We are well into the third month of the world tour. By this point I think I expected us to be as brown and tough as walnuts, multilingual, savvy, decisive and essentially, chilled. We have arrived in Santiago in Chile as confused as ever, I can’t even remember the Spanish words for left or right and the only thing chilled is the marrow in our bones.
The middle of August and it’s snowing! Not only that the cynicism and misanthropy I wrap myself up in for protection against the world has been worn down by the kindness and hospitality of utter strangers.
All across the USA people were helpful, chatty and genuine. In Costa Rica the guy who runs the hostel we stayed in rang us up to say “goodbye and thank you” the day we left. We arrived in Chile and the first person we spoke to after customs told us somewhere warm to get some sleep while we waited for the buses to start running.
Our Newcastle United contact in Santiago has been Norman and Norman has been especially helpful. His enthusiasm for the place was inspiring and his recommendations as to where to stay and drink have been priceless. It is bordering on the bloody tragic that Norman just happens to be back in Blighty while we are here.
We are in Bellavista and the first night we went out a huge roar went up from the dozens of bars that make the streets pulsate with energy as Barcelona went 3-2 up against Real Madrid. Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez joining Barca from Udinese for a reported 37 million Euros recently and his part in the victory over Real saw him plastered all over the front of the next day’s newspapers. Perhaps some people here wanted a Real victory but defeat and the increasingly pathetic antics of Jose Mourinho silenced them.
We met Norman’s lass, Julie, in The Dublin on Friday night and she was quality. Not only reassuring, “I’ve been here 6 months and my Spanish hasn’t improved at all”, but full of information we need, “I don’t think the sunderland v Newcastle game is going to be on TV. You can come round mine and watch a live stream on the internet but Norman usually finds it annoying.” Three of her and Norman’s mates turned up; Toby, Ryan and Claire, the latter being Canadians who warned us about getting too near the ongoing student protests. “We have been tear-gassed twice in the last week and it’s not fun.” We wobbled home way past our bedtime.
The alarm went off at 6.50 am the next day. Ten minutes to kick off. I listened for footsteps on the creaky hostel floors and heard none. It was dark inside and out. A minute later it was 8.05, I creaked, rattled, skidded and thumped blindly out our room and down the stairs. “I can’t believe you got up,” said hostel owner Christian, a hilarious guy from Frankfurt who does a mean Yorkshire accent and has provided us with excellent advice as well as scrumptious breakfasts. He also saw the state we were in the night before.
“This is important,” I mumbled as he flicked through the TV channels for me. We found only Arsenal v Liverpool. Julie had been right. I flipped open the laptop and went to Twitter, once again at the mercy of other people’s selflessness. Nufcfans and Lee Ryder from The Chronicle were providing blow by blow updates and the score was 0-0 at half time. I raced back through time via Tweets to find the worldwide black and white tribe was in a state of fevered frenzy. To my shame Dean in NYC had been up and out for ages, George Caulkin at the Times described the prematch feel on Wearside: “Difficult to describe the atmosphere here. But you can smell fear, blood, beer, carnage. Nowhere in world I’d rather be today.”
I grip my coffee cup and close my eyes. I can feel it, the stadium, the hate, the twisting nerves and frenzied longing. The burning injustice of our ticket allocation being cut because they run on the pitch. Unfairness that Joey Barton is seen as a bad man when Lee thick as a bag of shit Cattermole is the most deliberately malicious bastard in The Premiership. I can see our fans, warrior dark and rowdy in contrast to the rest of the crowd that is the colour of infection. Their stupid faces contorted with suppressed inferiority and badly disguised terror. My heart is banging. Twitter promises new tweets I click and wait, heart in mouth. The teams are back out. I glance at Arsenal v Liverpool but couldn’t care less.
An American guy comes down for his breakfast, I am fairly aware he is complaining about the coffee. We score, my mouth clamps shut and my fists press into the table as I fight the urge to scream. Now I can’t touch anything, I can’t consider a search for a live stream – everything has to stay exactly as it is – if I break the spell of my silence it will end in disaster.
1 new Tweet – that’s not enough for a goal. 8 new Tweets oh no no no. Substitutions, does a heavy sigh of relief break the spell? No. Me squeaking “5 f***ing minutes,” through gritted teeth as nufcfans report the injury time, might. Horrible nothing as the time since the last tweet counts up to 5. Before… at last… Victory.
I gush with gratitude at fellow Tweeters, the American wants to borrow my laptop to check plane times and I am so chuffed with the world that I let him.
“Breakfast now?” asks Christian as Wifey and I do a little dance. Yes yes yes.
Oh and hang on “derecha” is right and “izquierda” is left and life is sweet.
Above is the new book “Spitting In The Wind” which is out now!
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