Over the last month or so, the past has kept getting in touch with me. And no, it wasn’t the 80s asking for their jeans back or the 70s asking for their jokes back.
First I received an email out of the blue from someone I haven’t seen in years, inviting me to a reunion of people from an ad agency I once worked for. Until they gave me the push, that is.
I haven’t checked the long-range weather forecast for Hell, but I’m pretty sure I’d have heard if a cold snap was on its way. “Enough time has passed by for us all to remember the good times and to have forgotten or forgiven the bad bits,” it said in the email. I replied with a link to my column from last January which I think conveys how good I am at forgiving and forgetting.
Then I was phoned by a student from my old college at Cambridge asking me to give some money. Not to him personally, you understand, but to the college. At least, I think that was the case, but all I gave him was short shrift. (He got off lightly, though; the student who rang a couple of years ago made the mistake of going down the ‘give something back to the place where you must have enjoyed such golden times’ road, and was treated to such a litany of woe that he almost ended up sending me money.)
Actually the college held a reunion of students from my year this summer, but I didn’t go to that either. I went to one ten years ago, and it didn’t go well. “You’ve grown into your face,” one woman said to me. She tried to claim that this was a compliment. Either way, she didn’t take it well when I suggested that she appeared to be growing out of her body.
Not all of the blasts from the past have been unwelcome, though. Some former work colleagues got in touch after they’d heard about some success I’d had in an advertising competition. (One even asked me to provide him with a professional endorsement on the LinkedIn site – though in the same way that Groucho Marx didn’t want to join any club that would have him as a member, I can’t help thinking that anyone asking me for an endorsement shows such poor judgement that they don’t deserve it.)
And a couple of fellow City fans contacted me following the Hull game, quoting a bit of ‘Norfolk ‘n’ Good’ back to me:
‘Alternative Laws of Football (No. 11):
Any team with a long sequence of victories or defeats behind them will see it come to an end at Carrow Road.’
Although Hull were on a winless run away from home, rather than the sequence consisting solely of defeats, the Law still held true. I must say it made a nice change to have my words quoted back at me when I’ve been proved right; it usually only happens when I’m wide of the mark.
Now… it could just be a coincidence that all of these reminders of the past have come along one after the other. Maybe the internet has something to do with it. (While we tend to think of it as opening up all sorts of possibilities for the future, it strikes me that one of the net’s chief functions is to connect us ever more strongly with the past.)
But perhaps the truth is that I’ve now reached the point in life where there’s more past than there is future, unless this cocktail of amino acids works. And the past is where much of the best stuff lies. Like playing Sunday football. Or having perfect eyesight. My career is certainly into the pantomime phase now. (“Where’s my regular salary, boys and girls?” Audience: “Behind you!”)
I remember my Mum would often sigh and say, “I wish I had something nice to look forward to.” At the time, I used to put this down to Sunday afternoon melancholy, but I’m now starting to see more in what she was saying. It’s becoming apparent that as an increasing proportion of your life is behind you, it’s vital to retain something in front of you to concentrate on.
As things stand, I’m very fortunate in having plenty to look forward to. Having a family naturally makes me think a lot about the future, even if many of those thoughts are worries. There are loads of places in the world I’ve yet to visit, such as Africa, Australia and the Emirates Stadium. There may even be another book or two in me, though progress on the current idea is so slow that it’s unlikely to appear until the kids have left home.
And of course, there’s football. An aspect of the game that appeals more and more is the fact that you’re always looking forward to the next game, then the game after that, then the game after that.
It didn’t always appeal; in fact, it really used to annoy me when managers refused to savour important victories, saying things like: “This game’s over now, it’s all about focusing on the next one.” The worst example was when Jose Mourinho refused to join in with the celebrations after Porto won the Champions League in 2004 as he was about to move to Chelsea.
But now I’m finding the anticipation of the next match almost as pleasurable as the match itself. And it’s an infinite pleasure. As David Mitchell says in this Sky Sports spoof: “It will never stop! The football is officially going on for ever! It will never be finally decided who has won the football!”
(Yes, he does refer to Ipswich as ‘titans’, but I think we can forgive him a couple of superfluous letters.)
Admittedly, it’s much easier to look forward when your team’s playing well. City are playing some cracking stuff at the moment – and at the risk of sounding like an X-Factor contestant, it feels like we’re on a journey. Paul Lambert stressed after the win at Bristol City that ‘there are miles to go’. But as long as everyone stays on the bus, it looks like being a great ride.
Next stop Loftus Road, where if I’m not mistaken that David Mitchell sketch was filmed. I’m looking forward to it already.