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Chapter 1033: Epilogue: When I’m Sixty Years Old
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The yellow light from the crystal chandeliers on the ceiling could not light up the bar completely. However, in the constantly rainy late autumn, it could bring a hint of warmth to the heart.
Many people had come to the bar with the old-fas.h.i.+oned deco. They gathered in groups of three or four to chat about the day or perhaps other things. However, everyone glanced at the door as if waiting for someone.
Soothing music was playing in the bar. It was an old song, the Beatles’ When I’m Sixty-Four.
When I get older losing my hair.
Many years from now.
Will you still be sending me a Valentine?
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine.
The bar was not loud, so the Beatles’ soft voices were clear. Everyone kept their voices down and chatted in low tones.
Outside the door hung a sign – Closed for Business.
With a head of white hair, the somewhat hunched Kenny Burns sat behind a somewhat damaged wooden bar, holding a gla.s.s in one hand and a towel in the other.
His eyes looked straight ahead, through the old-styled gla.s.s window covered with a layer of condensation, to see outside.
A construction site had already broken ground across the street. The white fence was pushed to the ground and it became so dirty that its original appearance could not be discerned. An excavator was parked on the side of the road. The rain was a bit heavy, and work has stopped on the construction site.
It was still a row of two-story residential buildings a year ago.
It was said that a big supermarket would be built here in two years. Behind the Forest Bar, there was also a construction site where several high-rise buildings would be built for new offices. Wilford had become the new development center in Nottingham.
The bar on the corner stood alone for a long time between the two construction sites, fully surrounded by construction machinery. It was like a solitary island surrounded by mechanical monsters.
There was a roar of a car engine outside the door, followed by the sound of a car stopping. Hearing the sound, the people in the room stopped talking and turned their gazes to the entrance.
The person who pushed the door open was a woman. Everyone was a little disappointed at first, but then they all stood up.
“Madam,” They all deferentially greeted the woman who only stood at the door.
“You guys gave me a shock, suddenly standing up like this…” The speaker pushed the door open but did not come in right away. Instead, she was waiting for someone.
Seeing her like this, everyone waited as well. Each person stretched their neck out and gazed outside the door, like ducks hanging from the crossbar.
The second person who appeared at the door was Wood. Wood took over the woman’s job and held the door. The woman stepped outside.
Although they had not seen the man yet, everyone heard the familiar and somewhat hoa.r.s.e voice.
“Don’t grasp onto me. Do I look like I can’t walk?”
“All right, all right, you can lead me along if you want. Just hold my arm and it will do. But don’t make it look like you’re lending a hand to support a patient…”
Before the voice faded away, its owner appeared at the door.
When the slightly hunched figure came in, everyone in the bar opened their mouths and shouted, “Boss!”
Seeing the scene in front of him, the aging man opened his mouth and laughed. He raised his hands and said, “Long time no see, guys.”
The whole bar was waiting for the man – Tony Twain was finally here.
The woman supporting him was naturally his wife, Shania.
Twain took off the old-fas.h.i.+oned wide-brimmed hat he was wearing, and Wood tried to catch it, but Shania got to it first. Next, a gray scarf and black windbreaker were also handed to her. Shania went to hang up the clothes, and Twain sat down in his chair, surrounded by people. He raised the gla.s.s of soda water on the table and said, “I’m not drinking any alcohol. You all do as you’d like.”
Following which, everyone came up, wanting to talk to Twain.
The first person to succeed was Kenny Burns, the owner of the bar, a man older than everyone present.
He walked slowly toward Twain, pulled out a chair and sat down. Upon seeing this, everyone discreetly drew back.
“Look at you, getting so old,” Twain scoffed at Burns.
“You’re no better, Tony,” Burns looked at the man opposite. His hair was much whiter than before, but he was in good spirits. Twain’s complexion was ruddy, and he appeared stronger than himself.
However, on second thought, he himself was 75 years old while Tony was only 60, 15 years younger than he was. Thinking back, was he not full of vigor, hale and hearty when he was 60 years old? People would always grow old. It was the law of nature.
