Something For The Weekend (149)
As most military historians will tell you, or, if you can't find an historian, someone who watches enough of the right kind of telly, the British learn everything they need to know from battles won & lost around the globe. Amongst the lessons which unfold in the pages of the Big Book Of British Battles, are: that it sometimes rains heavily in the Summer (Passchendaele); that reassurances that everything is going to be a walk-over are often untrue (The Somme) and that ironic understatement is often not the best policy, if you are hoping for relief (Imjin). Not to mention that it was the Americans who invented both the machine-gun and barbed-wire.
There are also lessons to be learnt, especially for the non-British, about the function of the class-system: At all times the upper-classes or those in leadership roles (the same thing in most of British history) should be positive and optimistic (to the point of idiocy, if required) and should take their example from Baden-Powell at Mafeking (swagger stick and a cooked breakfast are the only weapons allowed), and kid the 'men' along and tell them everything is going to be a breeze etc etc. For the ordinary soldier, it is his job to know the truth, have a jolly good moan, but to do it anyway.
In fact, in the British military, the failure of an ordinary soldier to moan, is known as Dumb Insolence and may be the subject of a charge. It may also be caused by shell-shock, both are usually punishable by shooting. So moaning for the British lower ranks, is not only considered healthy, it is also considered both his duty and consistent with the highest expressions patriotism.
Well, that is the tradition but things are changing, it seems.
I suppose it might be something to do with all those cheap flights - no wonder they are against it for the lower order - but it seems attitudes are changing. Some of that: want it now, the customer is king, service is everything, mentality, seems to have crossed the Atlantic (or the channel), and manifested itself in a general wailing and gnashing of teeth this week, as some Villa fans saw their frustration and disappointment personified in the signing of Marlon Harewood. Some, it was said, went as far as to ask for a refund on their season-tickets. This is really not what we are used to and takes our patriotic duty to moan, to a level which is decidedly un-British. In fact it is the sort of thing we expect of Germans or Americans not the bleedin' poms - we'll be demanding Waldorf salad next, even when Waldorfs are out of season.
We can only hope that these threats weren't followed through with action - now that would be un-British. The very essence of the British habit of moaning is that, it is rather expected that the moaner will actually do nothing to bring his grievance to anyone who might do something about his complaint. In fact, most customer-care departments are based on this assumption and merely provide the opportunity to belly-ache and a large skip for the paperwork.
Its all very deeply shocking for those of us, who have lived a life where to actually complain is considered quite shameful. There are even television programmes dedicated to shaming those who do (usually foreigners) - you know the one - Stavros airlines or something? But personal shame aside, there's no better man than General Krulak for dealing with this latest Villa crisis and I bet he says stuff like, 'I love the smell of Brummies in the morning', as he greets his besieged staff at the start of the day.
But assuming that the numbers of this fifth-column, who actually got a refund, amounted to as many as a half a dozen (the obvious puppets of foreign powers), you know, I think they actually have a point. Okay, so we have seen the arrival of Nigel Reo-Coker, who we mostly have confidence in, but we have also seen the departure of McCann and Steven Davis, and so there is not a lot of actual evidence that Villa are building a squad capable of finishing in a European-qualification position and time seems to be running out. That date with Liverpool on the 11th of August, still looks a bit scary to me and as of yet, I can't convince myself that Villa have narrowed the gap which was apparent last season.
And as Martina Navratilova might say (she likes the smell of something else in the morning apparently), its not how good she was when she played well, which counted, but how good she was when she played badly. This applies to Villa too and was illustrated by last year's hiatus, when by the manager's own ambition, the best eleven weren't all available. So okay, it might have been a bit premature, it might be un-British, but you can't deny it, that the complainers do have a point.
Villa need players and they need them yesterday, if not sooner.
The present regime have sold a dream to a set of fans habituated to years of bullshit and lies. The atmosphere which surrounds the club at present is possibly, although there have certainly been highs before, the most positive in decades but should the team find themselves, delivering yet another dose of same-old next season, the backlash will be huge. For one who has not enjoyed such a Villa feeling, for what seems like a life-time, I feel that it would be a tragedy of Titanic proportions, to see it come unravelled so soon after its launch.
The one thought I wish to avoid, early in 2008, is the desperate consoling hope that Villa, with a bit of luck, might finish above Birmingham City. For that to happen, would be so shattering, I am not sure that I could even muster the strength to moan and when the Brits stop moaning, shits going to happen.
Having seen the prosecution of the previous chairman, for the lack of cash for honours scandal, in what history now calls the Fear show-trials, I would hate to see it happen all over again.
Some learn from history - some don't!