Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
17th March, St Patrick’s ‘Paddy’s‘ Day.
A huge date for ‘the Irish’ at home and around the world. St Patrick’s Day is also, the 6 year annavarsary of my radical prosectomy surgery (17/3/2016). That took place three months after I was diagnosed with prostate cancer (23/12/2015).
Liverpool has (historical) and significant, connections with Ireland. Liverpool is just a 25 minute flight away from Belfast, 35 minutes from Dublin. There are many working, Irish who have settled in Liverpool. There are 6 flights per day, to and from Ireland to Liverpool, a constant stream of visitors, shoppers, tourists and many others, coming to watch both Liverpool and Everton. Many Irish who live, at home, in Ireland, travel to Liverpool to celebrate St Patrick’s DAY. In Liverpool Paddy’s Day, (Ireland’s second Capital City)? is big, popular, a crazy-busy, drunken, day and night.
Football in Liverpool is big, tribal, important (as important as life itself)?
Tonight, on Paddy’s Day I was going to a football match, ‘going the match’. Everton v Newcastle. In many ways, just a game. We weren’t playing for a place in a final, not even a semi-final, nor the chance to win any trophy, ‘the Trophy’ the Premier League Title. These days Everton are light years from that.
However, it was still a significant game. Everton are deeply embroiled in a genuine, relegation fight and, out of the handful of other contenders, currently, look like the least likely to survive.
The day started like any other day, with work. Marking, marking and more marking of students assignments, possibly the part I like the very least about my ‘teaching‘ job. A marking day punctuated with tutorials, Learning Guidance Tutorials (LGT’s), in-between marking. My first LGT had emailed me, to ask if her tutorial could be brought forward from 1.30 pm to 12.30 pm?
It’s Paddy’s Day, yes, of course!
She was bang on-time, a second year (19-21 years old?), a talented, dedicated, enthusiastic, student. Bright, cheerful, ‘nice’. “I’m sober!” She, proudly announced.
Her LGT was, mostly, spent discussing what she had planned for the day, Paddy’s Day and what I had planned. With a mother, with the surname Lafferty there is a genuine excuse for me to be Irish, in Liverpool, for Paddy’s Day.
The next, unexpected, event of my day was finding out that (another) work colleague, Eddie, had recently found out, he had prostate cancer. His news, came on top of the news of another colleague, Eddies brother, Jimmy, who had also been diagnosed with prostate cancer, just 12 months previous. Two brothers, working for the same organisation, which now makes, including myself, five, ‘prostate cancer buddies’ in the same workplace.
On hearing the new, I immediately called Eddie at home. He seemed remarkably, up-beat. His diagnosis has been confirmed. Triggered by an elevated PSA, (blood test), followed by a, painful biopsy, he has prostate cancer, yet, he still appeared up-beat.
He is now in that difficult place, deciding on which treatment path to choose. Yes, it is you, the patient who chooses your treatment, not your medical team (see my previous posts). He was looking for advise. He has a private consultation, Monday to discuss a non-invasive treatment, High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU).
Eddie is a busy, professional musician, constantly touring, at home and abroad. The least amount of (physical) disruption, caused by treatment is a priority for him. Standard radical prostate surgery would require a 6-12 week recovery (complete rest with no chance of touring).
HIFU is not (easily) available via the NHS. A relatively new, prostate cancer treatment that uses the energy of highly focused ultrasound to pinpoint, heat and kill prostate cancer cells. Unlike radiation and surgery, HIFU is non-invasive (no incisions, no recovery period), an outpatient procedure that leaves healthy tissue unharmed (with, in many cases, less after affects – treatment trauma, to other organs – Bowel, Bladder).
He seemed ‘well-informed’ and was prepared to pay (go private) for HIFU treatment via a private clinic. We arranged to speak again after his consultation, next Monday.
The Match – Everton v Newcastle 17th March 2022
A ‘Covid’ rearranged, fixture, now mid-week, (Thursday evening). Whilst I dislike ‘mid-week’ games, as they usually require me driving to and from, due to, late finishes, poor, (alternative), public transport. Night games do have a‘natural’ heightened atmosphere? Goodison under the lights, given the right conditions is an experience.
