In some ways it is similar day to that day twenty seven years ago. That South Yorkshire day. That Sheffield day. That Hillsborough day. An ice blue sky with cotton wool clouds. It was warmer twenty seven years ago. Lads were in T shirts. Today the temperature hits the deck every time the sun hides behind a cloud.
I'm out and about running the errands of a guy who manages a food bank. And second by second the clock on the dashboard is ticking its way to eleven clock. And at eleven o'clock a jury of six women and three men are about to pronounce on two years worth of what unfolded in a matter of minutes.
So I take a couple of back roads. Hedges and lambs and pot holes. A lay-by on the side of a hill giving an overlook onto a Scottish postcard. Hills and sea and buzzards in the sky. And an ice blue sky with cotton wool clouds. Like twenty seven years ago.
How long will it take? No idea. Probably ages. But after twenty seven years it doesn't seem to matter much. So I chain smoke and I wait. How do feel? Queasy. Braced for yet another kick in the teeth care of the British Establishment.
I remember my own part in the Inquiry. I was ambushed. All those promises of the process being non adversarial and mindful of the feelings of those who lived through that sunny Sheffield afternoon proved to be yet another lie. Instead I experienced the joy of being hauled over the coals by Mr John Beggs, the QC of choice for all top cops in trouble. Non adversarial? Aye right. He gave it to me with both barrels. According to John Beggs QC I was nothing more than a fantasist. Just another whinging Scouser. I half expected him to break out into that witty little number so favoured by United fans.
'It's never your fault... it's never your fault... you're always the victims .. it's never your fault...'
He was particularly angry at the letter I wrote two days after the disaster which I ended with a quote from Wilfred Owen. 'What passing bells for those who dare like cattle.' What kind of person would quote poetry in a letter to members of Parliament? A self aggrandising fantasist. An over blown Scouser off on one. A pound shop John Lennon. A person to be ignored and discounted and discredited.
I have to admit that for a while his viciousness worked. I was pretty distraught as I left the courtroom. Having waited two and half decades to finally be granted the chance to tell the truth about what I saw that day, I felt like I might have blown it. I felt I had let everyone down. The dead and the families of the dead. A version of survivor's guilt I guess. The M6 seemed a bleak place. So you want to take on the British Establishment little man? Oh really? Don't be so naïve little man. Just disappear back to your nasty little life. There's a good chap.
Later several of the families who had been in court got in touch to say thanks. They told me it had been better that I thought it had been. They reckoned I had given the hated Beggs a bloody nose. Thank Christ. In the end being vilified by John Beggs QC turned out pretty well. One of the family members told me that only one other witness got the same level of personal attack as I did. Who? A certain Kenneth Matheison Dalglish. That'll do me!
One by one the fourteen questions are answered. And finally after twenty seven bloody years the blame is placed squarely where the blame needs to be placed: where it always should have been placed. The South Yorkshire Police. The South Yorkshire Ambulance Service. Sheffield City Council. Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.
And the fans of Liverpool Club? Question seven?
No blame. Not so much as a shred of blame.
The fans are identified as the true heroes of those desperate hours.
And I am surprised at how emotional I suddenly feel. Suddenly the Scottish postcard beyond the windscreen is blurred by tears. The buzzards up above are indistinct. All those conversations. Those Hillsborough conversations in the bleak years when the cover up had been clamped into place. What? You were there? Really? And I would tell them what I saw. What we all had seen. And in return there would be quizzical expressions. Or even open aggression. Because for all those years I was nothing more than a typical whinging Scouser. Always the victims, never our fault.
Because in those wilderness years we were still very much Thatcher's 'Enemy Within'. Not to be trusted. Not to be listened to. Only mocked with a thousand 'Scouser in a suit' jokes. Or a shell suit.
We got to understand how it must have been for the guys who tried to explain how the world was round when the Establishment demanded everyone tow the party line of flatness. I guess we can count ourselves lucky not to have been burned at the stake for our heresy.
