The first thing I notice about Craig Bellamy isn't the mass of tattoos 
which populate his arms, nor is it the slightly maniacal leer in his 
eyes or the way his head looks slightly squashed, as though some 
school prank involving heads and vices almost went horribly wrong.  
It's not the fact that I see him arriving on a BMX either (Christ knows, 
its not exactly rare for a footballer to be sans wheels in this day and age, although 
there is no suggestion that Bells has been at the Bells). It's not even the fact that, as he 
stalks across the chequerboard black and white tiles of the floor towards my window table, he appears to be clicking his fingers, Fonzie-style, in time with some music in his head which only he can hear. No: the first thing I notice about Craig Bellamy, the ex-Manchester City, ex-Liverpool, ex-West Ham, ex-Coventry, ex-Norwich, ex-Blackburn, ex-Newcastle and ex-Celtic striking tyro is the fact he appears to be bedecked in the robes of a monk. 

As he approaches the table, he proffers a hand, for once leaving off with the clicking, and I
make my first mistake as I reach out to shake it. 

'Nuh-uh,' says Craig, wagging his finger (I'll later come to find the Bellmeister talks almost as
much with his hands as a Frenchman). He hold out his hand again and this time I see what he wants
me to do. He wants me to kiss the rather large emerald ring which adorns his pinkie, much as one
would kiss the ring of a bishop. Having interviewed a great deal of footballers over the years, I realise
that many of them have their strange foibles, and to draw attention to them so early in an interview is
a mistake, so I lavish upon his ring a kiss of such lip-smacking tenderness, the Bellster cannot help
but be moved. Finally, when we can both bear it no more, he pulls away, draws up the chair opposite
me, spins it around, and sits with his bare arms (the sleeves of his monk's robes are drawn up)
wrapped around it, American Top Gun style).

'So,' I say, nervously leafing through the jottings in my reporter-style notebook.
'So,' says the Bell-man.
'Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Craig... Can I call you Craig?'

A slight incline of the Bell-end's head. He dances his fingers across the top of the chair, 
'You can, like, call me Father, if you, like, like,' he says finally. 'And there's no, like, 
need to thank me or whatever because, like, I knowwhatImean couldn't even remember I 
was supposed to be doing an interview thingy. I just, like, came here because it says so 
on my arm.'

I try not to look confused.

'I have this, like, condition,' says Bells, quietly, as though talking is a real effort. 'You see, I can't make new memories. I have to write everything down, like, tattoo it on my body so I can remember where I'm supposed to be going...What club I'm supposed to
be turning out for.'

Like a light-bulb clicking on in my head, I suddenly realise why Bello the Wisp has
accumulated so many clubs in his career. He literally cannot remember who he plays for... I
feel my first twinge of sympathy for the much maligned wing-man. 'That must be... terrible,' I

'That's why I do the, like, clicking or whatever,' he says, miming another Fonzie-style click. 'So I remember to, like, keep on walking and whatever... Otherwise.' He mimes having his head chopped off and I wonder whether he fears this will really happen. Again, I desperately seek solace in my notes. There is nothing about his condition to be found there, only your common or garden stuff. You know: plays for Wales, born 1979, invented the paper-clip; the sort of flotsam and jetsam even a cursory surf through the Wikipedia archives can throw up. And what of his monkish get-up, his cassock, or gown or whatever you call it?

'What about the clothes, uh, Father? Did you...' I lower my voice before continuing: 'Did you forget you were a 
footballer all together? Did someone tell you you were a monk? As a joke?'

Craig lists me one of his famous beacon smiles, throws out his hands: 'Oh, this old thing,' he says, 
self-depreciatingly. 'I look how I, like, feel, chief. I feel holy, I feel the glory all around me... Ever since the 
feller out of that, like, Big Brother thing came out – the Welsh one, Dave, he was called, like me dad – and 
he, like, converted me on the pitch at half-time during my debut for Cardiff. Very, like, emotional and 

'So you're really a monk, Father?'

He gives me the old spectacles, testicles cross thing and nods, sagely. 'I have shunned all worldly possessions now, chief. All I own is the Bellamy Mobile (that's what I call my, like, BMX.) All me wages go straight into, like, the Church or something, to pay for a new roof and whatever. They always need new roofs, Churches, like. Ever noticed that?'

As the sun cuts through the window by our table, it glitters around the Bell-Unit's head,
almost giving him the aspect of a halo. He looks part stained-glass in this light, and it is
wondrous to behold. Without a moment's thought I fold away my reporter-style notebook, with
all my musings about his striking John Arne Riise with a golf club because he refused to do
karaoke on a Liverpool FC jolly to Spain, and my queries about why he felt the need to plague
the saintly Alan of Shearer with pest-text messages mocking him for his baldness and his 
too-tight kecks on MOTD. These are questions for another footballer, not he, not this brilliant
Bellamy, a man who's overcome everything life has thrown at him in the form of his more
famous father, David, and his not being able to think straight. A man who's been gobbled
up and come out the other end, like shit, an example to all. And in these dark days of tawdry
tabloid allegations about Wayne Rooney, John Terry et al, Father Craig Bellamy is a kind of
Second Coming (but of course, I can't tell him that).

Wordlessly, I raise my hand in the air and click my fingers, Fonzie-style, to attract the attention of a waitress. I will buy him wine, the blood of Christ, and together we shalt sup until eternity, or until Craig has to go home to watch Emmerdale Farm because Wikipedia says he never misses an episode.

The waitress finally comes over with a reporter-style notebook of her own in which to jot her musings, or 
perhaps list our order.

'What do youse want,' she says, in a voice clogged with Scousery.

And Craig looks up, fully be-haloed, and he looks confused, lost. A lost soul. 'Who are you? Where 
am I? Where's me BMX?'

And I swear my heart breaks in stages, in instalments, like a Steven Gerrard dive. 

with Grant Mortar

Home Defence UK
A Symptom of a Greater Malaise
Mortar on Soccer Hooligans
Memento: Grant Mortar meets Craig Bellamy

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