By Samantha Brocklehurst

INTERNATIONAL weekend this weekend. Rubbish, no? You’ve been starved of football since the third week of May. Left cold turkey, rocking backwards and forwards in those sunny, bright, warm, beautiful places called gardens. Abandoned conversationally for a whole 16 weeks or so. Left sitting with mates you’ve known for years staring awkwardly into your pint as you scramble for something to say, anything to say that isn’t the last tit-bit of club-related gossip you’ve already all pored over thirty times in the past month. “I heard from a mate who has a dog that looks for pyro at the club that Gerrard’s newly-sprouted beard will give him Samson-like super powers this season. Yeah. “ (Gutted he shaved the beard off. Worth nine points alone). Ad infinitum because what the fuck else have you got to talk about during the dark Summer months?

Then that beautiful day arrives – usually in the third week of August. It’s back. You are gifted a legitimate way to fritter away your precious free time outside of the shackles of work. Delivered a gift-wrapped excuse to be in the pub at least once a week – twice if you are fortunate enough to be playing in some cup or league in Europe somewhere. You are provided with an outlet to get unreasonably angry about things you cannot possibly control. There are things to talk about. There are plays to be recreated in the pub with pint glasses and crisp packets. These kill at least three hours post-match.

Then it is snatched away. It all goes dark for a weekend here and there. Having been encouraged to gorge yourself like a child at a party presented with a wagon full of sweets you’re snatched up and given a time-out for a weekend. What to do?

Luckily for you I’ve done the thinking for you and can come up with a few suggestions:

  1. If you’re local to Liverpool go and see Cabaret in the Empire. Not only because it’s fantastic but because it’s my favourite musical of all time and it’ll teach you loads of stuff about Berlin in the 1930s. Some of it is sexy. Will Young will be in stockings and suspenders. That’s not necessarily the sexy thing. Don’t miss out.
  2. Find a local llama retreat  and take a llama for a walk. This is real. They’re all over the country. You should do this. I imagine it is relaxing and will counter-act the afore-mentioned righteous anger at what a team of eleven men are doing in front of you.
  3. Have sex with the person you’re currently touching. Too often life, work, responsibilities and Football Manager gets in the way.
  4. Get together with some of your mates and ask them deep and searching questions about how it’s all going. Listen. Bond over something that isn’t your collective schadenfreude over David Moyes’ big job in the big leagues.
  5. Sleep. Sleep is excellent. You don’t get enough of it when you decide that a 1-0 win over Manchester United on a Sunday night is the best excuse to stay out until 4am drinking whisky when you have work at 9am Monday morning.

I could do this forever without even getting onto the part whereby I challenge you to spend part of the weekend brushing up on your West Ham facts for a face off. However in all seriousness this dark, empty weekend without the game doesn’t need to be miserable – at least if you’re based in Liverpool. I can’t speak for what’s going on this weekend in the Borough of Newham this weekend.

The Liverpool Food & Drink Festival takes place in sunny Sefton Park this Saturday and Sunday. Open from 10:30 – 18:30 on Saturday 7th September and 10:30 – 17:30 on Sunday 8th September the park will be taken over by around 70 bars and restaurants, 50-or-so market place vendors flogging bread to cheese to vegetables you’ve-never-seen-before-in-Tesco’s, as well as a host of celebrity and local chefs displaying their wares for your culinary edification. The lovely Gizzi Erskine will be bringing the best beehive around down to South Liverpool along with last year’s Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite (if it rains bagsy all the jokes about soggy bottoms), Mr. Levi Roots, Aidan Byrne and about 150 other food whizzes.

In its sixth year it is expected to be attended by 40,000 people over the two days.  I was one of those 40,000-odd thousand who attended last year and cannot recommend it heartily enough. A few tips from a seasoned pro if I may: a) Bring bags to carry home all of your jars of artisan honey and homemade fudge. If you can make it one of those cloth bags then you’re one of the cool Food Festival kids; b) Don’t order real ale based on name alone without looking at the alcohol percentage at the Ship & Mitre tent. Imperial Russian Stout sounds fantastic but 8.5% is not appropriate for three in the afternoon. c) Properly scope out your food options before committing because food envy isn’t conducive to a relaxing afternoon. Alternatively do not eat breakfast giving yourself the ability to have three teas. My tips from the top.

As well as the great and good of the city’s bar and restaurant scene relocating temporarily to show you what they can do there is a marketplace, master classes, live demos from the afore-mentioned professionals, a seafood emporium, a street food corner and a well-stocked ‘heavenly chocolate garden’. Places to eat, places to drink, a dedicated children’s area to allow you do the first two in peace and all that for £5 in advance, £6.50 on the door or a weekend pass allowing you to flit in and out for only £9.

If you do South Liverpool on the Saturday you could slot in North Liverpool on the Sunday with the Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF) stage at the Stanley Park Festival. Running from midday until 7pm this totally free event will see The Farm headlining supported by the incredible Tea Street Band, Liverpool Music Awards’ ‘Female Artist of the Year 2013’ Natalie McCool, Mr. Ian Prowse of Amsterdam fame along with several others. On offer there’ll also be a fun fair, a Family Zone including a petting zoo and assault course and several food stalls. All free. All allowing you to be out in the fresh air and not moping around like a dumped lover (England doesn’t count) inside with the curtains closed.

So there you go. At least seven suggestions – two of which are wholly serious – to get you through this difficult period in your life. Don’t say we don’t look after you.