My Week

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Next week Joe Gibbs Jonathan Self Jonathan Self is an au­thor and raw dog-food maker (http:// hon­eysre­al­dog­ who lives in Cork, Ire­land

Jonathan Self be­comes a foot­ball fan

IHOPE it won’t turn nasty,’ said Rose. ‘You don’t want to get caught up in some fight.’ I re­minded her that, in pur­suance of my jour­nal­is­tic du­ties, I had es­caped an (ad­mit­tedly, fairly in­ept) kid­nap at­tempt in Colom­bia, come un­der en­emy fire in the Eastern Desert, been chased by a po­lar bear in Green­land and, per­haps most ter­ri­fy­ing of all, been at­tacked by an an­gry mob dur­ing the Har­rods Sale.

She, in turn, quoted Os­car Wilde: ‘Foot­ball is all very well as a game for rough girls, but is hardly suit­able for del­i­cate boys.’

This week, I took our, um, del­i­cate boys—alex, 21, and Nick, 17—to Old Traf­ford to watch Manch­ester United play. I come from a rug­ger fam­ily. On the day of my par­ents’ wed­ding, my fa­ther and his best man left the re­cep­tion early to see a Twick­en­ham kick-off.

I was, ac­cord­ing to my mother, prac­tis­ing crusher tack­les and flat passes in the womb. In­deed, the only other time I had ever at­tended a soc­cer match was in 1973, when I went with friends to watch Brighton & Hove Al­bion play at home.

In 1976, I even de­clined a free ticket of­fered by Liver­pool player John Toshack, whose vol­ume of po­etry, Gosh It’s Tosh (it has the im­mor­tal lines: ‘Wales come out in brand new kit/but I don’t play ’cos I’m not fit./eng­land win the game two-one/now all their play­ers joke and fun’), was pub­lished by my mother’s firm.

How­ever, de­spite hav­ing ev­ery ad­van­tage in life—viz. be­ing sent to a rugby school— soc­cer is the boys’ game. Since the cra­dle, they’ve shown un­wa­ver­ing de­vo­tion to the Red Devils and yet they had never come closer to see­ing their team play than our tele­vi­sion screen. Our trip to Manch­ester was, then, for them some­thing of a pil­grim­age. For me, soc­cer not be­ing my sport and large crowds not be­ing my thing, it was ex­pected to be some­thing of an or­deal. I could not have been more wrong.

True, the vis­it­ing sup­port­ers were so bel­li­cose that the po­lice con­fined them to a spe­cial area, but our fel­low fans couldn’t have been po­liter. When Juan Mata’s shoe came off by ac­ci­dent and hit another player, no one laughed. When Mar­cos Rojo took a quick break to eat a banana, barely a soul made mon­key sounds. Good play was re­warded with re­strained clap­ping. The match it­self, given the lim­i­ta­tions of the sport, was sur­pris­ingly ex­cit­ing.

In­deed, I’m al­ready plan­ning another trip for next sea­son.

We re­turned to West Cork to find ‘re­bel­lion weather’, a term coined 101 years ago to de­scribe any spell of un­sea­son­ably warm spring weather, such as oc­curred dur­ing the Easter Ris­ing. I would be out of doors rev­el­ling in the clear blue skies, end­less sun­shine and soar­ing tem­per­a­tures now, were I not a pris­oner in my own study.

I am labour­ing un­der that most cursed of all af­flic­tions: a dead­line. I find them neg­a­tive in­spi­ra­tion, but, as Rita Mae Brown pointed out, this is bet­ter than no in­spi­ra­tion at all. The ob­ject of my suf­fer­ing is a book to be called Good Money: Be­come an ethical en­tre­pre­neur. Change the world. Feel bet­ter. In­struc­tions en­closed.

As it stands, the ti­tle may be the long­est thing about it, although the sub­ject is one on which I feel strongly, given the po­ten­tial busi­ness has for do­ing good.

My ob­ject is to show that a busi­ness fo­cused al­most en­tirely on im­prov­ing some as­pect of the world we live in rather than on fi­nan­cial gain can’t help but achieve pos­i­tive, mean­ing­ful change, but will also gen­er­ate above-av­er­age prof­its.

I’m hop­ing to per­suade those start­ing a busi­ness to think in terms of how it can achieve some higher goals and those who al­ready own a busi­ness to al­ter its di­rec­tion.

The best bit of writ­ing it has been gather­ing up the ex­am­ples, which in­clude a busi­ness that’s given away 60 mil­lion pairs of shoes and another that’s pro­vided more than two mil­lion peo­ple in poorer coun­tries with glasses.

In the past, so­ci­ety has looked to its politi­cians and pub­lic ser­vants to make im­prove­ments and cor­rect wrongs. Nei­ther group has shown it­self to be up to what is, I con­cede, a for­mi­da­ble task. Per­haps the time has come for ethical en­trepreneurs and con­sumers to work to­gether to make a dif­fer­ence.

Any­way, avail­able in all good book­shops in Au­gust. Heav­ily dis­counted in Septem­ber. That is, pro­vid­ing I knuckle down to a bit of real work.

I was, ac­cord­ing to my mother, prac­tis­ing crusher tack­les in the womb’

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