For some unknown reason, deep-seated, embedded, ingrained, annoying (but not annoying enough for me to do something about it), this blogger refuses to start writing until the hour is moving towards witching and long after all the studies tell us we should be in bed and hitting deep sleep. Perhaps it’s an Irish thing? Or, more likely, a procrastinator thing.
Last weekend I was doing my bit for humanity – not going down to watch Spurs against Leeds, that can’t count no matter how dire we were in the first half – but going up to Stockport to be scanned as part of the UK Biobank project. I signed up in 2010 to become part of “a large-scale biomedical database and research resource that contains the genetic, lifestyle and health information from half a million UK participants…
“The database, which now also includes genetic data for all participants and the heart and brain scans from over 50,000 participants, is globally accessible to approved researchers who are undertaking health-related research that is in the public interest.”
Well, Saturday was the scanning bit, including a brain scan, so presumably there was one in there somewhere. I thought of Dad and his dementia as I was lying there listening – and presumably reacting – to various noises, quite relaxed really, knowing that I wasn’t about to be tortured or anything brutal. Perhaps my scan, added to all the others, will provide some insight in to Alzheimers and the like and help counteract it. Worth a try.
On the way home, having survived the short taxi ride back to the station, tight-lipped, driven by a lad who had no clue how to drive properly and seemed to forget he had a passenger in the back, I had to change at Crewe. That got me thinking about the old song, a wartime number I believe: “Oh Mr Porter, what shall I do? I wanted to go to Birmingham but they sent me off to Crewe…”
Everything and everybody used to change at Crewe (Dai was born there, the town not the station, before the war) and every time I’m there I think of Mum and her sisters and friends waiting for their connections on the way home for leave or on their way back to duty. Must have been a lot more chaotic than it is now.
The next day it was off down to north London to watch Spurs, who are now under the charge of Antonio Conte, a man used to winning. He’s Italian and very demonstrative and if he can’t galvanise a lacklustre, dozy bunch, no one can. From my seat I can’t see him clearly but on the telly afterwards, after a lucky 2-1 win, he was diving in, bear-hugging his players, some of whom looked shocked at the passion, the emotion, the intensity. “They’ll all be a stone lighter by Christmas,” a fellow fan commented astutely, clocking just how much effort the players will have to put in to match the manager’s intensity and expectations.
Fortunately, before the match, if the coach gets there in time, no mean feat given the traffic en route, the chef at La Barca caff conjures up a mean omelette (or egg and chips or whatever) and provides enough sustenance to help us cope with whatever the game throws at us. The length football fans go to to get to games and the ingenuity of their travel arrangements are vastly under appreciated.
I was a bit alarmed when a load of noisy West Ham fans got on my train at Stafford on Saturday – they’d been playing Wolves and had lost 1-nil but even I had the sense not to mention that. My geography’s not great but my immediate thought was that Stafford was north of Wolverhampton (it is) and this was not the obvious way back to London. Turns out it must have been the quickest because the only stop between Stafford and London Euston was, fortunately for me, Lichfield Trent Valley.
I nearly played golf three times this week but my partner in the winter foursomes had a Covid scare and we’ve had to re-arrange for next month, health and weather permitting. The game is still patchy but my chipping and putting aren’t too bad – though the technique leaves a lot to be desired according to the expert observer I played with on Tuesday. No more delusions of grandeur here then.
Yesterday I caught the tail end of one of those excellent Open films, this one about Ian Baker-Finch, the lovely Australian who won the title in such style at Royal Birkdale in 1991 before crashing and burning as he tried to live up to the hype of being Open champion. Guiltily, I remembered following him virtually every step of the way as he struggled to a 92 in the first round of the Open at Troon in 1997. Feeling like some sort of ghoul or a hyena stalking a wounded animal, I was part of the pack who pursued him into the clubhouse, where he took refuge in the champions’ locker room and cried his eyes out. Not my finest hour.
The ever affable IBF has admitted that deep down he didn’t feel he was one of the best players in the world and, really, had no burning desire to be No 1 but felt he had to push himself and strive to improve even though winning the Open had been his dream. He was a very good player in an era of very, very goods and greats: people like Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Greg Norman and Nick Price, to mention just a few.
Baker-Finch gave up the unequal tournament struggle after Troon but stayed in love with the game and blossomed as a commentator, content with what he’d achieved, a career to be proud of and the admiration and respect of everyone he met.