Saturday 14th March 2015.
Pontypridd Town 2nd’s 3-3 Treforest 2nd’s.
Taff Ely & Rhymney Valley Football League – Saturday Division One.
Ynysangharad Park Cricket Pitch, Pontypridd
Attendance: Circa 20.
Having pets is one of the best and worst things you can do with your life. Allowing companion animals into your life offers variety, fun, laughs and unconditional love, loyalty and friendship like no other.
Conversely, the death of a pet is always tragic, something that turns your world upside down, but is ultimately hard to deal with because the grief is a very lonely process. I mean this in the sense that if a human relative passes away, usually friends will come running and make an attempt to soak up most of the grief.
When a pet passes away, there isn’t the same urgency to comfort. Thus, the process of losing an animal companion can often feel quite lonely.
We had planned a bumper day of drinking, laughing with friends, meeting new friends, drinking some more, watching some football, drinking some more and stumbling up Broadway to eventually fall into the front door and wake up the next morning fully clothed with the worst hangover ever.
Unfortunately as the week progressed, our five year old pet guinea pig Henry, named after the Black Flag singer Henry Rollins, took a turn for the worse and stopped eating. A sure sign among this types of rodents that something is very wrong.
Some people ‘get’ guinea pigs, some don’t, and I totally understand that. I don’t really ‘get’ parrots, tortoises or rats and mice. However, I definitely appreciate that these animals are a key part of a lot of families and their presence would be greatly missed in most of those families.
Henry, had stopped eating a few times over the years, usually due to a chest infection or pneumonia (pneumonia is very common in guinea pigs, roughly equivalent to our common colds), he’d usually pay a visit to Budget Vets in Porth and be prescribed a week of anti-biotics and that would be that.
Henry took a dramatic turn for the worse on Saturday morning. It was painful and it hurt to see him in such a way. He displayed symptoms of having suffered a stroke. A stroke in guinea pigs is very similar to the strokes suffered by humans. My wife and I comforted Henry as best we could, but it was clear that after having suffered a stroke and running the risk of suffering a slow passing that we needed to make a very touch decision, very quickly.
Henry was about five and a half years old, which equates to about 65 to 70 or so in human terms, so he’d had a decent innings, had lived a very happy and quite spoilt life and although we possibly could have medicated him to the eyeballs in order to string another two or three months of life out of him, it wouldn’t have been fair to the boy that we loved so dearly.
So, as the teams warmed up at Ynysangharad Park on Saturday afternoon, my wife and I found ourselves sitting in the warm waiting room at Budget Vets in Porth, where we’d been bringing Henry and his brothers (Keith, Ronnie, Jimmy and Clive) since they were little pups.
The vet on duty in the afternoon was a friendly but very professional Eastern European chap who informed us of the options ahead of us, offering his own recommendations, which we fully agreed with. He confirmed, as we had suspected, that Henry had suffered a stroke at some point in the morning and probably had some neurological damage of some sort that was affecting his motor skills.
I’d only had the experience of having one pet put to sleep before Henry. I had a string of cats as a child that happened to ‘run away’ and a series of goldfish that also managed to ‘run away’, but it wasn’t until Friday 30th April 2004, at the age of 22 that I first experienced putting an animal to sleep, my families rottweiler Morgan who suffered from inoperable terminal cancer and the experience hurt in the same way.
The experience with Henry wasn’t as visually distressing as I’d imagined, as the process is slightly different with rodents nowadays, the vet takes your rodent to a separate room to carry out the procedure and returns with your pet, at peace, for you to share a few moments.
Seeing Henry at peace, after remembering the way he came into the surgery, was strangely comforting. It’s the same feeling you have when an elderly and very ill relative passes away. You will always mourn their passing and nothing takes that away, but you definitely feel a sense of comfort from the fact that their pain and suffering has ended. The bad memories subside and you are left mainly with happy memories of the times you shared.
