April 2022 was a truly memorable month. Eldest Son (ES) and his partner (plus First Grandchild) bought a flat – the first of our sons to become a home owner. Also (and I’m afraid ES, at least as significantly) Forest Green Rovers were promoted to English Football League Division 1 (EFL1)!
I have supported Forest Green Rovers Football Club since the family moved to Gloucestershire almost 25 years ago. I was finding it increasingly fraught and onerous to take our boys the 70 miles there and back to my boyhood club of Reading. I wanted them to like football and have the opportunity to watch it live and so I turned to the ‘biggest’ local Club: Forest Green Rovers.
When my support started, the Club had just been promoted to the National Conference League (the fifth tier in England) and offered a poorly attended, but viscerally intimate, version of semi-professional and then fully professional football. I watched the football while the boys messed about one the terraces with each other and with Lego.
The Club were perennial underdogs at that time. However, the Club was transformed progressively following investment from green energy industrialist Dale Vince in 2010. Dale uses the Club to promote his green and vegan values – we are reportedly the ‘greenest’ football club in the world – but has also applied finance, ambition and vision to the Club. Promotion to EFL2 followed via the playoffs and a truly remarkable day at Wembley. Now, just 5 years later, we are promoted again to EFL1. Next year will be very difficult but it has been a wonderful journey for me and all the other fans of the Club.
Unfortunately we are likely to just miss out on finishing top of EFL2 following a relatively poor run of recent results. But one chance remains if we can win our last game at Mansfield next weekend. In a slightly crazy itinerary, I am going to that game via my Dad in Nottingham and then onwards to Edinburgh to see ES’s new flat. The start of another memorable month perhaps…..
April was not solely dominated by football. I also attended an alumni event in London with people who were exact or approximate contemporaries during my first 2-3 years of work way back in the 1970s. It was a great to catch up and also an opportunity to tidy our Barbican flat ready for sale and to see a London exhibition.
I chose to visit the Francis Bacon, Man and Beast Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. It’s hard to say I ‘like’ Bacon’s art since it is so menacing and challenging but I do enjoy seeing it and admire it hugely. I had last seen an exhibition of his work almost three years ago at the Gagosian Gallery in London. That had highlighted Bacon’s interest in animals and the new exhibition at The Royal Academy followed that wildlife and animal theme.
In practice, some of the work on show was only loosely linked to his fascination with wildlife and the parallels between wild animals and humans (much of which seems to have stemmed from his early life as a horse-breeders son). There were a number of works that one almost expects to see at a Bacon exhibition and the links between these to apes, bulls, birds (but never horses) sometimes seemed tenuous.
Nonetheless, it was an excellent exhibition that told a fascinating life story and that was well worth seeing. I found the triptych’s at the end of the exhibition particularly daunting but impressive.
I was lucky too that I was able to attend as the exhibition opened when it wasn’t too crowded. That enabled time and space to take in all the skewed wildness and menace in some of Bacon’s best work.
Back home, we had a very family oriented Easter with Youngest Son, his partner and pretty much all of Long-Suffering Wife’s (LSW’s) close relatives. The weather was kind enough to enable us to spill outside for a lot of welcome catch-ups with LSW’s nieces and nephews. We hadn’t seen YS since Christmas so it was just great to see him and his partner over the long weekend too. We must plan another trip to Belfast……
Spring hasn’t fully warmed up yet but gardening has started in earnest – I can tell from the muscle aches and the good nights’ sleep. Preparing the ground for vegetables at this time of year by digging it over and clearing weeds is one of my favourite tasks; there is no pressure yet to protect stuff from deer, voles, mice and badgers or to actually produce any vegetables yet. It’s just good old physical work and I don’t have so many vegetable beds that I need to overdo any exertions.
It’s is lovely and lucky to be doing that gardening in such a pretty and relatively untroubled part of the World.