The next – final – instalment of our alphabetical voyage from a ‘good place’ to – exactly where, I’m not entirely sure, but a better one definitely, and takes in Michelin starred restaurants, befriending ex Liverpool heroes, collecting Panini stickers and obsessing over shipping containers.
We begin with a trip to Knowsley Safari Park, and a chance encounter with an Everton number nine.
A day of sunshine and (April) showers, we gleefully spotted lots of creatures whilst touring the enclosures on a busy half term day, and I got an eerie feeling that this was more like Jurassic Park than I’d remembered. Thankfully, only a rhea and an antelope came close to the car, we took the baboon safety route for obvious reasons especially when we saw the couple openly mating for all to enjoy.
Come the end of the tour, we had a go on the rides and queued for an ice cream. I spotted a tall guy in a tracksuit in a flat cap and instantly thought, hello, wait a minute, IS IT?
Yes it was.
I hovered as presumably his agent, explained how to buy tickets for said rides. I stood back as the rain fell and his four or five offspring ran to him for shelter. I thought me chance had gone, so took this picture of him and his unhappy looking wife watching on as their kids enjoyed themselves – wifey pushing a buggy crammed with Tesco juices and Everton carrier bags. I couldn’t resist the chance to ask for a selfie and do you know what, he was a true gent, took his cap off and everything. I wished him good luck for the upcoming games and he seemed made up to have been spotted and approached as nobody else seemed to have.
few days later, we sat enjoying an anniversary lunch at Northcote Manor in Lancashire. The meal was fantastic and I plumped for scallops and skate before an indulgent cheese and port: Mrs G opting for wild mushroom soup, pork loin with wild garlic mash and a rhubarb compote. Unfortunately, my co-diner had to go outside to be sick because early pregnancy nausea had taken over and as she recovered, I was offered a tour of the kitchens, overwhelmed by the facilities, the chocolate room, the venison hanging in the meat room, the knowing nods of the busy staff wondering who I was (answer: a nobody just enjoying himself immensely with this glimpse of what might have been) and overall, the quality of the food and the hospitality we enjoyed.
Following the Kone incident, I’d had another star gazing moment or two, when seeing a certain Kopite hero in the locality and for a laugh – recognising his number plate as I see him A LOT – I gave him a wave, and laughed when I got one back. Two days later, the same situation: the same result, my new best friend.
V for VICTORY
Three days on, he was there again, at Marine’s last home game of the season. An impeccably observed 3-0 win, enjoyed in the sunshine with Ol’ JC and a beer festival in the clubhouse afterwards. The players sauntered in, munching their pizza, and said hello to us all. Never having enjoyed the experience of the players’ lounge at Goodison, I wondered if this was what it was like: getting let on to, over hearing conversation, feeling special, although this non-league version offered somewhat less salacious gossip… though, now I was a friend of a Premier League icon, it mattered little.
Everton haven’t been doing too well recently, I’ll be honest.
Derby defeats, semi final suffering and overall antipathy is not much fun to endure and as I get excited about going the last game of the season and buying a child-sized kit for the first time, I have to comment on the pathetic nature of some folk who, online and in conversation, seem to get more pleasure out of belittling me and my team personally rather than focusing on their own life and team. It’s almost as if they get pleasure from upsetting others when we have nothing to do with the performances really, and don’t like any response they don’t understand.
Offended by everything, ashamed of nothing… and when you point this out, you’re bitter and it’s just harmless banter.
The worst are those who’ve never made it to a game in the time I’ve known them, and not because of the psychology of martyrdom: rather, other random reasons, or just nothingness.
One equals twenty, you do the math.
It all makes me laugh, because everyone involved should know better: and concentrate on other things.
However, I have become much more bothered about starting collecting the Euro 2016 Panini album stickers and actually got two Baines stickers in one packet. We have a swap club in school on Friday lunchtimes and my daughter loves opening the packets, though rips the occasional sticker much to her Dad’s chagrin.
The first sticker we revealed together, was one of my favourite players:
We collect things because of toilet training, because of childhood: an attempt to remain clinging to a youth slipping away.
Similarly, I have started drawing and documenting shipping containers which we see on the journey to and from school every day, thinking about what might be inside – a foreshadow of the near future.
I recently read about frequency illusion, a phrase coined by Arnold Zwicky ten years ago, relating to the notions of selective attention and confirmation bias which basically mean that once you notice something or get told about it, you start to notice it everywhere, and this has certainly been proven with lots of my collections over the years.
Passport photos, shopping lists, ghost signs… everything.
This idea of spotting things suddenly is also know as the Baader Meinhof Phenomenon, you may have heard of it – if not, you will be doing over the next couple of months!
As the annual Hannah Festival approaches, I will discuss in more detail my new love for shipping containers, being as they are the natural successor to the shopping lists and before them, the Chinese cockle pickers and other objects of desire… every morning and every afternoon, I document the weird and wonderful boxes spotted on the journey to and from work, for reasons which will become apparent.
It all supports the themes running through my work before parenthood – as Carol Ann Duffy might write, Before You Were Mine – and links in to schadenfreude which resonates nicely to the football related nonsense I was discussing earlier, and has been proven again recently what with the magpies I am noticing everywhere. For months we were wondering, three or four, what might that mean, but now that we know, my superstitions mean I’m doing a lot of saluting because for every solo magpie I then when we see a couple, and feel relieved.
In the next month I visit Bilbao, celebrate a milestone and say good bye to some heroes, temporarily at least, with a pilgrimage to the old lady for old times’ sake. I consider how to further avoid conflict and frustration, and embrace new music and new managers…
In the mean time, I hope this blog stays healthy and you all do too as things start to change once again – for the better.
And dreams come true.
I’ll get my sleep in now.