"A difference in culture"

(Names and identities have been changed or omitted to protect the guilty)

A few days ago, I was in Brussels for what was one of THE best concerts in my life but still I am left a little hollow inside and I feel the need to share it with you.

A warm, summer, Saturday evening in Brussels and those ‘mad ferrets’, the Gallacher brothers were in town with their British super-group Oasis. The first gig of their world tour and in the small intimate venue of ‘Ancienne Belgique’, the scene was set for the night to be a cracker.

And it really, really was, but a few events transpired leaving a bit of a sour taste in the mouth and one that I would like to get off my chest (although quite what my sour tasting mouth was doing on my chest, I’m not so sure).

In order to set the scene a little bit better, I have to take you back in time a few hours to explain how the events of the day unfolded. 12:57, Saturday afternoon and after a night out in Antwerp which saw me start a ten-hour shift on the booze at 17:30 before dragging my arse to bed at 05:00, I woke up.

The night before had involved copious amounts of ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, including some pretty potent absinthe along the way - and boy did my battered and abused body know it. To say I was not on top form, would be a bit of an understatement. But the thing was, on this particular Saturday lunchtime, I had to be. Indeed – not only that - I should have been on top form an hour earlier, the reason being that I was due to play in a football tournament in a small town near Turnhout, 40 minutes east of Antwerp.

Our first match was to be at 14:00, and I had arranged to meet the rest of the team out in Turnhout at 13:00. Which was exactly the time that was displayed on my phone when I switched it on as I got out of bed. Like most people, my phone doubles up as my alarm clock and as far as I was concerned, I had set it to waken me up at 11am.

Apparently not.

Not only that – I had switched the phone off as I always do when I go to sleep – a throwback to a time when my considerate friends who worked in the horeca trade would phone me up pissed out of their heads and think that there was nothing more that I’d like to do on a wet Tuesday at 03:00am than to get out of my nice, warm bed and go and join them in some den of eniquity, or at the very least engage in some ridiculous drunken conversation with them.

This meant that my team mates were unable to get in touch with me which presented a bit of a problem for the team. I’d like to say that this was because of my wonderful football skills and the detrimental affect my absence would have on the team but this was not the case.

You see, I was supposed to be coach driver for some of the team, as well as the kit man – our snazzy EDS-sponsored kit, sitting in the boot of my car.

Needless to say, we arrived at the tournament late, missing our first game and as a result we lost our first game 5-0 by default.

You’ll have to believe me when I say that it wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that this was our best performance of the tournament. With the other games finishing 7-0, 8-0 and 3-0, it probably goes without saying that we were diabolical.

So much for showing the Belgians how to play The Beautiful Game.

We might as well have spent the afternoon ‘Fucking in the Bushes’ In our defence, the pitch was really muddy and most of us were running about in our running shoes, sliding all over the place in the mud.

Actually – come to think of it – in our defence there was nothing but a huge gaping hole that a herd of elephants could have stampeded through without too much difficulty. That was part the reason for our humiliating show.

‘Some Might Say’ we embarrassed ourselves – in normal circumstances I might have ‘Aquiesce’d but in fact, we really didn’t care - it was all good craic and we had plenty of beer during the day, which helped numb our embarrassment, whilst no doubt contributing to it at the same time.

Well, I say we didn’t care but I have to admit that was perhaps a little use of the Royal "we".

One guy did.

At the end of the tournament, obviously a little bit disappointed with how things had turned out, he stormed off in a huff to shouts of ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ from his ex-team mates. Our last game had finished at 16:45 and instead of joining the rest of the team for some beers, we went to get showered and changed. After all, we knew we were on a tight schedule, if we were going to arrive in Brussels at the ridiculously pre-arranged time of 19:00.

I say ridiculous, because support band “The Stands” weren’t on until 20:00 with Oasis appearing on stage sometime after 21:00 but the guy who had organised the tickets wanted to get to the venue “as soon as possible to get good spots and to see the support band”

Our predicament was further compounded because one of our players (who owns a car) hadn’t shown up, citing bad weather and shopping duties as his excuses (and you know who you are), meaning that I had to go into Antwerp to drop off a team mate before taking the rest of us onto the Oasis show. The road-works in and around the beautiful city of Antwerp ensured that our journey was increased by the best part of an hour.

At least we were able to use the opportunity to swap cars with a bigger one, to accommodate all of those that would be travelling back from the gig. The point that I’m making here, is that never was there any lingering around, drinking or arseing about – the normal ingredients that constitute “Irish time” - referring to the rather insulting theory that arrangements with people from Ireland need to include a one hour buffer zone for lateness (although, in fact, there may be some truth in that theory).

In fact – barring a slight detour when ‘we’ got lost in Brussels, we went from football tournament to concert as quick as was physically possible, ‘Supersonic’ in fact, meaning that we arrived at the venue at 20:00.

More than enough time to see Oasis.

We knew that our friend already in Brussels – the only Belgian in the group and the hero of the day who had procured the tickets would not be impressed with our time keeping, blaming ‘Irish Time’ on any lateness for appointments that he is subjected to. We had, however kept him up to date with our situation and didn’t think our enforced lateness was any great deal.

But, despite the fact that there was nothing we could have physically done any quicker to ensure that we would have arrived much earlier – apart, of course from the getting lost part which added 15 minutes onto our drive – we still felt the wrath of a disappointed Belgian.

“The support band has already started” he said when we arrived in the bar of the Ancienne Belgique. He was, unsurprisingly, a little agitated.

Still – this wasn’t a problem, as we were there to see Oasis. Missing The Stands, as far as we were concerned, was no great loss. We explained this to him.

"Perhaps next time I’ll give my tickets to people who’ll arrive on time and appreciate the support act!” came the response.

Well!

That was it as far as I was concerned and I’m embarrassed to say that I lost the plot.

“Look mate, we’re really grateful that you got us tickets but we couldn’t have got here any quicker!!”
“I’m not looking for gratitude, I’m just looking for people to be on time”

“But we are on time!!”

“Perhaps it’s just a difference of culture”

Is it Dear discerning Reader, I ask you - is it?

Comments

saskia said…
'Tis Jonny, 'tis...
sonja said…
LOOOOOLLLLL good writing JV I didn't recognize Dirk at all!