Today began with wet knees. Cycling in to Leeds this morning in my (baggy) cycling shorts, the weather was overcast and I did have a bit of doubt before setting off as to whether it was a good idea at all. Sure enough not too far in, somewhere near Rodley, it began to rain and rain. The spray off the road surface became quite lively and the cars seemed to enjoy swooshing past more than usual – perhaps just my imagination. But it wasn’t making me feel grim. And by the time I dropped onto the towpath I realised why. Grown ups only really wear shorts in hot dry weather…it must have been years since my knees felt rain. And I used to love playing football in all weathers, the many different weathers we get in Yorkshire: wet; wet and windy; cold, wet and windy, when your skin got whipped red (games on snowy pitches with the one orange football every school and club had was a whole different story). A teenage joy that has scarcely ever been matched in adult life is that of a well timed sliding tackle on a wet grass pitch…preferably in teeming rain. The smart arse little forward thinks he’s away and through, but you nick the ball and either belt it to safety, or if you’re a really stylish centre half, and I was, then you regain your feet all in the same movement and are away with the ball…often with a beautiful big muddy streak down your leg.
We used to play without shin pads and socks rolled down, just like Eddie Gray…just like Eddie Gray did.