Remembering Gracie -Two Years on

It was two years ago today that Gracie passed away. It is slightly strange but sometimes it feels like it happened five minutes ago and sometimes it feels as if I have been on my own for a lot longer than two years. The passage of time is relative to the observer according to Einstein. (I may be misinterpreting what he said.) What doesn’t change is my love for her and the amount that I miss her.

Two years on my life has settled down to a fairly steady rhythm. I’m no longer tempted to spend all day in my pyjamas drinking whisky (not that I ever did but for a while it felt like an appealing option). The fact that I have carried on working part time was the biggest barrier to that. Carrying on working, which was something that Grace told me I should do, has probably been the thing that has, perhaps, not quite kept me going, but given my life the structure that I need. The extra money that it brings in is useful but not essential. Most of it gets either saved or given away, though it does help to pay for the away days. Football and AFC Wimbledon have assumed an importance in my life that is larger than it really should be. But against that it has given me something to belong to, family if you like.

If it had been the other way round and I had gone and Grace had been left behind, she would have found her family in Church. I have a problem with Church, partly theological, in that I don’t believe much of what is taught any more, partly personal, in that as a widower I just don’t feel comfortable there. It is easier finding my fellowship on the terraces at a football match. That is probably more of a reflection of me and where I am at than it is of where Church is at. Actually there is one Church thing that I do enjoy. Our local Anglican Church runs this thing called Café Connect on a Monday morning. It consists of a group of people who don’t have anything much else to do on a Monday morning getting together at the Library Café for a coffee and a chat.

Another thing that I have found really helpful is a group called Way Up. It is a self help group for people who have lost their partners. There is a (closed) forum where you can ask for advice, rage against the unfairness of it all, post lousy jokes, or whatever. The great thing about it is that everybody gets it. We also have on informal local group, and about once a month we get together at a bar in Wimbledon for a drink and a bite to eat. Again I find it really helpful to be with people who are going through the same stuff that I am. Where I can be as open and as vulnerable as I want, and know that no one is judging me.

This has turned out to be a lot more about me and where I am at than it has about Grace. It is probably inevitable. Memories don’t fade away, but there are no new ones to be made. It is easier to write about the present.

The memories are always there. Our last summer, when we got Grace her e-bike so she could get out cycling again (and leave me behind on the hills). Our two and a half years in the Solomon Islands, or the time when she came to sea with me. Going across the Tasman Sea, it was a wee bit rough, but Grace decided that she would like a bath. She was in the bath when the ship dug her nose in and all the water went forward, and according to Grace, leapt out of the bath leaving her high and dry. I was on watch at the time so I missed it. Memories like that and lots more will always be with me. It is just that there won’t be any more to add to the list.
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So where am I after two years? I think I am in a reasonably good place. My life is quite different to what it was when Grace was still with me, that goes almost without saying, but I do enjoy the life I have now. I think that while I will always love and miss Grace, I have made my peace with the fact that she has gone.

Life must move on. In fact, last night at the Way Up social it occurred to me, that while I am not actively looking for one, if the right girl, sorry I’m pretty sure she would be a woman, came along I wouldn’t be averse to a new relationship.

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Away Day No.2 (Volunteers’ Day)

 This time we actually got to see some football. Quite a lot of football as it turned out.

Once a year the club  (AFC Wimbledon) and one of our sponsors Cherry Red Records treat the club’s volunteers to a day out. I qualify because I go along to the Work Weekends. During the summer we give the ground a good clean up and a fresh coat of paint ready for the new season. Because we are a fan owned club, and not particularly rich, we rely on people doing stuff for free that other, larger, clubs would pay contractors to do. The volunteers’ away day is a way of thanking all the people who give their time and effort to help the club out.

The day consists of coach travel to the game, a pre-match meal, and a ticket for the game. This year’s day out was to see Wimbledon take on Walsall in what could be described as a relegation six pointer. So normal away day protocols were observed, that is breakfast at Fat Boy’s before catching the coach. Then onto the coach for a zap up the M40 to Birmingham. Lunch had been arranged at Caulderfields Golf and Country Club.   who put on a very good lunch for a hundred or so of us, Having been very well fed and watered our sponsor announced that while he was still keen to support the day out it had in fact  been nine years since we had last won on Volunteers Day. So on to the match.

Walsall’s stadium is a tidy smallish place, probably about 12000 capacity but was only about one third full today.
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Pre-match predictions were fairly positive. Walsall had not been in particularly good form of late and we came into the game buoyed up by a cracking win against Charlton on Tuesday night. Six minutes in the positivity started to slip. We gave away a free kick about twenty five meters out on the right. Normally we deal with those fairly easily, but in Erhun Oztumer Walsall have probably the best dead ball player in the League. His floated free kick found the head of his player and we were 1-0 down.