It was exactly like that with Henry. We could look back on our 5 and a half years together with nothing but happy memories, instead of potentially hanging on to a hope for too long and spoiling his and our memories by clinging on to a hope that he could have recovered and restored his quality of life.
I understand some people will read this and think “Ah, it’s just a guinea pig. Why has this taken up 890 words of a football blog?”. I don’t really have an answer. I like to give some context into a situation and I feel this was important.
We drove back down to Pontypridd after the vet. We discussed our options and we decided that we wanted to go to the Pontypridd Town vs. Treharris Athletic match as we had planned. If anything, it would give us an hour or two to take our mind off the unpleasantness earlier.
We arrived at the park with about half an hour of the Pontypridd Town match gone. As we walked further into the park we noticed another match taking place on the cricket pitch. The cricket pitch is the official name for the pitch used by Pontypridd Town’s 2nd’s side and their age group teams, named so because it shares part of its surface with the local cricket clubs ground. It sits exactly opposite the main pitch, so close in fact that a misplaced clearance from one pitch could easily end up on the field of play on the other pitch.
After asking a person or two watching the match, it became apparent that Treforest 2nd’s were today’s opponents, lining up in a yellow and red striped kit not too dissimilar to a similar effort Barcelona lined up in a few seasons ago.
We made our way into the Pontypridd Town 1st’s game as planned, but positioned ourselves in a spot where we could watch both games at the same time. And in that foul swoop, for the first time in my life I was watching two live matches at the very same time, albeit with terrible concentration.
It’s a weird one for me. I live in Treforest, although I identify myself as being from Pontypridd. Mostly down to the fact that no-one outside of south Wales tends to know who or what ‘Treforest’ is! “Is that Tree Forest, like a forest of trees?” Some people have a vague memory of hearing that Tom Jones once lived there, but short of that – nothing.
I live in a part of the world known locally as ‘Broadway’, not like it has any kind of Hollywood decadence or anything like that! It’s got a few fast food places, a Subway and the Grogg Shop, a pelican crossing and a couple of pubs.
It’s a bit of a no-mans land really. People who live in Pontypridd tend to think Broadway is in Treforest, yet people from the heart of Treforest (the rows of terraced housing nearer the university, housed pretty much solely by students) tend to have the opinion that Broadway is Pontypridd. To add confusion on top of confusion, the Wetherspoons pub, Kwik Fit and Job Centre have an address of Broadway, Pontypridd – yet our houses, a mere two minute’s walk away, have an address of Broadway, Treforest.
There is no doubting, especially if you’ve read my previous blogs, where my loyalties lie in this match. So I’m distraught to find that twenty minutes after my arrival and after struggling with the concept of watching two matches simultaneously, that with the scores at 2-2 a penalty has been awarded to Treforest for what I’m told by the guy next to me was “an absolutely nothing challenge”.
As it happens, nothing is happening at this point in time in the 1st team game on the main pitch, so pretty much everyone vacates their place in the stand and lines up against the perimeter fence to watch the Treforest penalty taker slot his penalty kick home clinically and roll off in a celebratory fashion.
A few minutes later, admittedly whilst I’m paying attention to the 1st team game, a youngster comes running into the stand to let us all know Pontypridd Town have equalised.
It’s all too much for me, I’ve been bouncing back and forth the two matches for the best of an hour. With only two minutes of stoppage time I decide to abandon the 2nd’s match in favour of the Pontypridd Town vs. Treharris Athletic Western match.
Did I cheat? I don’t think so.
How many games have you turned up late for? Have you ever been stuck on the motorway slip road, agonisingly being two minutes drive from the stadium but able to see the floodlights in the sky and hearing the roar of the crowd as the teams walk down the tunnel. Have you ever listened to the start of a match on TalkSport or Radio 5 through headphones whilst you run down Sloper Road after having one pint too many in Canton?
Yes? Do you still consider yourself having attended those matches?
My Dad and I turned up late for the infamous 1994 FA Cup tie between Cardiff City and Manchester City.
I saw Nathan Blake slot the ball into the top corner from the edge of the box.