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A Tale of Two Cultures.
I spend some of my time working for S.E.R.V. a charity that delivers emergency blood at nightime by motorbike, 365 days a year.
England played Trinidad in the world cup today.
I missed it while out on my motorbike doing one of the aforementioned emergency deliveries. Although I would have had no interest in watching it if I had been at home anyway.

Tonight, or should that be this morning, after getting back from a delivery to Maidstone Hospital, I am feeling really very down and unhappy and unable to sleep. My depression grabs me out of the blue sometimes and I have to wrestle with it and keep the snarling black dog on its chain or fall only too easily into a black abyss of self pity and hatred.

So now I find myself in the small hours, sitting under the small apple tree in my back garden, in the dark. Just me and my faithful dog for company, sitting on the damp, dew covered garden chairs with a rapidly cooling cup of tea thinking about everything that is wrong with the world and trying not to dive headlong into the rapidly opening black hole in front of me.
I glance at the clock in the kitchen window. It is 2am.
Suddenly it came to me out of the night and I realised exactly what it is that bothers me so much about the flag of St George that has been everywhere you look since the world cup began. The flag waving Chav culture flying on cars and windows all over the country.
It's not the flag that bothers me. It's not fact that the bits of plastic flagpole are tacky and it's not genuine patriotism. It's this:

At my school I grew up in an atmosphere of relative covert simmering violence. In the playground the hierarchy was simple, you learned to fight or you were bullied. And even if you became an adept fighter, there was a sharp and painful lesson to learn in that some of the bullies also liked a good scrap with someone that fought back too. They didn't just enjoy bullying. They enjoyed fighting and getting hurt as much as inflicting their own brand of entertainment on the unwilling.

As a child, one of the worst bits of advice I was ever given was "Hit the ringleader as hard as you can". What stupid fool ever came up with that one...
And then of course if you were seen by a teacher to be defending yourself against one of said bullies, you were given detention for fighting.
Defending yourself was apparently, in my school at least, as great a crime as attacking.

As children, in the playground we were taught to resent and authority simply compounded the issue. Fighting was normal. Resentment was normal. Playground politics set the stage for our adult life.

I was never interested in football. I don't really know why, but most of my friends were. And for some reason many of them were Millwall fans. Who knows the reason for that. None of my mates came from London. I think it was just the fact that many school kids hero worshiped the legendary ICF. The Inter City Firm. The Don's of the terraces. The football gang linked to the Millwall fan club that epitomised football violence at the time.

I digress slightly.
On the way to Maidstone hospital tonight, I passed all manner of drunks coming out of the pubs. It was almost like playing high speed real life space invaders at times, weaving in and out of a never ending stream of St Georges flag draped bodies all over the place.

Some jumping out in front of me daring me not to brake hard and laughing as I cursed them, climbing over cars with terrified drivers who were foolish enough to slow down outside the pubs, falling over into the roads and fighting anyone who was stupid enough to look back or answer.

In Bromley I had to brake sharply as a group of flag wearing thugs in the middle of a viscous scrap involving some Trinidad supporters and an audience screaming "Fuckin 'Av 'im" and "Black Bastard" as they all spilled out into the road en masse. Oblivious to my emergency services dayglo bib and the full beam of my Pan European.

It crossed my mind the irony of the situation if the emergency blood I was carrying on the back of my bike would end up inside one of them because they jumped out in front of me and Id hit them...
And over the noise of my bike as I accelerated away, I could hear them shouting,

Sitting here now, back at home in my garden in the dark, it dawns on me. The reason I hate all the flag waving, and fake patriotism. It's all about hatred and bigotry. There is NO fucking patriotism in all the flag. It's all a lot of racially motivated hot air thinly disguised as football fan..

I see in the papers people shouting that the flags aren't racist. Complaining that the local authority has forced them to take down the massive oversize flags hanging from windows. It patriotic.Its unfair, its the BRITISH flag.

I say bullshit. Some people out there are genuine for sure, but most of the people waving the flags wouldn't know patriotism if it smacked them in the face.
I reckon the BNP love it when World Cup time comes round.

While I'm sitting here in may garden, examining my newly found realisation, tea now cold with a rapidly forming a skin and getting deeply philosophical about the world, I hear some bikes off in the distance. A welcome distraction from the now looming black hole of depression thats doing its best to grab me with full force.

I listen to the screaming engines. Big CC Japanese in line 4s with race pipes by the sound of it and maybe I can pick out the slightly lower note of a big twin there too. And they were giving it big berries through the night on the A3. Screaming the engines through the gears. I imagine myself there chasing them. Manic grins on everyones faces.

I listened to them as they got closer.


Then they drop through the gears suddenly, exhaust notes popping, spitting and cracking on the over run. It sounds like they were going through a roundabout. And fast too. Probably at Esher. I imagine them in line, headlights on full beam turning the darkness ahead into daylight as they tip sharply into the big roundabout. Shifting thier body weight off the side of the bike to the inside of the corner. Knee sliders touching down on the tarmac and screeching as they slide over the apex of the corner. Leant over way past any comfort level that might of existed at any sort of sensible speed. Almost on the very edge of the tyre. I can see them, grins gone, lips tight as they look ahead into the pool of light for the line to the exit. Counter steering to hold the line through the corner as the bikes fight to stand up and do what they do naturally, go in a straight line... Holding it... holding it.. before suddenly the exit explodes into the lit pool of light in front of them. Flipping the bike the other way over to the left to change direction and being catapulted up the sliproad back up to the A3 back towards from whence they came, letting the revs build to the rev limiter in each gear as the riders click up through the gearbox and then off and away into the night. Manic grins back on each face bigger than ever.
Every one of the riders, scared witless if they stopped to think about about what they just did in the dark, but now riding on a wave of euphoria because they just got away with doing it...
Screaming off through the night.

To some maybe a cacophony, but I love the sound of bikes floating through the summer night like that. Some nights its me out there on the dark early morning roads. Devoid of myopic drivers in cars to spoil the fun. But tonight Im just part of an anonymous audience listening in to the hidden entertainment. Almost like a harmony of screaming adrenaline filled demons flying off into the night. I imagine I'm in the group again, flat on the tank, concentration absolute, tearing off up the dark empty road. Like a pack of screaming mechanised greyhounds in pursuit of the elusive invisible hyper speed rabbit.

My dog shuffles over to the chair and with a sigh lays her head on my lap. Her warmth making me realise Ive been oblivious to the early morning chill. I glance at the clock again and its getting on for 3am now as the bikes fade into the distance till there is silence.
I wonder if anyone woke up, cursing the noise, or if the sleeping masses were oblivious to the insomniac racers. Or are there other strange insomniac audio voyeurs like me listening in.
Whatever. It sounds fucking ace to me and I love listening to them for ages as they fade back into the night from which they burst. I wonder where they are going. I wonder where they came from. I wonder if they will get there. Ride safe guys. Or gals.
The distraction of the bikes much more pleasant than the previous images and sounds that had my attention since my eventful journey through Kent.

I muse that the biking community for the most part seems to be free of the problems of the world of football. There are no colours and creed in the anonyminity of a full face crash helmet.

As I tip whats left of my stone cold tea away and get up from the damp chair, my dog runs over to the back door, pleased to be going in to a warm bed. The door has been open the whole time but our mutual company a greater draw than a warm blanket, a final thought drifts into my now tired mind and brings a gentle smile to my face.

"You know what Cass" I say out loud to my faithful companion, "I'll bet between them they didn't have single fucking St Georges flag on their bikes...."