Living the dream. That’s what we are doing. Wifey and I quit our jobs, flogged our cars, rented out the house and wandered off like Bill Bixby as David Bruce Banner at the end of The Incredible Hulk TV series. For those of you too young or too confused to remember this formulaic silliness; every episode, after arriving in a town, Banner would turn into The Hulk once about halfway through to keep us interested then again at the end to resolve everything with some green (yet strangely bloodless) ultra violence. Then the sad music would play and Bruce would wander away down the road.
A lot of things always bothered me about The Incredible Hulk but recently nothing has bothered me more than the size of Banner’s luggage. He has a tiny little backpack slung nonchalantly over one shoulder. Surely a man who rips all his clothes up twice a week while transforming into the world’s most powerful (and stupid) superhero should have more gear than that. I have never transformed into anything except a stupider and slightly drunker version of myself (which only occasionally involves me losing most of my clothes) and you should see how much f***in’ luggage I’m carrying.
We can now swiftly load our bags with military expertise but lifting the buggers onto our backs without injury requires a crane. The dream we rushed into had; no more hateful, futile days wasted at work, no more fretful Sunday night twitching, no more whispering “how f***ing much?” at fuel pumps and no more grey, cold summers where a day and a half of sunshine feels like a bastard heat wave. No more incredulous headshakes at how greedy self satisfied f***ers have bollixed up our excellent country, where our elected government is happy to move the goalposts by demanding we work until we are 70, paying into a pension scheme that will likely be bankrupt long before we have failed to limp towards it. No more cretinous TV and idiot celebrity tittle (and tattle), standardised music and, most of all….. Most of f***ing all, no more having our lives, moods and bank balances ruled by Newcastle United under the present regime.
Between us we have well over six decades as serving mags so we have witnessed a substantial amount of lies and false promises from tricksy fibbers and mad-eyed quislings but this… This pack of malicious baboons can’t even be bothered to f***ing fake it. We would leave all that behind, let other people worry about it and see what was left if we ever decided to set foot in the UK again. Yet here I am in San Jose, Costa Rica on a veranda with a view of palm trees and, over the corrugated iron roofs, a lush green mountain. An iridescent green humming bird flits round bright orange flowers and in the apartment Kitty, our resident gecko, has finally quit her nocturnal electric song. (I think I have convinced Wifey that Kitty can stay because of her diet of mosquitoes but I was so whacked out on anti-histamines last night that, unlike Wifey, I slept through Kitty’s weird and irregular chirrups – also I doubt I could evict her if I wanted to.) Monday we saw three types of monkey (in the wild – two of whom were getting all tantric up a tree), poison frogs and a Jesus Lizard running across a stream on its hind legs. Yesterday we saw a man hand feeding a crocodile on a mud bank in a river. And what am I thinking about? Newcastle United.
The past two months have been fine; we started in New York and worked our way to Los Angeles with Newcastle United only briefly flitting into our thoughts. Barry in The Bronx answered all my questions about following Newcastle in the USA so there was little point chasing after other sources. Barry sees nearly all our matches and thanks to the internet is right on top of all the news. “Jordan Henderson has signed for Liverpool for how much?” I barked at him as he looked up from his laptop one evening. Big thanks again to Barry (and Evis and James) for putting us up despite being in the process of moving. Through irregular contact with nufc.com and Twitter I kept a relatively satisfied half eye on home as we meandered south to New Orleans (Nor-lins –if you say it right) up to Memphis, through Chicago to Denver. North to Deadwood, through Yellowstone in a bear-proof tent, down to brilliant, brilliant Moab and over The Rio Grande to splendid Taos. New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado then Las Vegas before driving a black car across the desert to California to take in the MotoGP in Laguna Seca before we caught a flight to Costa Rica.
Between travelling on (late) trains, (scruffy) buses and an assortment of (the cheapest option) automobiles, I learnt that NUFC had young and (hopefully) gifted and swift players coming in. I had half convinced myself letting Nolan go made some kind of sense and Jose Enrique Sanchez Diaz left some time around last March, with only his physical form remaining, so as long as he didn’t sign for Liverpool I could live with it. Disappointed yet unsurprised with Ben Arfa being injured but encouraged by my own stubborn belief that Harris Vuckic will be a player of quality I scouted San Jose for a place to watch our opening encounter with Arsenal. None of the Sports bars open early enough in the morning to compensate for the 7 hour time delay, which is a shame with a local brew (Imperial) being delicious and about £1 a bottle. Then slumped in the apartment on Sunday morning I discover not only can I see Arsenal playing New York Red Bulls live but as far as my woeful Spanish could understand the same channel will be showing Newcastle v Arsenal. I happily surf the internet towards my Twitter obsession and discover our own darling Joey Barton is quoting Aristotle, Nietzsche and Morrissey, condemning the US government and….. oh dear… slagging off our club’s hierarchy.
The predictable storm blows up with Barton shown the door. Whether Joey has brilliantly manufactured this situation (I loved the phrase “cyber badge kissing” on nufc.com) or whether this is another revolting example of mistreatment of a good player who actually seemed to “get” Newcastle United, is open to scrutiny.
The mistake would be to view the Barton situation in isolation. Before Andy Carroll was sold we had a core of players who were mentally tough, talented, spirited and galvanised with us through shared hardship. Since then that core has been cut out and tossed away like it wasn’t rare, special and appreciated. The club were happy enough to try and flog us dvds of the 5-1 against sunderland and the awesome comeback in the 4-4 with Arsenal without considering why or how those results were achieved. The Carroll money was too daft to turn down but how hard would it have been to keep the rest of our core intact and add to a group of players who, for once, we could relate to and be proud of? We seem to have got a decent scouting system, a decent coach and a significant amount of cash in the bank. It should have been impossible to f*** that up. A week later and with the first game of the season out of the way a lot looks to have changed with Enrique joining a club in The Champions League like he wanted (oh hang on…), darling Joey back in the team and serious links to the left back and striker we are clearly in need of. However, in reality, not a lot has changed. Every new contract NUFC gives Shola
I take as proof of our satisfaction with mediocrity, every one eyed post match view from Arsene Wenger is evidence that the game is riddled with liars and every witch hunt against Joey Barton adds “hypocrites” to the charge sheet. Judging by fan reaction on Twitter we are getting the same even handed approach from our enemies on Match of the Day and The Sunday Supplement, which I’m sorry to hear still includes Alan Shearer when the cameras are rolling. Our own club’s willingness to wash its hands of Barton depresses the hell out of me because his presence gives Newcastle United a fantastic “F*** You!” attitude to everybody else. If we had any balls at all Barton would get a new contract and the captaincy in time for the game at sunderland. If Barton played for Arsenal they wouldn’t be so mentally feeble and we want to give that up. F***ing idiots! But I think what really bothers me most about this is that this still really f***ing bothers me.