Well, OK, maybe it wasn’t a very good idea to go home on the Metropolitan Line last night, as the train passes through Wembley Park tube station, and England were playing the Ukraine at Wembley stadium. Nor was it a good idea to be carrying a large string bag of food, including fruit. But it was interesting. Sort of.
It all began quite quietly, too. A few fans got on at Liverpool Street, normally dressed, but talking a bit louder than usual. I gave them a wide berth, and went to stand by the door. By the time we left King’s Cross we’d been joined by the cabaret , who were wearing white plastic hats with the St George’s cross on them, and jumping up and down and singing at full throttle (with actions). At this point I more or less gave up on The Times crossword and involuntarily went into folklore mode. I was amused to hear that they only reliably knew four tunes:
The J P Sousa march Stars and Stripes Forever
When the Saints Go Marching In
She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes
The National Anthem.
Many of the chants can be adapted to fit any of the first three, and they apparently sang whichever one took the fancy. Unsurprisingly the lyrics aren’t exactly taxing, either: even the infamous ‘Vindaloo’ song, which after all doesn’t consist of very much more, was reduced to the phrases ‘nah nah nah’ and ‘Vindaloo’, sung to Tune 1 (or was it Tune 2? – hard to tell by that stage).
Last night’s favourite (Tune 3, of course) was
There were ten German bombers in the air/ There were ten German bombers in the air
There were ten German Bombers, ten German Bombers, ten German Bombers in the air
And the RAF from England shot them down/ And the RAF from England shot them down/ And the RAF from England, RAF from England, RAF from England shot them down
(definitely ear worm territory, unfortunately).
At Finchley Road, on surged vast numbers of the Desperate (and muscular): We Must Get On This Train, And What’s More We’re Going To. I’m quite strong, and not small, and even I was rolled round and jammed against the partition so that I couldn’t move: how long can you hang on to the shopping but keep the extremities from going numb? Though at least nobody’s hands ended up where they shouldn’t, and it meant that we were no longer being bounced up and down by the singers, since they couldn’t move either. Then the train stopped at Wembley Park, thousands of people got out of my compartment (that’s certainly what it felt like), and the three of us who were left relaxed and sat down…