The ‘not so’ Great Game

My Granddad once yielded the best comment on the topic of football. “Why are all these rich players still fighting for possession of the same ball?” he asked, just as Ronaldo put a challenge in on the telly. “Surely, what with the silly money they’re on these days, you’d have thought they could at least afford a ball each”.

Personally I’ve never really understood the fascination with the world’s most popular sport. Nor sport in general for that matter.

I tried to get into watching the Paralympics, but found myself feeling morally uncomfortable. I also couldn’t help but feel guilty in being cynical about the eligibility of certain participants. For instance there was a man with what appeared to be withered hands taking part in the triple jump. I can just imagine how things went down in the changing room that day:

“What’s your disability, matey?” asks the man with the withered hands (we’ll call him Jeremy). “I’ve got no legs” comes the other athlete’s reply.”What about yourself?” “Withered hands” Jeremy sighs. “Huh?” The athlete chokes.  “I’ve Got withered hands” Jeremy reconfirms, waiving his withered hands. “withered hands?” the half-man would almost choke. “Are you fucking joking me?”

My own opinion, rightly or wrongly, is that you should only be allowed to play a sport in the Paralympics if your disability makes it REALLY hard/almost impossible to play that particular sport. Otherwise it’s unimpressive and pointless, not to mention shamefully unfair to other contestants. The blind footballers play fair. They’re blind yet they’re playing football. That’s impressive. A snooker team with no arms would be impressive. Or a javelin thrower with no arms. Or a table tennis player with double vision. Or golf players with vibrating hands induced by Parkinson’s disease. That I agree with. I’d happily watch that.
I’m also fiercely opposed to paraOlympians being allowed to have body enhancements/artificial limbs that are more efficient than ACTUAL limbs. Take that runner who had the plastic Spring legs for instance. That’s no different to me losing my arms but then competing in Kayaking after having surgery to attach giant paddles to my stumps. Utterly unacceptable.

Going back to football, I’ve never supported any team, rarely watch matches, and with regards to physical participation, the last time I wore football boots was when playing for an under 15’s amateur team with my mates.
My stepdad was the manager. We were awful.
In goal was my best mate Gazza, who at that time, like me, was one of the shortest lads in our year at school. It didn’t take long for the opposition to realise that all you had to do to lob Gazza was to simply kick the ball at Gazza.
In defence we had Prashant- a young Pakistani kid so stick thin that the local Social Services Team were probably close to forcing him to wear iron shin pads for “health and safety reasons”, just incase his fragile legs should shatter like glass upon contact. Not just contact with a football, either. ANY contact: with a ball, a foot, the wind.

Up front we had some reasonably decent players, but no-one anywhere near decent enough to prevent us losing 10-nil to one of our local rivals one season (winter I think).
Then of course there was myself- Jay Beecher- warming up from the sideline for no other particular reason than to keep warm.
My position was right back. Right back on the bench.
For years I genuinely believed that I was my stepdad’s secret weapon; that the sole reason I was only ever sent on to play for the last 5 minutes was because he knew that I had the ability to pull back some goals. I was unstoppable. A real game changer. It wasn’t until later on however that I finally realised the truth: I was shit. Incredibly shit in fact.
Our football manager sending me on in the ‘final hour’ was simply a declaration that all was lost. The game was over. A bit like how Hitler deployed the Hitler Youth to defend Nazi Germany during the fall of Berlin. He knew full well that it was all over, but fuck it, what harm could it possibly do?

It was upon this realisation that I decided to call time on my football ‘career’. After that I went back to my role as a bored spectator.

The worst thing for a ‘non-player’, and particularly one with extremely poor football skills, is for someone to kick the ball off-pitch and for it to land right next to you. Even today this awkward situation still fills me with dread. Suddenly all eyes fall upon you- the players, the spectators- all staring and wondering “what’s he gonna do with that ball?” And I’m there panicking, thinking “I don’t know WHAT I’m going to do with this ball”. Pick it up? Dust it off with a handkerchief and hand it over to the nearest official?
Another thing that puts the fear of God into non-players is the dull thudding sound of a football being kicked high into the air from somewhere behind us. In this moment of suspense we feel the same sense of foreboding and impending doom that only soldiers in the trenches during ww1, having just heard a mortar round go off overhead, can truly relate to. You just stand there, shoulders raised, hunched forward into a standing, semi-foetal position. ‘That’s got to land SOMEWHERE’, you think, knowing full well that it’s likely to be the back of your head.

