A beginner’s guide to the Notting Hill Carnival…

As I begin to write this post, I’ll let you in on a secret: I know NOTHING about Notting Hill Carnival, apart from the fact it takes place on 27th and 28th August this year. I’m clueless as to what it entails, why it takes place or who the target audience is. I assume it takes place in Notting Hill, but then again I would have thought China Town was in China. So if you too are clueless, let’s together discover the secrets of the much-loved Notting Hill Carnival…

  1. I can confirm that the Notting Hill Carnival does in fact take place through the streets of Notting Hill. But it also extends to Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park, so I was wrong to make assumptions. Whoops.
  2. It is a celebration of Caribbean culture. Showcasing the best food, the BBC predicts that five tonnes of chicken, 30,000 corn-on-the-cobs and one tonne of rice and peas will be eaten at the carnival. Whether you’re a fan of reggae, hip-hop, salsa or dub, you’ll be sure to get ‘lost’ in live music, as Sister Sledge would say.
  3. Carnival’s initial purpose was to unite people. Following racial tensions, epitomised by the Notting Hill race riots of 1958 and murder or Antiguan carpenter Kelso Cochrane in 1959, activist Claudia Jones was the mastermind of the Caribbean Carnival. It took place indoors on a chilly January day in 1959 and was televised by the BBC. As popular as it was, it was not until 1966 that the true Notting Hill Carnival was born.
  4. Being the largest street party in Europe and second largest in the world, it comes with a logistical problem: toilets. A 2015 survey of locals found that 46% said lack of temporary toilets was a concern as visitors were instead using their doorsteps to relieve themselves. Nice.
  5. Following the Grenfell disaster in June, tribute will be paid to the victims. On Sunday and Monday at 3pm, a minute silence will be observed to pay respects to the countless, needless deaths.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Meet Marla

Husbands aren’t renowned for buying the most exceptional presents for their wives and my dad is no exception. He has however exceeded himself in recent years. A trip to New York; a flashy Merc, and, most barking mad of them all, a puppy! How else better to bring a lust for life and energy into our home to mark mum ageing another year?!

It was interesting initially with a cat AND a dog in the house, although it was obvious who ruled the roost. Pepper the cat did. She died shortly after, so full attention fell on Marla. But it didn’t take much attention to notice the little rascal she would become…


The green gloop gave the game away..

Of utmost importance to Marla is food. That became clear with the pea and ham soup incident within the first few weeks… It was the green gloop running down her face that gave the game away. It’s logical that summer dog walks can be tricky with picnickers scattered across the park and toddlers feeding the ducks. Many tears have been shed due to Marla’s incapability to restrain herself near food. Her favourite victim is the unwitting toddler-usually male- from whom she’s nabbed sandwiches, biscuits, bags of crisps and any bread they may be feeding to the ducks. But it’s not only the juveniles she targets. Early one Sunday morning, a football coach was less than pleased to find his bacon sandwich demolished by Marla. It was my mum who bore the brunt of his anger…

“Wait till I see that dog next time,” he shouted.

But her favourite place for food is the Priory hospital. Hospital food isn’t the tastiest but it hasn’t stopped Marla venturing into their kitchens on several occasions, escaping through the park fence and into the neighbouring hospital grounds. Oh, and the pub. She’s been there too for chicken and chips.

Worth a mention is Marla and her dear friends Black Jack and Casper, our neighbours’ cats. Marla adores them and practically pees herself with excitement every time she spots them sloping idly along the garden fence. Instantly she leaps from the sofa, bombs out the door and to the fence. Quite amazingly, she then springs up and down trying but failing to reach them. Never has and never will she actually get closer than 2 feet to the cats, but that doesn’t dampen her go-get-‘em attitude. Black Jack and Casper peer smugly from the safety of the fence, admiring her perseverance. Or stupidity.

Before Marla, we had always been cat people, so I am familiar with their middle finger attitude. It’s one thing I miss about my feline friends but not enough to give up Marla! She’s like- no, is– a little sister: maddening but the best addition to the family we could ever have wished for.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

School’s out, scream and shout!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist a High School Musical mention…

All done. Never again will I be late to form, answer ‘Yes sir’ to the register or try and stay awake in assembly whilst Mr El-Sayed fails miserably at being inspirational. Though I haven’t forgotten his reminder that us year 13s are on the ‘home straight’ now!

