Apple Pie And Custard

It was a cold, wet and windy, it was late autumn and we were 3-1 down.

It was like running through treacle and each step sapped the energy from my body and I was cold right down to the marrow. My early match enthusiasm had evaporated and I was at rock bottom. “Come On” I keep saying to myself, “, “Don’t let it beat you” and it just got worse and worse.

It felt like I was barely surviving. Then Charlie got booked and sent off for going over the top. I thing it was frustration, the ball wasn’t running, we were barely running and that centre forward just danced past at the wrong time and Charlie got him.

So we’re now down to 10 men and losing and they are getting their second wind and we have 10 men back in our half clearing the ball away for all we’re worth, defending what’s left of our hearts out.

Someone once described this as being under the cosh. It feels more like being being beaten black, blue and senseless by the cosh and the cosh is getting bigger and harder with each stroke.

Then we were 4-1 down and it felt like a rout. Like all we could do was stand and watch and jog about a bit, going through the motions.

Then the half time whistle goes. It’s never sounded so good and we all walk like knuckle dragging Neanderthals back to the dressing room. A right sorry bunch

For amateurs, we’re a well-equipped club. A local trust fund for the benefit of the area had been set up for as long as we can remember, but that’s another tale. Our changing facilities were good. We still relied on volunteers for making tea and coffee and cutting grass and marking out the pitch and all that stuff.

Tea making was usually the realm of old players, generally over70 and most of us had never seen them play so we all listen to their stories of past glories with an air of half belief. The past is a wonderful place and it’s often made fonder by a fading memory.

There’s this one old guy though. Makes good tea and usually finds chocolate biscuits at the right time to lift the spirits a bit. Doesn’t usually talk a lot but he’s the sort that when he does talk, you listen and you listen well as if there’s a part of your life depending on it.

It’s usually something about getting us all down to help with cutting the trees back or tidying the woodwork or things like that, and he gets us along and makes sure we feel good about doing it. He usually buys us all a pint afterwards but that’s not the reason we turn up.

Anyway, he sits down when we’ve all got a drink and a biscuit and he stirs his tea and dunks his biscuit and he breathes deeply as he savours the chocolate. It’s really odd because we’ve all gone quiet and we’re looking at him and we’re waiting. Even the coach who has been going over the usual rhetoric about giving 200% in the second half has shut up.

Anyway the old man, Ken, he looks up and out of the window in to the distance and says “I remember a day like today, the other team were beating us holler”. Then he says, “just close your eyes a.”

So we do, if anyone had come in at that moment then they would have seen us all with eyes shut looking like lemons praying.

Ken continued. “I remember seeing George Best in one of his first matches at Old Trafford. I had a brief trial with Man U but I didn’t make the grade. I remember watching George, how his body twisted and turned like a snake and his legs kept going and the ball went just where he wanted it to and nobody could stop him when he was on a run.”

“I got to talk to him and I asked him how he did it and he said he didn’t know. I asked what he thought about when he was on one of those runs, or if he was stealing in to position and he smiled. He said I don’t actually think of much apart from getting to what seems to be the right place. But when it’s all working right it feels like those times when you’re a kid, when you come in from playing out with your mates, probably football but anything really, and you open the front door and your Mum’s been baking and it smells great and your mouth waters and you feel hungry and happy at the same time. You get that feeling that you and the world are equal and it’s time for your reward.”

“I never forgot that” said Ken. “I can remember a few times when I was up against it and it felt like hard work. I’d remember a time when I was a kid playing down by the beck and falling in. I couldn’t swim and I was splashing around and my mate waded in and dragged me out coughing and spluttering. It was a close call. And when I got home we had steak and kidney pie, you could smell it as you came through the garden gate. I was soaked, muddy and feeling sorry for myself but as soon as I smelt that pie I perked up and felt better. Every time I feel a bit down I remember that smell and remember that life is here for living and not for drudging around. Even now as an old man I have times when that smell just gets me through the day.”

“Do you have a memory like that?” he said

I remembered falling off my bike and feeling battered bruised and mum fed me apple pie and custard and I remember smiling and her smiling too as we cleaned the muck off the bike and straightened the mudguards and life smiled at me.

We opened our eyes and Ken had gone off to wash up the pots. We were all staring at each other like rabbits caught in headlights. We had no idea of how long we’d been sitting, caught up in our own thoughts.

In the end we draw 4 all. That bloody mud’s still a pain in the backside but something’s changed. It’s like the sun peering round a cloud and just shining on us and we aren’t brilliant but we’re good. For 10 men against 11 we’ve found heart and soul from somewhere and it sounds daft but all I can remember is apple pie and custard. Not hungry, or eating it, more the homely feeling of it, that something special that mum’s apple pie always has.

I’m not sure if you get what I mean, and I’m not sure if I get what I mean either.

Can it really be that simple to get your act together?

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