“Now I’m doing football metaphors, I fucking hate football metaphors”
– Chris T-T
There are two vital lessons I learned during my short-lived spell playing football for my university team almost a decade ago – the first is that I once had the skills and the motivation to lead a team. The second is that perhaps after those years of crashing, flooring and stacking it on AstroTurf or threadbare grass pitches – I do have very thin skin on my knees.
I was, oddly enough, made team captain in my final year – wearing the band, making the calls, shouting and yelling and we did almost win a game… once. We already boasted an excellent first-team. And with each new term bringing in new and talented players it was exciting to see from the sides – the subtle evolution in the workings of what was always a well oiled machine. By the third year of uni we had enough fit and enthusiastic players to start up a second team and I was made captain of our reserves side.
Rest assured I brought no beauty to the beautiful game. I was terrible. I doubt also the responsibility of captainship was mine for any great organisational skills I lead anyone to believe I possessed. I can remember many a game where pre-match warm up was me doing my best stunned expression and “I can’t believe they forgot our booking” – acting for my Oscar against the weight of knowing I’d yet again forgotten to book the pitch and / or referee.
Nonetheless, it turns out I was motivated to motivate others. I would give anyone their time on the pitch so long as they put the effort in and turned up to training. After all, I was hardly in a position to pass judgement over anyone’s ball skills! We wore a faded and well worn kit in various shades of blue – and turned out on a Wednesday to simply do our best. Looking back, there’s actually quite a bit of beauty in that.
Almost ten years on, I’m in the upstairs toilets of Norwich’s award winning live music venue and arts centre with blood pouring down my shins faster than I can mop it up with scrunched balls of toilet paper. I’d played it down at first saying nonchalantly that I would just ‘tidy things up’ with a quick swipe of an alcohol wipe from the front desk. And I skipped up to the ladies’ loos and slid the rattly bolt safely across into its collar, locking me neatly inside the toilet cubicle. On closer inspection, my tights and the skin on my knees were jaggedly gashed open and I was leaking bright red blood at a minor yet inconvenient rate and the taking on the beginnings of an unusual on-stage look. I could imagine that ripped clothes and a decent splish-splash of half-dried blood could be seen as taking the role of opening-act to an alarmingly visceral level.
A gig on home-turf is a wonderful thing for so many reasons and it’s a lovely thing to to be able to walk to and from a show. Unfortunately the rain had just started to drizzle that afternoon and was coming down in a medium-ish flurry by the time I was walking across the city to St. Benedict’s street for sound check. It was dark and wet and though safe under an umbrella and a woolly hat, disaster struck on the slight hill that curls down past Macawber Tavern and siphons into the alley by The Ten Bells. Nothing fancy. I just fell over.
I was glad firstly that nobody had been around to see, and then that, despite a hard and somewhat scratchy landing, my arms and hands were fine. I knew my knees had taken the brunt of the inglorious tumble but it was too dark to see the damage.
I wasn’t sure I believed in karma or fate, and as for comeuppance – surely that’s just the justice of storybooks, I’d decided. Thought provoking stuff though – the juxtaposition of bad behaviour and sudden accident – and when married together with such impeccable bite, it’s hard not to wonder if the former is mysteriously linked to the latter.
I was picked up and dusted down now and heading once again in the direction of my night’s work, walking in the the rain with my guitar and bags across my back and strapped to me like buckaroo. I had been offered help that day. But like so many days when I am offered help – whether it’s carrying things, paying for things, talking about things – the proudest part of me speaks first and firmly and I always seems to say ‘no thank you.’ That day, I’m ashamed to say I might have even turned down the offer of a helping hand with one of my more acute negatives – served with a side of mild daytime sarcasm… I can be dead nice like that.
There’s a real glory after all in being a one-woman show – doing things for myself and managing without help. Being self sufficient is a wonderful thing after all. So it is tempting to keep on running with that torch like it’s the only way to get around… until you fall over, that is. Being autocratic to the point where you feel someone carrying a box of CDs for you may in some way undermine your self-sufficiency as an artist or business person – is just deluded.
I hope this will serve as a cautionary tale and a reminder to anyone proudly flying solo that you don’t always need to walk out of the tunnel yourself. If people want to play on your team – let them. Tackling everything yourself may just lead to a set of unfashionably bloody knees.
Man of the Match went to the former sub, who played on through the rain, made a run past my house to pick up a spare pair of tights, zig-zagged to the shops for plasters, bought me a big glass of wine and carried my stuff home… well some of it…
I carried some stuff too.
[NB: door picture taken in the beautiful city of York – the scene of so many crimes against football.]