Saturday 26th November 2016.
“Don’t let him shoooooot! Don’t let him shoooooot!”
Ah, dear Shamim, of Pond’s Forge, five-a-side goalkeeping fame. It was a familiar cry, as I approached goal on one of my snaking runs, ball on a string, Axeman at my heels. Though not quite as satisfying as Mica’s “Too good!” as the ball scorched past his flailing hand, completing my last ever hat-trick. It was the end of Mica’s playing career too. I see him, in my mind’s eye, forever floating in that audacious, slow motion dive (worthy of Lee Majors’ The Unknown Stuntman, or Jimmy Rimmer), honouring my achievement with the last of his breath. Too good.
It’s regrettable how the trivial incident with that child marred my footballing legacy. How many characters and careers have been tarnished by a milksop tot crying for its mother? An innocuous overarm toss of a football, that’s all it took. Striking the ceiling tile above the prone child’s head, down came the ball, smack in his face. I sensed the imminent arrival of an aggrieved father from the changing rooms, so could hardly dawdle. I imagine the child, in later years, will thank me for that (Little Bodger, let’s call him). There’s nothing like a good weep induced by physical pain and the smart of injustice, especially when it’s solitary. Little Bodger’s first glimpse of a cold, indifferent world.
Anyway, like Johann Cruyff in his prime, shrugging off Jan Olsson with one of those trademark turns, Shamim, also in his prime, shrugged off office life. Ditching the lunchtime five-a-side for entrepreneurial enterprise. One of his strings being Darbaar on Middlewood Road, Hillsborough. We held a Pony Club event in the upstairs room there one February, I remember. Splendid Indian buffet. We danced under a Glitter ball; sang with raucous gusto. Hey prestoed a bottle of gin… Soon afterwards, Arusuvai, another Indian, came and went in a blink. And now, in daring defiance of empirical evidence (suggesting forlorn prospects), we have Two States, offering Southern Indian cuisine, if you’re quick. If you’re as eager as we were on Saturday night, you may even catch them ironing tablecloths at the bar – a novel, early evening distraction.
Only the two dips on the standard pickle tray serving (superior versions of mango chutney and Pungent lime pickle), together with three ‘pappadams’ – but for a meagre £1 who can argue? (Raita and a mixed vegetable pickle also available at extra cost.) The starter highlight, devilled squid, looked like a Lilliputian oil slick tragedy: the black sludge snarled with the bleached rubber rings of the drowned; yet its rich, fiery depths transcended appearances and rubber ringiness. The onion bhajis stole the beauty contest: three delicate, golden hotties; just lacking a juicy, melting look to the judges. Main dishes, more than acceptable: mutton chettinad and mutton mappas; though never quite flashing enough flesh or garter.
In a disturbing office offsite reconstruction, it soon emerged that post-it comments would be elicited and stuck to the central pillar in the restaurant. Provoking chilling flashbacks to mind-messed thought confessions penned in exchange for release from further white board inculcation and abuse. Rest assured, non-violent disobedience cannot be quelled in these situations: on the back of every dubiously extracted post-it I’ve ever written you will find these tell-tale words in clear, emphatic script: “Help, they made me write this!”
Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Fred ‘Skippy’ Pickles