It was a single perfect moment.
When everything with the world felt right.
You never know this at the time.
Not until it's truly gone.
I’d just played football for England -
That’s right, Lauren.
It was England v Scotland and the rest of the world XI, at MacArthur field, Santa Monica.
The ex-pat community rallied around to raise money for a local lad who’d fallen off some scaffolding, coming up with the idea of a charity football match.
The teams were made up of the Sunday-League team from the Cock and Bull pub, plus anyone who wanted to make a guest appearance for the price of a $20 donation and there was a fundraising night in the pub after the game.
I’d only been in Los Angeles two months, so still a bit of a newcomer.
It was hard work if I’m honest, Lauren.
But my plan was always to stay indefinitely -
Really try and make a go of it.
I’d been training with the Cock & Bull for a few weeks and the manager was a lad called Scotty.
He really enjoyed giving me a hard time and would always call me 'the little fat manc' in front of all the others.
It was a shock when he said I was in the starting eleven for the big game.
Was I a decent footballer?
I wasn’t bad.
Let’s just say I could hold my own, in those days.
I was a bit more trim back then.
Anyway, it was so hot.
They had beer tents, barbecues, face painting for the kids, little stalls selling ice cream and even this bungee jump thing.
The pitch was like concrete with the ball bobbling all over the place.
I was chasing shadows all game and Scotty ripped into me at halftime, saying if I didn't sort myself out I’d be subbed in the 2nd half and he was good to his word.
I got the call from the sidelines and started trudging off when I heard a noise from the other side of the field.
A sea of arms raised as one, clapping me off.
It was a standing ovation if you like.
They were standing already, but still an ovation in my book.
I come off and there’s this girl in the water tent.
She’s wearing this blue Kappa tracksuit, like one from the 84 Olympics, U-S-A arced across the shoulders.
She’s got this mad face paint on so I’m staring a bit more than what’s polite.
‘Kiss?’ I say,
‘As in the band? ….Not as in the touching of lips’.
She says it’s supposed to be Peter Criss - (he’s the drummer apparently) and did it herself as she’d been doing the kids' faces all day.
Do you remember Kiss, Lauren?
Set of weirdos if you ask me, but I’m thinking on my feet here, trying to come up with something heavy-metal related to say.
The first thing that comes out is that my auntie once had a cat called Judas Priest, and she does this little snort thing, trying not to choke on her drink.
She reminds me of someone I can’t place.
It’s the haircut I think.
This Cleopatra-bob cut thing, with eyes like melting ice.
It’s not the only thing that’s melting, Lauren - I can tell you.
The Cock & Bull had this DJ on, one of them who introduced each song by its highest chart position and the year.
It was bouncing in there with everyone from the match carrying on afterward.
It was a bit like Ali baba’s cave if I’m honest, Lauren
If he had a cave that is.
What I mean - is it was full of thieves.
You see - a lot of people ended up in LA out of necessity rather than choice.
If you needed to get away from something or even someone….
…. it's the furthest away on the map, isn't it?
And you can easily end up with the wrong crowd.
Well we all know how it ended up, don't we Lauren?
the DJ’s playing bits of 70’s soul - Brenton Wood, George McCrae, Sister Sledge and the place is rocking.
I get this tap on the shoulder and it comes to me in a flash.
She’s the double of Claire Grogan.
The Gregory’s Girl one, all sophisticated, like she’ll never have to do anything she doesn’t want to for the rest of her life.
I say, ‘There’s something different about you - hang on it’ll come to me’.
‘I wasn’t sure you’d notice - but I’ve washed off the face paint’.
Turns out she was as daft as I was.
So we’re waiting at the bar forever.
Three deep it is and the staff are serving all their favorites as usual, like Scotty and his hangers-on.
“You done well there, lad” he says.
I tell him that the heat got the better of me second half.
He says, “I meant yer bird - yer prick”, and his mates are all pissing themselves.
She smiles back,
then extends a perfect middle finger in their direction.
It's almost poetic.
Then cups her hand to my ear, asking if I fancy going for some food.
That's when the song starts.
We’re weaving through crowded tables towards the exit as that vocal whispers over the harmony,
All the room stops what they’re doing.
It’s like every single person had been waiting for this tune all night.
Conversations stop mid-sentence as the whole place nods along - as if out of a scene from West Side Story.
I’m half expecting everyone to break out into a choreographed dance routine.
It was a time and a place.
When everything in the world felt right.
I never knew it at the time,
But I'd be looking back for the rest of my life.
So Lauren, my next track is…..
“Who you talking to in there?”
“It’s all right, Boss - I’m going to sleep now”.
“Are you doing that Desert Island Discs thing again?”
"It's just the radio, Boss".
“Course it is, mate.
Everyone on the wing’s complaining".
“I'll keep it down, boss”.
“Go on then. What was your last song?”
“Can’t tell you Mr. Peacock. That’s between me and Lauren”.