The Fan - Hunter Davies
In the mornings, I use the same bathwater as my wife. So for the World Cup, she will have to sharpen
Is 12.30pm a lunchtime time or midnight time? That was the first problem I had to overcome in my World Cup preparations. My mummy, or it may have been my wife, taught me the difference between am and pm by saying that am comes before pm because a is before p in the alphabet. So I filled in my diary accordingly, telling myself to stay up late to watch the France-Senegal opening game, only to see that the highlights were being shown five hours earlier. You what? Must be the stupid Indy, always getting things wrong. It had two different kick-off times for England against Cameroon.
My silly mistake, of course. And what a mess my diary now looks, with all the crossings-out. Buggered it up before a ball has been kicked. Filling in my diary for the next four weeks meant I saw another awful mistake. A year ago, I dutifully filled in Saturday 8 June: "Chair the annual general meeting of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust." How was I to know there would be three World Cup games that morning? Will my video work? Can it take three games?
Apart from that, preparations have been going well. The England-Cameroon game provided a perfect wet run for the real test of this year's World Cup. How to get up in the morning.
I have gone through life taking two hours each morning to greet the new day. My dear wife wakes me at 7am with a cup of tea and the Indy, pulls the curtains, switches on the wireless (as I just have no strength at that time of the day), then closes the bedroom door, very quietly. I eventually get up and into her bath. After her. She is very clean. It's not meanness, though I do get pleasure out of thinking how much money I'm saving. It's mainly that I hate running my own bath. What a waste of time. I lie there until Thought for the Day, when I have a sudden energy burst - enough to turn it off.
So how am I going to manage to sustain this ritual during the next four weeks? Fifa has been so thoughtless, letting the World Cup be played in such an inconvenient time zone. Last Sunday, for the trial run, I set the alarm for 6.30am and bounded up. I watched the first half in my jamas and then, at half-time, ran like hell upstairs, dived into the bath, shaved and dressed in 15 minutes flat. A world record. The bath was unoccupied, fortunately, but the water was lukewarm. I've told her straight, she'll have to sharpen up her act in the next four weeks. She must time her bath exactly, getting out of it the second the half-time whistle blows. No excuses about injury time or delays. You've got to cope. We all have to, in these unusual times.
What's going to be weird these next few weeks is eating muesli all the way through a game. And drinking endless cups of coffee. My alcohol intake will fall dramatically - which is good, I suppose. I don't think I can manage a bottle of Beaujolais at 8am. At 12.30pm or even 12.30am, whenever that is, I should be able to manage a stab at normal life.
Facts-wise, I'm up to scratch. Got almost a roomful of World Cup supplements, pull-outs, posters. And I've done my homework. I spent a whole morning analysing the 32 squads and worked out that there are 112 British-based players in this year's World Cup. So whatever happens, as the WC progresses, we should have some players to cheer. The most English-based squad is Ireland's. Yup, all 23 play in England (now 22, since Keane left). Only 22 out of the English squad play in England.
I've also worked out who is the real winner of the World Cup so far - Slovenia. Their population is only 1.9 million, the smallest country in the WC, so they have done brilliantly just to be there. After them comes Uruguay, 3.4 million, then Costa Rica and Ireland, joint third on 3.8 million. I plan to award points based on how each country progresses in relation to its population. If I don't fall asleep. I know before we start that China, at 1.3 billion, will be bottom.
I'm so looking forward to watching the co-hosts play. The Japs and Koreans are so smart, modern, up to date - and that's just the haircuts. It must take triple-strength bleach to turn their hair a lighter shade of pitch black. Their fans are equally clued-up, with their English-style shirts and English football chants. Their passion for Beckham is so touching. I bet Posh has a lump in her throat, not just her tum. The crowds appear to be younger than in England, and with more women. Very modern.
Their football is also surprisingly good, judging by the Korean performance against France - fast, clever, skillful. All they lack is finishing. England's football in the final two warm-ups was unsurprising, alas. Lumpen, leaden, dull, unimaginative. All they lack is, well, everything really, thanks partly to the injuries. Their second-string players have been embarrassing, while the so-called best 11 look mediocre.
But, I still expect them to struggle out of their group, finishing second behind Argentina, and reach the second stage. And they'd better. I've got in double muesli supplies for the next three weeks.