The Champions League Final is Damned and Doomed: Part II

Barrie Davies’ journey to the Liverpool-Real Madrid final reaches its zenith as the crew enters Paris. Read Part I of the two-part series here.

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Art by Shivani Khot

I don’t know how long I was unconscious for. My befuddled brain, lost in a candy floss cocoon of weird and hallucinatory scenes that alternated from disembodied frogs legs doing keepy-uppy with an Adidas Tango ball, to Zidane headbutting my chest after an incendiary and eye-popping and nostril frothing altercation about which Metro line was the most efficacious to get us to the Eiffel Tower, to Jean-Paul Sartre’s strabismus eye being caught in a full-length dive by Albert Camus attired in a goalkeeping kit, must have fleetingly scuttled out of her insensate shell for the odd nibble at the real world that still flowed ineluctably around me. Albeit, my brain had done this in secret, almost as if it needed an urgent dose of reality to counteract whatever recherche cocktail of extravagantly exotic intoxicants had seized control of her cockpit and, by default, her autonomy. But she wanted to do it circumspectly and surreptitiously, like a mouse in the attic wearing rubber-soled shoes, and not awake my lugubrious and drugged inner self in the process. My brain had regained a smidgen of alert consciousness behind my back and I was virtually oblivious. 

One of these staccato friezes of life existing in spite of everything made me think we had already arrived in Paris. The converted Transit van My Associate had “chartered” had halted at some traffic lights. Out of the window, I could see the latticed iron work of a tower looming imperiously above us, casting a shadow. 

I must have mumbled something like, “Ahhh, la tour Eiffel. Voila!

There was a derogatory and very inebriated honk of laughter and Pete roared:

“It’s fuckin’ Blackpool Tower, ye stupid fucker! Jesus, that Messi Milk muck must have really fried your loaf, man!”

I must have been reclaimed by the vile soporific tentacles of whatever lurid and experimental concoction My Associate had fed me because time and space were swallowed up by a perception-annihilating vacuum that would have had Kant tearing off his wig. The next conscious sensation I had was encrusted in the desperate melancholy of an evil hangover. My tongue felt like a desiccated toad squatting in my mouth and all I could taste was whatever your tongue might taste like, marinaded in horrendously potent alcohol and petrol, should you be insane enough or hungry enough to dine out on it. As I crawled up from a foetal squirm on the filthy floor of the Transit van, I could feel it rocking and swaying from side to side as it began to slow down. I now knew where the petrol came from: the interior of the van was vitiated by thick and malevolent diesel fumes, so palpable you could damn well see them. 

“Welcome back to the land of living, Sleeping Ugly,” Pete said, slapping me on the back with a brotherly ferocity. He turned his face away from me and swept out an arm in an expansive gesture which was halted by his elbow slamming against a window. “Say bonjour to Gay Paris, mon ami!

As my aptitude for serious and focused conscious intention and deliberation gradually and nauseatingly began to return, feeling not a little unlike the cerebral equivalent of pins needles as blood gushed back into a previously sat upon foot, I tried to summon and gather together my still fragmented faculties and insolently wayward thoughts around one all-consuming line of crystal clear enquiry: were My Associate’s methods unsound? To which my unequivocal response must surely be to the effect that I don’t see any method at all. 

“Christ on a baguette,” I muttered, trying to get my Sahara blasted tongue into some working functionality, “You must have a head like a rain-sodden 1950’s pig’s bladder football!”

“Oh, you mean the Magic Messi Milk? Aye, well, yer Gaffer like, he said he slipped you the strongest shot of the stuff, like. To shut you up and keep you quiet, like. He said he knew you would only moan otherwise,” Pete had a grimly amused frown on his face. He coughed in what I thought sounded like a conspiratorial tone and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “And you certainly wouldn’t have approved the inclusion of them.”

I followed the direction Pete’s bobbing thumb was pointing in. Huddled at the rear of the Transit van, huddled hard against the double back doors, were three unkempt-looking men. They smiled sheepishly at me in perfect synchronicity. 

“Oh. Formidable. More mystery guests,” I mumbled and momentarily closed my eyes. I had to quell an overwhelming compunction to be sick. Perhaps the enervating effects of the Magic Messi Milk had not vacated my system quite yet. 

“Aye. We picked them up at Calais, like. Early this mornin’. Let’s just say I don’t think they’ll be needin’ a ticket to the match.” Pete said. 