“I almost lost my way coming here. The area has changed a lot. Ha!” Twain laughed.
When he sat in the car on the way here before, he started to laugh at the sight of the environment and Burns’ bar. Neither Shania nor Wood, who was driving the car, knew why he was laughing. Of course, they would not find out. They might never know for the rest of their lives. Seeing the Forest bar surrounded by construction machinery and a completely dug out construction site, the word “holdout” naturally sprang into Twain’s mind. In Twain’s view, Kenny Burns was clearly the holdout here. The buildings adjacent to the bar were all demolished, only the bar remained. However, it was said that it could not escape the fate of being torn down.
“It’s a re-planning of the area,” Burns said as he looked out of the window at the excavator. “By the time it is over, my bar will be closed.”
Twain was not surprised. He nodded and said, “And what will you do?”
“I’ll go home.”
Hearing him say that, Twain paused for a moment and then realized that Burns’ home was not here, but in Scotland. He had lived here for decades and this made people think he had always been from Nottingham…
The City Ground stadium was torn down and the Wilford training base was also demolished. Now even the bar had to be torn down. Everything that had witnessed the past years disappeared one by one before his eyes. Twain suddenly became quiet.
Burns knew what Twain was thinking. He lightly patted the table. “Fortunately, bars and pitches can be torn down, but memories can’t be taken away.”
Once he said it, there was a smile on Twain’s face. He thought of a song. Burns certainly had not heard the song, but the meaning was exactly the same. He nodded and said, “The memories are still there. Where are John and the others?”
He also remembered the fans.
“It’s not as crazy as it used to be. After all, they’re older. Now it’s their children’s turn to be crazy. It’s just that they don’t come to my place. The young people say my place looks gloomy and not suitable for young people.”
Twain chuckled. Burns’ bar did look old and dilapidated. Even though he kept it clean and tidy, he could not get rid of the feeling of a yellowing photograph and old film. It did not change much from when he first came here, except that there were more group photographs of himself leading the team to win champions.h.i.+p t.i.tles during those years. However, those group photographs now looked a bit faded.
“I haven’t seen them in a long time…”
Twain muttered to himself.
Today was his first visit to the bar in ten years. There was a sense that things had remained the same, but people had changed.
Since his retirement ten years ago, he had traveled with his wife all over the world. They had lived in the West Coast of the United States for a while and spent some time in = Nottingham. They even lived in China and people who did not know them thought they had been in China for many years.
As the media had stated, Twain’s retirement life was quite carefree. If it had not been for a problem with his health early last year, he might have been able to continue to live a life free of worries.
“They would sometimes ask about you,” Burns said as he looked out of the window at the excavator. “A bunch of the old guys would get together and talk about you. I had seen John admonish his son, slap him across his head and scold him for bullsh*tting about things he hadn’t experienced, ha…”
Twain was curious about what John’s son had said.
“It was nothing. John just said Dunn did just as well as you.”
Hearing these, Twain laughed mischievously.
“John scolded him for that. Dunn only won two champions.h.i.+ps in ten years. It’s a far cry as compared to your 16 years and 16 champions.h.i.+ps. How could he do as well as you? The old guys always like to remember the past…”
“Wrong. When they start to recall the past, it means they are old,” Twain corrected.
“Aren’t we reminiscing about the past now?”
“That means we’re old, too,” Twain replied.
Pepe and Piqué got hold of a few people from the defensive line of that time and came up to take a group picture with Twain. Twain told them he had his own bronze statue outside the Crimson Stadium, which was completed four years ago. Pepe said that with the real man in front of them, why would they go and take a picture with the statue? His words were widely endorsed by the guys. After putting it to a vote, Twain became the top candidate for group photographs.
Several people stood in front of the camera, crowding Twain in the middle, and smiled brilliantly under the flash.
With the help of his grandfather, Piqué joined the Barcelona club’s board of directors and was expected to become the club’s president.
