Wales went to England for the rugby recently, and a Good Day was had by all. In my experience, there’s nowhere better to watch my national team losing because at least in the stadium itself – or HQ as it’s affectionately known (by the English) – you don’t have to listen to disappointed Welsh commentators bemoaning our luck.

The view from the stands at England’s HQ.

Sport, like the arts, is an activity that transcends the day-to-day because of its communal aspect, so I don’t necessarily believe that one of the finest managers of all time Bill Shankly was being altogether facetious when he said,

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.”

Bill Shankly

And – unlike the words that were supposedly uttered by Winston Churchill when he was asked to cut funding to the arts to monetize WWII – “Then, what are we fighting for?” – these words can be attributed to Liverpool FC’s Shankly. Unfortunately, there is no proof that the UK’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill ever said such a thing. That being said, I’d agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment and have attended many meetings over the years to try and Keep The Arts Alive. I also believe it’s a notion that has important reverberations around this time of the dreaded Covid 19.

It’s all very well wanting to somehow stop the spread of the Coronavirus – not that that worked for The Plague or the so-called Spanish flu mind you, but I’ve been rather surprised at the virulence of not the disease but the reaction to it. After all, after terrorist atrocities aren’t we all told to carry on with life as normal and a little thing like tens of deaths shouldn’t change our life choices? Admittedly this Covid thing is causing more deaths than that, but it does beg the question at what point does danger and risk become so important that it becomes more important than our need to do the things we enjoy doing?

Otherwise, why bother staying alive in the first place?


The comedienne Dawn French has reached the stage of her opus when it’s time for her to publish a self help autobiographical book that explains a new kind of therapy. According to her therapist the Rapid Eye Movement (or R.E.M. indeed, see above) that takes place during a deep sleep performs the function of allowing the mind to discover solutions to problems that the mind can’t cope with during the day. And according to French, after practising some Eye Movement of her own, from left to right and from right to left whilst talking about her trauma to her therapist she felt a weight had been lifted – rather like she’d been hypnotised. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is the rather catchy name for it, occasionally shortened to EMDR (not a fan of acronyms usually but I’m happy with that).

Sport does much the same job with its quick movements for the eyes to follow – particularly tennis and football. With this in mind, when I went to the pub to watch Manchester United thrash Lask 5-0 last night, I decided to keep an eye on my reaction to the game too, and sure enough after only 5 minutes of my mind turning over the churn of the day I was engrossed in the action and feeling pretty relaxed if not hypnotised – apart from when Wales’ Daniel James scored of course.

The Men Who’d Just Finished Work people on the next table were also moaning about the corona virus and its effect on sporting occasions so at least we had something to talk about. That is surely the most important thing, that Life Goes On and that there are still worthwhile thing happening on the planet despite everything – these kinds of human contact and interaction is the only thing that keeps us sane so watch out if we have to spend a month indoors, even if it’s with our nearest and dearest!

In order to be as inspirational as possible in fitting with the Thriving theme, I’ll finish with a Shankly, with half a mind on the fact that the current Liverpool team may never become Premiership Champions if the Coronavirus has its way. And as a Manchester United fan, I’d be happy with that.

Above all, I would like to be remembered as a man who was selfless, who strove and worried so that others could share the glory,

Bill Shankly

Frankly, it’s time for us all to be a bit more like Shankly.

The sometimes inspirational songs I mention in my Thrive blogs can be listened to here, too: