Several current and former professional footballers have died this year, at various ages and of various ailments, but none has affected me quite as much as the untimely passing of Motherwell’s captain Phil O’Donnell yesterday. It seems likely at this point that he died of a heart-related illness, and if that’s the case, he’ll join the likes of Chaswe Nsofwa, Antonio Puerta, Danny White and Anton Reid to die of natural causes this year, although at 35, he was a good deal older than the fore-mentioned players.

 O’Donnell’s death has affected me more than the others, although they were younger players, because he was a local boy, and is so often the case with humans and their parochialism, this has resulted in his death being all the more tragic to me (selfish, huh?). He was born in Bellshill, some 15 miles east of here, and was only eight years older than me. I’m not sure what you can say at this point that isn’t trite and blase or glaringly obvious, but every time I see a story related to O’Donnell’s death, or see a photograph of him, I just start to well up. He might have been approaching the end of the career, but that’s only where the tragedy begins. He won’t have made a huge amount of money from the game, and he is survived by four young children.

R.I.P. Phil O’Donnell.

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Mfft. I’m still somewhat fed up. I now realise that thinking I could just snap out of being somewhat fed up when November ended was slightly naive. Hence, can I expect anything more from the New Year? I know it’s a trite analogy, and one I use far too often, but the psychological boost of the odometer ticking over to a new number might be enough to see me through to Easter.

I haven’t done any of my Xmas shopping, save from buying myself an acoustic guitar. I’ve been meaning to buy one with a pick up for a little while now, and nearly did so last Christmas, so it was a little odd to walk into Cash Converters in Paisley and see the very model and colour guitar McCormick’s were selling last year for £110, for £60. I couldn’t resist; I’ve more important things to spend my money on and I don’t really need another guitar, but…

She has no name as yet.

One of the sections at work had an Xmas (yes, I know) lunch today, which was OK. It’s our night out tomorrow, and I’m off on Friday, so I’m going to try and get royally shit faced. Work’s not been entirely interesting recently, though it continues to bless me with twice-weekly games of football. I’ve been having some problems with shin splints recently, but I seem to have been doing well enough in the eyes of others, which is something of a relief after a long period of playing utterly shit. That said, another few games playing the style I have been recently, and I’ll soon become known as Jay Boyd or something similar.

I’ve been sharing similar misgivings about my blogging as Jimmi Su recently. I don’t feel the urge to update as much as I used to, and when I do, it’s samey, insipid rubbish. This wouldn’t bother me so much if it wasn’t a reflection on my creative juices in general. I don’t write as much prose, lyrics, or music, I hardly draw at all anymore, I’m not taking photographs…it’s a reflection of a mind parched of creative juices. Again, I’m hoping this is local to the winter solstice and I’ll be reinvigorated in the New Year, but I’m not holding out too much hope.

I don’t even have anything to moan about. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is quite worrying. Anyway, I’m off as I have a new song to try and write. :s

Over the last few years, my father, my second cousin and I have all been working on tracing our communal family tree. Or should that be family copse? I am not sure. I’ve been trying to tie together the research made by dad and Suzanne without a huge amount of success. This is mainly because, while the English and Welsh census is free to view on the internet (to a certain point), the same can’t be said for the Scottish census. And when roughly 1/8th of my family were born and died in Scotland, I’ve been hampered somewhat.

I’ve also found it difficult bleeding information on ancestors from my immediate family. My mother just doesn’t seem to know anything, gran wasn’t all there recently, and Aunt Jessie seems confused about it all (and we don’t even know what relationship she is to me; ‘aunt’ is just a more efficient term). Nevertheless, I’ve constructed a table of my great-grandfather Donald Marquis’ descendants, and thanks to social networking sites and the internet in general, I’ve managed to get in touch with a few of them.

My mother recently managed to get hold of her cousin Blair after being out of touch for a few years, and we met up with him yesterday during his trip up to visit his mother.

At this point, it’s worth outlining the family tree a little. My gran was the youngest of six children (two boys and four girls); her eldest sibling Meg was around 20 years old when she was born. As a result, Meg’s grandchildren are about the same age as the rest of the family’s children. She married a Tommy Bickerstaff, a footballer with the local junior team Arthurlie. Donald never married, and had no children. Hector married Margaret and they had Blair, Jenny married Matt Roberton, but they had no children, Nan married Sam Paterson and they had three sons (Jimmy, Donald and Graham) and my gran married Archibald Kirkwood.

That’s long winded, but it sets the scene. Blair Marquis, the Paterson boys and my mum and uncle Dickson were all of a similar age, and living within a 30 mile radius of each other meant they were quite close. Unfortunately, since the death of Jimmy and the Marquis siblings, they’ve all started to drift apart somewhat. This is why us third/fourth generation offspring have no idea who anyone else is.

