We go into the NLD full of fear and trepidation. Well I say “we” when I mean me. No change there then ! I go into every game in this state of mind. My positive nature is suspended as each match day approaches. I hope for the best and fear the worst.
Off the back of the spanking of our depleted troops by probably the best club team in the world the result and performance is anything but predictable. I can imagine just about any outcome. Anyone that thinks the result is a sure thing, does not understand the nature of football, let alone an individual match.
The greatest fear going the rounds seems to be Debuchy playing at Right-back. Once again we see a very good player, returning from two long term injuries, being written off by our knowledgeable ‘expert’ fans, just as Monreal and Sagna before him were. Not to mention Ramsey, Jack, Rosicky………….shall I go on ? It takes any player a run of games to get back to their level. How people don’t grasp this would surprise me, if those people didn’t have a history of gross stupidity.
The Debuchy problem,(if there is one) is exasperated by not having one of the six players that would be expected to play in front of him fit. For me that would be Ramsey, Welbeck, AOC, Theo, Jack and Rosicky, in that order. So I expect it will be Joel. He did well enough against Swansea, so we can but hope and wish him well.
There is a debate as to whether it will be Per or Gabriel partnering Laurent, personally I think it will,and should , be Per.
Due to the lack of options from the bench I feel we will have to win it in the first 60 minutes or so, as the last half hour could be a problem.
To many of our fans this is the single most important game, to not lose, that we will play in any year. Given our league position its a game we really really really want to win, regardless of the opposition. Going into the international break level on points with the league leaders, with a few of the short term injuries due back afterwards, will be a great way to do it.
All I know is that if Arsenal play at their best, they will win, so lets hope for that.
Right, enough of my incoherent ramblings, the NLD would not be the same (and my old mucker Mel would not lend me his Kirk Stevens white suit again) if we don’t have the masterpiece Frank wrote for us when we started up. Wherever you are Frank, we miss you and love you.
Today we revisit a classic tale where Frank looks back, more in sorrow than in anger, to re-tell a chilling tale of a long-lost summer of love, terrible betrayal and lots of super furry animals.
Today’s page turner …
I was mugged in Seven Sisters.
To be accurate I was attacked in Seven Sisters since nothing was stolen.
Cold bloodedly gratuitously attacked. A summer afternoon several decades ago spent with a friend and I was heading home to Tufnell Park. It was an early evening in July but I could hardly see as I turned into the tunnel heading for the tube, eating sausage and chips. Out of nowhere something hit me on the back of the head and just as I turned, a fist hit me in the mouth. I fell to the ground in a daze and the protagonists proceeded to kick the living shit out of me.
There was a lot a ‘fackin’ this’ and ‘kantin that’ as the boots went in and afterwards just the sound of nasal snickering. Before I passed out I caught a glimpse of two of them. One in white trousers and a bowler hat with ‘Tottenham Droogies’ written across the back. The other had calf-length faded jeans, docs, white tee shirt, braces …. and a tattoo on his forearm.
A tattoo of a cock and ball.
I must have been out for a while because when I woke up, the ends of the tunnel were dark. The reek of urine and unwashed bodies was only just bearable. I was surrounded by squashed chips and, nestling in the gutter by the wall with not a bite out of it, was my sausage. My head hurt like hell, split lip, bumps and bruises all over but I seemed to be OK.
I’d got away with it.
Could have been killed. Could have been maimed or paralyzed for life. Thankfully I had done what most blokes who are being kicked in the head do, I protected my privates. Death is preferable to castration.
I had survived.
Slowly I got up. I just wanted to get home. Brushed off the fag ends, chewing gum, dog shit. Stretched out my arms and then my legs, moved my head from side to side. Tested my aching bones. Nothing broken. Lets go home, Frank. Then someone behind me coughed.
I spun round afraid that they had come back to finish me off.
But there standing in front of me was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She had on an ankle length yellow dress and sandals. She had long, long tresses of red hair and her smile was extraordinary; it could fill a room, or, in this case, a tunnel. Her smell was intoxicating and as she touched my face with her hand I just knew that she was an angel.
I was dead and on my way to heaven.
She asked me if I was okay. She asked me if I was in pain. She asked if there was anything she could do for me … and before I could answer she passed me her guinea pig and started mopping my brow.
What the feck?
She gave me a guinea pig? Well yes she did. She handed me her guinea pig. Cleaned me up. Took her guinea pig back. Held my hand and took me to Tufnell Park.
That is how I met Maude.
Oh Maude, Maude, Maude – you were perfect. She took me home to my apartment and stayed for three weeks. What a three weeks!
Walking on the Heath. Drinking in The Flask in Highgate. Strolling through Waterlow Park. Saying “hello” to Karl Marx. Wearing each others’ clothes.
Actually she wore mine, I didn’t wear hers, I really didn’t. Getting drunk together on Grand Marnier and sick together afterwards. Listening to a friend play folk songs outside the Admiral Mann. I even started to read poetry, although it didn’t last. Mostly though, we just made love. Anywhere and everywhere.
In that time I was treated to a parade of animals.
Guinea pigs, rats, hamsters, geckos, turtles, tortoises, parrots, budgies, kittens, puppies, fish, snakes, you name it.
