As you get older in life, you may find that certain things become that bit harder. Things ache a bit more and you take longer to recover when you exert yourself . And you might not know it, but this is as true when it comes to following a non-league football club as it is when foolishly doing that bloody 10k run for charity. Well, at least the way we do it that is. Why? Because we’re idiots, that’s why.
Back when we booked Notts County, it was just a regular football weekender away. The sort we’ve done loads of and that you’ve read the mostly stupid fruits of on here. Well, just as we were sorting stuff out, I found out that my favourite band in the whole wide world, The Wildhearts, had decided to have a gig to celebrate 30 years since forming. And it would be at Rock City the night before the game. Result! So I and a couple of others decided to take this in as well. No big deal. We might be pressing on in years, but we can still do two nights. Just.
|Going to regret this in the morning….|
Famous last words. Closer to the time, I then found out that my works department piss up would also now be on the Thursday night. This made things harder, as it meant that I’d basically be on the gas for 3 days running. I’m in my forties now, so as much as I like a pint still, even I had my doubts about that sort of undertaking. So I did what any sensible adult would do in such my situation and simply ignored the issue and hoped it would go away. Fuck it, it’s future me’s problem after all, not current me’s. Bosh, wallop, sorted.
Fast forward to the Friday morning and well, yeah, let’s just say that past me is a proper fucking knobhead. Having tumbled in, steaming, at 1am that morning and had less than four hours kip, I’m now heading in for a half day in the office before training it up to Nottingham. Having survived bleary eyed and powered by tea until half 12, I finally grab my shit and make my way to St Pancs for part two of this little misadventure. Waiting on the concourse for the platform to be announced, Magnum pops up on the old Whatsapp thingy and it turns out he’s struggling to make the train. Seems there’s issues around London Bridge which are making his journey in a close call and given he’s currently on crutches thanks to a a bit of the old gout, he’s really struggling even if he makes it here a few minutes before. Well, there’s nowt else I can do mate but invoke Gandermonium Rule number one and having declared him mutually inconvenient, the train rolls out on time and a semi-disabled Magnum misses out. Still, the best part of 90 minutes very welcome and much needed kip now awaits me, so it’s not a total disaster if I’m honest.
Arriving one light in Nottingham, I check the train times and find that I’ll have about an hour to kill until West Sutton’s top undercover operative catches me up. Still feeling a bit lacklustre from the previous evenings efforts despite my train based nap, there’s nowt else for it but kill or cure. So I use my pub knowledge in these parts from the missus degree course up here a couple years back and head for the Canalhouse for a hair of the dog and to contemplate the recently acquired knowledge that the city was first called Snotingham after a Saxon kingleader called ‘Snot’ (can’t think why they decided to change that one) and that the Magpies were apparently the favourite boyhood club of mass granny murdering GP Harold Shipman. Gandermonium, both stupid and educational!
Here I’m joined a short while later by Deano, an Aussie mate of Magnum’s who’s a season ticket holder at GGL and is making his away day debut this weekend. Soon after, our missing Detective appears finally and we have one for the road before setting off in search of our digs. Now, despite diverging from the group on this one with our Friday departure, Mr X has kindly booked our accommodation for tonight on our behalf out of the goodness of his cold Scottish heart. It’s some gaff called ‘Igloo’ and despite being a hostel, we are assured there’s definitely separate beds and an en suite khazishower. Having checked in, hired some towels and been shown our room which is one of many called after things such as ‘Lighthouse’ and ‘Farmhouse’ (ours is labelled ‘Nest’), it’s quite clear that the lying Scottish bastard’s talk of grown up, middle class suburban comforts is absolute bollocks. The beds are a doublesingle bunk bed affair and the khazi and shower are both out on the landing. Fucks sake! Still I guess we should be grateful that given our luck in such circumstances, we at least didn’t get lumbered with ‘Bus Stop or ‘Sex dungeon’ as our room. Still this does little to placate Deano who isn’t overly impressed by the arrangements, but I agree to let him have top bunk while I share with gout boy and that seems to calm him down. Hey, it is his first trip after all. Right, pint? Pint.
|“Welcome to the Nest gentleman”|
Round the corner is a sports bar and we just head in to await the arrival of Pete, who’s also up here for the gig and more importantly has our tickets. We catch up over a couple of pints and also chuckle at Robbo’s increasing inebriation via Whatsapp. There’s no way on earth he’s making the trip tomorrow, nailed on! With a few liveners down, we then head to Rock City and take in a cracking show before hitting the club night after for a couple of hours and finally stumbling into a curry house for some much needed scoff. Once heads hit pillows back in ‘Nest’ there’s no jolly chirping of birdsong, only the pig like snorting of three pissed up football fans.
