Adam Bird

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Tuesday, 25 March 2008

A Decade On

On March 24th 1998 I was in Amadeus, celebrating my friends birthday when halfway through the evening and most probably very drunk I had a life-changing conversation with a girl called Stephanie Wenham.

I had know Stephanie through Safeway, where I had worked for the past year or so. She had, by this time left Safeway, but a few weeks preceding the 24th of March saw our paths cross, again drunkenly, this time within the Station Inn (now Bar 24) back garden. After a brief flirtatious conversation and a sloppy kiss a seemingly new relationship was born. Who knows whether the events of just five minutes later defined the immediate course of things to come, but it was alleged that whilst walking through the pub I had myself another sloppy kiss with an unknown female, whilst holding onto Stephanie's hand!

Now normally, I would have expected a slap or something similar, but it seemed that I had somehow made an impression upon Stephanie, as through a mutual friend it was explained to me that he had been harassed somewhat as to my future whereabouts. Would I be at a particular place at a certain time? As Stephanie wanted to ensure that she would be there also.

It was also later discovered that a conversation had taken place within the confines of Stephanie's bedroom where a list had been written between her and best friend Carly as to my "pros and cons". A list which contents will be forever a mystery, but it appears that the positives were at least one higher than the negatives! I must place here, a suggestion of a repeat exercise and a comparison for what would make very interesting reading!

So on to it was Amadeus, ten years has somewhat dulled the memories (if the alcohol had left any intact in the first place). The journey there was of teasing comments by our mutual third party, but halfway through the evening, Stephanie taking her now customary trait of command led me over to the seating area where it was decided that we would be indeed boyfriend and girlfriend. Hardly romantic, it was decided matter of factly and the rest they say is history!

I never made the return coach home that night, instead Stephanie's sister provided the chariot back. Goodness only knows what her first impressions were, but they would make a wonderful anecdote I'm sure!

If the beginnings of our relationship were assembled with the help of alcohol, our first date away from the confines of Amadeus or Bar 24 was also memorable, possibly because it was rather dull! Stephanie was due to sell her much loved yellow escort, which was her first car, and indeed claim to infamy whilst at Safeway. Being bright yellow, matching her hair and Queue Buster pinny and coincided with the emergence of Lala the Telly Tubby! Loved her car she did, and so on our first date, accompanied by best friend Carly we took a two hour tour of the streets of Gravesend!

After then an hardly auspicious start we soon found a groove in which both of us became extremely comfortable. For the pair of us, it became a formative time, relationships we made then have carried on until this day.

Those early times, were great times, Sunday nights drinking in the Millers Cottage listening to live music whilst working at Safeway or Sainsburys where both social scenes were fun and exciting. I may sound nostalgic, but those late teenage years were great times, without pressure and a live and let live attitude.

I think that as Steph and I got together when we did, we shared a lot of the discovery of becoming adult and what adulthood entails. Our parents brought us up, nurtured us, but as a couple we have moulded and sculptured each other into who we are now.

Steph being older than me has pretty much led the way in terms of our important decisions, the matter of moving out and having a child. Although I have been party to both, it has been her desire which instigated both discussions. Initially, I guess both of us had been frustrated at the speed in which we have taken things onward, to the next step as it were. Quite possibly these frustrations, having effected both of us at one point, causing each other heartbreak and temporary breaks in our relationship.

We were quite possibly the victims of fate, meeting when we did, as if we were to meet now, the length of time that would pass in between key events would be so much smaller. As it was, we never moved out together until 2004, a full six years after meeting. This wasn't ever born out of not wanting to, just financial circumstances that dictated our decisions.

With hard work, and a lot of effort we have gotten to where we are now. We have a home in which we hope we can soon call our own, we have an amazing son, whom we want to provide a sibling for in the future and finally to one day to get married. More importantly for me, not only are our plans for the future, but those discoveries which we have made that have led us here and helped us make our preparations.

My first memories of Stephanie were in the Safeway smoking room having a cigarette and a chat, about what I really cannot remember, but it was a discovery which led to where we are now. Discovering that I fancied Steph when I was sober was another, along with the fact that I no longer fancied her anymore but loved her instead.

