Many years ago, when Mr B was a young man (albeit a young man with a growing family to feed) he volunteered to coach one of the village's youth football teams.
a good many of similar volunteer dads, he did not do this with the sole purpose of ensuring that our own son was always picked for the team - in fact, Our Boy was a member of one of the other teams. I always felt he would have done even better than he did,
had he been in his Dad's team, not because of any favouritism that would have been bestowed upon him but because he would have been coached by a man who combined an abiding love of football with a keen strategic mind.
Yes, Mr B would be the first to admit that, as coaches go, he didn't necessarily possess the full armoury of expert footballing skills to pass on to his young charges. However he did know exactly where the left back should be at any critical moment
of the game, how to catch an opposing player wrong-footed, how to inspire a team with confidence in their own ability to win the game. If not this week, then it would certainly be next week, lads.
you an example of what I mean: the son of some neighbours of ours was a big lad, head and shoulders above others of his age. He loved his football and wanted, most of all to be the one who shoots at the goal. (You will all have to forgive any inaccuracies
in terms of footballing lingo in today's blog. I am doing my best.) The coach of the youngster's team thought otherwise and placed him in goal where the poor lad spent many an unhappy Saturday morning before giving up the game altogether. Mr B thought this
was a ridiculous tactic on the part of his fellow coach. He would have put Young Goliath at centre forward. "Can you imagine the fear he would strike into any defender's heart as he bore down on him on his way to a certain goal?" Mr B thinks outside the box
(I think that can count as a footballing term, can't it?)
One of the boys in his team was a renowned tearaway. Always in trouble, never out of a scrape, always the ring-leader when mischief was being brewed.
Not everyone felt he should be allowed to be a member of the Club. He did, however, love football. So how did Mr B deal with this reprobate, this Troublesome One? Why, he made him Captain, of course. Chest swelling with pride, the lad never put a boot wrong
after that - at least not on the football field.
Mind you, on a French exchange trip to beautiful Montreuil sur Mer, Mr B had to deal with a serious report that the rascally rogue had been seen smoking a sneaky
cigarette. As a long time smoker himself, it was hard for Mr B to read the riot act. Instead he took his protege to one side and told him how he had himself started smoking at the age of twelve and now heartily wished he had never set out on the slippery slope.
I don't know for sure if the lad gave up the Woeful Weed for ever - but he never puffed another cigarette for the duration of the trip.
This Christmas, as every Christmas, we received a Christmas card from
the erstwhile Captain, now all grown up with a wife and two children, one of whom has followed in his father's boot-steps as far as a love of the Beautiful Game is concerned. He's doing pretty well, too: "Keep an eye out, you never know, he may play for England!"
boasts the proud dad.
At the end of his message he writes: "I often talk about what you did for me when I was young and loved football. Thank you so much." To say Mr B was touched would be a massive understatement.
Today it is the anniversary of the day we met, 51 years ago, outside Woolworth's in Sittingbourne High Street. Not exactly the most romantic of settings, but we all have to meet somewhere and we can't necessarily engineer
the setting sun, the violins playing, the choir singing. After all, it's what happens next that matters.
We do occasionally annoy each other. Mr B gets mad when I sneeze so loudly, without first warning him
of the explosion ahead. I wish he didn't always insist on re-arranging the sheet over the top of the duvet when he gets into bed - especially when I have just started to feel all toasty-warm and am personally perfectly happy with the Arrangement of Bedclothes.
He is, however, still the same person who offered a lad a chance when nobody else would give him so much as the time of day. He is still the man who doesn't give up on anything or anyone. However loudly they sneeze.
Like my dear Dad, he still loves his football and his family, though not necessarily in that order.
Today he is cooking me a Barnsley chop with roast potatoes. He has already opened a bottle of Chateauneuf
du Pape, to allow it plenty of time to breathe. He couldn't find any red roses at Tesco's so he has bought me beautiful, long-stemmed orangey-red ones. Aren't I the lucky one?
Happy Meeting Day Anniversary,
my dear Mr B. Here we are the Two of Us, always close, always together, come what may. Still standing after all these years.
Unlike poor old Woolworth's.