Football Crazy

The football season has well and truly begun and I am feeling a great sense of excitement. This might not seem surprising if you were to know that I was a football fan. Given the disappointment of last year’s World Cup I had thought that I would devote less time to the Nation’s favourite sport.

Yet, as soon as the first whistle blew on the Community Shield Cup back in August my interest returned in spades.

Part of the fun is the regular conversation I have with some of my closest friends; most of whom support different teams than me.

I was speaking with once such friend, who is a Liverpool fan, just a few days ago. After I reminded him that his team play in an orangey-red and therefore must be inferior to United, I asked him where they were in the league at the moment.

His answer made me laugh because it displayed the full partisan feeling experienced by most fans. ‘They are joint sixth’ he said with a decent sense of pride having seen them sitting just above the relegation zone only a few weeks earlier.

‘Don’t you mean ninth?’ I enquired seeing through his plan to spin the situation like a good politician. ‘It depends how you look at it’ he replied.

He confessed that had Everton been in the same position he would have definitely called it ninth place.

Another of my long time friends is a Newcastle fan with whom I have spent many happy hours talking about every aspect of football over the years. Several months ago I found out that he had sadly past on after battling several of the complications that life often throws at some of the world’s loveliest people.

When talking about Mark’s favourite team I would often quote to him a phrase from the funeral service ‘we sorrow but not as those without hope’.

He would usually reply with some humorous comment whilst acknowledging that being a Magpie fan was often a difficult experience. The humour was useful in deflecting from many of the other struggles he faced and I am glad to say that before he died he learned that his beloved team had beaten Arsenal away from home.

For Mark and me, football became our touch point, so that in the midst of the pain we could find some enjoyment talking about our common passion.

In years gone by we would often watch a match on TV; me in bold red and him in black and white stripes, to ensure that our rivalry, although friendly, would be apparent.

He used to regularly remind me that I couldn’t be a true Man United fan because I didn’t have a southern accent. I would respond by asking him whether the till beeped when he walked though the supermarket looking like a bar code.

In addition to this passion for football Mark also had a belief that there was a future after this life was over. He would tell me that this gave him a lot of strength to deal with his difficulties.

As I think of him now I remember my oft quoted phrase ‘we sorrow but not as those without hope’ and am hoping it might be helpful for the whole of life and not just for football.

Whistle Me Up Scotty

Whilst in the doctor’s surgery last week I was arrested by a strange noise
that evoked memories of my youth. Another patient was waiting for his turn
to be treated (an odd word for an experience that seems to be far from
anything resembling a treat).

Rather than spend the time reading tired copies of Readers Digest he
amused himself by whistling. This in itself might not seem an unusual
occurrence. However this musician, for that is what his skill obviously
made him, was purposefully producing a melody.

Indeed he seemed to be working his way through a selection of Glen Miller

If it were not for the modern surroundings of the newly built health
centre I could have sworn that I had been transported back to my late
sixties childhood.

The rise of the MP3 player and mobile phone seems to have all but put an
end to the long lost art of whistling.

When I was a kid every tradesman worth his salt could belt out a
recognisable tune as he climbed ladders, hammered in nails, or painted
window frames.

Today people have music available in any and every situation and so there
no need to amuse oneself and others making melody through pursed lips

A couple of younger folk in the surgery looked across at our waiting room
musician as if he was a little odd.

This seemed rather strange to me if not a little sad.

Today it is not unusual to see someone walking through a town centre,
plugged into a mobile phone, in full conversation.

For a split second I am convinced that they must be talking to themselves.
In the days of my youth the only people who did this were those of a more
delicate disposition.

What a change in a mere four decades. It is now acceptable behaviour to
walk around having disconnected conversations yet if you whistle you look
like a mad man.

I was walking through Leeds Railway station looking for my connecting
train when a young lady appeared from the steps declaring 'it's the wrong
way and if you don't change you will be late'.

The fact that she was looking directly at me seemed to indicate that her
comments were aimed at me. Not so! She was engaged in a mobile conversation
with someone from her office. She happened to look at me because my
eighteen stone frame happened to be directly in her path at this very

For a split second I prepared to answer her but fortunately realised the
situation in time to spare my blushes.

Such mobile conversations would have seemed futuristic when I was a lad,
confined to the likes of Star Trek.

Matter Transmitters, Phasers, Warp Drive, and tiny electronic
communication devices were all the stuff that fed a young boys imagination.

Most of these technologies haven't been invented yet but one out four
ain't bad.

Nobody has yet found a way of separating the component parts of flesh in
order to reconstitute it again; unless you count chicken nuggets.

Warp speed would be a complete waste of time given the near gridlock we
experience at rush hour.

The nearest thing we have to Phasers are the police use of tasers; even
then the sight of a long wire shooting out of a gun is hardly space age.

I should have seen these changes coming, after all you never saw Captain
Kirk whistling on Star Trek.