Last weekend, I went to my first live football game for almost 6 months. Granted, it was a relatively small local village affair but it stoked feelings of regret for the football I have missed due to the Coronavirus and some excitement for the delayed but impending advent of the new football season.
The match was played on our village playing field – an unassuming but picturesque venue – between our very own Horsley United and a guest team.
The match was a celebration of Horsley United’s promotion to Stroud District League 2 last season. Somehow, the organisers had managed to attract three ex-Premier English League footballers to play for the opposition (Deon Burton, Lee Hendrie and Lee Carsley). Each of these showed their class (and their age) and they added an unexpected gloss to a very pleasant occasion.
I have to say, too, that Horsley United look a much better team this season. While Stuart Hendrie (Lee Hendrie’s younger brother and another professional footballer) was probably the best player on the pitch, two new young Horsley strikers caught the eye and ultimately won the game. I look forward to seeing village football again soon.
My main team, Forest Green Rovers, have also started playing friendlies. The building anticipation for Forest Green Rovers’ new season in English Football League 2 has been accelerated by the streaming over the Internet of some of the more important friendly games and the availability of season tickets. I fear that social distancing in the main stand, which has reduced capacity by about 75%, will mean that my allocated season ticket seat will be near the front or sides of the main stand where the risk of getting very wet in westerly storms is high. However, I may get lucky and, anyway, I have waterproofs and I can’t wait for the season proper to start.
Initially, games will be streamed since the stadium can’t be opened until infection and death rates are lower. There is hope that this will be sometime in October but, given the experience of other countries in Europe, our confused approach to lock down in the UK, and currently rising infection rates, I’m not so optimistic. My purchase of a season ticket within an hour of sales starting was an act of faith and of support for the football club I love; hopefully, it pays off.
In the two weeks since our trip to Northern Ireland I have become aware of how much I needed that trip away from home for the first time in five months. The lock-down days have now returned to their rather lustreless routine. The walks through local nature continue to be very pleasant – I spotted some bats a couple of evenings ago which was an example of how uplifting little incidents on these walks can be. The garden continues to be a pleasure even in the relative wetness of this year’s August. The gentle rhythm of walking, shopping, reading, listening to music, cooking and eating, snoozing and watching catch-up television generates contentment if not outright excitement.
Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) has found another outlet from this routine with another short trip – this time with a work colleague to (very) northern Scotland.
Her absence has accentuated the predictability of my own home routine. I look forward to LSW’s return. I look forward to the return to a football season. I look forward to other signs of post lock down normality.
Actually, as I think back over the last couple of weeks, there have been more breaks from lock-down routine than it feels. Eldest Son visited us on his way to a camping trip. Middle Son is visiting us tomorrow following a meet up with friends in Bristol. We also managed a very pleasant ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ lunch with friends last week at our local and excellent William’s Kitchen. Another move toward normality is the restart of the monthly series of village pub quizzes from next month.
I helped keep some semblance of momentum around the village quiz going earlier this year. Now, the local pub is setting up a quiz that will be adherent to the government guidelines for social distancing, for making too much noise and for having too much fun during the pandemic. Despite my general hopelessness at answering the quiz questions, I am looking forward to participating in something that, like the start of the football season, suggests we have turned a corner in the pandemic. Once again, my fingers are crossed.