Oh, my good God, yes, My Associate’s methods were unsound. Trouble was, I really couldn’t detect any method at all, save perhaps only one: madness. And I was absolutely certain of one outcome as the Transit van crawled along a traffic-clogged boulevard, inching ever closer to the heart of Paris: we were entering the heart of darkness. 

As it transpired, the Transit van made a grindingly abrupt and swift detour that took us grumbling away from a rendezvous with the heart of Paris in a belch of foul black clouds of diesel fumes that left tourists and locals alike cursing in our wake.  Wherever our destiny lay, it seemed it would now be encountered somewhere just off the extreme fag end of the Peripherique. As we plunged deeper and ever more hopelessly into the jutting and scabrous jungle of High Rises and their attendant soulless, anaemic and identikit grey, featureless expanse of unbroken and relentlessly vapid shopping precincts that were the characteristic and ubiquitous blight of the Northern Parisian banlieues, I began to suspect that my very own Colonel Kurtz would be waiting for me in Saint-Denis. 

The asthmatic and jittery engine of the Transit van somehow held out and we puttered, seemingly aimlessly, beyond the fly-specked and dilapidated suburbs of the town. Pete remarked, as small clusters of Arabic kids congregated optimistically by the side of the van at each set of traffic lights we stopped at, heedless of the danger posed by any vehicles, that the place looked like Beirut after a rocket attack. I tried to recline on the threadbare PVC seats and squeeze any ounce of luxury out of them, but the inner wirings and springs had burst through rudimentary efforts to quell them back into place with liberally and crudely applied swathes of masking tape, which, in its turn, had begun to falter and fray. So this was My Associate’s “charter,” I sulked gloomily. 

The transit had departed Liverpool in the terrifyingly early and unforgiving Wee Hours of Saturday and headed for Dover. Then we clambered aboard a ferry to Calais. Where we had made the acquaintance of our new pals. Or, more than likely, I suspected they had already been lined up in advance by the ever-resourceful creative planning of My Associate, the man with a method that was ensconced and noticeable by being betrayed by no discernible method. I sighed and would have murdered anyone who looked at me in a funny way for an ice-cold beer: my throat was rasping and felt as if it had been filled with sawdust. The pulsing heat of the day didn’t help, either and dragooned behind the fly-specked glass of the Transit van, the intensity of the sun only served to amplify my skull-shattering headache. And then one of the three new recruits began to sing in an off-key, croaky warble in a language that was indecipherable. He exacerbated the pounding pain in my brain by lighting up an evil-smelling fag that looked like a cheroot. The fug was cloying and smothering. I tried to desperately yank open a window but Pete just flashed a knowing grin at me and shook his head wearily.

“Don’t open, mate. He’s been puffin’ on those things ever since we left Calais. Smell worse than my fucking feet after a two-week shift at the Docks, la’.”

I groaned and slumped sideways with my temple against the window, hoping that it would at least offer a cool respite. It didn’t. My forehead bounced with every lurch and leap of the van. The driver didn’t believe in subtly-executed gear changes. 

“You’re buddy went on ahead, like. He’s waitin’ for us in a boozer down by the Abbey. Central, like. We’ll dump the van – and, er …” Pete jabbed a thumb over his shoulder at the three newcomers and continued sotto voce “that lot. Scope the sights an that. Then get down to some serious bevvy before we head out to the stadium. Bingo!”

“Has my ass- I mean, my friend – has he booked us a place to stay for the night?” I said. Even as I formulated the question in my mind, I knew with a sickening sense of forlorn certainty that he hadn’t.

“Ahhhh. Nope. We’re kippin’ in ‘ere.” Pete replied, stretching his arms wide.

“Of course he hasn’t. Fuck sake. The van it’ll have to be, then.”

“Awwwww, cheer up, mucker. Could be worse. You could support Everton!” Pete cackled manically.

The new boy at the back of the transit dislodged the cheroot from the corner of his mouth, the only occasion I had seen it move from that position, and made a deep, guttural mooing sound from the very pit of his tar-plagued lungs. “Booooooooo! Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool!” 

The man smiled encouragingly at Pete and I and started to gesticulate with has hands, as if he was conducting the Paris Philharmonic Orchestra. He sang a few more choruses of “Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool” – except, in his thickly tarnished and halting English, it sounded like “Leever-puell, Leever-puell, Leeverpuell” and when we only half heartedly joined in, even that pigeon English dissolved into an incomprehensible distortion of quacking and fricative sounds that sounded like a radio de-tuning in white noise or a night on the TB ward. 