In this respect, it was good to meet Blair. I say meet, I’ve obviously met him before, but I was too young to understand exactly who he was or what relationship he was to me. A similar situation occurred when I met my great aunt Ann in the U.S. in 1992; at that age, I couldn’t grasp the significance of the fact she was my gran’s sister, and thus the closest I’d ever get to meeting my gran, who died some twenty years before I was born. Meeting your relatives is a little like peering into the past; traits and characteristics are undoubtedly decanted down into progeny, and by spending time with them, there’s a chance you can glean some insight into what your immediate ancestors might have been like. That might be bullshit; I’d like to say it’s like when scientists can extrapolate theories of the past based on echoes and gravity, but it’s nowhere near as precise as that. But yesterday my mother did say from a certain angle she thought Blair looked just like her brother, something I happened to agree with,  and for me that just confirmed my theory might offer something.

We met Blair at his mother’s house, a few hundred yards from Prestwick Airport. When I was younger, she ran it as a bed and breakfast, and I can remember vividly visiting her when I was four or five years old. Margaret was married to my Uncle Hector, although she was 15 years his junior. She’s the same relationship to me as my great-uncle Matt, who I was reasonably close to, my great-uncles Sam and Tommy, who I never met.

Anyway, Blair now lives in the Essex area with his wife Alison and their two children, my second cousins, who I again have never met. Perhaps I shall at some time.

Clockwise, from left: Rachael, Kara, Blair, mum, Aunt Margaret.

Aside from pruning the family tree, I haven’t been up to much. In all honesty I’m kinda winding down the year, and there’s not much else I have planned. I have to buy some presents, pay the rest of gran’s funeral, and pay for my New York accommodation, and I have my work’s night out on Thursday night. Thankfully, I’ve only five more working days until the 4th of January, which is a good thing, as Christmas with my family always seems to sap more energy out of me than work does. In other words, I’m being lazy.

Manic on the streets of Edinburgh…

I decided on the spur of the moment to buy a ticket for the Manics’ gig at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange venue a few months ago. I’d done it with enough time to spare that I could arrange two days holiday from work either side of the weeknight gig to meet up with people and allow myself some recovery time the day afterwards. However, I didn’t bother looking for a hotel as I though I’d have plenty of time to get the train back afterwards. It would turn out that I had been both far and short sighted…

I don’t really know Edinburgh; despite it being an hour away and allegedly the capital of my country (because it has a castle or something), I’d only been three or four times previously. Last summer I met up with Maya from New York, and she showed me around. But I decided to go anyway, mainly because it gave me the opportunity to meet up with some other fans of the Manics I’ve met online.

And I’d arranged to meet relic, otherwise known as Jeanette, who is one of the mods on Forever Delayed. For whatever reason we get on quite well, so when I saw she was going to the gig, I suggested we meet up before hand; Manics fans have a tendency to gather together in packs near the venue for anything up to six months before the doors open. She was up in Scotland by herself, and so we did meet up in Princes Street gardens. There was a Christmas market set up, and we had something to eat; being an alumni of a Black Country uni (a? The…) I couldn’t resist the hot pork and stuffing sandwich, and rel had some crepes. Then we had a discussion about the difference between the internet and real life, especially how it’s almost impossible to pronounce internet abbreviations in real life, and how daft you feel calling someone by their online user name.

About sixish we got the bus down to the venue, some three miles out of town. Lothian buses are apparently among the best in Britain, and I had no complaints with the outward journey. We went into the pub next to the Corn Exchange where we had a couple of drinks and met up with Rob and his friends. I met Rob at James Dean Bradfield’s solo gig last year, and he’s famous for being the guy who provides crystal clear bootlegs of a good deal of the Manics’ gigs.

 The gig itself; support act Cherry Ghost were interesting if slightly dull; they didn’t begin to pick up the tempo until their last couple of songs. But before too long, the headliners made their entrance; the emergence of Nicky’s glitterati bestowed mic stand was greeted with a cheer, and the band came on to the strains of their recent b-side instrumental ‘The Vorticists’, and launched straight into a muscular version of their early classic ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, a song that continues to grow and improve with age, with its live incarnation generally just edging the recorded version. A greatest hits with the additional curveball followed…

Motorcycle Emptiness
Autumnsong
Everything Must Go
Roses In The Hospital
I’m Just a Patsy
Slash ‘N’ Burn
Ocean Spray
Yes
La Tristesse Durera
1985
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
Kevin Carter
You Love Us
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
*****
Suicide Is Painless (Theme From M*A*S*H) (Acoustic)
The Everlasting (Acoustic)
*****
Send Away The Tigers
She Sells Sanctuary / Motown Junk
Little Baby Nothing
You Stole The Sun From My Heart
The Masses Against The Classes
A Design For Life

The addition of Sean Reed on keyboards/saxophone and Wayne Murray on guitar has really fleshed out the Manics’ sound in recent years. For a while in the 90s and early 00s they struggled to recreate their increasingly sophisticated records in a live context, but now they have a little more versatility at their disposal. Even Nicky, a musician regularly mocked for his lack of technique, has improved noticeably in the last few years; maybe that’s just confidence. James had regularly prefaced ‘Motown Junk’ with snippets from other songs; this had generally tended to be ‘Baby Love’ by the Supremes, or ‘Into the Valley’ by the Skids when in Scotland, but this abridged rendition of the Cult’s signature song was a full band affair, and pretty impressive all told.

