Let’s start with a quotation from the great philosopher Homer. Homer Simpson, I mean, not that old Greek bloke…
‘Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?’
It’s one of my favourite Simpsons lines, but not because it contains a great truth. In fact, I find the exact opposite to be the case; there’s no room for any new stuff in my brain because it’s full.
Whenever I try to learn or remember something these days, it’s as if a message pops up saying: ‘Insufficient memory available to complete task’.
There are words whose meanings I’ve looked up again and again, but still can’t remember. Heuristic. Metonymy. Venal and venial. (The only reason ‘egregious’ has finally stuck is that it keeps turning up in articles about Flavio Briatore.)
There are meals I’ve prepared more than twenty times, but I still have to follow each step of the recipe every time because my brain’s turned to Teflon.
Only a couple of weeks ago, I was reading about the differences between Sunnis and Shias, but I couldn’t tell you what they are if you asked now. I’d just end up trying to dodge the question with a weak Sonny and Cher joke.
So what’s filling my head and not allowing new information in? I think it’s mainly old football facts and memories.
I realised that this might be the case when I looked up details of the 85/86 season the other day.
(I was checking on parallels between that season and this, since they feel so similar. Both campaigns followed relegation, both started badly, with three defeats in the first five games in 1985; both featured a long, unbeaten league run from October to February including a string of consecutive wins – 10 in 85/86, 8 this season. And at the start of both seasons, we signed a not-exactly-skinny striker who banged in a hatful of goals; Grant Holt is indeed the new Kevin Drinkell.)
When looking at the list of fixtures from that season, I was amazed at how much I could recall about so many of them. A few examples – and these are just a few…
Middlesbrough away (1-1). Teesside police gave City fans returning to the rail station from Ayresome Park a lift in their vans as they said it was too dangerous to walk.
Huddersfield away (0-0). The wettest I have ever been at a football match, standing in unrelenting torrential rain on an uncovered terrace at Leeds Road. I went to a party in Solihull that evening, but felt so rough that I went home before the strip poker started. (That was as close as I, and possibly the whole of the Midlands advertising community, ever got to 1980s decadence.)
Carlisle away (4-0). I remember wondering where Paul Haylock was, since he’d only missed four games in the previous three seasons. And who on earth was this guy replacing him, this Ian Culversomethingorother?
Bradford home (0-0). For what seemed like the whole game, a group of away fans in the upper tier of the River End sang the Andy Williams standard ‘I can’t help falling in love with you’ – except that they changed ‘you’ to ‘BC… BCF… BCFC OK’.
Portsmouth home (2-0). I was in the River End upper tier this time, having won tickets in a PinkUn competition. (I’d correctly predicted that we’d win the previous home game against Middlesbrough 2-0, and was only about 12 out with my forecast of the attendance. Allegations of witchcraft ensued, though these evaporated when I proved unable to predict any further results with accuracy.)
The pandemonium when Mark Barham scored late on was such that I almost returned to my usual spot in the lower tier sooner than planned…
Shrewsbury away (3-0). On the train home after a totally one-sided game in icy conditions, I talked to a Shrewsbury fan about football for an hour before he realised that I was a Norwich fan. He was so appalled (and maybe a bit embarrassed) that he actually got up and went to sit in another carriage.
Wimbledon away (1-2). It proved impossible to go to the toilet at Plough Lane. There was so much heavy ironwork between the terrace and the pitch that the only clear view of the action was from the window of the loos.
A group of City fans took up residence there for the duration, making other supporters both cross and cross-legged.
Sheffield United away (5-2). A performance of such brilliance that Ken Brown’s post-match press interview was interrupted by home fans singing ‘We want a football team… just like you… just like you…’
Charlton away (0-1). On the way back from Selhurst Park, where Charlton were then playing their home games, the supporters’ coach I was on had bricks thrown at it by Chelsea fans near the Elephant and Castle.
I don’t think it was a planned ambush; they just happened to have bricks about their person, as you would if you lived in that area…
Leeds home (4-0). The Leeds players formed a guard of honour and applauded City – by then the champions – on to the pitch.
(Must say I’d like to see that again, but the end of March may be a bit soon for it to happen this time round…)
If you think this is just a list of uninteresting and inconsequential trivia… well, I tend to agree.
I wish it wasn’t all sitting there taking up valuable space on my mental hard drive and slowing down the whole system.
If there’s a way to send it to a recycle bin and free up capacity for new information, I’d like to know what it is. And soon, because even new football facts aren’t sticking.
Before last Saturday’s trip to Millwall, I had to look up who scored when we beat them at home on Boxing Day. And that really isn’t good.
And finally… this is going to be somewhat at odds with what I’ve just written, but there is a detail from the 85/86 season which I’m frustrated not to be able to recall precisely.
The players were apparently on a bonus scheme which became extremely rewarding if they put together a string of wins.
I think the structure may have been like the ancient wheat (or rice) and chessboard problem , with the bonuses rising very sharply – so that by the time they’d won ten on the trot, they were costing the club an absolute fortune.
Anyone with an even more history-clogged brain than mine able to remember the details of this?