“They’re not going to the match?” I asked.

“Er, yeah,” Pete said, his voice halting with wariness. “ You might have noticed that me two mates have … absconded. They had a bit of work to take care off in Calais and hopped off there. We’ll pick them on the way back, like. Sound. No bother. But it means we’ve got two spare tickets to the game. And, eh, your Big Pal ain’t goin’, neither. So the Three Amigos will be accompanying us. A little farewell pressie, like, before they jog on to wherever else it is their joggin’ on to, like.”

“That’s all very neat and convenient,” I muttered half under my breath.

The transit van limped closer to St Denis. As we neared the main conurbation, I looked out the window and allowed my eyes to feast on the town’s fabulous duo of architectural magnificence. Both were epic cathedrals dedicated to glory and grandiosity, both beautiful in their own unique way. Both cathedrals were religiously attended by crowds of worshippers, all paying homage and praying for heaven. The first was the Abbey of St Denis, dedicated to God. I could see its spire peek above the humdrum huddle of buildings as we approached the town centre. The second was the real presence of the Stade de France, dedicated to football, sliding by as the Transit stumbled lugubriously past it.

“Aw, man. There she is, the big beauty! Isn’t she just gorgeous, eh? That’s where our destiny lies, la’!” Pete breathed, spellbound. He bounced over to my side of the van and elbowed me out his way to press his face against the window pane to get a better view of the stadium. 

“And look over there. The Abbey. She’s something else again, isn’t she?” I said.

Pete shrugged. “Aye, I suppose she’s a bit of alright, an all.”

Legend has it that when St Denis was martyred, he had his head struck off. The violently despatched part of his anatomy, so legend also fabulates, then bounced down a flight of steps and came to rest at the spot where the Abbey of St Denis was eventually constructed. 

As we milled around the central square of the town, all hard pressed and constrained by a seemingly ill-conceived and lumpen aggregation of various buildings that surrounded it, we merged into a boisterous, testosterone swamped and inebriated mass of humanity. The hue of the Liverpool fans’ faces, who were squeezed into the square like blood in a jiffy bag, matched their shirts. It looked like the gushing fountain of blood from St Denis’ severed neck had never stopped spilling. As one fan rampaged towards me, his limbs awry and disjointed like a puppet with the strings cut, supersonically fuelled by the local brew and unused to an alcohol strength any higher than the 4% rancid piss water of commercial English beers back home, I mused that if St Denis’ fabled head was rediscovered today, the Liverpool cohort would use it as a makeshift football and have a riotous kick about. 

All I could smell was a thick febrile atmosphere consisting of a potent brew of male sweat, copious lashings of sloppily splashed sun cream, stale beer and urine. The noise was cacophonous and jarring. Impromptu songs erupted from every conceivable space in the square. The sound seemed to swell up from the very stones, wail out of the very earth itself, in an organic, mysterious way.  Barely had one ditty concluded than another hungrily deposed it and ran on in a discordant threnody. I never knew You’ll Never Walk Alone could become such an aural torture. Perhaps it should be renamed “You’ll Never Hear Again,” I ruefully reflected, as I ducked out of the trajectory of a flying glass half filled with beer, swiftly followed by the perpendicular projectile of a fan whizzing towards me like an indiscriminate ICBM fired without the launch code. 

In all the hullabaloo and incendiary chaos, I lost Pete in no time at all. He was possessed by the ardent and frenetic desire to divest all chains of the mundane, his proletarian existence back in Liverpool, and throw himself relentlessly and mercilessly into the writhing whirligig spontaneity of it all, to erase and immerse himself in the raucous sea of his fellow people. The last time I witnessed Pete, before he was consumed totally in the red maw, he was trying to precariously balance 4 glasses filled to the brim with beer on his head while standing on a bollard. As his weight and gravity combined to topple him, his face, alight with a fierce joy and dripping wet and sheened from the spilled beer, remained indelibly imprinted on my mind. The Three Amigos simply vanished, never to be seen again. 

As I tried to peel myself away from the euphoric pandemonium, crabbing my way to the edge of the square in search of a quieter side alley that would also offer some protective shade from the punishing glare of the sun, I heard a familiar voice. The dulcet intonations and sing-song demotic of the West of Scotland were quite unmistakable and stood out like a decapitated neck amid the swaying sunflower and poppy ululation of Liverpudllian and the nasal barracking of the local French populace. I stepped inside the dark, chill relief of a bar on the perimeter of the square and stood a moment, letting my eyes adjust to the twilit interior and allowed myself to be refreshed by the sudden calm and stillness of the silence, which came as a jarring shock after all the violent volume outside. 

