when all i ever wanted was to be a beatle

i've just recovered from a deep slumber. the only thing i remember from the morning is the cleaner whom i usually say hi to when he pops in on thursday and i'm supposed to be at one the maths examples sessions.

had a poor, poor 48 hours (but it gets better). i had a bit too much to drink at metra and i enjoyed it but i'm sure it wasn't good for me. returned at 4.30 in the morning half afraid someone would jump on me from the middle of one of the wonderfully lit bushes along the thames. i actually bothered waking up in 2 hours time to freshen up and head for my morning class without feeling too bad.

tea, coffee, tea, later, i'm on the underground towards victoria. i'm waiting for the bus to manchester and jingxiang, who was late. so the bus driver slammed the door shut in front of me as i tried to get the bus off its inevitable routine for just a couple of minutes. true to form, he arrived a couple of minutes late, we missed the whole damn bus and we'd to book more tickets.

depart 1 pm instead (oh lost sleep!). got onto the bus with not much in the way of lunch and i somehow have a fascination with the riveting english countryside (no, there is not much to see) trying to see if there were sheep somewhere amidst the power lines and the houses. same featureless post-industrial blend of faux-countryside (as we're all taught to believe happened to england after all those years of industrialisation), sort of the same as on the way to nottingham, perhaps because it was the same motorway. foggy fog fog.

arrived at manchester, had barely time to look around the city square, look for toilets and other creature comforts we had missed out on in the cramped confines of the bus, we took a packed metrolink stop (almost got on at the wrong stop) towards old trafford, which was situated in a quiet part of town, except for match days, poor residents.

i'm not a united fan, so i put on my best smile as eager friends trawled through the MEGAstore (just begs capital letters doesn't it) rushing to see who could empty it first... it was nice to see so many people giving away their jerseys or having nice tokens of appreciation to put at the "george best shrine" outside the east stand, as policemen on horses surveyed the maddening crowd. george best scarfs and t-shirts started at around �5 each.

got to our seats (ticket said :warning, lots of climbing involved), got overpriced burger again (with onions) a free george best poster (which was supposed to come in handy later). it's breathtakingly exciting not being a fan but seeing stadiums with bright red neon lights as they show them on prem saturday, going into a stadium hearing noise and bright lights and immaculate pitches. they got back some of the wba team which best had his debut against, including the fullback who got sold a nutmeg, bobby robson was back of course, as was bobby charlton and alex ferguson. they had an elaborate wreath-laying ceremony of sorts.

the whole pre-match crowd tired their hands by raising their best posters and then observing a minute of silence. moving sight. public exercise of elegy, mourning and grief always is, even if you felt nothing for the person, you sort of felt it was something important, like a soul had really disappeared somewhere.

match got on... i was disappointed whenever there was an offside and there wasn't a replay. to be honest, west brom let ud have the game and ronaldo, saha and o'shea punished them. i loved it when the stretford end kept chanting "no 1 is georgie best, no 2... georgie best until 11... georgie best" and then jumping up and down thumping their feet congratulating themselves for "living in a georgie best world." it was especially moving when you see some physically disabled people do their best to, and again a reminder that something as unimportant as football is actually really important every wednesday and saturday, if only as a nice little way to let go of your emotions. they also had shouts of "there's only one keano", no telling who else they were missing. must be nice for the youngsters making their debut.

nice to see after the game banter between albion and united fans, with chants of "albion, albion" in the metrolink, speaking of cyril regis as "paul scholes in disguise", and a weird inexplicable chant of "john lennon, john lennon." perhaps lamenting the fact that he wasn't given chants in a stadium when he died?

as i sat in the burger king afraid of the cold outside, they started "happy xmas, war is over." oh no, it's that time of the year again, to get excessively sentimental at piped christmas songs. of course, it was by john lennon and yoko ono.

so many role models, or not? there's been a big argument about whether george best ought to have a minute of silence or applause, whether he should be considered a role model or worshipped in view of his dubious personal life. in any case, i don't think morality is a key determinant in worshipping heroes (although some character inevitably is, honesty, directed rebellion, being able to fly past 20 defenders for example), and i think we do know that all of 'em have some fatal flaw buried somewhere (which makes us love them more). in any case, one of the editors of the guardian said it best "we love george best because we wanted to play football like him, not carouse like him."

all this talk, it's never going to stop kids growing up to want to be someone. its what civilisation is founded on maybe.

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