Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 241: World Cup Madness

People have told my husband that little work gets done in England during the summer because of the World Cup. I experienced this first-hand yesterday.

I went shopping on Oxford Street (the street in London which leads to Oxford) at John Lewis (wonderful department store, thank you, Louise!) during the games and, not only was the store near-empty, but so were the streets. It seemed everyone was in a pub or a restaurant or hotel watching the games, all crowded, especially the English v. U.S. game. We caught the last 30 minutes--well, 20 minutes plus an 8 minute overtime--in Ye Grapes, a nearby pub, and man, it's like watching (American) football with my dad: intense.

Some say Brits are so intense about their football because it's one sport at which they can claim international standing and reclaim some of their imperial glory. A bit harsh, but my programme at Oxford and my husband's work both ran betting competitions (in which I didn't participate because members of my faith are discouraged from gambling), and it's been the subject of constant, witty, and somewhat caustic e-banter among my British and American classmates. Yet from all I hear, the continent is even more football-crazy.

On the broader subject of sport (yes, with no 's' here), it seems Brits are not extremely keen on working out in gyms. I've been told by British friends that it is more desirable to be cut and toned from playing sport, especially for men. This includes rugby, rowing, football, netball, cricket, and tennis. People also exercise by simply walking or bicycling to get around. It translates into full parks on nice days and few and empty gyms, mostly filled with non-nationals. Even most runners in the parks, at least in Oxford, are largely American.

What they might lack in gym users, however, they make up for in their glorious parks and gardens. I'd rather go running in an English park (like Regent's Park when the flowers are in bloom, pictured) than in a well-appointed, air-conditioned gym any day...

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