This is the first chapter of my (soon-to-be) book on being a Mariner for 20 years. Feel free to tell me what you like, what needs improvement and anywhere where you think I might have mis-remembered. I don't expect you to read all of it, though. Just skim through. Ta.
Michael Owen has a lot to answer for. If it wasn’t for him, bagging a classic hat-trick as England put five goals past the, usually, infallible Germans in Munich then I might not have been seduced into thinking that football was the be-all and end-all of life. Still a young kid, about to go up into junior school, I had flirted with the idea of football but hadn’t become a fully-fledged junkie just yet. That word is a good one to use. Junkie. The addiction to winning is a dangerous thing and nigh on impossible to satisfy. It’s like a blood lust.
Anyway, September 2001 and the youthful England team have just put Fritz into a fritz and, on the same day, my local team are in action against Barnsley. After several seasons of massive over-achievement staying in the second tier (now known as the Championship) it was expected that the Mariners were going to struggle horribly against the threat of relegation.
Our manager, Lennie Lawrence, had assembled a team that surely would be turned over by the likes of Manchester City and Nottingham Forest. Apart from a sprinkling of quality, the side lacked the necessary blood and thunder to survive again, surely? However, a 1-0 win over the Tykes from South Yorkshire and the black and white army were sitting pretty atop the entire Football League. As a seven-year-old, this position largely went straight over my head. I mean, what did Jonny Rowan and Mick Boulding have up top that Owen and Emile Heskey didn’t? Apart from the obvious, sorry lads.
So, while the Three Lions were preparing to thump the grumpy Germans on their own turf, Grimsby Town had somehow clambered to the summit of the league- for the uninitiated, being top of Division One meant that the only teams better placed than us in the country were the ‘so-called’ elite Premiership clubs. It seemed such a topsy-turvy state of affairs that the Mariners had, in true Viking style, conquered the opening month of the season and took pride of place at the top.
Danny Coyne was a goalkeeper of sheer quality. He was much too good for us. The Welshman with the golden gloves had played a huge part in the successful start. His elastic-band hand and custard-coloured shirts made him a very popular figure in North East Lincolnshire. In fact, the previous season he had kept out the lofty figure of Peter Crouch (a future England international) in an inspired performance that essentially relegated QPR. Coyne was our currency, definitely.
Joining the Welsh Lev Yashin in the 2001/02 hall of fame was the captain- Paul Groves. Most likely to be called ‘Grovesy’ by typically inventive Grimbarian parlance, he had served the club well and always gave his all to the cause. The cause was, usually in the early 2000s, a battle against the trapdoor. Groves was a fantastic captain and kept the engine ticking over, the fossil fuel for the Mariners if you like.
Put it this way- I wouldn’t want to go into a 50/50 with Paul Groves because there is only one winner. My grandad used to tell me stories about the midfield marauder in his early-1990s pomp, winning the ball with great oomph and slipping a slide-rule pass through to Neil Woods who banged in a goal. Buckley Ball was so, so effective.
Moving on, this team had the greatest full-back ever to don the humbug stripes of Grimsby Town- Sir John McDermott. He could defend without tackling. He could foil opposition strikers merely by keeping his feet on the ground and his eyes on the ball. Macca made it look so easy. I’m sure you’ve all seen the sun-saturated footage of Bobby Moore making THAT challenge against Brazil in 1970, he ducks down, nicks the ball and sends an accurate pass forwards to start an attack. McDermott was our Moore.
I had the pleasure of seeing him, Gary Childs and Neil Woods having a natter in Woods’ front garden once. I was on my paper round and was so excited to hand over the Grimsby Telegraph to Woods who smiled and quietly said thanks. Macca grinned and quickly clocked my battered old pushbike. He then chuckled and they carried on their conversation. It was literally a brush with greatness. I don’t even care if he was laughing at the state of my bike- faulty brakes, balding tyres- or was just enjoying an after-shock ripple from Gary Child’s top-notch banter. It doesn’t matter. I had a story to tell the lads at school. I have a story to tell you.
Further upfield, we had the bounding Mickey Boulding. I definitely remember someone saving me a poster of him that appeared in the paper on the eve of the season. Boulding’s goal celebration took pride of place on my bedroom wall next to my poster of Michael Owen (yes, him again) and Homer Simpson. It completely passed my brother by. He didn’t, and probably still doesn’t, have a clue who Mickey Boulding was. To be fair to him, he probably won’t even read this book because him and football are like water and electricity. They just don’t mix.
But, anyway, we are in my front room of my house in Ladysmith Road. England are playing and are a goal down. Carsten Jancker had buried a bobbling ball beyond Seaman and the Germans were on top. At seven years old, 1-0 feels like the end of the world. I hadn’t developed the football fan sixth sense that something is about to happen just yet.
Of course, I was hoping Owen would do the business. My budding love for Liverpool FC was reaching its point of no return and even now I watch out for their results, even if the Mariners have made their nest in my heart.
Football in those days was John Motson or nothing. One of the defining moments of my childhood was hearing Motty screeching ‘…and England go into a 3-1 lead, in Munich’. Ah, the memories. His childlike enthusiasm when Owen scored the equalizer was a joy. He was practically foaming at the mouth when Steven Gerrard slammed home a stonker to put us into the lead on the stroke of half-time. For me, this was the least I expected from England. I wasn’t aware, then, that Germany had never lost a World Cup qualifier in their own country and only got brief information from my parents about the victory over them in 1966.
