Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Truth and lies and halftime pies.

Before I begin rambling in my usual fashion about whatever nonsense my head feels the overwhelming urge to spit out, I feel it would be remiss of me not to cover a recent, life altering event. As some of you might know, especially those that follow me on Twitter (@Johnny_Spacey), Dickfingers and I are no more. She moved out, I stayed here.


Dickfingers wasn't the only one to vote with their feet. Unless you've been living under a rock in a hole in a trough in, oh I dunno, let's say Alaska, you will have by now noticed that we, the UK, have voted to leave the European Union.

I say "we", I myself voted to remain a member. I admit I was surprised when I awoke on my settee, having fallen asleep there at some point before the sun had popped his brow above the skyline in a vain attempt to follow the count. I woke to find myself confirmed as a member of a minority.

It's a situation I am well used to.

As a small child my bedroom walls were covered with A4 sized posters torn from football magazines featuring my favourite footballer, a barrel chested vanguard of the squad from those halcyon days of the three day week and rickets. I had never made a conscious decision to support the Blues but, as with every other child in that era, I was indoctrinated into sharing my father's allegiance. These days, since the middle classes discovered that football is "splendid" and decided they wanted to price the proper fan out of his traditional Saturday afternoons of tribalism, delicious pies and alcohol fueled camaraderie, people tend to support whichever club is at the top when they start to pretend to have become interested.

City were good back in those days before Colin Bell gave way to Kathy Lloyd and Linda Lusardi above my headboard. Then they went shit, then a bit good again before becoming absolutely diabolical until they got rich. Never once, even in the third tier of football and losing 2-0 with only moments left on the clock, did I ever waver from my staunch belief that, although shit at football, my allotted team were still the greatest on some surreal level...

...except once.

It was my first year at primary school. I loved that school. It was a new school, built in the minimalist style made popular by the rise of communism in the east. Every door in the school would waft open in defiance of the door closers installed whenever someone opened the ridiculously heavy main entrance door, the gym equipment was impressively dangerous looking and the asbestos particles twinkled like stars in the beams of light that crept through the black out curtains whenever we were watching "educational television" on those mornings Miss Grundy (my first love) sported a pimple on her usually flawless chin and seemed in an unusually agitated state.

My first Wednesday brought with it my first games' lesson. A morning playing football whilst a different teacher, male and clad in a Royal blue track suit, smoked cigarettes and blew a whistle from the sideline. I was very excited. (It's just occurred to me, I have no idea what the girls where doing whilst we played footie. It being the seventies I'd imagine it was something to do with make-up or cooking.)

We got changed in the cloak rooms and I took great pride in lacing up my boots as my father had taught me (why do the laces need wrapping around like that? You'd think by now someone would have begun manufacturing laces to fit them. That's one for Dragon's Den, that is) and smoothing my thigh length, sky blue, football socks up over my skinny calves.

Out onto the field we trotted and I stood in line, proudly puffing out my chest, a chest that bore the badge that I had grown up surrounded by.

I was the only one.

Every other child bar one wore red, the one in neither red nor blue wore the white of Leeds United. No one was surprised when that kid was taken into care, his parents were quite plainly guilty of child abuse. A kid who would later quite literally grow into the name of "Fat Malc" asked why I supported "shitty City". I told him what I'd heard my father tell men when faced with the same situation. I smiled as I emulated a hero that even outshone Colin Bell.

"I wanted to be a red, but I wasn't fucking ugly enough."

Fat Malc was in no way a master of the headbutt, but his failed attempt at assault was enough to push my own indiscretion, the dropping of a fuck bomb, down the pecking order in things my chain smoking games teacher had to be fuming about, though I still received a clip around the ear.

Badgered all day by lads who, apparently, all had fathers much bigger than I, I began to doubt my own beliefs. Here were people telling me that the football team I loved weren't actually the greatest but were shit and always lost. I was confused, but I couldn't imagine so many others were lying to me. I needed to speak to my dad.

It was the days before my father had bought his first pub and he was still employed as a case maker at Parker Rosser's on Trafford Park, beneath the shadow of Old Trafford football ground. After milking the overtime, as was his want, he arrived home just before bedtime, his donkey jacket smelling sweetly of wood shavings and engineering grease, staggering all over and stinking of Polo Mints.

"Hiya dad, can I talk to you?"

"I thought you'd be in bed." He inspected my mother's burnt offerings left for him in the oven

"It's important."

We pulled out chairs and I ate a piece of bread and butter whilst he peeled congealed gravy off his chop and made funny faces.

"Dad, can I support United?"

He literally began to choke, slapping himself on the back and spluttering.

"You fucking what?" He inquired.

"I said, can I support United? Please?"

"I thought you were going to tell me you were a poof," He laughed, "and no you bleedin' can't."

"What does "poof" mean?" I asked, steering the conversation in the way only a small child can, toward embarrassment.

"You know, gay..." He performed the universally recognised, acceptable-in-the-seventies hand signal, "...oooh, look at the muck in 'ere."

"What, like German people?"


"The Germans, the ones granddad dropped his bombs on."


"That's it, Nasties."

"No, not bloody Nazis, Nazi's are like this", he performed a different though similar hand gesture, this time using two fingers from his free hand to represent a silly, little moustache.

There followed a conversation in which the phrases "my dead body", "I don't give a shit what Malc said" and "get your finger from up your nose" were used, then I went to bed.

The following day saw my first visit to the headmaster's office and a thirty minute session of isolation, the result of telling Soon-To-Be-Fat Malc and his red clad comrades that I had been reliably assured that, however big their dads were, mine would "stamp all over their fucking fingers" and informing the whole assembled shower they were, in fact, nothing but "Nastie gay pooftas" whilst goosestepping my way through an impersonation of a dead German Chancellor that Freddie Starr himself would've been proud of.

But I digress...

I'd been convinced my allegiance was to the best team. It wasn't, but it was the team I chose and the team I stood by. My father had told me City were the greatest and United were shit, he'd lied.

Bear in mind, these were the days before City were the greatest and United became shit at football. Turns out, maybe my old man was quite the Nostre Damus. 

It didn't matter that he lied, that he'd over-egged the egg and mayonnaise sandwich. I watched our team rise and fall and rise and I'll probably watch them fall again one day. It's only football. I'm a Blue, that's that and my decision to remain in that minority in no way impacts on others, nor their steadfast refusal to see sense on myself.

Imagine if you had been duped into basing your allegiance to something more important than kicking a ball or which cynically marketed merchandise you sent your son to school in on lies.

To paraphrase the great Mr Shankly, the referendum wasn't a matter of life or death. It was far more important than that.

We shouldn't let the liars forget their lies, nor forget their lies ourselves.

Now, where will we be building this week's hospital?


(Cheers Spence.)

1 comment:

  1. 'Twas ever thus... and one of the reasons I've stayed ever faithful to my first true love - cricket.