There’s only one football match I can honestly say I’ve ever truly enjoyed watching. But that was only because of a stupidly attractive redhead standing on the sideline opposite. The wind was strong and icy cold that day, giving her a powerful nipple erection and any gawping onlooker the impression that ET was trying to claw his way out of her t-shirt.

I’ll be honest; there isn’t much point to me writing any of this down other than to highlight how I’ll never understand man’s fascination with the ‘great game’.
Perhaps I’ll catch up on it all one day if someone buys me the box set for Christmas. But until that day comes I’ll forever be in a state of confusion/complete disinterest.

Meanwhile most lads will literally watch ANY match as though their life depended on its outcome. Poland V Latvia. Sweden V Paraguay. Uzbekistan under 21’s V the Jamaican Reserves…in a friendly.
In fact I’m positive that if Countryfile was on and some little shit accidentally kicked a football into shot, 3 quarters of the male population of Britain would be cracking open a beer and tuning into the fucker. Baffling.

War and Wicker Men

So there I stood, waiting to be grabbed hold of, paraded through the village to the green and placed into the head of a giant man.

When my granddad was little he owned a collection of magazines called “War Illustrated”.
The vintage set which recalled the entire events of the war between Britain and Germany was his pride and joy. That was until, on an ordinary night in Wakefield, one of his little brothers threw a tantrum and decided to tear up every last copy. By the time John Beecher rushed into his bedroom in the small house he shared with no less than 12 siblings, all that was left were tiny pieces of an illegible historical puzzle of mammoth proportions: The corner of a Spitfire’s wing here. A whisker of Hitler’s Moustache there. The poor boy was distraught. And this utter distraughtness (if even such a word exists, which it doesn’t) followed him well into adulthood. No matter how hard he looked, he could never find another set of War Illustrated to replace the ones so violently taken from him.

But could. Of course I could.

Firstly, I’ll give you a bit of insight into my granddad. That way you’ll at least then understand the short story which follows.

My grandad is a proud Yorkshireman with an even prouder Yorkshire accent to boot. Instead of the words “you” or “your” or “yourself”, my Yorkshire granddad will say things like “thee” and “thy” and “Sen”- as if he’s constantly practising his lines for a very casual Shakespearean play. An ex member of the RAF, he’s as fit as a fiddle and can often be found doing impromptu forward rolls on living room carpets to prove this point, or climbing up onto the kitchen worktop to fetch something, when clearly using a chair would have easily sufficed. When once told a rags to riches tale of a local millionaire who had started out from nothing, my grandad simply gave up the bizarre retort which sums up his carefree spirit and sense of humour: “well look at me” he said. “I were born completely naked, but now I’ve got a full wardrobe of clothes”. The man eats his weight in Yorkshire puddings. He’ll drive to aldi to save money on tins of beans, completely ignorant to the petrol costs involved in the extra 3 mile journey to get there. When I first introduced him to an ex-girlfriend he secretly emptied the entire contents of the biscuit tin before filling it up with cornflakes. Then, once my nan had made the teas, in he came, tin in hand to offer my unsuspecting girlfriend a nibble. “Would thy like a cornflake?” He asked. I watched her puzzled face, cringing as she took a small cornflake and held it inbetween her thumb and forefinger. It was clear from her rouge cheeks that she was stunned and confused but didn’t want to appear rude or awkward. “Well” my granddad pressed her, “arent thy gunna dunk it?” He then watched my ex take the small crispy flake of corn and dip it into her tea before he erupted with laughter. “Ignore him, love” my Nan giggled. “He’s always like this”.

That’s my granddad.
Yesterday I drove for over an hour into the deep mysterious wilderness that is the Cambridgeshire fenlands. Having found a complete set of War illustrated on eBay I’d jumped into my car the second the bid was won.

Unfortunately I had chosen a day when I was full of man flu. Outside it was a scorcher of a Summer’s day. The drive was a blurry haze of winding village roads and long open countryside tainted with the sharp smell of rapeseed.

It took me about two hours to reach my destination.

How Id gotten there I’m not quite sure. But having passed a farmyard and then pressed on passed any sign of life, I finally reached a small bungalow nestled out in the sticks.

It was surrounded by flat dry fields, tall crops and the odd chimney from a cottage rooftop poking  up in the distance.

