The other day Ben from Waxing Lyrical posted a comment asking why on earth I continued to play football at the ripe old age of 47. Not unreasonably, given my age, many injuries and general decrepitude, Ben described my continued urge to put foot to leather as "fallacious" and wondered how I could justify my strange behaviour.
I have the answer, or, at least, an answer. It comes in the inspirational form of Dr Keith Carabine.
I got to know Keith a couple of years ago when I joined The Joseph Conrad Society. Keith is the Society's chairman. We corresponded and rapidly discovered a mutual love not just of Conrad but of football. Keith is a diehard Manchester City fan, I am just as dedicated to the illustrious team from Loftus Road in Shepherd's Bush, the mighty Queens Park Rangers, the club which is perhaps charmingly devoted to an abidingly dissonant use of the apostrophe (we are 'The Rs' but you will never see this written, the club's scribes insisting that we are 'The R's', which makes me and other grammarians ask: 'The R's what?').
Anyway, to the point: soon it came to pass that Keith and I met. We met again, and again. We watched football together. We had a bite to eat with fellow Rs' fan and longtime friend of Keith's, Robert Coover. We watched some more football. Keith read Wrecking Machine and continued to talk to me afterwards. And then he said: "Fancy a game of football?"
This was unexpected. Keith had proved himself a fine figure of a man but he was not a spring chicken. In fact, he was 70. Surely he wasn't really inviting me to join him for a real, live and kicking game of football?
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting," said Keith. He then informed me that he still played The Beautiful Game, both for a team near his home town of Canterbury and, on occasion, with a bunch of friends in London for Saturday morning 6-a-side.
"I suggest you come along one Saturday and see what it's all about," said Keith. "It's perfectly safe."
And so I did. I met Keith at the indoor pitch of Southbank University and a game duly took place. Keith played at the back, passing the ball well, reading the game well, directing play well, quoting Conrad only when necessary. It's fair to say that pace was not the leitmotif of his game but he held his own among a motley-ish crew of 30-somethings (and me). There was no aggro, the standard was that of decent amateur players and people passed to the ball to one another (young players who turn up for Dynamo Chough Tuesday night games, I beg you to take note).
I've since played a few more times with Keith's London lot. They're a fine bunch and I'm next due to play with them when in London on 5 October, when I'll also go and see QPR and wonder afresh about the compulsive misuse of apostrophes at Loftus Road. I believe Keith is now 72 and I know he's still playing; indeed, I expect him to be there on 5 October.
The urbane Dr Keith Carabine this is the reason I refuse to give up football. Having broken and torn just about everything in, on and near my body I know that it is indeed fallacious to keep playing but I look at Keith and behold a man whose zest for life is extraordinary and inspirational. I think to myself: 'If Keith can still play at 72, I can keep going and maybe still play at that age too.'
In my case, this is an absurd conceit. But, like a pesky apostrophe in the wrong place at Shepherd's Bush, I can't shake it off.
Pictured: Keith Carabine, right, wearily confronts the news that Alex Wade has again refused to hang up his boots.