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I knew I was an excellent candidate, as they cheerfully say in medical circles, for sudden death. Most everyone on both sides of the generation before mine had suddenly dropped dead before the age of 60. Some had lingered due to repetitive strokes. Fortunately, I had passed the age threshold, but I wondered how much longer I could defy the odds.
One of the joys of this level of football, a joy that detracts somewhat from the actual football itself, is the rapture of proximity. Whatever trials and tribulations the working week throws at you, however painful the boredom of retirement or the frustration of youth, all the rage that you carry can be readily directed at an arbitrary arbiter, or whoever is playing on the wing next to the only stand.
Summer’s over and like it or loath it, football is back. Green and white hoops are the colours of debatable success, conjuring up images of Sporting Lisbon, Real Betis, Celtic, maybe even Yeovil Town and as UE Sants graced the packed ‘Energia’ stadium, clad in the virescent and wan kits that defined last year’s halcyon days in Spain’s fifth tear ‘Primera Catalana’.
The basic truth of long-distance public transport rest stops is that although you get the stop aspect, no-one rests. This is due to a potent mix of acute social awkwardness, muzak and bad colour schemes. An empty bladder, stretched legs and popped-up blood sugar at a premium price is the best combo you can hope for.
Senior year my mother did two months for larceny. That August she tried walking out with two carts full of groceries. I lived noir. I managed a story that became my first published in the school magazine. She was still in prison that October when my birthday rolled around. I woke up at three-thirty in the morning and read James Thompson’s Snow Angels until I left for the bus.
For some reason, my first instinct was to assume that Derick Johnson was a figment of Nick’s imagination or a sort of creative in-joke between some of the players. The name, I observed, sounded like a character from Mad Men. I imagined a dapper fellow in his mid-thirties turning up to play, with a short glass of scotch on the rocks in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Do you remember Fridays? The indescribable feeling of utter joy that signified that thankfully school was over for another two days. The misery of sitting in a classroom against your will was to be alleviated and replaced with the respite of resentment from parents who didn’t know what to do with you. Yes, Friday was a fine time. Friday represented hope a brief, fleeting window in which anything was possible and the misery of school, with its press-gang style education was exposed for what it was, finite.
I had shat literally all I could possibly shit, but somewhere, deep down, I knew I would need to shit again imminently. Such are the joys of food poisoning, or in this case some dodgy Albanian tap water. In fairness, the foreign office advice had been fairly clear cut.