Of football, hairdressers, techno-trauma, anxiety and Blytonesque picnics

  Now life will return in this electric storm … .  Well, this has been quite a week.

On the plus side, the Premier League and the Championship are back.  Hooray!!  And the US Open is going ahead, although I’ve got mixed feelings about that because I know that a lot of players don’t want to travel at the moment.  And, hooray, assuming that hairdressing salons do, as expected, get the go-ahead to reopen on July 4th, I’ve got an appointment at 8am on July 5th.  Yes, 8am, on a Sunday, and no, the salon does not normally open then, but people are frantic for haircuts!   Also, non-essential shops have reopened, which will hopefully give the economy an urgently-needed boost – I’ve already sadly heard that a number of people I know have been made redundant – and save a lot of jobs.

Oh, how wonderful is to have football back?  I have missed it *so* much.  Having no live sport for over two months was very weird indeed, and it was getting on for three months when Villa and Sheffield United finally took the field on Wednesday night, followed by City and Arsenal.  And, on Friday night, it was us!   United v Spurs.  Well, Spurs v United.  It’d been a very long wait.  Normally I’d say that a draw at Spurs was a good result, but we should never have conceded that goal.  What were De Gea and Maguire doing?   But we’re talking about defensive errors.  We’re talking about the blooper that Hawk-Eye made by disallowing Sheffield United’s goal.  This is sort of normality.  OK, it’s not normal when the stadia are empty, but it’s a big step forward.

I love the piped noise!  I thought it might sound awful, like canned laughter on sitcoms.  But it was great. Watching the first Bundesliga matches after the restart was very, very odd, with that deathly silence.  Even watching United v LASK Linz, behind closed doors in March, my own team winning a resounding victory, was very odd with no noise.  But the piped noise really is great.  As long as no-one presses the wrong button, like the unfortunate moment when the Juventus piped noise cheered rather than groaned when Ronaldo missed a penalty!

None of the matches so far have been that great.  That’s inevitable.  The players aren’t match fit, and, like the rest of us, they’re no doubt a bit dazed with how their world’s been turned upside down in the last three months.  But it’s back.  We can get back to stressing about whether our teams are going to clinch a Champions League or Europa League place, or stay safe from relegation, or, if you’re a Liverpool fan, when the title will be won.  We can get back to moaning about and criticising 😉 the players, the managers, the officials and the technology – first match back and goal line technology got it wrong!  We can drool over the good stuff – and there was some good stuff.  And we can get back to discussing it all with our families and friends.

And the bad stuff.  On Tuesday night, we had the worst storm we’ve had in decades.  It was just horrendous.  And my broadband went off.  I assumed that the water’d upset a connection somewhere.  I managed to get through to BT on Wednesday morning, and they sent an engineer on Thursday.  I thought it’d be sorted within an hour or so.  Instead, he said that:

  1.  The hub had been damaged by lightning.  They would send a new hub by post, but, “due to coronavirus”, would not let me book an engineer to set it up and reconnect all my devices.
  2. He had had to rewire the phone.  The phone in the study works – although it’s still fuzzy, but the fuzziness goes off when the hub’s disconnected, and he claimed that it’d work OK when the new hub was in – but the phones in the front room and the bedroom are now dead, and I’ve got no answering machine.  He refused to rewire the other phones “because of coronavirus” and said that I would have to order wireless phones and set them up myself.

At this point, I lost it.  I suffer badly from anxiety, and I can’t take medication for it because of the side-effects.  I had quite a bad breakdown in 2013.  I was so upset that my mum and dad had to come round – OK due to the “support bubble”.   It then got worse when the wireless phones came but didn’t work properly – the line’s so fuzzy that I can barely hear what the other person’s saying, and they can’t hear what I’m saying.  I don’t know whether the handsets or base are faulty, or whether the engineer messed something up.  The line is now clear on the old phone, but, as I said, the phones in the front room and the bedroom are now dead, and I’ve got no answering machine

Better news is that, touch wood, I managed to get the new hub working.  And I’m eternally grateful to my mum and dad, to my cousin who helped me “tether” my laptop to my mobile phone whilst I was waiting for the new hub, and to my lovely supportive Whatsapp groups – a family group and a friends group.  Work, on the other hand, tried to hassle me into going into the office to work there, and I ended up getting so upset and stressed that I said I was having two days off ill with anxiety.

