If you’re wondering why there’s such a gap in dates and why a home game with Queens Park Rangers should hold any importance when I tend to write about away trips, it’s simple, lack of money. It’s why the lack of money, that wasn’t so simple. My life hadn’t been so much turned upside down, as turned upside down, back to front and inside out too. It was of my own making of course. Extra marital affairs affect far too many people and cause far too much disruption. I’m not going to go all hypocritical, my hands are up in the air for everyone to see them. You may have fallen out of love with the person you’re with, may see having an affair as some kind of twisted vengeance, or levelling the score, because they’ve done it. You could see it as just a harmless bit of fun to keep your spirits up, but that’s wrong. Nobody’s going to find out equates to absolutely the other person you’re trying to keep it from, finding out. So you want to get back at the person you’re with, or just don’t care about them anymore? Then find the courage to tell them how you feel and walk away. You never realise what damage you’re causing or have already caused, before it’s too late. Innocents always get hit in the crossfire when an affair is discovered. However I felt about Trelayne at the start of the affair, I should’ve walked away, but then when it comes to the affairs of the heart, I’ve always been useless and no doubt, always will be. Surprise surprise, Trelayne discovered about the affair, even turned up where I worked to confront me. Not only that, but her Mother had been on the phone to tell Bryanné’s husband about the affair. I’m not going to go into some kind of soap opera ‘she said this, I said that’ thing, but the upshot of it was that Trelayne moved out. We expected Bryanné’s husband to do the same, only our plans were scuppered when he did a complete U-turn. He told Bryanné that she could move out if she wanted to, but wouldn’t be able to take the kids. Her kids were her world. When situations like this happen with heightened emotions running wild, you don’t think straight, you’re not in possession of the clinical coldness that’s needed. Sure, you can advise someone else what to do when they’re going through it, but it’s totally different when it’s yourself. With our plans in ruins, I played lip service to Trelayne, and after just one week, she moved back home. If I hated life and myself before, that hatred increased. Bryanné left work, but pulled off a brilliant stunt of coming back as a Temp. (She told her husband that it was the only job she could get) A night shift had been added to the line we were on, I moved round to learn the job vacated by the bloke going on nights. In a bizarre twist, I helped Bryanné learn the job I’d just vacated. The only way we could see each other now though, was at work, so we both started doing overtime at a weekend. Life became unbearable at home. Trelayne was trying too hard to make it work, I wasn’t trying at all. I just couldn’t go on pretending and moved out, stopping two months in the spare room of a lad I’d worked with at the fuse box place. A house round the corner from Bryanné had come up for rent, and with financial help from my Mom, was able to move into it. Now I’m not patting myself on the back or seeking some kind of recognition for achievement, but I moved in with just a duvet and an alarm clock to what was basically, an unfurnished house. It was September, two months later, I’d got more or less, everything I needed. I never said no to any offer of second hand anything. Even if I’d already got it. If it was free or cheap, I had it. I wasn’t in the position to be too proud. My Mom was absolutely phenomenal in this period of my life. She gave me so much support both physically and financially that I was never able to thank her or pay her back properly. She kept picked me back up when as a toddler, was just learning to walk, and she was still having to do it but in a different way, 30 years later. I became closer to my Mom after I left Trelayne than I’d ever been before. On top of all the physical and financial support, I realised she suffered the same depression I got too. I was starting to discover all the tools required to cope with it. At the company I worked for, they conduct annual performance assessments on everybody. I was to come to understand that it was the only way of being upgraded and thus, more money. So for a year, I became adapt at biting my lip, toeing the line and generally being a good boy. It worked, I got my upgrade and rise in pay. I went back to being rebellious. The first Christmas, Trelayne had John, I had him for New Year. Just so happened it was the change of the millennium. At midnight, I did what all caring drunk parents do, I woke poor John out of his slumber to watch the fireworks on a freezing cold doorstep. In May as my Brother moved in after splitting up with his wife, Rover collapsed and Fiat pulled forward their plans to take their Tippo model in-house. It meant weekends were going to be spent looking after 4 boys and the team I belonged to at work, being disbanded. Everyone were to be shipped around the factory. Now it wasn’t because it was Bryanné, I would of done it for anyone I worked with. She was due to be moved to one of the production lines, devastated, she was in tears. I mentioned it to the supervisor, what I didn’t expect but probably should’ve done, they then swapped us. I was to become the human equivalent to a battery hen. It didn’t matter, I had a mobile phone now. Courtesy of an offer that Coke Cola were running. I was linked. Bryanné and Les didn’t get on. They were cordial to one another, but their personalities clashed. Coupled with not seeing each other at work so much, and the situation between her and Les, Bryanné went cold and distant on me. I’m not trying to vindicate what happened next, it just felt right at the time. At the start of the summer factory shutdown I bumped into a friend of an old flame. I passed on my mobile number to give to her. Within two hours, we were texting and the very next day we met up, Gayle was back. We had fun and it felt wonderful. I had this nagging guilt eating at me, Bryanné wasn’t over, she may have gone cold on me, but I was still in love with her and it was a lose end. Towards the end of what was, a brilliant fortnight, I met up with Bryanné with the intention of finishing it, I couldn’t, she couldn’t, the feelings we had were too strong, I admitted to Gayle I still had feelings for Bryanné and not putting too fine a point on it, I finished what we had just started, and broke Gayle’s heart. It wasn’t the last I’d see of Gayle though. By this time, Trelayne had started a relationship with a lad she met on a dating site. Although they’ve had their shaky moments, she’s still with him now. So back to these weekends, on a Friday, Les used to pick up his three lads, if I was on earlies, I’d pick