Sunday 28th October, 2007: Liverpool 1 (Gerrard), Arsenal 1 (Fabregas)
Sunday starts badly. I read two rejection emails:
Dear Robert Swipe
Thank you for contacting **** **** Associates through our website and for posting an extract from your novel there. We were pleased to read and consider this but have decided to pass on the opportunity of reading more material or representing this to UK publishers. I'm sorry to be negative but we did not connect with the narrative voice as much as we'd need to in order to feel confident pitching this to publishers, with their already crowded lists.
All the best for finding an agent who feels differently.
With best wishes...
I know you're not meant to take it personally and all that, but when you're writing as I am, you can't help but take things like that a little to heart. After all, that "narrative voice" they "did not connect with" is actually *my* voice. In fact, this voice you're hearing in your ears or realising in your head is not the figment of somebody's overactive imagination; it's actually *me*. Oh, and one last thing: *IT'S NOT A BLOODY NOVEL!* I start composing a righteously indignant, B.S. Johnson style rejoinder in which I quote T.S. Eliot ("...human kind cannot bear very much reality...") and point out to them in no uncertain terms the artistic validity of what I'm doing but, really, what's the point? Writing, for them, is something that gets sold in books and to me it's something more than that. So why waste the mental energy?
Already disheartened, I read the next one:
Thank you for your submission to join Litopia Writers’ Colony. Unfortunately, we are unable to accept your application at the present time. Please understand that we cannot accept all submissions for membership on the first attempt, and you are free to re-apply after a three-month period. This thread and your submission will be deleted shortly.
With all good wishes:
Litopia Writers’ Colony
No problem. I'll just be sticking that banner of theirs I put up on the website somewhere the sun doesn't shine...And pillocks to your effing Colony.
And so it goes on; a bitter, bitty day when nothing seems to click. I don't do any writing because I'm shattered by a week of trying to squeeze in being creative and thoughtful around gaps in the everyday routine at work and at home. The only time I get that's entirely my own is on the mini-bus, with all the other fruit pickers, jotting down the day's efforts as I'm pitched up in the air, tossed around like a single-handed yachtsman by pothole and sleeping policeman alike. No wonder this thing is so fragmented; it's a wonder I can read my handwriting at all at times. Instead of working, I spend hours looking for an old demo tape I could swear I had in my hand three or four weeks ago, but now can I find it anywhere? I'm starting to get that feeling you get when you know this just isn't going to be your day. So it's with trepidation that I head off to the Prisoner of War ("Special screenings of Escape to Victory, whist drive and finger buffet every third Wednesday) to watch the game.
Unsurprisingly and with grinding inevitability it takes Liverpool a mere 5 minutes to score. Fabregas attempts to play the ball out from defence after a good passage of play from the home side that's already forced a full stretch save from Manuel Almunia. Cesc's attempt to cushion the ball with his thigh is too heavy and he clips the toe of Alonso's boot just outside the box in his attempt to retrieve the runaway ball. Almunia calls for one more man in the wall to defend the resulting free kick and Cesc duly obliges. But in his eagerness to charge down the ball as Gerrard shapes to shoot, he leaves a gaping hole for Stevie G. to aim at. His strike is so venomous though that you could almost imagine it cannonballing through regardless, Hannah Barbera style, leaving a smouldering Acme football-sized hole in the midrift of the Arsenal defender who was foolish enough to have stood in its way before scorching a similar shaped void into the net.
It's just my luck that this usually quiet local dotted with a handful of diehard regulars who appear to have been rooted to the spot since the last time you were there several weeks ago seems miraculously to have been chosen as this year's venue for the Liverpool Southern Supporters Annual Dinner Dance. That's the only explanation I can find for the sudden eruption of joy that surrounds me as the pub leaps in the air as one, expressing their fervour in a variety of south of Watford accents that run the gamut from plummy Received Pronunciation to Estuary tang. Away from their adopted home, back up north in Liverpool, Gerrard does one of those finger running along the keyboard, qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm slides along the grass on his knees to the touchline in celebration before being mobbed by jubilant reds. Here we go, you think. This is where it all comes crashing down.