Tonight requires ‘those conditions’ more so than any other night I can remember in 55 years of watching my team. Out of form, zero confidence with rock-bottom, self-esteem coming off the back of a series of poor performances and straight (league) defeats, ‘we’ desperately need a win. To win the team require a special effort from their fans to drive them on.
A big ask?
Yes, the fans are dissapointed, frustrated and totally disillusioned with the clubs, ineffectiveness. A hapless mistake on the pitch, groans in the crowd, more mistakes on the pitch, a vicious circle of consequences.
Tonight, we are still a long way from the last day of the season. Still time to prevent that ordeal. One final opportunity to put things right, a fight to the death, just 90 minutes to resolve a poor season. No fan wants that. I have been there with Everton before. 90 minutes from relegation. On two such occasions, one last chance for survival and somehow we survived.
With 12 games yet to play, seven at home, what’s the problem?
This season, despite us having 3 games in hand on our nearest contenders, feels different. I am more concerned, now than I was on both of those previous, final day games.
May 1994, coming back from two nil down to win 3-2 against Wimbledon & May 1998, with Everton’s Premier League status preserved by the skin of our teeth during an agonising 90 minutes against Coventry City. Despite conceding a late equaliser, Everton held on to secure the point we needed to climb back out of the drop zone. Everton survived on goal difference, sparking scenes of jubilation the likes of which had not been seen.
On both occasions the crowd played a massive part, the Goodison crowd ’12th Man’.
As they did on the 24th April 1985, the night Howard Kendall’s Everton came of age to blow away the West German giants and reach the European Cup Winners’ Cup final. The first (away) leg finished 0-0 and the home leg was on a knife edge until, just shy of half-time and, very much against the run of play, Bayern scored. Goodison was silent, I turned to my mate, Freddie “No sweat La, we just have to beat them on the night”.
Second half – Everton with the help of the Goodison 12th man, went on to win 3-1, the biggest night in the club’s history. Standing in the Gladys Street I kicked, headed every ball as did every supporter that night. Like many Evertonians, this is my favourite ever ‘Everton game’ by a clear mile, in 55 years, supporting my club.
Supporters (of all clubs), will have, and talk about their ‘moments’ with their clubs. The lucky ones will have more positive moments than negatives, associated with winning, winning semi-finals and going on to finals, winning trophies.
But last night!
55+ years of supporting the Blues, last night was a fucking moment!
The last time I felt Goodison, bouncing, ‘quite’ like that was 1985 and we were on our way to a European final. We won two, (nearly 3) trophies. Honestly? Emotionally, last night was something else! It felt that important to everyone involved, the players, our (new) manager and our supporters (us). 40,000, like minded people, sharing in, participating in, something special. What an extraordinary ‘event’? It was a pleasure, a privilege to be a (small) part of. The only downer was that my normal ‘match buddy‘, Darran, was not there with me.
It, literally, had everything, drama, justice (& injustice), controversy, above and beyond commitment, it even had a unique (extremely brave) political protest, a young guy ‘cuffing’ himself, by the throat, to a goal-post? It was Rocky 7 crossed with, The War of the Worlds and The Godfather 4. It was amazing! Afterwards, I was so pumped, I could not sleep, replaying ‘events’ over and over, at one point I wasn’t sure anymore what was real and what was not? Fuck me, next day and I’m still buzzing!!!
I have realised that ‘my moments’ those special experiences I enjoy most are usually shared with people I love, but often, many many people, the more the better! Glastonbury, my ‘Happy Place’, has given me many such, shared, unique experiences. Unique? Yes, ‘live‘ events are one offs, unrepeatable, unique. To share ‘anything’ with 120,000 like minded people is an exceptional feeling, it is palpable, emotional, it can be life changing.
Hear’s to many more ‘Special Moments’ everybody? May yours be with people you love.
Thanks for Reading