Obituary.

If you checked out now, how would you be remembered? Fondly by some? Infamous by others? Perhaps. Not. At. All. Maybe you’ll be forgotten, like a lost teddy bear on a train bound for nowhere in particular.

What’s your legacy? Did you do something good? Did you make someone better? Maybe you broke a heart, or a string of hearts. Maybe you’re but a regret to most and a faded memory to another. Perhaps. Nobody. Will. Recall. You.

What did you do right? How did it go? What did you leave behind? A divorce? A fatherless child? A mother grieving over an unborn dream? It could be that words won’t be spoken about you. Perhaps. Silence. Is. Best.

Who’ll be there? At your funeral. Will there be shadows cast from people? Or the shapes of memories dancing in fading lights spun by the branches of trees dancing in the wind? Perhaps. No one. Will. Know. When. You. Go.

Will you get a choice when to go? Unlikely. Most never know. Some expect. Some arrive at an unfortunate moment. Some prepare well ahead but it arrives far too soon. Some get through extra days and leave as heroes. Some die another day. Some have no time to die. Perhaps. You’ll. Never. Know. Until. It’s. Over.

The departed.

The bereaved have a particular look about them. They look flushed of colour. All their facial expressions drain away. One day they’re happy go lucky and full of vim; the next they’re a mix of grey pastels on tainted dull canvas. Their ears droop in tune with their frown. They look tired and out of focus. Loss is evident across their face. Their words are spoken slower and they take longer to stand up. They don’t bounce around looking for coffee and they certainly don’t race home on their bicycles.

I never know how to act around them. Do I stay the same? No. Not at all. Things are no longer the same. Loss is not a gain. I show my empathy but it never feels enough. I don’t want to say too much, but I do want and try to show I care. It’s not easy. Nothing ever is. Their loss is a challenge. My challenge is simply to be there for them, in the littlest of tiny small kind of ways.

How do you cope with loss? How do you act when someone departs? How many tears are too few? Or, too many? Is silence the treatment? Does that kind of loss ever truly fade away? How long does it take to recover? How many words need speaking? How does memory remain? How can I not forget you?

The dead don’t care. Maybe they did, before they left. Maybe their spirits go to heaven, Elysium or into the clouds. I can’t say. I’m no expert on the afterlife. Maybe they do care now. Or do they live on in us? Perhaps they flutter between the molecules and matters that make life? Could they be the vacuum of space? Or compost bringing life from waste?

I don’t want to feel what they feel. I don’t want to act differently or awkwardly. I don’t want to ask too many questions. I don’t want to forget the dead.

May you all rest in peace.

A letter to Bernard Halford (1941-2019)

Dear Bernard,

Or should I call you Mr Manchester City?

Where are you? Where will you sit now to watch City? Up there on a blue-tinted cloud or somewhere on the moon waving a blue flag ever so proud? Is there less of a queue at half-time for a pint? Who will listen to your stories?

Firstly, I envy your position within the club and I am proud that you were one of our own for so long. You deserved the crown of Life President at City. It was only the second one handed out. Gary Cook back then made a great speech about it all. I read it in the programme and the website. I bet your face was beaming with your familiar smile. You could have retired at that time, but no your cracked on!

The Blue Moon Rising video catapulted you to many who had not seen you in person. A few scenes in dusty relic rooms here and a few words there. Wasn’t much but we all knew who you were. Not quite Carlos Tevez or Adebayor and their riches, but you had something more. A genuine belief in your club – from an early age to an this early exit. For me it feels like a defeat against Halifax Town in the cup. You never were given the rounds of life’s cup competition that you deserved.

I think some will appreciate that you’ve been with us in the dark days and here in the days when polish was on the purchase orders. You’ve had budgets in red numbers and abusive shouts thrown your way. It can’t have been easy. Forgive those who did it.

I enjoyed seeing your lift the 2011 F.A. Cup. You know why? Because, anyone who sticks with us and City that long, deserves golden moments. You did it for us. You came from Chadderton, via Ardwick, and managed nearly 40 years between Moss Side and east Manchester’s Sportcity-Etihad Campus-CFA-Bradford. Okay, you had to work at Oldham first, but that’s not a bad thing, if it got you to your dream club. That boyhood dream to lift a cup was earned.

You’ve served our club so well. I always recall working with Rhun Owens, then secretary of Aberystwyth Town F.C. and getting a good understanding of all his day to day tasks. He worked tirelessly and for little reward. He took great pride and made sure many letter i’s had dots and t’s had the appropriate level of crossing.

Rhun Owens and yourself are alike. Long-serving, passionate and devoted agents to each club that you supported. You’d both visit the youth and reserve teams and carry the flag for the teams. Rhun Owens was often seen as Mr Aberystwyth Town and had a stand named in his honour. I hope that Manchester City find a little piece of home to apply your moniker. An advocate needs to be known. If ever someone gets the chance that you or Rhun has, they must take it and bleed the colours of the clubs that they follow. They, like you and Rhun, will be part of the lucky few. The things you have seen!

Your legacy includes shaping the official supporters’ clubs, the then Junior Blues, and many grassroot football projects regionally. You’re known at the Academy for more than just signing contracts and paperwork. The Football Association answered your calls all too often – as did Club Historian, Gary James, to which you’ve shared unparalleled tales and history. The Hall of Fame at City has your name for a reason.

Eddie Sparrow, who suffered a loss of his own recently, the poor soul, describes up there as ‘the stand with no name‘ – well by giving it that name, it has a name – and I guess now you’ll be there, with Eddie’s Linda. Loss is a terrible thing and I pass on my thoughts to all who lose someone special. My support is with you. Football has lost something today. I only hope that your example has created other ready to give their time and efforts, as you did. First, we’ll mourn and then we’ll celebrate. We’ll look for your familiar face, as always but you’ll be absent, or sat up on that very-very-very-top-tier with the likes of Nigel Carr, the eternal seasoncard holders of Let’s Not Forget Past Blues, some of my late family and many others. Keep cheering for us down here please. We need it.

The word irreplaceable springs to mind. My condolences to your family, loved ones, friends and all those associated with Manchester City. We’ve been lucky to be blessed by your loyalty and in that we have been really lucky to know you.

Yours in football, love and peace,

 

John Acton