Pepe, who traveled between Brazil and Portugal, had opened restaurants in both locations. He no longer worked in a football-related field. Pepe looked a little thicker than before with a round stomach and stood out in the crowd. His face was even rounder.
Gareth Bale, Rafinha, Akinfeev, as well as Pepe and Piqué, the Forest team’s main defensive line in its heyday, gathered around Twain, giving a sense that they had gone back in time. The Russian had returned to his native country and became the goalkeeper coach of the FC Lokomotiv Moscow team. He was currently the goalkeeper coach of the Russian national team. Most players chose football-related jobs when they retired.
Rafinha, who was hired by a.r.s.enal, became a.r.s.enal’s football scout in Brazil, in charge of unearthing Brazilian talent for the club.
Bale joined the Football a.s.sociation of Wales. He became the most successful player in Welsh football after Giggs. It only made sense for him to enter the Football a.s.sociation. Now the naughty appearance of the “little monkey” of that time could not be glimpsed in Bale. Impeccably attired, he was infinitely closer to looking like an official.
However, when Twain called him “little monkey”, he still happily answered to it.
After the people from the rear defensive line left, a few people from the midfield approached. Twain was surprised and asked, “Did you all plan this? Are you all coming in waves?”
Everyone laughed and gathered around him. They took another group photograph.
When Ribéry left the Forest team at the time under the cloud of suspicion that he had run away, a clash erupted when everyone met on the pitch later. Now, when the past was mentioned, it felt more like “all was forgiven and forgotten with a smile”. It was just that his smile was still ugly to look at as the scars on his face were still there. As he got older, he was less scary, however. He now ran his own agency and became an agent for a number of French players. He was considered a successful businessman. In the Nottingham Forest team, there was currently a French player he had introduced as an agent.
The two men took the first turn and then everyone came up to take photographs with Twain. There were group shots and single shots. Twain took advantage of the time during the photo-taking with them to chat briefly and catch up with everyone.
Those guys, who shook up stadiums and went on a rampage in the European football world, had all retired and became portly middle-aged men. Some of them were still in touch, while the other people only met again because of the gathering. Most had other careers and lives. But today, in the bar which was about to be torn down, they had regained their original ident.i.ty as Nottingham Forest players under the command of Tony Twain.
After the group photographs, they continued to chat together in groups of three or four, recounting the football events they missed for many years or chatting about those extraordinary old days on the field.
Twain did not partic.i.p.ate. He sat with his wife, Shania, quietly looking at everything in front of his eyes and feeling deeply satisfied.
He suddenly remembered a long-forgotten past matter. He usually did not think of it at all.
If he remembered correctly, it was in May 2004, when he was here for a similar party. However, the leading characters at the time were Brian Clough and his men. They were celebrating the 15th anniversary of winning the Champions League. At the time, watching those people talking arrogantly together and recalling the times during the 70s, he felt very envious as an outsider. He had a fantasy in his mind that one day he, too, would be able to sit here with his former men and remember the days of being the king of Europe.
Now the fantasy came true. The setting remained the same, but with different people.
As the a.s.sistant manager for the champions.h.i.+p team, Dunn was also invited today. He was now the manager of Nottingham Forest and had taken a special leave of absence in order to attend the gathering. At this moment, he was sitting aside, chatting with his old colleagues. Twain found him. He did not know if he would share the same vision of pa.s.sing time at this point.
He got up and walked over slowly. He sat down beside the coaches.
“Guys, I’m so glad to see you’re all here.”
Everyone got up to show respect in succession when they saw Twain coming over. They were only seated after Twain sat down.
Twain glanced around and asked, “Where’s Freddy?”
“Oh, him. He said he considers himself a player and ran off to talk about the old times with his old teammates,” David Kerslake, who was older than Twain, pointed sideways, and Twain glanced over. Sure enough, Eastwood was sitting down with Ribéry and talking about something.
He grinned and turned his gaze back.
“You’re all old.”