You’ve guessed it. I’m no longer a ‘school girl’. I don’t think I am as sentimental about the occasion as some of my peers. In fact I relish the idea of a fresh start, assuming university is my next destination. Nevertheless, I considered it a good opportunity to reflect on the past 14 years and how I have come to feel ready to depart.

If ever there was toddler keen to start school, that toddler was me. I strutted through the gates on my first day of reception, beaming with pride. The big kids didn’t phase me and I had no intention of kissing Mummy goodbye. Nor did I wave.

My initial keenness curtailed but I remained resolute to be the perfect pupil throughout primary school. Fear of losing a minute of golden time was enough to give me nightmares and I daren’t imagine being sent to Miss Whincop’s office. Primary school would not be primary school without petty rows and my experience was no exception. Taking things too personally was a habit of mine, so when I was told by a fellow classmate that my dinosaur bone discovery was in fact a tree root, I was deeply offended.

My primary school happened to be the ‘breeding ground’ for my secondary school so I transitioned alongside the majority of my class. Despite the security of my solid friendships, the ‘big kids’ seemed more daunting now than when I started Walker. It probably didn’t help being called a ‘prick’ by a sassy year 11 within the first few weeks. I would have mistaken it for a compliment had it not been for Megan, who informed me of its vulgar meaning… My moment of shame was calling dear Abdirahman an idiot. Mr Glasbey reduced me to tears when he sent me out for a ‘talking to’. He didn’t even raise his voice; the stern look was enough to leave me inconsolable for the remainder of the day. After that such incidents were kept to a minimum. My only detentions were with Miss Sriraman and Miss Cho who -in my opinion- took remembering exercise books far too seriously…

I sometimes regret not being a tad more ‘wayward’. Had I actually voiced some of the my more scandalous thoughts, maybe I’d have more captivating tales to tell my future children, like the stories my parents have proudly confessed to me.  Then again, that’s not me, so I guess I’m pleased I stuck true to myself, even if that meant being a wee bit strait-laced at times.

So I survived my free education. And with my first exam in a week, only time will tell if it was taxes well spent. Fingers crossed!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



The Replacement: Bathos of the Century

I’ve slept on it and I’m still as confused as if I too had swallowed a fistful of pills. I’m referring to BBC’s The Replacement, the three-part drama that concluded last night, and disappointed millions whilst at it.

Let me recap what I did get. Ellen is a successful architect who is pregnant and fast-approaching maternity leave. She employs a temp to oversee the finishing touches of her new library but her overly-friendly Replacement, Paula, begins to seem amiss to Ellen. Paula is very protective towards the unborn baby. Intrusive, even. And they become obsessed with each other. We are left wondering which lady is the mad one. Is Paula trying to take over Ellen’s life, or are Ellen’s motherly instincts turning into paranoia?

The first two episodes were excellent. A delectable psychological drama is totally my thing! Difficulty came with watching the characters -bar Ellen- lapping up Paula’s artificial sweetness.

‘She’s evil!’ we wanted to shout.

So that brings me to the first severed end: Kay. Paula apparently killed Ellen’s best friend and colleague, Kay. But why did Kay phone up Ellen from the new library late on the night of her tragic death? She knew something. Something that had to be said in person at the library – the one place Ellen was banned from entering on risk grounds. Best friend, my arse.

With high expectations, I anticipated it ‘all to fall together at the end’ (as my dad always assures me when I exclaim, ‘I don’t get it’ during every programme). Instead it all fell apart.

Ian left Baby Lia on the balcony of their flat, foreboding her kidnap by Paula. He popped his carbonara in the microwave and the baby, as predicted, had disappeared when he returned. But can someone please explain (1) how Paula knew the baby would be on the balcony and (2) how the psychopath managed to climb up to the balcony and climb back down holding a cradle.

But the bigger question is what compelled Ellen to get into Paula’s car? To willingly be locked in a car alone with a murderous lunatic seems a silly thing to do. And then to take a handful of strange blue tablets under orders of the same lunatic also seems silly. Come on, Ellen. You’re smarter than this!

Upon waking from her heavy sleep (apparently they were sleeping pills?!), architect Ellen turns mechanic. Not being a mechanic myself, I’m unsure as to what exactly she does but it’s something clever with wires. The car flies through the garage door and Ellen hits the road James-Bond-style.

