The canal of culture

Cornish Al on our trip to The Hague in August 2003


The river, the symbol of a journey between worlds.

The Homeric river Styx across which Charon, the ferryman, would carry dead souls to Hades.

The river in John Bunyan’s allegory Pilgrim’s Progress which represented death, through which Christian must journey to reach the new Jerusalem.

And the Amsterdam canal.

PFFC’s trip to the Hague was to be a cultural watershed. The new young members of the squad – Kieran, Gibbo, Bruce et al (that’s al, not Al) – enjoyed the football, enjoyed a beer, enjoyed the accommodation at the squat and its seemingly bottomless fridge of Carlsberg, but seemed bemused at the cultural aspects of the trip.

They stared in disbelief at a ranting Dutch poet providing post-match cultural entertainment and failed to turn up for a trip around the Orange Museum, a museum devoted largely to the Dutch tradition of losing on penalties; a tradition which PFFC had perpetuated with some well taken penalties in the shoot-out, including a tulip buster from the clogs of Gibbo.

But the fact that there was indeed a journey to a new cultural world yet to be undertaken by these bemused youngsters was seen most clearly on the Amsterdam canal. As the Gaffer, Al and Rob the Cat cruised the canal, sipping red wine and enjoying live jazz (with Charon crooning tunes from the great American songbook), the culturally dead souls of these young players were seen wandering aimlessly along the river bank.

But the journey had begun. New cultural life has been breathed into these young souls. The same players have since enjoyed the Chairman’s treatise on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire given in the eternal city itself, and interviewed the Sicilian star of Visconti’s ‘La Terra Trema’ in the very town where she went in front of the camera in 1948.

PFFC’s unique mix of football and culture now appears safe in the hands of these new journeyers across the cultural canal.