Sunday, 5 September 2010

driving through town today, i remembered a post i'd mentally started drafting a few weeks ago one sunny sunday afternoon. it was a match day - the second match of the season.

i knew there was a match on, but i'd thought it was on later in the day. we queued for a few minutes to get into spiral car park near haymarket, but it was obviously going to take forever. so we decided to try fenkle street car park. it's usually quite quiet so we can get parked there no hassle.

unfortunately, the route i took was the route past the RVI and round past St James' Park.

can i give you a little piece of advice?

NEVER EVER EVER drive past st james' park on a match day just before the game is due to start.

i felt like i was driving through a pedestrianised zone. (and to be honest, i couldn't believe that the roads weren't all closed!) the roads around the football ground were a flood of black and white. we would have got down the street quicker if we were walking. it was nerve wracking. but no biggie. i saw it as my own fault for not thinking things through.

then? i did something even dafter.

i meant to turn onto st james' boulevard. but i missed my turning - obviously so relieved to be away from the sea of people - and turned down Stowell Street, through the Chinese Gate.

i'd kind of forgotten how many people walk up to St James' Park from down there. this was even worse. outside the ground, people had just been walking straight across the road, at a 90 degree angle to the direction i was travelling. on Stowell Street, they were walking in the opposite direction to the one i was trying to drive.

even in the car, we could feel the excitement in the air. we'd lost the first match; noone was hugely optimistic about our odds of winning this next one, but everyone was hopeful we would at least scrape a draw. and this good mood was palpable. noone seemed annoyed by the idiots trying to drive up their pathway. they smiled as they cut in front of the car. i smiled back.

unfortunately, the idiot driver behind wasn't quite so patient. she beeped her horn, obviously frustrated. maybe scared. i couldn't believe it. it was obvious that everyone expected us to stop for them, and i was ok with that.

on match days, the streets belong to the football fans. and i think that's how it should be.


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the match was newcastle v aston villa. as we walked round town, we could hear the regular cheers, and ended up calling one of our friends to ask the score. at that point it was 3-0. by the end of the match, they'd scored another three.

it was a pretty good day for newcastle fans.

Friday, 3 September 2010

a long time ago, when this blog was shiny and new, i blogged about one of my neighbours. as we were walking down to the shop one day he asked us to get him a lighter and a bottle of whisky.

over time, i got to know him a little better. it was a stroke that put him into the wheelchair. he used to be a runner. being in the chair drove him insane. he was often broke. sometimes i lent him a couple of quid.

(he never remembered to pay me back. i never asked.)

when he saw me out running, he used to tell me to run intervals using the lamp posts as measures. he didn't understand that by that stage i wasn't fit enough for intervals.

i think he just wanted to share his wisdom.

he did a bit better once he got an electric wheelchair. he used to roll round the estate, talking to people. assuming they'd talk back. most people did.

i only knew his name because the woman in the corner shop asked if the order was for him the first time i went in for him.

i haven't seen him in a long time. that's happened before - once i didn't see him for months, turned out he'd been in respite care - but then i noticed that his flat was being ripped apart. the front door and the windows replaced, the walls replastered. i guess i already knew what had happened. but i needed to know for sure.

tonight i asked the woman in the shop what had happened to him. she looked at me, blank, for what felt like years. 'In the wheelchair? He died weeks ago!'

apparently it was his liver. the amount he drank and smoked, i'm not surprised. but then i wouldn't have been surprised if it was another stroke, or a heart attack. he wasn't the healthiest guy around.

but there was no need for the woman in the shop to be so mean about it. if i didn't hear in the shop, how else would i know what had happened?

RIP, wheelchair guy. i'll miss you. i hope you're glad to be out of that chair.