“Aren’t you as well, Tony?” The big guy answered him.
Most of these people continued their previous work in the Forest team, which was arguably the group with the least changes. David Kerslake was still the a.s.sistant manager for the Forest team, while Eastwood became the head of the youth camp.
“How are your two daughters, Tony?” Someone in the crowd asked.
As soon as Twain heard the question, he became animated. He puffed his chest and said proudly with his head held high, “Teresa is a fine girl. As for Liv … Fortunately, she looks more like her mother.”
There was a burst of laughter in the crowd.
Teresa was already 14 years old, delicate and pretty. Whenever he looked at her, Twain felt sorry in his heart for Teresa’s birth parents – how could they bear to abandon such a beautiful and lovely daughter?
Liv was Twain’s youngest daughter, the baby that Shania gave birth to during the year of his retirement. She was now nearly ten years old. Unlike the gentle and quiet Teresa, Liv was lively and active, with her character like a typical Western girl, quite like her mother.
To his delight, Liv and Teresa had a good relations.h.i.+p. Liv did not snub o bully her gentle and quiet, shy and introverted older sister. This might have something to do with the example that he and Shania led by – after Liv was born, Teresa was worried that she would lose her parents’ love, but the couple rea.s.sured her with more love.
To his annoyance, Liv preferred the sunny West Coast of the United States as compared to cold Britain. Her character was a bit like an American and she was overly lively. To make the little girl happy, the family spent more time away from the United Kingdom, so Twain gave up his job at the BBC 5 station. Now he just published his own articles in newspapers and online, but he did not rely on it for his livelihood.
There was a selfish motive deep down in Twain’s heart that he had never told anyone. He wanted his two daughters to like China, so it was the place where he spent the most time in, other than the United States and Britain. He missed China intensely, especially as he got increasingly older. Perhaps his Chinese spirit deep in his bones was causing it. Perhaps it was as the saying that “in old age, an expatriate returns home”…
In any case, these two treasures, his daughters, were Twain’s source of greatest pride and accomplishment. For him, the brilliant achievements of his 16-year coaching career and all his important champions.h.i.+p trophies had long become obsolete and were not worth mentioning anymore. Perhaps the Forest fans and club players felt proudof the trophies that Tony Twain had once won. Perhaps many people still relished the memories of Twain’s 16 years of legendary experience. Or maybe the media were now complaining that the current star players were all clowns playing to the gallery while missing the most annoying ‘clown’ of all … but Twain did not care. He felt that the greatest honors and champions.h.i.+p trophies of his life were to have a happy family, a loving wife, and two healthy and beautiful daughters. When he transmigrated 26 years ago, he had lost his family. However, at the time he did not care because he felt that he was young, and it was time to focus on his career. Now he felt like he had gone one big circle. What was the ultimate purpose of his career? To let his family live worry-free, to live peacefully with his loved ones…
G.o.d had let him understand it in the year he turned 50 years old, and it took him another ten years to cherish it even more.
Nothing in life was more important than his family. It would be so until his death.
Twain was excited to tell the old guys he had not seen for years how lovely and intelligent his two daughters were.
Indeed, he was showing off and flaunting his own family. However, no one thought he should not do it.
Looking at the way he was glowing with health and vigor now, the same man in high spirits of more than 20 years ago appeared in everyone’s sight. No one felt sorry about it.
How amazing it was.
David Kerslake held up his gla.s.s to Twain and said, “Seeing how happy you are, I…” He looked back at his old colleagues around him and turned to look at Twain again to add, “No, we’re all very happy.”
Twain raised the soda water in his hand and paid tribute to the old men who had raised their gla.s.ses one by one.
“Thank you all.”
There was another man who toasted Twain, with whom Twain was familiar. However, he had not spoken at all. There was a little tiredness in the corners of his eyes and some graying of the hair on both sides of his temples. The wrinkles on his forehead were noticeably more prominent. Seeing him gave Twain an illusion of the reverse flow of s.p.a.ce-time and mirror reflection. He saw how he would have appeared in his 40s had he not transmigrated.