The following morning, Deano tracks down an odd smell to his bag which turns out to be half a dozen McDonalds nuggets he bought for the train up and forgot about and then showered, we head out in search of food before the others train arrives and it all starts again. We tuck into a big old breakfast bap and then go in search of the other idiots, of course unsurprisingly minus Robbo who’s cried off this morning with ‘bad guts’, at today’s new sleeping venue. We bung the bags in and then find out that for some odd reason, Dukey’s lead them off to the Gooseberry Bush, a Wetherspoons I know very well as it used to be 2 minutes from Mrs Taz’s former student digs up here. And it’s fucking miles from where we’re staying! The stupid thing is, if Dukey was THAT insistent on a spoons, there’s fucking two just in the main square a short walk from the hotel. Bellends. So, we grab ourselves a pub of our own and await their return. Finally reunited in the Three Crowns as we nurse a soft drink to start us off, talk soon turns to Magnum’s affliction that he’s still claiming is caused by too much spinach and not copious amounts of red wine and our rather cosy digs at the Igloo, although Mr X is sticking firmly to his story about booking and paying for an en suite with separate beds.
|Rock n’Roll baby!|
Personally I think it’s all been an elaborate jape at our expense, but then again I’m a bit of a prick, so who knows really? We also get to catch up with Steve who’s made it along today despite having spent the last 2 days largely lying in hospital getting pumped full of antibiotics. Now there’s dedication to the cause! Take note Robbo you absolute fucking fanny. Here a table is booked by a couple of the boys for tonight’s boxing before we start a slow wander towards the ground via a few boozers. Next up is the Bell and outside, where a white painted post box stands, Pete tells me an odd story from his walk back to his hotel the night before when some pissed geezer had stopped him to ask what the ‘Albino post box is all about’. If he’s searching for answers of his own in revealing this tale, then I’m afraid he’s going to have to keep on searching. Sorry mate.
Next stop is familiar ground for some of us and we head for the Canalhouse to be that bit nearer the ground. Here we find Totts, the COCs and some members of the Yoof firm getting stuck into the pints. The COCs are in good form with a myriad of odd Xmas related headgear on show with Dirty Barry being re-christened ‘Turkey Barry’ for the day as his hat is in the form of Bernard Matthews favourite bird. He’s not best pleased with his re-brand though and has apparently been trying to offload his poultry themed headgear all morning, however he’d not banked on the tenacity of Totts who’s been watching him like a hawk the whole time. “I’m fuckin’ wise to his old flannel, don’t you worry about that” growls the PROWS head of state whilst supping on a pint of Session IPA. Still, the Turkey Barry thing at least gives us plenty of material to work with around giblets and ‘good stuffings’ whilst we booze and after a couple of pints, even the man himself is warming to his new indentity as soon as he realises all the more ‘mature’ birds in the boozer, of which there are a few, can’t get enough of him sporting the Turkey Hat and selfies galore soon follow.
|Albino post box innit….|
|Is that Turkey Barry?|
Now comfortable in surroundings that serves good beer and food, we set down roots and instead decide to sort out cabs for the last leg to the ground. And shortly after 2 we rustle up an Uber that sets us back 4 quid and get ourselves dumped outside the away end to find to our relief that there is an away ticket office for us to sort out briefs at. A dozen quid later and we’re on a cold concrete concourse for pies, pints and more Turkey Barry bullshit.
Tzanev, John, Wyatt, Barden, Goodliffe, Eastmond, Reid, Ajiboye, Bugiel, Beautyman, Wright. SUBS: Butler, Dundas, Randall, Milsom, Jarvis.
