Number one son having fluffed his A levels and never read a book has come good. He has got me a tickets to see Arsenal , the team I have followed since I was nine , play Wigan in the semi final at new look Wembley. I’m going with my oldest friend Billy who lives for football, booze and friendship. Its going to be a good day.
But first what to wear? Do I go as an out and out Gooner Looner ,all red and white or do I dress as a slightly cynical, smarter older man. No prizes,it’s the summer jacket and the chinos.
The day doesn’t start well. Putney Bridge is closed. Some low life wants to jump which means thousands of fans on their way to the Fulham game and hundreds of motorists are held up as the men in blue try and talk the hooded creature into staying on this mortal coil.
Billy is waiting ,we’re off. We are old men. He doesn’t want to start drinking too early because he needs conveniences close at hand. I take the risk. I think by the end of the day our visits are about 8-6.
Wembley, its another country. I am always shocked when I arrive in parts of London which are not only multi cultural but where white faces especially those speaking English are a minority. Statistically in many parts of London whites are a minority. I ask one fairer skinned lad the way to the nearest toilet ,he tells me with a Spanish accent he doesn’t speak English.
Outside the station there is a Hare Krishna band-look sunshine not everyman wants to wear a sari-gettit. And a couple of West Indians telling me that Jesus is waiting to come into my life. I know this already. I’m taking my chance.
All around fat,thin but all ugly football fans are getting drunk. Some are falling in the street, most are having a good time. One lot of Arsenal fans are singing We are red and white/ Our team is dynamite. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Keats and Larkin and it has come to this. Maybe the man on Putney Bridge was a poet.
Three young Arsenal fans come whistling by, they chant We are the Tottenham haters, Yiddo. Yiddo indeed. We arrive at the magnificent stadium. I regularly go to the relatively modern Twickenham to watch England play rugby-Wembley makes Twickenham seem down market. Of course Twickenham does have champagne bars-but these we can live without.
Next to me is a fat Asian gent in the full long jacket, Nehru hat Indian kit. Where are you from? Wembley he replies. Which of course is the right answer. In front of me is a young man in an Arsenal shirt and shorts who spends most of the game standing in an outstretched arm pose chanting Red Army. I had forgotten to tomorrow is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Easter week.
And as for the game. The much deflated Arsenal one time contenders are now playing worse with every game but they somehow squeak through on penalties. I vow never to watch them again. I know I am lying. But if you cant lie to yourself who can you lie to?. By the time I get back to Putney Bridge it is dark. The Bridge is clear, did he jump? I dont care