17th May 2020

Darling Paloma,

Well, the news on the pregnancy front, which of course you would know is that you are rotating from the breech position. It means that you were positioned heads up in your mother’s uterus with your feet pointing towards the birth canal. Now you have turned halfway. So in layman’s terms, your head is poking halfway in your mother’s stomach. From your mother’s continual moans, this isn’t the most pleasant place to be, so if you can move further down, it will be appreciated. Although because of your chosen position, I can see the shape of your foot when you decide to kick. The wonder of it all. At times it is so overwhelming that I can’t believe that we are actually going to get to know each other in just a few weeks.

I met your brother yesterday for a walk in an Oxford park. It was so good to see him again. I have missed him so. There was no deep hug, no kiss hello or goodbye, just an awkward wave.

We talked about these times and how we’re both feeling. We tend to be able to know what we are thinking—an unspoken understanding of mood. We talked about how neither of us missed football; in fact, for me, it is a relief. At this time of the year, I would usually be grieving my team’s missed opportunities. Tottenham is a painful side to support. Hardly any glory in the years I have supported them. Last season was different though; the team gave us some of our greatest memories. Like the time we scored three goals in the second half in Amsterdam to get through to the Champions League Final.

We watched the game in a small bar off St. Marks Square in Venice; an ex-footballer owned it. He played for Inter Milan in 1950s, and although he did not speak English, when he opened his mouth wide and long, you did not need to understand the language to understand his story. Shoulders up to the ears, eyebrows raised, palms up, a weary smile following each move

Heading to a bar to watch the football.

We watched the opposition go 2-0 up in the first half; it was a predictable disaster. But then a small Brazilian was chosen from above to play his greatest game. He played so beautifully, shrugging his shoulders, full of irrational surprises that he left the Dutch side standing motionless like a bunch of dummies.

Lucas Moura scores.

In the end, we watched our winning goal late in added time looking through the window from an alleyway. We had already given up. We had left the bar and given a sad goodbye to our new friends. But when we scored, I screamed and rushed back in to grab the owner. What a goal! We had achieved what we never achieve – salvation- a football miracle – an answer to all our problems. We celebrated together with another drink. When we finally left the bar, I turned once again to catch the owner lean over to someone with the right hand over his heart as if taking a vow and then leaning back in exaggerated dismay. I had no idea what it meant other than probably we didn’t have much hope in the final. He was right; we lost one-nill.

The park was open and more beautiful than ever. The green grass of the cricket field brilliant to the eyes. The cricket field! The very place that all through my youth was the epitome of joy, of the occasional naughtiness. The air along the boundary which sprung of sponge cake, lashings of lemon mousse and Earl Grey tea.

There has always been a calm surrounding the university park, but today it was more serene than ever. When we marched by the ‘cricket’ square, I found a fallen bail(one of the two smaller sticks placed on top of the three stumps to form a wicket.) It was strange as there has been no university cricket this season; not even parents playing with their children. I put the bail in my pocket and promised to keep it as a memory of this day.

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that have the greatest significance.

I was given an alternative last year. To keep watching movies and in return, stop watching all forms of sport or the other way round. It wasn’t difficult. I chose without hesitation to keep watching my football, my baseball, my cricket, my tennis and movies could disappear forever. But over these last few weeks in isolation, I think my choice has changed. Sports aren’t so important to me after all. Perhaps the easiness of the selection is because I know one day sport will return like it was before and we will once again enjoy the weekly excuse for a carnival with all the excitement we delighted in before.

At present, though, that seems a long way away.

Love

Papa

Published by Simon Astaire

Simon Astaire was the youngest agent ever employed at ICM starting the Music department and representing a variety of clients before turning to head a PR agency where his clients included brands such as Bulgari, Armani and celebrities and members of the Royal Family. He is regularly quoted in the press and has been described in The London Times as a PR Prince. He had a regular column in the Sunday Telegraph called Station to Station where he interviewed a diverse mixture of high-profile individuals on their imaginary last train journey. He has written six novels and two biographies including soccer star Sol Campbell when he was nominated for best new sports writer. His latest novel The Last Photograph, was made into a film of the same name. It had a US theatrical release in November 2019 and is now available on all platforms. His blog ' Letters to my daughter' began March 19th 2020.

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