I’m never sure what to say.

I’ve thought long and hard about writing this.

The Armchair Gooner’s purpose is to provide news and views about Arsenal. Yet, I consider it an extension of myself. Beneath the ridiculous and football-related veneer lurks many elements of my personality.

My Mum passed away on Saturday night aged 66 through complications associated with pneumonia. With Football nothing to me now but a trivial distraction of little meaning, my desire to blog is entirely absent.

But, those elements of my personality that creep through in my daily posts inspire me to write; to put something, anything down in words and get it out there – warts and all – for the world to see.

Perhaps some of you will feel it to be a touch self-indulgent, or a cry for attention. There’s little reason for me to be repelled by those claims as I am certain, to some, it will appear that way. However, I assure you that is not the case. Think of it as part of the grieving process. Human beings utilise many varied ways of purging themselves of pain and loss. This is mine.

Most of all, my Mum was always the one voice in many dissenters that urged me to pursue avenues such as this. She was someone impossible to dislike; a shoulder to cry on,  yet still capable of me calling an “indolent little c**t” when the time called for it.

My love for football comes directly from her. I watched and cheered my first World Cup with her. Even with her relatively small frame, she would gladly kick a ball around with my friends and I when I was growing up, and mercilessly hack the shins of anyone foolish enough to try and regain possession once she’d stolen it.

During my playing days, she’d watch from the sidelines to praise my good deeds, mock my calamitous blunders and act as my greatest champion  during moments of my self-doubt – never once failing to know exactly which mentality was correct to adopt.

She would like to know I’ve written this for her. That the people who pop by and read my daily drivel are aware of how important a figure in my life she was, and that she will be missed in ways no combination of words can aptly describe.

Most importantly, she would be happy to know that I have something that is mine, something that is flawed, silly, helpful, stupid and fun, but mine. She always used to ask about how “that football thing” was doing, and I’d reply, “Not too bad, it’s getting bigger every month”.

Without her, I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t be a blogger.

If you pop by here to read for more than just a bit of news, then you’re one of the people I do this for the most. You’re the most important readers I have. And, in a way, this post is as much for you, too. To let you know that whilst I may not return for a little while, I will be back. And I sincerely hope you’ll still be around when I do.

Thank you for all your support over the last year.

James ‘Raul’ Stokes.


71 thoughts on “I’m never sure what to say.”

  1. Condolences. It’s our heart and ability to give that is important. Love and family are more important than football. Good luck.

  2. Extremely sad news. I am only glad to see that you are finding your own way to let the pain out. I can understand how everything but your mum will become nothing but useless clutter in your head. It must have been very hard to submit that but it was the right thing to do. Being a Gooner we all share something in our hearts and I am sure i speak on behalf of us all when i offer my deepest condolences and wish you a quick return to blogging. Good luck and use your time remembering your mum.

  3. Sad news mate
    I lost my sister to cancer a year ago on Monday
    Hang in there mate and keep blogging
    Football is something to cling onto and have in your life
    Following your team season after season means a lot to us that bother
    Arsenal would do well to remember that
    I’m on the brink of turning my back on the club after 35 years of unwavering suppor. We don’t deserve it.
    Your mum sounds like she didn’t take any shit from anyone
    God bless her mate

  4. Just wanna drop my little prayers for the iron Lady who’s hand work is what we are enjoying this days. May the good lord in his infinite mercies grant her paternal life. R. I. P mum.
    Actually I’ve never read or post a comment, but because of todays pies I just desided to participate. Thanx your beautiful bastared, El-kabeer Nigerian

  5. May she rest in paradise.. Take heart in this difficult moment. After reading the blog she sounds like she was a wonderful lady but tough, You are made from the same stuff. Keep the head up, I do enjoy the your blog’s the season is here looking forward to your commentary.

  6. Hang in there mate,things may seem dark and sad at the moment, and will do for sometime.Hope this tragic loss will not hold you back,i to suffered a similar loss just over a year ago,puts things into perspective.Football and everything else pale into insignificance,family come first.Good luck and hope we hear from you in the not to distant future.Enjoyed the Bergkamp Wonderland Podcast.

  7. sorry for your loss mate , i’ll be looking forward to your return , one of the best bloggers the gunners have …. football really doesnt matter ….

  8. Condolences mate, very brave of you to write this and sure she’d be proud. The extent of her influence and her importance to you now has a much wider audience, and by the sounds of it, much deserved. Stay strong.

  9. please accept my sincere condolences ,

    best wishes for both your family and yourself.

    be strong and keep the blogs coming when you need to escape.

    kudos to you for coming out and letting it all out and sharing all the above with us.

    may your mum’s soul RIP.

  10. There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go. Sorry for your loss

  11. So sad to hear of your loss mate . I always look out for ur blogs and will do still. My sincere condolences to you and ur family

  12. Sorry to hear your sad news James. I’m a relative newcomer to your blog and it has become the first blog I read each day. I enjoy your blog because you have a way of writing that puts the reader at ease and feels like you are talking to a mate in the pub. Thanks for all your posts, especially sharing this difficult news with us.