Of course, in hindsight it would be easy to say that I was jumping around, joyous and jubilant that England were smashing them and that I knew what all the talk of revenge was. It was Euro ’96. At the time of that particular tournament, I was almost three years old and far more interested in making shapes from plasticine and playing with wet sand than sitting down and observing the infamous Gareth Southgate penalty. I was bitten by the football bug, but it didn’t come as second nature to me because nobody else in my family were interested in it.
We always watched the Olympics and cheered on Tim Henman in the tennis but, as a family, we were not a footballing one.
That all changed on this day.
The second half came with England scoring three more times to trounce the Germans. The strains of the national anthem were heard above the bleating about Dambusters and Dresden. I remember having a mouse mat that had the scoreline emblazoned on it and, in huge letters, the phrase ‘5-1: Blitzed Again’. It was a time of great pomp and circumstance. A time when it was great to be a fan of English football. The nation had a Swedish boss and had been using the dietary techniques and tactical methods from Holland, France, Germany and Italy. In my Merlin’s football sticker book were names from Spain, Argentina and Nigeria. It was a real cosmopolitan flavour to Britain.
Then we get to Grimsby. A once-mighty fishing town on the East Coast, too close to Hull for comfort but far enough away to not be considered part of, shudder, Yorkshire. The town had been in steep decline since the heyday of the trawler fleet in the 1950s. Where the business had gone, drugs and apathy came in. For a community built around fishing, once the work has gone someplace else, what do you have to bring a town together? The football. Since being relegated out of the First Division (now known as the Premier League) in 1948, the Mariners had never graced the top-flight again. We had come close in the early 1980s with a team packed full of local talent that had played fluent, attacking football. The tiki taka by the seaside. There had been good days- Everton in the Milk Cup, the promotion against Exeter, the double Wembley season in 1998- but they had been overshadowed by years of financial mismanagement, a lack of ambition and a general malaise from boardroom to pitch.
There is something very special about football fans and their ability to turn up through thick and thin is to be marveled at.
But, would you keep showing up when the owners aren’t bothered, the team are scrapping around the lower reaches of the Football League and the town itself has been brought to its knees?
If you would then this is the sort of book for you. If you wouldn’t, who can blame you? There are people who have absolutely nothing but their pride in their football team and it keeps them going. It gives them a purpose. Without the daily circus that is a professional football team, what else would people do? I often think that football should be used as a form of therapy. It’s a pretty brutal sport but it is also a real art form when on song. I don’t mean brutal in the manner I would, say, boxing. I mean that it strings you along, makes you believe that something big and good is about to happen and keeps the flame of hope burning week in, week out. It then lulls you into a false state of security with its seductive approach. Football misleads you; it mistreats you.
Yet, there is always something there that keeps you returning. For me, it’s the sense of belonging. You are part of a community, a group of like-minded souls that go through the same range of conflicting emotions as you. If it sounds like I’m making it ultra-romantic then, sorry, but it is. I guess if you’re non-football folk like most of my family then they don’t get the reason for the sharp swing in mood on a Saturday afternoon.
It is the camaraderie and loyalty that is so unique in British society. So, on the same day that England put five past the Germans, the Mariners were in their highest league position in several generations. Coyne, Macca, Grovesy et al had stuck their fingers up at the pundit’s pre-season predictions that they would drop down the division, sinking faster than a paddle boat with a hole in the middle.
Crank up the feel-good. It’s the late summer of 2001, there wasn’t any Tories to stick their oar in and ruin your life (more on that later) and there was a sense that the boom time would never end in Blair’s Cool Britannia. These were the days before everyone in the world had access to the internet and mobile phones were for the privileged few. I don’t remember anyone at my school having a phone until at least secondary. I know I didn’t. Apart from playing Snake, what on Earth would I need my own personal phone for? I can’t imagine texting my fellow 7/8-year-old mates about swapping Pokemon cards and saying rude words like ‘bum’ (when you are seven years old, there is nothing funnier than that, trust me). I keep digressing, don’t I? I need to force myself to stay on subject. Maybe I’ll get that big, wet haddock from the introduction and slap myself with it whenever I go off on a tangent.
I’m not sure it is worth thinking about that had I not been watching that day, had Michael Owen not scored a treble, had I not voraciously devoured every part of the local newspaper’s football supplement then…well, then what? How different would my life be? It’s like that film, Sliding Doors, when Gwyneth Paltrow does or doesn’t get on the tube and the consequences of both are very different. Like I said, Owen has a lot to answer for. I could’ve saved myself all the pain, all the frustration and all the anger of following the football. If England had lost that game, then I might have lost interest completely. I was bitten by the bug. A huge, blood-sucking insect intent on twisting my emotions into all sorts of gnarled shapes.
I’ll tell you this for nothing.
I don’t regret letting it happen.
That 2001/2002 season became an iconic chapter of the recent, modern history of the football club. In October, the side were drawn against the Worthington Cup holders, Liverpool, at Anfield in the third round of the competition. Ours was a team on such a shocking run of form that it was believed that the Kopites would wipe the floor with us.
Nobody reckoned with the incredible power of English cup, knock-out football.
The roll call of players looked like a group of footballers dragged together off the streets to create a makeshift starting eleven, coming up against a Liverpool side that had won the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup for good measure and were the holders of all the English domestic trophies- bar the Premiership.
It’s that man again, Michael Owen. I don’t think he figured in the squad at all. My uncle went to Merseyside that evening and the thousands of Mariners fans that travelled were to witness a night of pure theatre, rock ‘n’ roll emotion and a finale that can only be described as the implosion of a supernova.