We tried to get back into the game, but to be honest we looked lethargic and disjointed. Then on the stroke of half-time we gave away another goal. Our centre backs, who are normally our most reliable players, seemed to get mixed up and both left the Walsall striker for the other one to deal with. The result was he slipped through between them for an easy goal.

We were all a bit down at half time, apart from Stevie, who was predicting that we would win 3-2. However the precedents were not good. The last time  we had come from behind to win was over a year ago, and the last time we had done it away was even longer. So far this season the rule has been, if we score first we don’t lose and if the opposition score first we don’t win.

I’m not sure what was said in the dressing room, but it was effective. Within three minutes of the restart we had a goal back. Andy Barcham was tripped inside the box. Their keeper half saved the resultant penalty but Joe Piggot (Feed the Pig and he will score) was on hand to put the rebound into the net.

From then on it was all Wimbledon. Lyle Taylor hit the post, several chances scrambled away and seven hundred Wimbledon fans make far more noise than 3500 Walsall fans. Our second goal was classic old school Wimbledon. A long accurate punt upfield from our keeper George Long found Lyle Taylor who hit it first time into the back of the net. Cue minor delirium in the away end.

It was still more or less one way traffic but the decisive goal would not come. Joe Piggot was hauled down a couple of times in the penalty area for what looked like clear cut penalties, at least from where I was standing. Finally in the sixth minute of stoppage time, George Long played a ball to Lyle Taylor similar to the one that had brought about the second goal, this time though Lyle was hauled down by their defender – penalty.

Dean Parrett took the ball for the penalty, a good decision, because Lyle had hurt himself scoring his goal, and I’m not sure that he would have converted it. He placed the ball on the spot, Fred and Barry in front of me couldn’t look, took his run up and slammed it into the top left hand corner of the net.
Cue serious delirium in the away end.
Two very happy bus loads of volunteers headed back down the M40 South West London.
“It only took nine years”

Edit 25/05
I have added this video, by one of the teams sponsors, John Green, because it relates to the game, but also because there are life lessons in there as well.

A more neutral report on the match is available on the BBC Sport website

Away Day

I haven’t written very much on the blog for the past year. Possibly a good sign, in that I am beginning to get my life into some sort of order after losing Grace almost two years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss her intensely and if I could I would do almost anything to have her back with me. But my life is moving on and I am learning to find my own way of living it. With that in mind I had decided to try a slightly new slant to the blog.

Football and AFC Wimbledon in particular have taken on an importance in my life that is probably greater than it really should be. However with that in mind I thought that I would start writing about the games that I attend. Starting with today’s (April 2nd) game away to Doncaster.

The day started out well. Stevie suggested that we get a train up to Doncaster about 10:30 so that we would have time to get lunch before the game. I thought that was a reasonable idea and agreed. We met as we usually do before away games at a café for breakfast this time at Rosy Lee’s in Morden, because we were getting the train. Usually we get the Club Coach and we meet at Fat Boy’s just outside Kingsmeadow. With a pretty good (but not up to Fat Boy’s standard) full English inside us we got the Tube up to Kings Cross.

We met John at the station, decided that the Leeds train looked less crowded than the Edinburgh train, so we hopped on that instead. We had decided to pay the extra £10 to get open tickets so it didn’t matter what train we caught. This turned out to be a very good decision.

There were a fair few fellow Wombles on the train, so the conversation was mainly about our prospects for today. I thought that we could come away with a point. Stevie, who is an eternal optimist, was predicting a 5-0 win for us. The others weren’t quite so confident. To be fair we haven’t had a great season and we are seriously flirting with relegation to League 2 so I fully understood where they were coming from.

It all turned out to be academic though. John got a text message from a mate saying that the game was off. He sent one back saying that he was a day late for April Fool’s day. Unfortunately after a bit of searching the BBC, Doncaster and Wimbledon web sites, we found out that it was true. The game was off due to a waterlogged pitch. After Friday’s game which resembled water polo rather than football, we wondered how bad it really was. All the other games in the area had been called off as well, so it probably was the correct decision. It left us with a decision to make as well,  what to do with the rest of the day.

Our first thought was Plan “B”.  Peterborough were playing at home so we could get off the train at Peterborough and we would at least get to see some football. This was squashed by the man in the seat in front of us who pointed out that this train did not stop in Peterborough. OK plan “C” then. We couldn’t think of a plan “C” at least  not one that suited us all. We eventually settled on plan “Z”  and caught the next train back to London.