The door knocker was brass and in the shape of a sinister-looking goat’s head.

After a few moments a man answered the door. He had long grey hair and was dressed in a stained red chequered shirt.  His name was Terry, and all he did was stare at me. No hello. Nothing. Just a cold empty glare. I explained that I was here to collect the magazines and eventually he began to speak. Terry slurred his words something terrible. It was clear that either he’d been drinking or that he didn’t possess any teeth. Words like ‘beer’ sounded like ‘bel air’. David Cameron (whom he strangely persistently mentioned in his sudden cryptical outburst of rambling) sounded like ‘tepid canyon’. He then said something unsettling about how he was ‘surprised I’d came’, that not many people visit the village nor even know how to get here. He then pointed an oil-stained finger to the woods opposite and mumbled something in hillbilly. I laughed awkwardly to mimic his own loud belly chuckle and handed him the money for the magazines. He asked if he could keep the change, which I’ve genuinely never been asked before. Originally i’d planned on using it to buy a twix ice cream from the petrol station on the way home. But I let him keep it. I’d driven home twixless before, I was confident that I could do it again.

I still don’t really know what Terry said when he pointed over to the woods. I’m sure that he was joking about there being devil worshippers who supposedly met there, but the word ‘devil’ (when mumbled through his cracked lips) sounded a lot closer to the words ‘Denzel’ or ‘Dental’. This left me with an  uncomfortable image floating around in the lofty roof of my mind. A group of men meeting up in a moonlit forest to either trade Only Fools and Horses impressions or to obsessively inspect each other’s teeth.

After I’d handed Terry the money and said my goodbyes, he just stared at me anxiously. It were as though he were contemplating something yet had completely lost his bottle. It was an odd moment. Certainly not one I cared to linger in.

Time to leave.

I picked up the box of magazines and turned to the car. This remote village and this man troubled me. I had the distinct feeling that if I’d waited any longer and the sun went down the animal masks and candles would come out. I’m not stupid. Ive seen the wicker man. I know how these remote villagers operate. Perhaps this was all part of their grand plan- to lure innocent city folk like me into their trap on the premise of an innocent-looking eBay purchase. Collection only. Crafty bastards. So there I stood, waiting to be grabbed hold of, paraded through the village to the green and placed into the head of a giant man. And I couldn’t help but think how humiliated in the Afterlife i’d feel having to constantly tell people when asked the question “so, how did you get here?”, that in fact I’d gotten there by being so physically weak a specimen of my sex that I was incapable of escaping from WICKER (perhaps one of the most flimsy and escapable materials known to man). And all because of some stupid war magazines and a brattish tantrum thrown in a small house in 1950’s Yorkshire.

Suddenly Terry coughed. At once I suspected this to be the signal for the beekeepers to come, torches burning. Turns out though he just genuinely needed to cough. Terry has bad asthma and the pollen count was high that day. Plus he DID have a fag in his hand.

The car drive back that evening was a long one.

My cold was getting worse and had been compounded further by hayfever. As I finally reached the main road I pondered what Terry might be up to. No doubt he was in his living room now, apologising to the embalmed corpse of his mother for letting another victim ‘slip through the net’. “Don’t let it happen again!” His mother would hiss back (through Terry’s own lips), before the man went and fetched another ominous collection of magazines from the garage to lure in someone less intelligent than myself.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But I’m afraid that this pointless story’s ending is about as unremarkable as its bulk.

That evening I parked outside my granddads house. I carried the box of magazines up the front path and to his front door, giddy as a school boy over the thought of how stunned and pleasantly surprised he would be.

When he opened the door he gave me the usual greeting of “hello my boy”.

I presented the open box to him with a great big Cheshire Cat grin on my face. “Oh” he said, looking down at the dusty volumes. “War Illustrated. They’re a bit like the ones I had, aren’t they!” “A bit?” I scoffed, my heart sinking. “What dya mean a bit?” My granddad then picked one of them up. “Well these are about World War Two” he said. “Mine were about World War One”. He dropped the paper magazine back into the box. “Anyway” he said chirpily, inviting me inside. “Does thy want a cup of tea?”

I stared at him, dumbfounded, completely lost for words before stepping sheepishly inside.

I couldn’t believe what a day I’d had. Four hours driving time and the mild threat of being raped and murdered (and not necessarily in that order).

I accepted my granddad’s offer of tea and laid down on his sofa. Might aswell, I thought. And fuck it. Now that I’m here I’ll have a cornflake to dunk in the fucker.