This was the current manager of Nottingham Forest, the Chinese man, Dunn. It was his sworn brother, whom he had exchanged souls and bodies with.
When he found Twain looking at him, Dunn returned a smile.
He moved over and sat down beside Dunn. He lowered his voice and asked a question in Dunn’s ear, “Are Pa and Ma doing well?”
Dunn nodded imperceptibly. “They are very well.”
With the answer, Twain raised his head again and there was a smile on his face. Then the two men looked at each other without saying a word.
Despite traveling all over the world, Twain still paid attention to matters that had to do with the Forest team. Nonetheless, he had never evaluated the Forest team in any public forum. Now facing Forest’s current manager, he was still the same and did not mention anything.
It was like when he first coached the Forest team. No matter whether he did well or not, Brian Clough always did not say anything. Other than to tell him not to be too stressed or overly proud, he would not mention anything else about his achievements.
He was very immature at the time. However, Dunn was not immature now. He knew what to do and what not to do. Didn’t he do a pretty good job at the Forest team in the last ten years? Although he only won two league t.i.tles, he completely solidified the foundation that Twain did not cover before.
Under Dunn’s leaders.h.i.+p, Nottingham Forest was gradually breaking away from under his influence. Burns’ story was a good reflection of that. A new generation of football fans felt that Dunn was doing a good job. Wasn’t it the best reward for his ten-year coaching career?
This was good. He was not required to come out and comment to show the outside world the influence he still had on Nottingham Forest. Retired people should stay retired. Otherwise, it would have been better to continue coaching. Twain disdained the cowardly behavior of wanting to be the top guy at a football club and yet worrying about failures at coaching.
Therefore, while they looked at each other without saying a word, Twain did not say “you have done well” or “you’re not good enough.” Dunn, too, would not take the initiative to talk about his coaching achievements to Twain. He had his self-respect.
Twain raised the gla.s.s in his hand to Dunn and said, “Happy 10th anniversary, Dunn.”
Dunn returned the toast and said, “I wish you good health, Tony.”
As the sky darkened and the rain outside got heavier, the enthusiasm in the bar was exceptionally warm. Everyone was chatting animatedly and the noise in the bar was gradually getting louder, drowning out the sound of the music. Not only Twain, but some of the other people had not seen each other for years. They were also busy with their lives and careers after their retirement and usually did not have the opportunity to get together to chat like this.
The gathering on the anniversary of the five Champions League winners gave them such an opportunity. Of course, they had to get hold of the friends of yesteryear to have a good chat, ask about their lives over the years, reminiscence the years spent together in compet.i.tion, chitchat about interesting people and things. Even the feuds of those years had become exceptionally warm memories in the context of this afternoon.
Under such circ.u.mstances, Twain had decided to go home.
He tapped the table in front of his wife and said to her, “Let’s go back.”
Shania was a little surprised and asked, “Don’t you want to stay a little longer? Don’t you have a lot to say to the old guys?”
“It started out that way, but after I saw them, I suddenly had nothing to say. It’s nice to just look at them. Anyway, I have seen enough and I’m a little tired.”
Shania knew that Twain was really tired, so she nodded and agreed. “Let’s say our goodbyes to them before we leave.”
The two of them stood up and suddenly caught the attention of all the people present.
“He’s still in recovery from a serious illness, so he doesn’t have as much energy as you guys,” Shania told everyone.
Twain pursed his lips and said, “Don’t listen to her. My illness was something that happened last year. I’m in good health now.”
“Madam’s right, boss. You have to listen to her,” someone in the crowd said.
“Yeah, Tony. Take care of your health so that we can get together again in ten years.” Everyone reached out and waved to Twain as they made plans for another reunion ten years from now.
“Okay, we’ll get together again in ten years.” Twain put on his coat with Shania’s help and wrapped his scarf around his neck. He finally took the hat, held it in his hand, and waved at everyone.
