He’s Clive from Houston to most of you, he’s Uncle Clive to me and to my dad, he’s simply known as his best mate.
As a kid, most times you’re forced to make pleasantries with your parents’ friends is greeted with reticence, reservation and actual resentment. (After all, they’d only ever wheel you out to prove that eloquence runs in the family, before the awkward charade would begin, right?!)
But in Uncle Clive’s case, that couldn’t be further from the truth, as I’d leg it down the stairs on the occasions he’d drop round to see dad. Seeing him was an event; a happening to indulge in, as he’d make me feel like a grown-up. One of the lads.
A whopping great personality, a big bushy beard and a belly full of laughs whenever he’d make the hour long journey to say hello. That’s the thing with Clive Hill. He’d always make the journey because he was always there for Dad unconditionally. And he’d always be laughing.
While I’d only be 12 or so at the time, he could still roll out a line about me fingering my non-existent girlfriend in my living room and get away with it, as Dad would stifle a giggle when he knew he should be telling him off.
‘Grow-up Clive?!’ Fat chance! He was a big saft kid whose refusal to take life seriously was the very reason why I loved him so much. (Wolves’ Wembley jester in 1974?!)
I distinctly remember his last visit before he embarked on a new life in Houston, Texas. He was my old man’s buddy, not mine, but I felt a genuine sense of sadness when I knew he wouldn’t be around, precisely because I knew those visits to see me and ‘Scooped’ would be a thing of the past.
We had a late summer sojourn in Vale Park in August 1990 me, Clive and Dad. It would be a memorable final hurrah before the airport departure gates. ‘They’ve got a good team, Uncle Clive,’ I remember saying, thinking of Darren Beckford and Robbie Earle.
Unlike Dad’s common sense and reason, Clive didn’t care for fate, tempting fate, or any respect for the opposition whatsoever. (nothing changes there then?!).
‘They’re a load of shit, Ben, trust me. Bully is 10 times the player on one leg.’
In mingled awe and disbelief, I watched Darren Beckford score after 7 minutes, before Bully scored the winner in the 44th minute. In between, I almost got thrown from the back of the stand to the front of it when Gary Bellamy equalised in between – as Uncle Clive raised me above his head and hurled me towards the pitch like I was a paper aeroplane on a collision course with the corner flag. I LOVED IT!
Mingled awe and disbelief was about right when it came to my feelings for Uncle Clive.
Nothing has changed today, albeit from a 4,700 mile distance.
Being there for Dad through his darkest days is something I’ll never forget (seldom few were), nor his inclination to jump on a plane to see him at 24hrs notice if he could sense he was feeling a bit down (Clive has done this and would do it again tomorrow if he could, I know).
We’re all a bit more weathered now, and the innocence of youth makes way to a different way of seeing the world.
But not when it comes to Clive. One look at any given blog post reminds me that growing old – never mind gracefully – is something that happens to other people, rather than he.
An acerbic, amusing and amazing uncle endures, who tickles and troll within the flick of his keyboard. A literary talent, I’m sure you’ll agree.
I hope you can all say a prayer to Clive from Houston and his wife Marla, and leave a comment if you can.
Don’t be offended if he doesn’t give a shit though, as he never did when he was on here!
(And if you’re reading Clive, dig in and stay strong…Me and the Bald Eagle will be flying soon xx)