he aint heavy (he’s my dickhead)

Brother called the landline telephone yesterday evening and, given that we hadn’t spoken in a short while – not this side of his birthday – we opened with jolly greetings.  He thanked me for my gift of an Xbox controller, another way to exert his dominance over his wife, ho-ho-ho.

We were both bound for our childhood home for the Easter weekend – although his stay would only be a brief, lip-service visit on the way to the more oft frequented in-laws in Wales.  He would of course bring his family entourage and I would bring myself.

“Mum has this idea of taking the kids to this thing,” he explained.  Mum had told me about it too.  It sounded like a nice idea.  “It’s one of these typical things,” he continued, a patronising exasperation cutting into his voice, “when she, you know.. gets an idea in her head of a Thing To Do with them.”

“And what’s wrong with that?” I asked, genuinely curious, not seeing where he was coming from.  She loves spending time with his kids.  Why shouldn’t she?

“Oh nothing, nothing,” he replied, suddenly defensive.

“Right,” I said, thinking him a dickhead, remembering how he always gives the impression of knowing our family much better than we know ourselves, like we’re all his inventions, without individual consciousness.

“Oh, by the way,” he said, changing the subject in his masterful controlling way, as if this next thing was much more important: “can you bring your Xbox back at the weekend?”

“Ugh, do I have to?”

I find it tedious, unwiring everything, wrapping it up, packaging it in a box, connecting it up to our parents’ haphazardly set-up television, doing the return trip – particularly when I’m not nearly as bothered about playing the damn thing as he is and he’ll often revel in his victories like he did when we were kids.  For someone so insanely busy with a wife, two kids and an important, high-pressured job, his Xbox form is always good.

“Well no, you don’t HAVE to,” he replied, employing his well-used haughty patronising exasperated tone again.  I was clearly being impossible.  He was being a dickhead.

“Alriiight,” I jabbed back with my own patronising, deliberately unfazed tone.

“Right, well, I’ll see you at the weekend,” he said.

He’d had enough.  I had too.  It was a sub-three minute call.

“Right, bye then.”

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football first

“If it’s going well, do you think you might sack off the football match?”

A friend asked this before a date and I blanched.  No!  Of course not you idiot, I replied in my head.  The football match was the main reason for my being in London.

It was a fair question, I suppose.  Although I never entertained it as a realistic possibility – because I wanted to go to the game, I’d paid a substantial amount of money, was looking forward to the game and don’t go to matches much – it was indeed possible.  I could have sacked it off.  And who knows?

“Actually, you know what?  Hell, it’s cold, my back hurts.  Let’s just stay here in the warm.”

It would have enabled a longer time together, more conversation, a shared experience of something – a gallery or film – perhaps the added relaxant of an alcoholic drink or two, which could help boozy goggles; more stuff.  And who knows?  Probably not, of course..

But no.  I went to the football, which was half-ruined as a result of the previous two hours.

You ideally want to arrive a while before the match, get into the zone for a game, find out the team news, absorb the atmosphere, grow nervously excited.

You don’t want to travel up painfully overanalysing a date, be irritated that she’d done that defensive girl thing of shoving a cheek in your face at the end.  *Kiss Me Nowhere Except Here On My Cheek Then Fuck Off*.  You don’t want to be very cold and overchew a piece of gum as you walk to the stadium and only find your seat as the players exit the tunnel onto the pitch, and have half a mind on your mobile as the game kicks-off and barely be able to stop shivering and have serious back-pain each time you stand up to watch an attack over a few thousand heads.  You don’t want to feel disappointingly little as your team plays remarkably well and race into a commanding 4-0 lead, professionally strangling the life and drama out of a game.

Even far back in the distant midst of a serious relationship I instinctively put Tottenham first.  A Sunday afternoon in bed was curtailed by a text from a friend reminding me about a televised cup tie against Chelsea which I’d forgotten was kicking off in 15 minutes.  Virtually mid-coitus, I had unapologetically leapt from the bed, collected strewn items of clothing, got dressed and headed to the pub.

We lost 4-0.  Eidur Gudjohnsen scored a hat-trick.

I guess my long term relationship with football and Tottenham, while often rife with angst and heartbreak, has been longer, more constant and more reliable than any relationship with a woman.  Barring one or two horrible summer months, football is always there.  Football always makes me feel something, it always gives, even if it gives shit, even if gives Jason bloody Dozzell.

In trying to explain football to non-football fans I say it’s a story which you’re part of.  It could be a dull story or an exciting story, but it will be a story of some kind, and each match is an isolated narrative of its own, part of something broader and longer: a competition, a season, a career.  You invest in the characters of players, or your perception of their characters.

It helps if there’s some instinctive appreciation of the artistry of ball-play, team movement, the skill involved, the ballet of a beautiful diving header or a perfectly executed bicycle kick.  That makes a story memorable.

This is heightened when you’re playing the game, when you’re living the story, even if there are no spectators at all, even if you’re being embarrassed by the skill of an adolescent half your age or intimidated by the aggression of a maniac more intent on doing harm than playing fotball; it’s enlivening if not always enjoyable.  It makes you feel.

Above anything sport can give out outlet for displaced emotions which you might like to express in other parts of your life but can’t, because right here right now there’s nothing as important as winning.

I like to think I’d be capable of prioritising a woman above football, in the right circumstances, but it would demand a reciprocal certainty I’ve rarely experienced.  Maybe if she could pull off a slick Cruyff turn..