• Alba\Andy

Ice Cream or Custard?

Here's something I never do; writing on a whim on a late lunch break. Why? Scotland Men's National Team are playing a football match tonight for the first time since November last year, and I don't know what top to wear.

This is a routine happenstance that I haven't yet resolved and continually surprises me. Despite the frequency of the occurrence... it disarms me every time. It's like when I was a student, I used to go to my then-girlfriend-now-wife's house for the odd Sunday lunch which my parents-in-law had down to perfection. I was waited upon and it was tremendous. Nae problems... until, after every roast, puddin' would be offered. Nightmare. I prayed it wasn't Maggie's delicious apple crumble because if it was, I knew I would have to eat it and I knew I would have to make the impossible choice; custard (Ambrosia Vanilla) or ice cream (Carte Dor Vanilla).

I like custard and ice-cream equally, straight down the middle, 50/50.

I would freeze each time and fumble about humming and hawing. I tried a mix. Minging. I tried two bowls. Magic, but not sustainable for my already heaving gut, making the second puddin' unenjoyable, and that wasn't fair on it because the other got to go first. I tried using my crumble as a breakwater (I might want to mix the custard and ice cream but I want that to be my choice), still, no joy.

Speaking of Joy, if my brain contained the wee guys from Inside Out I imagine they would all be staring blankly through my eyes absolutely helpless at this moment. There is just no right answer but I had to choose or the crumble would get cold. I could have got up suddenly and just left the house, but I wasn't yet 'in' the family and this could've been confusing for all. Well... at least then they'd know how I felt.

Complete bafflement.

If I were sober-minded in these moments, I could perceive my favourite top (Italia '90 home) and wear it with pride, and usually, time sensitivity forces this to be the case, however, and this is where it gets worrying... in choosing the top (above) for a simple Twitter response to our good pals @TheTartanScarf, I was struck by how often I feel sad... really genuinely sad... when putting back the match-worn 2006 home top, or the beautiful accompaniment to our ill-fated adventure to Genoa (and surrounding areas).

I don't mean I feel sad that I won't get to wear them, of course, this is the case, rather, I mean I feel sad over how they must feel. I can't mix them. I can't do that HORRIBLE thing of [gulp] cutting them in half and putting them together. (I MEAN, SERIOUSLY!) I think about how these tops might feel going back into my drawer sandwiched between the giggling Barca centenary top, or the 2004 short-sleeved Sampdoria goalie top. They deserve better.

Let me be clear and perhaps even confessional; I feel genuine sadness for the emotions of a football top, and I mean that quite sincerely.

Now, this naturally takes me by surprise. Even as I type, I'm entering uncharted ground, I have never before addressed this trilemma with any real concentrated effort, so it might get a little (bit more) messy as I fumble my way through thoughts and words like I might rumble about in said drawer for my Juventus 93-94 longsleeve to play in the Winter.

Mmm Danone.

Football tops do something to me. The smell, in particular, does something. It's a peculiar odour which straddles the fine line between bowfin' and new. The former, stinking of B.O. no matter how many times you wash it (see Uganda home), and the latter, reminding you of your youth and that smell of the Greaves' Sports 2nd floor. Comfort.

In my job, I work with kiddies who need smell and use smell in far sharper ways than any of us, like a superpower. Scent, they say, is the most powerful trigger for memories - be it that burning hot pavement smell when it tastes rain again after a week or two (Rothesay Fair) - or the nauseating whiff of a barley sugar sucky sweet yer maw gave you to 'stop feeling car sick' which immediately, upon mention, still gies ye the dry boak.

What I mean to say, is that smells trigger memories, and football tops are no different... but they do confusing things.

You are so beautiful... to me.

When I carefully lay down my lovely 2006 match-worn, I think of all we've seen together. Before I turned 30 - we were inseparable for internationals. We were beautiful together him and I, he knew where I ended and I knew where he began. I could feel him stickily patting me on the back with his big Alan Hutton/Christian Dailly '2' whenever I went for a pee at Hampden (it's okay, nobody is looking, just go, I'm here...), giving me the strength to pull through. Then the comfort of said 2 was threatened by his big brother 3 and a 0 to boot. Out for a Balbirs' curry (Church St. just off Byres Rd.) I was surprised by my siblings' present of original Italia '90 home and away tops which I'd owned as a wee boy (SB to be precise). I did what any sane man would've done and immediately put on both, before then laying them down safely for a little nap as they're allergic to chicken chaat.

It was wonderful and we lived happily, the three of us, eagerly listening to my voice and taking turns at Monday Night football, waiting for their opportunity. I would give an unconscious pep-talk to them each week, 'now I know you're disappointed in missing out but I need you for a big game next week... I want you ready for that Italia '90 away'; delivered in jest with a cheeky smile, no hard feelings at all. I liked to think of all his friends waiting for him, eager to hear about how he'd played the next day when he eventually arrived back. They'd all be there ready to console him (see all Scotland tops), celebrate the clean sheet with him (Milan home 88-90) or tell him how to hit a penalty (Germany '90). We were a happy family. That was until that day Scotland played Ireland at Celtic Park, and I had to choose for the first time who I would wear.

Before, we had custard. Then ice cream got added, but only offered one at a time. Now, we've got custard, and ice cream, and crumble, and I... I... just can't do this anymore.

It's Italia '90 tonight, but I'm going to invite my pals (covidsafelythreehouseholdsthanks) and demand that they wear the others so they're not left out. Life's better shared.

Wherever you're watching tonight, I hope it's creating some new (positive Rothesay Fair -type) memories alongside people you love, whether that be in person or otherwise. Whilst I might not be standing alongside my brother and mates on the corner of the North and West, falling over 4 rows when we score a last-minute winner or chuckling at the guy who always shouts to whatever bald official 'get that hair out yer eyes!', I'll rest in the fact that I'm surrounded by similar folks on Twitter/IG/Facebook and wherever else and we'll all be doing the same.


*Please, if you can afford it, give £5 and tag 5 mates for @children1st - doing some wonderful work with some of the most impoverished and important people in our society.

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