James’ acoustic section was a delight as ever; he played a wonderful, delicate version of ‘The Everlasting’, a song he seems to hate, but which is, in my opinion, glorious and verdant and luxurious and one of their most affecting compositions. The verse progression is like an Escher drawing, which continues to climb and circle and modulate before conspiring in a blissful affair with the much simpler chorus. Unfortunately any acoustic version suffers from missing the recorded version’s guitar solo, possibly the most gorgeous piece of instrumentation James has ever committed to…er, digital…thingy…0s and 1s.

After the lights came on and the excruciating Christmas single was played over the PA (yes, Christmas single), I made a sharp exit, retrieving my jacket from the cloakroom and making my way outside; I hate lingering in venues and pubs after time has been called, which places me in 0.001% of the population.

It was only about 10:45 at this point, and I had 45 minutes to make it to the station before the last train left. The bus arrived at a few minutes after 11; 30 minutes to traverse 3 miles; this wasn’t going to be a problem, was it? The bus passed Haymarket station, which was the first stop the Glasgow bound train reached after leaving Waverley, and I thought about getting off, but I dallied and missed the chance. ‘No matter’ I thought, the train guide said there was one at midnight leaving from Waverley, even if I missed the half eleven one. This was at around 20 past. It then took the bus nearly ten minutes to travel a mile along a deserted Princes Street, something I will never understand how it managed as long as I live.

And then, after sprinting from the bus stop down to the platform, I find that not only has the train left, but that 11:30 is the time of the last train between Scotland’s capital and its largest city. Not quite sure what to do next, I phoned my mother to find out where the bus station was, something that in their wisdom, the city council had decided not to signpost. My mother really isn’t the person I should phone in these situations. But I eventually did find it, a doorway tucked between two other non-descript buildings only to discover the last Glasgow bus had already left.

Now, I’ve been stranded in a city before, and when that happened, I slept rough. In a graveyard. In a thunderstorm. But I really wasn’t in the mood for doing that this time around. And some of the small number of people on the streets could testify this, as I stomped around swearing loudly at the lack of signage, and the general shitness of auld Reekie, compared to civilised bastions of society, like the dear green place. So instead I phoned my mother and asked her to come and get me. Childish I know, but I was really pissed off at this stage and longing for my bed; standing up in a sedentary position for any length of time causes extremely uncomfortable pain in my lower back, knees and feet, and I wasn’t a fan of putting up with the cold either. My mother wasn’t a huge fan of driving into the city centre, so I arranged to meet her at Edinburgh Airport, where she’s worked a few shifts in the past. And around an hour and a half after this I was back home and in my bed.

Suffice to say, I slept until 1pm; when I did get up, I did nothing more strenuous than play guitar and converse with my second cousin on Bebo. This was part of my plan that came off, having a day off to recover after being at the gig; I can’t imagine how horrible I would have felt at work today, despite the fact I didn’t really drink at the gig. I had football at 6pm though, and my word was that hard work. We’ve been somewhat struggling for numbers recently, and so John McDonald has played the last two weeks despite being one of the oldest guys there and struggling with a calf injury. He played the entire game in goal last week, and did the same for about half the game tonight. I was on his team, and as I’m perennially under-exercised, I struggle when I can’t get a breather for a bit. John was mockingly calling me Jay Boyd before the game, because I tend to just linger around up front and shoot a lot; I’m nowhere near as good a player as Boyd, but we evidently both grew up watching Ally McCoist play, as we have similar styles, although tend to hit shots as early as possible more often.

 I scored six or seven tonight, but somewhat depressingly they all came from similar runs; after a while you begin to wonder if the goals are coming because of your movement or because whoever’s supposed to be marking you is having a Homer Simpson moment. The latter opinion was reinforced when I Stern Johned a shot against the bar from a few yards and their keeper shouted “Come on, mark up! It’s the same guy doing the same thing all the time!”

I’m better at that end of the pitch though; on one of my occasional forays back to help out my defence, I cut out a pass; my team-mate George shouted “well done,” only for both of us to then see the ball sail into the top corner of my own goal. Had I meant it, and had it gone in at the other end, it would have been a great finish. Alas, it wasn’t.

And I’m really tired now; my feet hurt from the football, but my brain is just worn out. Still, as I’m taking the rest of the year off from writing fiction, and I’m only at work for another 14 days of the year, I hope it’ll have lots of time to recover.