April Conch – You’ll never walk alone

This column first appeared in The Sunday Times on the first sunday in April.


In December I bought a Christmas tree, and the other day I watched soccer. When will this madness end? Sorry, not soccer, football. I’m told there’s a difference. Although the fifteen minute explanation of that difference didn’t really clear things up for me.

My guy, a Liverpool fan from birth, recently followed his dreams. Never one to turn down an opportunity to discover shoes of the world, I went along. Which is how I ended up traveling to Liverpool to watch soccer.

The plan was simple, or as simple as such things can ever be. His cousin, who lives thereabouts, would get tickets from a mate for forty quid each on Friday, then The Big Ticket Exchange would happen on Saturday, leaving us twenty four hours to enjoy Liverpool before kick off. Does soccer even have a kick off, or is that rugby? Search me.

But by Saturday night we still didn’t have tickets, and the cousin’s mate had been AWOL for days. I panicked. What if we’d travelled all this way to watch a game in the big stadium, and we didn’t have tickets? Who was I and what had they done with Paige?

I’m that person who rolls their eyes all the way to Iceland when a player gets an imaginary shin kick and collapses in a flood of crocodile tears. I’m generally snoring before they’ve kicked that round thing twice, and I don’t understand how a competitive sport can regularly end in a draw and still have the fans remain invested.

But now I had sudden-onset hooliganism, prepared to swap a kidney for tickets. Is that what a relationship does to you? Do you become completely absorbed by the other person, until you’re indistinguishable from each other?

I contacted our Air BnB host who’d originally offered us tickets for an eye-watering hundred pounds each. I’d snorted with laughter at the time, I wasn’t laughing anymore.

Hours later, he managed to wangle tickets for eighty quid each. We accepted, grateful for the expense. Twenty minutes later The Cousin called, his friend had reappeared, ready to deliver our forty quid tickets.

Oh the agony of morals. Who do you shaft? In the end, the cousin’s mate had let us down while the Air BnB host had rescued us twice, so if we were any type of decent, we had to accept the eighty-pound beating and be grateful for it.

The next morning Air BnB guy had news, two different tickets for forty quid each. Karma is real people. But with a catch, we could only get them ten minutes before kick off. We were instructed to stand outside the main gate, and look for ‘a guy named Kev, in a long green coat’.

Panic! Should we get back in touch with the cousin and start begging? What if we couldn’t find Kev? How would we get hold of him? What if he got drunk and decided to stay in the pub? What if Liverpool was punking us? What if he sold our tickets for double to some other desperate tourists? What if I was the most paranoid person in Liverpool? And what the hell was Kev wearing under that long, green coat?

In the end, despite not knowing what we look like, Kev found us. I guess he just looked for the most paranoid-looking chick and her slightly overwhelmed guy.

And then we were inside. It didn’t have the rough push and pull and atmosphere of Newlands on game day, but I did see a man coming out of the men’s toilet eating a pie.

50 000 men singing You’ll never walk alone, made me teary, and the game was fun, but I’ll never be a fan. Twenty minutes in I texted a friend to ask her to Google how long a game lasts, and a day later I was relegated to indifferent supporter.

Imagine my relief, turns out you can be in a relationship and not completely change your personality, well not for very long anyway.

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