Beeps and Batteries

We’ve all been there; waking up in the middle of the night to feed them. To clear up their mess. To play with them. We’ve watched them grow, watched them learn. We’ve watched through the teary-eyes of proud parents as they became toilet trained, took their first steps, learned to question the environment around them on their curious and needy journeys to adulthood.
I am – of course – talking about Tamogochis.

Tamagotchi_0124_ubtI was 9 years old when these squashed-egg-shaped gadgets first came beeping into our lives. The name, according to Bandai (the company which to date has sold over 76 million of the toys worldwide) is a linguistic blend of the Japanese word “Tamago” (egg) and the English word “watch”. Where the ‘i’ at the end of it came from, I have no idea. But that’s not important.

The first Tamogochi I ever bought was from a market stall in the tacky seaside town of Skegness. It was an alien. I knew this to be true due to the fact that the usual minimalistic black circle with two dots for eyes and a line for a mouth had two additional lines sprouting up from the top, representing antenna. That, and the fact that the words “Space Friend” were indiscreetly printed below the three orange buttons allowed there to be no room for confusion. I named him Mork, due to my early obsession with Robin Williams, and I played with him for the duration of the holiday.

Mork’s design was different to the Tamogochis my friends had. Instead of the popular egg-shaped interface and small metal keychain, Mork came housed in a rectangular plastic casing with a little clip so that he could be attached to the waistband of his owner. The concept was to emulate a pager – anoher beeping gadget which at that point in the late 90s was thankfully becoming obsolete. And from the moment I placed the little circular batteries into the back of it and clipped it to my tracksuit bottoms I found myself permanently on call. When it was hungry it would beep for my attention. When it was bored or sick or had soiled itself it would beep for even more.

The idea of the game was to nurture your pet from egg to adult, and a series of functions (feeding, playing, bathing, etc) would inevitably impact on how happy and healthy the little tyke would develop. Eventually they would start to grow into teenagers, and (in the latest models) would even be able to go on to get married and have children of their own. The possibilities were endless. In fact, there have been reports of some Tamogochis living for well over twenty years.

But none of this was of any consequence to me. Just a day before we left Skegness, whilst answering a call of nature, the clip to my Tamogochi detached itself and Mork tragically fell into the caravan toilet. Like the scene out of Casino Royale, where James Bond has to watch on helplessly as the gorgeous Vespa drowns in a sunken elevator, I too had to watch on as Mork sank into the murky depths of trailer-park plumbing. The sounds of his gargled-beeps still echo in my ears to this day.

Within a matter of months Tamogochi-mania had swept not only the nation but had literally sent a Tsunami – from Tokyo to London – to flood the world in a wave of beeps and batteries. Even my Nan owned one. Before we knew it, the Tamogochi became firmly ingrained in the nostalgic toybox of our childhoods. And it’s when looking back and re-opening these boxes that we learn to appreciate the toys which enriched our lives in the 90s. Yoyos. Finger-skateboards. Boglins. Talkboys. Pogs. Tazzos. The Tamogochi holds a strong place amongst them all.

As with most things, the novelty of the Tamogochi soon wore off. You’d spend the first couple of weeks obsessively looking after them. Then you’d completely ignore it. A month later you’d find it in the bottom of your schoolbag; all scrawny and unfed, surrounded by piles of its own excrement. That’s if it wasn’t dead altogether; replaced by a macabre tombstone with a halo above it. Thus, across the world, began the Tamogochi Hollocaust. And thank God there wasn’t a virtual equivalent to the RSPCA back in those early years of technological progression. Most of us would’ve ended up doing time for neglect. A £100 fine and a 5 year ban from keeping digital pets.

But I guess it didn’t matter back then.

It’s something which now I’m quite jealous about; jealous over what is probably the most unsung feature the Tamogochi had to offer. A feature which in adulthood – when you come to realise that you aren’t invincible any more, that life’s real and filled with burdens – you come to envy. Because with Tamogochis, it didn’t matter what you did – what wrongs, accidents or regretful decisions you took. It didn’t matter WHAT mistakes you made. If things didn’t turn out quite the way you’d planned, you could always just get a toothpick. The straw from a Capri sun, or the tip of a pen. Hit the reset button on the back and start over.


