Wednesday 1 January 2020

A turbulent decade

I am not just thinking about the depredations of Roland, but more personal matters. Maggie came from Thornton Heath and her father was Palace, but she was probably a more dedicated fan than me, going to midweek fixtures away with the help of other Charlton fans. We greatly enjoyed our Saturday away days on the West Sussex minibus, ably driven by the likes of Brian Cole and Roland Silcox (although when the guy whose day job was driving a hearse was behind the wheel we didn't progress so quickly).

One of the sad events of the decade, but also a celebration, was attending the funeral of West Sussex stalwart Vern. The West Sussex branch is still going: we joined because they could pick us up on the M40 en route 'oop north. Once they overshot at the Warwick roundabout and as we scrambled down the embankment, we were greeted by the sign of members of the party relieving themselves.

In 2010 Maggie showed the first signs of dementia. She was diagnosed with both vascular dementia and Alzheimer's and passed away in 2014. I would like to thank my family for the support they showed in that period and afterwards which was invaluable. As well as the three daughters (Soph, Ros and Milly), this includes my sister-in-law Sue and my brother-in-law John. The granddaughters seem to have grown up more quickly than their parents: one is in her second year at uni; another is now living with her boy friend, while a third is looking for a first flat to buy.

I would also like to thank all my friends at Charlton, particularly the 'Rodsters'. We now meet for brunch at the GMT café in my birthplace of Greenwich and go across the road to the River Ale House for a pre-match libation. Sadly we lost a key member who was also a famous Charlton statto. Maggie and I often used to see him at Marylebone as he lived in Gerrards Cross and we affectionately christened him 'Uncle Albert'.

In the second half of the decade I have been able to reconnect with some old friends, particularly from Exeter University: Dame Teresa Rees; Bill Tupman (Everton); Annie Phizacklea (Leicester City and a former director of a football research centre); Mike Hawkins; and, in the last couple of weeks, Penny Ashby. I thank them for their friendship and also Sally (Tottenham Hotspur) who was in my first cohort of students at Warwick. Angela is the widow of a colleague who also passed away from dementia. Last but not least, my super neighbours Kerry (Coventry City and Wasps) and Ruth who have come to my rescue more than once, in particular when I contracted sepsis. I was in resus in Warwick Hospital about twenty minutes after being found.

Today I am off in the Brakes Trust minibus to the A46 derby between Gloucester City and Leamington. Gloucester are currently playing at Evesham, having lost their ground to flooding in 2008. A new stadium is on its way. After the Brakes beat Gloucester 3-0 on Boxing Day, their board issued a public apology and promised financial compensation to fans who went. The rumour mill suggests that the Gloucester 'firm' will turn up today, all two of them, equipped with their walking sticks.

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