I wish I could get this phone situation resolved.  Meanwhile, this whole nightmare really brought it home to me how dependent we are on technology.  We could not have “done” lockdown 25 years ago.  A lot of people are doing grocery shopping online.  I’m not, but I’m ordering a lot of stuff from Amazon.  I need the internet to prebook visits to National Trust and English Heritage sites.  And where I’d be without Facebook and Whatsapp, I just do not know.

It’s also really brought it home to me that we’re going to be hearing “becauseofcoronavirus” as an excuse for crap service for months to come.  I pay BT good money for their service.  They should not have disconnected my sockets and refused to reconnect them.


On a different and more cheerful note, I went to Brodsworth Hall on Saturday.  They did have a small mobile catering outlet open, but a lot of people had brought picnics.   It was the same at Tatton Park.  And, at our own Heaton Park, I’m seeing loads of people bringing tables, chairs, and enormous picnics.  I’m not just talking about a few sandwiches and packets of crisps: I’m talking about huge spreads, like people have in Enid Blyton books.  In fact, it goes back way before then.  The whole gang go for a big picnic in Jane Austen’s Emma!  In children’s books set in the inter-war years and (forget a little thing called rationing) the immediate post-war years, everyone’s always going out for picnics.  The Chalet School girls lug all sorts of food up mountains with them … usually managing to forget the lemonade.  And Toad, Mole, Badger and Ratty eat even more than the Famous Five et al do.

I think picnics used to be a lot more common.  Think of the days of big Sunday School picnics.  Even when I was a kid, in the early ’80s, we had a big picnic basket, and we’d go out for picnics with the extended family.  But they seemed to be dying out, as it got so much easier to buy food on the go.  Why lug your own stuff when you could grab sandwiches and crisps wherever you were?  But now, with a lot of cafes sadly closed, although many are doing a brilliant job with their takeaway services, and people meeting up in the park because you aren’t supposed to meet up indoors unless you’re in a support bubble, it feels as if picnics are making a big comeback.

I am not having Blytonesque picnics, I hasten to add!  I am far too lazy to make all that stuff, and, as I’m on a permanent diet, I’d be far too stressed about the calories anyway.  But still.

And, finally, I was sad to hear of the death of Dame Vera Lynn.  I know she was 103 and no-one lives for ever, but she was such a respected and iconic figure, and it’s very poignant that she should have gone just when “We’ll Meet Again” was inspiring the country over 75 years after it did the first time round.

Well, this has certainly been an eventful week.  Please, please let the phone saga get sorted soon.  Meanwhile, if anyone’s read all that, thank you, and I hope you’re enjoying the football, enjoying your picnic, and have got yourself booked in for a haircut!


Football’s coming back!

I’ve just inscribed on my calendar, for a fortnight on Friday, 14 glorious characters – “Spurs (A) 8:15pm”.  I don’t know why I’ve put “(A)”, because, whether it’s at White Hart Lane, Old Trafford or the Maracanã, I sadly will not be able to attend in person.  I don’t even know why I’ve put it on my calendar at all, because it’s not as if I’m likely to double book myself by arranging to go to the theatre, the cinema or a wild party that night.  But it felt so good just to be writing it – even if it was rather odd seeing a Premier League fixture written on a day when I’d already noted that England would have a Euro 2020 group match and the Queen’s and Halle tennis tournaments would be taking place.  It’s coming back, it’s coming back, it’s coming, football’s coming back!!