The atmosphere was electric, booming Grimbarian gobs singing and dancing, holding their heads up high as their team walked through the storm. When you are with Grimsby Town, you really never will walk alone. Anyway, the game started, and the fans were like a carousel of revelry in the driving rain. We took the European giants to extra-time on their own patch despite some dodgy defensive moments and looking completely and utterly pathetic in attack.
It was all going well until a handball by Beharall (I wonder what happened to him?) saw the Reds awarded a penalty. The ever-reliable Gary McAllister put them in front and that seemed to be that. Something was stirring in the dribbling drizzle. The fans were still singing and the team began to respond the serenade.
A silly defensive mix-up from Liverpool allowed Marlon Broomes, up from the back, to bobble home an equalizer. Cue delirium in the Town end. Broomes was on-loan from Blackburn Rovers and what his finish lacked in finesse it more than made up for in pandemonium. Liverpool looked shell-shocked and lost. They tried and failed to shake themselves out of this self-imposed stupor. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Town were all over them like shingles, because they weren’t.
But it was 1-1 and that was all that mattered.
Alright lads, let’s take them to penalties and see if Coyne can claw away a couple of spot-kicks. If that happens, then it really is anyone’s.
The roaring mass swayed and sang, voices hoarse with emotion. The skies above the Mersey turned black and white. The night was Grimsby’s, regardless of whether we lost on penalties or not.
…and then it happened.
I had been watching the game on television (my first-ever experience of Town on the box, at my nanna’s house because we didn’t have the sports channels at my house) and as much as it was surreal, I don’t remember an awful lot without resorting to re-watching the YouTube footage. What I do remember is, as the clock ticked into the one-hundred and twentieth minute of a pulsating, frustrating match, Phil Jevons picked the ball up about 45 yards out.
The former Evertonian looked up briefly and arrowed a stunning long-range screamer into the top corner of Kirkland’s goal. Our decent young striker had just beaten one of the most promising goalkeepers in Europe with an unbelievable last-minute missile.
Jevvo made a name for himself. Even if he never scored for us again, that was his name in the permanent footballing folklore of both Anfield and Grimsby Town.
It was a few weeks until my eighth birthday and I’d been given special dispensation to watch a game that kicked off at 7:45pm on a school night but I couldn’t ever have missed this could I?
The next few seconds whizzed by in a blur and the whistle blew on a glorious night of giant-killing. It does need to be said that, despite us only being one division lower than the Premier League at the time, that the difference in finance and future of the two football clubs was an almighty chasm. They had been laden down with trophies, success and a legacy known as the Red Machine. Town had seen decline, despair and dejection after the buzzing high of being top of the league.
This is the thing with the top-flight. The ‘elite’ football clubs grab the big bucks and leave whatever scraps behind for the rest of the Football League. I mean, I could go off on a rant here but if you’re that interested then ask me for a copy of my university dissertation on the subject.
Pay me a fiver and meet me in the club shop and I’ll tell you all about it.
The win over Liverpool was such an iconic moment because it was so unexpected. I wonder how many Town fans went into the game thinking we had a genuine chance. You can use the ‘its cup football’ reasoning if you want but we were on such a dismal run of form against a team with international footballers kicking about their reserves. It just goes to show that spirit and sheer will from the supporters can make a huge difference to the fortunes of a football team. Liverpool were bruised by our unlikely equalizer and that instilled the sort of confidence in the team that we had been lacking for so, so long.
Jevons adding that rattling rocket just added to the mania!
You might be thinking “who did you want to win that day, what with your flirtation with Liverpool FC?”. The answer is simple. I wanted Grimsby to prevail. The emotion that coursed through my young mind after Broomes scored was something I had never felt before. It was like being plugged into the electricity mains. The only other time I’ve felt that same ecstasy was the play-off final in 2016 (we will get to that, eventually) but this was the first time. Jarvis Cocker sang ‘do you remember the first time’ and, you know what mate, I absolutely can. There I was, dancing a jig around the kitchen of my nanna’s house while my dad was trying to get me to get my shoes on, ready to go home to bed. Having school in the morning meant sweet fuck all to me at that moment in time. I wanted to be out there, with Coyne and Jevons and Chapman and Rowan, celebrating the win. I wanted to be in the conga line of Town fans, snaking their way to Lime Street to catch the party train back to Cleethorpes.
Imagine the scenes on that journey home!
For me, the football is all about the day. It isn’t always about the result, that helps of course, but it’s about making the effort to go and watch the team. It’s about who you’re with, not where you are. It’s about grinning from ear to ear on train stations up and down the country.
Being a supporter is so much more than turning up, buying a ticket and a shirt, drinking piping hot Bovril on a freezing cold Tuesday night game against Nuneaton (there were about twelve hardy souls that had made the trek from the Midlands to the sleety, slippery seaside). No, it’s the memories. It is being chased along the North Wall by three rottweiler-looking Mansfield fans and learning how fast you can really run when you know you’re about to get filled in. It’s having one too many to drink on the train home from Wembley and falling face-first into the train toilet. It’s coming home from university, watching a game and then seeing James McKeown and Shaun Pearson supping pints in Wetherspoons, just like we do. It is all that and much, much more.
As you will see over the course of this book.
My grandad said that “that’s the first time we’ve beaten Liverpool since I was a young lad.” When you consider that he first saw Town in the 1940s then you really gauge just how much that sweet, sweet victory meant to us.
At school the following day, there was no real buzz. Nobody else was a Town fan. In my class, you had the football lot but they were far more interested in Man United or Arsenal than living the local team life. You saw it at football practice when everyone wore Premier League shirts (including myself, I wore a Liverpool one or an England one) and it’s those things that live with you. But every time I scored, which I did quite a lot when I was eight or nine years old, it wasn’t Owen or Shearer or Solskjaer that I felt like.
