by Anton Wills-Eve
thanks for this prompt!
I was once told that blogging was the equivalent of keeping a diary. It was, one should say is, the digital diarist’s method of recording for posterity the events of everyday life. I have not used it as such yet because I have never been sufficiently bothered about daily events in my life in the past two or three years. It’s all been hospital visits, funerals and similarly forgettable reminders of my mortality. But this week has been different.
As many of my readers know I live on a diet of music, prayer and sport. Well, music and prayer are lovely but not quite the stuff of diaries. I am fortunate, though, in that I live with a lady who some forty years ago did me the great honour of becoming my second wife. Both of us were widowed but, despite each fighting dreadful illnesses ever since we met in a London hospital, we have had two great things going for us. Firstly we fell in love on sight, Romeo and Juliet really does happen in real life, even to people with histories of terrible personal sadness like us. Secondly, she happened to be equally passionate about motor racing, cricket and her beloved home soccer club Liverpool. Geographically we had some slight problems as I supported the London team Tottenham HotSpurs. She was also a red rose Lancastrian so supported Lancashire at cricket and I support Surrey. A real North-South divide. But our love was strong enough for us always to be overjoyed when the other had success to celebrate. Just imagine this week.
I am recovering from my fifth stroke, the long term effects of a double spinal fracture when being the only survivor of a helicopter crash in Cambodia, suffering from osteoarthritis, am being treated for my third ulcer, have had cancer for sixteen years now, surviving three terminal prognoses, and have been a martyr to agoraphobia since I was five and a half years old. My wife was dreadfully ill with claustrophobia -how we met – at university in London but still persisted in studying aeronautical engineering. She was the only woman on the team that designed the two main helicopters in use by the British military today. She retired young after contracting very bad pernicious anaemia and then had an acute heart problem, which resulted in major surgery last year. It is still not properly fixed. So would you expect to see us sitting up for two late nights this week in a state of frankly uncontrollable excitement, a condition extremely dangerous for both of us? No you wouldn’t, but listen to this.
Major sports events do something to us. We can’t explain it. But on Sunday night, it’s six hours later over here, my my wife said she’d watch some of the last round of the Masters golf from Augusta to keep my son and me company. His wife was on an overnight shift, she’s a senior staff nurse at a Merseyside hospital’s acute blood cancer ward. But it was just to be sociable, after all we had no thoughts of an English victory. But Danny Willett had. As the leader, and certain winner, Jordan Spieth faltered Danny compiled one of the most immaculate rounds in golfing history. Starting at level par he did not drop a shot on that round and when told he was leading proceeded to birdie the most notorious hole on the course and went on to win by three strokes having shot a five under par 67.
It was past midnight, my wife was still on the sofa, fists pumping the air and all of us in a state of disbelief. It was great too because Danny nearly did not play as his wife had their first baby just two days before he flew out to the US and he was the last player to sign in for the championship. He also had with him a snap shot of his new son. Can you beat that? I can, listen.
Last night, in the key European UEFA cup, Liverpool were playing the second leg of their quarter final against cup favourites Dortmund. In Germany they had tied the first match 1-1 the week before. Naturally my wife was watching this game. But what a game! The Germans were 2-0 up after nine minutes and this meant Liverpool had to score three as away goals count double in the event of a draw on aggregate. I commiserated with her as this was still the score at half time. All she did was remind me that Liverpool came back from 0-3 down to win the European Cup final against Milan eleven years ago. I smiled in sympathy.
Three minutes into the second half Liverpool got one back, hope was bubbling up on the sofa, but the Germans made it 3-1 ten minutes later. It was all over. My wife looked at me in surprise, “There’s still enough time.” I felt sorry for her. Well that was until 12 minutes from the end when Liverpool made it 3-2. And it turned into disbelief when they got an equaliser to make it 3-3 on the night with two minutes to go. But the Germans would still go through on more away goals in a 4-4 aggregate.
Time was up, but there were four minutes extra time to be added on for stoppages and with just one minute and 53 seconds to go Liverpool somehow scored again with a snap header to take a 4-3 lead (5-4 overall). And that was how it ended. Did my wife leap up in euphoric delight? No, she just looked a little surprised that my son and I had doubted the support of the home fans; and then she took a pill to control her pulse which was dangerously high.
The end? No, something else happened to warrant putting this story in any sports report ever written. A chap tweeted in, the TV commentators told us, who was also a Liverpool fan but had been forced to watch the game on his mobile phone while holding his wife’s hand as she gave birth to their first child. Their son entered this world just as Liverpool were scoring the winner. Now babies don’t really have that much effect on sport, but twice in five days? That’s more than a coincidence and worthy of an entry in any diary.