Sunday, November 27, 2016
Just the Tonic have comedians Reginald D Hunter, Paul from The Chase and Grimsby Town fan Lloyd Griffith on the bill tonight. It's at the Meadow Lane Sports Bar - the takings should help the owners stave off another HMRC winding-up order in the High Court on December 19th - they've had more court appearances than Nick Cotton.
I give the 'Comedy Night' the swerve, Murphy and I settle down for the evening's Spanish La Liga clash between the two Madrid teams. Ronaldo has a cigar on, it's a virtuoso performance from the 31-year-old Madeiran-born superstar. Murphy Palmer has proper got the hump. Norwich City have lost four games on the spin. The young Canary is threatening not to fly down the A52 next Saturday when they visit a rejuvenated D***y County.
I've nodded off to sleep in bed, that £5.99 Malbec from Aldi has done for me. Ms Moon and her mate, Kay, come crashing through the door at some God unearthly hour. I help them see off a KFC midnight feast.
There's not much popping during the week. Poor old Michael has bitten the dust in Phelan's yard. Murphy the budgie whistles and sings as Michael takes his final few breaths. Pat's not laughing now though as 'Dave Glover' off Emmerdale has double-sixed him by swanning off to Hawaii with all the lolly - don't ask me, I haven't got a Scooby-Do.
I'm up in Liverpool on Tuesday afternoon on business. I was hoping to take in the Liverpool Senior Cup tie between Bootle FC and Marine. The chuffing weather puts paid to that. I spend the evening in my Premier Inn hotel room on the Albert Dock. I can't even be bothered to have a scout round for Pat Phelan and punch him in the face.
Ironically Steven Gerrard announces his retirement from football whilst I'm up in Merseyside. Folk wax lyrical about the famous Champions League final in Istanbul. For me, he'll be best remembered for the bar room brawl at the Lounge Inn in Southport, which resulted in Gerrard and his cronies from Huyton appearing before the beak after a DJ was beaten up after declining Stevie's request for a Phil Collins song - an arrestable offence in itself. Gerrard was found not guilty with his QC, John Kelsey-Fry, reportedly a cool £250,000 better off after five days graft in the courtroom.
I sink a few Punk IPA's on Friday evening as Sean has a hissy fit with Norris Cole who is trying to swizzle him out of some dollar. On Sky Sports the Tricky Trees are giving Barnsley a good doing-over, without, for once, relying on the goals of star striker Britt Assombalonga.
It's Saturday morning and freezing brass monkeys. I've had to break the news to Murphy that Brian Matthew has phoned in sick and won't be hosting the Sound of the 60s show on Radio 2. The 88-year-old is 'feeling under the weather' according to his stand-in. Murphy pipes up that he's going to send him a 'get well' card.
Heartbeat is on ITV encore again. I'm gripped by the latest happenings as I slurp down a mug of Yorkshire Tea. PC Rowan is an undercover pirate radio DJ. Murphy cheers up when Rowan plays 'Waterloo Sunset' by The Kinks. Meanwhile the laziest copper in North Yorkshire, PC Alf Ventress, is caught red-handed by Sergeant Blaketon tossing it off reading the Sporting Life whilst dunking a digestive into his 'cuppa' tea. Greengrass is in a spot of bother when his house goes up in a puff of smoke after an unsuccessful venture at a Moonshine homebrew. It's quality TV folks.
I head down Daleside Road, Meadow Lane and onto Lady Bay Bridge, before walking down some steps that lead to the banks of the Trent. I wander past The City Ground and onto the Loughborough Road, taking a right hand turn down Wilford Lane.
Nottingham Forest under 18s and under 16s are taking on Huddersfield Town this morning. Academy football can be a bit boring and stale at times. The Forest 11 jacket is leading the Terriers a merry dance. You can tell he's not been in the system long as he has a little trick or two up his sleeve and actually takes a player on, rather than playing safe. Former Ipswich Town and NFFC striker David Johnson is stood next to me watching his son Brennan play. He says the 11 jacket is on trial. I google him and find out he is a Republic of Ireland under 16 called Yassine EnNeyah - I hope The Tricky Trees sign him.