Every day she would disappear for a few hours and return with different animals. Only on Sundays would she return without an animal and on Sunday evenings she was always very tired. The explanation turned out to be a bit crazy but I could deal with it. She let on that she was into animal liberation and spent much of her time nicking animals from pet shops and domestic animal stockists.
Her aim in life was to free them all.
Create an animal utopia where they could all live free from human bondage. How she managed to get plastic bags of tropical fish and a twelve foot python out of a shop without anyone noticing I have no idea. But she did it. Insane of course, and I loved her all the more for it. We were madly, stupidly, giddily happy.
Until that fateful day in early August.
So far we had lived in my flat. It was OK. But I was getting more and more curious. Where did she live? How long? What was it like? Was she sure that she was not using the animals as a cover for her sneaking back to a long time live-in partner or husband?
Joke, sort of. What was she hiding?
After much cajoling on my part she finally agreed that we could stay at her place. She lived in a flat on the first floor of a Victorian house on the A10 near to the junction with Clapton Common. She had been on her way home when she found me in the tunnel.
So off we went.
We spent a pleasant few hours in the Spaniards’ Inn and went to a party with friends in Stoke Newington. Caught a taxi to hers. Let ourselves in.
Her living room was full of no-longer-soon-to-be-pets.
It was smelly and it was noisy, but she cleared a space and we sat and drank tea and chatted amongst the boxes, cages, baskets and tanks. Finally we fell into bed exhausted. The following day was Monday and neither of us needed to get up early. We were very soon fast asleep in each others arms.
We awoke on Monday morning refreshed. She made cups of tea and brought them back to bed. Gradually we began to get interested, the way you do.
We kissed and cuddled …
Then Maude whispered that she would like to make love in daylight amongst the trees and birdsong. Her garden was beautiful at this time of year, she said. She asked me to open the curtains and open the window.
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.
About as excited as I have ever been in my life I leapt out of bed, hopped to the almost full-length sash window and threw open the red velvet curtains to let the sun in …
The No 149 bus route has been transporting the residents of that area to the City for many years and I believe that it still does to this day.
In the days of the old Routemasters, in the rush hour the bottom deck was crammed full of people, many standing and some dangling from the platform at the back. Upstairs was calmer and those fortunate enough to get a seat were able to read the paper or a book, do the crossword, do the Pools, knit, or in most cases just sit and watch the world go by. There are a number of points on that journey where the bus comes to a standstill for quite a while as the traffic gets well and truly jammed.
One particular point is just outside Maude’s flat.
The floor of the top deck on those buses is roughly about the level of the first floor of that particular block of houses, and the windows of the bus are about six feet from the residents’ windows. You can see awful lot from the top of that bus and on that day passengers had a real treat.
As the curtains opened they were greeted with … think of Leonardo’s Study of Human Proportions according to Vitruvius.
But weedier and in a state of arousal.
For my own part I just remember seeing an endless stream of tickets coming out of the Clippie’s machine and thinking thank goodness they can’t see my feet because I’ve still got my socks on. I turned to shout at Maude for setting me up, and as I did so I noticed something. Something very serious indeed. Something which caused me to shut out the embarrassment of the last few seconds completely. I couldn’t believe it. I froze. The blood drained from my face and obviously from other places.
The bottom fell completely out of my world.
In the lower right hand corner of the window was a sticker. Not a very big one, about the size of a bob-a-job sticker. But this particular sticker had a motif on it. A dreadful symbol.
A cock and ball.
We just hadn’t discussed football. People had the summer off in those days. No transfer activity. I turned to her and just shouted “TOTTENHAM” at her at the top of my voice. At first she completely misunderstood and she laughed and shouted: “YES. YOU TOO …?”.
But before she could finish, she realised.
It was probably me screaming “YOU ARE A FARKING SPUD” that gave it away. Her beautiful face contorted into an ugly grimace and in a vicious whisper she spat “Arsenal. You are a fecking Gunner? You bastard”.
I couldn’t stay.
I needed air. I grabbed my clothes, putting them on as I scrambled through the menagerie in the living room. I got to the front door and slammed it to, shutting out the cacophony behind me. I headed for a café on the corner of the block, ordered coffee and just sat in a window seat sipping and smoking. I half expected her to follow and to be honest I half hoped that she would.
But I realised it was over.
I could take the pet rustling and I could even take being humiliated in front of a bus full of people but I could not take the fact that she was a SPUD. That could never work.
But that was not quite the end of it.
As I sipped my third coffee, having smoked half a pack of cigarettes, two panda cars and a police van arrived at her flat. Maude was led out in handcuffs and for the next hour policemen loaded the back of the van with her contraband, Noah’s Ark fashion. I felt bad about that at the time as I watched her driven away in the back of the police car it seemed unjust that she should go down for stealing animals when she had such good if not misguided intentions. It turned out in court about six weeks later though, that every Sunday she ran a pet stall on Club Row.
She had been nicking pets and flogging them on. She also stole them to order.
I will always remember Maude though and if I ever meet her again, which is very unlikely, I know exactly what I will say to her……………
“CARMON ARSENAL CARMON ARSENAL CARMON ARSENAL
ARSENAL, ARSENAL, ARSENAL….ARSENAL, ARSENAL, ARSENAAAAL…ARSENAL, ARSENAL, ARSENAL….ARSENAL….ARSENAL”