In Competition No. 3105 you were invited to submit a fragment of commentary on the Women’s World Cup delivered by a figure from the world of fact or fiction, dead or alive. From Joseph Houlihan’s William McGonagall, who chronicles the Scottish team’s defeat at the boots of the Auld Enemy, to R.M. Goddard’s Samuel Beckett — ‘Miss Reilly, a fugue of female feet at frolic, dribbles delicately past the centre forward and passes to the sweeper, then pauses to spit decorously on the greensward…’ — it was a cracking entry. J. Seery and W.J. Webster earn honourable mentions, those printed below take £25 apiece, and woman of the match, D.A. Prince, pockets the bonus fiver.
This is the sort of thing my Aunt Agatha relishes — a healthy draught of mucking in, giving the boot to whatever unfortunate ball strays into her thunderous path. Watching an aunt in full cry, covering the turf like a ravenous hyena at its first sniff of carrion, takes a strong stomach. Seeing two teams of Aunt Agatha replicas makes a chap feel as though Armageddon might wallop us any minute if the referee swallows his whistle and fails to call time. It’s like that Shakespeare play where the future kings line up to Doomsday and our hero thinks gosh! and goes thoughtful for a bit. But after a steadying goblet or two, it’s not so bad. The ball’s taken an inhuman punishing so it’s taken to sheltering in the net until the worst’s over and some charity will scoop it off to a sanctuary for some gentle petting.
D.A. Prince/Bertie Wooster
We are barely a stone’s throw from the Natural Reserve of the Seine Estuary, where lucky birdwatchers may catch a glimpse of Cetti’s warbler, an elusive, skulking bird that is rarely seen. But these lionesses, though not in their natural habitat here on the French coast, are far from skulking. Watch them stroke it out from the back with nerveless composure, following Neville’s tactical plan, while Argentina, in their typical blue and white coloration, are a more aggressive, bustling species. Two sides, each adapted in its own way to the environmental conditions here, contesting a limited territory, a common feature in the world of mammals. Note how Jill Scott’s unusual height and well-developed muscles enable her to dominate the midfield, repelling attacks. Goalless so far thanks to the cougar-like agility of the Argentinian keeper Correa, but if we watch carefully we might see the game evolve.
Basil Ransome-Davies/David Attenborough
Scandalised I have been by the sight of shameless Jezebels from across the world lasciviously disporting themselves with no concern for morals or modesty. I pray the good Lord will not damn these eyes of mine that witnessed scenes that might well have come from ancient Babylon. I have it on good authority that many are from lands under the pestilential governance of the Harlot in Rome, whose malign influence we righteous reformers oppose. The preoccupation of this raucous coven was the pursuit of a ball, which I do not doubt has some malevolent meaning to be found in works of demonology. When they performed their rituals of public debauchery after they had delivered the ball to its symbolic position, I dutifully closed my eyes and waited for retribution from heaven, some bolt to frustrate the infamies of this monstrous regiment of women.
Max Ross/John Knox
Thank havens there are only a few seconds of extra time retaining. If you, the BBC voyeurs, are feeling anything like me, Mrs Malaprop, you must be disparately prying for the finial whistle. This exiting match obliviously warrants a place in the annuals of hysteria. Never before have I seen players piss the football around with such prefect precision or prove they can sequel any of their male counterpoints. Now Alex Morgan has position of the bell, daftly kicks it to Carli Lloyd who charges towards the Thai gaol and, bereave it or not, fires it into the beck of the net and scars number thirteen, a baker’s cousin! Oh dear, the Thais look obsoletely crust fallen with Miranda Nild whipping away her tares on the patch. One can only feel symphony for their sad predication but, in the end, the Americans deserve hearty conglomerations for their incredulous footballing skulls.
Alan Millard/Mrs Malaprop
Give a lady two boots, and a ball properly inflated, and fifteen to one on, she will discover the back of the net, especially when, as now, she is drifting in from the wing. The passing here is seldom inconstant — nice touch there, Carney! — where a gentleman might have dodged the route, for fear of not being kindly spoken of. Scott, Bronze, Scott again, and a tackle of no little consequence. Let Scott be determined not to cross… but here is Parris, here is Parris. Let her not hurry, the right opening will present itself. Small thought had our Lioness there for the circuitous approach: Parris is temperamentally judicious. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a nutmeg will upset any opponent, and so, casting a discreet eye upon her situation, she has paid their goalkeeper the compliment of thus outwitting her. GOAL. GOAL. It is human nature to applaud.
Bill Greenwell/Jane Austen
The quality of Mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from Heaven,
Unlike that thirteenth goal from USA,
Which droppeth o’er the head of Charoenying —
A simple feat, in sooth: she’s four foot three,
When standing tall and upright, not as now,
Thai-racked and on her triskaidekaknees.
Yet still of God-giv’n Mercy there is none
Enthroned in the hearts of this cruel foe,
Who now exchange victorious high-fives,
As though they’d conquer’d all three parts of Gaul:
They came; they scored and now they celebrate.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest, men do say,
Yet they of Mercy know another truth:
Though Mercy sent from Heav’n might save our souls,
Yet earthly glory’s earned by weight of goals.
No. 3108: after milton
You are invited to submit a sonnet with the following end rhymes: son, mire, fire, won, run, re-inspire, attire, spun, choice, rise, voice, air, spare, unwise. Email entries to email@example.com by midday on 17 July.
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