1994 was the summer that Max and i got together; i have fond memories of curling up on his bed, beers in hand and watching the football, something that was a complete mystery to me because despite having grown up with a sports journalist for a dad, it had never really been on while i was at home. We weren’t a family who ever sat together, so if dad did watch matches then he watched alone in his office at home, or perhaps with my brother, I have no idea. He gave up being a football reporter before i went to senior school, having come home shaken from one too many games where the supporters drank and fought and did thoughtful things like rain burning chairs down on the press box. It did mean that many of the football tragedies struck a particular chord with me, the Bradford fire, Hillsborough, because there was always the sense that dad could have been either caught up in it or found himself in the unenviable position of going from sports reporter to news reporter as the disaster unfolded before him. Luckily for all of us, he was never witness to worse than mob stupidity.
1996, Max and i were living together in my parents house but i was working and i think Max and my brother probably bonded over that one; i have a vague memory of watching some of it curled up on his gran’s sofa after our dramatic “lost in thunder, rain and fog with a broken compass in the middle of Dartmoor” experience. Yes, that’s right in fact, so another special summer, one i remember anyway.
1998 was the year that Frances was born and the summer of our wedding. In fact, had we progressed to the next round the match would have been during my wedding day, so i was rather glad we didn’t! I have great memories of that tournament though, a new baby asleep on my lap, giving her a bath while we cheered England on, my sister and my friend Anne living with us and helping to make bridesmaids dresses while we looked after Fran. Burnt toast, burnt dinners, breast pumps, wedding dress fittings and football noise in the background. And then a new husband who didn’t complain about missing the final during our honeymoon in Wales. Putting my wedding bouquet gently into the bin on the way home after it had sat on the kitchen table in the cottage we stayed in for a week.
2000, i had Maddy and i spent another football tournament with a baby on my lap, getting used to having 2, grateful for a good reason to just sit and feed her and cuddle her. Coming home from running my classes to find Max had cooked me dinner while he watched the football. Big Brother being on for the first time and a new baby who was perfect in every way and fixed so many things for me.
2002, another tournament and another baby, Amelie this time, born just in time to sit on my lap and feed and feed and feed; a student to help me, getting ready to move house, Max coming home for the odd England match and watching a few before going to work.
2004 was a little different; i was pregnant with Josie so i snoozed through that one, asleep on Max’s lap in the evening, girls playing around us during the daytime matches, the sound of cheering crowds a soundtrack again to a new baby, just an impending one this time.
So 2006, the first even year i wasn’t going to have a baby since 1998, the first football tournament i wasn’t going to have a baby for, was always going to be sad for me and i have dreaded it. The two things have become oddly wrapped up in one another, sleepy new baby smells, sleepy pregnant snoozing, summer silliness over something as unimportant as a game. And as almost everyone who reads this knows, i wanted another, at least i thought i did, though where in my life i thought i was going to fit another person, i really don’t know. But it had been our only ever great unresolved disagreement, Max much more sensibly not wanting to stretch us any further, me still wanting the joy of doing it all again. Not wanting to say goodbye to this phase of my life, not wanting to acknowledge that this bit of being young is over and that here on lies getting older and watching my children become the focus and the achievers.
2006, football or not, was always going to be the gateway for me, a year where i left behind one part of my life and moved on to something new and undefined and frankly unwelcomed by me. What i’ve discovered in 2006, via traumatic and life changing circumstances, is that the gate hasn’t just closed, it has slammed shut and there isn’t a handle on the side i’m on. I can’t go back.
So i’m celebrating by taking no notice of the whole darn shooting match. If move on i must, then i’ll move on without putting myself through the hell of listening to a tournament that has meant fun and silliness and happiness during every other bit of mine and Max’s life together. And if that means sinking into Big Brother, or Animal Crossing or any other form of escapism, then that works for me. I don’t begrudge anyone their forms of entertainment, and goodness knows i’ve got no reason to gripe if my husband wants to watch a 3 week football tournament every other year, but this year i’m giving it a miss. It has way, way, way to many memories wrapped up in it.