Soft shit, I'm a bit of a soft shit.
Stanley Matthews Way is a road that takes pressure off the A50 through Stoke-on-Trent, close to the main football team's Britannia Stadium. It's a road that offers an escape to the south, towards Stafford. I often use it as a short cut when heading north for the University Quarter. Ordinarily, it's a massively unaffecting corridor, with its industrial units, anonymous modern office blocks ('To Let') and JCB markers of devastated grasslands by the Trent and Mersey canal.
Accelerating off a roundabout, heading north along The Way, all it took was the glimpse of a father and son, walking hand-in-hand, to produce an emotional spike. Within seconds I was past them, but I still had open road on which to ponder how utterly ridiculous I can be... all it was, was a man and a boy, walking. No. Big. Deal. Yet I manage to contrive something poignant and gorgeous, troubled and troubling from that. I mean really, what a fuck-up.
I didn't used to be like this. I used to go to lots of random football matches, in peculiar backwater places. Every minute of every day, I'd be doing something that was ultimately about what I wanted to do. I lived for no-one, but myself. Maybe I exaggerate a bit, but I'm sure there was none of this high-sensitive paternalist lark. But you know what, it's actually not only about paternalism. In that scene, where the boy and his Dad are just walking along, all casual and big coats, I think it's the possibilities of 'But where's Mum?' that pricks at me. Maybe they walk to meet her, as she finishes a shift at the factory, maybe they're off to spot lapwings, as Mum has Saturday morning to herself, maybe maybe.
I reach my destination, the local Tesco enormo-mart. It's as I'm scanning for tomato puree that I slide by a couple, both hollow cheeks and skin that's aged beyond their years. A young boy, gazing into the distance, sits in their trolley. And another emotional spike is thrust from within. By the time I locate the double concentrate, I'm tremendously distracted and realise that I need a break. I gently place the basket on the floor and leave the store.
I take a different route home.