Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

I remember 4

September 18, 2016

I remember being scared of going on downward escalators when I was about nine or ten, and being ashamed of it as I knew I’d been able to go on them when I was younger.


I remember light pink fluoride pills.


I remember hearing Chopin’s Funeral March on the radio when I was ill and thinking how beautiful it sounded but wondering if it might just be delirium.


I remember making a boiled egg for my father, perhaps because it was his birthday, and dropping it into the pan, under the impression that it would float, never having done it before, and the egg cracking on the bottom of the pan and the albumen emerging from beneath, and him being angry.


I remember a Year 5 Music lesson where I became aware I couldn’t see the board because I didn’t have my glasses and hoping desperately that I wouldn’t be asked by Dr T to read anything out because it would have meant admitting I couldn’t see.


I remember wrinkled fingertips.


I remember my little tin of blue Humbrol enamel paint that I bought to paint a model perhaps but ended up just opening every so often, prising the lid off with the end of a teaspoon to see the magical blue inside.


I remember visiting Hinkley Point and being given blue plastic earplugs which I kept for ages afterwards.


I remember eating and enjoying tongue, without acknowledging to myself what it was.


I remember assuming ‘several’ meant at least seven or so, and coming only slowly and stubbornly to the realisation that it might mean, say, three or four.


I remember praying for God to kill me.


I remember the big yellow metal train in Welshmill Park with the graffito on saying PENIS LOVERS MEET HERE FRIDAY 8PM, and wondering what went on at such meetings.


I remember an awful assembly at St John’s in which I was part of a presentation on hair, explaining that people had straight hair because of flat follicles and curly hair because of round follicles, and not understanding why flat and why round, which I still don’t. And then saying of Charlotte M the line ‘Her perm won’t last long,’ not really knowing what a perm was or why anyone would want one, and dimly sensing, perhaps, the absurdity of parroting words I didn’t comprehend written by some teacher who had no idea what children were.


I remember Mr P saying it was always worth having a go during oral exams even if you didn’t know the word, as a pupil of his had once had his Brummie-inflected ‘a bee’ taken as ‘abeille’ and accepted.


I remember feigning that I’d expected Gianluca Vialli to be sacked as Chelsea manager, though I hadn’t and it upset me.


I remember Maths Circus.


I remember 3 — back to school edition

September 6, 2015

I remember Miss D reading out a piece of work by Holly in which she wrote that she missed Hong Kong (or was it Singapore?) and didn’t like England, and I felt sorry for her, not because she was homesick but because I sensed she was mortified at having it broadcast to the whole class, being shy anyway and not having friends yet. What you submit to a teacher should constitute a secret contract. Miss D was an inspirational teacher, but she made some bad decisions. She did the same thing to me on two occasions.


I remember Mr R putting Nikolai, the new Russian boy, next to me in Maths. I was a bit shy of him, partly on account of his being cute. We were working on playing cards and probability, and he asked me ‘What is club?’ and I did a drawing but it was a bad one because it’s difficult to draw a club even if you’re not nervous and I’m not convinced the message got through.


I remember Harry faking an epileptic fit to play a practical joke on Mr S, the supply teacher, but it didn’t work because Mr S wasn’t very observant.


I remember Ben asking Mr O in an English lesson how to spell ‘hisself’, as he wanted to use the word in a short story, and Mr O saying there was no such word, which struck me as very unhelpful because it could have been dialogue, and people do say ‘hisself’ even if it isn’t grammatical.


I remember joking that Oliver Twist was an OK book but it didn’t have any of the songs in it, which made Neil laugh.


I remember being pleased when Kat objected to something she perceived as homophobic in a story we were reading in English, even though it wasn’t really necessary. The rest of us who cared about it wouldn’t have been bold enough to speak out.


I remember thinking my history teacher Miss L was beautiful.

I remember thinking she liked me more than the other pupils because the marks she gave me were disproportionate to the quality of my work and the effort I put into it, and anyway she just did.

I remember Miss L played the flute and was quite shy and had translucent skin and sometimes blushed.

I remember Miss L correcting me gently for my anachronistic use of the phrase ‘conscientious objector’.

I remember David, who was normally quite boisterous and disruptive, toning things down for Miss L, probably because he secretly liked her too.


I remember Mr T telling Helen that she sounded like Kenneth Grahame, and I realised he meant Kenneth Williams and felt bad for him, though I was the only one in the class who’d have known.


I remember Mark coming in one morning and telling me his cat had died the night before, and hanging around with him during break and lunchtime feeling sad together and not really speaking. I think a member of staff asked if we were OK and I explained. I wrote a piece of music in memory of Mark’s cat, though I never played it to him or even told him because it would have been embarrassing.


I remember devising a signature based on Miss R’s, which is still essentially my signature now.


I remember, when we were about twelve, Jamie euphemistically describing Luke to me as a ‘flower’, and me protesting because of my conviction that being effeminate did not equate to being gay, though Luke did turn out to be gay, and so did Jamie.


I remember Mr W banging his fist on the table during a play rehearsal, knocking a cup of water into his bag, and Paul having such a laughing fit that he had to go to the toilet to recover for so long that I wondered if I should go looking for him.


I remember taking a penalty in football and striking the ball very poorly but scoring because the goalkeeper was even worse than me.


I remember a student Music teacher correcting my use of ‘symphony’s’ to ‘symphonies’ in a piece of written work about the Minuet and Trio from Schubert’s 5th. I approached her after the lesson to explain why she was wrong.


I remember Tim being shocked at how late I went to bed and telling me the late nights would catch up with me, and thinking what a bore he was.


