||Gringo Latino Books
Price: $0.99 (eBook)
Hospitalized after a near-fatal car crash in the Canary Islands, a young man travels through the memories of a world of backpacking adventures.
It starts with a football match but it’s not a football story. On emerging from two weeks of post-traumatic delirium, Steve finds himself in hospital with his father at his bedside but absolutely no idea what has happened.
Nevertheless, what begins is a worldwide journey through the memories of a man from the first generation of backpackers. Whether he’s in Central America surrounded by soldiers with AK-47s levelled at his head, arrested in an isolated village on the Caribbean coast, involved in a disturbing ceremony of witchcraft in South America, or simply dealing with the problems of travelling on a shoestring budget, it’s all part and parcel of backpacking.
However, Half-Time not only illustrates how a near death experience often leads us to reflect on the life we have lived, but also shows how those memories can be just what is needed to overcome the pain and despair of a major trauma. It presents the love between a father and son as the inspiration to write a fascinating collection of travel tales, all intricately connected by a moving central story.
Half-Time reflects upon the game of life while unwittingly inspiring the desire to achieve our goals before the final whistle is blown.
1 The Big Match
I went to a football match once. It was on a Wednesday at the tail end of summer, the kind of day that could pass by almost unnoticed, yet one that remains in my mind as a day when I did something different. You see, I’m not really a football fan.
However, when I say I went to a football match, it wasn’t just a start-of-season local game. It was a friendly international at Wembley Stadium: England versus Colombia. To be honest, for a football match to catch my attention, it had to be a little bit different. I mean, I never do things by halves.
The reason why I went was also unusual. I was an English teacher and a salsa DJ, and there were some Colombian students in my class who also came to my club at the weekend. Consequently, we soon became friends and like many Latin Americans they were passionate about their football, so when they told me they were going to ‘the big match’, I thought it might be fun to go with them.
But their passion for football wasn’t the reason why I went. My passion was for percussion, and the thought of football always brought back memories of Mexican spectators beating drums to the rhythms of the 1986 World Cup. As a result, when preparing for our trip to the capital, I decided to take my enormous Brazilian samba drum.
On the big day, we drove up to London, met some more Colombians at a pub on Baker Street and took the Tube to Wembley. Even though travelling on an overcrowded train with an oversized drum wasn’t easy, I thought I would find myself surrounded by Latinos armed with drums, the moment we arrived at the stadium, but on finally reaching the turnstiles my path became blocked by a heavy-set security guard.
‘I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t come in here with that,’ he said. ‘It’s too dangerous.’
‘What do you mean? It’s only a drum and I promise not to hit anyone with it,’ I joked.
‘I know you won’t, sir, because you’re gonna leave it in our office,’ he replied and then he called for backup on his radio while I waited at the gates with my group of Colombian friends.
Just at that moment, another security guard arrived and asked her colleague what he was doing. He briefly explained the situation but her immediate response caught everyone by surprise: ‘What do you mean?’ she exclaimed. ‘Of course he can come in with a drum. He’s Colombian!’
It appeared I wasn’t the only person who still remembered the 1986 World Cup. This security guard truly believed I was a passionate Latin football fan, and I wasn’t about to correct her mistake. In fact, the love I had of all things Latin American played such an important part in my life that I felt privileged to be perceived as a citizen of the country whose team I had come here to support.
We passed through the turnstiles and found our seats, then the referee blew his whistle and the game began. His whistle was also my cue to start playing percussion, and despite a low turnout for Wembley Stadium, I soon found myself surrounded by thousands of Latinos, all clapping their hands to the rhythms of my drum. On the evening of 6 September 1995, I started to think I might have found a good reason for going to a football match.
The highlight of the game came just before half-time. The English forwards made a creative attack that climaxed with a powerful shot on goal but the Colombian goalkeeper, a charismatic man named René Higuita, had other plans.
After briefly shuffling backwards, he launched himself into the air, diving forwards with outstretched arms, an arched back and legs curled up behind him, and made an unbelievable save by striking the ball with the studs of his boots. This extraordinary trick, known as the Scorpion, was performed so perfectly that the whole place filled with deafening applause and it went on to become one of the most replayed moments in modern football history.
I never actually saw it happen. At that time, I was too preoccupied with percussion. But a few months later, I was walking down a street in the Colombian city of Medellín and I happened to bump into the man who had made this football match so memorable.
‘Wow! You . . . Higuita!’ I exclaimed in broken Spanish. ‘I go Wembley Stadium last year when you do the Scorpion!’
