“I’ve been away, I’ve been working… But now I’m back, and I need to know that you’re still there.
I need to know that you still care…
Of course you do!”
We are at the mid point of the summer holidays, and school, plus those shopping lists, currently feel a long way away.
After three weeks of normal life, a little refresher is required, hence the titular pun, nit just because the football’s back but also because orange is the new black in terms of being my new favourite colour, and not just because it is the only colour named after a fruit, despite popular belief that the opposite was true.
Anyway, back to the summer, and orange was a prominent colour during our trip to Italy. Betsy’s first foray abroad, she flew brilliantly, and was in good spirits when we touched down in Tuscany, so much so that her happy shouts of “MUMMY!” “NANNIE!” and “GRANDAD!” across the car hire office were met with smiles by all apart from the Hertz rental woman who scowled and moaned, complaining that she had to work in the noise, and that B should be quiet.
Welcome to Italy? Are you serious, I asked, to be met with a Tuscan profanity.
“Ma’ va te ne a fanculo,” I said.
Other than that, it was seven days of heaven, replete with Strega, sunshine, swimming, sightseeing in beautiful Siena, bistecca, Firenze, Peroni (the proper stuff) a few shopping lists too, and reading the really quite wonderful Pirlo autobiography as well as the Gazzetta everyday which whetted my appetite for what was to come at home.
Meanwhile, I adopted the look of a gondolier as we roamed the hot Florentine streets, marvelling at the signage and the lifestyle and wishing we could stay longer in the archipelago. I tasted lampredotto for the first time, drank grappa at 11am, caught a gecko to show B what nature abroad looked like, bought half decent bottles of wine for a Euro and most of all, indulged in quality family time that gets forgotten about when you live your life by a bell alongside unruly teens.
The holiday of a lifetime, then, for us all, and hopefully the first of many for Boo, even if she was secretly suffering from chicken pox throughout and the spots appeared once we got home, coming down to earth with a bump, alongside a flat tyre, lots of rain, and somewhat bizarrely, dead pigeons.
Now I wrote two years ago exactly, that an unwell pigeon appeared outside the flat as if a sign that B was on her way (she arrived a week later) and it was a test for me to nurse it overnight. It symbolised, I thought, the arrival not just of our daughter but of Duncan Ferguson as first team coach who I’d seen that day at a pre-season friendly with my Dad.
This is him, the day he came to school.
Duncan was my idol as a teenager and as a young man. My GCSE art exam was a portrait of him leaving court. Yes, many will say he never fulfilled his potential, and he did go to jail for an on-field misdemeanour following lots of off-field ones but he gave us hope, a voice, he was an enigma, a genius, mysterious yet open and both loved and loving. He even made it into my best man’s wedding speech.
Fast forward two years, I’m at another pre-season friendly with my Dad – Duncan’s testimonial no less, which ended in tears with me reminiscing during his post-match address – and then, later that evening, at about 8pm we heard a thud, went out to investigate and a baby pigeon lay dead on next door’s drive.
Meanwhile, a lonely feather and a ghostly outline, like a chalk drawing at a murder scene, clung to the glass.
I’d seen it with its parent, presumably learning to fly, and couldn’t help but feel sadness at the episode, signalling the end as it did, of my project photographing dead pigeons: although, somewhat serendipitously, my best friend / man had that very day sent me a specimen he had seen, a nicer way to close the project, methinks, alongside this classic that my father in law introduced me to the night I started writing this post.
The next day sees us off to look for garden sheds. How things have changed, you might think, and you’d be right: apart from Italy, another highlight of the holiday at half time is two days spent nitromorsing a fireplace to restore it to a former glory and it’s taking time but coming on well. So, after choosing said shed, we opted for lunch out, and after our last visit to Formby when I saw three current and former Everton stars, I wondered what – or more accurately, whom – awaited us this time.
Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed: two current Liverpool ‘stars’ who front NIVEA campaigns, having a cosy lunch I tried to ignore, and, on the next table, a former Reds player whose little boy played with B as he sipped his wine, which might have resulted in a missed chance the following weekend… the strange world of professional footballers, who took home loads of boxes of pizza and pasta whilst I got a discount code from my inbox in advance of the bill, and they presumably went home to their mansion whilst we came home to – a shopping trolley?
The dead pigeon had gone, whilst opposite the house had appeared a TESCO trolley. I immediately thought of the excellent Gomez album of b-sides from back in the noughties. I searched for said hotline, obviously nowadays there’s an app for everything so downloaded that instead, and I used it to report the trolley but after two days (enjoyed drinking among the hipsters in town and then, in the night garden) when it hadn’t been collected as the app promised, I contacted TESCO and they’d arrived within the hour to take it away.
This all brought me back to the shopping lists and, strangely, the future.
There are lots more lists on their way, don’t you worry, including some from Italy you’ll be pleased to know, but I just wonder whether the excellent series HUMANS will ‘come true’ anytime soon, what with their synths who do everything for their owners and can remember shopping lists easily, and if shopping lists – just like holiday memories and the pigeon – become a thing of the past…