A FEW years ago my mother moved to Sudan and took a teddy bear and let her kids name it something she shouldn’t have, and for a couple of weeks the world went disproportionately bananas.
It transpires there is very little you can do when this happens. Apart from take calls from the Foreign Office and pass on details to family, friends, well-wishers and people you barely know who just want to know “what’s going on lad?” So I kept going to work, I went for a pint with mates as arranged, I went to a concert and, when Liverpool were at home on a Wednesday night, I went to the match.
Now people are surprised when you do all of the above in this situation. Like they have read a book on ‘What You Should Do When Your Ma is in Jail Abroad’ and I wasn’t following it. But most of all non-football fans were very surprised I’d gone the match. “How can you think of football at a time like this?” they would ask, incredulously. Like all pastimes should be abandoned for sitting around stressing and endlessly asking “what are we going to do?” to no-one in particular, whilst journalists you’ve only got rid of half an hour ago knock on your door again ‘just in case you’ve not heard the latest’. Besides since I’d been a kid I’d greatly admired the fellas who abandoned heavily pregnant women to go the match to be told of news of their new baby over the tannoy (Why doesn’t this happen anymore? Is this modern football or modern men?), so I wasn’t going to miss a match over this. And besides, if anything major happened, I was pretty sure George Sephton would let me know.
But I couldn’t help have a slight feeling I wasn’t really meant to be there. Like I’d bunked off work to see a gig or something. I didn’t feel guilty or anything, but I didn’t really want to be found out. So when I swerved a call from an unknown number midway through the first half I felt like I was rumbled. They left a voicemail, official people (and Mums) do that, so I thought I’d give it a listen at half time. I presumed it was the Foreign Office and so decided that, unless it was something significant, I’d leave it until tomorrow and then apologise with a ‘things were just a bit, you know’. You can get away with being vague in adverse times – people just sympathetically say ‘yeah, of course’ and move on. But then I listened to the voicemail. And it was Gordon Brown. The Prime Minister. And I realised my vagueness wasn’t necessarily going to cut it.
Now all my childhood heroes had to contend with for going to the match when they shouldn’t was a mother-in-law with a cob on. I had the Prime Minister on the blower. Mad things start running through your head like he’s going to get on to me and call off any support shouting ‘forget any effort over this family, they don’t give a fuck, the son’s gone the match!’ Me and my dad decide I probably have to ring him back so I go off and try and find somewhere quiet. Now this is easier said than done at Anfield when everyone is trying to get a pie at half time. I couldn’t find a quiet corner anywhere. So I asked a steward if there was anywhere I could make a phone call and tried to put on an ‘it’s dead serious this mate’ face. When he said no I wondered if I should pull out the big gun. But I decided he probably wouldn’t have believed me. So I left it and spent the whole second half hoping to hell he didn’t try again.
I managed to get to the end of the match without Kofi Annan ringing as well, and got to the relative sanctuary of the Pitz carpark, took a deep breath and rang the number I had kindly been left (ringing 118118 and asking for 10 Downing Street would have been ridiculous). I got hold of a gentleman who knew who I was and tried the “It’s just all been a bit, you know” and thankfully got a sympathetic “yes, we understand” in return, but was informed Mr Brown had retired for the evening and would ring me at 7:30am the next day. To be honest I was half tempted to see if he could ring a bit later (early that innit?) but, deciding I’d took the piss enough already, I cut my losses, went to the pub and breathed a massive sigh of relief.
So he rang the next day, and we chatted for a bit, and I’ve felt a bit bad about how nice of him it was to bother with my troublesome mother ever since. So if you’re reading this Gordon, I’m sorry about not being at home when you rang. I promise if it happens again I’ll stay in and worry instead. But, if he’s not reading, to be honest I’m not really sorry at all. We won 4-0 that night and we were brilliant.