I’M dealing with a lot of shell-shocked football fans at the moment.
As I wear my West Brom-induced anxiety on my sleeve, many fans will come to me with their traumas knowing that I understand how they’re feeling.
The stress of the end of the season nearly finished me off — and we ended up getting promoted. Success is only marginally less painful than defeat.
I have Aston Villa-supporting friends who sound as hollowed out as me, and they enjoyed the triumph of avoiding relegation in the last moments of the last game of the season.
But I met a Bournemouth fan in Dubrovnik, Croatia, wandering around the old city in a daze, shaking his head in despair. “I still can’t quite believe it,” he kept saying.
Never mind the magnificent architecture, it’ll take more than a medieval church to lift your spirits if you’ve just been relegated from the Premier League. I walked around the city with an encyclopaedically knowledgeable guide who, in one of the seven languages he speaks fluently, told me about the passage we were walking through.
It was around half the width of a tennis court but twice as long.
He said this made it ideal in olden days for a form of football played by the locals.
This game was described by my guide as a mixture of football, rugby and kick-boxing.
Apparently the players and spectators made a godawful racket which annoyed those who lived on this street no end. We know this because of two bits of graffiti dated 1597.
Tricky business, graffiti, in those days.
In the absence of sharpies or aerosols you had to go to the trouble of carving your thoughts into the stone walls. With so much effort having gone into this, the words seem particularly heartfelt.
One of them reads “Pax vobis memento mori qui ludis pila”. Not having been taught Latin at my school, I needed my man to tell me that this translates as: “Peace to you. Remember you who play with the ball must die.”
Now, I’m ashamed to say this is a sentiment I’ve fleetingly wished on many footballers in my time. I’m just wondering if I can get West Brom fans chanting it next season. In Latin, naturally.
The other one was just as good. “Ego vos animabus moneo ludentes,” translates as something I’ve definitely thought on many occasions when I’ve felt the opposing team has somehow cheated us: “Players, I am warning your souls.”
In the meantime, I’m heading home now to see a friend, Titch, my local fruit and veg man in West London.
He’s followed Brentford, home and away, probably since before that graffiti went up. I dread to think what language he was swearing in when Fulham went and beat them in extra time.
I’m going to console him in Latin: “Hoc solum a ludum. Vita procedit. Lycopersica vostra pulchra.”
Which, I think, means: “It is only a game. Life goes on. And your tomatoes are lovely.”
Kee to a top show
FOR many years, I’ve listened to people tell me that Line Of Duty is the best thing ever.
Newsflash: It is. I made the decision a while ago not to watch it until a pandemic came along and I had the time to do it justice.
It’s so good that you go beyond watching it, it feels more like you’re actually in it. I’ve never felt so involved. I loathed the Matthew Cottan character so much that I’m annoyed with the actor for even playing him.
That’s mad. Of the others, I love so many of them that it’s painful to pick one. But I’ll have to go for DI Lindsay Denton, the disquieting wrong ’un played so brilliantly by Keeley Hawes.
Even in this heat, she chills me to the bone.
I DIDN’T EX-SPEC ALL THIS
I ASSUMED that ageing happens so slowly that you hardly noticed it.
But it happens in fits and starts and sudden, arthritic leaps.
Packing to go away to Croatia, I was dismayed at all the eyewear I suddenly need.
I’ve been short-sighted since I was 15 but contact lenses and a pair of spectacles sorted that.
Now that I’ve become long-sighted too, I also have bifocal glasses.
I have bifocal contact lenses too, but my arms aren’t long enough for me to actually read comfortably in them. So, I have reading glasses too.
But it would be too bright to read with them if I was sitting in the sun. So there was nothing for it, I resolved to find some reading sunglasses.
I eventually found a pair in Wilko, of all places. Thank you, Wilko.
All up, that’s one set of contact lenses and five pairs of spectacles. I tried hanging all five around my neck at the same time, but I looked a bit of a chump and got in a terrific tangle.
As it turned out, I could have managed without either of the sunglasses as the weather has been rubbish.
Don't h-ale this cab at the start of the week…
EVER since I made a TV documentary about how much I was drinking, I’ve been fascinated by other people’s drinking habits.
I’m now writing a book about how to drink less and, in the course of my research, I’ve heard many strange stories.
One guy, a cab driver, sticks in my mind, especially with the pubs now open, for the time being anyway.
I asked him how much he was in the habit of putting away.
Now most people have a vague stab at an answer, generally underestimating their intake. Not this bloke.
“Twenty-four pints,” he said. “I don’t drink in the week because of this job, but at the weekend I go to the pub at 12 o’clock on Saturdays and drink 12 pints before closing time.
“And then I do the same on Sundays.”
Obviously, this level of drinking is inadvisable, but there was something I admired about his clarity and certainty.
And I do wonder how he dealt with lockdown.
MY KIDS TURN A DEAF ‘UN
AS a father of children in their late teens, being ignored comes with the territory.
It’s hurtful, obviously, but what can you do?
Talking to teenage girls is rather like presenting a radio programme: You can never be certain anyone’s listening, but you do get the odd rude text message.
I’m not sure whether all this is made better or worse with the introduction of noise-cancelling technology on those earpod thingies.
Is it more insulting to be heard but ignored, or to be shut out completely?
On one occasion this week, I signalled to my elder daughter that I would like to speak to her.
She refused this invitation.
“Sorry,” she said. “I’ve got them in now so that’s the end of that.”
Don't touch this tech
SOME technological innovations, for example the internet, have been of great assistance in this time of Covid.
Other inventions seem to have been inadvertently developed to be the worst ideas possible in a pandemic.
Touch screens are an excellent example of this.
At Heathrow, I wondered what the point was of making us wear masks and be socially distanced, when one after the other we lined up to paw helplessly at those check-in and luggage labelling machines.
It’s the same deal in supermarkets, where many of the machines aren’t working. And of the ones that are, at least half are being wildly prodded by people who plainly, and understandably, can’t figure them out.
Think of all the fingers smearing all those germs over all those touch screens all around the world.
They can’t be good for us.
Pandemic is a buffet bonus
MANY years ago, I took a film crew to a well-known pizza chain in Birmingham.
At the salad bar, the edge was taken off my appetite by a sign reading: “PLEASE DON’T COUGH OR SNEEZE ON THE FOOD.”
This quite ruined my salad bar experience that day, and on all subsequent buffets to this very day.
For this reason, I think I must be one of the few people fully in favour of the new normal of face coverings and even gloves at all buffets.
The breakfast offering was very good at our hotel in Dubrovnik and all the more for the masks and latex gloves mandatory for all diners.
For the first time since that day in Brum, I’ve been able to enjoy buffet fare safe in the knowledge that it has been neither coughed nor sneezed upon.
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