Roy woke up to weird thoughts and a weary feeling in his soul. In the kitchen he opened one of the three boxes, saw a big envelope marked “Roy” and closed the box again.
It was raining in Edgbaston. Many hours had to be filled before England’s first game of Euro 2012, opponents France. Roy prepared for the ordeal by driving in to Croydon, to his office, to hide. He’d taken the two rooms two years ago and business had been slow. This suited Roy, though he pretended otherwise. At the start, Kristie had been his part-time secretary, but her attendance had trailed off for reasons too obvious for either of them to admit.
Roy sat behind his desk, picked through the post, threw it away, all rubbish, load of crap. He locked up and took a train to London Bridge. Emerging from the complex burrows of the station hub, he bought a sausage roll and coffee from the West Cornwall Pasty Co. and stood looking upwards through the murk. The Shard seemed to have burst from the ground before him, spewing dry ice, pricking the sky.
Walking on automatic, Roy found himself at the start of the bridge itself, watching a Number 48 trundle towards the Square Mile, past the spot where he’d stood, a placard propped next to him saying thirty years experience, anything considered, here’s my business card, here’s my c.v. Below him, the Thames waters had sloshed and rolled, indifferent to history and humankind. Last week it had carried the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee flotilla. It had rained.
Roy wandered along to Bankside, looking out, drifting among tourists, numbing time, until the magnet of kick-off time drew him back to the station, back to Croydon, back to his car and home to Purley before the mass zombie dispersal of rush hour.
He switched the telly on, and there was Roy Hodgson, the England manager. Roy felt allied to his fellow Roy, beaky, stiffly backcombed, shuffling his worried way towards the dugout in Donesk. Like a wartime housewife he’d had to make do and mend: Rooney suspended for the first two games, by which time England could be all but on their way home; Terry facing a criminal charge of racially abusing an opponent whose elder brother had been Terry’s England team mate, yet left out of the Euro squad for what Hodgson had insisted in bunkered tones were purely football reasons.
He uttered upbeat words about the team’s chances, but everything about him signalled that no one should be getting carried away. And Roy was glad of that. So when France equalised after Lescott had opened the scoring after half an hour, Roy’s bore his frustration frustration more easily. It was a scratchy game, the worst of the tournament so far. It ended in a laboured draw. Post-match, Hodgson considered the glass from all angles and declared it, on the whole, to be half full.
Roy muted the sound, switched channels, sighed, went upstairs and into the bedroom that had been Leila’s, and was now the abandoned space where his mother had passed away.
Gwen’s descent into death had been rapid and steep, clouded with dementia by the end. She’d come over for Christmas and ascended to Heaven in February. Don had gone the previous October. Roy sat on the floor, propped upright against a wall and thought about the unstoppable passing of time, while downstairs, in Panasonic silence, all of Ukraine gloried in defeating Sweden by two goals to one.
All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE.
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