“Come Autumn every child in the western hemisphere
morphed into a terrorist. A vile enemy of the squirrel world”

There are many things I remember about primary school. Playgrounds, sports days, one of my best mates eating a packet of quavers and then accidentally sneezing them out through his nostrils (whilst I watched in awe and wretched my guts up rather violently).

Anything was possible when you were a kid. No rules could be unbroken. You could even tell the time by simply blowing a dandelion! Each blow it took represented an hour. My only piece of advice regarding this however is to never rely on an asthmatic kid to do the blowing. Accuracy goes completely out the window with asthmatics. 10am becomes 12. 1 o’clock becomes 5. 6 o’clock becomes midnight. Then the dinner lady has to call an ambulance. It’s all a massive ballache.

I also remember (as with most schools) there always being a lad who was ten times more developed than anyone else. Ours was a lad called Ashley Scott. He must have hit puberty half a decade sooner than the rest of us. By 11 years old he had stubble and muscles and was playing rugby. He also had the mindset of a 65 year old pensioner- collecting records and laughing merrily at out of date jokes. To this very day I’m still adamant that Ashley suffered from the same terrible affliction as Bejamin Button, and I often wonder about him. He’s probably a delicate little baby now, cradled in the arms of a bewildered wet nurse in a special hospital somewhere. Bless him.


I’ve no idea why i added this photo. But I love it all the same.

But if there’s one thing I remember the most from primary school, and with fervent fondness, it’s Conkers.

Conkers are pretty much obsolete from schools nowadays. This is mainly thanks to whacky political correctness; the same reason why you’ll rarely find monkey bars or climbing frames about anymore either. God knows why or how this happened. Never once do I remember leaving a friend swinging on a monkey bar, only to knock for him the next day and have his mother answer the door in floods of tears.

“Is David in?” I never asked.

“I’m afraid he didn’t make it” she never replied.

Conker fights were amazing. Come Autumn every child in the western hemisphere had morphed into a mini terrorist. A vile enemy of the squirrel world: throwing big sticks up trees and stamping madly about the place.

And just like mother’s tell their daughters that they have to kiss a few frogs to find a prince, eventually, the fourth or sixth conker in, that spikey green casing would open up to yield what is universally known as “The One”.


Forged in the fires of Mordor

Back at home you’d try everything you could to strengthen it- vinegar, the airing cupboard, the freezer.

I was one of those children who always got emotionally attached to my conker. I’d paint it’s face, give it a name. Then I’d take him into school, pierce him with the nail protruding from the playground fence and sling a lace through him.

Oh the sheer devastation that would appear on my little seven year old face as someone finally won and smashed my conker into pieces. It was like they’d just killed my nan.

There was a rule in schools back then. If someone knocked your conker out of your hand and it landed on the floor, a member of the ‘audience’ would shout “Stampsies!” at the top of their lungs and everyone watching would stomp on the fallen conker as quickly and as fiercely as they could.

But I was a protective parent of my conker. I’d be ready to defend it at any cost. “You’ll have to get past me first you bastards!” I’d want to scream, flicking out a blade. I don’t know where I’d get the knife from at that age to be honest. I’d either steal it from the canteen or maybe create a makeshift shank from a Pog or Tazzo (One i’d already gotten two of, obviously). “Quick, roll away Steve!” I’d yell down to him as I held back the baying mob. “Roll away and don’t ever come back!”

There was always a large puddle in the playground of our school. We’d often use it to race paperboats and crisp packets on. Looking back now I should’ve always had an escape plan in place before every conker match. I could have perhaps had a little paper boat waiting at the end of the puddle nearest to me. And as soon as my conker fell to the ground I could’ve flicked out my pog-shank and held back the bloodthirsty crowd. This would have consequently bought him a little time while he rolled into the little boat and sailed away. “Go Steve, go!” I would’ve screamed excitedly. “Get the fuck out of here! Don’t worry about me! Start a new life for yourself!” And then, when his little boat reached the other end I could’ve had a couple of squirells laying in wait ready to carry him off to a forest far far away. And this weird story you’re reading now (and don’t worry, I DO realise how ultra weird it is) might have been very different indeed. It wouldn’t make any mention of a Benjamin Button classmate or the sad case of Mr Webstail (the school janitor) who had to scrape up a thousand mushed-up conker corpses every autumn. It would be a story about hope. And I’d be able to tell it to you, with permanent scars all over my face thanks to the beating I took from a mob of angry 7 year olds. Each slash and wound would act as a pleasant reminder of the good dead I once carried out all those autumns long ago. And I’d be sitting here now, quietly pondering to myself as I look out the window on a crisp winter evening, a warm nostalgic smile beaming on my face as I ask myself the thought-provoking question:

“I wonder how Steve’s getting on?”