He seemed surprised to be recognized by someone who clearly wasn’t from his part of the world, but he still shook my hand, flashed a friendly smile and then continued on his way.
Higuita’s save was the highlight of an otherwise uneventful first half, and after briefly glancing at his watch . . .
. . . the referee blew the whistle for half-time. Then Miguel turned to me and asked, ‘Do you mind if I change the channel?’
‘No, you go right ahead. I wasn’t watching it anyway,’ I replied in fluent Spanish.
No, I wasn’t watching the game. I didn’t even know where I was. I appeared to be in a small two-bedded hospital ward with a Spanish lad lying in the adjacent bed and my father seated at my side, but nothing made any sense. Was it half-time?
Island Connections, Tenerife
Promising nothing, it begins in a rather strange way but grips within ten minutes and I read it at a single sitting. How anyone Steve’s age could have packed in such an interesting life one cannot tell, but it’s all there and I don’t doubt one word.
It’s written in a way that films sometimes work, part flashback and part dealing with the present. In short, Steve wakes up in hospital on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, not a clue as to how or why, with his father at his bedside and having lost a couple of weeks. Gradually the reader realises, at the same time as Steve, what has happened, and through a set of triggers his past life unfolds before him and before the reader too. His father is an integral part of the whole scenario in a way that is endearing and natural, an experience that was obviously great for both of them.
Most of the book, set around the world in largely Spanish-speaking countries, tells the tale of an ordinary man and his passion, backpacking, that takes him on adventures and experiences that put many of us to shame because we haven’t got off our backsides and done anything. The other part of the book shows how sheer determination can overcome physical obstacles, how someone with dreadful injuries can come back and resume a worthwhile life and above all, how familial love can help when difficulties strike. This book is for anyone who’s ever thought they haven’t done enough with their life; it will be an inspiration to reach any goal before it’s too late. It’s a book that is surprising in its capacity to grip and enthral and I cannot recommend it enough.
Lanzarote Gazette, Spain
Half-Time starts with Colombian goalkeeper Rene Higuita’s audacious ‘Scorpion Save’ at Wembley in 1995, then quickly shifts to the author’s hospital room on Lanzarote, where he’s recovering from a near-fatal accident in January 1999. At this time he’s just coming out of two weeks of post-traumatic delirium and his father, who dropped everything and flew from England to be at his bedside the moment he got news of the accident, humours his ramblings as he slowly regains lucidity. The following pages cover Steve’s recuperation with events, comments and objects triggering the memories of years spent travelling the world, taking the reader from the hospital to many exotic and fascinating places around the globe.
As one of the first generation of backpackers, Steve left Britain at 19 and travelled across the USA before moving on to the Caribbean, Latin America, the South Seas, Australia and Thailand. His travel stories are funny, frightening and moving, featuring a huge cast of larger-than-life characters – the people he meets are as memorable as the countries he visits.
But the backbone of Half-Time is his relationship with his father over the two months they spent together in hospital. I think writing this book was a form of therapy that allowed him to evaluate his past, come to terms with the accident and realise that the most valuable things in life are closer to home. As he says of his father in the book: ‘Despite my world of experience, he was my north, my south, my east and west, the sun of my skies, he was the best.’
New Milton Advertiser, UK
Despite the title, Half-Time is not about football but concerns the autobiographical experiences of a young man’s backpacking adventures in what could be described as the ‘Game of Life’. Steve Devereaux set out wanting nothing more than to see a bit of the world, and while some of the book recounts the usual adventures and problems encountered by young people attempting to travel on a very limited budget, much of it has a far deeper meaning conveyed by mature, reflective insights.
It is written in a refreshingly honest style and includes lively encounters between the author and people he met en route, as well as details of Steve’s thoughts about the life that was opening up before him. His adventures include walking into a war zone in Nicaragua, being arrested in an isolated village in the Caribbean, and witnessing a disturbing ceremony of witchcraft in Venezuela. Yet more than anything, Half-Time is concerned with the author’s relationship with his father, the man who, from Steve’s ninth year, was relegated to the position of ‘weekend dad’ following his parents’ divorce.
Much of the story is centred around the aftermath of a near-fatal accident involving the author on Lanzarote, which left him hospitalised with his father at his bedside. It was during this time that Steve found contemplating death not only forced him to reflect on life, but that his memories also helped him come to terms with the pain, fear and despair of a major trauma. Consequently, this is not just a book about travel, but also the realisation of the enduring love between a father and his son.
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