This year, everything I've prayed and asked 'Him' upstairs for, has been duly delivered, except for the 'Bread and Butter', as Bob Paisley used to refer to it, maybe next season? That said, it's not been a bad year in terms of sporting achievements, a few marathons under my belt, a couple of ultras, two lots of 262 miles (524 in total) accumulated over 11 days circling Lake Windermere and a beaming smile seeing our beloved Liverpool Football Club lift Ol' Big Ears for the sixth time. To coin a phrase, 'let's talk about six, baby'; thank you Jürgen 'Kopp' and the whole team (I know I've mis-spelt his surname but he seems so much part of the fabric of Anfield maybe his parents added the L to his surname by way of deliberate error). His playful nod towards Salt-n-Pepa's 90's classic was him at his best; just having fun, loving his job, fulfilling a dream. I admire how direct he is, how open and honest he appears and (in my opinion) his profound common sense.
Three years ago I took our eldest son to Anfield for the first time on his 9th birthday. I love Liverpool, the city and the football club; the whole evening took me back to my own halcyon days with my own father. I can remember travelling up from the Midlands to midweek and weekend games, squeezing in to the back seat amongst my Dad's friends or on occasions sitting in the back of the van - which incidentally was the vehicle of choice for transporting Dad's racing greyhounds to whichever track they were running at, needless to say the van did smell of dog, not that much fun for a three hour round trip - or I might get lucky and get to ride in the boot of a hatchback or estate car. Looking for a safe place to park near the ground is a recollection that always produces a gurning grin to my face, especially when hindsight is attached; 'Mind yer car please mister', was the shout from the 'scallies' crowding around the car, obviously the adult would pay the odd few bob that generally meant the car would be safe but equally the lads 'minding' the car could get into Anfield for the game. Mum took me and a few friends up to Liverpool on a couple of occasions too. Once was to see the team arrive back with the European Cup after the victory in Paris in 1981, cheers Barney Rubble! We got into a taxi and the driver entertained us with stories of how Kevin Keegan had been in the cab, or Phil Thompson, or was it Ray Kennedy, either way the tales kept coming and were hungrily aurally consumed by three young enraptured listeners. So too, our night three years ago, was adorned with taxi driver chat to the birthday boy about who his favourite player was, how the Reds were doing and my son (who is relatively outgoing anyway) and he become embroiled in intense discussions and conjecture about how the season would go, like two lifelong friends gesticulating over a beer or two in the pub. The soul of Merseyside, to me is magical, the people seem to put you at ease, yes they are story tellers, yes I get that they can be accused of mischief or worse, but in general each and every visit I've ever paid to Liverpool has been a contented one. Even the one when I couldn't afford to get in the ground myself and yet taxi-ed friends up to the game in my old beat up blue Talbot Sunbeam whilst I stayed with the car and listened to the match on BBC Merseyside (medium wave) back in the late 80s. Yep, even then, fond memories.
A hope of mine is that my son(s) and I share enough special moments that they too will, in years to come, look back with some fondness of their old man. They are conjuring memories that often, well after they've happened, make me chuckle. We were discussing the recent Champions League Final in the car whilst heading up to school, when I was asked who sang You'll Never Walk Alone? I know it originally featured as a song in a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical but to every Liverpool fan it's birth as our anthem began with Bill Shankly and his love of Gerry Marsden and his band. I suggested to my son that if he wanted to find out more he 'google-whack' the lyrics. Apparently he couldn't find it or the band. Surprised I said I'd have a look on the tech when we arrived at school. Are you sure you've entered the search correctly I asked? Of course, he replied, I know how to use it better than you. He's not wrong there as I'm often asking him to set reminders or alerts amongst other things on my smartphone that I really should be able to do myself. The guffaw was inevitable though when looking through the recent search history I find that my wonderful eldest son, had not typed the name of the band quite correctly, instead it was...
Gerry and the Paste Makers!
Clearly the band well known for papier mache and glue. The innocence of the young, the enunciation of a daft middle aged Northerner and the attentive selective listening skills of a self assured eleven year old. Yet he knows all the lyrics to everything from Post Malone, to the Chainsmokers to Marshmello's Happier? I hope we generate more silly memories as the years flow by.
Balance that's what's needed here. Be honest with yourself, Duncan. I simply cannot write something so one-sided and all happy and fluffy clouded. I'm ashamed of myself today. My eldest and I had a bit of an argument and I really shouted and screamed at my son. He's just flexing his teenage muscles, I get it, but I can't behave like a child too. To be honest with myself, I thought I was getting better, growing in to the person I've had glimpses of. An awareness dinged my bell, having read something quickly on twitter the other day about 'narcissistic victim', it bothered me as my ex has called me this many times and accused me of being evil. Three and a half years later I'm desperately trying to move forward but when an argument ensues like the one we had, I begin to doubt myself again. I know I'm a better father than I ever was, I'm sober, I'm honest and open, the children and I play, we talk, I tell them stories, read and attend as many school functions as possible but still I don't feel good enough, does any parent? So the song I'm singing about how good a man I thought I was becoming needs to be checked against my own twisted lyrics. At the heart of my purpose for change was to prove my devotion to my children, to be the best father I could possibly be. Why did I forget my lines yesterday? Am I as authentic as I thought I was? I've been off-loading bags of guilt for all of my past mistakes over the last few years, I really don't need to collect another one, but then I'm striving for perfection and equally that's not going to happen either, maybe it is simply a case of holding my head up high when I walk through a storm?