“Here comes another winter of long shadows and high hopes…” – The The, ‘Heartland’
In case you’re not familiar with the oeuvre of Matt Johnson (and Microsoft Word clearly isn’t, judging from its red-lined urging to ‘Delete Repeated Word’), I should make it clear that ‘Heartland’ is no cheery festive ditty.
In fact, the next lines of the song make it even clearer:
“Here comes another winter waiting for Utopia,
Waiting for hell to freeze over,
Fa la la la la, la la la la…”
(OK, so I added that last line. Still didn’t brighten it up much, did it?)
Yet that first line taken on its own is a fair reflection of how I’m feeling at the moment.
There are plenty of things I could be gloomy about, as there always are when you’re a glass-half-empty-and-by-the-way-there’s-a-chip-in-the-rim type of person. But they’re currently being outweighed by the sense of optimism inspired by City’s form and momentum.
For example, the game at Southampton cost me my mobile phone. Texting in the torrential rain caused it to splutter and eventually drown – though not before it had made repeated calls to the mother of one of my daughter’s classmates. All by itself.
Very embarrassing. And it was even more embarrassing when she greeted me with a wink at the school gates the following week. But I wasn’t bothered because of the performance and the point at St Mary’s. (Getting a much more favourable tariff with my new phone softened the blow too.)
Last Saturday, there were cancellations and long delays on the train line between London and Norwich. I had to stand next to the less-than-fragrant toilet most of the way, with the result that my back was killing me by the time I got to Carrow Road. But the game made it more than worthwhile.
I had another break on the way home too. My wife was due to go out for dinner with a couple of friends in the evening, and getting home over an hour late would normally have landed me in the doghouse, even though we don’t have a dog.
But I learned at around 6.30 that the meal had been cancelled because one of the friends was unwell. Oh, and I won a tenner on the lottery. Sometimes your luck’s just in.
I’ve even been able to find positives where I normally wouldn’t. We recently learned that we’re not going to have a kitchen until January.
The builders had promised that it would all be finished by Christmas (didn’t they say that about the First World War?), but we’ve been left with the Christmas Day choice of cold turkey sandwiches at home or decamping to the in-laws’.
Following a close vote, we’re off to Carlisle, so that will be yet another Boxing Day game that I’ll miss. But the return trip has been set for Monday 28th – and the route back to London goes right past Walsall’s ground. I wouldn’t have gone to that game otherwise, so that’s a bonus.
Even our early exit from the FA Cup has a bright side to it. Where would you rather go on January 2nd – dour Goodison Park for another grim defeat and a reunion with our old friend Ian Ross, or leafy Adams Park in Wycombe where there’s every chance we can get the same result as we did on Third Round day in 1994?
It’s also a nice feeling to be able to send Christmas cards which don’t refer to the team’s shortcomings.
There’ll be nothing like last year’s efforts, which included ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow… because postponements are the only way we’ll avoid getting beaten this Christmas’ and another one featuring a department store Santa with the caption ‘Glenn Roeder at work, Christmas 2009’.
I’ll probably refer to another team’s shortcomings instead. I’m thinking of superimposing a Santa hat on a shot of a scowling Roy Keane (which won’t be hard to find – Google Image search results for “Roy Keane” + angry: 13,400 in 0.15 seconds) with the simple caption ‘Ho Ho Ho’.
Of course, I’m not walking around like a grinning loon the whole time, doing little jumps and clicking my heels in the air.
I had no trouble at all following the ‘no smiling’ rule when I had some photos taken last week for a new driving licence photocard. But a bit of success on the football pitch just makes the inconveniences and problems of everyday life a little easier to bear.
Child indoctrination update no.37:
I went to pick up our three-year old son from his pre-school one day last week, and the mother of one of the other children asked if he could have a sweet. I said it was fine, so she handed Harry this long, chewy, sugar-covered, yellow and green confection.
‘Look Harry, yellow and green!’ I said.
‘World’s best team,’ he said without missing a beat and shoved it in his mouth.
I could have kissed him. In fact, I did.
You may think I’m taking this indoctrination lark a bit too far, but I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. After all, I do have limits. It’s not as if I got Harry to take in a picture of Andy Marshall for the objects tray when ‘J’ was the letter of the week.
All right, so I thought about it.