Anyone ever been in the audience for TOTP? I had an opportunity in 1993 (student in London) but they wanted you there for 12pm so filming could start at 2, and it was Kd Lang and a load of Stock Aitken and Waterman types miming so we went to lectures instead.
Battenberg is what my nan used to serve on bone china plates with paper doilies whenever she had the WI meeting at her home. That and those Mr Kipling Country Slices, sort of fruit cake slices with sugar on top. And her homemade Victoria sponge which used a whole carton of cream and probably hastened a few WI'ers off the mortal coil.
Work, walking, good diet and not drinking. The sort of life I'd have had nightmares about last year; health, wealth and an uncanny knack of ordering slightly-too large clothing online.
Convinced by previous forays into the world of online clothing that most stuff needs to be a size larger than I usually wear, I end up ordering stuff that sags and bags on me like a tent from Millets. Still, it's comfy. Who cares if the crotch of those jogging bottoms summons the memory of MC Hammer videos on MTV in 1990? You can't touch this? No-one would want to. It could start a new trend; lockdown loose. Most of Cotton Traders stuff is also very easy to wash and iron. It gets here in two days. No 'international shipping' or any of that malarkey. It's just, well, depressingly safe. Striped rugger shirts, plain joggers and chinos. The uniform of a man who has given up and taken safe over sexy.
Tel is slowly adapting to lockdown life. He came over on Thursday afternoon, ostensibly for a chat and a beer, dropped by Mrs Tel who sat resolutely in the car with the windows wound up and waved from the driver's seat. "She wants ter go'an'see Tone and Sandy an' the kids but they're still isolatin' after that Corona so...." he trailed off as I got a beer from the fridge. A Hophouse lager. He eyed it critically and then sipped, slowly, lest it be as bad as he expected. It wasn't. He relaxed and gulped more. "Nice this" he said, slightly breathlessly. "I'm on ter Superbock at 'ome, they were on offer in Tesco". I have three bottles of lager I left when I stopped drinking. The Hophouse, a Cobra and a big Corona, all of which i left in case Tel dropped by. I made a lime and soda and sat drinking it with him. "Bleedin' serious abart this teetotal lark then?" he said. I nodded.
"Fing is, ennyfing can make yer guts dodgy" said Tel conversationally, harking back to the incident two weeks ago which left me convinced that alcohol was affecting me. "Missus'n'I 'ad a pizza delivered on Tuesdy an' we bofe felt dodgy the nex' mornin'. I could only eat two bits'a'toast for breakfast on Wensdy. Thass un'eard of fer me. I'm usually four bits wit butter an' Marmite an' a big cuppa". He looked crestfallen at the memory. "Pebbledashed the bog" he added, unnecessarily.
This wasn't just a stomach ache though. They did liver readings and blood tests and my liver is enlarged and my kidneys aren't functioning as well as they should. It's too much drink. I also had the beginnings of gout, apparently. So I stopped and I feel brilliant for it. Sleep is better. More energy. I walk further. Give the fags up and I could be entering a fitness renaissance for 2021. And how many can say that?
Tel snorted. He's gone off walking ever since that day before Christmas that we went for one. "Wait til the Spring, might join yer then, bit warmer an' less wet and that". I now do a circuit walk near home, six miles in all there and back, through the dripping countryside. Yesterday's was through the light covering of snow that hit us early, the flakes driving into my face, each step a crunch rather than a wet sloosh. I saw a Barn owl in the murk and a fox and what looked like a badger but could just have been a cat. I came home with raw, red face and hands and made a cooked breakfast; egg, sausage, bacon, beans, grilled tomatoes and a few slices of toast and sat reading the papers and sipping hot tea and felt wonderful.
Tel stayed for a snack, chinese bits I'd been to our local M&S for. Prawn toasts, dumplings, funny money-bag shaped thingies full of crunchy veg and pork and prawns. I made a curry for last night, king prawns, coconut milk, peanut satay sauce and extra chillis. It was lovely with a few noodles and some mange tout. I added mango pieces and some potatoes to it and let the remainder go cold. I had it cold for breakfast this morning with a frozen naan I reheated. Bloody delicious.
I missed the Ipswich game; couldn't be arsed to pay the tenner for the pleasure. I went for another afternoon walk in the rain and through the remaining slush. It felt like a naughty treat, a glorious effortful waste of time on a Saturday. These used to be sacrosanct, Saturdays, a day in the week when I wasn't working and could get jobs done like shopping and housework and still see people at Ipswich home games, rushing off on the train to be disappointed by the match, reeling home drunk for a curry. Now it's like a 'lost weekend' wandering round a stately home on your own, finding little bits of interest. We did this a lot when I was a nipper. My mum loved stately homes. I remember spending a Saturday dressed in an approximation of Tudor gear made by my mum, at a re-enactment at Kentwell Hall in Melford, one hot summer day when the smell of woodsmoke was pervasive and the peaches were ripe and I got moaned at for dripping the juice down my tunic.
They were great days. I still get a funny feeling of warmth and sun when I smell woodsmoke. Like sitting in a pub garden under an umbrella at a wooden table drinking Coke through a straw, or strawberry-picking in the local PYO, all sunburn and red squashed smudges and gritty knees, or going on the beach at Frinton, with the smell of Amber Solaire and the eighties Laura Ashley floral skirts and the picnics of cool bag ham sarnies and quartered pork pies and a Dracula ice lolly from the Mr Softee van parked near the Greensward. Washing the sand from feet at the taps and ingesting it with the sarnies. Great days.
