I spent a wee while this afternoon reading through a forum relating to the days when I used to travel around Scotland following the Heart of Midlothian football team. It was a strange experience. On one side names and descriptions on offer brought back memories of many Saturdays trundling through the countryside to Dundee or Glasgow, Motherwell or Kilmarnock. The journey would usually take about an hour and a half, although when we stopped the older guys would head for a pub and often, all too often, we arrived at the ground with minutes to spare! Of course as I grew older I may have joined the pub crawlers but memory appears to fail me. I always enjoyed the day out, although the team was all to often rubbish! The days were often spent full of hope going to the game, sun shining and sky blue, and in the dark we returned, wet through from the rain that always arrived, arguing all the way home.
Several of those who travelled with us (should that read 'travailed with us' perhaps) are now dead, some through age, others through common diseases or a variety of wasted lives. Others like myself are now spread worldwide, a few at home still follow the Hearts when they can. There are two threads concerning the people at the ground and on the bus. Both mention many I knew, both make me angry and sad. While some of those named are held in a kind of respect find myself wondering about them. Football attracts people who are known as 'characters,' and not always good ones. Some are clearly mental and require avoiding at all costs, some just need medical help. Many laugh at these men, and the vast majority are men, although one or two women make you wonder, and a kind of fame attaches to them. The sad thing is many, stable or unbalanced, have little else in their lives but a football team. For many the attention received is the only time people take note of them, outside of a publican or police officer that is. One man I well knew, famous for his knowledge of the Hearts, was considered a 'good Hearts man.' However in my opinion he had nothing else. I knew him well, and he was of such a personality no woman would want him, he worked in finance but would never reach the highest level, and appeared to have little going for him otherwise. Maybe he was happy, I hope so but I doubt it.
The bus became famed, after I left I must say, for developing an attitude best known as 'wild.' We overtook them one day heading home in our (better class) bus and were shocked at what we saw. A bus full of adolescent imitation 'Bay City Rollers' without the culture (and the Bay City Rollers I assure you had no culture in the first place). The stories that have since emerged left us wide eyed and satisfied we had moved out at the right time! These creatures were, and still are, typical of the football world in which we live. While the majority of my time managed to grow up safely many were left behind. Worse still they bred sons and daughters who continued to breed, some waiting until after they left school, and those I knew are today great grandfathers! You wonder why we need a police force? Mind you many of the police are probably this lots descendants!
Not all fans were mental psycho's of course, for instance, I was there. Many I knew had good jobs, went to Edinburgh's better middle class educational establishments, and worked their way to wealthy retirement in the better suburbs. I didn't. To discover the whereabouts of all those I knew then would be difficult today however. I doubt any would publicly admit that they spent the 60's on that bus, I certainly wouldn't admit it, not me, no chance.
However on the sweet & sour topic still. Something sweet, but a bit sour. I got a note yesterday in one of those brown envelopes that make you ask "What now?" But it was the Pension folk informing me I had to end my dole money ASAP and they would start me on the Pension credit system instead. So as from today the again, and indeed it is that, of job searching and being rejected at every turn has ended. From whenever they get the appropriate papers out of the pending tray and onto the computer I will no longer be a scrounger (@'Daily Mail') but instead an early pensioner, for this is indeed just an early pension, and a way to remove one more number from the jobless total. This is indeed both 'sweet & sour.' This shows that I am no longer a drain on the state but I am old and useless. The combination of the bad knee and age was not what employers wanted, add to that the fact I am totally useless, untrained, and not female, and I was at a disadvantage being over 50. Indeed being over 35 I would say. 2500 people chase some 300 jobs around here, those organisations that run the 'Work programmes' are going bust as there are no jobs. The future for those not old enough to retire is not good, I don't envy them. However this means no more reporting to the Gestapo, no more satire asking if I will be at the Christmas party, no more 'long service medal' offers from the girl at the desk. Of course I have no money, but I am not worried about that, Jesus has never failed me at my lowest moments, but many questions remain. Still at least I am no longer 'unemployed' but 'retired.' and that is more acceptable.