I’ve not written a blog since 30th December, 2019. That’s 590 days and also, as it turns out, pretty much the entire reign of Mikel Arteta. It was also one day before a cluster of cases of pneumonia were discovered in Wuhan. So while Arsenal turned tack and the world was turned upside down, there I was, resolutely not writing anything at all.
A dwindling but merry band of former readers do occasionally ask me why – and encourage me to pick it up again. Still I did nothing. And now, in a bid to make me pick it up again, the lovely Mrs East Lower has written *me* a blog post.
Here are some parts of it.
“It happened slowly. So slowly it was imperceptible. First he started missing going to a few matches ‘I’m too tired…’or ‘It’s miserable out there..’ Or simply ‘I don’t fancy it’. Then he stopped watching the televised matches here and there. And then he started not bothering to find a dodgy livestream for the non-televised matches ‘too much hassle…’ or ‘our WiFi is crap at the moment…’ All of this was very, very gradual…over the last few years. Glacially slow. Like I said, imperceptible. Then one day, not so long ago, it all caught up with me in one simple realization : my Arsenal-loving husband had (whisper it), fallen out of love with Arsenal. And I felt really quite sad about this. Which surprised me, I’m not going to lie.”
Wives are wise. My wife is definitely wise. I think she has a point. Have I fallen out of love with it?
“And so now here we are….coming out of a pandemic and about to start the new season. And all I can think is how the hell can I reignite his fire for it all? It can’t just be a middle aged malaise…or the lack of games due to Covid….this quiet restlessness that he has grown over the last few years around all things Arsenal, seems to run a little deeper than that. When we first got together it was in the age of Thierry Henry & Co…..so yes, I guess what comes up, must eventually come down… but it’s just not like him to turn away from the thing he’s been doing since he was a young boy. The thing that has brought him so much joy. And yes, despair too. I want Mr East Lower back!”
I have turned away from it a bit. I am middle-aged. It did bring me a lot of joy. She’s right again. She’s always right!
“And it has now come to me – the thing that I must do. I’m going to send him this piece of writing. Which makes me nervous because he writes for a living and I don’t. But I’m going to send it anyway. I want him to know how much I think he is chucking away, by disengaging from it all – the blogging, the matches, the habit of it all… And tomorrow morning I’m going to shut him in a room with his laptop and a cuppa, and suggest that he rips that plaster off and writes a blogpost – it will be his first in nearly two years, I think. It won’t matter if it’s crap. It won’t matter if his puns are rusty. What will matter is that he does it, that he starts blogging again and gets reconnected with his Arsenal life. It’s been too long and now it’s time. It’s that simple.”
*JIM RECEIVES ROCKET UP ARSE AND GETS SHUT AWAY IN A ROOM*
Obviously, my wife is ace. That it took her to write to me to get me to write this tells you something – but I’m glad she did. Thanks Mrs EL <inserts kiss emoji>
So why did I stop?
It’s a good question, to be honest. I don’t think it’s one thing, particularly, but a combination of many.
So here goes:
- Someone nicked my laptop
Nice try, Jim. My output had already gone from daily (right at the beginning – we’re talking about 2003) to twice weekly, to weekly, to monthly, over a long period of time. So it wasn’t like someone had nicked my inkpot and hidden my quill and I was forced to stop writing overnight. I think we can safely discount this one. Pathetic attempt. Next.
- Life got in the way
This one has some truth to it. Kids came along two years after I started writing this, and I stopped being freelance, so time did become tighter. Anyone with young children and jobs who also writes on the side will appreciate this. But really, how good is this excuse? Had I really wanted to do it, I’d have found more time, wouldn’t I? Do people with jobs never do other things? Do journalists also write books? Of course they do.
Turns out that your wife becoming your own shrink is quite therapeutic.
- The football got worse
Ngl, it did. I started writing East Lower right after the Southampton FA Cup win in 2003. The year after that we were quite good, and two years after that we got to the Champions League final. After that, with some highs, it’s been a steady decline. We don’t even play very exciting football anymore, so why write about it?
This excuse is bad too. Arseblog fires off top quality words like a gatling gun, come win or loss. Literally nothing stops him. This excuse doesn’t really wash, and if it were true I’d sound like the ultimate fairweather fan, which I’m not – honestly.
- Maybe 18 years doing the same thing is enough
I think this has been a big reason, for me. 18 years is the time between winning the league in 1971 and then again in 1989. It’s an entire generation. Maybe I just got bored of it. I think I did a bit.
- Writing is a smaller part of the fan experience
I mean, this is true. Blogs were once young and fresh (a bit like I was – see point 6). Then along came iPhones, and with them came apps and podcasts and YouTube and live streams and Twitter and WhatsApp and… well you get the picture. All the while, I just stuck to blogging, because I like writing. Was this wise?
But none of these platforms stopped me from writing. I’m not sure The Athletic would argue that words matter less these days, or else they’d not have launched it.
Sure, there are many more things to grab your attention than there used to be. This is as true for someone writing a blog as someone reading one. Why sit down and write when you can idly scroll through your phone?
But have I stopped writing this blog because I can’t be bothered to get off my phone or there’s too much other stuff out there? Surely not?
- I got older, and I care less
I do appear to have got older over the years. In fact, this summer I turned 50. FIFTY. Why is this relevant? Only really because I think that the older you get, the less it all really matters, and I do think that some of my detachment about blogging is because I just don’t care quite so much about Arsenal as I used to – the ever-perceptive Mrs EL is right.
But it’s not that I don’t still love it – I do. I love watching it and the social part of going to the games is as important as ever. I love that my boys love it and want to go too, but I just think my life doesn’t revolve around it like it used to.
I remember, not long after becoming a season ticket holder in 1994, someone telling me about a friend who’d given it all up. I wondered how anyone would ever do that – it was everything to me. If we lost a game, I’d mope all weekend. It just doesn’t affect me like that anymore.
It’s true, I miss more games than I used to, and I don’t mind. Some of the people I go with – or used to – have now called it a day or are thinking about it.
Part of this is also down to the changing nature of football, too. Clubs are increasingly large businesses, owned remotely. Prices are high. Players are paid obscene wages. Owners are moving in different directions and have different aspirations (viz: the Super League…). VAR hasn’t helped. Change can be disconcerting.
A combination of most of these points probably explain why I stopped writing the blog, to be honest.
So what to do?
I don’t know! I do love the community around it, and all those I’ve met, and when I actually write something down – as I’m doing now – I realise I still enjoy it. But I can’t lie and Mrs EL is right: I lost my mojo for it. And once you stop, it gets harder and harder to begin again. It took a size four up the arse to make me do this.
The trick now, I suppose, is to just do it again. Then again. Then see.
“You go up by stairs… but down in a lift.”
So said a certain polyglot Alsatian, once. He was right.