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Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Paris carriage

For years, I went to football twice a week – sometimes more than twice a week; it was my job and my pleasure. Nowadays, I’m just an armchair supporter, watching streams or highlights, like hundreds of thousands up and down the country. But there’s still something about the football fan in me that felt deeply saddened about the sight this week of that footage from Paris, of a group of fans racially harassing an ordinary member of the public and proudly making racist chants.

Saddened, but it can’t just be sadness. As someone who loves football you want to hope that sort of thing had been banished forever. Football – and clubs like Chelsea – have come a long way since the terrible, shameful days of the 1970s and 1980s, of fans making racist chants towards their own players. But it hasn’t come far enough. To minimise what we saw this week is to imagine it’s not still there. It’s still there. It’s still a problem. And the football community has a lot to do about it.

There’s no point in picking on Chelsea, as if it’s just Chelsea: all clubs have their share of horrific supporters. There’s no point in picking on football, as if it’s just football: all sports and all activities in all walks of life have their share of racists. There’s no point in picking in obvious, confrontational racists, as if they’re the only ones who exist: there are so many kinds of racism and prejudice that need to be combated.

But, all that said, Chelsea is a club that kept John Terry on, despite what he did. England rightly shunned him. Whatever the reasons behind the club’s decision – the qualities of the player can be debated, but they’ve never been questioned to be at the very highest level of the highest level – the fact is, they kept him on, despite everything that was reported, and everything that was said. That was a choice.

You think about what’s happened with Ched Evans, the convicted rapist who has been trying to rebuild his career with a variety of lower-division professional clubs. There’s something similar. Why shouldn’t someone who’s done something offensive, appalling and despicable be allowed back? What about rehabilitation? What about giving someone a fair go? The point being that footballer isn’t a job like any other. It’s a job that is literally public-facing; it involves being an ambassador as well as a ball-kicker. Being good at football isn’t enough. It’s about so much more. If you employ someone like Evans, what message is that sending to all those children in the crowd? Same with Terry. If you keep him on, despite what happened, what message did that send?

It’s interesting but not particularly surprising to see the makeup of the people on that Paris train carriage. They aren’t just your stereotypical Football Factory geezers barking Danny Dyer dialogue off the back of a beermat. They’re people with good jobs. They don’t look like racists. Not that anyone other than the most feeble minded would imagine that there is some kind of shaven-headed, bomber-jacketed uniform for racists since the 1970s and 1980s. Racists are everywhere, in every walk of life. It’s not a working-class pastime. It’s not a pastime. It’s a way of life, a state of mind, that happens to coincide with people’s pastimes.

It happens everywhere. Not just in football. But since it is in football, what’s football going to do about it? Racism has to be totally toxic everywhere in the game. It has to be made toxic. It needs to be easier to report racism – not just to overworked stewards during a game, but everywhere. Everyone has the right to feel safe and free of harassment on public transport, in the streets, not just outside a ground but all over. Anyone associated with football, who breaks the rules, needs to go, no matter how valuable they are. Player, official, supporter, manager, whoever. If they transgress, zero tolerance. Any kind of leniency gives it a place where it has been allowed to feel safe. Racism shouldn’t feel safe.

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Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Scary

At some point it hits you. Fuck. This is actually real. This is actually happening. I’m going to be responsible for an entire living breathing human baby. Fuck. What? We’re having a child. We really are.

Even if you’ve spent years trying and wishing and hoping, the fact that it’s happening is still a surprise. You think, no, maybe it’s all going to go wrong. Maybe it’s only slightly true. Maybe it won’t last. So you don’t contemplate it at first. You’re waiting for something to change. Except it doesn’t change. You’re still going to be a parent.

I don’t know if it matters what age you are. I’m heading for 40 in a month or so. But I don’t think it’d matter if I were 18 or 25 or any age. You’re. Never. Ready. Bang! You’re a parent. A parent. A father. A dad. Fuck. Really? The months are counting down. Four flew by, five to go. Locked and loaded. Get ready or go home.

