‘cos I was there

At the weekend I was reminded of the Max Boyce tour, many years ago, in the (19)70s, that he called ‘I was there’. He had stories and songs about events that he knew were true “ ’cos I was there’ “. That was 40 years ago, when both Max and I were (just) in our 30s.

Well, last weekend (18th November), I joined him in the 70s. We may not have sung hymns and arias but we did have dreams and songs to sing – and not alone. My special treat from Christopher and Timothy (and I can’t tell you how special) was a 1st class trip to Liverpool. 1st class, not only in content, but in travel as well. I’d never travelled 1st class before.

The alarm was set for 4:00 am. Although this was early, it is only one hour before my alarm normally goes off. Timothy had pre-booked the train tickets and we headed to Huntingdon station together to catch the 6:00 o’clock train. Timothy’s geography has never been very good, evidenced by the fact we were now travelling south – to Liverpool?. Unusually for us, we met up with Christopher at Euston without a hitch, and had time for a drink before taking our seats (1st Class) on platform 7 – the train on platform 7 – bound for Liverpool. I know what you were thinking, but, yes, it was the right train (this time).

Although it’s a fairly long journey, it passed very quickly. I’d never been to Liverpool before. Rarely been north of Sleaford, to be honest. We headed for the Liver building for the LFC hospitality lounge. Took photos, had a drink and three course meal – all before 12. Well, it was 5:00 o’clock somewhere. After a few tales from John Aldridge it was on the coach for Anfield. From where the coach dropped us, it warranted another bus ride to the ground, but we walked together amidst the myriad of other supporters arriving in droves in anticipation of another successful game – optimism is rife.

Scarves were purchased – not because it was cold – mainly to avoid any more piss taking for when I next held a scarf above my head it wasn’t a plain brown one (that I had taken with me). We were a little apprehensive about the seats we had – Block U, top corner of the main stand, adjacent to the Kop. Were they so modestly priced for a good reason? Might there be an obstruction? Would we actually see any of the game? We climbed the steps to Block U9 – what a magnificent sight it was – a perfect view of the pitch, the Kop, and beyond the stadium to see the afternoon sky turn to dusk – could not have been better.

It is true the pitch and players resembled a Subbuteo game but it was perfect. Players were identified by anything other than their faces, but the challenge enhanced the experience and in no way detracted from it. We watched the players warming up and the ground filling up. I had never been this early to a match before – it was a far cry from the windswept terraces of the Posh ground in Peterborough that I recalled from far off days. The atmosphere was nothing but friendly and excited anticipation of a good game to come. No sign of troubles that plagued soccer grounds for many years. Seated around us were familiar faces from the hospitality lounge.

We had dreams and songs to sing. I am stirred by the sound of a male voice choir, especially when they’re singing a rousing song, and I can safely say that 50,000 football supporters, filling a football stadium, make a very good choir. The singing may not be pitch (excuse the pun) – perfect but the singing of You’ll never walk alone (YNWA) did not disappoint. It was everything I’d anticipated it to be, and more. It stirs the soul. I could have left at that point and would have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the day – but we stayed, and watched an exciting, entertaining game of football, made all the more enjoyable by the 3-0 Liverpool win.

The journey home was not without incident – wrong train, someone else’s seats, that sort of thing – and it takes longer to come home than to go, (it doesn’t really, it just seems that way). It was a very long day, wouldn’t have missed it for the world, made the more enjoyable to share it with my two sons and my sincere thanks to them for organising it, paying for it, and for sharing it with me on my 70th birthday (the actual day). It was a Happy Birthday to me. I had often hoped one day to go to a Liverpool match, and now I have.

With hope in your heart, you’ll never walk alone – I had hope, and I didn’t do it alone – thank you. And, on this occasion, like Max Boyce, I too can say all this is true – ‘cos I was there!