Saturday 26th September 2020, 2.15pm (day 3,320)
Now that’s a serious tree. Surely it predates everything else in this photograph except the hillsides. And it’s probably seen a lot of football too. (The willow’s not bad either.)
Travelling abroad may be curtailed at the moment but there’s still plenty of my own country I haven’t seen and going to football matches on Saturday afternoons is, as far as I am concerned, as good a way to see it as any. The village of Steeton, near Keighley, provides a picturesque backdrop to the warm-up exercises of the visiting Avro FC. I like the contrasting colours and the impressive house that pops up above the trees at the top.
Everything has become so messed up during the Great Fear that standing in a field on a glorious, sunny day with a couple of dozen other people is now considered less ‘safe’ than, say, driving down the M1 or operating heavy machinery. But I still welcome the return of some level of competitive sport, something this country (and others) misses more than it realises. My first football match for 147 days, or 21 weekends, and the first pre-season friendly for Oxenhope Recreation FC, the guys in orange, against Keighley Athletic. I guess it’s about a 50/50 chance whether the season to come will actually be finished, but for now, I don’t care.
Over these months of lockdown it has become apparent that Our Glorious Leadership have been taking decisions on an arbitrary basis. What is ‘safe’, what is not? What is healthy, what is not? No one really knows. So, on the evidence of activities taking place in Fitz Park, Keswick, today, cricket is OK, including having spectators present — but not yet football, oh no. And I don’t mean here the type of football played in front of 30,000 packed together and sweaty fans, but the sort that keeps people fit and provides enjoyment for a few dozen. That is, the sort I like best. I am not griping about the fact there was cricket in Keswick today: I think it’s a good thing. But there seems no reason why, for instance, the football club (Keswick FC) that play in the same park shouldn’t be back in action soon. Unless you talk to Our Glorious Leadership.
For most of the teams in England, this weekend should have marked the end of the football season. For me, this started back on June 21st in Anglesey, but seeing as the only anti-COVID strategy anyone could think of involved killing off most of what gave life meaning, it was ended, along with everything else, after March 14th. What remnants of grass-roots sport will be left when the paranoia finally lifts and we realise that in the long run, for our survival as a functioning society, we have to get outside again — that is still to be seen.
I don’t know if I’m the only one having problems uploading pictures to WordPress at the moment: these difficulties explain why these posts are coming out at odd times right now. It’s been a case of when it works, grab the opportunity. Maybe it’s all a consequence of the ongoing hiatus in civilisation…. There must be many groups who are having to come to terms with changed circumstances. What are the inveterate gamblers doing at the moment, I wonder, with no (public) sporting events taking place? We did consider a live sream of our afternoon game of Totopoly. Number 2 did turn out to be the winner — odds of 5/1, don’tcha know. Clare in the background looks excited, as well she might, as she was the owner.
Senior football across the UK was suspended as of yesterday. I, these guys (who have doubtless been coming to the same spot, probably with the same chairs, for decades) and three hundred other people got their fix at AFC Blackpool of the North West Counties league. The crowd included a large number of fans of Sunderland FC who had been due to play in the town this afternoon but could not. Alas, it then also began to include a number of the local idiots who saw here a chance to wind up these visitors free from the distractions of police or stewards. A microcosm of a usual Saturday for various people therefore.
The point is that if this kind of thing isn’t available, then for good or bad, people will go find it where they can. I suspect Britain, and the world, currently needs sport more than it realises.
The walls of the castle at Richmond, North Yorkshire, have been there for some 900 years now: they’re not as intact as once they were, but still form an impressive backdrop to the town — and here, its football club. I lived near here for a few years in the mid-1990s, it always seemed like the ‘big city’ in a way but it’s a tiny town in actuality, a sign of how far out in the sticks I was at this time. I don’t miss living there and haven’t been back much at all, but it was pleasant to return for a day trip today.