It was Phil bloody Jevons.
For those who are curious, that season ended with Lennie Lawrence being sacked, replaced by Captain Cleethorpes himself, Paul Groves, who took over as manager. The club narrowly avoided relegation thanks to the upturn in belief and form under Groves. Not a single game was as manic and moreish as that day on Merseyside, but the side had got the job done.
Then the ITV Digital deal went tits-up and left us with even less money. It was inevitable that players would have to leave, and only freebies and journeymen would be walking through the training ground doors. Groves was now doing the job with both hands tied behind his back, rather than just the one. A new owner (I won’t say his name yet, his time is yet to come in this story, and it isn’t a particularly cheerful story at that) and optimism remained as long as we were a second-tier side.
I was still locked out of Blundell Park due to not having anyone to go with and my flirtation with Liverpool become my first love. I know. I know. What a hypocrite.
But, you’ll see how things progressed.
There is a song by Circa Waves that expresses thoughts on flying through your best days. It is vitally important to look back on them and feel a warm and fuzzy sensation- as if you’ve just swallowed a barbecued caterpillar.
Never forget the good times, the memories.
Recently, I attended the last-ever reunion event for MMU Cheshire in Crewe. It was observed beautifully with plenty of laughter, liquor and lamenting. The outpouring of emotion as the lights went up for the final time was incredible. People really cared. This was the best times of their life and it is to be taken away forever. What cannot ever leave are the memories, the jokes and the achievements from the campus.
It is so important to realise that going to university is a massive decision. It changes lives. It alters states. It creates lifelong bonds. I hope, one day, to return to Crewe an old man with my old housemates present there too. A reunion for the ages. Okay, so the student union is to be bulldozed or replaced by whatever but- and it’s a Khabib Nurmagamedov of a butt- what we achieve in life echoes throughout eternity.
It’s thanks to MMUC that I made friends who I hope to count on for life, I achieved what people back home thought impossible and triumphantly returned home to grey and grisly Grimsby with a degree. The system is wrong, the campus is to be closed and as much of a travesty as that is, the good times will keep rolling for as long as Crewe is remembered.
I’ll admit, when I got my place at the uni, I saw it was based in Crewe and thought: “I know that place has trains and a football team that always beats mine, but what can it actually offer?”. I’ll tell you what it offered- two of the greatest drinking venues on the planet (no exaggeration), the three greatest years of my life and meeting loads of amazing people that gave experiences, banter and soul to the stew of studentville.
After the final Oldboys event, the Saturday night, the lights went up bathing the old SU in a bright and crystal clear atmosphere of nostalgia. The tears began to flow. The floor, forever slippery and sticky with the trickle of treacly alcohol, was the dancefloor of dreams. To be honest, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than in the middle of a sweaty club while Mr Brightside comes on, everyone for some reason starts swinging their tops over the head and completely lose themselves in the moment, enjoying the full-throttle glory of coming out of your cage, doing just fine.
I could write all the good times down and would fill several A4 pads with my boring, semi-incoherent ramblings of drunken antics, studies and crazy moments but the pages would be smudged with tears of joy.
Let’s not get too sentimental. It was difficult at times, going through heartaches and headaches with deadlines and trainlines to boot. On occasion it made you feel trapped, scared, stressed and proud all at the same time and this should be remembered just as fondly as me falling over my own feet in Box or me blagging my way through a creative writing presentation when I hadn’t done a single bit of the required research (stay in school, don’t be like me).
The emotional conclusion of this generation of MMUC can never be understated. There were people hugging everyone, the tears rolling into puddles of eternal youth.
The people who made it so special know who they are.
As Gary Barlow wrote- “Neeeeever, forget where you’re coming from.”
I guess the point to take away from this sniffly, sentimental song-and-dance is this: try and live a life without regret, without fear and always…ALWAYS…make sure you remember the great moments, the happy times and don’t dwell on what should have been.
I would give that advice to any future student, including my own young nieces. If they want to better their lives and do the student experience then go for it.
Never let anyone tell you you’re not good enough.
Students and prospective undergraduates everywhere: GO FOR IT. ENJOY IT.
When it’s over, as we recently discovered, it all hits you at once and it really is over.
Life is pure theatre, a mixture of calm and chaos, the humdrum hubbub of everyday and the stuff that comes out of the ordinary. I’ll try not to sound like I’m bragging or dragging up recycled blog post banter but I keep thinking of all I’ve achieved in the last 2 years or so.
It’s good to reflect on yourself. Where did it all start? Where will it all end up? Why does it literally always rain on me?
I look to my mates for the main inspiration in my life. The encouragement and interest that they have for me is like my mantra. Even when I thought I was a local celebrity after being a sports presenter on the tv for a few days, they kept me grounded by reminding me that I live with my parents and have a shitty, gold car. Achievements are great. Goals are vital. You need to plan out where and how you want your life to go.
In the space of two years I have been on the radio, had job interviews for high-powered media industry jobs in high-powered cities and replaced by famously negative mood with more positivity. There’s a lot of people reading this that are thinking “You’re still a miserable bastard though” and, yeah, you’re probably right but not half as much as I was a few years ago.
The important things to realise are that no matter how much you moan and whine about things, the only person who can do anything about it is you. I spent far too long standing in dole queues and feeling sorry for myself. When I decided to do something about it, the opportunities were limited but they were there. Just about. I picked my moody boots up by the laces and kicked myself into the real world, going to get a degree and all the positives that have followed.
