Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Billy Ayre's Tangerine Army

The past few days have been surreal. With Monday being the 10 year anniversary of my Dad passing away, I received countless messages on Facebook and Twitter from Blackpool fans who were offering their love and support. Later on in the day I started to receive messages asking if I was going to the match on Tuesday night, so I Tweeted, "I want to go to the match tomorrow night! Can you buy tickets on the door??? #BillyAyresTangerineArmy" to which I received more replies that I could have imagined. People offering to pay for tickets for me, people offering me their season tickets, people ringing the club to ask if there were tickets left... I couldn't believe it. I was then contacted by somebody who provided me with the Club Secretary's phone number, who eventually provided me with two tickets in the East Stand. Dave Booth and Matt Williams, I can't thank you enough.

When I arrived at Bloomfield Road yesterday, the atmosphere was incredible. I have been to many football matches in my life, but the Blackpool fans are in a league of their own when it comes to dedication and loyalty to their team. Although I had received a few hundred messages on Twitter from people saying they were going to sing "Billy Ayre's Tangerine Army", part of me didn't think it would happen, simply because there was nearly 15,000 people in the stadium. However, as soon as the 10th minute arrived, every single Blackpool fan rose to their feet to sing at the top of their lungs, "BILLY AYRE'S TANGERINE ARMY!" and I closed my eyes for a couple of seconds just to listen to you all. It was surreal. And then of course, I joined in, and I am pretty sure I have done some serious damage to my vocal cords. Just to top it off, when my Dad's picture appeared on the screen with the words "Billy Ayre - Gone, But Never Forgotten" my heart stopped. The entire experience was heart warming and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I am not exaggerating when I say it was by far the best moment of my life to date. Never have I been so proud to be the daughter of King Billy Ayre.

To top off the evening, Blackpool beat Leeds 1-0. I am so glad I was there to witness not only Blackpool winning on the 10 year anniversary, but also to listen to everybody singing my Dad's name. It made me realise how lucky I am. People lose somebody they love every day. It's not very often that ten years after their loved one has died, they can listen to thousands of people singing their name. If I could thank each and every one of you individually, believe me, I would. I would also like to thank the hundreds of people who have written to me on Twitter, you are all my Tangerine Family.

I speak on behalf of my entire family when I say thank you to all the Blackpool fans who have continued to show their love and support since my Dad passed away. Your dedication is what keeps his name alive. To every person who has contacted us, written on the Message Boards, recorded podcasts, and read my blogs -- thank you.

#BillyAyresTangerineArmy #TangerineFamily

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Daddy or Chips? Daddy. Every time.

Daddy or Chips? Daddy. Every time.

For those of you who know me quite well, you will know that this coming Monday, 16th April 2012, will be the 10 year anniversary of my Dad passing away. I have wanted to write a blog post about him for quite some time now but didn't really know how to go about it. I was also quite reluctant to write anything too personal in case my family thought I was writing things only we know about, and the last thing I want to do is upset anybody. However, some of the things which seem quite personal in fact show what kind of a person he was, which is what I want everybody to know. Only a select few of my friends knew him, because he passed away when I was twelve years old, and I wish they'd known him as well as I had. Finally, it occurred to me to write what I know, because that's the advice given to writers, isn't it? Write what you know. So here's what I know about my Dad.

He was the best Dad in the world. I know everybody says that about their Dad, but seriously, I can't put into words what he was like as a Father. I always say, "My Dad was my best friend" and I mean it. I told him absolutely everything, and followed him around like a lost puppy. He was my idol, and still is to this day. He always saw the best in everybody, and liked to befriend people who were quite quiet or shy, to try and give them a bit of confidence. He was outgoing, charismatic and absolutely hilarious. More than anything, he had the most positive attitude I've ever come across in a person. For those of you reading this who knew him, you will completely understand what I mean when I am trying to describe him. I honestly don't have a bad word to say about him. Whenever anybody in my family tells me I look like him, or that I remind them of him, I feel honoured, because if I am anything like my Dad I know I'm doing alright.

One thing that stands out in my memory about what kind of a person he was is when he was quite ill. We went to visit him in Clatterbridge Hospital, and sadly discovered that he had lost the use of his legs, and was paralysed from the ribs down due to his cancer becoming so aggressive. I can remember so vividly being sat next to my brother in complete shock. We were heartbroken for him. The first thing that popped into my mind was "What about football?", because he was such a football fanatic, not to mention it being his career. My heart broke even more when he began to cry. He apologised. He apologised that he wouldn't be able to go running with us anymore, or on bike rides, or drive us to school. He apologised for what had happened to his body, and despite his suffering, he was thinking about his children and what he wouldn't be able to do for them anymore. To this day, that memory breaks my heart into a thousand pieces. He was unbelievably selfless. 

To think that I have lived the past ten years without him absolutely baffles me. A decade has passed where I have gone through high school, taken my GCSE's, taken my A Levels, passed my driving test, turned 18, gone to university, met the love of my life, turned 21, and so many other things I know he would have loved to have seen. It breaks my heart to think that my brother has been so successful, graduating from university, then graduating with a Masters, and most recently leaving home and moving to Oxford for a new job, and he couldn't share any of these moments with our Dad. David, please know that Dad would have been proud of you. Everything you have accomplished and how you live your life would have made him unspeakably proud.  I feel selfish when I think I wish my Dad could be here in the future for when I get married and when I have children and other special events, mainly because there are millions of people on this Earth who have suffered far worse than I have, and in much worse circumstances. I know I have a wonderful life, and I really can't complain about not having what I want because I have a lot more than most people do. But as time goes on, and people move on with their lives, it has become apparent to me that I don't get used to the fact that my Dad isn't here, and I don't miss him less. Every day he isn't here, I miss him a little bit more. I often find myself watching this video on repeat, just to hear his voice.

For those of you reading this blog, please don't think I feel sorry for myself. I really don't. I feel sorry for my Dad, because he was so young when he passed away, and he had so much to live for. It upsets me when people complain about their parents, because you shouldn't take them for granted. One thing I never do is take anybody for granted, and through the loss of my Dad I have realised how important it is to stay close to people who mean a lot to you, and tell them you love them as often as possible. 

My Dad is probably reading this and thinking, "Oh stop moaning man!" and he's right. I shouldn't complain, but given that it is his 10 year anniversary on Monday, and I have been thinking about him constantly, I thought it might do me good to write something down. My Auntie Moira says that anniversaries don't matter because we miss him every day regardless, and she's right. I just cannot believe that an entire decade has passed, when I still feel like I saw him yesterday. I hope that feeling never goes away.

I only knew my Dad for twelve years, but that was enough time to make an amazing impact on my life. I hope that I live my life in a way that my Dad would have been proud of. I also hope that one day, if I have children, they look at me the way I looked at my Dad. Complete and utter adoration. Most of all I hope I see him again one day. I don't know if there is a heaven, but I am convinced there is definitely some form of afterlife. If there wasn't, that would mean I would never see my Dad again, and to me that just isn't even an option. I don't hope I see him again, I KNOW I will see him again. Hopefully it'll be in about 60 years, but that's fine. Just knowing that I will see him again one day is what makes every day of my life just a little bit easier.

I miss you Daddy, and I hope you can read this, wherever you are. I will love you forever. See you at the far post. Rachel x