Hello all, and welcome to my increasingly stressed life. I'm scrambling to finish Troy II as soon as I can, because there's a hectic summer ahead. It's not just the usual things - my nephew's birthday, bike rides in the sunshine, and hikes on Exmoor. (I probably won't be able to do that last, because the nail is about to fall off my bad toe, and hiking on that injury might not be too clever.) There's something else.
The World Cup.
Yes, I know, England have no chance. They're not the Three Lions right now, more a sort of three-legged whippet. But this tournament is in Brazil, and my lord, I can't help but be excited. I want to see how Argentina play, and whether Ghana can deliver on their promise. Will Germany bounce back yet again? Will Belgium show why they're dark horses, and will Brazil themselves handle the immense pressure? Brazil are favourites, but if they crack the title is up for grabs, and any of six or eight nations could seize it.
But in this 25th anniversary year of the Hillsborough disaster, there are real dangers. Brazil was well behind its building schedule and has rushed to finish several stadia, some of which have seen workmen killed in a series of accidents. I wonder how many corners have been cut to get those places finished on time. There are too few hotels, too many appalling roads, and far too much rioting in the streets in protest at the cost of the tournament. It would be a surprise if there wasn't a serious problem at some stage this summer. I only hope it doesn't involve a lot of deaths - but it might.
That puts the football into perspective. Any sport is just entertainment in the end, no different from watching a film or yes, reading a book. The Liverpool manager Bill Shankly once said that football wasn't life and death, but "much, much more important than that." It isn't, as Hillsborough reminded Liverpool in 1989. Football is an escape; again, like a film or a book. It's life to many people, but it's not something we should have to dare death in order to enjoy.
In a way it ties into the question of how realistic fiction should be, doesn't it? But only to a point. If you're caught in a riot or a stadium collapse in Brazil then you're caught in it, but even the most realistic novel can be put down. The thrills are vicarious. Which is how it should be.
I'll be watching the England games with a pint in my hand, hooting at every misplaced pass and cheering every goal. I can't help it. And y'know, somewhere in the midst of it all I might, just might, start to hope for the extraordinary. Well, I do write Fantasy, after all. Though I probably won't write much on the days when England play.
I remember Istanbul 2005, when Liverpool came from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan and win the Champions' League. Sometimes fantasies come true. Just now and then.