Ben and Joe have.
It was 24 Jun 2004. So Ben was 9 and Joe 8. If you’ve read a few of my posts, the fact I remembered the exact date that will probable shock you.
Usually I can’t remember exactly how old Ben and Joe were when the things I write about happen, but I’m always within a year either way. On this occasion however, I’m bang on as I have an ace up my sleeve . . .
It was the Euro quarter final between England and Portugal, so it was easy to look up the date. I’ll never forget that day, everything is still so clear. I was taking the boys to Smed’s house to watch it.
Joe and I were waiting for Ben to be dropped off by his mate’s Dad. He was late and it was getting closer to kick-off. I had the car running and me and Joe waited, watching for his car.
“Thank ****, they’re here.” I was so happy.
“Quick Ben, quick, in the car. Ondelay! Ondelay! Move yaself!”
Billy’s Dad asked if everything was ok and I laughed and said . . .
“Mate . . . England. Kick Off. 10 minutes.” And sort of looked at him quizzically.
“Oh sorry mate, I’m not a football fan, didn’t realise.”
“Ben faster Son, seatbelt on. It’s ok mate, hopefully make it. See ya.”
And we were off. With the speed of a 1000 gazelles and great alacrity.
Amazingly, the roads were empty. Unlike if this situation was in a movie, the roads would be gridlocked. But no, we saw perhaps 6 or 7 cars along the normally busy 5 mile route.
That’s because everyone was watching the match. Seriously. There was a real buzz around the Euro’s that time, especially as we’d progressed well. The country had gone mad with flags and enthusiasm, more than I’d seen for ages.
It meant we were there super quick and there it was . . .
Smed’s 9ft x 6ft England flag, wafting in the light summer breeze, firmly and expertly attached to a heavy duty aerial pole adorning his chimney. Piece of cake to him as he fitted aerials for a living.
It was magnificent.
We hurried around back and I could hear the match had started. Mainly because the big screen TV was at the bottom of the garden, perfectly placed so we could enjoy the beautiful sunny day.
“Cheers mate. Where’ve you been, they kicked off.”
“Long story mate.”
So I parked my bum in the provided seat, grabbed the can of beer from Smed’s outstretched hand and settled down to watch the drama unfold.
Ben and Joe were running around playing with Charlie, Smed’s daughter, who is a couple of years younger than Joe.
Long story short, and it breaks my heart to say it but . . . England lost.
An entire country was in mourning. So close. Again.
We were both cursing and obviously gutted, then Smed went inside really unhappy and I just stood looking at the TV screen. We’d both ‘had a few’ and before I knew what was happening, I was crying.
It’s hilarious looking back, but I was genuinely crying. I looked at Ben and Joe who were just stood together staring at me, with that “What the **** do we do??” look on their faces.
Then, they obviously had exactly the same thought at the same time “I know! I’ll hug Dad better!” because in unison they ran over and both hugged me, one either side.
“It’s ok Dad.”
“I know. Blub.”
“Don’t worry Dad.”
“I won’t. It’s only another 4 years. Blub.”
Hmmmm . . . 12 years though and I’m still waiting.