Saturday 26th April, 1930 ; FA Cup Final: Arsenal 2 (James, Lambert), Huddersfield Town 0
We glide through misty blue. Wisps of cloud play around our bulbous prow. No ack-ack this time as we survey the hazy maquette of tidy suburbs down below. Then, out of nowhere, Wembley Stadium looms, a lime sherbet set like a rhinestone in plastic and concrete; the oval rim quite dull and grey besides the glinting jewel, but somehow the whole remaining mystical. I squeeze my father's hand as we peer down through the glass that stands between us and a freefall through the air outside. We're safe here in this chrome-lined basket, clinging like a barnacle to the underside of our blau gas bloated whale of a balloon. 92,488 watched the 1930 FA Cup final, but few could say they saw it quite like me.
We come in peace this time, but still the tracers come; flat caps, infinitessimally tiny dots tossed up towards us by a few among the ninety or so thousand other ever-so-slightly larger dots our dark hull looms above. Twenty or so ants scamper about the green stone kernel of the ring below our grey speech-bubble craft. They hug the white rectangles, cut diagonally across in such strange, beguiling stop-start patterns. Our engines' hum blots out the roar that accompanies all their frantic scurrying and scuttling.
When we are both a little older, my father will sit me down upon his knee and reminisce about that day and our exhalted, bird's-eye view. He tells me details of the game we saw, provides a concrete casing of facts and figures to support the emerald of memory. He croons a plodding, comic dirge of a song,
And when they've had a few they shout 'Is Ars'nal going to win?'
They think it's Alec James, instead of poor old Ann Boleyn
I'll sing the same song to Hannah when she is young as she fidgets on my knee, my accent turning Ws into Vs and THs into esses. Then, when I've sung my song I tell her how the pilot dipped the nose of the famous airship the Graf Zeppelin into a stiff Germanic curtsey before King George V.
And Hannah has come to visit me now, to fit some earphones to her father's wisp-haired head; another set of wires to join the myriad of tubes and cables all around me. I hear that chocolate-gobbling voice once more, preserved somehow amid the fizzing of the shellac, somehow aqueezed into a fist-sized gizmo. "With her head tucked underneath her arm", I mouth and nod along once once more and beam back at her as the day comes back entire. She'll see me smile, will Hannah, see her father's tired fingers dance a sprightly jig upon the sleeve of my pyjamas. She'll look back and realise that it's not her who's given something precious to her Dad, but her papa who's secreted something wonderful and special for the daughter that he loves. A present left for her to find and to unwrap in her own time.
For what better gift is there than a smile to leave behind me as I sail into the blue?
L.U.V. on y'all,
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