It’s easy to say that the grass is only greener if you paint it that way yourself but it’s probably got more than an element of truth to it. Quote me on that. I appreciate life more. I feel comfortable being me, more. There were so many years when I felt like I needed to be something I wasn’t in order to get to where I wanted. This false mask had to be ripped off and chucked in the Biffa bins. No time for negatives. Plus points, always.
Learning and accepting how to be you is difficult at times. There are moments when I’m talking about something and I just think “what the fuck are you even on about?” but that’s just me, my subconscious self, curious about how the world works.
This summer will forever be remembered for me and my mates sharing a beautiful moment driving to Y Not Festival and singing T-Shirt Weather by Circa Waves dead loud through Chesterfield high street. We were singing our lungs out in the back seat together. That is a memory that will always be dripping with sunshine, a golden sheen anticipating things to come.
Swaying and falling with the mob watching Catfish, losing one of my trainers, losing all my mates and wandering the festival on my own with one Adidas Gazelle on is another memory steeped in the sheer power of the positive. I could have moaned that my shoe had gone and my mates had done their famous disappearing act. I could have cursed the crowd for shoving a load of us back with such a force that my foot pinged out my sneakers and then got trampled through the thousands of wellies and fag ends, lost forever in a swamp of squelch.
I didn’t. I was having too much of a good time to worry about that. A few years ago I’d have worried that my weekend was ruined by misfortune. I’d have moaned and groaned, whinged and binged about my bad luck. Not anymore, though. I just took it in my stride (my limping, one-shoed stride) and laughed about it.
Seeing one of my mates randomly on the way back to camp, he looked down at my shoeless foot and barely questioned it. The negative was that it absolutely poured down. I mean, literal buckets of rain pounding the pathetic tent that I pitched. My sleeping bag was soaked. My solitary trainer sinking into a squibbling, dribbling mess of mud and chud. The positive? It just so happened that believing in the power of fate had led one of my mates to bring spare wellies with him, which I could wear instead of slipping and sliding through the sloop on the way back to the car.
Fate shined down. Positive vibes swirled through the Derbyshire countryside. Thinking in a more happy way had worked.
I know it’s a bit of a silly example, but you get the picture.
You can achieve what you want. You can make something from the lot you’ve got. Most importantly, being negative acts as a wall, shutting out your hopes and dreams, brick by brick.
It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.
We are constantly plugged in. The 21st Century has essentially made the human race its technological slaves.
Not long ago, I was on the train and all you could see around were wires, screens and rhythmic beeps depicting all sorts of notifications.
The very fact that this is how we now communicate is quite a scary thought. Not many years ago, landlines and hand-written letters were our way of talking to the outside word. It is the incredible advancement in technology recently that has seen face-to-face communication and actually talking to each other completely unnecessary. Why go out of your way to meet someone, make conversation and then say your farewells when you can just tag them in appropriate memes or emoji them to death instead?
I remember the days when sending ‘Because I Got High’ by Afroman via Bluetooth on the top-deck of the number 7 bus was the height of technology. You see ten year olds strutting about with iPhones and kids learning basic skills on a tablet.
I was gonna say ‘if’ the apocalypse happens but, if you listen to my dad (and I’d say that not a lot of people do) then that should be ‘when’ the apocalypse happens, the human race will have no idea how to hunt, build or survive because we’ve let ourselves be chained to touch screens, streaming and scrolling up and down news feeds looking at everyone’s totally meaningless life and even worse banter.
If 28 Days Later happens, and if you believe the people who voted Remain then we’re gonna be banging the doors down of Lidl in a desperate search for food and water, then we won’t know what to do. In order to get in tune with the rapid changes in society then we’ve had to unplug the natural instincts that separate human from carnivore.
I’m not trying to say that iPads and apps have destroyed what used to be such a civilised and communicative society but, and it’s a Nicki Minaj of a butt, we do seem to have lost the ability to talk to each other, empathise emotionally and connect physically, without taking a snap or making a status.
The big example here is when people go to gigs. I’ve seen it a million times and said it till my face is more blue than a suffocating smurf but I don’t see how you can gauge the full experience of seeing your favourite band or artist live by sticking your hand in the air, phone glued to it, snapping away and recording videos from all sorts of angles rather than, say, enjoying yourself. Okay, so there isn’t anything wrong with that and maybe it’s me being a crusty, old crow as usual but surely there are two sides there? When previous generations went to concerts, they didn’t all get one of them disposable Kodak cameras out and flash away their evening, taking it home, sending the film off to be developed and waiting two weeks for their blurry, undecipherable photos to come back.
Sometimes, what makes us the most human is following our natural instinct. The very soul of a person cannot be filled by social media or by all those fucking moth memes, not really. The emotional action of falling in love cannot be truly documented by Snapchat, it needs the collective symphony of hearts clicking into place together. We are all capable of communication, so let’s never forget that.
Four years ago this month, I entered the bizarre world of Studentville. I moved away for the first time, becoming independent overnight. It is daunting. What was I going to do without my mum to iron my washing or my dad to fix my buzzy little hairdryer of a moped? Me, live independently? That was laughable.
In the end, I found a second family. My flatmates were my brothers, sisters, mates. I always say I’m not gonna name them personally but go on then, I dare you to sue me for improper use of your image. I would barely have survived that first term in Crewe if it wasn’t for the long, ridiculous conversations sat in the hallway of our shared flat about Disney films, Barack Obama (they know what I’m on about) or what will happen if you don’t got to a film studies seminar for the entire year. I couldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for the weekly night at the SU, king cups, beer pong and people doing press-ups on the squelchy, sticky floor for some random reason.