When the cops came up to Dumfries to interview me in advance of my giving my evidence to the Inquiry, they brought along a copy of the letter I had written all those twenty seven years ago. The ghost of a younger me who had bought a £6 ticket to the killing cages of the Leppings Lane End. The same letter that John Beggs QC had taken such an aversion to. They asked if I had kept a copy of my own? I told them I hadn't. They asked if I would like to take a few moments to read the words of a twenty nine year old me? I said I would.
And there they were. Words written by the younger me less than 48 hours after the killings.
'It is already clear that a cover up is being put into place.'
Christ. It was already that obvious. I could see it without any need for hindsight. They had already laid out their cover up for all the world to see. They were brazen. Well of course they were. This was the British Establishment. These were people whose fathers and grandfathers had perfected the art of the cover up all the way from Amritsar to Bloody Sunday.
They didn't care that there had been 54,000 eye witnesses. They didn't care that the whole thing had played out on live TV. They didn't care because they held all the cards that counted: the Government and the Police and the media. What did we have? 96 corpses. Only the British Establishment would have the front to cover something up that had played out live in the nation's living rooms.
These were guys who had taken on board Hitler's advice on how to lie. If your going to tell a lie, tell a big lie. A huge lie. One of the biggest lies ever told. And let's face it, they did a hell of a job. Their huge lie remained doggedly in place for twenty seven years. Long enough for all of the main players to draw their gold plated pensions.
And for year after year those of us to did our best to attack the lie were treated with derision and disdain. And when we stood in the away sections of football grounds up and down the country we would hear the chant of 'Murderers!'
We were the ones who had urinated on corpses and picked the pockets of the dead. Scouse scum.
'Always the victims... it's never your fault.'
Even after two years of the truth being told in the Warrington courtroom nothing changed. When the Liverpool fans made their way to Old Trafford for the second leg of our Europa League clash, they were met by a banner hung from a bridge over the M602.
Yesterday everything changed. We got something the people of Amritsar and Londonderry never got. We got the truth care of six women and three men. Care of a jury of our peers.
The truth at last.
Those who emerged from the courtroom were asked how they felt? Was their faith in British justice restored? I asked myself the same question. The answer? I don't think so. I doubt if it ever will be. These last 27 years have changed me. I have never been any kind of patriot. Maybe that was why I was drawn to Liverpool FC in the first place. When we get to Wembley, we boo the national anthem. We always have. Hilllsborough was the main reason I fought tooth and nail for Scottish Independence. I want no part of a country where such a monumental lie can remain safely in place for twenty seven years. Does yesterday's belated truth make me feel an different? Does it hell. Yesterday's truth merely rubber stamps the fact that the British Establishment is rotten to the core.
I spent a quiet hour re-visting that sunny afternoon in Sheffield. I remember getting back to the car a couple of hours after the killing. I remember the look of ashen relief on my dad's face. The relief of a man finding he still has a living, breathing son. I remember us sitting in the car with the radio on. Tuned into the rising death toll. It was still BBC Radio Two back then.
Peter Jones achieving the almost impossible and managed to find the right words. I have returned to his words many times over the years. They are close to poetry. You can hear them if you like. Just follow the link below.
YouTube pointed me in the direction of Match of the Day's coverage. I didn't watch it on the night. I didn't watch anything. I just sat and stared at a world of nothing.
It is worth taking half an hour to watch the coverage. They told it exactly how it was. They came to more or less exactly the same conclusion the jury of our peers came to yesterday. It was literally that obvious. The fans were clearly not to blame. They saw it all with crystal clarity mere hours after the killing.
It is here if you are interested.
Then the cover up was snapped into place.
For twenty seven years.
At least I was alive to see it finally unravel. Unlike the ninety six men, women, boys and girls who never came home from that sunny afternoon in Sheffield. Unlike so many of their family members. Unlike my dad.
There was more death yesterday, but it was the very best kind of death. The death of a lie. The death of one of the biggest lies ever told.