I don’t want to write this next bit, but I will: I think I’ve changed already. I don’t want to admit that because it removes a couple of jenga blocks from the cosy certainties I’d grown throughout my adult life, namely parents aren’t that special and epiphanies aren’t real. But maybe I was wrong all along. Because I cannot help but feel like I’m changing. And that change can only lead me towards asking a kind of epiphanous question: is this what I was always meant to be? Is this the most important thing I’ll ever do? Is this – oh god, here it comes – my destiny?

Well, I’m not sure about that last part. It’s pretty far from your destiny to be a parent if your baby-making equipment is damaged right out of the box and you rely on advances in science unthinkable a couple of generations ago – and a lot of money – to give yourself a forty-five percent chance of succeeding. And if you’d asked me when I was 20, or 25, whether I thought I’d ever be wanting a baby at all, let alone desperately trying to have one, I’d have said no in pretty unequivocal terms.

But now, here we are. You do change and that change can be for the better. Or if not better just different. You change. The things you want and need and care about change.

Fuck, a baby? Me?

One nice thing about being a bit older – or maybe having been through some of those changes – is that you’re not careful to conceal your terror. It’s terrifying. It’s scary and brilliant and amazing and one great big horror show all at once. It’s everything you want and everything you worry about. It’s knowing you can’t ever be just you ever again, but realising you’re glad about that.

Fucking hell though, me a father? Really?

Again, you get older, you see yourself fail at a lot of things you thought you’d coast through; you watch yourself be surprisingly good at things that other people find impossible. You realise you have capabilities and strengths. You learn what you can and can’t do. You realise there are more cans than can’ts. You feel ready.

Ready. Ready at last. It won’t be easy. That much I do know. But I feel a strange warmth. From everyone I speak to. You can do it, they seem to be saying, you deserve it, they say without saying it. People I hardly know wish me well, and I know they mean it; people I’ve known for years wish me well, and I know they mean it to.

Nothing else will ever be the same. Good. Bring it on, baby. I’m ready for you. 

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Expecting

It’s easy to get in a negative way of thinking. Sometimes it seems all the evidence you see around you is pointing you towards a negative conclusion.

I’ve been there, in that spiral of despair and self-defeating thinking. Sometimes it’s not just you making it up, though; sometimes things do go wrong. When more things go wrong, it’s easy to see that as some kind of pattern. This is the way it’s going to be. You expect it to go wrong; it goes wrong; you feel vindicated. It doesn’t go wrong because you expect it, but it can, and does, go wrong.

But there’s a but. You might think it makes sense to dismiss other people when they say you shouldn’t be so negative, when all the evidence points you towards a conclusion that you should be so negative, but they’re just trying to help. I know how hard it is to accept. I know it seems like they’re trying to represent a world you can’t imagine. I know they can be a pain. But they might just have a glimpse of something you can hang onto.

Things can change. That string of negativity you see as an inevitable path alongside you might change course. Sometimes you can try and try and try to change it, and nothing seems to work; sometimes it’s just the trying to change it, even if it doesn’t succeed, that’s the most important thing. If you fight, you feel alive. The burn of failure is healthy. It makes you try again. It makes you realise how important it is to you.

There are no miracles. There is just the ability to try again, even if you don’t get there straight away.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Pick on the fat kid

You expect it in the playground, but not from a government. Don’t pick on me; pick on the fat kid.

As someone who was that fat kid, I’m here to tell you: this just isn’t fair. Targeting fat people on benefits is the worst kind of finger-pointing, hide between the bully’s legs kind of unpleasantness. And it’s not even solving something that’s a problem – it’s a policy aimed at 2,000 people.

Pick on fatty. Pick on the fat kid. Don’t pick on us. Beat them up instead!

As someone who used to be 22 stone and who is now about 17, I can tell you there’s a lot of reasons why people put on weight. Some are complicated, a difficult psychological relationship with food. Some are simple, the deliciousness of a meat pie. But overall it’s not as simple as something that can be made to go away with a threat of taking your sweet money away.

But you get the sense the people making these policies know that. Know and don’t care. It doesn’t matter whether it works or not; what matters is that you’re seen to be bashing the people you don’t like.

Fat people bad. People on benefits bad. Fat people on benefits = even more of a scapegoat! Hooray!

This is where we’re heading, then, these next few months. Blame the fat. Blame the poor. Blame everyone who isn’t you. Blame minorities. Blame the weak. Pick on the weak.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Uncategorized