With new freshers starting any minute now, it’s easy to look back and think “Oh yeah, that uni lark was a piece of piss”. But it’s only through memories you realise that all the noodles, naps and cheapo Aldi booze help to make your time at university a great success. I can’t sit here and write that you go there to further your education, get a degree and crack on to a life of good jobs, wild experiences and broadened horizons. I would not change a single part of the social life for a job in the writing industry, weirdly enough.
Where else can you walk into your flat and see that the recycle bin has been sellotaped to your door while you were out? Who else would sit up until the daylight hours having a pun competition? What would anyone outside of Studentville think of being sent snap chats with crude drawings of cartoon characters on it during a lecture and just shrug, as if to say ‘that’s perfectly normal?’
Time flies. It is such a crazy thought that four years have passed by in a blink and a boozy blur. I still can’t quite stomach Pot Noodles anymore, though they fill me with nostalgia. I still wonder whether or not Harry truly understands the subtle language of Grimbarian or if Kyle has found his indoor voice but still it was non-stop, bare, good times.
We went through it all together. The ups and downs, the pasta bakes and laugh-a-minute trips to town. Freshers is a time to make friends, glug some guzzle and make a fool of yourself falling over in nightclubs- of which I consider myself quite the expert- and, most importantly, find your identity as a student.
I miss those times. People have always said that your school days are the best of your life but they’ve obviously never watched Shrek the Musical and then had a Jaffa cake. Or, they haven’t ever experienced watching Anthony smack himself with a baking tray or witnessed Hayley doing all the actions and words to Let It Go.
Studentville is not the real world, of course not. It is something that cannot be fully explained, a phenomenon that needs expert, in-depth study as to why these things seem so normal when outside in Normieland, you’d be carted away by the men and taken to a maximum security nut house for coming into somebody’s room in the middle of the day, making a horrible screeching sound and then leaving just as quickly.
Maybe that was just us. I got lucky that I had the greatest flat and housemates in the whole wide world. Life is like a box of chocolates, there’s always a nutty one, there’s one with a soft, gooey centre and then there’s the plain old dairy milk favourite (I’ll let you all figure out who is who) but the main point of this incredibly revealing post is that you should enjoy yourself, no matter what, and make the most of your social life at university.
It can never be repeated again once it’s gone.
Here comes something I hope you’ll really like, its positivity mixed with productivity with a large helping of my unique writing style on the side.
Goals are an important part of life. You have to have ambition, a burning desire to pinpoint exactly which direction you want your life to go. Nobody is going to live it for you.
I keep challenging myself to do things that neither my closest friends or family have done, just cause I’m that sort of competitive person.
The year 2016 will be forever ingrained in my heart as the best year of my life. Whenever I look back on that glorious summer, I’m met with a woozy sense of wonder and fulfilment at the achievements of that year.
May 2016 and Grimsby Town win promotion under the arch of the national stadium, a day of pure ecstasy shared by myself and thousands of other Grimbarian gobs in the capital city. It was a day soaked in sunshine, cider and satisfaction.
Fast-forward a month and I saw The Stone Roses in Manchester, a few bevs on the train saw me share a taxi to the Etihad Stadium with some random lads who were seeing the same gig. They wore bucket hats and t-shirt emblazoned with lemons, splatters of paint all over the city as the Mancunian magic made the rain fall…and fall…and fall. I was soaked, my Adidas trainers pogoing up and down as I watched my favourite band being adored.
I visited Amsterdam, the most gorgeous city on Earth. High as a kite for much of the trip, I saw the Anne Frank house, Ajax’s football stadium, spent a blissful afternoon dozing off under the dazzling sky in Vondelpark before being stung by a jellyfish at the beach. Good times. Good vibes.
It was after this that I realised it had been one hell of a year. I set myself a target to do something amazing at least once a year.
The following summer, I graduated from MMU Cheshire with a Creative Writing degree.
I’d done something that I still consider my greatest achievement. Student life was soon replaced by work life, my first proper job and my first car.
Seeing some of the great things my mates were doing and planning, I needed to act quickly to keep up with the tide of inspiration.
Deciding on giving blood was an easy one. I’ve always believed that one selfless act can open the door to making someone else’s life a tiny bit better. The text I received from the hospital saying my donation had helped four people was the reward at the end of the action.
Ask. Believe. Receive.
Then I started thinking about all the other cool stuff I’ve squeezed in so far this year. I had an interview in that London for a proper journalism job. Imagine a kid like me: looking like I’m in need of a good meal, likely to bunk the train at the underground instead of paying for a ticket and being as Northern as steak and kidney pie in the big city with my shirt collar and my tie, awaiting an interview for something that wasn’t a jobcentre thing.
Work experience at Estuary TV saw me actually on the telly. Like, seriously, writing and recording a sports bulletin on the local news. It was nerve-wracking. It was rewarding. It doesn’t make me a celebrity but, and it’s a Zinedine Zidane of a butt, I did it. I successfully saw myself on the television, doing something different.
No more kicking about Meggies beach or getting started on in Hype for yours truly, setting yourself goals is a way of helping yourself grow up. You move away from the things that don’t matter and dive head-first towards a brighter future.
It’s a positive mind-set that I have my friends to thank for, they are inspirational. They’ll read this and tell me to crawl out but still, the power of positivity is anyone’s for the taking.
I’m off to think of what I haven’t achieved yet and figure out a way of working them in to my everyday life.
An actual blog post. I know. I’m stunned too.
Just so we know, my loyal band of readers, I will do a preview of Town’s season and a bit about my first ever music festival once I get back next week!