I came home in time for the results on Sky. Leeds lost. Derby lost. The grins were starting. Then the Burton score flashed and the grin was complete. Tinged with ambivalence though, for I've started the process of being ambivalent where we are concerned. It only hurts more when we fail if you hope. I think we will fail as well. Other teams seem so much more 'up for it' than we do. Plus we play as pedestrian-like as Ipswich town centre. Minus the aged/fat on their disability scooters.
It's said that you hark back to childhood memories when you're depressed. But I'm not. I'm fed up with the lack of unnecessary shops open which sell clothing I can try before buying, and I miss the Town sometimes, but mainly just the socialising bit, not the football, the crowd, seeing friends, listening to the smartarse comments and singing the songs. I don't miss the spots, the feelings of unworthiness, the fumbled attempts to remove a bra, the lackadaisick efforts in school, the novelty erasers which smelt like Coke or strawberries, the double maths on a Friday, the double PE on a Monday, the grey slacks and badly-knotted ties, the smell of cabbage at lunch, the latest Smash Hits with Sonia or Five Star on the front, the expectations which I was unworthy enough to disappoint.
I don't miss anything really. I've adapted. And, though it is often lonely, this is it. Get on with it.
The slow pace continues. No, I'm not talking about the team, although like everyone else, they looked half-dead yesterday. Creatures who shuffle and blink in light, ponderous, rabbits with advanced mixey, walking blank-eyed around Tesco because it's there and it's open.
Face masks, avoidance, the papers filled with mock distaste-cum-triumph over the last drippings of the Trump fiasco, frosty branches and grass, the long slow dawning of a winter day where everything is bathed in phlegmatic acceptance and milky sunshine. It was like awakening from hibernation then finding it wasn't yet spring, but the bedding had got cold while you were up.
The morning walks have necessarily become localised. Like a stye in the eye, I walked in my red cagoule, greeting perfunctorily the dog-walkers with their squatting steam-wreathed pets as we crossed paths, the odd early-morn cough eyed suspiciously as though I wore cowl and bell and a big red cross on my chest.
I've stopped drinking alcohol. Yes, really. I had a nasty moment last weekend; I won't bore or repel you with details, suffice to say that it was a wakener far more effective than any radio alarm set permanently on 'Kerrang'. At forty-six, nearly forty-seven, the realisation that I am mortal after all was painful. I feel very, very old. And very, very sober. San Pellegrino and various cordials/squashes and juices now align themselves in the drinks cupboard. I've not bothered with the low alcohol alternatives, lest they reawaken the appetite without slaking it.
Tel's in-laws have the dreaded virus. He rang on Wednesday, breathless and sweaty-sounding himself, to divulge the news. "All got it. Coughin' an' lost their taste. They never 'ad much anyway, just the money to pretend they 'ad". Tel is now a series of quick phone calls and badly-spelt texts. Mrs Tel won't allow him out and they "don' like the idear of yer cummin' over ter see us at the mo, like". So we correspond via mobile phone and my landline when he remembers. Which is erratic and compulsively, like a teenage kid with a slight crush.
Walks, breakfast, work are all punctuated with fatuous texts meant, I suspect, to 'cheer me up' but which contain no portion of the personality of the sender. Sometimes it's memes that he's had and laughed at, briefly, then shared. Mostly it's bad jokes and cod-wisdoms, flanneled by lonely sorts who don't have lives on Facebook. There's nothing worse than conventional thought reheated as originality.
Our phone conversations include Mrs Tel who appears onstage like a self-conscious kid in a school play with just one line to slaughter and then a whole scene stood watching the mains. "Say 'ello love" says Tel. "Ello darlin'" says Mrs Tel. Then she's gone as though murdered on the spot, not leaving a familial trace of her ever having been. No chuckles in the background. Nothing more.
""Avin' takeaway ternite, from the chippy, fancy fish'n'chips" said Tel, leerily on Friday morning, interrupting my train of thought on management restructures at work. I've not bothered with grub much this week. I do a big weekly shop and fill my freezer with stuff that I can cook easily, and quietly despair at the lack of variety. I'm eating more fruit and veg. I made veggie bake last night; cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, leeks and a nice béchamel sauce with herbs. It was delicious. I washed it down with a glass of orange squash and felt self-righteous. Breakfast is toast and marmalade. Lunch is normally a ham salad with coleslaw and wallies and a bit of leftover Xmas chutney. Simplicity is often better.
I watched the football yesterday evening clear of head and eye. It didn't help. I presume everyone else saw it, of those of you who can still be bothered watching eleven players go through the motions in front of cardboard supporters and echoing stadia. We were bloody dire at the back. McGuinness and Woolfie seemed to back off a lot. Brett Pitman, he who runs slowly and resembles someone living rough at the back of Yates, scared our defence.
Screaming at the telly, the sort of insults I'd usually reserve for moments when I stub my toe on furniture, we huffed and haltered back into things. Like a cut-price synthetic Arsenal, all little passes to nothing and no-one, all dawdling in front of the ball, all headless panic behind it.
I switched off when they went 3-1 up, juddering the remote, inadvertently changing the channel to a repeat episode of Antiques Road Trip; Anneka Rice cooing over a 'rather old statue'. I wondered if she'd been watching Stephen Ward attempt to play the wing as well.
Ho-hum. The acceptance is a dull ache somewhere unfathomable. Like a loose connection that you can never find, we totter on, forever destined to remain a beatable club in a tin-pot league, overstuffed with pretty little midfielders who try hard, but. I'm sure it won't change. We'll probably be the first to vote 'Yes' if the EFL fancy cancelling. Just to save on the lecky.
It's all a bit of a downer, innit? Long, drawn out and low. Never mind. Carry on Camping. Or Isolating. With Sid James as the lothario and Fenella Fielding as the looker.