Croatia

When we were doing Hamlet in Dubrovnik I lost a bit of my heart to that part of the world. It was 2016, about this time of year. Barrack Obama was US president. David Cameron had called a pointless showcase referendum on Europe for ambitious reasons. Everyone on social media was going on about what a bad year it had been because famous people had been dying.

Dubrovnik has water fountains that spout and filter potable water. I never bought a plastic bottle for the whole time I was there. We had free meals but they were in the Irish Pub that anyone with any sense whatsoever avoids when they are anywhere other than Ireland. Thankfully the fayre wasn’t confined to burgers, but I found myself looking longingly at every other restaurant, particularly the Croatian ones. The people I met who were from there had weathered a war as children and young adults. They had the humour and perspective of those of us who have seen people die. I liked them. I liked Croatia. I would gladly go back and eat more fat, to swim in those seas and work in that fortress overlooking the glittering Dalmatian coast.

The day of the referendum result the actors were invited to breakfast. We often had media duties. Photoshoots in palaces. Nivea branded events on the walls. Helen’s face as Hamlet was flying over the gateway to the walled city. We were the players, and we were welcome. That morning of the “Leave” vote, in a deeply unfortunate piece of timing, was the launch of “British week” in Dubrovnik. Someone had driven over a double decker bus from London. Nice gig. It was 8am and all of us libtard actors were asked “Can you smile and hold these union jack flags?” Every single one of us refused. “Today of all days that could be taken out of context.” we apologised.

That evening a barman commiserated with me. “You English. Terrible international responsibility.” (He was probably in his third language here. Those are his exact words.) “My country too. For many years. Fear and little minds. I am sorry.”

These cheerful, beleaguered, solid stoic people. They’re in the way of our football team. A small child on a bicycle in Woking loomed into me and shocked me on the pavement about an hour ago. “Is it coming home?” he asked me.

“Well I mean technically it can be argued that football originated in China and considering the Chinese team were actually not even in the group stages … ahem … I would calculate the chances of football coming home as being OW!” says the boring guy in the corner of the pub before I slap him. I am willing to get behind this world cuppy nonsense. Because it’s unfamiliar for me to hear people being anything other than brutal about our country’s sports teams. And whilst we spiral closer and closer to a total complete and utter global shitstorm, maybe it’s a good thing that this team, managed by a self effacing and kind man, is doing well in football. I love that Gareth Southgate has captured the public imagination because we need successful kind people in authority while the monsters behave like they have permission to rampage unchecked.

I like Croatia, but I want England to win tonight. Fewer people will beat their wives for a start. That can only be a good thing. Plus we could use some positivity.

I’m posting this early, as I accidentally did that yesterday so I reckon I can put it out there before the match and not be already redundant at time of posting.

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Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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