I exhaled slowly and opened my eyes. 

“Fuck me, there ye are!” My Associate bawled.

I had found my Captain Kurtz. I had reached the centrifugal peace of the heart of darkness. 

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Read – The Champions League Final is Damned and Doomed: Part I

“You’ll have a beer, aye?”

My Associate slowly and casually rose from a chair next to a very long bar. There were only a handful of patrons within the bar, which I thought was strange. My Associate had an audience of 5 or 6 Liverpool fans gathered round him. They all looked sheepish and guilty when I turned up and positively fled into anonymous nooks and crannies in every shadowy corner of the bar, out of sight to any suspicious eyes. 

Instinctively, I knew three things for certain: firstly, My Associate was taken aback to see me. And secondly, he was struggling to conceal his displeasure at my sudden appearance. There was little doubt in my mind that My Associate never expected to see me here, in such a rarefied scenario. And I got the impression that the sooner I made good my exit, or the sooner My Associate could facilitate my imminent positioning to Stage Left, the more relaxed he would be. Thirdly, I knew he was dealing in black market tickets. My gut and my brain aligned and, in concert with the wary, shifty expression that was plastered all over My Associate’s thin weaselly face, I knew I was right. 

“Eh, aye, funny seein’ you here, eh? Here. Get that doon yer thrapple, man. The Continental swally is top notch. Better than the rat piss we get served up back home, eh, and no mistake!” My Associate was fumbling his words, saying anything to deflect my attention from whatever nefarious activity he was up to his armpits in. I took the beer from his outstretched hand and glugged half of it, eyeing him coolly over the rim of the glass. I hope that defiance unnerved him. 

“Look, I don’t suppose you’ve heard. But there might be a bit of an issue with getting inside the stadium tonight. Rumours are flying around right, left and centre that the French authorities have fucked the allocations. And the French Polis have freaked out. They’re already preventing Liverpool fans from getting anywhere near the Stade de France.” My associate said solemnly as he sat down. 

I wasn’t prepared for this. I laughed, as if to indicate that he was joking and that it was me he was talking to, that I had been through his transparent attempts at wind-up humour before and that I wouldn’t be his dupe this time.  

“You’re at it. Please tell me you’re at it? This is one of your pathetic attempts at a wind-up, right?” I said but my voice slurred into hesitant disbelief when he simply shook his head mutely in response.

“Naw. I got a tip-off from a boy I know in the Parisian Gendarmes. It’s one big all-mighty clusterfuck, pal. Everyone out there is staying there for the night, I’m afraid. Just keep yer gob shut about that, though, eh? I don’t want to be responsible for a riot,” My Associate said and moodily slurped a mouthful of beer. He shook his head sadly and regretfully,” Mind you, the closer it gets to kick-off time and there’s no movement on folk getting out of that square out there, well…preventing a riot now is merely delaying the inevitable.”

I thought about Pete, abandoned to the pleasures of his tribe. I felt acutely sorry for him. He was a rabid, dyed-in-the-wool football man. He was looking forward to attending the match. And now it was just possible that tantalising prize was going to be snatched away from him at the 11th hour. Like an injury-time penalty being converted by your most hated opponents in a Cup Final. How would this news affect him? Then again, a football match looked like the last thing on his mind when he was swept away by the crowd when I had seen him earlier on. 

“Fucking hell,” I breathed. My shoulders crumpled into my beer. “This is awful. Truly awful”.

“That’s why I scouted out this little shebeen. Just for a select few. There’s a wide-screen telly in here. I dare say all those punters out there will be choking to see the footy. Well, the ones that can still see and stand and haven’t overdone the sauce. So I came to a wee arrangement with Claude here,” My Associate raised his beer glass towards a diminutive gnome who hovered behind the bar. The gnome had a bald pate the top of which had been burned to a mahogany lustre like a chestnut and stringy grey tendrils that eloped from his pate had crept wildly down his back. He abruptly – and, it seemed to me, shamefacedly – glanced away and began to polish a glass, an activity he would pedantically occupy himself with from now on. 

“Dear God! Are you fucking serious? An “arrangement”? Just what the hell do you mean by that? How can you make money out of the fans’ grief and heartache, eh? You got the tip off and now you’ve cornered this bar to charge people to watch a match they’ve already got tickets for! Jesus, man. You are something else, boy!” I hissed between gritted teeth.

