I WAS planning to write something preachy this week about the ugliness of bearing a grudge.
It stemmed from watching Saturday night’s Champions League final in a south Liverpool pub.
Most of the room was supporting Bayern Munich over Chelsea. Fair enough, I thought. Chelsea are a dislikeable bunch and there is recent history of bad blood between the west Londoners and Liverpool FC.
It was the extent of their hatred, however, that disturbed and baffled me. How they whooped with delight when the German team scored, and howled with anguish when Chelsea equalised. As for the penalty shoot-out, they were in bits.
It all seemed a bit much, frankly. Rather petty. Let it go, people, was what I planned to say. Get some perspective. Get some closure. Get a life.
Then, two days later, I saw that Halfords had come bottom in a customer satisfaction survey by Which? magazine. And I smiled. And with that smile, my moral high ground collapsed.
I smiled, you see, because Halfords ruined my 11th birthday.
It was May 22, 1987 – 25 years ago this week – but the memory remains HD. I was supposed to return from Scout camp to a brand new racing bicycle, my first ever new bike, but it was not there.
It turns out that my dad had thrice tried to ride the sparkling machine home from Halfords but was thwarted each time by crucial pieces falling off it. On the third return visit, he demanded a refund and took the bus.
To compound the tragedy, I initially refused to believe such an injustice could be true. I thought it must be a cruel prank (we were that sort of family) and began scouring the neighbouring garages for a beribboned 18-speed Raleigh.
When the stark reality eventually sank in, my tears of despair only served to exasperate my dad, who was already peeved about getting chain grease on his trousers. It was a bad birthday.
When I eventually got my new bike, from a local independent store long since stifled to death by chains like Halfords, I hardly rode it, tainted as it was by the memory of that day. Hence my smile at Halfords’ misfortune.
Pathetic? Yes. Illogical? Yes. Heartfelt? Absolutely.
Some grudges are best cast off. The lighter ones, however, seem designed to be carried through life, to be fed and nurtured and occasionally brought out to air. They are a part of us. They shaped us, and we cannot forsake them.
For some, it is Chelsea. For me, it is Halfords. Although my grudge feels nobler than silly football rivalries, it also feels lonelier. After all, nobody really gathers in pubs to pray for Halfords’ demise. Apart from maybe the poor saps who used to own independent bike shops.