It’s Sunday morning and I’m at Brierley Park, home ground of the mighty Brierley Cubs junior football team, to watch my grandson Thomas and his mates take on Redfern Sports in a top-of-the-table clash. The trouble is it’s a top-of-the-table-clash that you have to watch as though you’re wearing a scarf over your eyes; it’s misty, verging on pea-soupy, and you can hardly see one end of the pitch from the other.
Still, it’s junior football so they carry on. I stand on the touchline and every so often people hove into view like ships coming into a foggy harbour.
We exchange a few words then they disappear into the gloom. First of all it’s a tall bloke in a baseball cap who has strong opinions on the food the kids should be eating to make them fit and strong: “They want to get some Yorkshire Puddings down ‘em!” he says to me, as though I’m Jamie Oliver and can do something about it. I nod, and he walks away. Next to pass my line of vision is Les, enthusiastic dad of Brad the team captain. “Did you see that pass, Ian?” he shouts. I nod again. “Awesome lad, awesome!” He fades into the cotton wool air. Next in the queue is the lady selling raffle tickets. I buy one and promptly lose it in the depths of my pocket. She disappears.
The food lover approaches me again, his baseball cap pulled low over his face. “They want some pig hock!” he says, sounding like my father-in-law. I smile and nod. Les runs by: “Did you see that save, Ian lad? Awesome! Absolutely awesome!”
I nod again although I didn’t see the goal because I was talking to the Pig Hock man. Pig Hock man shouts “They want some black pudding!” to nobody in particular and the words hang in the air.
The game continues. Goals are scored, goals are conceded. I drink coffee from a polystyrene cup and I’m as happy as a lark; life really doesn’t get any better than this. The raffle lady comes up and says “675”. I pat my pockets. I delve deep. I can’t find the flipping ticket. The ref whistles somewhere far away. A voice shouts “Cowheel! They want to get some cowheel down ’em!” Les taps me on the shoulder. “That free kick, Ian: awesome. Simply awesome!” I’m distracted. Where’s the raffle ticket? I’m sure when I looked at it just before I lost it it was in the 600s. I empty my pocket: a train ticket, the stalk of an apple, a 5p piece.
The fog seems to be getting thicker. A shadowy figure to my left is shouting “Give ’em some tripe!” A shadowy figure to my right is saying “That throw-in Ian, lad. Just awesome!” I’m missing all the action because I’m looking at the floor like a beachcomber. Where’s the ticket? I could be a winner. The raffle lady comes by again. “Still not claimed. 675.”
“Suet! Give ’em suet!” a voice shouts. “Awesome skill!” a voice shouts. I see what I think is the ticket on the ground: it’s a leaf. Must get my eyes tested. The food critic stands right in front of me and says “Ox Tail!” The raffle lady’s back. “Still not claimed?” I ask. She shakes her head. I thrust my hand deeper into my pocket and I find the ticket. I unfold it triumphantly: 21. Awesome. Time to go home for a plate of brawn.