So it turns out that Paula is insane and Ellen was right all along. Woopee! Bathos of the century. I am baffled as to what the critics saw in it. Every respectable newspaper had nothing but praise. At least fellow tweeters saw the light.

Note to the BBC

I think I will forgive you for such a descent because most of your shows are top-notch. Line of Duty, The Missing, Death in Paradise, to name a few. I won’t mention this again to save you the embarrassment.


When swearing doesn’t work

I contemplated whether to write about a particular individual or not and decided for the idea when I realised he probably can’t read anyway. The subject is a little kid who knows my name and I shall call him M.Y. for the sake of his anonymity, not that I really care…

For four years, and for no obvious reason, he jeers ‘Ruth’ in a dodgy accent when he sees me, much to the delight of the pack of hyenas that surround him. Some may call it harassment. Bullying. A pitiful pastime. Whatever it’s called, being the victim of a blatant reject is shameful.

I first encountered M.Y. when, lo-and-behold, he had been kept behind by a teacher who, like the rest of us, was unimpressed with his behaviour. I went to collect some missed work from the same teacher and M.Y. overheard my name. He fabricated the idea that I was the teacher’s daughter…

“Are you Miss Connolly’s daughter?” he sneered at me. I ignored him.

“Oh my god. She actually is Miss Connolly’s daughter!!”

Simple things please simple minds, I thought.

Four years on, he hasn’t changed and continues to jeer my name. As sod’s law dictates, these run-ins are far too frequent for my liking; he seemingly spends his days at the park 30 seconds down the road from me doing God knows what. Forgive me for speculating, but I don’t think he goes for the swings…

I’ve tried ignoring him. I’ve tried retaliating. I tend to avoid aggression but once even confronted him and asked what the eff his problem was. He and his friends responded with laughter and jeering. You can’t say I didn’t try.

Last week I was walking home from the shops and guess what I saw ahead of me on the opposite side of the road? Yes, you guessed. It was M.Y., waddling towards the park with one of his ringleader pals. I’d had enough of his torment so I shouted…


No response.

“MEHMET!” I yelled again.

No longer anonymous… oh well.

This time he heard and turned in confusion. Who could this be, calling M.Y’s name? Tables have turned here…

He spotted me. I gave him an enthusiastic overhead wave and toothy grin. He stood still. Embarrassment shrouded his usual bullish facade. Out popped his hand from his trousers and he showed off his middle finger to me.

Yesssss, I thought to myself. I’d hit a nerve there. My smile didn’t fade the whole way home!

As it happened, our paths crossed again the next day. I swore at my own bad luck as we approached each other. But I persisted and gave a little friendly wave and sarcastic smile. He put his head down and his mate sniggered. At me or him, I’m unsure. But no jeering. No mocking of my name. No laughing.

I’m still awaiting our next meeting, so it remains unclear as to whether my ‘give him a taste of his own medicine’ technique has tackled his torment or not. Regardless, I must bear in mind that I have real friends. I have somewhere more pleasant to reside than the park. I have trousers that fit me. He has none of these things.

They’ve failed us

Four hours of my christmas holidays were spent watching Barracuda, a box-set beauty I stumbled across on BBC iPlayer. The four-part drama is based on a book about Australian wannabe Olympic swimmers. It is set in the late 1990s, appropriately prior to the Sydney games.The story follows the rise of Danny from a working-class family and his subsequent fall. We can’t all be Olympians and Danny doesn’t end up being one of the lucky ones.

I loved the mini series so much that I begged my mum and sister to watch it; I couldn’t possibly contain my excitement alone! When they had complied to my plead, I asked for feedback. My mum responded with her disappointment in the ending; Danny didn’t make it. He screwed up and took it badly. And I could empathise with her deflation. But isn’t that what happens in real life? Daily disappointments haul us downwards. Dead ends threaten every path. And for every winner there is at least one loser. But no one tells their story.

I’m sure we all remember the motivational ‘Thought of the Day’s preached incessantly by teachers as if they were devout nuns reciting the Apostle’s Creed. We hear the heroic stories of Mo Farah, Maggie Thatcher, Nelson Mandela and even Lance Armstrong (before he was denounced an ungodly liar and cheat). We are told to aspire to their achievements and, if not, at least make it to university, for goodness sake! We are forced to the limits and made numb to physical and emotional pain as we reach for that final goal.