Liverpool seem well up for this game in the wake of their European defeat midweek. Gerrard, in particular, is tackling ferociously and there are several audible crunches as he, Carragher and Voronin go crashing in. The Wolfish Sammi Hypia runs a lupine tongue around his lips as he leaves Adebayor pinioned to the ground writhing around in an even more carnally tormented than usual Jens Lehmann warm-up routine. But this is no place for Lambsy and, miraculously, the young Arsenal players hold there nerve. And then they start to play. Clichy, a preternaturally cool customer for one of so few years, as he has been so often this season, is the architect of many of these audacious, nonus shittus passages in which stout defence elides into attack through a sequence of calm and measured passes. For a lengthy spell in this first period, you could be forgiven the belief that the team with the one in the column beside their name is the one wearing white shirts and not red. Liverpool still manage to tee up Gerrard with another potent shot which Almunia manages to claw over the bar, but Arsenal's pressing and passing is looking more likely to bear fruit.
As Alex Ferguson looks on, blue nosed and looking rather glum, from somewhere deep in the Anfield stands, the game resumes. It's frantic, passionate stuff. Liverpool manage to prevent Arsenal from passing themselves into dangerous areas and when Eboue, suddenly starting to look plausible in his new position as an attacking midfielder, tiptoes into the Liverpool box and sees a well-struck low shot cannon back off the upright, it really does seem to be turning into one of those days. This feeling has compound interest added to it when the rebound lands invitingly at the feet of the one player on the pitch any Arsenal fan would most like it to fall. Sadly, Cesc can't adjust quite quickly enough to get his reaction shot on target.
I turn to H., who's joined me for the second half and ask, "how do Liverpool do it? They manage to do virtually nothing and win." With a quarter of an hour to play, I can't see Arsenal scoring. Wenger has made all the changes he can; Gilberto, Bendtner and Walcott have been brought on as Arsenal chase the game. Walcott gets jeered by the Liverpool faithful every time he loses his footing on what seems a very slippery pitch. They get to jeer a lot. Gallas, leading by example, goes on a daring dribble that runs out of steam just inside the Liverpool box. I start to worry that the team has tired. Oh me of little faith!
Alex has kept toiling quietly away without too much drama until eventually, like a master of mystery waiting for the perfect moment to apply a twist to the plot, he's where we want him to be; running at the Liverpool defence. The wily old Belarussian coyote decides that it's time for that old claw on the ball of wool trick again. He waits and waits and waits a little bit more, sensing something special in the air. Or maybe he can hear the galloping of Fabregas as he charges towards the box. Finally Hleb puts an end to the suspense. He clips a ball beyond the Liverpool line and Fabregas is Speedy Gonzalez, racing onto it to stab the ball just inside Reyna's near post. This time it's Fab's turn to qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm on his knees towards the corner flag in emulation of his hero, Stevie G. He lingers there a second before punching an arm in the air at the Arsenal fans who are dancing in delight in the Michael Thomas end. He and Alex have set us up for a fabulous finale.
It's end to end in the last 10 minutes and you feel both sides want to win the game right up until the final whistle blows. Gallas' despairing dive foils a Gerrard shot from a tight angle and Fabregas combines with Bendtner to recreate Eboue's earlier effort to dismantle the Liverpool goal. This time it's Fab's shot that strikes the woodwork. Bendtner snatches at his shot when the ball bounces favourably in front of him, blasting over when he had time to take a touch and pick his spot. Fabregas runs away with his palms tapping his crown in agonised disbelief. For a while, you share young Fabregas' frustration. But then, there's enough post-match purring from the pundits as it is. This draw has made a few people reconsider this young Arsenal side's credentials. How unbearable would they have been had we won?
So there you go; lessons learned. Never give up - especially not on this young Arsenal side. let's hope Sir Alex's nose is even bluer and his expression just as glum at the Emirates in just under a week.
So it goes on; the daily battle between your consciousness and the competing clamour of the world of work. Sometimes you feel it's drowning you, but you *must* persist, you must prevail. Keep its fire burning, cherish it and nurture it. Because in the end, it's all you've got.
L.U.V. on y'all,
Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!
Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!
Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!