Look at these figures that seem to be ice statues, gathered in freezing groups and lines and angles on a Sunday morning in December. Look more closely and see that they are not really statues because they are moving. Some of them are moving just a little, stepping tentatively from foot to foot, raising their hands to blow into them or rubbing those hands together vigorously as though they are trying to persuade them to catch fire. Some of them are moving quite a lot, walking briskly up and down, sometimes almost breaking into a run. Yes, you’re right: they’re not shadows, they’re not shadows at all.

Look at their breath, though; their winter breath rising in wreaths and clouds in the fridge-door air. Sometimes you can hardly see them for their breath; or is it the morning mist which hasn’t yet surrendered to the morning sun?

Listen, now; just listen and listen hard. these aren’t silent shadow people. They’re shouting, They’re shouting things like COME ON and SAVE, KEEPER, and WHAT A GOAL! And now everybody knows just where we are, readers and the writer together. We’re on the touchline watching children play football on a Sunday and yes, it’s cold and it may well be wet and it may well be windy but that’s just to be expected because it’s sport played by children and watched by their parents and grandparents and by their siblings and aunties and uncles and it’s always cold or wet or windy and sometimes a combination of all three.

And that’s me on the touchline watching my grandson Noah playing for the Under-7’s; I encourage him by giving him a cheery thumbs-up but then I realise that it’s so cold that my thumb has frozen in mid-air and I’ll have to wait for spring to thaw it out in a few months and until then I’ll be a permanent thumb-upper. I’m exaggerating a little bit there, but only a little bit.

Of course, watching kids play sport is a rite of passage for all parents and grandparents. My dad came to stand at the edge of the big fields at Wath Grammar School to watch me playing rugby for the Under 14’s in the late 1960’s; he shouted encouragement but for some reason his shouts always distracted me and made me look up in surprise. Sometimes he would take his trilby off as though if he was bareheaded he could shout even more loudly. A ball would fly off the pitch towards him and I always wanted him to catch it and throw it back but he always seemed distracted as the ball approached and once it caught him by surprise and hit him in the ribs. He laughed that moment off but I could tell (or I thought I could) that he’d wanted to be keeping his eye on the game rather than belatedly keeping an eye on the ball that had just punched him in the ribs.

None of my own kids played much competitive sport, although I do remember my son Andrew winning Sportsman of the Year during the short time he played for Darfield Cricket club. And you’d think that watching cricket would be warmer, and admittedly it can be, but there was always the time, early or late in the season, when you’d have to have a stroll around the boundary to get the blood flowing again.

Then when my grandson Thomas played football and cricket as a young lad (he’s now a student at Newcastle University) I paid my dues patrolling the edges of various pitches and wishing that horizontal rain would be just that bit less horizontal.

And now, a few years later, here I am at the side of yet another pitch shouting words of encouragement and wishing I’d brought a flask, or at least some change for the little stall that’s selling teas and coffees. Here I am shouting words of encouragement and wishing the weak winter sun was strong enough to come out from behind that cloud. Here I am shouting words of encouragement and wishing that I’d put another thermal vest on.

But, let’s face it, I’d rather be here at this time on a Sunday than anywhere else; this really is the life, watching the young ‘uns play. COME ON! SAVE, KEEPER! WHAT A GOAL!

Happy days, eh? Now, I wonder when I’ll be able to feel the ends of my fingers again?