This theme is central to the poem. The title itself clearly suggests nothingness.
By juxtaposing two apparently random situations that both portray the journey from success and meaning to failure and insignificance, Paterson implies that despite all our efforts we cannot escape the
Paterson uses evocative description to depict the downfall of the team that loses money and support and parallels this with the tragic death of the proud
fighter-pilot returning home after the war.
The introduction from Aussemain and Paterson's final address frame the poem and emphasise this theme. As we and the poet separate by moving on we lose the shared moment of the poem, as well as ourselves, in our own ways.
Paterson explores change throughout both situations in this poem. The football team’s period of success and triumph is only a momentary high. A lost game turns their fortunes and the
zenith gradually slides down towards its opposing nadir.
The heroic McGrandle leaves the team: instead of the man with the
golden hair we are left with the player who is mocked for his lack of goals. The excitement of the stadium is replaced with the
stud-harrowed pitches laced with
grim fathers and perverts and the
balletic toe-poke of the star turns into the
accidental... back-heel as the small boy kicks the stone in the gutter.
Through the football team, Paterson weaves together scenes from the demise of small towns that end up with burnt out shops and children playing the streets with
bald tennis balls - scenes familiar in Britain in the early 1990s in the which this poem was written.
Similarly, the Leuchars pilot romantically takes in the landscape at the beginning of the second stanza before being reduced to an insignificant gallstone; his mighty plane
twirling away to its destruction
like an ash-key – all meaning and status suddenly eradicated. Thus the poem deals with change and how the initial
trail fades in the