But it doesn’t always work. And then you’re left without a map to guide the way. Without an authoritative shove in the right direction. Without a flickering light in the distance. You’re left on your knees picking up the pieces whilst the rest of the world walk passed chasing towards their own flickering lights that they might never reach. No doubt you’ve been the passerby before too; we all have but have been too oblivious to notice anything but our flickering light.

In Danny’s case, he was an excellent swimmer but less excellent than the three other boys who took bronze, silver and gold in the qualifiers. He finished fourth. Albeit its fictitious storyline, reality certainly dishes the same dirt. My own school does it to the kids they’ve nurtured for 5 years. Results day determines whether you’re safe for another year or off to Southgate College. How many boys will be dropped by the Arsenal youth team this year? How distraught will they be and how many of them will cope with the failure and actually carry on to their full potential? And how many people will be rejected from their dream university by the fault of an A rather than the necessary A*? Will anyone be there to aid the bruises and fatalities of the ‘failures’? Mum and Dad maybe.

I don’t think it’s fair. This is not a ‘gap’ in the system; it’s a cliff at the end of the system waiting to devour you. We are taught how to succeed. The flaw is that we are not taught how to succeed when we fail.  You can’t prepare for that.

BBC’s Barracuda

The Lie – C.L.Taylor

In need of a real gripper to trial my new kindle with, C.L.Taylor’s The Lie was a strong contender. I read the Accident a few years back and remember really enjoying it and The Lie had positive reviews so I decided to take the plunge. And, boy, did it not disappoint!

Flicking between past and present, the reader follows Emma/Jane from her previous life to the new one she has fabricated. Five years ago, Emma went on an ‘adventure of a lifetime’ with three friends. The hippy of the pack planned a retreat to Ekanta Yatra in the Nepalese mountains. Fooled by the paradisiacal description, their friendships and lives are slowly strained and wrecked before us. Five years on tells the tale of animal-lover ‘Jane’ and how she has pieced back a life for herself. But someone is starting to rip in apart again. The less you know the better…

I felt both aggravated and attached to the characters. The hatred I felt towards Leanne was softened by her mental difficulties and bumpy upbringing; the same for my irritation towards whiny Daisy. Emma was relatable and Al was loveable. The characters felt real and I unpicked their layers as the novel progressed; they were far more complex than first apparent.

Other reviewers have criticised the unrealistic storyline. I second that, although the excitement and unpredictability would be non-existent if it were set in a generic city with simplistic characters. The unfamiliarity of a cult and its ritualistic nature is necessary to take the reader beyond their depth. My only drawback would be the slightly rushed ending. Nothing was left open, so whilst satisfying, Taylor seemed to face quite a challenge hastily tying up loose ends in the space of a few pages.

Poignant and purposefully written, The Lie had me eagerly awaiting bedtime reading. I would recommend this book to suspense-hungry readers because the cliffhangers in this book will keep you reading far too late in the night!

I’ve fallen in love…

I planned to open this blog post with ‘A sigh of relief’, but decided that connotes negativity. So I’ve settled with:

A sigh of satisfaction. After a fleeting visit to Oxford, I am home. In the space of 26 hours, I had four interviews; two with Worcester College and two with St Anne’s College. Despite its intensity, I can’t deny that I had an awesome time. Living the life of an Oxford student, with my own room, the quaint city at my doorstep and the opportunity to discuss what I love best with experts in their field, I probably enjoyed myself more than I ought!

After enduring the Piccadilly line with very ‘severe delays’, the Victoria line, Bakerloo Line and a national rail train all the time with a broken-handled suitcase trailing awkwardly behind me, my welcome was warm. I was promptly shown to my room by a student helper at Worcester. Throughout my stay friendliness oozed from every student helper and fellow interviewee I spoke to, debunking the myth that all those who go to Oxford are ‘toffs’. Yes, I’m sure there are some pompous kids amongst the cohort who need their shoe shoved up their bottom, but the majority were and are great people. Fellow candidates and I even set up a Facebook group!

I was slightly dreading the interviews, with peers’ horror stories at the forefront of my mind…

“They asked me why the sea is blue,” Vivien told me.

“They gave me a molecule and asked me what it was,” my own doctor told me.

Rumour had it they ask how you can measure the weight of your head… is it even possible?!!