Harold Shipman’s boys get off to a bright start and with a quarter of an hour gone, a misdirected header from Louis sends their bloke away out wide. He squares it and with the defence scrambling to get back, some bastard in black and white stripes bobbles it into the back of the net from close range. Great start lads! The rest of the half, is pretty dour stuff after this as the hosts don’t seem to know how or want to go finish us off and we’re not really finding second gear. The ref ain’t helping either as he’s constantly stopping the game for the softest of fouls but letting some pretty obvious other examples go. In fact the highlight of the first half is Magnum being assisted down the stairs by a steward to go for a piss. We won’t mention Dave’s effort that almost cleared the stand late on though.
Half time and we’re firmly back in the bottom four with everyone else around us bloody winning. We need a big second half here. Thankfully, they’re managed by Neil Ardley who we know is not the most ambitious or expansive gaffer and we start the second 45 with a bit more life and Harry playing further up the pitch to help out Easty. The game is still not going to be one to live long in the memory and the ref is still a proper bellend, but we’re at least making something of the contest now and having had a couple of little sniffs, it’s that chap Beautyman again that does the damage. Dave over hits a cross and Will Randall on as a sub collects far side. He tees up a better ball in and it drops, hitting Dave and then falling to Harry about 6 yards or so out beyond the far post. It looks like H has taken too long to get his shot away but he holds off two and slips the ball past the keeper and into the far corner. Fucking get in there my son!
The goal really gets us going and for a while we look the more likely to nick it, but the best chance is spurned by Easty, who skips past two with a mazy little run into the box, but hits his effort too straight and it slips agonisingly wide of the far post. After this, Notts get some foothold back, but stout defending and them being bang average preserves our point and a rather poor quality contest ends with one of their lads punting a last kick, do or die free kick from the edge of the box high wide and handsome of Niko’s onion bag. That’ll do pig, that’ll do. Naturally, the final whistle is greeted with a satisfying crescendo of boos from the home fans who are no doubt disappointed another two bob Non-League load of shite has rocked up and failed to roll over and die for them. Sorry boys and girls, that ain’t how the Bastard League works. You’ll learn!
|Oh Harry Harry….|
Post match, a couple head off back into town thanks to lifts obtained but the majority wander round the corner to the Trent Navigation for a couple of beers. Here we slowly sup and enjoy the well earned point from this afternoon’s work. Most of the locals aren’t overly impressed with their recent form, but no one gives us any problem and most enjoy a natter about the game and we take the opportunity to remind them that this is the Bastard league and it doesn’t release its big fish back into the Football League pond very easily. We also find an AFC Wimbledon fan who’s up for a piss up and had taken in the game with some mates. He’s very complimentary about the noise from our travelling contingent today, which is nice to hear. Eventually though, we have to head back into town and check in, so sherberts are rustled up and we’re soon getting into our rooms for a quick turnaround and some more festivities. Meanwhile the Whatsapp group its becoming clear that 4 Days has had a toilet mishap, with his shitter deciding that it didn’t wish to drain and necessitating a trip to reception to rustle up someone with a plunger, much to his roommates disgust. “I hope he doesn’t give up flushing” mutters Pete, no doubt thinking back to the harrowing scenes he discovered upon returning to the room he shared with said Welshman up in Harrogate a couple of seasons back.
With most deciding to take advantage of the booked table in the 3 Crowns, they shoot off there to get themselves settled for the boxing, but Steve and I are in need of sustenance and for different reasons. He’s just starving having eaten little the last 2 days and I’m feeling the early effects of that third day on the piss. Our mission? Steak! And having demolished a medium sized cow between us and having a waitress throw a portion of chips in our direction we decide to head back to the pub and rejoin the others. However, with things kicking off in 10 minutes, a large queue has formed outside and it appears having a table comes with no special priveleges, so we’re expected to queue out in the cold in the off chance we’ll get let in. Yeah, not fucking likely. We hatch an alternative pland and a short while and walk later, we’re in the shadow of Nottingham Castle and stumbling into the Crafty Crow which is much quieter than the town centre boozers. A couple of drinks are had whilst we talk shite about the Euros, admire the lovely barmaid and watch a bunch of student lads in Xmas sweaters get steadily more munted on 7% cider.
