It was Mrs Canavan’s birthday last week and, being the romantic type, I booked us lunch at a tearoom she had wanted to go to.
I say booked. What I mean is I kept saying I’d book but repeatedly forgot until Mrs Canavan got so exasperated she did it herself, which, as it turned out, worked out well for there was a £10 deposit payable over the phone. I was already saving money.
Situated in a lovely part of the Lancashire countryside, near Slaidburn, this tearoom serves afternoon tea in a rather quirky fashion on a mini-picnic bench. You get a couple of sandwiches and other savoury bits and pieces, a variety of little desserts, and some mysterious alcoholic drink served, for reasons unknown, in a miniature wellington boot (a wellington boot-shaped glass, not an actual wellington boot – that would be horrendous).
The sun was shining and it was all so lovely and pleasant Mrs C even forgave me for buying the wrong size shoes for her birthday (I could have sworn she is a size four, turns out she’s a seven).
Then something happened that reminded me why women are strange and mysterious creatures.
Talk turned to birthdays past and we reminisced about the year we celebrated hers in Australia.
We went there for five weeks in the summer of 2008 and had a glorious time, with the added bonus that neither of us got bitten by a deadly spider, eaten by a crocodile or met Jason Donovan.
But I’m afraid that on her birthday I did something very out of character. I spent money on her.
Maybe it was because our relationship was still in a fairly early phase and I wanted to trick her into believing I was the kind, caring type. Maybe being in a foreign land on the other side of the world made me giddy. Or maybe I’d just had too many cans of Fosters.
Either way this is what happened on her birthday.
For breakfast I took her to a cafe in Sydney run by the celebrity chef Bill Granger. Scrambled egg on toast cost –and I’m not making this up – 16 dollars. Such was my shock at this I examined the bottom of the toast to see if it was made of gold. It wasn’t.
At lunch we went to Bondi Beach where I had booked us a surfing lesson. This was not cheap, and let me tell you I made a great personal sacrifice – those wetsuits don’t half chafe.
And then, the piece de resistance, for our evening meal I’d reserved a table at the restaurant inside the Sydney Opera House. That’s right, the actual Opera House, one of the architectural wonders on Planet Earth, up there with the Taj Mahal and Fleetwood’s Marine Hall.
It was so posh the menu didn’t include prices. I guess they expect anyone dining there is too loaded to care.
I remember with great clarity the moment I looked at the bill and saw the figure $495.65. Just how I reacted I cannot quite recall, though Mrs Canavan tells me I made a series of odd, strangulated noises and began to sweat profusely. $495 dollars. I have paid less for holidays.
Anyway, the upshot was that on her birthday many moons ago, when I was younger, more foolish and way less tight, I spoiled her rotten.
After we’d finished reminiscing about this, there was a pause. Then she said, without any humour, ‘but you didn’t actually get me a present did you’.
I put down my mini- Wellington boot and, trying to keep a modicum of calm, said ‘I beg your pardon?’
“That birthday,” she repeated. “Don’t get me wrong, it was very nice. But you didn’t actually get me a gift I could open”.
I had no answer to that. The birthday in question cost me around 500 quid and is without doubt the biggest regret of my life. How could I have spent so much money on one day? It’s the reason the cat now has to have the cheap jellied stuff instead of the gourmet cartons.
Yet it turns out even on that most extravagant of days I failed because I didn’t buy a present.
I’m generalising here I know, but women – they’re a mysterious breed.
Top players are human and fallible as well
Harry Redknapp’s claims that certain players he’s managed didn’t want to turn out for their country whipped up a storm.
Although Redknapp seems a fella who doesn’t mind courting the odd spot of controversy, I have to back him on this one.
I spent 15 years as a football writer throughout the North West and got to know a few international players, and it is the case that some don’t always want to play for their country, especially when it’s a friendly.
There’s a pattern – a player is delighted and thrilled when they win their first cap. That goes on for a few more games. Then, when it becomes the norm to play for your country, the novelty value goes and it can become something of a chore (especially when there’s a friendly at Liechtenstein coming up).
This isn’t the case for all players, I hasten to add. The vast majority would walk over hot coals to don the international shirt.
Others will, however, at some point, pull out of a squad under the pretence of an injury or a personal issue because they just don’t fancy it.
But should we be too critical and righteous?
No because, on differing levels, it’s the same for all of us. None of us would dream of pulling a sickie on our first week in a new job (well, not unless we’ve got some real nerve). But after six months we might. It’s human nature. The longer you stay in a job, the more you think you can get away with things. In football, with all those huge egos (egos we in the media massage every day), that attitude is magnified.
I remember being thrilled about covering a Blackpool pre-season tour in Latvia. A week abroad in a posh hotel, all expenses paid, classed as work ... what could be better? It was pretty good the next year, too, but the third year dragged a bit and the fourth one I decided not to go.
That said, I wasn’t representing my country and that’s the thing most folk find hard to understand – how could someone not want to wear the shirt of their country? It’s the dream of every young child.
Unfortunately, footballers are as human and as fallible as the rest of us.
Given the current state-of-play with the national team, though, maybe Harry could have chosen a better time for his revelations.