I went to see my mother the other night. It’s something sons have to do from time to time to make sure they don’t get cut out of the will.
I’d had a busy weekend (there was lots of football on television) and hadn’t managed to get home so, feeling guilty, drove to Manchester to say hello.
However, I made the mistake of arriving halfway through Coronation Street and nothing, and I mean nothing, gets in the way of my mum and Corrie.
If, for example, a Third World War erupted and Russia warned every citizen of Lancashire to evacuate their house because a nuclear bomb was due to hit at any moment, my mum would remain perched stubbornly on the settee with a brew and a chocolate Hobnob until Corrie ended.
So I walked in, said “hi mum, so sorry I couldn’t come on Sunday, great to see you” and she replied, tersely “be quiet love, there’s still 10 minutes to go and Dev and Sally have started sleeping together”.
It reminded me of going to my Aunty Jessie’s on Christmas Day. We always, without fail, seemed to time our visit to coincide with the start of the Queen’s Speech, which my elderly aunt insisted on watching no matter what.
Each year my aunt would barely acknowledge us as we walked through the door and our entire family – on what for us kids, high as a kite and excited about our new presents, was the happiest, most exciting day of the year – had to sit in complete silence to watch a posh-sounding lady with a perm and some corgis. Between the ages of five and 14, I watched every Queen’s Speech just because we visited Jessie at an inconvenient hour.
Anyway, my mother is clearly going the same way, for she ignored me and continued watching her Corrie, while I muttered, in slight teenager fashion, “it’s Ok, I’ve only driven an hour to see you”, and marched into the back room.
It paid dividends though, for while I waited to be granted a moment of her time I began browsing through a book I hadn’t looked at in ages.
Called Chronicle of the 20th Century, I remember being fascinated by it as a kid. A marvellous addition to any bookcase, it is set out in newspaper style and chronicles all the big stories from every month of every year of the last century. It is a mammoth 1,375 pages long, but you don’t read it from start to end. Instead you turn to a random page and because everything is in easy to read bite-sized pieces, you are almost guaranteed to stumble upon a fascinating fact.
Page 675, for example, August 23 1948: ‘A new type of school, called a comprehensive, was announced by Middlesex County Council today. Modelled on American high schools, other councils are planning to follow suit. The Ministry of Education has asked for a report on the experiment’.
March 27, 1968: ‘Colonel Yuri Gagarin, the world’s first spaceman, was killed today when an obsolete MIG-15 jet trainer he was flying lost height and crashed into the ground 40 miles north of Moscow.’ (I never knew this)
Sept 29, 1978: ‘In one of the most bizarre murders ever, a Bulgarian defector has been killed by being stabbed with a poisoned umbrella point. Georgi Markov died four days after the tip was jabbed into his thigh as he waited at a bus stop on Waterloo Bridge in Central London.’
It was at that moment my mother appeared in the doorway and started to talk to me (something about Ethel winning a meat hamper in the bridge club raffle). I briefly thought about saying I was in the middle of a book and would she come back when I’d finished, but of course it doesn’t work that way.
The book was returned to the shelf, though it’s reassuring to know that if I arrive mid-Corrie again, at least I’ll know how to pass the time.
The fans deserve more from their club
I reported on Blackpool FC for 10 years and bar an illness one February that kept me off work for a couple of weeks (I won’t go into detail, but I spent a small fortune on toilet cleaner), attended every single match and witnessed the club rise in spectacular fashion, from bottom to top division.
The best moment was in 2010, when 100,000 people lined the promenade to cheer the Seasiders players as they boarded an open-top bus following promotion to the Premier League.
It felt like the town was alive and it gave Blackpool, with all its problems and issues, its high rates of drug abuse and teenage pregnancies and heart disease and high mortality rates, something to be proud of and to be positive about.
A few short years later, all that has gone.
The club is back in the bottom league, attendances are dwindling, and there is almost universal disgust at the way the place is being run by the Oyston family.
It is so horribly sad to see, and while football is cyclical and the Seasiders will, no doubt, enjoy good times again, this shouldn’t have happened yet, certainly not so quickly.
The fans deserved the good times to last longer. As it is, with the current regime at the helm, it seems that in the short-term there is precious little to look forward to.