Sunday, 27 September 2009

Blue Blue Karma’s Going To Get You

Apologies to Phil Jagielka, but my first reaction this week on reading the headline “Everton Player Robbed” was to wonder whether the police have asked Clive Thomas, the former so-called “referee”, about his alibi for the evening in question. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not one to harbour a grudge against a bloke simply because he ruined my childhood by disallowing the perfectly good goal that would have won Everton the 1977 F.A. Cup semi final against Liverpool. After all, anyone with pathological exhibitionist tendencies and a deep-seated need to be at the centre of attention can succumb to the temptation to make up his own rules on the spur of the moment. No, the reason I would be asking Mr Thomas to help with police enquiries is not festering rancour but genuine concern for the wellbeing of the little Welshman’s soul.

Let me explain. During a recent pub conversation about ethics with my friend Aristotle McGuinness*, I was intrigued to learn about the concept of “fukarming”, which, it emerged, is the process of laying a curse on (or “fucking up”, to use the oriental term) an individual’s karma, thus helping to ensure his or her enduring misery in future lives.
“My question to you this evening,” said Aristotle, who after a few Newcastle Browns tends towards the illusion he is chairing Question Time, “is ‘Do you hate anyone enough to want them to suffer for ever? In the sense of FOR EVER.’”
“Clive Thomas,” I replied without thinking. “It wasn’t just that he got the decision wrong; it was that he knew he was doing wrong. It was a crime. If it was simply a mistake, why didn’t he explain or apologise?”
“My feelings exactly,” interjected the nun on the bar stool next to me. “Even the Liverpool players didn’t protest when the ball went in… I’ll say that again – it’s a phrase you won’t hear very often: Even the Liverpool players didn’t protest. Our Mother Superior at the time wrote to the Vatican to ask if it was possible to excommunicate Methodists**.”
“Interesting,” mused Aristotle. “So, basically, there are still tens of thousands of Everton supporters who would like nothing better than to see this man suffer?”
“I personally wouldn’t piss on the guy if he was on fire,” declared the nun. “And I know for a fact that Sister Veronica is praying for him to be reincarnated as a pawless rabbit with a rusty whistle stuck up his…”
“His karma is evidently in a dreadful state!” chipped in Aristotle. “From what you tell me, it sounds like the man is destined for one hell of a nasty future. What would it take for you to bekarm him?”
“If ‘bekarm’ means to lay off his karma, then I guess I’d take an attempt at an explanation and an abject, tearful apology on bended knee,” I admitted.
The nun looked doubtful. “No,” she said, after a few moments thought, “that would be nowhere near enough. The only way out for him now is to admit to a heinous crime he didn’t commit and pay the price for someone else’s wrong.”
“That’s magnificent, sister!” exclaimed Aristotle. “A crime he didn’t commit! Oh, the poetry of karma!”

So you see, Mr Thomas, no hard feelings. We really are just trying to help you. Perhaps you would like to start making your way down to the station? It’s for your own good.

*Aristotle’s mother originally named him Baz, but he was re-baptised after enrolling on a philosophy course at Birkenhead Technical College in the early 1980s. As a Tranmere Rovers supporter – an allegiance which may go some way towards explaining his chosen subject of study – he tends to be more objective than most Merseysiders in matters relating to the Everton and Liverpool football clubs.

** Apparently it wasn’t.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Jean-Paul Sartre Was An Evertonian

Jean-Paul Sartre once said that the only way to teach a child the difference between right and wrong was to put a blue shirt on him – or her (Sartre was genuinely avant-garde) – and take him – or her (Sartre was also consistent) – down to Goodison Park on a wintry samedi afternoon. It is thus with a sense of duty as well as eagerness that I tug my four-year-old nephew N through chill winds and driving August rain to see his first big match. We leave early because N is so absurdly good-looking that, wherever you take him, women stop you to ask his name and age and for details of his nursery career to date. Quite what they intend to do with this information has never been clear to me, but it seems to be of compelling importance to them.
While we are waiting for the train at Moorfields, a fraught-looking mother enquires earnestly of N about his favourite foodstuffs, rather as if by unearthing precious nuggets of dietary information she will be able to transform the spotty goblins at the end of her arms into the stars of Primary School Musical or something. Chocolate biscuits and flapjacks ain’t going to work that particular miracle, darling; you’d be better off trading your sprogs in for some kind of novelty pet – at least that way you’d have some half-decent photos for the family album.
By the time we reach Goodison, N is wet through and is losing his voice as a result of fielding rapid-fire questions from a group of scally girls taking the train to an afternoon rave in Ormskirk. The sight of the players warming up on the pitch raises his spirits, however, and, hoarse though he may be, he sings along with pride to “We’re Forever Everton”. I am hugely impressed by the fact that he knows all the words.
The general consensus in the Paddock is that this is a good time to play Arsenal: “Not into their stride yet…going to miss Adebayor…new signings still bedding in…first game of the season, anything can happen.”
“Is that Yakubu?” asks N, pointing to a slight, pale figure practising his crossing.
“No, N, that’s Leighton Baines. Yakubu is injured, black and three times the size of…”
N dissolves into the mischievous laughter he reserves for occasions like when I caught him, rubber glove up to his elbow, firming industrial-quality Playdough from a builder’s sack into the U-bend of the toilet.
“Oy, Funny Boy, you’re only four – I do the humour round here.”
He is still chuckling at his own joke when Arsenal score their first goal, but by the time it is three nil his eyes have the glazed-over look usually associated with shell-shock victims.
“His first game?” asks the bloke next to me.
N and I both nod grimly.
“Do social services know?” he quips, as Everton’s defence disintegrates again: four nil. The away supporters strike up with “Boring, boring, Arsenal!”, presumably intending the participle in the sense of drilling through with relentless force, and I begin to wonder whether N will be permanently traumatised by this humiliation. In injury time, at six nil (Arsenal are incontrovertibly “into their stride”, they are not missing Adebayor in the slightest, and at least one of their new signings has not only "bedded in" but is playing the game of his life), the child announces that he needs the toilet. I myself feel like throwing up, and the prospect of not having to observe the spectacle on the pitch for another three minutes is actually quite welcome, so I resist my first impulse to tell him to tighten his bladder and hold it in till the final whistle.
For the first time in well over an hour, N regains a certain joie de vivre as he attempts to dislodge a fly from the upper part of the urinal by aiming his jet stream high and to his right. The insect remains dry and unperturbed, but an old guy zipping up and turning away catches a generous lashing of spray down the back of his trousers; fortunately he is too shocked and depressed to notice. Suddenly there is a muted roar from the crowd, but before we can return to within sight of the pitch the final whistle blows.
N’s first match is over: we have lost six one and even contrived not to see the miserly consolation goal. Utter disaster.
“That was really sad,” says N, as we emerge onto the Bullens Road, but it is only when he wistfully adds “I nearly got him”, that I realise he is referring to the fly. Sartre would probably have approved.