A gaggle of groundhoppers are gathered at the top of a grass bank, viewing the game whilst discussing the latest offers on Tupperware sandwich boxes and plastic programme covers. I chat with a few parents and bump into a few scouts before being picked up by Ms Moon's taxi service and whisked off up to Bilsthorpe. It's the muck 'n nettles of the Central Midlands League today. Paul Gambacinni is playing 'Beautiful Noise' by Neil Diamond from 1976. I remember buying that single for my mum on her birthday on Boxing Day - bless her soul.
Ms Moon parks up opposite the post office as I dash across the road to the Bilsthorpe Colliery Memorial Garden. A spaced-out guy walks past me inhaling on a joint. I take a few photos and pay my respects to the 77 miners that lost their lives at the pit, which is commemorated by a Davy Lamp in the garden.
Bilsthorpe is a village in the Newark and Sherwood District with a population of just over 3,000. The local colliery closed in 1997 after opening in 1927. On 18th August 1994 a roof collapse at the mine killed three miners including 31 year old Undermanager David Shelton, who was posthumously awarded the George Medal for bravery, as was survivor Ray Thompson.
It's £3 on the gate and £1 for the programme, everyone seems really friendly. We know Lee and Lance from Harworth after a previous visit. I have a groundhopper out of body experience after 20 seconds when I get my grubby mitts on the match ball - I have a smile as wide as the Mersey Tunnel.
It's 2-1 to the visitors at the break as we do another lap of the ground to keep the blood circulating. There's a bowls club, junior football pitches and a roped-off cricket pitch. The main pitch has a white-painted rail which runs half way around the ground. On the nearest touchline towards the furthest goal stands a frame from what was previously a covered stand, now dismantled. A 12-year-old boy has chased stray shots behind the furthest goal. He's sporting a D***y County training top, as he represents their Academy. I admire his dedication as he has brought with him a set of training ladders which he jumps in and out of during the break.
Man of the Match: The African-born Irish winger for NFFC Under 18s
Attendance: 21 (Head count)
Sunday, November 20, 2016
I chauffeur Mr and Mrs T Bolton to the Tavern, politely declining their invitation of a drink, before heading north of the Trent back to HQ. In the morning Ms Moon and I head up to Copper Cafe Bar on Woodborough Road in Mapperley. At 11 o'clock a two-minute silence is observed by all the customers, which is followed by a round of applause. We walk breakfast off around Gedling Country Park, admiring the stunning, sweeping views of Nottingham from its peak.
It's a relatively quiet week, apart from aquaplaning the 'Rolls Royce' down the A14 for an overnight stay in Ipswich. Any chance of a new ground in Suffolk is scuppered by the rain. I start to channel hop whilst England look comfortable versus Spain. A crazy last few minutes sees the visitors restore parity.
The highlight of the week is watching former West Yorkshire Chief Constable 'Sir' Norman Bettison squirm under pressure on Newsnight, as presenter Evan Davis grills him about the part he played in the 'Hillsborough Disaster.' British book retailer Waterstones refuse the self-indulgent publication on their shelves. The idiot remains the subject of an IPCC investigation.
It's Friday evening and Sticky Palms is reading a Non-League book called the 'Bottom Corner' by Nige Tassell, whilst Murphy the budgie is minding his own business swinging upside down on his perch. Ms Moon is gripped by the latest goings-on in the cobbled streets of Coronation Street. Scouse 'property developer' Pat Phelan is offered £2,000 by some lass who works in Roy's Rolls to skedaddle. Phelan claims he couldn't even buy a 10-year-old Mondeo for that. Murphy and I are seething, we love our Sea Grey Mondeo, the cheeky sod. I'm up in Liverpool on Tuesday night and I'll be hunting Phelan down. Poor old Michael bites the dust in Len Fairclough's old builder's yard. It's an oscar-winning performance from Les Dennis - a TV Times gong is a shoe-in.
It's all hands to the pump in the morning, we're watching Heartbeat on ITV Encore. There's been a car accident up on the moors, Sergeant Blaketon is up at Aidensfield accident and emergency trying to comfort relatives of the bereaved. An emergency call comes in from PC Ventress back in the station, a pot of tea for three is mashing and he has cracked open a packet of McVitie's ginger nuts. The episode ends in pandemonium after Greengrass and Alfred the dog scoff a space cake.
