I am often asked how I started writing and why I became a poet.
It all started when I was a teenager. I was on my way to a football training academy in London. The bus was quite crowded. Another lad, a bit younger than me, sat next to me and we got chatting.
He had a little notebook with him and he said it was where he wrote down ideas for stories and poems. He was on his way to see a publisher friend of his dad’s. One day, he said, he was going to be a poet. He read me some of his poems and, to be honest, they weren’t very good. So I showed him where he was going wrong and helped him with a couple of rhymes. But I could see his heart wasn’t in it.
Then he asked me about playing football. My dad, my grandad and my great grandad had all been well-known and very good, footballers. And everyone thought I would be the same. And I did enjoy playing – but I knew I wasn’t really very good. I much preferred writing stories and poems. I thought this lad was lucky to be seeing a publisher.
“Do you play football?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said, “but I don’t think I’m good enough to play in a team.”
At that moment the bus jerked to an unexpected halt and my football, which was jammed in the top of my sports bag, came loose and spun into the air.
The lad sprang to his feet, caught the ball on his knee, knocked it back into the air on to his head, where he bounced it seven or eight times, back to his knee, then kicked it. The ball flew the length of the bus, over the startled passengers' heads, and landed in the little luggage compartment at the front. Bulls-eye!
Then I had my brilliant idea.
Tell you what,” I said, “ How about I become the poet and go and see your dad’s publisher friend, and you take my place and go to the football academy trials?"
He thought about it for a moment, grinned, and said, “Yes! What a brilliant idea!” So that’s what we did.
And that’s how I first met David Beckham.