It all seems like a lifetime ago.
There I was, clinging on to my mother in the sitting room in my house in Stocking Wood knowing that I’m not going to see her for months on end, my sister Lyn in floods of tears. My father having to walk out of the room as the emotion enveloped and got the better of him. My Mam’s Peugeot 206 driving down the road with me stood on the front step crying like a baby waving at it until the red tail lights turned the corner and I felt empty and sorry for what I was about to do. That was Wednesday 6th April 2011.
Thursday the 7th was spent tying up loose ends and worrying. Worrying because my Canadian work permit hadn’t dropped through the letterbox. Myself and Doc had stood across the road from the house when the postman made his delivery that morning and he’d delivered nothing but a stupid fucking letter from UPC(Cunts).Janette and I had agreed that I’d fly on Friday regardless.
I paced the floor like a man demented. Shitting myself. Fear like I’ve never felt before. What if? So many what ifs.
At five o’clock a neighbour dropped me home. I was met in the porch by my best mate on the verge of tears. His partner was due to have their first kid in two weeks time, and there I was talking about fear? The worst part of it was the knowing I wasn’t going to be around for it.
One by one, my nearest and dearest showed up to the house. It was like a wake. My own funeral. Well wishing text messages flooded in. The older brother-like figure, the singer bloke out of Rhythm Culture, who was up in my house on the previous Tuesday gave me inspiration in thirty words or less. (In times of loneliness I look at it and it gives me the inspiration to keep on trucking.I thank him profusely for it.)
Everyone stood in the kitchen that night looking at the floor. Janette and I had gotten rid of everything, and I mean everything of what was dear to us. Stephen turned up to pick up the 52 inch telly that we’d bought out of our wedding present money. That for me was a significant moment. It was the moment that the baton was passed from Ireland to Canada.
I loved that telly. I’d seen United do Arsenal in the Champions League Semi Final in the company of Rob, Mark and John on that telly whilst my seven month old daughter slept in her little cot upstairs and Janette went mental at us for cheering the first goal. The second goal? It was celebrated in mute, like a bunch of little deaf fellas.
Good times were had with that telly and me and others. Jools Holland’s New Years Eve Hootenanny was screened religiously and the resultant magic shows from my brother Alan and Daragh that followed were good times. That telly could tell some stories, I’m telling ya...
Back to the kitchen and there was those not knowing what to say, awkward moments. I stood outside on Stocking Wood Copse with Alan D, Kaner and Helga and unborn Adam all shuffling uncomfortably and putting off the inevitable. Not four years previously myself and Alan had greeted the sunrise, sitting on a kerb with a bottle of red wine in an empty new street. Life was sweet and so was the wine. My neighbour Francis looked on, pissing himself laughing at the drunken fools he had just shacked up next door to. And manys a great nights drinking I had with him. But life had changed in oh so many ways.
Eventually the goodbye hugs and kisses came. Proper hugs. Ones with true meaning. “I’ll see you soon”. But how soon? Not soon enough.
All the nights spent with Alan D and him carrying me home from Club Sarah, all the nights in The Coach House with Kaner, all the nights with Helga laughing at mine and Alan D’s drunken stupidity suddenly crystallized into history. And then they were gone. “You and I we’re gonna Live Forever”. I haven’t listened to that song since. I can’t bring myself to.
Steve and Maria made the long trek over from Castleknock. They’re getting married this year. I’m going to miss their wedding. I’m toying with the idea of doing a congratulatory video with a pretend butler serving me Scotch. But I wish I could be there. Yarm? It, apparently rocks. Look it up on Google Maps. Bryan Robson lives there. Get well Robbo!
Ed, my Leeds supporting brother in law gave me a hug. That, for anyone who knows him, is as rare as a Liverpool title winning side since the back-pass rule was introduced. My eight year old niece Ciara sat on my lap and assured me “we’ll be able to talk on Skype, so don’t worry Paul”. I miss her and I missed her communion.
My mother-in-law Valerie saw the distress behind my eyes and shared wonderful words of wisdom with me. That Les Dawson sure is full of shit man!
My brother Alan and Sabine had put in Trojan efforts all day. As time crept on and I knew I had to be up at the crack of dawn for my flight, I couldn’t hang on all night. I’d shared a room with this geezer for a quarter of a century. Time to say goodbye. Hard to do, rock fucking hard. We imbibed twice a week from the age of twenty to twenty five in The Coach House (Monday to Thursday and Friday to Sunday, FYI), he’d lie on the middle of the road whilst we’d replicate the ‘Stuck In A Moment’ video before Kaner would throw his bag of chips into Doctor Hooi’s back garden before we’d come home to watch “I’m Alan Partridge” every fucking night as we lay in our single beds ‘apple-tarting’ and laughing. Our Mam would come in to tell us to shut up because we were waking the whole house and we’d laugh at the fact we’d woken her up. Never a peep from Dad or Lyn. Funny that. Magical.
We just looked at each other and had a big hug. I can’t remember what was said but words are made redundant in moments like that, its just the look in their eyes you remember. It was like a bad dream as he was leaving. And then he was gone into the night.
Right then, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m really doing this shit. Emigration was a word reserved for people who went to foreign and grew beards and bungee jumped. Not me. Not I. Never me. But so it was.
Eva had gone to sleep and I knew I’d have an hour or two with her in the morning. Myself and Janette lay in bed talking about the future. Janette and Eva were due to follow in three weeks time. “Are we mental?”, “Are we doing the right thing?”. Fuck it. We’ve gone too far to go back now. Three weeks apart is nothing in the grand scheme of things is it? “Don’t worry, it will be alright”. “What if they turn me back?”. “Don’t worry. Get some sleep”. No more worries or doubts, the good will come out....
Yeah right....‘Kite’ kept going through my head keeping me awake:
“Who’s to say where the wind will take you? Who’s to say what it is will break you? I don’t know which way the wind will blow. Who’s to know when the time has come around? Don’t want to see you cry, I know that this is not goodbye...”
Terminal Two. Dublin Airport. An architectural wonder. Beautiful innit? Makes you feel like you are in some wondrous city until you step outside I’d imagine. But there is a major design flaw that borders on the criminal called Departures. It’s fucking horrific. You have to walk through a mile of rope before you disappear into security. The Green Mile. All well and good heading off on holiday but, when your wife and daughter are standing there and you know you’re not going to see them for the best part of a month and you’re daughter is going “Bye Daddy! Bye! Bye Daddy! Bye!(repeat to fade)” , you want to get your hands on the architect and strangle the bastard. Thank God no one else came out to see me off.
I was so bad and so noticeable that some oul’ one gave me a hug in the queue to get my luggage checked. She was flying to see her son in Leeds. ”Don’t worry about it son, you’ll see them soon enough.” The first of a lot of motherly figures. I barely kept the sobbing in. In times of acute embarrassment like that and also other moments I can’t go into on a family show such as this, I recite the Arsenal team of 1989 in my head and it keeps the wolf from the door, so to speak . Lukic, Dixon, Winterburn, Adams, Bould........
I had to fly to Chicago and then get a connecting flight on to Toronto. That means US Immigration, obviously. “What’s the purpose of your trip?”.”Oh, I’m heading to Canada to make a better life for meself” says I.”Ok, well make sure you get into Ice Hockey. And you will. It’s a fucking great sport man. Good luck” said Immigration Official. Simple as. Why was I shitting myself so? This will be a piece of piss this...