It looks beautiful outside again. I stretch my legs across the road towards Nottingham Racecourse and Colwick Country Park. My walking boots crunch through the frost-covered leaves that litter the pavement. I exchange pleasantries with the out-of-breath Notts Police Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping who is on the fag end of a park run. I bumped into Paddy a few years ago during the parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009. He was clutching a parking ticket from West Bridgford Library car park. I quipped: "You claiming that one Paddy, eh ?" ..... he didn't crack a smile.
I settle down to watch the lunchtime top of the table clash in the Conference between eco-friendly Forest Green Rovers and the 'Mighty Imps' of Lincoln City - 'The Lincoln' are bloody awful in the first half. Murphy requests that the match is turned off so he can peck his DAB radio and tune into Paul Gambacinni's 'Pick of the Pops.' He's soon head-butting his mirror in time to Freda Payne's 1970 hit 'Band of Gold.'
The drive to the Black Country is easy peasy lemon squeezy. We're in the 10-year-old Ford Mondeo - Pat Phelan from Corrie is on the roof rack. We're in the village of Great Wyrley within the hour. The car park is congested, so we shoe-horn the 'Rolls' into a vacant space down an adjacent country lane.
The Club were founded in 2001, having previously been called Heath Town Rangers - an area of Wolverhampton where the DJ, Goldie and former England coach Don Howe were associated with. They were formerly known as Chubb Sports FC, before the Chubb lock and safe factory closed down.
It's £5 on the gate and £1 for a programme - just the two left. I ask the young lads on the turnstile if Wolves Sporting will win this week - "not if we play like last week." They are referring to the shock 4-2 reverse at Stone Old Alleyians, WSC's first defeat of the season.
There's a red-bricked two storey building behind the nearest goal. A pre-school nursery is on the ground floor with the bar and function room up the staircase. I fiddle with 'Live Scores' on my phone. Ms Moon appears from the clubhouse with a tray of chips saturated in Ketchup. I'm doing the Michael Flatley Riverdance - 'The Lincoln' have pulled off a 3-2 win at league leaders Forest Green Rovers.
The game starts at 3:03pm - the 'Hopper' PC brigade would be incandescent with rage if they were here. Me personally, couldn't give a toss. From the kick-off a ball is sprayed out to the WSC winger, who falls arse over tit with the ball bizzarely rebounding off a random, stationary cherry-picker. Within five minutes the home side are 2-0 up. The first is created from a 'Rory Delap' long throw, which is headed into the bottom corner with the 'keeper' - who only arrived just before the game - going down in installments.
The visitors, from Telford, despite the scoreline, are impressing me. The 10 jacket is too hot to handle, as he twists, turns and wriggles past his opponents. The ginger-haired No.9 is tenacious in the tackle and intelligent with the ball - despite his younger years; he is his team's voice, encouraging and cajoling at every opportunity.
Bloody hell, we've bumped into a 'Proper Hopper' from Bristol - he's got more rattle than Danny Baker. I ask him if he's got a sandwich box, plastic sleeve for his programme and whether he's caught the train and bus. I like the guy, despite him talking me through the 400 grounds he's hopped to. Ms Moon makes her excuses and dashes off to 'Wolfies Bar' - leaving me stranded with 'Hopper' telling me about ground 199 ... doh.
Wellington raise the white flag in the second half, conceding a further four goals - it could have been more. Nobody's cause is helped by a referee who fails to spot obvious fouls, letting perpetrators off the hook. I have a lovely conversation with club 'General Dogsbody' Paul Harrison before bidding farewell to 'Bristol Hopper' - it's been another cracking day out, all for £5.
Man of the Match: Bristol Hopper
Sunday, November 13, 2016
If I'm honest, I'm not confident of a real ale or draught lager at this Cuban joint. I shout up a Babycham (prosecco) for Ms Moon, as a pint of lager flows from the beer tap - it suddenly grinds to a halt a quarter of the way up the glass - "sorry sir, that's the lager done for the night" - it's not even 9pm. What Bolt picked this 'watering hole, Fidel Castro ? We mop up kebab and chips at another dodgy outlet, before watching our good friend Sean Dyche enjoy another home victory for the Clarets.
It's bitterly cold on Sunday morning and hammering it down with rain. We repeat my walk of yesterday around the picturesque setting of Colwick Country Park - it's not a patch on the previous day, the place is deserted. The only folk taking advantage of the inclement conditions are the sailing boats racing down the Trent from Colwick Yacht Club.
