Schooling days behind me, there's only one job I really wanted. I longed to be a sports journalist. But little did I know of just how severely this choice of path could frustrate, sometimes infuriate and even disturb me.
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I realised that at this early stage, I may not yet have had the credentials to lure the likes of Ireland's Roy Keane or Brian O'Driscoll away from their already hectic daily routines just to be quizzed by yours truly. So I decided I'd focus on the local scene, for the moment at least anyway.
While fishing around for "the" story, I learned of an ageing man and his family before him, who'd effectively raised and nurtured their local sports ground as if it were also of kin. Just this great man now remained.
Questioning the locals, I was told of how this lovely family, with the aid of a horse belonging to the boys of the family, could be seen working on the ground's surface with such great effort and care. I was told that any growth and success of the grounds should always first be accredited to this wonderful man, his family and their loyal services.
With this man in constant attendance throughout his life, I began to wonder. What are his views on the new-age methods and technologies of today, making work like that carried out by himself and his family nowadays obsolete? What does he think of all the development and improvements made to the ground? What amzing memories might come flooding back to the man? What fantastic stories could he regale me with?
What legendary athletes may he have been lucky enough to witness in action? I began to anticipate the writing of a very intriguing article and really believed this was something I could get published somewhere.
But what I hadn't yet anticipated was that I'd actually be dealing with a binge-drinking, abuse-slinging, trouser-dropping schizophrenic.
Days passed and yet after many a failed attempt, I could not get a hold of my groundsman. The rusting garden gate with all it's awkwardness, the piercing screech of his hall-door bell, the seemingly flowerless flowerpot of his redbrick porch; it was all becoming a bit too familiar for my liking.
This unanswered door had tormented me for long enough. It had just about got the better of me. I was just about to move on and turn my attentions to the writing of another piece, when from over my shoulder I heard a deep chuckle coupled with the remark,
"You've no chace of finding him there buddy."
I turned to find a hefty, red-faced gentleman, wearing a scent I presumed to be a ghastly concoction of stale brew, tobacco and damp clothing.
"Where might I find him then?"
"Probably down the pub, ye down the pub I'd say."
He then started to laugh hysterically. I stood there bemused. It turned out I'd stumbled across an accomplice of sorts. Or maybe he'd stumbled across me.
After a few minutes of inquisitive conversation, I was made aware of a slight drinking problem on behalf of my subject. A regular presence in all of the local haunts, this man I was told, suffered from an unquenchable thirst for the often dastardly and demonic drink. My work had been thrown into jeopardy.
"You could catch him here before the big game on Sunday", he informed.
A glimmer of hope. But then he started laughing uncontrollably once again. Why was he laughing?!
I have to admit, I joined him when I discovered why he was actually laughing. But my laughter had more of a nervous pitch to it.
Fond of the drink, and fond of flashing his genitals.
My groundsman. Now apparently a bit of an exhibitionist.
Yes Tommy-Boy, you really picked a good one to start off with.
Disheartened at home, I contemplated retreat. But having mulled over my options, I eventually came to the conclusion that I did not want to drop this piece. I still believed there was the material for a really good article. I would face up to this predicament. I hoped I'd not have to be facing up to a certain something else.
1pm, Sunday afternoon. Enough of the day gone by i'd hoped for the man to have donned some trousers, reached for the fast-acting paracetamol, and freed himself of any probable aching head. But as I edged towards the hall-door, out sprang the groundsman, decked out in a sporty track-suit and wooly hat.
"Jaysus, ya scared the life outta me! Howya."
He spoke fluently and rapidly questioned my presence in his front garden. The announcement of my wish to hopefully interview and celebrate the man was met by gleaming eyes, magnified by his big spectacles. A huge grin stretched right across his face, one worthy of the Cheshire Cat, minus a tooth or three of course. A meeting was arranged for Tuesday morning. Seemed a nice old chap there anyway. Friendly, funny, co-operative. Perhaps my slightly intoxicated infomant from earlier on had mistaken the groundsman for somebody else.
Feeling much more content about the whole project than previously, I strolled along whistling away, eased forward by a nice breeze; my destination, the groundsmans. But having been warned of the man's alcohol-induced, stripteasing alter-ego, I approached still with caution, in case there was any truth in the stories. Maybe I'd just been lucky enough to catch him on a good day. I opted once more for a later morning swoop.
Armed with a biro, notepad and Dictaphone, I pressed softly on the door-bell. But no answer. I pressed again. But no answer. Third time lucky? A head poked it's way around the barely opened door. It was the groundsman, but he was not the chirpy fellow he was on Sunday. No. Here I was dealing with a red-faced, foul-smelling, angry little maniac.
"What do ya want?" he snapped.
"Howya I was talking to you on Sunday about answering a few questions for a piece I'm writing."
"No. Feck off. I'm not doing it."
"It'd just take five..."
"No. Feck off."
I felt the air on my face as the door came crashing shut.
As I made for home, shoulders slumped, hands dug deep into pockets and feeling all dejected, the rage built up inside of me. Some was vented in the wild swings of a boot at whatever was dragged across my path by a now stronger breeze. But this method of anger management was brought to an abrupt halt when a small cat came to within inches of losing it's head to a shuttling rock.
Slamming the door behind me, I threw off my jacket, flung my keys at the arm-chair and took up position at the kitchen table, my head in hands.
(Damn it! He told me he'd do it. I know there is a good article there. If I could just sit him down for five minutes! Maybe he'll reconsider, or feel sorry for me. I'm going back after him. He told me he'd do it.)
What was I thinking?
I leapt from the kitchen table, grabbed my jacket and off I went; blood boiling and determined to get my story.
The breeze outside had noticeably picked up and was now much more aggressive and unpredictable. It seemed almost in perfect tuning with my very state of mind.
When I got back to this nucleus of my frustrations, I tried to put all anger aside and revert back to being nice and polite. I pushed the door-bell once more, hoping inside that he'd feel some remorse and maybe answer of a few questions.
The door swung violently open. I thanked my lucky stars he was wearing that bathrobe.
"I thought I told you to feck off!" he growled.
I turned, swallowed my pride and acknowledged that my first attempt at cracking this sports journalism game had been disastrous. A complete and utter shambles.
But forget about my pride just for a tick. I now had an even greater, more immediate problem; shaking a crazy grounds man who I'd actually sent into one hell of a rage. I rushed towards the garden gate and glanced back to see that he'd already thrown on his trainers and was now retrieving a hurl in hot pursuit. But that rust ravaged gate just would not budge. I vaulted over the garden wall and made a short dash to give myself some breathing space.
I stopped, turned and looked back only to see my grounds man, my subject, what should've been my great first article, hopping around fratically waving his hurl, the wind now uplifting that white bathrobe and exposing his nether region.
I wrestled the gale the whole way home, a hard battle for a broken man whose hopes of an insightful little first article, had been ripped to shreds.
It was only then it registered. I couldn't beleive it. Amid all the hysteria I'd actually locked myself out! The wind was now pretty formidable at this stage and cut right through my clothes. I wished we had a porch. All I could do was sit and await the return of my parents. So I picked up my pen and started writing.