Don't miss the bus;Talkback

3rd September 1999 at 01:00
My father took me to a football match once and I fell in love with the bus at half-time. My uninvolvement in the match was, in my father's eyes, a significant failure. So too was my drippy infatuation with a derelict bus. Mind you, it was a beautiful bus, old even then, the 1950s, with a long, elegant engine, thin tyres, and the faded glory of a Pullman wagon lit. It was used as a shelter to sell food at half-time.

I annoyed my father. "Shurrup about that bus," he'd say, in between yawping "Up the Iron!" at the players (he supported Scunthorpe, an iron and steel town) and "Get yersen some glasses!" at the ref. He never took me to another match. And I remain stubbornly ignorant about football.

I know one or two anecdotes. But they are about lads being lads, not the bag of wind they kick about. This is ignorance and inverted snobbery. There is no difference between this and someone who remains proudly ignorant about ballet, opera or metaphysical poetry. Both are the result of a national curriculum of acceptable interests - beer, football, television soap, celebs, sex and violence - and a banned curriculum of arcane subjects, - high culture and buses. Show interest in these and you are an anorak, a snob, or as my father suspected of me, a bit of a wuss.

I escaped by studying useless subjects at university. I encourage students to reject the mainstream and take up minority interests. Go off for three years and do Urdu, classics, something utterly useless, so long as you enjoy it.

Don't end up pretending to enjoy something you hate, shouting "Up the Iron" when you really mean up with the crisps and pop at half-time.

If my father had appreciated how much I loved that bus, and that for me football was about half-time, we'd have agreed to differ and he'd have taken me again and again. And I wouldn't still have this football phobia today.

Someone tried to talk football to me recently on a train going from Rotherham to Doncaster. "Team's do in' al right..." he started. Not to be drawn into that position where ignorance is exposed when you inadvertently agree with some absurdity or risk getting thumped, I told him straight in front of the whole carriage: "I'm sorry but I have neither interest in, nor knowledge of, football." The carriage gave me the same funny looks my father did when I kept on about that clapped-out bus.

Maybe I am a bit of an oddball. But that bus would be worth a fortune today.

Richard Daubney teaches in the south-east

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