Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Twin Towers

Today is Cup Final day and as former winners of the tournament the Clapham Ambulance is allocated a small block of tickets every year for the match at Wembley Stadium; indeed, it's one of the highlights of our calendar and one of those days when the people of Clapham are left to look after themselves. We shut up shop as if it were a Bank Holiday and go off to relax and enjoy ourselves, forgetting the sick, the mad, the drunk and the stupid for a whole day.

We are proud to remain the only ambulance team to win this prestigious trophy and the chances of another service winning it in the future seem remote to say the least. Most of us had ancestors on the pitch on that historic day in 1880 when our side defeated Oxford University after losing in the final the previous year to the Old Etonians. My own great-great-grandfather represented the triumphant Clapham lads at left back and his winner's medal resides proudly to this day somewhere at the back of a drawer in my sideboard.

After a few glasses of ale in the Ship at Wandsworth Bridge, we cross the water and head north-west towards the home of English football, the very cradle of sporting civilization. Our route takes us through Fulham and Hammersmith to Shepherd's Bush and past the Scrubs, and it was about here that an uneasy feeling began to well up inside me without apparent cause. At first I put it down to my surroundings which, as even the locals will readily admit, are far from pleasant, but that alone didn't account for the strange sense of doubt which nagged constantly away at my innards. Albert Harness, ever perceptive, noticed the change in me and enquired in some detail as to the health of my digestive system. I shrugged politely and continued to pedal.

As we made our way along the Harrow Road, the disquiet I was experiencing seemed to infect the others, the mood became one of extreme apprehension and the air grew heavy with tension, slowing our progress considerably. What was happening? There seemed to be no rational explanation. And then George Scoop, at the front, stopped his bicycle and pointed to the north.

"They're bloomin' gone," he said. "Bloomin' well look. They've bloomin' disappeared."

"What's gone?" we asked him, bewildered and growing ever more nervous and disoriented.

"The bloomin' towers," said George. "The twin bloomin' towers of Wembley bloomin' Stadium. They're not bloomin' there."


We cycled on, by now close to panic, and found nothing but a pile of bricks and rubble and peculiar metal structures sticking up into the air. The stadium had been completely destroyed, no trace whatsoever left of the once colossal twin towers, the countless years of our great sporting heritage seemingly wiped out overnight. What on earth could have happened?

George, his fists clenched and quaking with fury, his face red and contorted with hatred, spat the answer with uncontrolled venom.

"It's those flippin', bloomin', ruddy Germans!"