Last Saturday I completed the pilgrimage. I took a Southwest train from London Waterloo to Twickenham and got off the train at Twickenham along with countless others and walked, one of hundreds along what was clearly a familiar path: sidewalk tiles tilted sideways, scuffed and worn smooth by step after step after step… Little steps by little sneakered feet and big steps by big loafered feet and rocking lopsided steps by old men with canes and maybe one good foot and one bad foot and wobbly tottering steps of toddlers taking this pilgrimage for the first time, same as me, wobbling and tottering on their wobbly tottering feet.
Then, seated, sealed in the shade-bound south side among the frenzied fans, it starts. A grumbling, rasping roar; the first tremors in the ground before an earthquake; the wave forming irresistibly somewhere offshore, a slow swell still catching beachgoers by surprise despite the cycle being as old as time. This is a special music, the three-beat thunder, thumping, uncontrolled, contagious—HAR-LE-QUINS!—my right foot makes its shy humble offering: tap. tap. tap. It isn’t a teaming thrilling ecstatic scream but it meshes well with the choir. It isn’t the frantic flapping of flags, chequered fuchsia, grey-periwinkle, green, brown, black taupe—filling “The Stoop” with color, mysteriously missing Gloucester red and white, but it is mine.
I feel closer to home than I have in a while.
I steadily become more enthusiastic as I learn.
I leave, the proud owner of knee-high, stripped socks: fuchsia, grey-periwinkle, green, brown, black taupe.
(Happy six months, Brendan. I love you.)