I remember Rachel asking me, possibly earnestly, if I was on drugs, probably because I liked to go around with my eyes half closed and sometimes walked into things. I wasn’t on drugs, I was just tired.


I remember feeling flattered when Max punched me repeatedly in the arm, and when Jake gave me this personalised message, because they amounted to tokens of friendship, albeit oblique ones.

Message, c. 1998

National anthems

February 1, 2011

Who in England feels genuinely represented by ‘God Save the Queen’? Not many of us, I dare say, considering how much moaning we do about how tedious it is and how it should be replaced by ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. As someone descended from the English, Scottish and Welsh and born in Scotland, I’ve never really felt it had to represent me, as I didn’t really know where I was from.

Being a mongrel nationality-wise meant I never knew which team to support in sporting events where the constituent parts of the UK represented themselves. My Auntie Sue gave me a Scottish rugby shirt when I was about eight or nine, which resolved that problem. What to do about football, though? By the time I got interested in it (about 1997) I came to realise that supporting Scotland was not going to be much fun. Or England, for that matter, with the glory long since departed. Wales? *tumbleweed* Anyway, how to decide which team would be mine in the 1998 World Cup?

In my early teens I decided to become a Chelsea fan for the flimsiest of reasons. The 1997 FA Cup Final was on the horizon, and the choice was Chelsea or Middlesbrough. What was my thinking?

  1. London better than Middlesbrough (I would have said then)
  2. Blue better than red (I maintain)
  3. Premier League better than Division 1, to which Boro had just been relegated (now even better, what with Division 1 being downgraded every few years)
  4. Zola better than Hignett (arguably)

But at this time music was the thing I knew most about, and it was as much on the basis of the FA Cup Final records the teams produced that Chelsea prevailed. Their song was celebratory and harmonically bold, it sounded like London, and it was by Suggs (what a man). Boro’s song was a cover version by Bob Mortimer of a Chris Rea song recorded (so far as I can tell) in a garden shed with a cheap Bontempi keyboard. Anyway, from the moment Di Matteo lashed in from 25 yards, I haven’t looked back. (Actually, I look back constantly, what with the obscene money Abramovich is throwing around. Only about £70m yesterday. It makes one long for the days of Eddie Newton and Andy Myers. Almost.)

So why not choose a national football team to support on the same basis? It would have been around this time that I borrowed from the library a CD of primarily European national anthems played by a military band. To my surprise, some of them turned out to be quite good, not the dreary dirges I was used to hearing before rugby matches. My favourite was Poland’s, the ‘Mazurek Dąbrowskiego’.

But Poland didn’t qualify for the 1998 World Cup (they had the misfortune of being drawn with England and Italy in qualifying), so I went for Norway. Not that their anthem is much more interesting than ours, but they had Tore Andre Flo and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer up front and I thought they might create a shock – rightly, as it happened. They beat Brazil in their final group match, but Italy knocked them out in the second round. Prior to the tournament I decided to compensate for their uninspiring anthem by writing an original verse of ‘Jerusalem’ referring explicitly to the Norwegian national team. It’s too embarrassing to replicate my version here, but suffice it to say that it was better than Blake’s.

I’ve been listening to national anthems again recently. Not masterpieces, most of them, but the extent to which they embody the character of the people they represent is interesting. Listen to the beautiful Israeli anthem and tell me it doesn’t sound like centuries of oppression (the text refers to this too). And don’t the French and German anthems sound exactly like the French and the Germans – or have our impressions of the people been coloured by the music? The US anthem sounds like the stereotype of the country – brash and ostentatious. Even Stravinsky’s arrangement has a touch of showbiz about it.

The thing is, I’ve come to realise that I like ‘God Save the Queen’. It’s not exciting, but it’s solid and built on firm foundations. The Winston Churchill of national anthems. ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Rule, Britannia!’? Far too jingoistic.

And happily, perhaps the clincher, the most English thing of all, is that despite all of the moaning we haven’t actually done anything about replacing it. It’s what makes it the right choice. My country expects me to be apathetic, and I can’t be bothered to dissent.

Great unfinished novels of the twentieth century, part 94

January 6, 2011


~ 1 ~

Alex Ferguson sipped his drink and a large globule of mucus dropped into his mug.

“Aaaaargh! Shit!” he exclaimed as his naked torso was splattered with coffee. He ran starkers through the house, drops of liquid flying out behind him until he reached the bathroom, where he grabbed a large towel from the airing cupboard and wrapped it around him, trying to ease the pain. Although it was only his chest that had been scalded, the pain was coursing through his body like a bolt of lightning. He drew his curtains, only too aware of the eyes watching him from across the road, and tiptoed to his bedroom. He sat on the bed and turned over to the female figure on his right. “My wife will be home soon,” he whispered, “Maybe you should be going.”

“Not until I get my money,” she replied. Alex hesitated.

“Thirty, did ye say?”

“Forty now.”

“Wha’? Ye hardly did anything,” he said, easily conceding, as he got out his wallet. “Wha’ did you say your name was?”

“Ainsley. Ainsley Jarvis.”

“Nice name – I’m sure I’ve heard it before. You’re sure you didn’t play for Aberdeen?” he enquired, for the second time that night. She nodded, wondering whether he realized she was female. She stepped onto the fleecy carpet that adorned Alex’s floor and put on her clothes. Alex gazed at her feminine, curvaceous body and wondered about how Manchester United were going to get out of their current spot of bother.

[circa 1998]

Any relation to any actual person, living or dead, is purely incidental