The Break Up and the Wobbly Cactus

Ex girlfriends are like horcruxes. They tear away a little piece of your soul and there’s never a chance to get it back. If you ever want to kill me, for whatever reason, just hunt down my horcruxes (or horcrEXes as I like to call them). I’ve not even hidden them.

 It’d be too weird if I had

I came across a photograph on Facebook the other day. An ex. An “old flame”. She just popped up onto my news feed and with one angry scroll of the finger was gone. This is becoming a frequent occurrence.
My Nan once compared me to Henry VIII. She hinted at the fact that – like the over-sexed Tudor King – I’d born witness to more relationship break-ups than the Jeremy Kyle Show. She told me that it was time to settle down. That I needed to stop “working through the alphabet”. That the only dissimilarity between me and the podgy ginger-bearded monarch was the fact that I hadn’t beheaded any of them. I found this statement unsettling; her inclusion of the word “yet” at the end, even more so.

To date my longest relationship has been 3 years, my shortest a mere 3 weeks. On average (I actually worked this out over a bacon sandwich the other day) they seem to last 7 months, tending to start out passionate, spontaneous and rushed. They then develop into something that is fun and intimate and warm. We usually end up moving in together, quite early on. We become inseparable and even plan our wedding day. She dreams of us getting hitched in a castle; with a band and ice sculptures, little canapés and champagne. I suggest strapping a GoPro to the Vicar’s forehead to save on photography costs. We debate getting a dog together. I want a pedigree. She wants one from a shelter. I admit to her that this is a noble gesture. But I remind her that rescued dogs tend to come with unwanted baggage. That the cute little Jack Russell smiling up from behind the bars is likely to in actual fact come part and parcel with sexual deviancy and a mild coke habit. Lovely when he’s cuddling up to you after a long walk. Not so lovely when he’s humping your leg like the clappers and sniffing all your cocaine. We spend hours laying in bed together, pondering over those age-old baffling questions of yore. “What would win in a fight between a gorilla and a shark?” “Do dwarves have smaller stomachs”? And the passion and connection builds beyond belief, the pressure bubbling up overwhelmingly. But instead of a great bang comes a disappointing fizzle. A fizzling- out followed by the inevitable break-up. This is briskly accompanied by the packing of my belongings into the boot of my mate Mike’s car and fleeing into the night. The number of times my friends have helped carry my DVDs down apartment stairwells is far higher than the actual number of DVDs I actually own.

My most recent break-up was from a girl with purple hair and big chestnut brown eyes. A girl whose wildness and energy I’d fallen madly in love with. For months after the break-up, every time I saw a car similar to hers (a red Ford KA) my heart would skip a beat.


Me and Shona

Another notable example was Elizabeth. Lizzie was young and beautiful. She was loving and exciting and showed me all the affection in the world. When we couldn’t agree on which pet to buy we bought sea monkeys. When we went out, it didn’t matter where we went, it’d always be fun. We’d argue ferociously yet end up laughing and making up just moments later. We’d lay in bed and talk for hours; laughing, giggling, cuddling, being stupid. With her I felt truly alive. The passion was intense and incredible. She, I thought, was the one. But two years down the line and there I was; DVDs in boot and a potted cactus wobbling away hazardously in my lap. I never got over Lizzie. I couldn’t. A year later I heard she’d met some American guy from an army base. Got loved up. Got married. Moved to Atlanta. For weeks after hearing the news I fantasized over gate crashing the wedding. I’d book the flights on Skyscanner. Then once there I’d rent out a white horse and come galloping into the church, right on time. “I object!” I’d loudly announce from high-up on horseback. “Who the hell are you?” her cretin of a fiancé would protest. And I’d look down at him, take off one of my riding gloves and slap him around the face with it. “Shut your ugly Yankee mouth, Mr ugly Yank-Man” I’d reply, childishly yet sincere. And then I’d hoist Elizabeth up onto the back of my saddle, feel her warm hands holding tightly onto my body as we galloped away across the vast Georgian landscape, off into the sunset. But that didn’t happen. My Elizabeth got married, settled down with her American soldier and I never heard from her again.

