A QUESTION OF RENEWAL
There comes a point in every man’s life when tough choices have to be confronted. A moment when the indecision, the shilly-shallying has to stop. That moment when a man looks at himself in the mirror and says “Enough is enough. It’s time to say “No!”
For Richard Burton, no not THAT one, but Richard Burton , known to all as Dick, of number 53 Fox Gloves Crescent somewhere deep in Middle England , that moment had finally arrived. After yet another dismal performance by the team he had given his heart and soul to for so many years, he had definitely had it! He looked at himself in the rear- view mirror of his Honda Civic and muttered “ I`ve had it. Enough IS enough.” Inwardly, and outwardly, fuming he picked up the match day programme and turned to the double page spread advertising the “Early Bird” offer of a 25% discount on any Season Ticket renewals before the end of January. In past years it had been a given that he, Dick Burton, would get out his Mastercard and loyally fork out whatever amount the club demanded. No price, even with a discount for an early purchase, was too high if it meant that he could keep his seat behind the goal in the North Stand. A seat in the same row where generations of Burtons had sat, proudly wearing their colours and cheering on the team come rain or shine, through the good times and the bad. Well three generations to be exact as his own son had, quite sensibly, decided that football wasn’t “ his thing”, despite being named after the entire legendary team of 1984.
Now though the good times were becoming a distant memory. How many years had it been since his first game he thought? He recalled how as a small boy he had stood nervously between his father and grandfather overawed by the noise and the close press of the men in their cloth caps and smelt the all-pervasive smell of tobacco. How he had struggled to see anything until he was passed down to the front over the heads of the crowd until he was able to stand alongside the other small boys watching, yes actually watching, his heroes out there on the pitch right in front of him.
He remembered the trip on the coach down to Wembley for the Cup Final against their local rivals. It was the last time Grandad Burton had made it to a game. When he died later that summer his last words were, according to family legend, “At least I`ve seen us beat those bastards down the road in the Cup.” “Typical Grandad”, Dick would say every time the anecdote was repeated at family gatherings. He would stare lovingly at the photo of the two of them standing beneath the famous Twin Towers of the stadium on that memorable day. “ What a man he was,” Dick would say, “ Taught me every obscenity I know.” And everybody would laugh. Except his wife Beryl who had always thought the old man was a foul -mouthed bore.
Dick had so many emotional memories of a lifetime of love and devotion to the team known as “ The Mighty Whites” but next season they would have to manage without him. He had thought that his wife would be especially pleased when he told her. Beryl was always complaining about the money that he spent on tickets, about the hours he spent travelling back and forth to games. How much she hated the bedsheets adorned with the club’s crest that they slept under every night. Those awful “Lucky Y-Fronts” that he refused to have washed in case the very act of washing would bring the team even more bad luck. Although strangely enough, Dick reflected, she hadn’t sounded too thrilled when he had broached the subject of not renewing his season ticket after that 5-0 thrashing by the City the previous week. In fact in the days following his shock announcement his wife of some 40 years had suddenly developed an unexpected interest in the team’s fortunes. After the midweek match, in which they had managed a surprise draw against all odds, despite being reduced to nine men through ill-discipline, she had greeted Dick on his return home with an upbeat assessment of their performance. Relegation, she had declared with some authority, could be avoided if they played like that every week. “It’s time to get behind the lads Dick, not give them stick.”, she added as if it was she who was the club’s Number One Supporter, not her husband.
Spurred on by his wife’s words Dick had set off for the next game with renewed hope. Perhaps better times had only just begun. As Beryl had said, as she stood at the door to see him off, her right fist clenched in a gesture of solidarity, “Have Faith Dick, Have Faith!” Sadly, those false hopes had been crushed yet again after the “Mighty Whites” had put on, what one fan had loudly described as a “Complete shit show.” It was at the moment when he joined several thousand others in a spontaneous verbal assault on the sexual habits of the players as they trudged disconsolately off the pitch that Dick Burton finally made up his mind. When the ever optimistic, happy-clappy middle- aged supporter in the seat next to him said, “Cheer up pal, it can only get better. See you next week as usual.” Dick replied, “No effing chance mate, that’s it for me!” And for once he meant it.
Back at number 53 Fox Gloves Crescent Beryl Burton heard the football results on the BBC with a dismay that matched her husband’s but for an entirely different reason. Dick Burton’s lifelong obsession with an under achieving football club had, unbeknown to him, given his wife the opportunity to forge a life of her own. Those ninety minutes plus injury time were life savers. All the hours Dick spent travelling to away games were bliss. Oh how she longed for the team to be drawn away in the Cup to distant Plymouth Argyll or Carlisle United! His total immersion in the mixed fortunes of his chosen club had allowed her to quietly enjoy plays on Radio Four, her collection of folk music cd’s , a long soak in the bath with scented candles and hours of recorded episodes of the X Factor and Grand Designs without the endless, aggravating interruptions from the man in her life. As much as she loved her husband she found many of his traits extremely annoying. Could she really cope with him getting under her feet throughout the football season? At least in the summer he had his allotment and the occasional pre-season Friendly, but how would she manage during those long months of the seemingly endless football season? Did she really want to share her precious “Me Time” with somebody who couldn’t let a news bulletin go by without an accompanying string of his grandfather’s favourite expletives? It wasn’t as if he would be of any practical use around the house. Dick Burton was man who considered home decorating as time spent in purgatory? No, this was a disaster. More was at stake now than the apparently not so “Mighty Whites” inevitable relegation . It was decision time.
When he got back home Dick found a note from Beryl on the kitchen table. In her elegant handwriting she had written;
“So sorry they lost again Darling but I can’t live here anymore. Dinner is in the oven. I`ll be at my sister’s if you need anything. Bring over your ironing if you run out of shirts. I honestly don’t mind being the second most important thing in your life but I need time to myself. Please, please don’t give up on the team. There is always hope, even if it’s only a sliver. Please Dick, renew your season ticket . It’s our only chance of a happy life together. If you do, I’ll come home. By the way, I had to leave the cat with you because of Helen’s allergies. You know he loves you too in his own funny way, so please don’t kick him if they lose. Keep the Faith Dick, Remember it’s not too late to renew. ”