Today, England’s cricketers take on Australia on the first day of the first Test match of the Ashes, a thing not unimportant to either nation or their cricket fans. Despite the fact it’s going to be hot and some of the peaky English lads will have to slather on a dollop of factor 60, England enter the series as favourites.
The Aussies can’t bat, say the press, and the English have an economic and metronomic fast bowler who can move the ball around like it’s on the end of a stick. Graeme Swann, an England spin bowler who manages to combine the joshing personality of a pints-at-lunchtime county cricketer from the 1970s with the laser-focused skill and dedication of the contemporary international professional, has identified what might really be the home team’s advantage this summer. “There is a feelgood factor that comes from a nation’s sporting teams doing well,” he says, “and we hope to tap into that.” Ah, the good old feelgood factor.
Here in the UK, the sun’s got his hat on and there’s a palpable holiday humour that you can reach out and touch – it’s manifesting itself in multiple glasses of rosé on Monday nights, just because. It’s making itself known in stereos blasting out Sugar Minott to unlikely postcodes. It’s shorts in the office. It’s like a heat haze shimmering benignly over the parks and towers, the pavement tables and the traffic jams.
The sun is the greatest communal event in the universe, literally, but there are others; smaller, sure – a wee bit duller, naturally. But they’re still putting our island in a wonderful mood. Oh, did you hear? Andy Murray won Wimbledon! A nation of sunburn addicts duck in through the French windows, agog at the moment; joined as one by the fist pump and the fingers pointed heavenwards, drunk on a punch of joy and relief and sun.
Last weekend the weather and the tennis and the British Lions beating the Australian Wallabies in a whole series of rugby in Australia was “feelgood” in excelsis. It was right off the back of the weather, and the Rolling Stones playing Glastonbury with incendiary zeal and dirty-uncle charm, something that linked old and young across genres whether they were tripping in a field or playing air guitar on their sofa. And what happens if plucky Brit Chris Froome wins the Tour de France on the lycra tails of his injured team-mate Sir Bradley Wiggins? It all adds up to something that a scientist somewhere may one day bottle and sell like love potion – the feelgood factor.
Our amusing spinner has warmed to his theme, of course, “If I wasn't playing in this series, I would be standing in a pub for six weeks solid cheering on England,” says Swann. “Hopefully we can provide a lot of people with a lot of reasons to get very drunk.” Oh, sunny, sporty drinking. The English summer makes so much sense. Feelgood, indeed.
Robert Bound is culture editor for Monocle.