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Mephistophelean Angst
Mephistophelean Angst

Being and Nothingness

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 27/08/2007

"I’ve got the tickets, mate" read Andy Humbo’s text. Great news. Child in a sweetshop time. It was Wednesday. As if Grimsby Town v Macclesfield Town was going to be a sell-out. Still, you never know. The season of disproportionate thinking is upon us again.

For me, the first sporting drama of a new campaign. Hope remains .. until the end of the first match, usually.

My children Merlin (15) and Revis (12) couldn’t quite bring themselves to share the excitement. As they get older, they become wiser and more cynical. They know they’re not going to see Brazil. Shame they are too young to have seen Clive Mendonca. I was going to need some selling points. The opposition? "We’re playing Macclesfield". No, don’t think so. The prospect of success? "I’m told we’re playing well but we’ve not actually managed to win in the league yet". No. A day at the seaside? "Well, it’s rainy, cold and windy everywhere else you know". The bribe of a free lunch? Maybe, but they’d get that anyway. Then I had an idea. Juxtapose in their minds the Blundell Park experience with something even less attractive. "Last weekend I went to the Bloodstock Open Air festival. There we had to stand in a muddy field for three days while it rained solidly. Here you can sit in a stand with a bit of a cover, watch the ships go by, and it only lasts 90 minutes". I decided to play it conservatively. "You’re coming". We must be there.

"79 degrees today" it said in the paper as we headed in a north-easterly direction. Well, North Lincolnshire was dull and overcast. Nasty clouds belched forth out of Appleby Frodingham steelworks. Light grey clouds on a dark grey background. And sickly smells. It’s grim up north. I learnt recently that we spend our lives attributing meaning to everything. So Scunthorpe may be beautiful after all. I do don’t do illegal substances so it’s hard to imagine that. I can’t envisage it smelling of honeysuckle somehow. Real beauty lies at the end of the line, in Cleethorpes. We got off in Grimsby. Fresh air and piscatorial aromas. Enjoy the moment. It’s all subject to interpretation. Nothing means anything. Three points will be handy though.

Another thing I find hard is getting excited about Macclesfield Town. "Struggle" seems to be synonymous with them. I admire them for battling against adversity last season and clawing their out of certain relegation. Escaping disaster = success in this part of the footballing world. I’d only ever seen them twice, both times in their non-league days and both times involving dire 0 - 0 draws in the fog, cold and rain. So they’re a proper northern team. Like us, they haven’t won this year either. Today is the battle for the Misery Crown.

Before that, it was time for some retail therapy. We wandered up to Freshney Place. I noticed that the bars in Grimsby nowadays have depressingly silly names. What I know as the Yarborough Vaults is now "The Bank". Across the road opposite Chambers (which at least was once the name of a coffee shop which dispensed fabulous unscunthorpe-like aromas across the town) is a bar called "The Parity", selling "beer, wine and food". Revolution. What does a bar normally sell? And what did "The Parity" sell before? "Two pints of iron castings and a packet of crisps, please"? And what next? "The Mephistopheles"? Selling souls? Confused and disappointed that the soul of Grimsby is being given away, I went to buy a shirt and a pair of trousers (long story, involves French people). Now many people from outside of Grimsby, Southerners in fact, believe that on account of the adverse weather you can only buy Sou’westers and gloves in our town. I managed to buy the shirt and trousers but not without interrogation. "Have you got an occasion coming up?" asked the shop assistant cheerily. Clearly what I was doing was not normal. I understand that, having a greater sartorial affinity to sacks of potatoes and gloves than to anything resembling fashion. Buying a shirt and trousers in Grimsby is clearly reckless, subversive behaviour. We met up with Andy Humbo and I admitted my guilt over a couple of pints (£1-39 per pint, worth selling one’s soul for) and fish and chips (£1-50, likewise). We were made up.

The report continues in Part 2

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