My Associate spread his palms outwards and assumed a grubby and tainted lotus position. “Gotta make a crust, son. Gotta make a crust.”

“Yeah, but not an honest one.” I finished my beer. “But you don’t care. As long as you’re in profit. So long as you’re ahead of the game. Bloody hell. Just think on for a moment, though. You said yourself the majority of those fans will be pie-eyed and pickled. They’ve been out in the sun all afternoon getting steadily sozzled. They’ll be out of their minds with rage when they discover they can’t get out to the game. But they’ll be equally infuriated – if not more so – when they find out a wee, greedy Scot’s penny-pinching bastard miser is swindling them out of any prospect of watching the match on TV. They’ll lynch you. If you’re lucky.”

My Associate affected a knowing and pacific expression. He tapped the side of his nose.  “That has occurred to me. I don’t want any unrest. I certainly don’t want any unrest being visited upon my good ami Claude here. That wouldn’t do at all and it wouldn’t be fair. You remember I said I had a contact in the Gendarmes…?”

This was enough to render me speechless. I tried to pacify a turbulent and boiling inner storm of apoplectic anger and disgust. “Christ. You’ve got it all sown up. It’s In House organised corruption all the way down.” 

“The Frog Polis’ll keep the riff-raff away. And, if by any remote chance any boozed-up head case does get through that impregnable cordon sanitaire, Claude will have his gang of bouncers on tonight, just in case. And I’ve seen them, man,” My Associate said, sucking in his breath as if wincing at at something painful, “Tasty. Very tasty. I wouldn’t mess.”

I ordered another beer, waving away My Associate’s offer to buy me one. It might have appeared like a thoroughly churlish gesture, a Pyrrhic gesture that was doomed to truculence or downright disregard. If the bastard even noticed it at all. I suspected he didn’t give a damn. I registered a small shudder of satisfaction when Claude, the gnome behind the bar, couldn’t meet my eyes and flinched away from my gaze as if cowering from a reign of heavy blows when I paid for the beer.

“I suppose you were the brains behind those 3 goons in the van.” I prompted.

“The Croats? I had some exquisitely crafted passports at my disposal. They were begging to be taken off my hands. The Croat fellas were looking for a no questions asked way into the EU. Look, don’t get yer knickers in a tangle, will ye? It’s just a service that I provided. Just business. That was all. No biggie, man. Everyone was a winner. They were as happy as Larry. Or Lubomir. Or whatever. Didn’t utter a word of English. Save “Liverpool”. Crazy fuckers. Also, they kept prattling on about Ustache, Ustache. What’s that? Come on, you’re an educated bloke. A bit of a cunning linguist, if you get my drift, no? Ustache. Is that Croatian for thanks?”

I gave him a meditative and measuring stare. I sipped my beer with calm precision. “No, it’s not. The Ustache were the Croatian version of the Nazi’s during World War Two. Except even the Nazi’s thought those mad bastards went too far. Seems your Slavic buddies were just a tad to the Right of dear old Adolf.” I said.

“Oh,” My Associate blinked dumbly. “Well, I hope they got on OK. Best of luck to them.”

“I suppose you cleaned the poor sods out of every penny they had?”

“They got a wee extra, didn’t they? A free ticket to the Champion’s League Final. An offer like that doesn’t turn up out of the sky every day now, does it?”

“Yeah. Free tickets for a match they probably won’t be able to attend. Such astounding generosity,” I sighed wearily. 

“I mean, is it my fault the French polis are fucking useless and couldn’t organise a fuck in a brothel? Well, is it?”

I slammed my glass down on the tabletop. Claude nearly leapt out of his haggard sack of skin and there were a few startled whispers. “Yes. It is your fault. This whole fucking debacle is all your fault. Everything is your fault.”

“Bit petulant, no?”

“Oh, fuck off.” I stood up and was about to head to the exit when a metal shutter clanged down with a resounding crash like a falling guillotine blade. A posse of heavy-looking goons materialised from nowhere and insisted that nobody vacated the premises. I shrugged. I guess I wouldn’t be going anywhere for the time being. The large cinematic quality TV screen descended like Mana from heaven, blotting out the front windows of the bar. I could hear a faint hum of rebellious disenchantment from outside in the square. I glanced at my watch. It was 8pm. The fans would have been preparing to head to the stadium by now. And they must be aware of the ticketing shambles. The wispy sound of their consternation was drowned out by the booming throb of a French football pundit on the TV. I had another beer. I had an incipient feeling that getting smashed out of my face was the least objectionable option tonight. 

