Autofictive Athletic by Matt Fallaize

This is a work of fiction.

I need to clarify this, as there’s been quite the fashion of late for novels based, with almost no alterations, on the minutiae of the day to day life of men.

Nearly always men.

And in these alleged fictions they catalogue their bowel movements and fear of death and there’s generally some tedious byplay about the taut flesh of much younger women. None of it is terribly edifying, but then they call it a novel and everyone falls over impressed.

I read one where he spent a chapter sniffily describing reading somebody else’s autofictive novel. He said the author didn’t understand his own essence. Bet he’s a riot at parties.

So, to reiterate, this is a work of fiction, written in the pub that I own late-ish at night as I’m waiting for the last few people to leave. There are lots of fictions written about pubs, bars, restaurants, places where people gather; it’s a good subject, humanity, passions, alcohol, the sensuality of food. It all happens.

Very few of these fictions focus on the period of time spent waiting for the last two people to leave. It always takes longer than you imagine. You can never believe that they’re doing this to you. Don’t they realise?

So I’ve spotted a gap in the market, so to speak.

I’m standing and waiting and I’m thinking about this morning, the first day of the year that it’s been nice enough to have breakfast outside. I had breakfast with my wife and we chit-chatted in a desultory manner about things that need doing to the house over our scrambled eggs and asparagus.

The asparagus season being as short as it is, we tend to get a bit giddy when it comes, have it with most meals, the kids despair, apart from the youngest, who loves it. I repeat, fiction. 

The French doors need mending, that was the main thrust of things. I had a song repeating round my head, “Rock and Roll is full of Bad Wools” by the band Half Man Half Biscuit. It’s a truly excellent song, I like most of their stuff, but this one is a particular favourite. The main thrust is that rock and roll is full of people putting it on, pretending to be more genuine than they are and it does contain some genuinely brilliant lyrics. I remember years before ranting on this very topic, referring to some awful band as “Stage School Indie”, so obviously I’m predisposed to like it, that’s the joy of your middle age, isn’t it, having your prejudices reinforced.

Then you can write about it and call it fiction. Which this is.

Anyway, without quoting any lyrics, which, I imagine, are under copyright, a young person in a band is criticised for being a Chelsea fan when, being from Leigh on Sea, he should by rights be following Southend.

I’ve always preferred lower and non league football, without wishing to sound too much like a wanker, it feels more real. It’s also a lot cheaper, so there’s that. Like liking songs by semi-obscure bands, or working in a job which is for the most part fairly thankless and regarded by the general public as lacking in prestige, or writing short stories and submitting them to online magazines, it’s a way of feeling better than other people. Superior. I’ve earned my pleasure. You just enjoyed stuff. 

(fiction, don’t forget)

The world is divided into two sorts of people. Those who choose to make life difficult for themselves, and those who don’t. Who just accept the world as their due.

I’ve not been to a match since a Burscough home game against Blyth Spartans. There was a pub close to the ground which has since been converted into a pretty mediocre gastropub, it’s good enough to impress people from round here, but in any right-thinking world it would have closed years ago.

Anyway, this pub would be where we traditionally had a post-match pint and a debrief, noting down some of the more piquant aspects of the day’s play. I remember on this particular day the away side’s goalkeeper, a young chap of quite spectacularly rotund proportions, had had a pie chucked at him by the home fans. To his eternal credit, he’d eaten it.

Blyth Spartans, you may be surprised to learn, are the only non-league team that has a firm of hooligans. I say firm, there’s about three of them, and their attempts at organised rucks are generally thwarted by nobody else being remotely arsed, non-league fans being, by and large, a peaceable and phlegmatic bunch. On this occasion, they walked into the pub where we sat in the corner and set about attempting to smash the place up.

In this, they were more successful than usual, due to a crew of roofers objecting to their post work pint being interrupted.

Much to my disquiet, some flying glass opened up the cheek of one of my drinking companions, a blameless young chap called Phil. If I recall correctly he was training to be a vet. A scarlet slash appeared suddenly on his face and the world was still for just enough time to take in every single unforgettable detail of his wound. His expression has always stayed with me, resigned, as if something like this were inevitable.

Perhaps stunned that they had actually managed to do some hooliganing, the trio left, whooping with glee.

It was possible, I reflected, to have a little too much reality.

I’ve not been to a game since, but I do still prefer the lower leagues. I have a son who gets taken to Grimsby games when he visits his relatives. he says it’s hilarious.

The table of two are still sat there. They’ve just ordered another round of drinks. Brilliant. I’ll text my wife, tell her not to wait up.

Matt Fallaize is a writer (and chef) based in Ormskirk, Lancashire, where he knocks out meals, stories and poems in wildly varying quantities. His most recent book, 99 Postcards for Georges Perec is available from Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. You can find him (should you so wish) on Twitter @MattFallaize, Facebook at MattFallaizeWriting or at