Ms Moon has some food shopping to do - I make my excuses and head up back into town to the Kilpin for a couple more pints of their signature brew. A barmaid, whose arms are plastered in tattoos, provides waitress service, having recognised me from the night before. I smash out the blog on my return home, as Ms Moon watches a film called Joy which sends Murphy the budgie to sleep.
It's a filthy evening on Tuesday. I'm sat in my car outside the Co-op in Ruddington wolfing down a gorgeous piece of cod from the Fish Bar. I hook up with The Taxman at the Nottingham Knight, before making the short journey to Ilkeston FC's New Manor Ground. The visitors are Spennymoor Town, who exited the FA Cup at MK Dons on Saturday in a narrow 3-2 defeat. They play fast-flowing football, comfortably winning 3-2, despite a stubborn resistance from a young, plucky Ilson.
The old 'Barnet' needs a trim - I head up to Wisdom's Barbers on Mansfield Road on Friday tea-time to see the lads from Kurdistan. I tick off the newly-opened Six Barrel Draughthouse on Carlton Street. I neck a pale ale from the Roosters Brewery in Knaresborough, before hooking up with Ms Moon at the Missoula Montana Bar on High Pavement. Fizz is half price and the craft ales are decent. I have a pint of the aptly-named Blue Moon as Motown music booms out the pub sound system. We manage to stomach an hour of England v Scotland before as if by magic Emmerdale Farm appears on catch-up.
In the morning Murphy the budgie and I have a heart to heart. It's no secret that he and Ms Moon don't see eye to eye - particularly when he whistles throughout Strictly and Pointless. I'm leaving the little lad in Ms Moon's capable hands today - Murph is terrified of an all-day lock-in. I leave him the phone number of the RSPB and tell him to keep me posted of any nasty goings-on that we can use in a grievance leading to a HR investigation.
Today is a 'Jolly Boys' outing and Keyworth reunion. I race across to my old neck of the woods to pick up Trumpy Bolton and White Van Man - the old gang. Bolton saunters down to WVM's crib - he's only eight doors down. It's the same old scenario - he's swinging his carrier bag with a litre bottle of cider nestled in the bottom.
We're travelling executive style in the 4x4 - first port of call is Saffron Walden in Essex, with its rich heritage and historic buildings. I'm flapping a wee bit that it's hosing it down and might not end up seeing a game, as my twitter timeline is filled with postponements.
Blog legend Bolton has had a toasted slice of fruit loaf with a smidgen of Clover butter, accompanied by a bottle of Hopping Hare from the Badger Brewery for his breakfast. White Van Man is a friend to the stars. He often sits in the sauna of the local health club, chewing the cud with former Leeds United and Manchester United striker Alan Smith, who is now a player-coach at Ray Trew's Notts County. The other day, whilst sweating in the sauna, WVM was asked his opinion on Nottingham Forest - "they're shit" he replied. A guy in the corner upped sticks and left for the showers, it was the NFFC assistant manager, Serge Romano. A faux pas at its finest ... lol.
WVM is on full power, we're soon in the congested High Street of Saffron Walden by midday. 'When The Sun Goes Down' by Sheffield indie band Arctic Monkeys is blaring out the car stereo speaker as WVM leaves his hazard lights on in a loading bay. Sticky P is instructed to dash across the road into Humpherys Butchers. I pick up three carrier bags of bacon (don't ask me, haven't got a Scooby Doo). The butcher clocks the Notts County training top I'm wearing. He complains about Cambridge United manager Shaun Derry and their disastrous start to the season. I explain that Derry is known in our parts of Notts as 'Junior Warnock.' WVM is gesticulating and waving his arms around in fear of being booked by a traffic warden - I bid farewell to the Butcher.
We head towards Royston so Trumpy can tick a pub off. For those reading this blog for the first time (God bless you) Mr Trumpy Bolton is trying to make a financial transaction in every village, town and city in England, Scotland and Wales - it's a hobby he's pursued for over 40 years. He has a crumpled old atlas that has recently been reinforced with Sellotape - every place visited is highlighted off. Receipts and statements are meticulously filed in alphabetical order in ring binders.
WVM flicks the scan button on the car stereo, stumbling upon BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. The DJ plays 'Get the Message' by Electronic and 'Beautiful Ones' by Suede - Bolton and Sticky sing in unison.
