Fourth Qualifying Round Report

Surprisingly nasty chicken balti pie.

Emirates FACup 4th Qualifying Round, 15/10/2022, ARMCO Stadium, Solihull

Solihull Moors 1 – Basford United 0 Att. 1058

Pie, 3/10

When we meet friends, or pals, or acquaintances – in fact, pretty much anybody, come to think of it – we tend to ask, (and are asked in turn), ‘How are you’? No one really wants to know, of course. I ask it as much as anybody, though I should know better, I really should. I have suffered from major episodes of depression, the nastiest of which was thirty years back, the last, I hope, seven years ago. I would avoid meeting people wherever possible for fear of being asked ‘How are you’? What can you say in that depressive state? So I should know better than to ask people how they are; unless I know already.

Depression has been a subject for art, literature, drama, music etc etc etc, since someone scratched a picture on a cave wall; but as a Poplad, I have to say that the best account I know of what it’s like to be depressed is ‘When You’re Depressed’ by Go Kart Mozart. Lawrence is one of the great British songwriters, his band Felt were cruelly overlooked in the 80’s; and ‘Back in Denim’ is one of the greatest albums of the 1990’s, but if I had to choose one song by him, it would be this.

What I like in particular is his avoidance of metaphor of any kind. The song is called ‘When You’re Depressed’, and Lawrence tells it straight, from lived experience. How’s this for a verse?

When you’re depressed you stay in bed
And don’t get dressed
You never clean in all the mess
You live in fear
That friends will call
You hide in corners
Behind the door
Seven years since I’ve had sex

I’m pretty sure that I’m not depressed, but I do worry about being asked how I am. What, after all, can I say?

This blog is about following the FACup from Hereford to Wembley over the course of 14 games, and all I have to do in return for sponsor’s kind donations is to find something to say after each game, but it has taken me almost a fortnight to put this post together; the last one was hard too. But, here I am, the night before the first round proper, and I want to say something about the last qualifying game, or they will pile up, and make me anxious, and I could lapse into depressive behaviour. So I will try.

Two weeks ago, I went to see Solihull Moors vs Basford Town in the 4th Qualifying round with my pals Glenn Duggan, Richard Gennis, Bernardo Canas, and Fred Gough. The pie was dreadful, the match OK, made delightful by the people we met and chatted with. But I find the trips are getting harder. My energy is dropping. I feel sick a lot of the time. I’m not sure how much more writing I’ve got left to do, or how much more I want to do. There are footie fans writing up games much better than I could hope to.

After the last game, and my failure to write anything cogent, I got it in my head that I would write a poem, (a sonnet rather than a song) inspired by Lawrence’s frankness, by way of answer to people asking me how I am when they clearly don’t want to know. So I did. I’m clearly not a poet, and so apols.

Alright Ian?

Toenails dead from chemo, my chiropodist

Sands them away with her Dremel burr set

Nail dust floats in our kitchen light. With my legs

Raised out in front of me on a chair

I notice my ankles are swollen with oedema.

I take the water tablet I am prescribed

To drain the fluid from my legs which

I piss, beyond my control into a Tena pad.

Heavy with urine, it peels away from my briefs

And bags the front of my elasticated joggers.

I hope no one can see I have pissed myself.

I hope no-one can smell the piss in which I sit.

How are you?’, people ask in salutation.

I’m good!’ I say, as staying cheerful is a social obligation.

Tomorrow, November the fifth, is the First Round Proper, the seventh game out of 14, and we’re back to Solihull Moors to see them take on Hartlepool United. I hope I can get a bit more energised to write this game up!

It’s the pie as keeps us so cheerful
Solihull Moors crew – l-r, self, Mr Gennis, Fred Gough, Prof Duggan. Bernardo was stuck in traffic.
First polis we’ve seen at a ground.
Moors in yellow and blue

11 Responses

  1. Bernie Bell says:

    I’m wondering how you’re getting on – as I’m not on Social Media this is the only way I can think of to ask. So…?

  2. Jonathan Gibbons says:

    New reader of the Longest Crawl. Thoroughly enjoying it. Came to see if I could find the list of 13 pubs… ? sorry to read of illness … what fantastic books & your style has helped me I have 40000 words done and was struggling with some aspects but your book has spurred me on.

  3. Paul says:

    A friend from London once commented that [US] Americans will tell you everything the first time you meet. Some will. I may, the second time. Most respond the compulsory way. Person 1: “How ARE you!?” Person 2: “Good! How are YOU?” 1: “Good.” 2: “That’s good.” Half smiles. If I’m not feeling well, I can get away with “Okay” or “Hanging in there.” That usually gets an “I hear that!” More than one close friend and I have a policy: honest answers only. What do I want from the less close people? Something genuine. I try to do that in return when I know which words mean it. But that takes time so compulsory wins! When I’m asked more genuinely, not disclosing my heavier truth is sometimes necessary. I excel at deflecting. But avoiding the matter can also feel like I’m rendering myself painfully invisible.

    As your post describes, it sucks that cancer treatment is too often the part that makes one feel like shit. That’s been true of everyone I’ve known who has gone through it.

    What are the ways people have engaged with you socially that are adequately authentic while not making it all about The Cancer? Are there times (other than when writing this post) when you want to say “Here’s how I’m really doing…”?

    Ian, I am sad you are having to deal with this. I don’t want you to be ill. I want you to be healthy, mentally and physically. I’m hoping that happens. I love you.

  4. Bernie Bell says:

    Some years ago one of my sisters had cancer and was undergoing treatment for it. Mike & I went over to Ireland to see her, arrived at her house, went in, said ”Ey up”, sat down and started to have a chat. She suddenly said “Bernie, it’s great to have someone come in and talk to me, not talk to my disease.” She said that people had a way of meeting her and saying ‘How aaaaare you?” – with the aaaare long drawn out – while looking at her intently. She knew they meant well, but it made her feel that they were talking to the disease, asking how it was, not to her. She felt like answering – “I’m fine thanks – that fecker is in trouble thanks to the chemo.”

    Your blog reminded me of that.

    I was wondering where you’d got to and how you’re getting on – first response though when I saw the pic was ”What the hell is that?” A particularly yukky looking pie. I wouldna’ touch it.


  5. Paul Rothwell says:

    Great writing Ian – even if deep and dark. Real Route 1 prose. Be reassured, you still have your writing mojo. Slammed in like a Haaland penalty (no Panenkas here….)

  6. Em says:

    It’s really strange getting old and watching things fall apart. The illness and suffering part is shit. We just get the hang of life and all of a sudden are expected to go through this process that we don’t like. I keep waiting for the Buddhist thing to kick in – I will accept it all and go with the flow etc. If I meditate regularly I can manage it sometimes, but I fall off the meditation wagon so often and end up having a cake instead. We live in dualism. You are not alone Ian and yet you are. All I can do is send you my love. Funny old world isn’t it.

  7. Martin Laux says:

    Another great post, pithy sonnet.

  8. Luke says:

    A great post and so much I recognise after losing both parents to the big C. No need for cheerfulness when you see me next at Elda’s mate. Hope the match is a good’un.

  9. Julian de la Motte Harrison says:

    Thank you for the update, Ian: much appreciated. Hang on in there, my old mate.

  10. Bob says:

    A very good and sobering post, and an excellent answer to the question ‘how are you?’. We must get lunch again soon x

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