I am having coffee with my friend Adriana.
“So,” she says, “I see”.
She sets the handle of the cup to the right, with the spoon at a decorous diagonal.
“You were in charge in there. Very perky.”
I leave in the air the unspoken implication that this is not always the case. “Something is doing you good”.
Adriana has been marvellously supportive of my writing even though she has never read a single word. Not only is she not interested in football, she is not interested in being interested. Such is the grasp of the Premier League on modern entertainment and the world of celebrity, it’s impossible to escape totally from its clutches so most people will be able to contribute to a football conversation when the topic comes up, as of course it always has for the past 40-odd years whenever anyone enquires innocently about my weekend or leisure interests. Adriana is pleased for me if I’m going to the game because she knows how much it means to me but that’s as far as it goes. After so long it feels wrong for me to bring up the subject, and that’s fine. It’s actually refreshing to talk about something else.
She fixes my gaze with her bright blue eyes. “So – must be all these new people you’ve been meeting.” As usual she’s keen to probe deeper and ponders a variety of entertaining reasons for my resurgence, her favourite being that this is a consequence of allowing my Jewish heritage to surface. The logic is frankly sketchy but with Adriana it’s the theorising that is delightfully engaging so I’m happy to go along with it. Or it could be my new tie. That she chose.
She’s right about me today. I led the meeting that we had both attended with focus and humour, overcoming some resistance to reach consensus and a set of decisions and tasks, and it feeds my vanity to be praised for it so I settle in my chair and enjoy the moment. The reasons for my performance are clear, at least to me. Our victory against Manchester City the previous evening means that today my mind is alert and sharp. Exactly the right words come to my lips without a second’s hesitation. I instinctively understand the moods and perspectives of those around me, as if a pea-souper has blown away to reveal a world bathed in sunlight. The group pick up my drive and enthusiasm and respond in kind. We did some good things today that could have a beneficial impact on others for many years to come.
There’s no conscious thought here. It’s instinct, as much a part of me as breathing. I am energised, bright and, I have to acknowledge, as such presenting a side of myself that has been invisible to many of my recent acquaintances. Spurs have won, won well, and I am a better person. There – I’ve said it.
There are two sides to this passion, so losing hurts but I’ve learned over the years to deal with it. Permanently in the grip of this football thing yet powerless to control my fate. I keep these thoughts to myself, because she won’t understand this arcane mystery that cannot be explained to the uninitiated. To people who live in the real world.
And if I am honest, it’s scary to think that what happens on a football field, something totally out of my hands, has so strong an influence on my personality. All the more reason to push these ideas to one side, at least for the time it takes to drink a cappuccino.
Adriana turns towards the café owner and smiles warmly. He’s made her toast, she’s made his day. She wistfully talks of her new coat, a sale bargain put aside and ready on Friday, the delayed gratification merely heightening her excitement. I share her pleasure. It’s something real, tangible, something she’s worked for and will give her pleasure for years to come. And she will look gorgeous in it. It’s another world, refreshing to be away temporarily from systems and transfers, resilience and defensive midfielders. But not for too long, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Always on my mind.
Happy New Year to you all. Sincere thanks to everyone who has read my labour of love since it began in the summer, especially those who have taken the time and trouble to comment. It’s really appreciated.
And in the words of one correspondent, Daveyboy, “Great blog, especially late at night when you’re stoned.” I think that says it better than I ever could.