Calum Best had a fair bit to witness by the age of three. Probably that little bit more than the average kid. However, I think it would be fair to say that being the son of one of the world’s most famous football players and sweethearts was no average viewing tower for a three year old to gaze from.
There’s an old expression, ‘we are all products of our own environment’. Alcoholism, women, prison, broken families and bankruptcy were all part of Calum’s environment by the age of three and unfortunately, most of these themes would continue for the balance of his father’s life.
Although Calum has been slated by many in recent years for his antics, the book helps you to understand the genesis of behaviour. In fact, on occasions I was trying to imagine what it would be like to walk I his shoes for a mile. As a teenager he was living out of a suitcase, had Cher as his godmother, had a legendary footballing father who was plastered all over the press, yet all he really desperately wanted was a functioning family and parental love from his dad. Instead his dad would roll up drunk pretty much all the time, turning into a person who neither resembled a sporting legend or a father. Especially on one occasion when George accidentally got into bed with Calum after an ‘all-nighter’ and thinking he was in bed with a woman started trying to kiss Calum. As in – stick the tongue down the throat type kiss. That’s enough to scar any kid mentally, especially when his dad would have no recollection a few hours later.
The only part of George’s life which Calum didn’t emulate was his success on a football pitch. Perhaps he could have though. His dad had actually set up trials at Portsmouth FC, but unfortunately Calum never attended. The lifestyle he was leading, was already starting to engulf anything positive in his life and although he was unware at that stage, he’d been sucked into the slipstream of his father’s vicious circle.
The chapters which deal with the death of George are quite heart wrenching at times. You genuinely feel the loneliness and desperation of Calum spilling off the page. The legacy which Calum inherits is also an emotional rollercoaster. His dad had made two wills. One which was signed and one which wasn’t. The one which wasn’t, was intended for Calum and was never signed by George because he didn’t want to tempt fate. Unfortunately time overtook that particular destiny and that signature never came to fruition. Consequently Calum was left with absolutely nothing.
A great deal of the book discusses his experiences as the son of an alcoholic parent. Not a famous alcoholic parent, but more poignantly a parent. Calum realises he has some wisdom to pass onto future generations of children of all ages who have had to go through a similar parent/child upbringings and sincerely wants to help them break that vicious circle. Is he a totally reformed character? I’d probably say, not yet. Has he changed his ways? I’d reply honestly by saying, he’s certainly on the right route and I take my hat off to him to spilling his guts to the degree he did in his autobiography.
The hardest part of Calum’s life has been to step out of the shadows of father George. To be introduced to a room of unknowing strangers as ‘Calum Best’. Not as ‘The son of the famous footballer George’, who led an infamous life to the very end. He wants to be known by his own merits.
Second Best is available from all good book stores http://www.amazon.co.uk/Second-Best-My-Dad-Me/dp/0593074718