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Canberra, cyclones and cemetery gates

Submitted by on May 19, 2011 – 8:15 amOne Comment

Dear finest of Lungs

Fucking hell. I’ve been out of Manchester since the end of winter 2006. I saw some FCUM matches during that winter, which was particularly cold even though I had this spark, this idea that was “community” pulsing through my veins.

You see, I moved to Manchester when I was 18 years and 1 week old. I flew out of Brisbane during our summer, and I landed in London, with their weird yellow street lights and their unfriendly faces.

I landed without contact, the number I was given of my elder brother did not work, and I was only let in through customs because the friendly Manc lady at the gate knew that my stumbling references to my residency in “Bobby Charlton’s place in Manchester” might actually refer to Chorlton. I walked through those arrival gates a man from the colonies, still in love with the legends of Cantona and King Cole.

Down here in the heathen colonies we got an hour of European Football a night. I would sit on the wooden floorboards as a child, waiting for the United colours to flash before my eyes.

I’m not sure if my love of MUFC pushed me into politics. I believe that it was probably the Twin Tower attacks that made me feel the despair and absurdity of the relations between fellow humans. I was 15 years old when Iraq started kicking off.

I was the youngest fella to be led to the cells during the anti-war protests. I had my first schooner of XXXX bitter in a pub during that action, one of the other prisoners decided to shout me a drink even though I was in my school uniform.

We weren’t only protesting the bullshit that our government was getting into (polls showed that at least 60% of people were against invasion, but that wasn’t enough for the smart fuckers in Canberra to see some fucking sense) but we were rotesting being a safe and hidden extension of US culture. Their bullshit corporations, their puritan values, their naked capitalism and their sporting culture that valued cash over worth.

My home town’s football team is owned by some dodgy coffee makers and the rugby league team is owned by Murdoch. I could not put my heart behind either. We kicked off in the Foreign Office, at Boeing, and stuck our fingers up at Murdoch journalists. We were labelled irrational, troublemakers, anarchists. It was only after Manchester that I embraced these titles.

I naturally joined the socialists. But there was something missing, we were all ready for the fist fights in the parks with fascists that happened under Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen (look it up), but there weren’t many dances any more.

Sure, there was time for fists sometimes, but without the weekly routine the wise old fuckers were getting tired and drifting away to make mainstream and “useful” politics. Fuckers even joined our Labour party (which is as bad as yours).

I was never, and I never hope to be, a reasonable man. So I left. I saved up pennies from my jobs shifting gear and as soon as I was able I jumped on a plane. My only brother lived in Manchester at the time (due to some luck and coincidence) so I flew in there. My brother lived in Chorlton (or Bobby Charlton), off Barrow Moor Road, on the other side from Southern Cemetery.

It was cold. So fucking cold. I had come out of Cyclone weather, the 40 degree days followed by a violent afternoon storm which would make the next day even more humid. I would walk home with a carton on my shoulder (I can’t remember what you people call it, it’s a pack of 24 beers in a cardboard box) and I would feel like I’m swimming. I would have to push against the air like it was a thick sludge. And then, suddenly, I was in this crisp coldness.

Young children would point and be afraid when I walked to the shops without shoes on. I finally understood Stouts, and whisky tasted that bit more lovely.

A month or so into my sampling of the pubs of Manchester my brother suggested that we duck along to see FCUM. You see, a couple of friends of ours had tried out for the team and while they didn’t get into the team we felt the community spirit. We went along. And for fucks sake.

This was Manchester. That match changed me. The wispy dreams I had heard tell of at the gigs at the dodgy Brisbane clubs nights, the whispers of action at my political meetings, those nights spent on the hardwood floor watching SBS’s “The World Game”. It all came together.

Manchester was it. It had both the freedom and culture of the western world combined with the blood-deep solidarity of the international helpless and powerless. I understood.

Afterwards, my trip to London was pointless. London is dull, full of Australians and fuckers trying to be too cool to care. I went back to Brisbane before Summer broke in Manchester. The coldest months were my own. Since then I’ve moved south to Sydney.

I’ve had two people make conversations due to my FCUM scarf in this town. But every day, I think to myself “Is what I’m doing today going to get me closer to Manchester?” I went and studied the Workers’ History of Europe (with a focus on North England) at my lovely colonial University.

And I help my community. I build up the Punk and DIY scenes in Sydney. We help each other out, we are a community (I can send tracks if there is any interest). I whisper words of FCUM. I tell them that we can enjoy football, that there is another way. Punk can enjoy itself on a Saturday afternoon. I sit around backyards, getting misty-eyed when I speak of the FA Cup match I watched by myself in a pub from 11am on a Saturday morning.

And I get annoyed. I get annoyed when I hear that fewer people are going to FCUM games when they are losing. I get annoyed when I hear that people are kicking against this thing. I get shitty when I hear that Manchester is being passive during this time of action. I spend my days dreaming of being in the front lines of the protests and being back in the song at Gigg Lane.

My basic sentiment is as follows: Do not take what you have for granted. I dream of being in Manchester. I dream of being at CYCM, of standing with passion in my heart and a song in my lungs.

I will be back with you soon, once our Queen accepts my visa and I gather enough change from rounds to get back to the north. I will buy the first round at CYCM at whatever place you guys think up.

Your brother, your friend, your compañero
Josh T

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