    1. Absolutely. I too am a new comer to this blog and it is the only one I have bookmarked because of the reasons made above. You have been very strong sharing this with us all and you have my heart felt condolences on your loss. Please do continue your blog when you feel able, your ramblings and words will one day be the stuff of legend.
      God Bless James.

  13. Thanks for all you do here for us out in cyber space. Know that it’s appreciated. And a big thanks to your mum as well for helping you to where you are, bringing all of this to us.

  14. Im sorry for your loss man. Even though none of us have met you we are supoorting you even if it is through a simple comment. Stay strong for youself and your family.

  15. so sorry for your loss bro,… Take heart, we goonerz followers have got your back on this one,… One’s again, so sorry for your loss.

  16. Big love brother.
    I wrote my Dad’s obituary because at every funeral we ever attended he would say “what does that minister know about him/her?”
    Wasn’t going to have him look down and say that at his own funeral.
    Hardest thing I ever wrote but part of what was needed at the time.
    In truth the worst is over for you now.

  17. This is a beautiful post and please rest assured that, writing for gunners faithful, we are always here to support one another. I’ve felt a lot of joy reading your blog in the past and you’ve proven to be an excellent writer, clearly intelligent, and your mum must’ve known this. She is proud mate, thank you for sharing and I hope you get better soon.

  18. My sincere condolences. I wish you strength to overcome this difficult period. Keep well my friend. Singapore Gooner.

  19. My sincerest condolences.Celebrate your mother whenever you can, it makes grievance so much more tolerable.

  20. I’m so sorry for your loss James. We shall be waiting for you whenever you are ready to return you “beautiful bastard”. May her soul rest in peace and may your memories of her comfort you in these trying times.

  21. Im sorry to hear james. it is always tragic when someone close to you dies, especially in the sudden circumstances I can only assume it to be. I hope your holding up well. I have read your blog for a while now and as much as it may be irrelevant at this time I do consider it to be the second best arsenal blog after le grove (sorry). Anyway its completely understandable to take a break and im sure im not alone in offering my condolences. I hope your break does you well and I look forward to reading your posts again when the time is right. Again I am sorry to hear.

  22. I read your blog like everyday…even though I seldom comment, but once I receive an email notification, I rush to read through. I was really touched when I saw this. So sorry for your loss mate. Some of us that have lost a loved one before knows how it feels. But again, ike Shakespeare said, “Everyone can master a grief but he that has it “. Accept our condolences. May God resit her soul.

  23. My condolences, mate. It’s hard to lose someone who was your biggest support in tough times and there are no words that could relieve the pain.

  24. Whilst I read regularly, I rarely post, though felt impelled to do so this morning after reading your admirable tribute. Thoughts are with you and your family.

  25. Sorry for your loss James. I will await your return to my email box and will miss your daily drivel. Stay strong you beautiful bastard!

  26. Take your time; your head and your heart are more important than football. We’ll all be waiting when you get back. Condolences.

  27. My deepest sympathy to you and your family James.. Your Mum should be proud of you mate, as you are the best Arsenal blogger in blog land, and your post above is a fitting tribute to her.. Take your time to grieve James, we all deal with the loss of a loved one in different ways, but as a regular reader I eagerly await your return… God bless you and your Mum.

  28. Sorry for your loss. She is in a better place and cheering you on. Take your time, we’ll be here when you get back.

  29. James its never easy losing a loved one, but I hope you can take comfort in the fact that she is at peace and in a better place man, accept my condolences bruv.

    Take it easy ok.

  30. Haven’t often posted here but i’m a long time reader of your blog. My heart goes out to you and your family. Strength brother.

  31. I am so sorry for your loss James I feel your pain

    I know how you feel I lost my mum in exactly the same circumstances a few years ago

    God bless you both

    Take your time you beautiful bastard we will still be here when the time is right for you to return

  32. James, so sorry for your loss, she sounded like a wonderful Mum, I don’t know you or didn’t know her but from the way you’ve described her i’m sure she would be very proud. Will be here ready to read when you return. I haven’t posted a comment before but read your blog daily and it never fails to raise a laugh (in a good way!!) Look forward to you next post when the time is right.Take care

  33. Hey bro!
    Sorry about your loss! Pls accept my heart felt condolence! Uve been a blessing to everyone of us and such pple as I whose days are not rily started without visiting ur site!
    Stay strong bro!

    Rio; Aba Nigeria

  34. I have just started to read your blog and this really stood out for me. I am very sorry for your loss and understand a little as I lost my mum 3 years ago and I can safely say its the hardest thing I have ever experienced. I am sure you will get through this as your Mum was obviously a very strong person and has taught you a lot about life. Just do your best to remember all the good times and all the fun you’ve had over the year.
    Take care

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