Thursday, 1 November 2018

The 1066 World Cup Final

“Right lads. Remember, this is your big opportunity. You can become legends, write your own history.” Harold Godwinson drew himself up to his full height, paused for effect and said, “You can win the World Cup on home soil!”
A cheer went up from the group gathered in a huddle and then, when a hush finally settled, a voice cut in.
“Yeah but gaffer, why –”
“I’ve told you before, Norbert of Styles,” interrupted Harold, “it’s Sire. For am I not King of England?”
“Oh yeah, sorry gaff... err, Sire.”
“And your question, Norbert?”
“Uh, yeah. Home soil you say, gaff... err, Sire. More like home stones. How come we’re playing at Hastings?”
Harold stroked his chin. “Well, it’s closer for the French team, isn’t it. Bit closer to Normandy... English hospitality and all that. Why, where would you suggest we play?”
Norbert smiled, his gap toothed grin making him a favourite with the ladies. “We don’t wanna be making it easy for the French do we? I’d have said Wemblee would’ve been better.”
“Wemblee?” said one of the team members in a yellow jersey. His name was Banks of Gordon, but he was known affectionately as Banksy because he didn’t give much away and was suspected as being the mysterious artist who had sketched an unfinished work called the ‘Bayeux Tapestry’ all over a public wall in the town. “Where’s that then?”
Well, it’s a bit north of here. Big open field. Plenty of space. You can move round a bit. Better for Big Jack here,” Norbert said glancing behind at a tall guy standing to the rear. “I mean, he won’t find it easy moving on these pebbles, being the lanky fella he his, and that’s gonna make us vulnerable down the middle.”
“Vulnerable? Vulnerable, Norbert? We’re English. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island were defeated today in this Final, then our teams shall go beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the FA, and will carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the next generation, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and we shall win the World Cup.”
Several of the gathering stared at each other for a moment, unsure of how to respond. And then a young man stepped forward. He was known to many as an astute and level headed member of the community and a part-time soothsayer.
“Sire, if may make so bolde. My name is Peter Martins and I am of the parish of Weste Hame and I bege your leave to speake.”
Harold nodded. “Yes, I have heard of you. Some say that you are ahead of your time but why do you keep adding an ‘e’ to the end of many of your words?”
“Sire, it is my accent. I was raised in the shires of Essexe and we speake in our own dialecte. I hope I do not offende your majesty?”
“Not at all. We are all Englishmen. Roger the Huntsman is from the land where they say the fabled Liver Bird roams; George the ‘Priest’ is from the region of Londinium; Norbert from the Manc tribe; Alan, the Earl of Ball, from the Black Pool. A fine mix of men here about to make history and win the 1066 World Cup. Now say your piece, Peter Martins.”
“I thanke thee Sire. I wanted to saye that Norbert of Styles may have a point about Wemblee. One day I can see a greate amphitheatre there that holds thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of our fellowe Englishmen, 52% of them willing us to win, 48% wanting the opposition to win with 4% just pitching up for the hospitality. This is what we neede... support. I see no supporters on this wilde and windy beach, Sire. I fear that if we do not get support, it may be 900 years before we have the chance to win the Worlde Cup again.”
“Thank you Peter Martins. I hear your wise words and your fears but we have men of valour amongst us. Robert Carlton, a champion of many battles, a man of shooting accuracy few, if any, can match. He will take the fight to the French, supported by the rest of you brave warriors.”
“Sire, if I may,” a tall, proud looking man with a shock of blonde hair said.
“What is it, Mooro? What is it my general has to say to his troops?”
“Well Sire, as you know, I too am from the Parish of Weste Hame, and I understand Peter Martins concerns. But last night I was in the pub and I ran into my friend, Alfred of Romsey and we got talking. He has an analytical approach to battle and he pointed out a few things. He said that playing on the pebbles of Hastings beach might even things up a tad. He said we have the best personnel but beware that the beach might be a problem. He suggested that they are weak at the back. Take their key central people – Barnier, Tusk, Merkel and Macron. They are a one trick pony, only one set of tactics. Put pressure on them and they’ll cave. Get ‘Bally’ to sling high ones into their box for the big guns and Sir Robert to fire off his cannonballs and they won’t like it. Get through them and then you’ve only got Junckers to worry about and the word is, he’s distracted working on some new invention called an ‘air o plain’ or something, that he hopes to sell to the Germans. But Alfred said, you’d be better off at Wemblee. Oh, and he also said the boys should fire at Will.”
“Fire at Will?” Harold said, looking puzzled.
“Yeah, he suggested that Ray of Wislon and George pepper their leader, Will… the fellah with the big nose, since he seems to pull the strings in the middle of the field.”
“Ah, yes, William the Conk. Good thinking, I’ll grant you. Control him and you take charge.” Harold tugged at his beard and looked thoughtful. “But this Wemblee thing, all a bit late now, Mooro and anyway, that Alfred of Romsey spends all his time up at Ipswich these days so he’s out of touch. I say we press on, get ourselves organised. Time is of the essence.”
There was a low murmur amongst the assembly and then one of the number, an athletic type wearing a green hat, stepped forward.
“Sire, I beg to ask, will you require my services this day?”
“Harold looked him up and down and said, “And who might you be, young fella?”
“Sire, I am Geoffrey of Hurstville.”
“Hurstville? I have roamed my Kingdom from coast to coast, from forest to forest and from hill to dale and yet I have never come across such a place. Pray, where is Hurstville?”
“It is but a tiny hamlet in the shires of Essexe, not far from the Parish of West Hame, Sire.”
“Ah… another of the Weste Hame clan. It seems you are many. Wait, I think I have seen you before. Were you not here with your fellow Hammers just two days ago? Yes… you were the fellow with the blue hat. I remember now. What is going on with your hats, Geoffrey? Are you trying to disguise yourself, fool your King? What is this trick?”
“Sire, I have but three hats, one green that I wear today, one blue and one red. I change them regularly so that I keep them washed and fresh. It is no foolery. I only wish to serve my King and my Kingdom on this day against the French in this final. I want to be remembered for that for evermore, not remembered for some hat trickery.”
King Harold smiled. “My son, spoken like a loyal Englishman. This very day, Geoffrey, you shall take your place here in Hastings, by my side. You shall battle with your King and his loyal subjects. We shall win this final and give our opponents one in the eye so that never will they venture upon these shores again…
A rousing cheer drowned out the rest of King Harold’s words and then, when silence returned Harold raised himself up to his full height, drew his sword and held it aloft. “Once more unto the beach dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead…”
At the back of the crowd Ray of Wislon whispered to Banksy. “Here we go. One of his bleedin’ soliloquies. I hope he’s right about Hastings and wrong about closing walls up with English dead otherwise we might as well all go into the undertaking business.”

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