Fatboy Slim said ‘we’ve come a long, long way together…through the hard times and the good’. Is right. The madness is that its TWO YEARS ago since I stood in the soaking rain, taking in all the Mancunian magic of the Stone Roses. The Etihad Stadium opened its doors for baggy dancing, bucket hats galore and the typical sodden weather of North West England.
Two years gone by quicker than I could have possibly imagined. Remember my posts on the Power of Positivity? They are probably more apt than ever right now. I’m struggling to find the creative spark to do what I do best- write.
It’s been a weird sort of two years for me. Yeah, I’m still the same person who watches The Simpsons all the time even though I know nearly all the jokes, still the same person that prattles on and on about my beloved football team and still the same person who is unlucky with the opposite sex.
By unlucky, I mean, really unlucky. To be incredibly frank about it, my love life has about as much passion as a deep-frozen haddock in the bottom drawer of the freezer. I’m young, dumb and…erm. I should be out pogoing around the Cleethorpes nightclubs and making a living as a writer, but there are about as many opportunities as there are teeth in Hull.
I’ve had to grow up a little bit. Something that has been an experience of necessity rather than choice. My step into the world of employment and out of the blissful blanket of Studentville has actually been quite a difficult transition.
Gone are the days of sitting in bed at 3pm watching Louis Theroux and his awkward conversation while he walks around a brothel, with lukewarm noodles mixing with the stress of getting assignments in on time.
My loyal readers of the past 3 to 4 years- I have you to thank. My first-ever blog post was seen by about twenty-four people; in contrast, my most viewed one was up to nearly one-thousand. So, either people read it because I have interesting things to say (pretty doubtful, to be honest) or they read it ironically, laughing with their friends about the poor banter and even worse style.
But, anyway, bang- 2018. I am now in my twenty-fifth year. Where has the time gone? The Roses was two years ago and it seems completely and utterly fucking mental that time can pass so fast. You have to enjoy life before its taken away from you. There are no second chances, no half-measures, very few opportunities to say yes or I do.
Also, happy birthday to my mum (kinda had to get in there).
Onwards and upwards to the next rambling blog post that nobody asked for. The amount of free time I have to try and force the creative cycle of my brain has been lessened by adulthood.
In Jolley we trust, up the Mariners!
How are you all getting on life, send your hate mail, agony aunt letters, misguided banter and opinions to the usual addresses, cheers.
You may be reading another Blog Roll bonanza by the time the year 2036 rolls around, let’s wait and see.
Everyone knows their favourite songs. Tunes that define an era, a state of mind, a relationship. Bob Marley once said “when music hits you, you feel no pain” and that is very nearly true, mate.
Here are five songs that have defined a moment in time, the personal and emotional odyssey of humankind.
Driftwood- Travis: An underrated belter from the Scottish alt-rockers. At the time of me going through a break-up (that old chestnut), this song came on when I was walking somewhere. I think it may have been an Asda FM special. So, I’m trudging around whacking pot noodles and Dr Pepper in my trolley, Travis playing in the background, gazing my way through the stars of the aisles. It didn’t matter that time was up on this moment in life. It didn’t matter that the credits had rolled on my first meaningful relationship. I was Fran Healy, drifting towards the next thing. Clinging onto the driftwood of existence and letting it take me to places I could never have dreamed of.
Real Love Baby- Father John Misty: A recent discovery for me. The lucid psych-pop never fails to get me in the mood to chill or go out and get battered. It depends what kind of day it’s been I suppose. This song is close to my heart because it was the song I remember being on my iPod first as I travelled to the big city of London. I had a job interview for a journalism job and it was all about the experience. ‘There’s a world inside me’ says Misty, dripping in psychedelic mystique. It wasn’t important whether I got the job or not. I’d gone from being discarded on the scrapheap and struggling to even get a few day’s work at the local fish factory to travelling to our nation’s capital for an interview in the industry.
Hey Jude- The Beatles: You cannot go wrong with the Fab Four. Regular followers of my blog will know about Box in Crewe. The nightclub where I have only fond memories. Anyway, some selfish bastard decided to close the place down and we went, emotionally, to the tearful farewell of the sweat-box of dreams. The last song of the night is always a rollercoaster of rolling tears, riding emotions and ridiculous hand-holding circles with everyone singing en masse. This was the latter. As Macca chimed in with ‘heyyy Jude’, the remaining students in Box linked together in a show of solidarity and shredded their voices singing along. Nice.
Please Don’t- Courteeners: Another one for the ages. Another one that spoke to me on many personal levels after being on the receiving end of a betrayal. ‘Please don’t pretend that we’ll stay friends’ is such a gem of advice. How many people have stayed friends with an ex? It can’t be very many. Liam Fray was dumped by a bird from Middleton when he was about seventeen and did an Adele- spending time writing a whole album about it. It was therapeutic to him. It was nice to know that no matter the emotional levels and feelings, you can never be on your own. The problems infecting your mind and spirit are always shared by others. This song does that.
Baby, I Love Your Way- Big Mountain: Its opening refrain needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Ooooooh baby, I love your way. This is a song that makes me happy. Pure and simple. You cannot be unhappy listening to reggae music. I remember this was the song that I listened to in my hotel room in Amsterdam. It came on the music channel on the telly. There I was, under the influence, in the mood of my life and this magical song blares out in my throbbing head. The sun was shining, everything was bliss, it was like a romantic film. Weirdly, this always seems to come on everytime I get in my sisters car. Not that I mind. It’s a tune and a half.
Feel free to post yours. I’m shocked too that this blog is back and with content that doesn’t involve Grimsby Town, defamatory statements towards politicians or me being hungover. How times change. What a time to be alive, eh?