That’s the worst thing about break-ups; the “moving-on”. In my opinion, a law should be passed to make all ex’s legally obliged to join a nunnery. Two months down the line (whilst I’m still wallowing in self-pity) I don’t want to be seeing photographs of her on social media sites; all smiley with some other guys arm around her shoulder. Loved up. Full of life. I want to see her, on her hands and knees in a penguin suit, scrubbing the stone floor of a chapel somewhere. Utterly miserable. I want to bump into her in twenty years time; spot her at a charity event raising money for her convent. A tombola, perhaps (if Tombola’s even exist anymore). “Hey, Jay!” I want her to greet me, with a warm nostalgic smile, “how have you been?” And then I’ll say hi back and briefly ramble on about how hard it’s been juggling so many beautiful women for the past ten years. And I’ll ask her how “nun-life’s” been treating her. And she’ll tell me how I was the last person she ever slept with, how she now lives only to serve God, how crap the food is but how she now has loads more time to concentrate on her arts and crafts. And I’ll tell her that I’m happy for her. “You take care”, I’ll say, before strutting off, proud as punch. But unless those knuckleheads in parliament pull their fingers out, that’s never going to happen.

Instead, the undignified end is met by four all-too-familiar stages.

The first is a state of depression; of denial. At this point I shut myself off from the world. I can’t be bothered to answer the phone to my family so just let it go to voicemail. Can’t face getting into conversations with my friends on Messenger so simply reply to everything with one of those blue thumbs-up. This, I have found is the perfect way to nip things in the bud. After all, no-one has ever nor will ever come up with a successful reply to a thumb. It’s unheard of. I spend this bought time scrolling through her facebook account whilst listening to deep depressing music. Damien Rice, Ray Lamontagne, James Blunt. The slower the better. Eventually she discovers that I’ve been stalking her online and blocks me.

The second stage entails signing out of Facebook altogether and searching for her ‘incognito’ from a different device, every night; waiting for the inevitable profile-pic change to a fresh snap of her out celebrating like she’s just escaped Colditz, or a blurry nightclub image of her being too-familiar with a random guy. Eventually I get bored of doing this. Then comes stage three. This phase is usually accompanied by half-hearted weight-lifting, binge-drinking and trying to chat up any girl who so much as flutters her eyelashes at me. Or perhaps not even at me, and perhaps not even flutter. Just a natural blink can be enough.

Then I eventually find myself in stage four. A period of self-reflection. Where did I go wrong? I was romantic, thoughtful, funny. I loved her. But what if I’d over-loved her? What if I’d smothered her? Hadn’t allowed her room to breathe? During this time of insecurity you tend to find yourself pulling out the photo albums – glancing with mixed emotions over all the happy memories you captured together. That weekend away in Edinburgh. London. Wearing those stupid 3d glasses at the cinema. The train tickets from your first weekend away – glued to the page beneath a photograph taken on the first leg of your journey. And you realise at that moment that the photographs didn’t come about just because you wanted to capture a beautiful moment, but because, subconsciously you knew that it wasn’t ever going to last. Get as much in and as many souvenirs as possible. Then when it’s all over, at least you’ll have something nice to look at; something which proves that you were loved and had such a divine and marvellous connection with someone, once. That the amazing beginning and middle were well-worth the end. That the good outweighed the bad. Blah blah blah.

But you know what, as cliché as it all sounds, it all gets better. Sure, it leaves behind its marks, but eventually we grow wiser and in our wisdom accept that those magical memories are what life’s all about.

Years pass.

Now a red Ford KA’s just a red Ford KA.

I’ve got about five or six thick photo albums on my shelf. A few train tickets for journeys I don’t remember going on but don’t want to throw away. A whiskey glass engraved with “happy birthday, love Shona”.

Little trophies.

Reminders of what you had, or what you think you had.

Yesterday I decided to initiate my own transition into the “moving-on” club. On lunch, scrolling back through my news feed on Facebook, I scanned the endless images until I found the one put up by Elizabeth’s mother during her recent visit to America to see her. And there, in front of the entrance to Disney World, hand in hand with a tall American man and with a great big grin on her face, was my Lizzie. All happy and penguin-costume free and full of life. I smiled, genuinely happy for her. And I clicked the like button. And then I put my phone back in my pocket, headed over to the vending machine to grab a can of Coke and carry on with the day.


Me and Lizzie