“It’s tragic, what happened to Gazza,” I say. “All that talent and he ends up like…”
“Well, he made some bad choices,” HorseBoy says, spearing a green olive with a toothpick. We’re at the restaurant underneath the train tracks. He’s made it here – all the way from Japan and then Surrey. Wasn’t sure he’d find his way here, and yet here he is.
“Did he? I can’t even remember,” I say. “He was so amazing when I was little, in Italia 90 when…”
“When he got sent off,” HorseBoy says. He’s nice-looking in the flesh: big green eyes, lots of blond hair, lovely and tall.
“I read his book,” I say. “Paul Gascoigne: My Life In Pictures. And that first one he did with Hunter Davies, which was brilliant – obviously. And he says that from when he was very young he suffered from terrible anxiety, and fear of death, and that was why he started drinking and…”
“Poor Gazza,” HorseBoy says, sipping his glass of Chianti.
“I did some work for a mental health charity which works with that Tony Adams one – Sporting Chance – helping people in sport overcome addiction,” I say. Argh: have mentioned Mental Health, I think. But I’m on one of my best topics. Not going to stop now.
“Did you know,” I say, “that cricketers have the highest suicide rate of people in sport?”
“No, I didn’t,” HorseBoy says. “How come?”
“Something to do with all the waiting around, I think. You know, even during matches they can just hit one ball and then be out and not doing anything for ages and just thinking about their failure and…there’s a famous book about it,” I say.
“What’s the book?” HorseBoy says.
“Can’t remember, wait, let me look it up,” I say. Putting “suicide, cricketers” into Google, the book comes up. “Here it is: ‘Silence Of The Heart’. It’s meant to be a great book. Oh: did you know, Freddie Flintoff suffered from bulimia and…”
“Seriously? No, I didn’t know that,” HorseBoy says. “Poor Freddie.”
The chat has become a bit depressing, I realise. Must change the subject.
“So, did you have any pets when you were growing up?” I say.
My vast knowledge of mental-health-in-sport must have worked though. This morning, this message arrives from HorseBoy:
“Let me know if you have any free time in the next week?”
Happy New Year everyone!