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Friends and enemies

Why I love Friends Reunited, don’t love Sinn Fein, and hate interfering football stewards.

Patrick West

Patrick West
Columnist

Topics Politics

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  • ‘I Love Friends Reunited’

You can’t help feeling sorry for Jim Murray, the former teacher at Ridgewood Comprehensive in Doncaster who was libelled on the Friends Reunited website.

Murray won £1250 in damages after a former pupil of his posted a message claiming that Murray had been sacked after ‘making rude remarks about girls’ and ‘strangling’ a pupil.

Many of my peers view Friends Reunited as a tragic example of the twentysomething generation’s refusal to grow up. As Brendan O’Neill and Neil Davenport have argued on spiked, it is part of the wider, retarded phenomenon that includes School Disco, I Love the 1990s TV nostalgia-fests and young people’s increasing reluctance to fly the nest (1). To employ the adolescent idiom, Friends Reunited is ‘sad’.

I recently met up with some old pals through Friends Reunited, and it was marvellous fun. Instead of dwelling on the past, the evening seemed more like bringing the past into the present, finding out how we’ve all grown up. It was much more enjoyable than being dragged along to the School Disco club night by my brother last week, which was very weird. This really was wallowing in juvenilia. I wonder what 16-year-olds make of this freaky spectacle? ‘When I grow up, will I want to grow back down again?’ Have any proper schoolkids tried to bunk in, only to run out screaming and crying for mother?

No disrespect to Mr Murray, but the most compulsive thing about Friends Reunited was exactly all the bogus entries – before the website became vigilant about pranksters. Not that the libellous, sinister entries were much fun, but the satirical ones aimed at former pupils were.

One entry came from ‘Stefan’, West London: ‘Currently working at Stonebridge Library, where I can indulge my life-long passion for astronomy. The work is rewarding – almost a vocation in many ways. I didn’t want to be part of the rat race. Who needs flash suits and six-foot Swedish blondes when you are surrounded by knowledge? I am pleased to announce I am getting married, to Sun-Lai, who I met through a Far Eastern catalogue. Although her English is not good, she too is fascinated by the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. At least I think she is – she could be talking about the football for I know. Sun Lai recently told me she was a pre-op transsexual. Well not “told” as such, more like having the bloody thing waved in my face….’

Infantile, slightly racist and sexist – but far superior to many of the boastful, unfunny and authentic entries. How I miss the old Friends Reunited. Perhaps some wily Channel 4 producers should do a retrospective on it, featuring witticisms from Jamie Theakston and Johnny Vegas.

  • Little Irelanders

According to Niall Stanage of the Dublin-based magazine Magill, Sinn Fein’s increased support in last week’s Irish elections was down to its left-wing policies. The attempt by Ruari Quinn, leader of the Labour party, to portray Sinn Fein as an ultra-nationalist party along the lines of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France was apparently ‘absurd’, as ‘Sinn Fein is supportive of asylum seekers’ rights’.

Was this really so absurd? Sinn Fein, like Le Pen’s party and the Pim Fortuyn movement in Holland, appeals to voters for whom cultural integrity and ‘the nation’ are of paramount importance. All three movements are deeply sceptical about the European Union. Sinn Fein was the most vocal anti-Nice Treaty campaigner in Ireland’s 2001 referendum, with many of their supporters labelling it the ‘new Act of Union’.

The Shinners may claim to be socialist and supportive of multiculturalism (except if your ‘tradition’ involves walking down streets banging large drums), but they remain in essence a nationalistic party.

That is why I look forward to Sinn Fein MEPs taking their rightful place alongside the UKIP and Eurosceptic Tories in the Brussels parliament. Little Irelanders and Little Englanders together, telling Johnny Foreigner where to shove it.

  • Fuming

My Japan correspondent sends further news of the preparations for the hordes of English hooligan-rapists preparing to descend on the land of the rising sun.

On Tuesday, the West Japan Railway Company started gluing down stones that support railway tracks in southern Japan, to prevent fans from tearing them up and using them as missiles. But the most fearful news is that smoking will be banned from all stadiums, to comply with an agreement between FIFA and the World Health Organisation (WHO). ‘Sport is a celebration of life’, says WHO. ‘Tobacco products, on the other hand, degrade life and cause disease and death.’

Before we attribute this to an intrinsic Japanese love of eccentricity and conformity, let it be known that this trend is making headways in Britain. Tottenham Hotspur recently banned all smoking within view of the pitch, and I was almost ejected from the stands of Reading’s fag-free Madejski Stadium last October for lighting up. On the third time I lit up a cigarette, a steward tapped me on the shoulder and told me if that I did that again I would be removed. That someone three rows down from me was openly smoking a very fat and odorous spliff was of no concern. The stewards didn’t approach him once. Happily, by the time Brentford went 2-0 up we had become uncontrollable and the stewards gave up.

WHO may think football is about athleticism, but to most chubby, often inebriated fans, it’s a celebration of excess, nerves and abandon. Which is why Bayer Leverkusen’s silver-haired, chain-smoking manager Klaus Toppmoller should replace Sven-Goran Eriksson when the time comes.

Patrick West is the author of Conspicuous Compassion: Why Sometimes it Really is Cruel to be Kind, Civitas, 2004. Buy this book from Amazon (UK).

Read on:

Of cyborgs and men, by Patrick West

(1) See Dancing your worries away?, by Brendan O’Neill; and Acquaintances Rediscovered, by Neil Davenport

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Topics Politics

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