Recently a friend asked me what it was that made me such a strange and unique person. At first I must say the answer that I wanted to deliver was a hard one to spit out. So I told her that I would write about it and then share it with her. So here I am and these are my sliding doors moments that, had they not happened, could have seen my life move in a far different direction.
August 1992: Our English class had just finished reading “To Sir, With Love”, a somewhat evocative autobiographical British classic by E.R. Braithwaite which depicts his life as a black man in post war Britain trying to find gainful employment in the east end of London. But that isn’t what I am going to elaborate on just now. The completion of this book however led me to the next book on the curriculum and perhaps the greatest novel written!
Of course, I am talking of “1984”. George Orwell’s epic depiction of a world in a perpetual state of war. Many of you will already have unwittingly been made aware of “1984” through the ironic sights and sounds of a television show falling under the guise of “Big Brother”. The concept of this show was stolen lock, stock and barrel from Orwell’s masterpiece, pulled apart and remade into a low brow and somewhat obtuse television program to appease the masses of drones who, for reasons unbeknownst to me, watch with a deep emotional connection. Surely Orwell would turn in his grave to see what his work had been monster-ed into?
This aside, and back to the roots of the novel, first published in 1949 we find out eternal hero of “1984”, Winston Smith, a disillusioned member of the outer party who works as an editor in the Ministry of Truth to re-write records, and therefore change history to fall into line with what his party wants us all to believe. Sound familiar? Think 9/11, Iraq invasion and of the 26 countries America has bombed since the end of the second world war.
Within the first few months of completing “1984” I fell into a severe state of depression. The realization had hit me that our own governments feed us consummate lies to feed their own agenda driven greed. Our media outlets, in tow with government direction re-write history to feed us all a daily diet of lies and deception. At the tender age of 15 my mind was perhaps not yet ready to understand exactly what I had read through Orwell’s writing. In due course, some 5 years later I decided to pick up “1984” once more and my previous state of mind was confirmed. The world we live in really is a messed up place to be part of.
Sometimes I do wonder, had I not read “1984” if my pathway in life would have taken on a different route? The effect that this book had on me was profound. I have garnered strong feelings on politics and religion off the back of Orwell’s literary classic and to this day do not believe for one moment the garbage that is fed to us by the mass media, particularly that of the Rupert Murdoch empire. But, that is a whole new topic in itself.
George Orwell may have shaped my social views, though one man would shape my character and sculpt who I am as a person.
December 1992: My sister had gone out for the night leaving her TV vacant and allowing me the chance to watch some late night films. With nothing too enticing on the commercial networks I found my way to ABC and a music show called Rage. It was at this juncture that I stumbled over a collection of video clips by a man most of you would know as David Bowie. The first clip that invaded my visual senses was “Ashes to Ashes”, still one of the most stylish videos ever made. What followed was an intense introduction to an artist who has never stood still and always managed to push boundaries, create new genre defining albums and influence a generation of artists, Madonna, Prince, U2, The Pixies, Nirvana, Blur, NIN and Powderfinger to name a few.
Becoming an obsessive Bowie fan introduced me to previously unimaginable adventures in life. Through his music i escaped my suburban shell and grew into a man of the world, open to new cultures, change and improvisation. It was an awakening that educated me on life. Bowie taught me that despite what other people thought, life would always be more delicious when you do your own thing and be yourself, however that may be. Cliche as it may sound I would not be half the man I am now had it now been for Bowie’s abrupt and intrusive impact on my life.
May 1994: Looking for a way to keep active and healthy after giving up playing rugby league I decided to embark on life as a referee. It was only ever something that I thought would last until my late teens or early twenties before other pleasures in life would take over. Some 19 years later and I still enjoy refereeing as much now as I did all those years ago.
Being a referee is an art form. It takes a special kind of person to officiate in competitive sport. From the get go nobody likes you. Every decision you make will be scrutinized and dissected. The abuse that you receive is something you would not wish upon your worst enemy. In fact, there are days where you wonder why you still do it. Nobody likes referees, in fact most people hate referees, with a deep passion too!
Still, becoming a referee taught me a lot about handling confrontational situations. Through this avenue I became an active people person, less shy and more out of my shell, able to control situations in all aspects of life. I became a much calmer man on the back my choice to become a whistle-blower. There are life long friendships that i have taken from this career pathway. People who will always be around regardless of where I am placed in life.
Making the choice to become a referee is one of the greatest decisions you will ever make!
November 2000: The sun may have been shining however the chill is in the air as players from Leeds United and Liverpool enter the grand stage of Ellend Road to play out one of the most surreal and memorable matches on the football calendar that will be remembered for decades to come. This was also the very first Liverpool match I had attended.
What followed were events that you could not even begin to write about in your wildest dreams. I still remember the echoes of the United supporters, “We are Leeds! We are Leeds! We are Leeds!” they sang as the match got underway. Liverpool took an early lead, and soon doubled it before an Australian, Mark Viduka netted twice to have both team square at 2-2. The red men then pipped ahead 3-2 in the second half before Viduka again scored twice to give Leeds a 4-3 victory and me one of the most intense days out at a football match I have even had the chance to embrace.
From that moment on I became addicted to travel and football. I have been all over Europe to watch matches in the past decade or so, met some amazing friends and enjoyed memories that will live long into my life as I grow older. It is through football that I met my English “wife”, Anna from Leeds and her amazing mum, Pearl! Both ladies have become beautiful friends and fantastic football companions. I also have my Wirral squirrel comrades in Matt and Lynsey. Then there is the London lads, Syed and Daniel, my Liverpool buddies in John and Ross and well, there are many, many more I could list from my football family in Europe. They are all brilliant people who have done so much for me over the years. I could never thank them enough for their generosity and kindness offered in my direction.
Football has been a beautiful part of my life, another pathway that I am eternally grateful for taking. These four instances in my life leading up to now are moments in time I feel were destined to happen.
Always follow your dreams, do what you love doing and embrace new experiences.