Those feelings are all inconsequential compared to the discovery I made about what a partnership, our partnership really means. Not seeking solutions to my own desires, but working at what we both desire together.

Standing next to a women in considerable pain, holding my hand, very nearly crushing my bones into custard powder as she gave birth to our child, was the biggest discovery that I ever made. Although I was quite possibly in as much pain as she was, I never wanted to let go. I knew in that moment, that the journey which led us there, however many pitfalls we had along the way, or how many were to come, it was all worth it, I wouldn't change a minute of it, not even for another second.

On March 24th 1998, I went to Amadeus for a friends birthday. I was worried because I had my paper round the next morning, and my boss in the shop had been on at me for letting him down, coming in smelling of drink in the mornings. I had school the next day, an assignment to finish.

On March 24th 1998, I went to Amadeus for a friends birthday. I had the best night of my life, I met the women who would one day, would hopefully become my wife.

Monday, 10 March 2008

The Romance Returns

I haven't written a football related blog for a while and with the events of the past weekend I felt now was as good a time as any.

Life as a Gillingham fan has never been easy, but this season has been hardest by far. Results and performances have coincided with a time in my life where football has very much become a secondary factor. No longer does my life revolve around the buzz of a Saturday, the smell of hotdogs, cheap watered down beer and endless journeys up and down the M1 in search of three points.

Instead, Fridays are spent with a dying anticipation of spending time with Oliver, time which is scarce during the week where work commitments mean I am home just in time to say goodnight to Oliver and catch him at his most lethargic.

Expensive ticket prices, astronomic travel expenditures, whether it be fuel or train tickets mean that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to justify the outlay required to be fully fledged supporter, especially now that Stephanie and I are committed to the financial burden of the new house.

It is easy to hide behind the current results that the Gills have been enjoying, (or not in the case of the supporters!) Real life has overtaken the ideology that I subscribed too growing up whereby I would swear that Gills ruled supreme both on the pitch and within my soul, that I would be there when we were rubbish just as I was during the good times of the Championship era. That Gillingham Football Club was not about life and death, that it was more important than that.

Truth be known I started supporting the Gills when we really were rubbish, bottom of the entire football league and very nearly going out of business, a similar position to where we are now I suppose, what with our current deficit of a rumoured twelve million pound!

Football is essentially a love affair, with a team, a club, a set of people. It doesn't diminish, I love the Gills just as much as I have ever done. When we score I jump up and down as deliriously as the next man, although that tends to be my mate Reaso, whom not only causes slight reverberations around the stadium when he jumps around, but my bones need to be reset after one of his post goal hugs.

Coincidental my circumstances may seem, and indeed that have been, just as it was when my Dad first took me along with him. He had just witnessed the Peacock era, and the epic playoffs in 87. Taking me along, was probably a good idea in theory as it was at just the right time for an impressionable young kid to catch the 'football' bug. As it was, I did, as you can tell, but it wasn't to the success my Dad had enjoyed and in fact quite the opposite!

This is why during this lull of footballing priorities that there is still hope. Oliver won't be a baby, or indeed a toddler forever, and I cannot wait to take him to his very first Gillingham game! In fact, depending on the outcome of any further sexual activity between Stephanie and I, there may be a whole set of impressionable young men ready to catch the bug, thus the cycle repeating itself once over.

Using the romantic analogy that I hinted at before, life supporting a team, like your wife or girlfriend, starts in a flurry of excitement, all things are new and every moment something to cherish. Along the way there are obstacles, distractions, factors which influence your relationship that are outside of your control, but the fundamental core in which your relationship is built is still there, a love that is all encompassing and to those that haven't experienced it -unexplainable.

This is why, this weekend has been so great for football. Those supporters of Cardiff City, Barnsley, Portsmouth and West Brom each having there own set of circumstances that determine their respective relationships with their clubs.

Why right now, grown men, who have developed life long love affairs are being rewarded, and justifying there time and devotion to the cause. Real life will have encroached many times one way or another, but with the romance returning to the greatest cup competition of them all, fans of not only those four clubs, but for all us whose detachment to their clubs are not necessarily emotional but practical a little hope.
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