John up, if I was on lates, I’d pick him up on a Saturday morning. The long weekend meant a Friday trip to the Spar to stock up on their own brand super strength cider, a walk with the lads to try and get them to actually like each other again, a trip to the chippy, which we’d then have chip buttie’s and watch telly while me and Les gradually got drunk. Not too much, but enough to take the edge off. Saturday was shopping in the morning, stocking up on Spar cider, afternoon of following Blues on Soccer Saturday, making something substantial to eat for tea, and letting kids just be kids as we demolished the cider. Sunday was a full English for everyone, followed by a trip to play football until we could hardly walk. It was always Ben, the eldest in goal, Les, Dan (His middle son) and Liam (His youngest) versus me and John. Didn’t matter the weather, or the state of the pitch, we still went out. It was back home after, sheep dip the kids, sheep dip us, have a full roast dinner, and take the kids back. On the way back from dropping the lads back, it was round to the Spar to stock up on the cider for the last time of the weekend, and then home to dissect, analyse and make sense of everything that had gone on. All the arguments and tension the three lads came with on a Friday to how we had managed to foster some level of friendship and instill a camaraderie between them. John just did what he’s always been brilliant at, and acted as a peacekeeper. Those weekends were intense to say the least. They were emotionally draining if you want a better idea. The debts that had been compiled during mine and my brother’s relationships were being paid, but it basically left no money for anything else. John wasn’t due the weekend of this match, every now and again, his Grandparents wanted to have him to stop with them, and although I’m an idiot, I’m not nasty and vindictive. Had he been coming to mine as usual, he would have come to the game too. Les had managed to accrue enough spare money to be able to treat his three to this game. It seemed only logical that I’d go with him. So what of Blues then? Well Francis was still at the helm and Blues were in the middle of probably his best season as manager. We were doing well in the league, and well in the League Cup. We’d just beaten Sheffield Wednesday in the 5th round, and were now in a two legged semifinal v Premier League Ipswich. The idea was to get tickets for the game we were attending and then grab a beer so the lads could sample the pub atmosphere too. After all, for two of them, it was their first game. Only Ben had been before. We got the train over and walked up to the ground. The two eldest were bickering as per usual. They got on like oil and water, they were almost polar opposite to one another they were so different. Liam may have been the youngest of the three, but in so many ways, he was the wisest. He could read people, work people out and because of that, he used it to his advantage. He wasn’t a kid that you could get the better of and because of that, there wasn’t any point trying. However, many people did try and failed miserably. The three lads had very different personalities and to get any progress with them, you needed to mold to those individual personalities. Not lump them together as one, which their Mother did from Monday to Friday but for one thing, she relied on Ben to supervise because he was the eldest. That demarcation in itself caused friction between the two eldest but being very much his own man, it didn’t make for a happy alliance with the youngest either. Because he’d been relied on for so long, Ben enjoyed and relished the power it gave him, and could be quite obnoxious with it. The queue for the tickets and the length of time it took to get to the front to get them, meant that there wasn’t any point going to the pub.
The only place we could get tickets with us all together, was the Olympic Gallery. Why on earth it was given that name when there wasn’t any connection to the event, I still don’t know. It’s a fantastic view, but you actually kind of feel that you’re detached from the rest of the ground. It’s like you’ve got your nose pressed up against the window. You’re there but you don’t quite feel part of it. Dan let himself go, all the pent up frustration with life, boiled over and he spent the game spewing expletives. Liam was bored, I could understand why, the game was awful but you could see that he felt like he’d been dragged along, when all he wanted to do, was sit in front of a film (Probably Star Wars, it was always Star Wars) at home. The game really was turgid. I’ve watched some truly boring games since (Especially under Rowett) but at a time when finding the money to actually go to a game wasn’t easy, I felt short changed as did Les. I felt sorry for the two eldest, they’d waited for so long for the opportunity to watch Blues and they were let down by a terrible game. The only redeeming aspect, was at least they’d all now been to watch Blues, and we didn’t lose. 0:0
We walked back up to New Street, and got the train home.
FOOTNOTE:- Les gave me the money to buy all three lads that seasons home shirt, and asked me if I’d wrap them up. So I did, I wrapped them each differently, so you couldn’t tell from the shape what they were. If you’re interested, I wrapped one flat, wrapped one so it looked like a small log, and one into a cube shape. The first unwrapped his shirt, the other two looked for and were disappointed when they couldn’t see a similar shaped present. The next found his, the third scanned his pile again, and again disappointed, he couldn’t see his. That was until he unwrapped his. There hasn’t been many things I’ve got right in my life, and although probably a fluke, at least I got that right. So did Les, those shirts were their favourite presents that year.
Blues did make it passed Ipswich in that semifinal. I obviously didn’t make the second leg at St Andrews due to lack of money, the closest I got was listening to it on the radio. You’ve guessed it, I missed the final too. The first major cup final Blues had been in since 1963, and I couldn’t afford it. I had to make do with watching it on Sky. We took Liverpool to penalties. We lost. The weather and the now congested fixture list took its toll on both the pitch and the team, from being at one point, nailed on for automatic promotion, we slipped to being in the playoffs. The third season in a row under Francis. Another whim from the EFL meant away goals didn’t count. A last minute winner at Deepdale by Preston made it 2:1 on the night, 2:2 on aggregate. No more goals in extra time meant more penalties. I watched the images on my television as Francis argued with the referee that he was going back on his word to have the shootout at the building site end. The ref wouldn’t back down from his brand new ruling and the penalties were taken in front of a full Preston end. We lost.