My Favourite Scarf
Colin Payne on his affinity with with his yellow, black and red length of acrylic
It’s always one of the highlights of my season, the GT game, the players come out, and the whole stadium holds aloft their scarves. For that minute or so I can think of no time when Watford’s support is more united. No matter your views on anything else, that love of Graham Taylor dominates as a sea of yellow, black and red swathes the three and half stands populated by us. It’s a wonderful affirmation of everything we stand for, want to stand for, and should stand for, it’s an organic, wordless statement of good. It’s something we’ve done for five years now, and I really hope we do it forever, never let the occasion pass without this ceremony of shared love being performed.
It also highlights, for me at least, just how strong my relationship is to my scarf. (It’s statements like this that mean I never share the contents of this fanzine with friends or family who are not Watford supporters!) I think it’s a relatively new thing for me. Before the last ten years or so, I saw them as almost a disposable commodity, each new season seeing a frantic search for the strip of acrylic, usually ending in vain, as somewhere between the last cold day of March and the balmy return to football in August it gets lost in that place that also contains numerous beard trimmer chargers, the half-pack of AA batteries you know you possess somewhere, and my car’s registration documents. However, it was never an issue, I’d simply buy another one!
I’ve owned dozens of them through my time following the ‘Orns. I remember losing one at Notts County in the mid-eighties as I suffered my only physical harm at a football game in forty-five years of going, pulled from my neck as I was kicked and punched in some housing estate which was, on reflection, a really silly place to park. Another flew out the car window as a passenger opened it to ‘get some air’ as we motored up the M6, not realising that my predominantly red scarf (always a favourite combination of colours for me) wasn’t secured by anything other than the vice-like grip of the glass and door frame. It flapped against the roof of my Ford Capri before vanishing somewhere in the central reservation between Coventry and Birmingham. Another was sent to someone called Rick from the States, who had become a ‘penfriend’ due to a shared love of the Golden Boys, lost in an exchange of sporting favours. I got a Denver Broncos mini-ball in return; I think he came out on top in that one. Then, to bring us full circle, there was the one, the one I really liked, plain yellow and black, which I left for GT outside the Hornets Shop. By this stage I had learnt to treasure my scarf, but it had to be something meaningful I left for the great man, something personal.
I replaced it with a new one, a lovely traditional yellow version with the thin double black stripes each side of a red one. No writing, no pictures, no slogans. The classic design. It’s what you’ll see me wearing every matchday, along with the ever-present black Kit@ cagoule I love so much, despite losing the jacket for three years after putting it in a golf bag immediately prior to throwing a five-iron in a lake and quitting the wretched game forever. Thankfully my son took up the sport and found it. I reckon at my age now, both will do me until I join Bill, Henry and GT up there in Hornet Heaven.
And there you have it, Colin and his scarf. I wish I had valued my others, earlier in life. That I could traipse down Vicarage Road with a grubby woollen favour, with sewn-on patches from years gone by, with decades of character-defining dirt engrained in the fibres. I envy those people. But I can’t, my treasured scarf is just six years old, but still treasured all the same. Perhaps in years to come my match-going offspring will argue about it within some solicitor’s office as I neglect to assign it to anyone in my last will and testament, the winner of the dispute taking it to games long into the future, holding it aloft as they commemorate the anniversary of GT’s passing in 2063 or some other date that will long have ceased to be relevant to me. I do hope so, and I hope that as they remember GT they recall our days in the Rookery, the good times this club has seen, and the bad, and hold that scarf with pride. Let’s just hope I don’t lose it before then!