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A happy day – at Spurs with my son, a win and a sweet pink sticker

Taking my son to the match on Boxing Day was going down memory lane. But who can afford season tickets for all the family these days?

I went to Spurs on Boxing Day with my son James. That’s not his real name. Back in the last century I used to do a column in Punch called Father’s Day. It was the idea of Alan Coren, the editor, that a dad should write about his family, as a change from all the women chuntering on about their Little Treasures.

I made the mistake of naming my Little Treasures and giving their real ages. I did myself out of a job in the end, as they grew up and left home. My children became furious when teachers started making sarky remarks in the corridor. So for a while my son became James.

I have such happy memories of taking James to Spurs. It’s what dads do, in the urban myths. It never happened in my childhood. My dad loved football but throughout my childhood he was an invalid, bedridden with MS. So he never took me nowhere.

James was a slow reader, but following Spurs seemed to concentrate his brain. I always maintained it was through Spurs programmes that he eventually learned to read. We would find him asleep in bed, a programme still over his face. Ah, bless.

So going with him on Boxing Day was going down memory lane. Looking around the West Stand, I saw loads of families, as it always used to be, though who can afford season tickets for all the family these days?

Here was a burly man three rows ahead continually bellowing abuse at the Spurs players. “TOO MUCH XMAS PUDDING!” He clearly believed that if he shouted enough times we might find it even vaguely amusing.

At almost every football ground there is a Mr Shouter. Someone who yells constantly, out of all proportion to what is happening. You wonder if he does it at home, or if football is his release. Following football, after all, is therapy. I remember one at Highbury who kept it up the whole game, going red in the face, until restrained by other supporters. Then the fists started flying.

Yes, I did go to Highbury for many years, had half a season ticket, buying it from another dad when his son was away at college. James never forgave me, accusing me of putting money into the pocket of the scum. Are you calling my friend scum? It goes to Arsenal in the end, he would reply.

That’s the problem of indoctrinating children – they take it to extremes. His support for Spurs has always been total. Me, I moan about them as much as I praise them, but then I did not acquire them from birth. I chose them deliberately. We moved into this house, equidistant between Highbury and White Hart Lane, in 1963. I wanted a local team. Spurs were playing better football. On the way to Glory.

It is chaos at White Hart Lane at present. The new stadium is going up – or down, as all the work seems underground. Then because of the terrorism in Paris, with the Stade de France nearly being blown up, they’re doubling security at Premier grounds.

My little rucksack, which I have taken to matches for decades, had to be searched. I expected my metal Thermos to be confiscated. The security staff didn’t even open it. Just slapped on a sweet little pink sticker saying “Bag searched”, which also had on it the words “Tottenham Hotspur” and their cockerel logo. I was well pleased. I immediately unstuck it carefully. It is now in my drawer of Spurs memorabilia. Memory of a happy day.

Which it was. Spurs won 3-0 against Norwich. Even better, teams above and around them got beaten. Best of all, Arsenal got stuffed 4-0. Ha ha.

Late in the game, Spurs brought on Tom Carroll, who looks about 13, a lad from their academy. Mr Shouter immediately got to his feet. “GERRIM OFF. CARROLL IS SHIT!” He bellowed this several times. Ten minutes later, Carroll scored a brilliant goal, with his left foot, miles out. The stadium exploded. Except for Mr Shouter, who remained seated. For about twenty rows around him the fans stood up, pointing and laughing, singing and chanting: “TOM CARROLL, HE’S ONE OF OUR OWN.”

So yes, ’twas a grand Boxing Day treat. For a father and a son . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 07 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The God issue

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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