At approximately 18:00 CET, I am 36,000 ft approaching the English coast, flying back to London Gatwick from my birthday weekend away in Barcelona with my wife Michelle. I had decided to postpone listening to ArseBlog Arsecast from Friday (recorded late on Thursday evening) until this particular moment. (A full blog post to follow in due course but I was enjoying a Real Husbands of Hollywood marathon on my Nexus 7) I had almost drifted to sleep to the hum of the Airbus A319 engine outside. Minutes later I heard my name on the mp3 player, while still in a semi conscious state. I had to rewind and listen again! Then I had to interrupt Michelle reading her magazine for her to hear the announcement as well.
The irony of this whole weekend is as follows. Last year I won a competition on the same aforementioned blog for tickets to see Arsenal play Southampton at the Emirates. The same opponents we played this weekend, on my birthday infact but I would be away in Espana. Being able to catch up on the scores later that evening via the BBC Sport app and BBC World news (which annoyingly but understandably no longer displays a clock on screen!)
On Friday afternoon my winning prize – an exclusive cashmere scarf from Savile Rogue arrived and I had to post a photo online. Many famous football faces such as Mancini and Delia Smith have worth their famous football wear.
Earlier in the year, I applied for a England fan guide for Euro 2012. As it never arrived in time for the tournament and I never had any serious intentions to head over to Ukraine or Poland it was not a major loss. In fact, I had totally forgotten about the guide but somebody somewhere had not. It finally fell through the postbox yesterday. Over six months later, what a complete waste of time! I recall a discussion about my headmaster at secondary school many many years ago. The comment made by my class teacher, was that the headmaster regarded punctually with the utmost importance. In his case, it was always “Better Never Than Late!”
There are daily rituals, weekly tasks and monthly chores. One of those for me is to read the fantastic ArseBlog every morning. I started reading many years ago and even listened to the first editions of the ArseBlog podcast (affectionately called the ArseCast). After the move into double-digits I gave up as I just did not have the time to listen. Now working in Reading and with over two hours of commuting each day, I look forward to the ArseCast every Friday. I start listening at 4:30pm sharp as I wait for the TVP bus which takes me to Reading station. Once your blog becomes popular to a point of having millions of readers, the commercial opportunities open up. Sponsporship and prizes. I have entered over a dozen of the competitions run by the Arsenal fan Andrew from Dublin over the years but never won. Until this Wednesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, I entered a competition on-line via e-mail, to win tickets for the next Arsenal home match at the Emirates. The question was rather straight forward and the answer connected to the opponents, promoted as runners up in The Championship last term, Southampton. I was shocked to receive a mail on Wednesday morning to confirm I had won! I pondered on who to take with me but in the end (after persuasion from my wife Michelle) decided to take my Dad. I know for sure he will enjoy the day out and the atmosphere at Ashburton Grove. This will be my first visit to my beloved football club since December 2008. It has been one hundred and ninety five weeks since I was last at a home game and I have to admit I have missed the experience of actually going to see some live football. Plus with all the new signings and the fact we have made a good start to the season (compared to this time last year) I am generally feeling quite positive. Bring it on! Plus a chance to finally wear the Arsenal shirt that my mate Dave got me almost two years ago for my 29th birthday.
Who knew when London was awarded the Olympics, how the nation would respond to the arrival of the Games themselves some seven years later. I am sure you will agree that they have been overall a fantastic success. It was rather a disappointment that I had not had the foresight to purchase tickets for any events. I had not even tried and I am sure the Teg from 2006 would be bashing me over the head with a club for being so passive (if time travel is ever invented, I am sure it will be on the agenda for my future self to track down my past self!). Therefore, when tickets started to be traded on my work social mailing list, I was keen to get my hands on anything. Tickets for the semi-final Men’s Football competition came up but at first, I had just missed out to my utter disappointment. However, fortunately the initial sale fell through, so I secured tickets from my colleague and thankfully already had the day off in question. There was only one problem, getting to Old Trafford, Manchester.
With my wife on holiday, she was able to quickly find that the best option, with only a few weeks remaining, was to travel by National Express from London Victoria. We opted to stay the night in a Travelodge, as the evening match would not finish until close to 10pm. We booked everything on the Friday, in blind faith that I would get my hands on the tickets on the Monday. We were all set and with my hands finally on the tickets, I was looking forward to Brazil potentially playing host nation Great Britain (although technically England and Wales, as Scotland and Northern Ireland declined the invite). Due to a fantastic athletics schedule on Super Saturday, we only had a small eye on the football on one of the 24 BBC HD streams. We were over at my parent’s house that evening, so had access to the additional channels, rather than just three on Freeview.
Before I get bogged down in the story of the event, let me just briefly reflect on the Olympic experience. As you know I live in Slough, which is a stone throw away from official venue Eton Dorkney. Of course events kicked off on Saturday 28th July but it was not until I left my house on Monday 30th July that I noticed the full impact of having an international sporting event on your doorstep. There were twelve double decker buses (provided by First Group) waiting at the newly renovated Slough train station to ship spectators to Eton. I do not think I have seen organisation on such a scale and in Slough of all places. Barriers had been setup and there were many volunteers helping the early birds make their way to the first double decker bus that was waiting to take them on their short journey to the lake. Just to repeat, this was all before six thirty in the morning, in Berkshire, England.
Fate would be against us and Great Britain would not get passed South Korea (losing on penalties – it could not be any other way!). The team sheets may have not been to our liking but we were going to enjoy our trip over to Manchester. It was my second time in the city but perhaps one of many visits for my wife, as her sister had attended university here and her brother (for his sins) is an avid Manchester United fan! The game was pretty one side as we expected and it was great to see some of the fresh faced Brazilian stars before the World Cup in South America in two years time. Match report including highlights video over on BBC Sport website.
Received a completely unexpected e-mail in my inbox this afternoon. An offer of a season ticket at my beloved Arsenal Football Club. This was a complete contradiction to my previous communications (from mid February 2008) that I would become eligible for a season ticket on 1st June 2054.
I would love to take up the offer, but the cost of a season ticket has gone up dramatically. I remember talking to a chap at an evening game at Emirates in 2006 (the club’s inaugural season at the new venue) and he paid about £850. Now I would have to pay between £1,300 to £1,500 for the privilege and honour of watching the North London side in about thirty matches over the course of a campaign. I wish I could afford this but the reality is, I cannot. You also need to remember to factor in the travel, programme, pie and beverages. These all add up to make this a circa £2,000 past time, excluding purchasing any further merchandise from The Armoury. Football is big business!
Will I regret this moment? Of course. Will I feel hard done by, in respect that I will now lose the £30 place in the queue I paid for way back in 2005. At that point in time I was around 14,000 in the queue (I have a certificate signed by Mr. Arsène Wenger OBE to prove it). Not sure how in six years I suddenly found myself at the front. Just forty three years earlier than I had expected. I have until Monday 11th July to make my decision and make the appointment with the virtual receptionist, to help me pick my seat and give examples of the view I can expect. Just a shame, that I do not actually know the next time I will go to a game. My last match was way back in December 2008. A great deal has changed since then!
Stop the clock, there are now just a mere 31, 536, 000 seconds left of my twenties. The big 30 is fast approaching and there is very little I can do stop this collision course. I just guess I have to hang on and enjoy the ride!