How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 45

DECEMBER 2021

Bradley was delighted to hear that Archie had managed to secure a six-bedroomed town house in Belgravia for the days after Christmas. It wasn’t cheap, in fact it was very expensive, but it ticked all the boxes and would come with staff as the place was owned by a wealthy Chinese businessman who only stayed there when he was in town and kept his staff on when he was away. The fact that he loved FC Barcelona as well helped matters and he wished that he could have met his hero.

When Jessie and Bradley arrived at Malaga, Carlos was there to meet them as usual. The wintry sun was still quite strong and temperatures were predicted to be around 25c for Christmas. That led Bradley to suggest to Carlos that they forgo the usual turkey dinner and have a traditional Spanish one again as that had gone down well in the past.

Carlos replied that it was all in hand and ready for when everyone arrived the next day. That would give Jessie time to decorate the villa and help Carlos and Martine with the preparation. Archie had arranged all the flights for them to move to London after Christmas and had also arranged a couple of surprise guests while they were there. He had even managed to convince Deepak to join them for a couple of days having cleared it with Hearts who didn’t have the luxury of a Winter Break, although they should have had one; the weather was cold in Scotland and a number of games had been called off over the holiday period, including Deepak’s Under 19s games.

By eight o’clock on the evening of the 23rd, everybody had arrived in Mijas to start celebrating Christmas. Carlos had pulled out all the stops with his tapas selection and had bought plenty of decent bottles of wine for their guests. A few of his friends from the village had also been invited for drinks on the 24th as Carlos thought it would be good for Bradley and Jessie to integrate more into their community and meet some of the locals.

It was a roaring success. Bradley made a point of chatting to all the guests, in Spanish as he was now fluent, and the locals loved it. So many players moved to Spain to further their careers or to retire after their career and didn’t bother learning anything of the language other than ‘cerveza’ or ‘gracias’. Bradley saw this as ignorance and arrogance and was pleased that he and Jessie had made the effort to learn much more than that.

Christmas Day was even better than the previous day’s entertainment. Suckling pig, roasted duck and the local pork speciality was eaten with gusto by their family and friends and as usual the celebrations continued long after dinner with everyone out by the pool swimming off their excessive intake of calories.

Bradley was sitting quietly thinking about his dad and how they were enjoying Christmas without them. He knew it was his own stupid thought that dad couldn’t be there and at least they were going to make the effort and all fly over to London especially for them. He sneaked into the villa and picked up his phone.

‘Hi dad, Happy Christmas to you and Lucy. Are you having a good day? We’ve had another cracking time thanks to Carlos.’

‘Merry Christmas, son! Glad you’re all having a good time. We’re alright; we invited a few of our regulars who were going to be on their own over Christmas to come and join us for dinner. It’s a right League of Nations; we’ve got people from Poland, the US, Canada and Australia here in the restaurant and we’re having a great time. Diego cooked up plenty of food for us and didn’t mind coming in as he had nowhere else to go. Delroy is at home with his mum and family but is popping in later. Wish you could be here.’ Brian enthused.

’Well, we’ll be seeing you on the 27th. You got my email with the directions?’

‘I did. Looks like a swanky place, must have cost a fortune.’ Brian said.

‘It did. But it will be worth it. Two Christmases in one week ain’t bad!’

They said they were looking forward to meeting up in a couple of days and Bradley re-joined his guests on the terrace. Jessie knew where he had been and asked if everything was alright with his dad. Martine also came over to him and asked the same as she had known where he’d been as well. It was nice to think his mum still had some time for dad. He didn’t really deserve it at times, but it was nice nevertheless.

Brian put his phone back in his pocket and joined his guests. Although, there weren’t as many guests as he had told Bradley. In truth, there was just him, Lucy and Diego who really didn’t have anywhere to go for Christmas. The restaurant was closed on the 25th and 26th so they had a couple of days of peace and quiet and talk about the future, rather than the past.

Since opening, the new restaurant had done well, but not as well as it could have done. There was more competition in the area, business rates were much higher and as it was much larger than their first place the associated costs were higher too. Not to mention the army of staff they needed to make sure the place ran like clockwork. A new general manager, accounts clerk in charge of wages and bills, four more kitchen staff and numerous waiting staff who worked a rota.

Still, they were making money and it gave Brian and Lucy a good standard of living. They had settled in to their new apartment and had redecorated the place to their tastes. Well, Lucy’s tastes anyway. Brian didn’t have much input on that particular subject.

She was a bright girl and Brian wondered why she never aspired to be more than just another exotic dancer. Lucy was good with the customers and staff, she was smart when it came to negotiating prices from suppliers and she still had her looks. He had asked her about her past but she was always reluctant to talk about it. Brian got the feeling there was some family thing in the background that had led to her leaving home and working at whatever she could just to make a living. Whenever the subject of her family arose, she made sure to change the subject quickly. Maybe one day she will confide in him, he thought.

Diego was another one with a past that he didn’t want to share with others. All Brian knew was that he left Barcelona years ago and turned up in London washing pans in a mid-market restaurant in Soho, then worked hard at culinary college so he could improve himself. He never mentioned Spain or his family either, just like Lucy. As for Brian, everyone seemed to know his background and there was no point hiding it; it would be online somewhere if anybody cared to look it up.

So, he had a team of life’s unloved on board and he liked them all the more for that. At least they were working hard to prove someone wrong, he just didn’t know who, unlike him. Brian was determined to make Bradley proud of him and his achievements which is why he was looking forward to spending a couple of days with him and his family in Belgravia.

It sounded like it was going to be a big occasion with his son and his fiancée, his ex-wife and her boyfriend, Archie and this new wonder kid from India that Bradley was raving about. That will be interesting, he smiled as he poured another glass of finest Bordeaux out for himself and re-joined the conversation with Diego and Lucy.

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