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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, December 26, 2004
    Ah! Sweet release - at last - from obligations! Those Christmas-time and Sunday-church obligations to remain patient and polite in the presence of strident, shrill, shockingly conservative and self-possessed old women.

    And - ah, yes, sweet embrace of other obligations - those Boxing Day obligations beloved by fellow Christmas-sufferers. To get out of our crushing homes into the public houses and soccer grounds which are our salvation.

    Sweet obligations - to give ovation to the Blues as they emerge onto Goodison's underheated turf (small stacks of snow neatly placed along the pitchside, our groundsmen's Christmas Day efforts well rewarded); to politely applaud the Man City goalkeeper as he approaches our end, and mildly boo if he neglects to acknowledge the friendly greeting.

    Strong obligations - to taunt the ex-Liverpool players in City's team, at every opportunity, especially Robbie Fowler, who returns the taunts in a provocative run past our fans after his headed equaliser, which gets him booked - pure pantomime for the Christmas season.

    And deep obligations - to stay past the end to once again applaud a winning performance, and forty points, already past last season's entire total, in the bag before the New Year.

    Home, obligation-free, I opt to start reading a great Christmas present, What's Our Name? Everton! by Mark O'Brien. Diary of last season by an erudite and very witty fanzine writer. Which, like all the best books about football, is about far more than football alone, as this extract shows:

    Monday 6th October 2003
    'Kop Star Shot' screams the Liverpool Echo. The star in question is none other than Jon Otsemobor. No, none of the Liverpool supporters have heard of him either.
    The young defender, with one first team appearance to his name, received slight injuries to his arse, while two of his mates were more seriously wounded, when some loon opened fire in the infamous Slater Street. Imagine Mathew Street's sinister cousin - less hen nights from Clitheroe and more shaven-headed psychotics from Huyton - and you'll get the picture.
    It's just the latest in a series of crazy incidents in the city centre in the last few weeks, although shootings are almost passe these days. You see, Liverpool has an uncanny knack of always going one better than everywhere else, with gangland figures recently blowing up a car outside the 051 club and throwing a nail bomb into Dickie Lewis' Pub. They'll be carpet-bomboing Bold Street and sending smackhead suicide bombers into the Newz Bar next. Just you see.

    "All I know most surely about morality and the obligations of man, I owe to football," (Albert Camus). See what he means?