George Wood, who had been talking to his teammates before, squeezed in from the crowd and said, “I’ll take you guys home.”
Shania shook her head and said, “I’ll drive. It’s not easy for you to get together with everyone. Just stay to have fun a little longer.”
George Wood retired four years ago at the age of 38. As the greatest team captain in Nottingham Forest’s history, his retirement was almost comparable to the departure of Twain. The scene was so sensational and moving that a tough guy like Wood had tears in his eyes when it was time to say goodbye and even choked with emotion several times. Twain was in the stadium box and witnessed everything with his own eyes. His eyes also moistened as 60,000 people chanted “Saint George.”
George Wood’s retirement fully ended Nottingham Forest’s golden age. The last player Twain was familiar with had left the football world stage. From then on, one could only look back on history when Nottingham Forest’s most glorious period was mentioned.
In the summer after his retirement, Wood married Vivian, the nurse whom he had been in love with for more than six years, and formed a new family. Now their child was already three years old and they lived a happy life.
Now Wood looked like a typical steady family man. His immature manner was completely gone.
After Wood heard Shania’s words, he turned his eyes toward Twain.
Twain nodded and said, “Listen to her, George. Even I have to listen to her, ha-ha!”
The big man laughed again. Wood gave up and stood aside. It was only when Twain pa.s.sed by him that he said in a low voice, “I’ll come to see you again in a few days.”
“Well, bring your wife along with you as well as your son,” Twain nodded gently.
As he walked to the door with Shania’s help, Twain put on his hat and once he was properly dressed, he raised his hand to wave to everyone as he said, “No need to see me off. It’s raining heavily outside. Goodbye, guys. It’s nice to see you all still healthy and active. I’m really happy, ha-ha!”
Amid the laughter, Twain turned around, and Shania held up an umbrella for him, sheltering both of them underneath. The two of them stepped into the rain. The rain striking the umbrella made a crackling sound and the water acc.u.mulated at the roadside reflected the two of them. The crowd gathered around and saw that Shania was holding an umbrella in one hand while supporting Twain. It was somewhat inconvenient to open the door with one hand. Several people rushed out of the crowd to come forward and help. Eventually Wood grabbed the umbrella from Shania while Bale supported Twain. Eastwood opened the car door for Twain and said, “Chief, please get in the car.”
Shania did not have anything to do. She stood next to Twain and smiled at him. “You see, what a grand farewell ceremony.”
Twain turned to look at Eastwood, who opened the car door for him, and smiled. Then he looked back at the door of the bar, which was already crowded with people. Everyone stood under the eaves and looked at him.
Twain waved to them and motioned for them to go back. Then he turned and got into the car.
Eastwood closed the car door for Twain while Wood sheltered Shania with the umbrella and took her around to the door on the side of the driver’s seat to help her into the car.
Shania rolled down the car window and reached out to say goodbye to them. “Goodbye, thank you, everyone!”
Everyone waved and said goodbye in return.
Then the car started up and slowly wove through the parked construction machinery on both sides of the road, splas.h.i.+ng the roadside water. As it drove away from everyone’s view, only the yellow taillights loomed in the rain and finally, even they disappeared in the rain and fog.
The rain was still falling as it pitter-pattered on the ground. The players still gathered at the door, looking at the direction in which the boss disappeared.
After a while, Bale asked, “The boss left just like that?” There seemed to be some disbelief in his tone.
“Well, he’s gone,” Wood replied, “Let us head inside and continue.”
Despite having said that, he did not move. Everyone likewise just stood at the door to continue looking at the direction in which Twain left.
Burns did not follow outside. He was in the bar and watched the scene of Twain leaving in the car through the windows covered with condensation. People squeezed outside and the bar, which was hot and noisy just now, suddenly emptied out and quieted down.
The music playing in the stereo had just finished a loop and gone back to the song in the beginning.
You’ll be older too, and if you say the word,
I could stay with you.
I could be handy, mending a fuse,
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside.
Sunday mornings go for a ride,
Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me?
When I’m sixty-four…