THERE are many ways in which I am out of step with London life. Prime among them is an unwillingness, or incapacity, to plan my social life.
I like to think I’m a spontaneous guy. The truth is probably that I’m just not that well organised. Being organised is something I associate with work. Planned fun seems wrong. I realise this is a minority view. Experience has taught me so.
Sometimes I’ll phone a friend in mid-afternoon on Tuesday, my day off.
“Want to go for a pint after work?”
“I dunno, around half-six.”
“What, do you mean … TODAY!?”
Usually I then get an explanation as to why they can’t do today, something like “we’re going to a filming of Eight Out Of Ten Cats. It’s been planned since August. Why don’t we go for a pint … let me see … Thursday fortnight at around 7.15/7.20?”
Inherent in the emphasis on the advance preparation is the accusation that I am a social misfit for not having fuller diary than that of Simon Cowell’s latest band of slaves.
And I don’t have a full diary. Truth be told, I don’t have a diary. I live by the maxim that’s attached to a magnet on my microwave: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is gift – use it well.”
I want to use it well by going for a pint at half-past six, not plan to go for one in two weeks and two days’ time. I don’t know how I’m going to feel then. I might not want to go for a drink in a fortnight, but I do now.
Living in the moment, though, is for a different time and a different place.
Sport is the best way to explain the difference between history and the present (and probably the mysterious future too).
I like soccer and grew up in Cork, so became a fan of Cork City FC. I went to a decent chunk of their home games during the 1990s – though not so many when they moved to the unconverted farm in outer Bishopstown for a couple of years.
Usually, the decision of whether to attend a game or not was taken early on a Sunday afternoon, a couple of hours before kick-off.
I might phone one of the others to see if they’d be there. Many a time, I’d just head down to the ground without making a call, pay the £2 on the gate and shuffle up towards our usual spot in the left corner of the Shed.
You’d know that at least one from the group of four of us would be there so when the football was uninspiring (nostalgia won’t stretch to me trying to argue that it was usually anything other than primitive) you’d have a chat and a bit of a laugh. Afterwards, we might tip on the Evergreen to watch whatever Premier League match was on. Or we might not. It depended on how we were feeling in that moment.
Nowadays, I live around the same distance from my London team, Spurs, as I did from Turners Cross. But I go to around two or three games a season, instead of at least a dozen.
Part of the problem is that I work weekends. Another problem is that demand to see Tottenham Hotspur play is slightly greater than it was or is to see the Rebel Army.
In a stadium that holds 36,000, most games are sold out. So you have to book tickets in advance. To have a decent chance of booking tickets, you need to be some class of a member, ie pay a yearly fee for the right to buy tickets. To be really sure of admission you need to be a season ticket holder. There is a long waiting list for the privilege of handing over around a grand to see your team play. I have neither the means nor the wish to be on that list.
Buying a season ticket means you are committing most of your spare time and disposable income to watching soccer. So that omits the casual fan, somebody who wants to go to quite a few games but doesn’t want to build the rest of their life around it all.
I could, of course, go and watch Barnet in my original, spur-of-the-moment, manner. But I don’t really want to. I’ve been a Tottenham fan for as long as I can remember so don’t feel inclined to support any other team in Britain.
I want to watch Spurs, on a whim, when I feel like it.
To the heavily-invested season ticket holder, I imagine that sounds like the wish of a deluded, barely-loyal part-timer. Well, I might be deluded, but I reckon I’m loyal; I’d go to the same amount of games regardless of whether the Lilywhites were leading the Premier League or fighting relegation from the Blue Square. A bit of glory would be nice, but what I’m really chasing is the chance to roll up to my favourite club of a Saturday afternoon if the mood takes me.
Clubs nowadays have sections for away fans, families, the corporate crowd. In my, admittedly left-of-centre, mind they should have a small section reserved for fans who live within five miles of the ground who may feel like rocking up if the mood strikes. Most of them won’t turn up every week, but there will always be at least enough to fill the area.
I can’t think of any especially compelling argument in favour of such a section – which is not really a good thing in a newspaper column.
All I’ll say is that the casual supporter who lives locally was there before the bandwagon cranked up and left the station. And when the bloated, all-devouring modern game eventually eats itself and excretes every overpaid one-footed chancer and good-time fan and all that’s left is the badge on the shirt and the turnstile at the gate, we’ll be the ones who pay with cash and shuffle on towards our favourite spot. Just like it was in the beginning.