Wednesday, 11 June 2014



Switch Automatic Pilot to OFF


A former Calgary neighbour and good friend phoned Edmonton to check in during Monday night’s Stanley Cup game. Roger the Brit announced that he’d just packed in a job he’d hated and was off to Brazil to watch the World Cup. Almost unbelievably, both these actions were pretty much, sort of, wife-approved. The most amusing part of the story occurred on the coast. He’d flown over the Rockies to deal directly with the British consulate in Vancouver hoping to expedite his last minute visa requirements. He was quite clear with the official: ‘You understand that this is not a family emergency. It’s the World Cup.’ Apparently the World Cup does qualify as some sort of English national emergency. The red tape was slashed to ribbons and the bureaucratic reply was, ‘Jolly good.’


Rog hails from Leeds. This accident of birth amuses our mutual friend Paul who is from Preston originally and supports Man U; Leeds United is bloody awful. As our friendships grew over the course of some 20 years, I had a small epiphany: I may be a die-hard Montreal Canadiens fan, but these two guys are Bedlam crazy. Yet once the international caps are distributed to the modern knights of St. George their taunting and arguing are put aside for 90 minutes plus injury time. The most entertaining games for me in their company have always been against Germany. You need to learn to whistle The Dam Busters theme. You need to know the proper words to Camptown Races: ‘Two world wars and one World Cup, doo-dah!’ My ingrained image from South Africa 2010 is the two mock Battle of Britain RAF pilots and their gigantic, fake, waxed moustaches.


The impetus for Rog’s trip was a knock on the front door by a current neighbour, a man grieving the loss of his brother to cancer. The pitch went something like this: ‘If we don’t go now, we may never go and who knows what’s around the corner.’ I know this man a little bit because we have crossed paths in Rog’s kitchen. I know this man very well because my brother died of cancer in 2012.


Death, when it comes unexpectedly and far too soon forces anyone with half a heart to pause and question everything. Everything. Everything from what you took for granted to what you barely tolerated and all the mundane garbage in between. All of us, James Bond excepted, only live once. Unfortunately, circumstances – whatever they may be – can cause us to lose sight of this simple, universal truth. If your particular brand of faith tells you differently, well, God bless and good riddance.

Canada has not qualified for the world’s biggest, best and most corrupt sports tournament since 1986, about the time Mick Jagger launched his epic failure of a solo career. I don’t believe we’ve scored an international goal since the Pacific Scandal was an election issue for Sir John A. It’s unlikely we’ll ever qualify for World Cup play during the remainder of my lifetime. But if we do, I’ll drop everything and go. It’s only soccer I know, but it’s the world’s game and our time on this planet is finite.

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