Surprisingly my wonky expectations were set straight. The questions were tricky, yes, but not impossible. I wasn’t grilled by petrifying professors- they were all incredibly welcoming! And so were the plump, velvet armchairs! Forget the flimsy plastic seats you get in MMIs…

For those unfamiliar with medical school interviews, MMIs (multiple mini interviews) are the newer, more popular style of interviews. Think speed-dating, but rather than circulating through potential partners, you circulate through a series of interviewers, who ask different questions or propose tasks for you. Each station lasts about 7 minutes.

With traditional interviews you have roughly 20 minutes with a panel of one or more interviewers. This is the preferred style by Oxford (and me too!). 20 minutes gives you time to build a rapport with the interviewer; both parties can assess each other. Quite frankly, I feel MMIs are a bit rude; once your seven minutes are up, you are practically told to shut up and move on!! Speed-dating or speedy break-up?

Sorry, I digressed. Back to Oxford…

The city was beautiful. Dotted with ancient architecture, retro cinemas and playhouses, modern restaurants and funky pop-up shops, you can wander to one’s heart’s content. Carol singers entertained at the corner of the street to collect money for the homeless. Their christmas joy was contagious and so was passersby’s generosity.

Part of me hates the fact I got an interview. Rejection is highly likely, given the competition and my disastrous first interview. I fell in love with Oxford and was on cloud ninety-nine, but keep reminding myself that the higher I get, the further I have to fall. I suppose the experience was good enough in itself. I met inspiring people, tasted independence and ultimately had the best time ever! I might not get an offer, but no one can take away my interview experience!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Time for Pumpkin Pie and Ice Scream!

Hallow all!

Zoe’s black and orange stripy socks failed to escape my notice. Scary movies are creeping up on the TV Guide. Multipack sweet bags are on special offer.

The 31st October is most certainly looming closer.

It is the one night of the year that kids are allowed to drag their reluctant parents out on the dark streets lit only by street lamps that flicker eerily. Draped in ebony capes, they squeal in excitement as they skip down driveways, hands wrapped around a broomstick and cauldron to hold the sweeties. They impatiently rap the front door and yell ‘TRICK OR TREEEAAT!’ impatiently. Hands swarm into the bowl of sweets. Satisfied, they return to the pavement and onto the next house.

Bit of a weird tradition, don’t you think?

My mum certainly thought so when we were younger. Despite the extravagant festivities on our street, she described the Halloween ritual as ‘begging’ and begrudged taking us out. Luckily her prejudice softened over the years and trick or treating soon became accepted in the Nugent household.

The excitement begun when the first trick or treaters came knocking at about 5:00pm. Given their lack of height and sheer excitement, this was probably their first ever trick or treating trip. At the end of the driveway, the doting Mummies would be waiting, admiring their little devils diving into the sweet bowl. Not all trick or treaters were as adorable, though. I’m sure we all know those ghastly 11 year old boys who would hammer the door boisterously. Then they would proceed by snatching a fistful of Haribos and Drumsticks, not even voicing the words ‘Trick or Treat’. Nor would they say ‘Thanks’.

Unlike them, I would like to think I was quite a polite trick or treater. My mum routinely gave us the ‘No pumpkin, no knocking lesson’ each year. I would watch in disdain as my friends carelessly knocked on every door, regardless of the pumpkin’s invitation. They may have accumulated more sweets than me, much to my disappointment, but at least I could sleep with the thought that I had not terrified any unwitting pensioners. And I would never forget the essential lines, ‘Trick or Treat’ and ‘Thank you’, even when the only offerings were those gross boiled sweets…

Halloween is the one night of the year that anyone of any age can dress up and not stick out like a bat during daytime. That is, unless, you get the wrong day. And that is exactly what I did a good 10 years ago… Delighted to be invited to boy’s 7th Halloween party, I eagerly dressed up as a witch. I went all out, with lime-green face paint, plastic witch fingers and an oversized witch hat. I could hardly contain my excitement as my dad drove down the road to the restaurant. I flew out of the car and shot towards the venue. However upon entering the restaurant, confused faces turned towards me. None of my friends were there. My dad optimistically told the waiter I was here for James’ 7th party. The waiter replied that we were a week late…

