My first match report and if being prepared is the key then the lock is mine. Mrs. File and the little Fillets are all tucked up, the gates are closed, the gas is off and that preferred spot of prime TV viewing location has been cleared of toys, jam and knitting-alia.
We are 6 hours ahead of Wembley meantime here which means that kickoff will be at 9pm. As any seasoned spectator of sport will know; being present at the start is no way to embark on a major occasion, we have to be installed at least an hour early and preferably a week. And that’s why Mrs. File has taken the night off the pearl-one-stitch-one and has volunteered for vigilant guard duty, with lights off, eyes closed and gentle purring she goes to work. How do we sports fans repay our long-suffering spice (plural of spouse?) for all those sacrifices they make in the name of our Dog worship, not even their own Dogs? And do we?
Preparations started well early of course, the whole twilight procession of tiring, feeding, washing, baby powder, pyjamas, reading, sleeping, waking, screaming, shouting, comforting, sleeping has to be set-off an hour earlier than normal. Then there is the beer, nuts, paper, pencil, remote control and cushions to find. Remote is eventually found after half-an-hour in the paddling pool outside. Note to self: scream maniacally at children in the morning and shackle remote to TV. Whilst placing note find 318 similar neglected notes, activate denial and shuffle off for peanuts.
I relax, and gently wonder why it is that the FA cup final build-up is such velveteen nostalgia for me. Somehow those sunny days in May have merged visions of hairy-arsed players and battle scarred managers looking like dangerous schoolboys in the dodgiest of ill-fitting suits with flowers and the perfume of freshly cut grass with the imminence of liberation and school summer holidays.
It seems that no matter how badly they do it, the TV stations are on to a sure thing with me. They certainly push it though. The venerable pundits are wheeled in for my delectation, Steve McMahon is the unrivaled alpha male on ESPN/StarSports here, he’s been there and he’s done it and he enforces the respect of the other guests with ruthless determination. Tonight he comes live and direct from a throbbing Wembley and they’ve decked him out with oversized bubble headphones strapped to his red raw pate.
Singha beer and sagacious punditry is a heady mix and it all starts to flow. I am treated to a frenzied montage of New Wembley that goes off like a strobe then listen to McMahon asserting his bad boy self; ‘in the real world Wright-Philips wouldn’t have started’. Asia’s very own Frank Spencer, Shebi Singh, is then forced to plumb the depths of his insight and comes up with ‘Football’s about today, not history, and the future may never come, so Jose better watch it’, there is a pause, the show continues, I shuffle comfortably.
Eventually Giggs and Rooney fidget on the spot, the whistle blows and the thrash metal of screaming children starts, my eyes flicker and twitch. First Fillette 1 bawls for some unimaginable reason and then, like the little domino he is, Fillet 2 joins in. The door is flung open by a wild-eyed Mrs. File and a tidal wave of sound and emotion hits me smack in the face….
[Limited overs twilight procession, reprise to fade]
ASAP I rush back to my seat to see Rooney pulling up offside, the door is open again and Fillette comes tinkling running over to give me a big hug ‘Sorry Daddy’ she says ‘Never mind’ say I ‘ Can we read a book?’ she says ‘Not now darling’ ‘Why Daddy?’ she says, I shout ‘Mrs. File, HEELP?’ ‘Why Daddy why, why?’ says Fillette ‘Wot now?’ says Mrs. File with a growl…
We re-reinstall the child, bear, doll, sheet, water and increasingly sleepy and ineffective guardian. I pause in the reclaimed silence for the briefest of moments on my way back to Wembley, breathe, sit down and see a beautiful thing. A full Pas de Basque with Bras en Couranne right into the back of Drogba who falls like a sack of kale. Heinze is some little mover; I’ve never seen martial ballet performed with such power, grace and poise.
Terry rolls it into midfield, the telephone rings.
It’s me mum ‘Have your heard from your brother yet?’ ‘[sigh] Not for a week or so why?’ ‘It’s just we haven’t heard from him since Bora Bora and we were just a bit worried, well I say we, it’s more me really than your Dad, probably nothing but…’ File: ‘Have you checked your email?’ ‘Well we’d like to but your Dad has turned it on its side again and we can’t get it back.’ ‘What are you talking about Mum, turned what on it’s side?’ ‘The picture on the monitor’ ‘Do you mean the desktop?’ ‘Everything, he can’t get it to go the right way up.’ I have never heard of this symptom before ‘Err…have you tried turning the monitor over?’ ‘Ohhh, that’s a good idea! FILE [Snr.], FILE SAYS TO TURN IT OVER … TO TURN IT OVER…THE BOX…TO FIX THE ….hold on a minute dear, I’ll get your Dad…. ’
The seconds tick by, Ronaldo falls over …
‘Ooh, File, be a sweetie and dig out the Auckland address while you’re here…’
File, phone to ear waiting waiting, podders off to find long lost address obediently.
After some frantic rooting and rummaging and some rather curt pleasantries I can slide the plastic from my sweating ear and head back. It seems as if the game has livened up a bit in the second half, but what would I know, I’m only the reporter right?
The bedroom door opens again, my heart skips a beat, I hear calm patter of dainty footsteps and bathroom door. I relax slightly and get back to the game; 59 minutes gone and still no score, Drogba finds a bit of space, shoots and the ball hits the post with the sound of smashing glass and ensuing shriek. Heart pounding I head for the bathroom, shoulder barging a groggy Mrs. File for traction as I bank around the corner.
Little Fillette is stock still surrounded by broken glass, like stars on the bathroom floor. I lift her out of space and put her down on dry land, step into the hole she left and wince as shard enters bunion ...
Sweeping pan, brush, newspaper, bin, mop, alcohol (for foot), gasp, plaster, alcohol (for foot owner) and, playing through the pain of a lanced and bleeding corn, I head back to the match only to find that its adverts. The really good one with Bryan Robson selling land investment after taking his extra-double strength monotone paralysis tablets. I take a moment. Has it finished or is it extra time?
I wait, Little Fillete didn’t actually get to pee, Mum and said morcelle emerge once again, clearly sheepish on way to lav. This doesn’t concern me, I’m waiting. Hear flushing and tap, still waiting. Creaking hinges, chirpy studio presenter appears and SQUEAL, BAWL 1, beat, BAWL 2.
I rush, hobble, rush back on this well traveled path with somewhat lessening enthusiasm. It’s amazing how much punishment little fingers can take in door jams isn’t it? Groan; comfort, ice, towel…
To be honest it’s all getting a bit much at this stage, my body demands a cigarette outside with a whole can of beer Thai quickly. I get back to the TV and it’s the same bloody advert again. I slump, I snooze, I wake up to tennis and a deep calm, quiet house.
What have I learnt from undertaking my first match report? Something along the lines of lemon donations and silk purses, lemonade and sows ears.
And perhaps, that it’s difficult to effectively prioritize more than one thing at any one time and perhaps footie and family shouldn’t really vie. This inner conflict leads to perception of external stressors which rock the centre and ripple the mind. Still, as Zephirine reminded me the other day ‘Creativity comes from one of three motives: celebration, revenge or despair.’ So, file is unable to bring scintillating and historic footie commentary but is driven to offer The FA Cup Final May 2007 (Directors Cut). The Director only knows what may come next…