A windswept, abandoned street. The front page of a newspaper flies by, emblazoned with the bold, page-consuming words: “WELCOME HOME”. Somewhere a crow caws before taking refuge under the awning of an empty Lycamobile shop. It gazes down on abandoned electronics, rotting sweet potatoes and a half empty can of Skol, its contents now solidified.
Nearby, a man staggers deliriously. His name is Dave and his world is a blur. He can hear sounds: faint, jingling ones growing louder in the distance. But are they really there? Or is it all just a dream?
Nothing seems real until Dave, in a drunken haze, begins to pick out words from those mystical, faraway noises. We all know them. The anthemic repetition of ‘It’s coming home’ has become the soundtrack of English life without relent over the past two weeks.
But Dave doesn’t give a flying St George’s cross that the new national anthem has been on loop for the best part of a month. In fact, he’s still not sure if it’s there at all. It might all be in his head.
Picking up a nearby paper, he squints at the blurry small print. ‘History made as England win the 2018 World Cup in Russia, dispatching a lacklustre Brazil 7-1 in the final.’ It all comes back to him. This is real, this is happening.
He continues down the street, swaying with the poetic elegance of supple willow on a bright spring morning.
The music becomes clear and, approaching the Plough & Harrow boozer, borderline deafening. Just as exhausted speakers recall Nobby dancing, Dave leans through the shattered window and belts, with the unbridled joy of a child, ‘Three Lions on a motherf**king shirt, lads!’
The pub hollers back with glee, its landlord balancing four London Prides on his head to the cheers of ‘chief’ from onlooking punters, themselves impressively managing two Carlings a hand.
Carrying on his zig-zagging journey through post-World Cup England, Dave notices a queue of fellow countrymen, gazing with awe as customers bundle out from a tattoo parlour. A vast array of trophies, dates, scores, and Phil Joneses form a vibrant tapestry of inky wonder.
It’s the sort of scene social media managers can only dream of tweeting about; England tattoos are all the rage these days. But there’s no one to take a picture and no one to subsequently tweet it. Dave turns from the tats and sees why.
A craft beer pub is packed. Chequered shirt clad men with bowler hats sip more liberally than usual from schooners half-filled with pale looking nectar. They laugh at their former Twitter-based life and stroke once immaculate beards which are now twined with the ferrets that have come to inhabit them.
It’s a grim scene, but Dave just smiles and carries on. ‘Who gives a f*ck’, he thinks. ‘We’re all England, innit?’
The wind and weightless feeling of victory lifts him round a corner. There, standing 18 feet high, is the man himself.
Gareth Southgate has been lionised in permanence with bronze statues being erected across the country for every square mile. The one person who hasn’t stopped working – namely due to her inhuman incapacity for emotion and the fact that Phillip hasn’t taken her batteries out – is the country’s Prime Minister.
Theresa May, despite not knowing who’s won this year’s tournament as she hotly battles off a political coup from Jordan Henderson, just about manages to make two sane decisions. Harry Kane has become England’s new patron saint and Jamie Vardy is tasked with handling Brexit as the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.
Unwatched news reports state that he nipped over to Brussels mid-sesh and told the entire Union to ‘get shafted’, before jigging on the spot, cupping himself, and singing Vindaloo for four-and-a-half solid hours.
The negotiation, according to reports, was the most successful yet.
Turning from Southgate’s towering figure, Dave begins his long amble back to the nearest watering hole. En route, he lights up a ciggy, stops, and smiles at the sky.
‘Sir Alf’, he thinks wistfully, ‘I hope you’re watching. Your legacy lives on in this great nation.’ With a tear still gleaming in his blood-shot eye, Dave dashes his dog-end underfoot and kicks a piss-filled bottle of Stella.
God save the Queen.