It’s mad to believe its nearly a year since I left the blissful land of undergraduate and stepped into the big, bad world. The sticky dancefloors, the flat parties where people stood around in their own, established friendship groups and refused to mingle with new people beyond the first week of freshers, the walks through biting wind and stinging rain to turn up late for nine a.m. lectures. All of it.
University is not all about getting a degree. As strange as that sounds. It’s like, yeah, okay, you have a degree in whatever it is you chose to do but the social side of it is of equal importance. You can get full marks in every essay, every assignment and be top of the class coming out with a First but if you haven’t made any friends or lifelong connections along the way then you have a dull, lengthy three-year sentence ahead of you. I never fully understood what it meant to be a student until after I’d graduated. I know the song- you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone- and that is well true mate.
"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all"
By that, I mean that once you hit the outside world of work, bills, MOTs and looking into further routes of education (I’m halfway through an MA) then it really puts into perspective just how important your three-year ride of the Good Ship Undergraduate really is. You make so many friends, not just people you live and bevvy with, but like-minded people that will be forever in your LinkedIn connections or liking your selfies on Facebook. It is a great thing to realise that you’re not alone. The class you graduate with all start off on the same rung of the ladder as you have- it is encouraging to know that a few of my fellow Creative Writers have jobs in the industry already. The rest of us are not that far behind.
The lecturers become friends, too. It’s not like at school where you say ‘yes miss’ and ‘no sir’ and ‘what you doing in here with your fly undone, Mister’. They become another level of connection, people who will gladly help you out with future projects and, in rare cases, evolve into business partners, sounding boards and just a mate who you can meet up for a pint with on the odd occasion.
Crewe was my home for three years. Three glorious years of successful relationship-building, drunken antics of the blurred and embarrassing kind, honing your craft to becoming the best student you can be. It all comes together. When the Tories upped their tuition fees, loads of people my age were scared off going to university and were left on the scrapheap. I’m not saying that having a degree makes you any better than anyone else- it doesn’t- but how many people have never realised their potential due to fears of the immense debt you end up in? It’s good debt, so to speak.
MMU Cheshire was my alma mater (that’s Latin, I believe- watch out, Mr Creative Writing Degree here) and its not even a cliché to say that my uni years were the happiest, most banterous and craziest trio of years that I have ever been lucky enough to live through. Sure, there were the sad times, the lonely early days, the hangovers from Hell and the stress of rapidly-approaching deadlines. Alongside that it was a decadent time of excess, the student loan opening up a whole host of opportunities. Box Tuesdays (the best club I’ve ever been in), the Student Union where I used to work, late-night trips to Maccies, being given the creative freedom to write about what I wanted and how I wanted.
Just a few things of note that I’d like to share:
· University conversations in the kitchen of halls of residence are, without any hyperbole, the greatest conversations you’ll ever have in your life. (Example: “Would you rather have no neck or be a midget with a neck so long that you become the average size of a human? Discuss.)
· Dancefloors are slippery. I have fallen over and injured my arm (or arms, plural) on three non-consecutive occasions. Don’t be like me. Make sure you have a proper footing before giving it toes across clubs with several vodkas inside you.
· It’s okay to stay up all night and sleep all day. Watching Louis Theroux documentaries at 4pm because you’ve only just woken up from the Netflix binge the night before is a huge part of student life. As long as your work is done (or, at least started) then heating up yesterday’s Dominos and tuning in to see Louis’ awkward smile as he watches the swingers is a perfectly acceptable way to spend an evening.
· When you graduate, don’t high five the Chancellor. I did this. It got a few laughs but I’ll be forever remembered as that kid who pathetically asked the Chancellor to perform an action that has barely been cool or socially acceptable since at least 2002. My legacy intact, I’ll leave you with that.
I’m not normally the sort to make New Years Resolutions but I’m determined to make 2018 the Year of Yes! It’s been done, I know. However, a bout of Aussie flu has left me knackered and its hard to say yes sometimes. Especially with a face paler than an Albino’s torso and a tongue swollen like some sort of dry, leathery sponge.
Anyway, someone asked me the other day if I was ever gonna write a bona fide blog post ever again (its been a while). I said YES. The three magic letters. So, here we are. Blog Roll is three years old in the spring.
Granted, the regularity has evaporated in a jet stream of slothing and generally finding myself too busy to punctuate your day with my opinionated slurs. Nobody can accuse me of procrastination though, I have many things to be doing. I’ve been saying YES to my university tutors regarding deadlines.
“Can you have a 3000 word essay in by 2pm four days ago?”
I’m really hoping that somebody will be like “Hey, Alex, wanna come backpacking up to Machu Picchu with me?” so I cam say a big Y-E-S to that. It’s more likely that it’ll end up with me having to clean out the bogs at Clee train station or proofreading someone’s boring essay about the Defamation Act. That’s the price to pay for making the Year of Yes a success.
It’s a positive mindset though, something desperately lacking in this ISIS-troubled world where ‘Brextremism’ is at the forefront and everyone has hopefully already forgotten about the abysmal Emoji Movie.
Seriously, off on a tangent here but, if I wanted to watch a film where an undeserving smiling face prances around like a more irritating version of Craig Revel Horwood from Strictly (cheers, mum), then I’d just watch literally any Tom Cruise film. I hope there are some scientologists reading this. How dare I criticise the King of the Weird Cults eh? Watch me.
Anyway, I’m getting carried away again. We need that positivity. Nothing in life comes to you if you believe the world is against you. You have to find the will to rise above the dross and the despair of twenty-first century Britain and just say YES.
Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
To that, Mr Gandhi, I say- YES.