I forced myself to watch the first half. I wasn’t really paying attention. I recall that both teams looked spooked by the delayed kick-off and Liverpool seemed incapable of fashioning the creative guile necessary to break down Real Madrid’s compact and obdurate high defensive line. I think I commented to a grizzled old French regular beside me that the match had a stultifying inevitability about it and it would end 0-0. As I watched one futile long ball after another play out on the screen with a depressing finality, I recalled, in a kind of drudgery-induced daze, a thought experiment proposed by the French Post Modern philosopher, Jean Baudrillard. To test his postulation of The Simulacrum, he invited you to imagine a football match. The match was being played in an empty stadium. The only way the match could be watched was on TV. In such a hyperreality, Baudrillard cautioned with speculative prescience, how was it possible for those watching the match on TV to know that they were observing a real event and not an elaborately manufactured imposter? Not a fake, exactly, but something much more disturbing than that: not a counterfeit, then, but something too real; more “ real” than what is real? 

I could not shake off the uncanny and unsettling sensation – no, the certain fact – that I had been claimed by the Simulacrum and that, consequently, I had entered The Matrix this night. 

The match didn’t hold my attention or my interest. I started to allow the cogs in my brain to turn and to try and spring an escape from the bar. I got chatting to one of Claude’s bouncers, who turned out to be a very amiable sport and who was exceptionally amenable to a bribe. I asked him if he had a car and, if so, would he be willing to take me into the centre of Paris for 200 Euros? (I subsequently found out a taxi from St Denis to Paris would have cost only 60 Euros. He probably couldn’t believe his good fortune.) We were in the small back alley of the bar within 60 seconds flat. He scooped up a stray football that had been lying in the yard and played keepy-uppy for a moment. He then trapped the ball with the sole of his foot and, reaching into his leather jacket, he produced a flick knife. Before I had any time to be alarmed, he stooped down and stabbed the flick knife into the ball. It deflated with a sad and tuneless fart of air. 

“Zat is what ze football is to me these days, Monsieur. Merde. Mort. All ze magic ‘as gone. Non?” He said in a tone of infinite tragedy and world-weary resignation. Then he turned on his heel and motioned for me to follow him. “Allez. We’ll be in Paris in less than hour.”

For reasons that I either cannot remember or for reasons associated with the extravagantly poetic pathos of his ball-bursting action, I picked up the sagging ectoplasm of the ball and stuffed it in my pocket. It seemed like a fantastically important symbol of something. 

I asked to be dropped off as close to the Seine as possible. I knew obtaining a hotel room at this hour would be straining the limits of the possible but I didn’t care. The night was warm and ripe with romance and a passion to walk on the wild side. It was Paris, after all. I sauntered down to the great river, my head turned by the dark bulks of the Bouquinistes. I could smell the sharp tang of mottled and moth-eaten old paperbacks. As I neared the bank of the Seine, I could hear trees whisper sweet nothings to each other. The river had a lusty tang of weeds and wanton flow. There was something libidinous and seductive about its great swelling depths. The surface of the river was a deep, almost dull azure. The sun had set but the sky was still a luminous afterglow of russet and pink, tinged with a cold nimbus of blue. It would be full dark soon. That was when my thoughts were crowded with snippets and illuminations and half-sighed susurrations of French literature. I turned my head in the direction of the Pont Neuf and was convinced I detected the barely perceptible cry of the woman who Camus heard fall in the river; I staggered along the side of the Seine, green with absinthe and a curious desire to be Rimbaud; I was Sartre’s Daniel ready to drown his kittens. 

I lay down on the quay, the great honey-coloured slabs still warm. I knew I would sleep here tonight. Just as I knew I would make my own way home. I had no desire to ever see anyone associated with this excursion again. As darkness tumbled down, the stretch of quay I was lying on became unbearably uncomfortable. My ears were numb and encrusted with flakes of stone. I thrust my hands into my pockets and one of them gripped the deflated football. I pulled it out and laid it beneath my head. On such a pillow, I dreamed Scotland won the World Cup. 


Barrie Davies

I live in Dunfermline, Scotland and support the local team, Dunfermline Athletic. When that gets too stressful, I relax by reading books on all sorts of eclectic subjects. Naturally, I watch a lot of football and have a particular fondness for the Scottish and Dutch varieties.