The decline of the Human Race can be pin-pointed very precisely to a cold afternoon in 2007. This is as very precise as things need to be. On this cold afternoon, the assembled crowd at Maine Road, then home ground of Manchester City, paid tribute to one of their most beloved servants, squeaky-voiced imp, Alan Ball, midfield dynamo and youngest star of the England team which won the World Cup in 1966. The Man City faithfully dutifully waited for the referee to blow his whistle to signal the minute’s tribute to their fallen soldier. The whistle blew and their reverence erupted – not a minute’s silence but a minute’s applause.
In 1861, Prince Albert died – for the ensuing forty years, his widow, Queen Victoria, observed a barely-broken period of mourning and wore black for the rest of her days. In 2007, tens of thousands of football fans found it physically impossible to remain silent for sixty seconds. To this day, “a minute’s applause” is regularly heard at football grounds to ‘celebrate’ a dead player’s contribution to the club – not, as they would lead you to believe, because it’s more fitting but because a minute’s silence is simply too complicated. They could trust neither the opposition nor themselves not to speak to the person next to them, hurl abuse or fart at volume for anything like as long as a minute. No, clapping, whooping, and that atonal “BAD-A-BUURGH” chant that only white male football fans can make was what they could muster. Thank you very fucking much.
Of course, this horrific trend has been most keenly observed every Thursday, the death of 10,000 paper cuts farrago of the Nation’s tribute to the NHS. Stand on your doorstep and clap. It’s a stupid idea and it drives me to unholy thoughts but do what thou wilt and all that. But no, even clapping now is seemingly impossible. Hitting some kitchen pot with a spoon (only previously seen in comics to awaken a slovenly youth); klaxons…KLAXONS; rattles; whooping…apparently all noise, however ghastly, is to be taken as fitting tribute to our brave doctors, nurses, porters and anyone who does a really fucking terrible dog’s arse of a job for them but is now the equivalent of a saint. “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! I DID A NOISE!” Has it really come to this?
On another tangent, I found myself the other evening needing something inconsequential to watch to drift off to sleep to. There was an Attenborough thing on Netflix that fit the bill. A droning old man and some nice images of animals. What could go wrong? Well, ignoring the fact Hans Zimmer was involved (meaning that the aural experience was akin to Sellotaping a foghorn to one ear and a school orchestra to the other), something which has existed, I think, for many moons jumped out at me – the television accused me of being a cretin. A turtle drifted across the screen – through the blue forever it swam, the vast watery depths inspiring awe and its creatures a blur of colour and shape. Except I clearly wasn’t going to understand this was water, so they played the sound of synthesised bubbles over the top. I couldn’t be expected to discern that fish and beast were not sailing through the sky or space – no, bubbles were required so I could under no illusion that I was watching things under the sea. I slept fitfully and with a barely contained anger. Can’t everyone be quiet? Just for a bit? Fucking hell.