One of our new friends here in Hexham is newly retired. A couple of nights ago we were having a pint and he commented that he doesn’t know how he ever had time to work he has been so busy enjoying retirement. I feel a little the same about being on sabbatical! This week has been full of bike rides, eating meals as a family, visiting my grandmothers, reading various books, journaling, hanging out at the local bike shop, beginning bell-ringing lessons (more to come on that later), and today, my first official British football match. The days just fly by. How did I ever have time to work?! Well, I’ll figure that out again in a couple of months.
Thanks to another new friend here I attended today’s game of Newcastle United against Stoke. My father grew up attending Magpie matches. Today’s game was especially exciting because with their 3-0 win Newcastle moved up to the fourth spot in the Premier League (England’s top league). If they can hold onto that spot over the remaining four games of the season they will enter the very prestigious European Champions League. The final game of the Champions League is the most watched annual sporting event in the world.
Throughout the match I was struck by how focused the experience is on the actual football. There is no scoreboard in the 50,000+ seat St. James Park (Sports Direct Arena) where Newcastle plays. Not only is there no jumbo-tron to watch instant replays over and over – there is no scoreboard of any kind. There is simply a small game clock in one corner of the stadium. You better keep track of the goals yourself or you’ll be out of the loop. There is also no half-time show, no t-shirts being shot into stands, no music, and no vendors in the stands. There is only football. And today, the football was brilliant.