IT HAS all kicked off.
Hampshire homes are plastered with wall charts, St George’s flags line the motorway and if I got £1 for every time sweepstake has been mentioned in the office, I’d be able to retire before 30.
Yes, World Cup fever is well and truly upon us.
I say ‘us’ but what about those of us who don’t particularly want to hear football, football, football for four weeks?
There are of course women who love football – annoyingly my sister and best girlfriends included – who apparently frequently use controversial penalties and Sturridge’s left foot as conversation openers.
But for the rest of us World Cup widows and non-football fellas who would be pretty unlikely to explain the offside rule even if our lives depended on it, a month is a very long time to endure back to back sports commentary on the TV with the most engaging three words uttered being ‘pass the peanuts.’
I could only wish our significant others were this enthusiastic about exotic locations like Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico and Switzerland when we got out the glossy travel brochures.
Some may think I’m being unreasonable.
Trust me I am more tolerant than most after being brought up in a football-mad family.
Just a couple of months ago I was lying on the acute lung ward in hospital on an IV drip and oxygen after being rushed in on the Saturday.
Dad sent his apologies that unfortunately no, he wouldn’t be able to see his youngest daughter until Monday because my emergency hospital admission inconveniently clashed with Spurs away the following day, but assured me he loved me very much and mum was on her way.
Bill Shankly wasn’t lying when he said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
But there’s only so much a girl can take.
My personal tipping point was just last week when my rather bleary-eyed husband from all those late night games began engaging in conversation about line-ups, player profiles and tactics with our Siamese cat Mr Ted.
Yes, really the cat.
I’ll try not to take it personally that I get a grunt when I ask what’s going on (apparently being curious is a no no for a World Cup widow) yet Mr Ted counts as one of the lads.
After all, you never know, maybe the cat is destined to be the next Big Head, the Loggerhead Turtle or Paul the Octopus.
To be honest he’s a bigger fan than I’ll ever be and even greets Mr Lineker’s arrival on screen with a loud miaow and a purr.
His huge ears have remained constantly pricked towards the oversized and very loud TV ever since Spain’s Sergio Busquets got possession during the Netherlands game. Busquets unfortunately sounds a lot like biscuits when you are a feline.
In my defence, which may well be better than England’s by all accounts, I had good intentions of being the enthusiastic wife when I tried to watch England’s warm-up game against Honduras.
But when I snoozed off and woke up what felt like hours later to Adrian Chiles looking awkward and perspiring profusely in a tropical storm it put me off the not-so-beautiful game.
I think I lost my adoration for everything World Cup related circa 2006, coincidentally the last time David Beckham graced the pitch.
So these next few weeks will be tough.
I’ve already made the huge mistake of discreetly trying to de-World Cup the living room and have tried hopelessly to use distraction techniques that have done nothing more than leave my self esteem in tatters.
Fellow widows and widowers you will never win over football.
So before I get shown the red card, it’s time to face up to reality.
I’m no mathematician but there are 32 teams in the World Cup which means you basically won’t see each other for a month.
So rather than waiting for your other half to recover from his frenzied football fever, get out of the house and have your own fun.
It’s unlikely he will notice you are missing so long as there are plenty of Pringles and beers about – and if he does, what with all the shouting at the screen and no doubt tears to come if penalties have anything to do with it, he won’t have the emotional ability to react until at least mid-July.
Handy hints to escaping World Cup hell
Don’t spend the next month worrying about Rooney’s position on the pitch, take this as the perfect opportunity to indulge in a spot of ‘me’ time
- If you are already fed up with text messages sent simultaneously buzzing around Southampton cyberspace and people talking about #worldcup like there’s no tomorrow, head to a pub in the middle of nowhere where phone signal is as patchy as Phil Neville’s commentary skills. You can’t get a better place than The Royal Oak pub in Fritham which is a tiny thatched and half-timbered pub where punters still tie their horses up outside. Even better, they make people cough up cash if they are caught using a mobile phone so hurrah, no constant sports updates. If only you could adopt that rule at home.
- Not that many people need tempting to get pampered at a spa but a lot of Hampshire’s finest have Twilight packages so when you return and your partner is on the third game of the night you will be too relaxed to care. Football? What football?
- It sounds hopelessly romantic to explore a city at night alone but with the games going on until the early hours and most of the county safely propped at a bar or in a living room, it’s the perfect time for that midnight stroll to take in some of the city’s sights. When else could you explore the bright lights with empty streets?
- It is such a cliché, but who doesn’t love going to the theatre? It might be a coincidence but Southampton’s the Mayflower Theatre has a run of feel good shows to see people through including the hit Dirty Dancing, Angelina Ballerina The Mousical Live on Stage and Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace’s Dance ‘Til Dawn so strut past the sofa and have fun saying ‘Nobody puts baby in the corner!’
- Use the four weeks to do something you’ve always been meaning to do if it wasn’t for all your normal distractions. Have a massive clear out, read books or why not even learn a language? Pick a country and see how much of the lingo you can learn. Maybe before Russia 2018 you’ll be fluent enough to take a trip of a lifetime to a remote island.