With the fight concluded, we set off back towards town to locate the others but only get a few yards before we find 4 Days and Dukey coming the other way. Now halfway between boozers, the Ned Ludd is chosen and we settle in here to prop up the bar for a few more. An eclectic playlist keeps us entertained and I almost wear Greek’s drink after commenting on a discussion between Mr X and Dr Bell. “What do you want, a fucking medal?” the many of Mystery enquires. “Well, yes” replies Belly. After a moment’s thought I interject with the suggestion that as the silly old bastard works for a mint, maybe he should fucking make himself one. 4 Days also chooses this venue to mount a sturdy defence of his earlier toilet issues, but I’m not sure Dukey or Mr X are fully sold on the details. By this point it’s half 11 and I’m solidly requiring a fork stuck in me, so with a couple of others flagging we head out into the cold Nottingham night air, which has been added to by some pretty solid rainfall. Awesome. We head for the hotel and only upon arrival do Dukey, I and Dr Bell realise we’ve shed the others. It seems they weren’t quite ready to stop drinking and had slipped into somewhere along the way without telling us. How rude!
Fuck it, I’m knackered and I’m off to bed! However hopes of reaching Bedfordshire and reciting the letter Z for a few hours are frustrated as we find that right below our room window is the hotel restaurant which is hosting an office works do and has a full DJ set up on the go. We’re so close I can practically see what tired wedding DJ pop shite matey has queued up on his fucking laptop from here. So instead we spend a restless hour before the curfew bites, the late few bars of ‘Come on Eileen’ fade and we can fall into a booze powered coma to dream of leaving a shit fucking review on Trip Advisor for the Nottingham branch of the Best Western hotel chain.
Morning comes and it’s the sound of what appears to be a very high pressure gas leak disturbing me. Bleary eyed I scan the room and note Dr Bell is missing and there’s a light on in the bathroom. Ah. He’s spraying deodorant. A LOT of deodorant. So clearly he’s just had a turn out and I accept that the smell of whatever flavour of Lynx it is he’s abusing is admittedly better than the startling odour of a 12+ hours on the beer shite he’s no doubt just had. An hour later and I eventually surface and head down for breakfast to find some of the others already tucking into plate loads of bacon. Sadly, I’m unable to join them as there’s none left and the kitchen staff are being a bit tardy with resupply. I dunno, kept me awake and can’t even supply me with my own body weight in bacon for breakfast. Still, gives me time to properly formulate my two star review for later.
Finally baconed up after a considerable wait, I wolf down some stodge and then return to bed for an hour before the usual hygiene admin is taken care of and we assemble downstairs to try and find something to kill the 3 hours we have to wait until our train home. Naturally, we end up in a pub on the square quaffing soft drinks. Although Greek does try to bag himself a couple of Espresso Martini’s only to be frustrated by the fact they’ve run out! They’re also out of eggs, much to Deano’s and Magnum’s disgust. Although their loud complaints of “There’s a fucking Tesco’s round the corner, go buy some!” seems the seep into the staff’s consciousness and soon after someone is seen walking through the place with 5 dozen chicken poos. You’re welcome O’Niells. Where do we send the customer service consultancy invoice? On the telly, the WBA v Swansea game appears and true to form with us having unanimously decided it would be shite and to be avoided, we’re unsurprised to find it has had 4 goals in the 1st half. Sky or BT are unlikely to be calling for our insight anytime soon I feel.
With time adequately wasted, we head for the station and our chariot home with some Greggs, all the Ribena and some mince pies courtesy of Steve who’s clearly getting in the festive mood already. He doesn’t feel quite so full of the joys of Xmas by the end of the trip as Saints let a lead slip to lose at Newcastle. The rest of the trip is pretty dull with the usual nonsense and abuse flying about and another overflowing toilet into the bargain. Of course, we ditch the old man with the crutches at St Pancs and eventually, shortly before half 5, I stumble indoors at HQ to the open arms of Mrs Taz and a waiting pizza to help soak up the last lingering aches of my three days self inflicted abuse.
Still, you can’t knock a point on the road.