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Champagne Moments


When I was a child my best friend was Nick Lowe. He lived across the street and he had a Scalextric, Mr Frosty and the Millennium Falcon. Nick was as cool as an 8-year-old got. He even had a Soda Stream.

OK, so it was his mum that had the Soda Stream, but she allowed us to use it. We once made ‘champagne’ from a stolen bottle of Blue Nun. Halcyon days.

As cool as Nick was, he couldn’t hold a candle to his older brother Simon. Now Simon was 10 years Nick’s senior and had long hair, a leather jacket, listened to the Smiths… and supported Arsenal.

Back then, even in North London, everyone was a Liverpool fan. As crazy as it sounds, the success of the teams of Dalglish, Hansen & Lawrenson (yes, that one) drove the children of England to wear the red of Merseyside rather than that of N5. Crown Paints were also THE decorator’s choice.   

That’s before you even get to my family team. Both my parents were born and raised in Sunderland, but came down to London for work and to raise a family. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank them for this. They tried their best, my first baby-grow was red and white striped, and there are many incriminating photos of a young Gareth Parker looking like a mini-Mackem. But Simon Lowe was like a God to me. They never stood a chance.

One day when I was round at the Lowe’s for sausage, chips and the A-Team he asked me who I supported. I didn’t miss a beat as I blurted out “Arsenal”. He commended me on my choice and said that Nick and I should join him on the ‘North Bank’ next season. I had no idea what the ‘North Bank’ was, but I knew that I had to be on it.     

In 1985, on a blisteringly hot August day (it was always sunny in the 80s), we made our way on the tube to Highbury to see Don Howe’s Arsenal take on Leicester City. I would love to say that I remember everything from that day, the smell of the horse manure mixed with that of frying burgers… but everything was a blur, and I am sure that all recollections are learned memories planted in my head by Nick Hornby. Or Colin fucking Firth. 

What I do remember is that I had never been so exhilarated by anything in my short life, partly down to the innate fear every time the crowd swelled and my feet were lifted off the ground. Arsenal won 1-0 that day (of course) and I was hooked.

Simon bought me a scarf on the way home. I slept with it tied around my wrist that night. And the next one. I cried when I had to take it off to go to school on the Monday.   

Nearly two years, and several pilgrimages with super Simon to the North Bank later, I persuaded my Dad to take me to the Littlewoods Cup final between Arsenal and Liverpool at Wembley. I may have been outnumbered on the playground, but two goals from Charlie Nicholas gave me bragging rights and a sensation that I had never felt before… unparalleled euphoria. Impossible to properly put into words, it is the feeling every true fan thrives on, one that has not dulled over time. But the 10 year old me was overwhelmed. I was in love.   

So for me, falling in love with Arsenal started with Soda Stream champagne, and ended with Champagne Charlie Nicholas.

I also thank Simon Lowe for my love of Morrissey.

Reader Comments (1)

Cracker memory Champagne Charlie was for the brief time at Highbury one of my idols. It was the fact he chose us over
Liverpool that endeared him to me. And yeah the Smiths were a great band.

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarry from Ireland
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