Friday, March 07, 2003

Talks about football, but not about football

My dad is, by his own admission, a democratic socialist. He doesn't look like Fidel Castro and took no part in the Poll Tax Riots, it's just an ideal that governs his ways, and although his ways have started to become set, it's served me rather well.

His belief of the inclusive rule of the people gave me a happy stable childhood which has set me up well for everything that has come at me since. That and being middle class, we middle class people are much better at being stable than the less well educated.

When I was three dad's idealism was tested to the fore. He is a lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers fan, having followed them since the 1950's when they were the mightiest force in all European football. Wolves have the best football kit in all the world - old gold shirts, black shorts, and old gold socks. It's a mighty motif, even though the club are now a shadow of their past.

Turning three dad took me to get my first football kit. He'd probably dreamt of this day since my mother announced I was "Y'know, not a girl, the other type". It was the only opportunity he'd get to bestow the religion of football into a son. This was the day his only son would wear the old gold and black of the greatest football team ever to walk the earth.

Or so he thought.

These were the days when football kits were thick cotton, and where Arsenal's red shirts with white sleeves was deemed a bit flash. Mostly kits were one colour, the shorts were a contrast, the socks, the same colour as the shirts. Football kits for men with impressive moustaches.

Dad's dream was to turn me into a Wanderer, yet it clashed with his ideal as a democratic socialist. If he was going to buy me a football kit, I would have to be allowed to choose which one it was. The ploy was simple. The shopkeeper pulled out an old gold shirt, and for comparison, a blue one.

"Which one do you want" asked dad pointing eagerly at the old gold shirt

"Blue" said I

Then came the shorts, black Wanderers shorts, or white ones?


And finally the socks, old gold or blue?


The plan had backfired, I chose the opposite to what I was supposed to choose and dad found himself father to an Ipswich Town fan. For a few years, spurred on by my kit, I followed Ipswich through one FA Cup and one UEFA Cup, and countless other glories. It wasn't that long before the Oxford bug got me, but that's another story.

In the interveneing years that kit remained the one and only complete football kit I ever had. I got new football shirts, even a cool Bayern Munich one, but I never had the complete set of shirt, shorts and socks.

For my 29th birthday Simon bought me an Oxford shirt emblazoned with Ruffles on the back. It was set to be another in a long line of football shirts. But when I started playing 5-a-side I realised I needed proper kit, I went and bought some shorts and socks from the Oxford club shop. As if by magic 27 years after my first football kit, I had my second.

A story I've depicted in this artwork I call "The tragedy of time".


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