It is terribly sad to see a former idol disintegrate before your eyes. Paul Gascoigne is a very pertinent case in point. I can still recall him playing for Spurs and scoring a cracker of a free kick against the hated Arsenal in a FA Cup semi-final.
Then, there was the cheeky, but hugely skilled, goal for England against Scotland when he chipped the ball over a defender before volleying it to the net.
He was a player with the world at his feet, recalling the exploits of another soccer genius, George Best. But, like Best, he had feet of clay, with alcohol his biggest buzz when the playing days ended.
Today Gazza's life is as empty as his last bottle of beer. Many of the hangers-on have deserted him’ there is little glory in the company of a man sliding into an abyss of drink-induced mental problems.
But, most tellingly of all, even those closest to him are also in despair. Families often are the forgotten collateral damage when celebrities implode.
In a television programme to be screened on Monday, Gascoigne's 12-year-old son, Regan, says: “He's probably going to die soon. I don't think there's any point helping him. We're wasting our time. If I could wish, I would wish that he would go away from us.”
What a devastating critique of a wasted life. A young boy, who should idolise his father the way the fans used to, has been hurt so much and so often that his natural love of his father has been eroded beyond repair.
Children give their parents virtually unconditional love from their earliest years. They don't have any agendas. They respond to affection. They depend on their parents and ask only that they be there. It really is not too much to ask.
Certainly as they grow older, children recognise that adults, even parents, have faults and differing views on all sorts of issues, and often, it seems to them, a desire to spoil their happiness by imposing rules and regulations.
But then we want our children to grow up and become independent. However, would any of us want our children to grow up so quickly and so disillusioned as young Regan?
I cannot imagine anything more wounding, more telling of my failings or more likely to make me reappraise my very existence than for a child to wish me gone; a child, so despairing of me as a father, to care not whether I lived or died.
Gascoigne knows of his failings — “I got food disorder, got bipolar, mood swings, anxiety. I drank when I was sad. And yes, I must admit I thought of dying.”
But did he ever think of Regan or his long suffering wife Sheryl? When he was drinking for England with his slobbish mates, did he ever pause to imagine not only how he was damaging his health, but also how he was killing the respect and love of his son?
Can, even now, those sad, sad words of Regan penetrate his befuddled mind? Can he put aside his own self-loathing to try to repair the relationship with his son?
As anyone suffering from addiction is constantly told, you have to reach rock bottom before you can attempt to change and begin to regain self-dignity, never mind the respect of others.
Gascoigne, very publicly, has been at rock bottom for some time now.
There are two alternatives. He can attempt to change or he can fulfil his son's tragic prophecy — he's probably going to die soon.
What a very good try from Trevor
After an illustrious career as a rugby international — 31 caps for Ireland and selection for the British Lions — it would have been easy for Trevor Ringland (below) to retreat to a lucrative legal career.
Instead he chose to combine his work as a senior solicitor with wide-ranging service to the community. He took up posts with the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Mediation NI, the Ireland Fund and also as a member of the Ulster Unionist Party.
But it is as campaign chair for the One Small Step organisation that he has made, perhaps, his most telling and enduring contribution to life in this province.
As the name implies, the organisation seeks to change attitudes and improve the cohesiveness of society through small, often unnoticed, steps. He — and other members of the organisation — recognises that Northern Ireland needs the co-operation of all its citizens to achieve anything. We must work together or remain a fatally fractured society.
He is not trying to impose a solution, but to get people to work from the ground upwards on reaching compromises and accommodation, and starting to heal the awful legacy of conflict. It is low key, but vital, work.
For his contribution he has received a well-deserved MBE for services to the community. Modestly, he tries to deflect much of the credit to his |thousands of ‘team mates’ in the |project, but every successful team needs an inspirational and dedicated leader. He is that man.
Why our justice system’s criminal
It is easy to reject as ‘over the top’ the call by Church of Ireland Canon David Crooks for the vandals who badly damaged his All Saints Church in Newtown near the Derry-Donegal border at Christmas to be birched.
Sadly, some might say, that is never going to happen. The human rights lobby would be reaching for the smelling salts if corporal punishment was ever meted out. (Incidentally, why do we always hear of ‘human rights' never ‘human responsibilities'?)
But his call — and also his plea for prisons to be more like boot camps with military discipline on inmates — should be heeded. For it is founded on despair.
Canon Crooks, like so many victims of the random and wanton vandalism and thuggery which infects modern society, feels the dice is unfairly loaded against the law-abiding and in favour of the criminals.
The punishment never seems to fit the crime. Those who break the law have an army of apologists pleading on their behalf.
Meanwhile their victims fume silently and helplessly. Canon Crooks, at least, has given them a voice.
Oh no Linda didn’t! Er, oh yes, she did ...
Linda Lusardi, the former Page 3 girl, has always struck me as someone well grounded and a far cry from most vacuous ‘celebrities’. Still a stunna at 50, she lost the run of herself somewhat recently when she dialled 999 after she became stuck in traffic on her way to perform as the Wicked Queen in panto.
She says she just made the call to ask police if it would be okay for her to use the hard shoulder of the M25 to beat the jams and make the theatre on time and, therefore, not disappoint the hundreds of children waiting for that day's matinee performance.
Sorry, Linda, 999 calls are for real emergencies, not a way to beat traffic jams. And you were only playing a Queen.
Now, if you had really been |royalty ...