Despite my desperation to join in the Halloween euphoria, I could never understand why Halloween costumes had no insulation. Was I the only witch/cat freezing my paws off as I knocked on every front door with a pumpkin in the window? Scantily dressed in thin polyester, it was hardly appropriate considering it was the night before November… And my indecisiveness forced me to prolong the exposure to the icy winds; I practically had to play Ip-Dip-Do at every house to decide between the Freddo, Rocky and Crunchie. It would be audacious to take all three…

Missing out on Halloween, however, was a blow. The year we had an extension on our house, we moved out for six months to live with my grandparents. This, unfortunately, coincided with 31st October and their neighbourhood wasn’t particularly Halloween-friendly. Not one trick or treater came knocking… well… that is not quite true…

10 years earlier…

Exasperated, I sat sulking in my temporary bedroom. Why had no one noticed our enticing pumpkin glowing in the window? The sweet bowl was waiting idly by the front door, but it was full to the brim. When suddenly…

“DING DONG!” I jumped up from my hunched crossed-legged position, bolted down the stairs and skidded to the front door. I yanked it open and to my initial delight it was a trick-or-treater. But my face fell after a few seconds. Wrapped in colourful scarves with a pair of sunglasses and a rake for a broomstick was my Grandad. My earlier disappointment had evidently been noted by him and he had gallantly dressed up in the most ridiculous costume he could make out of my Granny’s wardrobe. Alas his best efforts backfired by aggravating me more and making me feel foolish for letting myself believe we actually had a real trick or treater. Rather than bearing sweet offerings, I hastily spun round and retreated back to my room, feeling hard-done-by. How ungrateful.

Present day again

I’m nearly 18 and my lust for Halloween has diminished with age. Trick or treating ended 4 years ago; now a new meaning of Halloween is blossoming. Think Mean Girls…

Just kidding. I’m not really into all that palaver… yet. Give it a year.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Beelieve in Miracles!

I almost collapsed with excitement.

Browsing Barnet’s programme on Saturday, my eyes stumbled across the manager’s kind offer for his players to make visits to birthday parties, schools and, to my delight, hospitals! Having been admitted to hospital myself 4 days previously, the offer was beyond a miraculous coincidence. Without hesitation, my mum immediately composed an email, explaining the situation and listing a few of my favourite players. Their speedy reply arrived on Bank Holiday Monday-only keeping us waiting for a matter of hours. It certainly didn’t disappoint: Jamie Stephens, Barnet’s No. 1 (literally) was coming to see me!

I would like to consider myself a true Barnet fan. The fact I cannot kick a football to save my life only resonates my dedication to the team, in my opinion. I have held a season ticket for years, accompanying them on the controversial journey from Underhill to the Hive; I have been a member of the supporters’ association since my mum went into labour (thanks Grandad); I have braved the sniggering glances when I have worn orange and black face paint to matches and dragged reluctant friends with me. Given my fan profile, excited doesn’t quite cut it. But when the day arrived, I was equally as nervous…

“What if it’s awkward?” I fretted at 8:00AM.

“What if we sit in silence?” 9:30AM

“Maybe I should get scrabble ready in case he gets bored of me…” 11:15AM

As noon passed, I made a list of 21 questions to ask so I was prepped to quiz Jamie about himself and his fellow footballers.

Before I could say Jamie Stephens, it was 1:15PM. Time to meet the infamous goalie.

Waiting for me in the reception was Jamie, my mum, and two Barnet media guys. Jamie was MUCH taller in real life. I was presented with a new Barnet scarf, with orange stripes more brightly coloured than my old one, and a pair of goalie gloves worn by Jamie himself! I was feeling incredibly lucky.


I led us all to the garden and we slumped down on the grass in the sun. Jamie chatted and chatted about his football career, education, injuries, fellow players, girlfriend, family… pretty much anything! Between himself and my mum, I could hardly get a word in! But that’s what I wanted. He was confident, warm and a truly humble person. There was no need for scrabble and no opportunity to ask my 21 questions! We ended the visit with a smiley picture in the sunshine. He signed the gloves and gave me well-wishes that seemed genuine and meaningful, not just obligatory words.

Acts of generosity like this are invaluable. Confined to hospital for a week, utterly bored and feeling a bit sorry for myself, it lifted my spirits more than I could have wished for.

A huge thank you to Barnet FC for facilitating this and to Jamie Stephens for giving up time to come and see me. I am truly grateful.