The storm clouds have been gathering over Heart of Midlothian FC all summer.
The venerable old lady of Scottish football is frail and in ailing health. Having befriended a rich Lithuanian, she finds all her savings gone and day-to-day life is a struggle. Can she carry on on her own? Might she be forced to move out of her home of more than 100 years? Can her family and friends come to her rescue?
My phone rings. It’s one of the old lady’s friends. Can I help her? She is in desperate need of a make-over to attract new suitors and I am the only photographer in his contact book. I tell him I’ve never been particularly fond of this old lady, often found her to be be grumpy and bad-tempered, but my motto is never kick a man when he’s down, so I suppose I could extend this courtesy to an old woman.
After a few more conversations, I discover that most of the people who help the old lady on a day-to-day basis have been made redundant. Her care is in the hands of a small band of people retained to make sure that the life-support machine stays switched on and have been given the task to see if some medicine can be provided which will allow her to start making a recovery.
The brief for me was simple. Come down to her house on Sunday and take some photographs of her home and visitors. On this particular day she had a visit scheduled from a rather noisy neighbour from Leith and it was expected that the get-together would offer the chance to see the old lady and her friends partying long into the afternoon.
And so at the appointed hour I knocked on the rather dilapidated front door of the old lady’s house in Gorgie Road. I could see that she had had some renovations done since my last visit many years ago, indeed three-quarters of her house looks pristine and lovely, flags fluttering, seats upturned and everything ready for a great occasion, the first meeting of the season of these old old neighbours.
And so it was. The old lady extended a welcome of sorts to her neighbour, but then the two of them started their bickering and quarreling about who was top dog in Edinburgh. Back and forward it went with little purpose. I thought of some of the great arguments these two had had down the years, the passion was still there, but the debating skills had deserted them.
In the end it was one skillful riposte from the old lady which settled the argument. Her friends and family jumped and leapt for joy. It was just the tonic the old lady needed. She felt much better. There are challenges ahead, but long-term, with the help of all her friends and family – and a passing photographer – she may make a full recovery and be a fit, strong and healthy member of Scotland’s footballing community for years to come. Good health!