Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A book tip from an ex-football hooligan on board a train from Edinburgh to King's Cross

On a train from Edinburgh to King's Cross in London, I sat across a massive man who you do not want to rumble with. In addition to being muscular, he stood about six-foot-one and had a bunch of tattoos. And we got off on the wrong foot.

When two-Macau residents (who was with me for the entire Edinburgh tour from King’s Cross) and I boarded the 5:31pm train back to London, we went to our designated seats. My seat was free while one the two girls’ seats was occupied by the aforementioned large man.

He said he bought a ticket and the seats were never marked “reserved” (as they normally do) so he wasn’t budging. The seating area had a large table in the middle and a window view for the picturesque ride back to England. The girls didn’t argue at all and went to sit somewhere else. I took my “reserved” spot in front of the large man. While I understood his point I thought he could have handled it in a nicer manner.

Sometime later as the train got going, he apologized for his gruff manner. I said I am fine but I think he scared off the two girls who don’t mean anything at all. He stood up and went to the girls to apologize. That was surprise number one.

Surprise number two is that we talked the rest of the way until he got off at Darlington.

Turns out that he was a former football hooligan who rooted for Leeds United. He had the tattoos to prove it (plus the fact that he looked like he was a brawler who got cultured). He shared his experiences, good and bad to which I said, he could write a book about those hooligan days (with respect intended). He replied that he wasn’t much of a writer but he’ll think about it. Eventually he said one day he got real and said it was time to be responsible rather than traveling to away matches and picking fights. He now works in Edinburgh where he stays for two weeks every month before flying off to Spain for another week. Mr. Ex-Football Hooligan works for an oil company.

I told him about my adventures around the UK and he suggested that I visit York since I was into history especially Roman culture. The city has a Roman influence that is prevalent to this day.

He then produced a book that he is currently reading and he got me to purchase it at WH Smith the following day on my way to Northern Ireland.

The book was Simon Scarrow’s Under the Eagle, the first book (of 12 so far) of Roman military fiction. And so far, I am loving it. I have always been fascinated by history even historical fiction. I have a small but burgeoning collection on this genre in various media. From Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar to DVDs of Gladiator and Rome to Valerio Manfredi's The Last Legion novel. Now I can add Scarrow's series to this.

Who knew that I’d get some valuable tips from a former football hooligan? 

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