Football dominates my life, things revolve around it. I organise it either to be given precedence or fit in, whether it's with my social life, working life, family stuff.
Oh no, we can't go for lunch on Sunday, ever again, yes I know they are our best friends, but don't you realise there's a live game at two and another at four. Not the next few Saturdays either, lunch or supper, 'cos I'm going in to Carlisle to watch CUFC and I need to set off early. Or Saturdays after that; I'll either be at Spurs or Arsenal. Nor any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday. I haven't paid a fortune to Sky in order not to watch whatever there is to watch, whether Portuguese under-12s or Albanian over-60s. Thursday? Hmm, now then. Perhaps. Not saying which Thursday, don't get excited, or which year, but there could well be an empty Thursday, some time between now and,well, death. I don't fear death. I just look upon it as the end of the final football season.
Sometimes, though, when I'm not looking, failing to pay proper attention, life creeps up on the outside and overtakes football. Which was why last Saturday, at half-time in the Macedonia-England game, I had to leave my seat in front of the telly, get in the car and drive all the way to Penrith.
By then, they were one down, I had the most awful headache and my throat was sore with shouting at our crap players. Becks you're a fairy, Rooney get back in your nappy, Lampard, our tortoise is faster, Campbell, what are you doing you big lump. Not the best state in which to give a talk to 220 people.
Six months ago, I agreed to give the inaugural lecture at the Wainwright Society, a new organisation devoted to the works of the Blessed Wainwright, something I had long wanted to happen. Without realising what else would be on 6 September.
I caught most of the second half in the car, as I tore along the A66 to Rheged, where the lecture was to be given. All my youth, I listened to football on the radio, as there was no alternative, my little ears almost inside it. I always imagined I could see the movements, understand the sequence of events. I'm sure they painted much better word pictures in those days.
Today, it's mostly shouting, ending in the word "GOALLLLL!". Very often they miss the build-up, so busy giving us extraneous info. In that game, Alan Green kept on about some Macedonian yobbo he could see making racist chants whom he wanted to throttle. We, the listeners, couldn't see or even hear him, so I was shouting to Alan, go off and thump him, let someone else do the sodding commentary. But I picked up that England were almost as useless as in the first half, just managing a jammy win.
Now it's happened again, twice in one week. I'm going to be away for the England-Liechtenstein game which, as I write, is on Wednesday. I'll be in Newcastle, staying at the Malmaison, treating my dear wife to a cultural few days. I do spoil her. She's going to the Baltic and various other galleries. I'll be in Gateshead, best part, visiting Gazza's birthplace, I wonder if they've got a plaque up yet, meeting his lovely family. I'm writing his autobiography, which was the real reason for this trip, though I'm pretending otherwise.
Somehow, I agreed to the date without checking the England diary. What am I doing? It must have been this long hot summer in Lakeland, best for years, all that swimming, softening my bonce. I'm hoping there will be a TV in our bedroom, but when I mentioned this, idly, in passing, she said if so, that was it, she wouldn't be going anywhere, ever again.
It will, in a way, be quite a cultural trip for me, too, as I have a very knowledgeable guide. I have his name in front of me, from a cutting in Corriere dello Sport dated 17 Maggio 1995.
In writing about Gascoigne, then playing for Lazio, they refer to "il suo amico Jimmy Cinquepance". I don't know whether they have satirically translated his nickname, or perhaps think it was his real one, but I'm sure you know who he is. Otherwise you haven't been alive these past ten years and putting footer first in your life . . .