Quasiquincentennial Man

I’d been planning for some time to get my rhubarb in this weekend. You don’t want to rush these things or you can end up forcing it and it can wind up a bit flaccid and disappointing . But a combination of the cold snap, my football clubs 125th birthday and some business to take care on the old manor meant a pivot towards a return to the PROWS and my crown remaining tucked away until it warms up a bit.

Before we get rolling one last word on the rhubarb issue. Back in the early eighties the Leatherhead lot led by Monkey Gillard, Clumsy Gus and Hairy Mick used to entertain young ladies with a raucous song that went “My rhubarb refuses to rise, to its natural size, market gardening size….” accompanied by a dance that mimicked the furious forking in of manure….”my baby don’t love me, my baby don’t love me, my baby don’t love me no more.” They were different times and we made our own entertainment addressing the issues of impotence whereas these days you can’t turn on pensioner TV for an old episode of the Sweeney without having erections and other bodily functions rammed down your throat. And baldness and incontinence. And bleeding cremations. I know we are a target market but I don’t need reminding in every fucking ad break that the reaper is sharpening his blade.

A rum lot…

Anyway. I digress. So after a day at the retail coal face on Friday I was up bright and early the next morning pointing the van up the A21 towards the old home town and a proper old catch up. But an empty van won’t pay the bills so first call was a spin round Think Vintage in North Cheam and then on to see my old mate Pete who runs Pete’s Yard by McDonalds. The antiques game is full of proper old characters and Pete’s top drawer. He tells me he pulled a couple of ammo boxes out of a recent house clearance, nothing unusual they are quite commonly used as tool boxes, however when a buyer opened one up in the shop they found two live hand grenades. Pete called the Old Bill in and part of North Cheam had to be evacuated while the bomb squad were called in. “The birds who run the hairdressers next door were fucking raging, they had punters under the hairdryer they had to turf out on the street. They had the right hump with me mate, like it was my fault!”

Hitting his stride Pete then tells me about an anatomical medical model he’s just had a buyer on. “Problem is, I can’t find his fucking knob!” Apparently kids come in the shop and have been pulling the models penis and it dropped off – a warning to us all there fellas. So if any locals find a prosthetic Willy on the A24 give Pete a shout. I could do a sitcom about this stuff and it almost writes itself. I cut a deal on some vintage workshop kit and leave Pete to get on with his search for the missing member and head round my sisters where I’m kipping for the night.

DB’s up in lights! Well, print anyway…

Important family news is that my brother in law Mooro has been selected to play for Fulham over sixties. And they’ve got a game against Sutton United up at Goals. He’s chuffed to bits, he’s a good footballer and since he was a kid he had dreamt of playing for Fulham and now after nearly seven decades he’s finally had the call up. I tell Dr Bell, a mate of his, about this later and he just says “fucking idiot, he should stick to darts…”. Charming.

With the van and my gear dropped off I head down towards the Gander where driving professionals Scotty Coaches and Fish the Cabbie are in the house and discussing matters of the road. DB rocks up shortly after and we are all concerned to hear that his efforts at break dancing in the Lansdown in Lewes last weekend on a random ground hop to the Dripping Pan landed him in hospital. A fruity cider plonked in front of him puts a smile back on his face and some colour in his cheeks though. Keepo and Mr and Mrs Yeti join the throng and as time marches on we pull on our coats and head up the road to the ground.

Yeah, you’re all smiles now. Wait until the football starts!

Pleasantries are exchanged with Car Park Commandant and Eternal Ray of Sunshine Frakey… “what are you doing here? Has she kicked you out?” More on him later. Pints are ordered up in the fanzone and Fish and the Supporters Liaison Officer discuss hairdressers while I catch up with Lozza, Deano, Clive, the Wing Commander and Magnum on their recent jaunts around the country and I offer them the nitty gritty on a midweek trip to Bognor with Bexhill in the County Cup. Which has surely got to be more fun than Barrow but each to their own.

I’m very pleased that my spiritual adviser Father Kev has also made the trip for this one. He’s taking it a bit easy these days and to be honest taking six months of confession from Dirty Barry has left him properly knackered so he’s earned a rest for sure. We pop back to main bar and it’s nice to see the Fear Family and Paul the Mod after what feels like ages. Proper good fellas. With ecumenical pints of Guinness paid for out of the collection plate the race is on to down them before kick off.

Into the ground and round the Curva Sud a full packet of Bacons is installed but a piss poor turn out from the DILFs means that Scotty Coaches is in charge of the bingo. At least this means it should be mostly on the level this week for a change and should keep Frakey happy that he’s not being ripped off for a couple of quid again like he was at Aldershot back in 2018. Pensioners need every pound note they can get these days and no mistake. Times are hard.

On the attack..

DB is pleased to find that he not only gets a mention in the programme on this special day for landing the big one in the wholly-legitimate gambling game that is Strikers Are Key but they’ve also included a grainy Readers Wives style smudge of him and AB in their sparkly camp entertainer jackets. Oh yes, the big surprise we were promised? Sutton are playing in red, the original club colours of Sutton Guild Rovers, to mark the 125th birthday.

Rose, Kizzi, Goodliffe, Rowe, Hart, Eastmond, Beautyman, Randall, Ajiboye, Angol, Bugiel SUBS: House, Dennis, Dundas, Lovatt, Boldewijn, Kouassi, Milsom

With all sorts of fanfare and hullabaloo out of the way it’s not that long into the game before it becomes clear that this is unlikely to develop into the sporting spectacle to match the occasion. The game is messy and disjointed with neither team putting much together in terms of quality and frequent stoppages and delays don’t help. Crewe looked as surprised as anyone when they were gifted a free header on the half hour from their first corner and took the lead. It’s obvious to anyone that a team in their position away from home are going to do whatever it takes to hold onto the lead. Don’t talk to me about shithousing. I’d dig a hole and bury the fucking ball if I thought I could get away with it. They must have been well chuffed to go in at half time one up. Sutton had had their chances to level things up and on a cold early March day it would have been nice to have a bit more to get excited about.

No pyro no party! Rowe nabs a late leveller.

On the hour the visitors went down to ten men when their boy went in with something high and naughty. Did it change the game much? Not really. Sutton were already on the front foot but Crewe remained solid and organised and did all they could to frustrate the home team and it looked like they had pulled it off until Coby Rowe popped up in injury time to nod in what was probably a deserved equaliser and giving us something to cheer and stamp our feet about.

Back in the bar Fish has already lined them up and staked out a corner. There’s a great turn out in the Allders Lounge for the evenings anniversary celebrations and other than the disappointment of DB failing to get inducted into the Hall of Fame all goes swimmingly. As things wind down we are joined by Sleepy Joe and head back off down the Lane for a night cap in the Gander. With a few more bits of stock to pick up the next morning I’m back in Hastings by lunchtime and in my arm chair with a cup of splosh tossing of this old Pony for you good people.

Matt engaging the masses.

Before I sign off thanks to Taz for keeping the flag of the football written word hoisted in a time when it’s all podcasts, TikTok’s and instant gratification and thanks for giving me the opportunity to ramble on at length but all things have a natural end and it’s been a blast. They say every dog has its day. I just can’t remember when it was.


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