Saturday, 30 August 2014


Today I'm going to Newcastle Benfield v Kendal Town in the FA Cup, so here is something about the grand old trophy.

The following singular encounter occurred at Dr Pit Welfare Park one winter's evening long, long ago.

The night was cold, vapour lingered in the air like ectoplasm. The FA Cup, glowing yet with eldritch glory, stood proudly by the entrance to a social club, splendid against the backdrop of the AXA Insurance banner and signs advising of the forthcoming appearance of a Wishbone Ash tribute act. Drawn by its silver gleam were half-a-dozen fans, a television crew, reporters and a flock of those gurning urchins who seem to follow TV cameras about as lapwings trail the plough.

Nothing was noteworthy until a journalist moved to place an empty Styrofoam cup down next to the famous trophy.
“Don’t put that there!” The voice came again from the shadows. The tone was deep and sonorous, so orotund and mellifluous it made Mel Torme sound like Janette Krankie.  “It will leave a ring upon the velvet that can never be removed."
Seconds later the owner of the voice stepped into the white dazzle of the floodlights. He was six feet in height with sleek dark hair greying elegantly at the temples, skin the colour of fine cognac, of Cuban tobacco. He wore a Chesterfield overcoat. A scarf of deepest blue silk chimed with his eyes and the AXA banner. Fans of eighties US soap operas could not but be reminded of Cecil Colby from Dynasty.  

"Who are you, then?" the journalist asked.
"I," the tall stranger explained gravely, "I am....... The Keeper of the Cup." 
"Is that a full-time position, then?" Someone asked.

The Keeper nodded. It seemed that he and the Cup were as one, inseparable as Ian Wright's vowels. "When I am finished here we shall drive to Swansea," he told us.
'It's a long way,' one of our party volunteered.

The Keeper nodded wisely, "Probably I shall break my journey - in the vicinity of Worcester. At a Travelodge".

Sensing perhaps that this sounded a little less than glamorous he added, "I value the anonymity of such places. I arrive after dark, park near the front entrance and slip swiftly inside with my overnight bag and, of course....." he nodded affectionately in the direction of his glimmering ward.

" I carry it in a plain wooden box," he said, “no one knows it is there”.  Then, leaning towards us, he lowered his rich voice to a conspiratorial whisper, "On occasion I have walked through vast crowds bearing the Cup and not a single person has had the slightest inkling that it was among them".

He straightened then and spoke no more, but gazed upon us with a seraphic smile until embarrassed we shuffled away.


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