There are a few things its advised one does not talk about in polite company.
First is politics. I can hardly do this, as by some accident I seem quite entrenched in the weirdly divisive system of policy that somehow oils the wheels of this nation. Bah.
Second, religion. I was born and confirmed as a Catholic, though somehow this rather passed me by as my parents swiftly decided to have a go at Mormonism (they were well dressed, taught me to ride a bike), Jehovah’s Witnesses (who my mum still placates by not putting her seasonal decorations up till after the last Sunday before Christmas) and the Sally Army. I forgot my Roman tendencies till my mum reminded me after a particularly crazy funeral, when I expressed my surprise that my gran was being interred with such lashings of hellfire and guilt.
And by then, my atheism was so entrenched if god appeared I’d demand he proved himself in not just a theological, but a philosophical and scientific way. And some form of ID. A passport, maybe.
Third, football. Well, in my life it has been. I once got in a fist-fight in Lisbon when I expressed a preference over Sporting over Benfica. Luckily I escaped through their realisation I was ignorant on Lisboan football altogether, and the question on my favourite league side remained unpunchable, as they didn’t know the answer. And that answer, I’m afraid, is: I’m a Forest fan.
Blame my grandad. My only memories that he is involved in – he died when I was four-are sitting in front of the telly, roast beef dinners on trays, screaming at the telly. These days must hold much import, as they are the few bits of nostalgic shrapnel I can dredge up from those days. An egg and spoon race when I was three and a bit, at the 1977 Jubilee; seeing Star Wars in the same year, starting school a few months after.
I can barely remember my grandad, but I can’t smell roast beef and a shandy without a Proustian rush back to those halcyon moments.
I then recall a dreamlike experience a year later, when Forest became European Champions, and seeing my sport-phobic dad stop his vacuuming one saturday morning to stand rigid as footage played of Forest receiving the European Cup a few days earlier. I’d stumbled downstairs, sleepy and wiping my eyes, and he picked me up and swang me round, and I knew this football thing could be as joyful, fair-weather or not.
These were impressionable days, and thick was the propaganda. The garage at the bottom of my road had the words ‘CLOUGHIE IS KING O’ FOREST’ spray-painted over it. No self-respecting student at Stevenson’s Junior School, or our awe inspiring seniors at Park Comprehensive, would attend school without some Forest logo on something: be it sports shirts, socks or pencil cases.
My mum was a cleaner at the Sherwin Arms in Bramcote; Clough would often be there, sipping spirits at the bar when she began her 8.30am shift. His brother used to run the newsagents next-door, which I am happy to report is still known, albeit inaccurately, amongst locals as ‘Cloughies’ . I would often be taken along with her, and still remember the day he offered me chewing gum. An obedient child, I pointed out I was not allowed to accept, a sanction enforced by my mother. He took this aboard, nodded, then pointed out: ‘Tell her Cloughie says its ok’. I did: I have never felt ashamed to chew on chuddy since.
So its hardly surprising that I ended up a Garibaldi. Technically, living in the County, I should be a Magpie, but then again technically I should be Dumbarton fan, since they were my local team when I popped into the world.
I attended a few matches when young: I had no relatives to drag me to the Trent End, or friends into football (or friends at all, for some years, but thats more to do with my penchant through my early teens for wellies and sailor suits as a symbol of sartorial elegance) I saw Forest beat Newastle, Sunderland and Middlesborough in the eighties, a weirdly anti-North Eastern bias.
Wasn’t till the noughties I went again, fortuitously knowing a Capital One worker who could wrangle free tickets, albeit in the rather middle-class Brian stand. Now I get in free on occasion on the rather bizarre condition that my friend and neighbour, the mighty Rish, is helped in his post-match debrief with my rather rubbish attempts at analysis. Have a gawp at the rather lovely site I pop up like an incongruous fungus on: http://www.eighteensixtyfive.co.uk/ . I do a bit of post-match comment here, its good fun. I’m not that good though, as when I watch a football match I tend to be a bit lost, like I’m missing the secret encryption code that is privy only to those who can look at at a field full of men and see a formation.
Yet I persevere, and I blame it on those early days, those days with roast beef perched upon my lap, shandy at hand, shouting at the telly for the eleven spitting sweating men to beat the other sweating , spitting men, and I’m devoted. Absolutely devoted to my love of the Reds, The Garibaldi, The Trent-Heroes, the NFFC, the one, the only, the ultimate NOTTINGHAM FOREST FC…….
I meet my mum for coffee. I mention all of this, hoping she’ll be proud of my possession of the baton from her father. But…
‘Me dad? He was County all his life. Couldn’t stand Forest”
“County?? Notts County?”
Theres a pit in my stomach that collapses into a sinkhole as she glibly explains ‘No, silly. Derby. He LOVED the Rams’
I’m off into therapy. Tarah.