Tuesday, 22 September 2015

How Not To See Your First Football Match

Gilby is a football fiend.

He can't walk past anything that doesn't have foundations without kicking it to try and score. His first love is Arsenal. He has the kit; he has the pyjamas; he has the Arsenal football.

His sixth birthday was a football party - complete with full size pitch and coach.

He has begun playing for a local club, and his school coaching is done by the Albion in the Community team from Brighton and Hove Albion football club.

But he had, until last weekend, never been to a 'real' game.  (Sorry, Hearth-Father, Sunday morning veterans doesn't count...)

At the final cricket game of the season (a tense few weekends when the cricket and football seasons overlap) I happened to mention that I was trying to get tickets for a local game.

'Why don't you and Gilby come and enjoy the hospitality of my private box for the next Brighton and Hove Albion home game?' offered the president of the cricket club.  Now, there's an offer you can't refuse.

So, off we went - for my first visit to the magnificent AMEX Stadium (saw a few games at the Withdean, but it's been a while), and Gilby's first Championship game.

Now - there were a few rules. It's smart in them there private boxes, so no team shirts and no trainers.  And we had to arrive two and a half hours early in order to enjoy the three course meal...

We were presented with a complimentary programme on arrival.  Waitresses brought drinks directly to us,  and the view from the table was magnificent.

What's more, Brighton's Hemed scored in the opening five minutes after a shot by Dale Stephens was blocked just before. For the first fifteen minutes Brighton dominated and it was all very exciting.  Bobby Zamora came on right at the end for his first appearance at home for his old club in twelve years. The crowd were suitably appreciative, and Gilby was well aware of Zamora as a player from his premiership days. Brighton won 1-0, and whilst the rest of the game didn't quite live up to the pace and promise of the start, the sun shone and it was a fantastic afternoon.

For Brighton it was always going to be a special day - tinged with sadness as the club paid tribute to two of their own lost in the Shoreham air disaster three weeks before.

It was moving and fitting - both solemn and celebratory.

And the Brighton win meant that the club were four points clear at the top of the table. And what did Gilby do at the final whistle? Phone his father, breathless with excitement, to proclaim that, 'We won!'. What happened to my little gooner?

For one six year old boy, a truly unforgettable day. (Even if he did think the mascot looked more like a duck than a seagull.)

And he's in for a shock the next time he goes to game and has to make do with a seat in the stand and a pie...

Currently reading: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Eddie the Gangster

The holiday period has made me look at my youngest son in a new light.

In France we were entertained by French friends who invited us 'A la  Bonne Franquette' which, loosely translated (we thought)  is a simple supper, not standing on ceremony.

So we were agreeably surprised to discover that in reality this meant an al fresco five courses of fine food with different wines served at each course.  (Exactly like the simple suppers we have at home...) Conversation was entirely in French which meant much nodding and pointing as far as I was concerned, though my fluency seemed to increase directly in proportion to the amount of wine consumed. Hearth-Father lead the international-relations charge.

It was five hours from start to finish - how splendidly French.  The kids, however, were not as impressed as the adults with the timescale, and were restless after a couple of hours.  Ice cream perked them up for a bit, as did some French television.  Then one of our hosts, Kevin, seeing Gilby in his Arsenal shirt and recognising a kindred footballing spirit, presented him with an Olympic Marseilles teddy bear to play with. 'Say 'merci' to Kevin' chorused the adults. Delighted with his new toy, Gilby marched off to find the others. One can only imagine the scene that took place in the next room.

Eddie, all three years and several teddy-deprived hours of him, marched back outside a few minutes later - to a group of nine adults speaking an entirely foreign language. He stood framed in the doorway, chiaroscuro lighting, hands wrapped around his body, every muscle quietly and dangerously accusing. With a pitch that Marlon Brando would have been proud of, he rasped,

Which one of you out here is Kevin? 

whilst flinging his arms outwards to encompass the gathered diners.

Poor Kevin, with his limited understanding of English, needed no translation to send him scuttling off to find a second OM teddy bear - for the godfather twenty years his junior.

A fait accompli, to borrow a phrase from the French.  Fearless and ready to fight for what he wants. Never shall I worry about the youngest and smallest fending for himself again.

Which one of you out here is Kevin?

Currently reading: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (better late than never)