THE Easter holidays. A time of hope, joy and chocolate. Winter is behind us, spring is upon us, summer is coming. What’s not to love? But I just can’t enjoy it.
Easter makes me anxious. And the roots of the anxiety are so deep that I fear I’ll never shake it off.
Firstly, Easter always came with the prospect of exams.
And this meant either revising, or not enjoying whatever else I was doing because what I knew I should have been doing was revising.
The weird thing is that I did my O levels — not GCSEs, note; this is how far back I’m going — 40 years ago.
And I’ve not done an exam of any kind since an unbelievably stressful retake of a shorthand test in 1992.
I had to pass it to confirm the job I’d been offered at The Birmingham Post newspaper.
I was hopeless at shorthand. And I’m sorry to have to tell you that I cheated to pass.
I copied out the required passage from the girl sat opposite me.
Joy and despair
The shame of it. The stress of it. And at what time of year did this travesty take place? Easter, of course.
The sight or taste of an Easter egg, or the even the merest whiff of the first cut grass of the year triggers me. I still get the fear.
Just talking to my kids, or my friends’ kids, or anybody’s kids about Easter-time revision takes me right back there.
Whoever it was who decided that exams should come straight after Easter can’t have been a Christian, it’s just too cruel.
The same is true for whoever designed the football calendar.
And this year Jews and Muslims were caught up in it too, with their festivals falling on the same weekend.
Whatever our faith, how on earth were we supposed to have a restful weekend if our devotion is also to a football team?
What kind of Easter Sunday do we suppose Arsenal or Liverpool fans had this year?
How were Leeds fans, lamped 5-1 at home by Crystal Palace, supposed to experience the joy of the resurrection when all the joy was heading back down the M1 with the Palace fans?
On the other hand, West Brom losing 3-1 at Rotherham on Good Friday did at least mean I spent that day shrouded in an appropriate level of solemnity and despair.
It’s some consolation to know that no fewer than two of our future kings were on a similar rollercoaster this weekend.
In the photographs, Princes William and George looked as though they were going through the mill watching Aston Villa beat Forest 2-0 at Villa Park.
Looking at those pictures of them is rather like looking at one of those strange viral images where different people see different things.
Like the one of that dress that was either black and blue or white and gold, depending on who you asked.
Do you see two future monarchs pretending to be like the rest of us?
Or just a father taking his son to the football so he too can experience the joy and despair of supporting a team?
And do we think they’re for real?
How much will the performance of Aston Villa affect their mood?
Football cuts across all social boundaries.
Whether you are heir to the throne or heir to nothing at all, if you really feel football, you really feel it.
I’m fascinated to see how this Villa habit turns out for them both.
I’d love it, just love it, honestly, if it were to become clear that one or both of them was completely obsessed with their team.
On Sunday morning, after their home win the day before, they were at the Royal Family’s Easter service.
But let’s imagine Forest had somehow scored three goals in the last seconds of injury time and Villa had lost.
In that case what I would be looking for would be for them to be no-shows the day after.
“Where are they?” the Press would demand.
“Too upset after the Villa result I’m afraid. Couldn’t get them out of bed.”
There would be outrage, but what of it?
This is the kind of thing I for one want from my Royal Family.
I want to know they’re for real. And as stressed out by Easter as I am.
Join queue to be in break-up song
“BREAKING up is never easy, I know, but I have to go.”
So sang ABBA, obviously. Never a truer word sung or said.
But how much harder must it be for people like, say, Taylor Swift and her long-time bloke Joe Alwyn?
Taylorologists, that’s those in the branch of academia devoted to studying Taylor’s lyrics, will now set about examining her love songs thought to be about Joe for signs that things weren’t well.
And they will, of course, also be studying lyrics of future songs for evidence of what went wrong.
OK, since she writes about getting together; not getting back together; being in love; not being in love, and indeed being in hate rather than in love, we can hardly be blamed for taking an interest.
But it must be so hard to forge and maintain a relationship if you’re in the public eye.
I recall being on air the day Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement.
Within minutes, flashing up on my screen was an exhaustive article by the Press Association news agency going through all available details of his romantic life up to that point.
Obviously the losing his cherry out the back of the pub with the enthusiastic horse lady business wasn’t in there, as we were blissfully unaware of this incident at the time.
But nevertheless, put yourself in his shoes for a minute. Imagine getting together with someone you really liked and, at that very moment, a comprehensive rundown of your entire sexual CV being published?
How many relationships, I wonder, would be blighted from the word go?
And something else I don’t understand: If you’ve written a classic love song about someone, how does any future partner deal with you singing it?
How did Joe deal with all the songs supposedly about Jake Gyllenhaal, Harry Styles and whoever else.
At least, by way of consolation, the International Institute for Taylorology (made up name) identifies dozens of songs written by Taylor about Joe, not least Lover on the album Lover about her then lover.
How’s her next lover going to deal with that?
Then again, I suppose if that’s the price of being shacked up with one of the most talented, desirable and wealthy women in the world, then I’m sure it’ll be price many a fella is happy to pay.
Form an orderly queue please, gentlemen.
Football not like movie
THE takeover of Wrexham by the Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney is one of the oddest stories in football.
Why them? Why Wrexham?
Ryan’s even bought a house nearby for him and Mrs Reynolds, one Blake Lively.
What’s going on? The questions have come faster than the answers.
Gradually, though, it does start to make sense as we see the whole escapade turned into a big TV hit.
The club’s been transformed, and the town has a new sense of itself, as does football in the hitherto unloved, uncelebrated, fifth tier.
So this story has a great beginning and a great middle – but what about the end?
This is football, and football dreams rarely survive contact with reality.
Hollywood demands happy endings sooner rather than later.
Won a thriller
Last year Wrexham found a way of not getting promoted to the football league proper.
If the same happens again this season, we’re going to have to watch the show from behind the sofa.
It’s down to Wrexham and Notts County for automatic promotion. Notts County were top for ages, but then Wrexham took over.
And then on a bad Good Friday for Wrexham, County went top again.
And yesterday they played each other in quite possibly the biggest match ever – and certainly the most-watched – in the history of football at this level.
Wrexham won a thriller, so they’re back on top now and have a game in hand.
Ryan and Rob are learning the hard way that, unlike in Hollywood, football doesn’t follow a script.
Neither do things necessarily turn out as they should.
And it’s always, but always, the hope that kills you.
Are we losing the pot?
POTHOLES. I hate potholes.
If you’re in the car, they can wreck it. If you’re on a bike or motorbike, they can wreck your whole life.
But whenever I bang on about them, in print or on the radio, I’m told to stop banging on about them and find something original to bang on about.
This is because potholes have been normalised.
We’re accepting we live in a country in which potholes are a fact of life.
I’m not having it. I will never be silenced. The potholes must be filled.