The huge upsurge in interest in German football since the return of the Bundesliga’s shown how much football is being missed.   La Liga and Serie A aren’t back yet, but, in attention to the Bundesliga, I’ve found Portuguese, Danish and Polish football on my TV, and I believe that Norwegian football’s coming soon!  But it’s not like being able to watch our own teams, our own league.  Bring it on!   But let’s all behave, please.  There’ve been some unwelcome scenes in Portugal: we don’t want to see that repeated anywhere else.  And, whilst we get excited over the return of the Premier League, the Championship and the Cup, and then, hopefully, the Champions League and the Europa League, let’s not forget all the clubs lower down the pyramid and beyond, and the women’s teams.  But, when Villa and Sheffield United walk out at Villa Park on June 17th, to kick off the restarted season, it’s going to be a big moment.

And I also want to say that I’m very proud of all the good work done by the Manchester United Foundation, and by individual players, especially Marcus Rashford, in these very difficult times, and that other clubs and players have done similar work.  I’m sure that that will continue.

Football matches with no fans are very weird.  We saw that when United played LASK Linz behind closed doors back in March.  It’s sad for us that we can’t go to matches, or even meet our families and friends to watch them on TV together, and it’s sad for the players that they’ve got to play without crowds.  Some players, especially those with household members in vulnerable groups, have expressed concerns about the restart, and hopefully no-one who doesn’t feel comfortable playing will be asked to do so.   And the situation is a huge blow for all the cafes, pubs, souvenir stalls etc near the grounds, which depend on income from fans going to matches or stadium tours, and for the economy as a whole.

Then, putting club rivalries aside, there’s the strange situation which Liverpool are in.  Surely, surely, Liverpool will clinch the title, maybe even within the first week of the restart.  I’ve got concerns about all clubs being asked to play so many matches in such a short space of time, especially when the players aren’t going to be at peak physical fitness, but these are strange times.   Liverpool are so close.  The title surely can’t be far away.   And they should have what United had 27 years ago.  Is it really 27 years?   Our first title for 26 years.  It was incredible: it was one of the best feelings of my life.  The Sunday when Villa slipped up against Oldham and the title was ours, and the Bank Holiday Monday night when we lifted the trophy.  Liverpool have waited 30 years – Jordan Henderson should be lifting the trophy in front of a packed, delirious Anfield crowd, people should be celebrating into the night, and then there should be an open top bus tour.  But none of that can happen.  And I’m so sorry about that.  Take that from a Manchester United season ticket holder!

But at least the Premier League and Championship  season will, all being well, be finished.  At least Liverpool should get their title, their reward for their superb season, and they will actually have that moment of winning it, not have it decided by some mathematical formula.  In some countries – France, Belgium and indeed Scotland – the league seasons won’t be finished.   Nor will they in League 1, League 2 and all the women’s leagues here.  Places have been or will be decided one way or another – points per match, current standings, whatever works best – but it’s not the same as finishing it properly.  In some of the lower leagues here – I’m talking non-league leagues (silly expression, isn’t it?!) – the season’s been declared null and void.   OK, there are more important things than football, but that’s still sad – especially for those clubs set for promotion in the leagues where the season’s been scrapped completely.  We’re going to finish.  The title, the European places and the relegation places will be decided, fair and square.  And we’re going to have football back!

We’re going to have football back!  For an awful lot of us, life is pretty empty without sport.  Sporting fixtures and events mark out the year.   Weekends revolve around football fixtures.  Supporting a football club is part of our identity, of who we are.  Football is what people talk about – with their families, their friends, their colleagues, their schoolmates.  And life’s pretty empty full stop at the moment.   We can’t go to the theatre, the cinema, the pub, restaurants, cafes, or even round to see our families and friends.  Holidays are being cancelled right, left and centre.  You can’t go out anywhere without stressing about whether or not there’s going to be a toilet available!  We’ve already lost 2020’s Wimbledon, the Grand National, the Boat Race and so much else.   The Olympics have been postponed until next year.  Euro 2020’s now Euro 2021.

It should have been such a glorious summer of sport.  Most of that’s gone.  The US Open tennis hasn’t officially been postponed yet, but it’s very hard to see it happening: Rafa said straight out yesterday that it can’t happen, as things are.  But at least we’re going to have the Premier League, the Championship and the Cup back.

Football’s coming back!

Bring it on …