Of Mice And Druids. Cold Flowers From The North Riding

In the current climate of Tory Narnia, wherein the grey-skull right-wing witch of Universal Callousness defends dogmatic cruelty by chillingly spouting bogus figures, like a terrifying echo from World history, inevitably our minds need some memory to jemmy us out of our slough of despond. Like the recent Indian Summers in the season of greyness and windy destruction, my mind was easily drawn back to earlier in this godforsaken year to Sheffield, England and a weekend of camaraderie and respectful competition called The Anglo-Galician Cup. This year I was fortunate enough to be invited to witness this brilliant event, and it just so happened that it was the tenth anniversary of the event, so emotions were running high.

On the Saturday, my brother, Bill Boroman McCartney, and I set out for Fagins pub in the heart of old Sheffield, with the intent of spending a few hours with Stags and Porcos Bravos, in a social preliminary to the football contest on the Sunday. This social scene turned out to be like meeting James Joyce in his Ulysses mood, as the crack and musical improv became an engrossing, epic narrative. I sat back in admiration and revelled in the superb turns from talented musicians on both sides of the relationship that defines the Anglo Galician Cup. In the seventh hour of this musical treat, spirits still unflagging, we were regaled by a stirring punk rendition of a Bob Dylan classic by, I later discovered, the lead vocalist and guitarist in Gog Y las Hienas Telepaticas. Joao Avalanche with spontaneous generosity soon after sent me, gratis, a t-shirt and CD of the band’s second album, Choke/Drown. I am now a bona fide fan and have thoroughly enjoyed Gloat,and their third album, Triad.

The Sunday saw me, in the fairly early morning sunlight, wilfully contributing to dragging goals into position for the match, as the Stags and Porcos Bravos did their prematch exercises. It was telling that some of the Porcos Bravos players were more inclined to walk around thinking rather than running up and down; stretching mental muscles to counter the youthful Stags, who were setting the artificial turf alight with their sprints. Soon after the kick-off, this strategy was realising its worth as The Stags created some early chances, and even scored after ten or so minutes from a vigorous and accurate move.

The Stags also went close from a Chris Waddle-type free-kick as their physical fitness stretched the seasoned legs of the Porcos Bravos. However, as the game went on, the Porcos Bravos nous began to resemble a Muhammad Ali bout, as they soaked up pressure, countered cannily, and kept the score to a precarious one-nil, right up to the eighty-ninth minute. As we know possession is nine tenths of the law, but it is that tenth finish that can define football matches. When a Hamlet-like kerfuffle took place in the Stags box, the referee was compelled to point to the spot. Anyone inclined to go to the pub early were spinning on their heels to watch the drama unfold. Up stepped Fer to deliver the most delightfully insouciant spot kick you are ever likely to witness on any world continent. Each witness was, for their own reason, somewhat lachrymose; a cocktail of tragedy and triumph and neutral aesthetic admiration filled every glass with cheer... and confusion. What did the draw mean? Who had retained the Cup? It was finally decided penalties were the answer. Each goalkeeper filled the goals with their presence, but The Stags filled the Porcos net on a ratio of two-to-one, so The Stags had won the Tenth Anniversary Anglo-Galician Cup. The handshakes were steeped in mutual respect, even more than the celebratory lunch was is gravy.

The international group moved on to a grand hotel in Sheffield, the name of which escapes me still, but I’ll not forget the sumptuousness of the surroundings and the whole feeling of friendship as all and sundry shared a lavish and generous Sunday lunch, before going to old industrial Sheffield for a Kelham Island pub crawl. New friends and old commingled in the socially rich atmosphere of the real ale trail of old and new Sheffield, and the value of The Anglo Galician Cup was palpably enhanced. And, like memory, hope for the future is required to resist heavy existential gloom, so consequently, my mind is constantly envisaging the next instalment around springtime 2018, and the enthusing prospect of visiting the beautiful and vibrant Pontevedra.