Then and now

Friday night I left the shop a little before 6 and headed over to the Cheese’s for the night. Mrs Cheese was out seeing Grease and so I had a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise with Cheeseboy and his two delighted children.

Afterwards we cracked a bottle of wine, got a platter of cheese happening, and sat down to watch what was a cracking game of footy. We’ll go well this year.

In many ways it was a typically low-key and convivial catch-up. We touched on the serious subjects, but didn’t delve into them too deeply. For me it was a relief to escape to a relatively serene environment in which I am both welcomed and, in a way, loved. Even the kids look forward to seeing me, which they make a big deal of.

For me it was a rare opportunity to get a decent nights sleep. Mrs Cheese apologised the next morning for the quality of the bed – which is actually a divan – but I told her it is many times better than what I am used to. I had room to stretch and move, and though the mattress is thin it’s superior to the cushions I sleep on through which I can feel the wooden frame.

I had an appointment at 11 and so had a couple of hours to kill. Cheeseboy is the coach of the local U-9’s soccer team, and I was invited to come along to watch them play a practice match.

Before that I walked down Hampton Street taking in the shops and the Saturday morning lifestyle which was once such a part of my life. Returning after a gap of months, and with the knowledge that this is no longer mine, I looked at it with different eyes.

I always tend to thing I’m not a particularly sentimental man, and yet I find myself feeling nostalgic often, and taking pains to recall my memories and record them here. I tend to think there is something ‘wet’ in sentimentality, which I have a general aversion too. I have my wet moments, and I feel deeply – cast a stone into this pond and I’ll feel the ripples. Feeling though is mostly transmuted into thought. In general the rational holds sway.

There I was on Saturday morning however, walking down the path I had hundreds of times before when I went about my business, and feeling very deeply the change in circumstances. I looked about as you do when returning to a place you once knew. What’s changed since then? Is it still the same place?

There were a few little things different, but it was much the same otherwise. I watched the people go about their business much as I used to. It struck me that my old neighbours were the friendliest people I’ve ever lived amongst. The thought had occurred to me now and then back in the day, but now it rang like a bell. The much deeper toll was the realisation of how much I have lost since then.

I made my way to the soccer match, played on the pitch of the local primary school. There were kids everywhere and parents. There were two other games ongoing as I arrived. I stood there and caught up with people I knew from back then, then watched the game.

Soccer at that age group is all about fun. There are no tactics, and most of the rules are very much relaxed. There’s no positional play and the kids follow the ball wherever it goes in a big pack. On the sidelines the parents look on proudly, yelling encouragement and laughing amongst themselves. The kids beam with pleasure, their faces shining.

I watched, seduced by it, by that world. I felt tears in my eyes.

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