie fan like me it was a delicious moment. What’s that word the Germans coined? Schadenfreude. It means taking pleasure from the troubles or humiliation of others. I think they created the word precisely to describe the feeling they got watching England teams perform at major tournaments over the years (1966 excepted of course). And now look.
Schadenfreude, it’s a very cold concept isn’t it. I suppose I was the recipient of it myself all those years ago hurtling down that icy slope before those amused commuters. But I can still smile about it. And I’m sure one day the Germans will look back and laugh at their 2018 World Cup experience, though it might take another 1000 year Reich before they are able to do so.
Whatever happens with England now in Russia, I can sleep happily. Oh the irony is just finger lickin’ sweet.