We tip up at the Hertfordshire town of Royston, and more importantly the 'Jolly Postie.' We're met by a welcoming landlord and McMullen IPA - Trumpy poses in the back of a Royal Mail van that sits in the front window. A postman delivers mail to the pub as we exit to the car park - ooh, the irony.
Biggleswade Town confirm the game is ON, despite the pouring rain. We sit in a soulless Greene King pub, eating gammon, double fried egg and chips - Trumpy goes nouveau cuisine - preferring Whitby scampi. Tunnel of Love by the Fun Boy Three is the pick of the tunes on Radio Greene King.
Biggleswade is a market town situated on the River Ivel in Bedfordshire. It's the HQ of Jordan Cereals. Felix cat food was once made here. Biggleswade Town were founded in 1874 and play at the Carlsberg Stadium. The comedian and singer Charles Penrose, famous for the Laughing Policeman song, and Stevie V - a dance act famous for the song Dirty Cash (Money Talks) - are from this neck of the woods.
It's a short drive to a rain-puddled track that leads up to the car park. It's £10 on the gate and £2 for a programme light on content, but nonetheless the guy who sells it is cheery and friendly. The ground is a new-build. The playing surface is short, lush and flat. I bump into a Wrexham fan who has recently moved to Hertfordshire and now follows Hitchin - he rates them highly.
Bolton is already in the bar lining up the John Smiths as the teams observe a silence for Remembrance Day. Hitchin are in the top two, their class shines through with the give 'n go and movement off the ball. The final delivery and end product is sadly lacking.
A good mate of mine, Chris Keeling, played for Hitchin in the 80s - his brother, Paul is a great friend of mine. Chris tragically lost his life in a car accident in 1994 - he was only 31 and one of the kindest people I've ever met. We saw him play for Hitchin against Tooting and Mitcham in 1985.
Trumpy earwigs a conversation between the subs of both teams who appear to know one another. They moan and groan about not being in the starting XI and compare the dollar they earn. Bolton gets chinwagging with a Biggleswade sub who is coming back from injury and appears to have a geniune love for the game. Trumpy advises the lad to have a couple of looseners in the bar at the break to calm his nerves - it's old-skool Brian Clough.
White Van Man is steaming more than the piping hot tea he's bought, having been relieved of £3 for two cups of tea. The visitors sit on a one goal lead and pay the price five minutes from time when a shot from outside the area hits the inside of post before finding its way into the net. The replay is set for Monday night.
Man of the Match: The Laughing Policeman
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Lunch is spent at the Hand and Heart on Derby Road. It's a snug Victorian boozer with dining tables in caves to the rear. I sample a Stilton-infused real ale from the Belvoir Brewery. It has a cracking after-taste. I knock up the blog from yesterday's game in the United Counties League, out in deepest Cambridgeshire. I send a link of the blog, on twitter, to Peterborough Sports manager Jimmy Dean - I hope it cheers him up, as the poor bloke looked crestfallen at the final whistle.
I'm up in South Normanton, at Junction 28 of the M1, on Wednesday evening - The Taxman and Butters are also in attendance. It's a Cup replay, with West Bridgford FC the visitors from south Notts. We were at the first game at a bitterly cold Regatta Way, close to Holme Pierrepont. It finished 2-2, so we just had to see the tie reach its conclusion.
You could put your house on the game going into extra-time, what makes it even worse is that it's nil flipping nil. Both teams bag a goal in extra-time, with South Normanton running out winners 5-3 on a penalty shoot-out. I arrive home at 11:30pm and don't thaw out until the following morning.
Friday November 4th is Sticky Junior's big day, it's his 21st birthday. He celebrates in the morning with a hearty breakfast at the village bistro. He'll be on an almighty bender in the evening - his little bro is back from uni at Leeds to keep an eye on him. 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' won't be playing football tomorrow - he'll be hanging.
I meet Ms Moon in the Trent Bridge Inn for a tea-time drinky poo. It ain't my favourite pub, as it's a Wetherspoons establishment that attracts professional drinkers. I enjoy a couple of pints of pale ale from the Pheasantry Brewery, in Newark, before tucking into a curry, followed by an early night.
A bleary-eyed Sticky Palms is awoken by some bolt cranking up a chainsaw. It goes on and on and on. I reckon Murphy the budgie could do a quieter job pecking that tree down. Talking of Murphy, he's in a foul, vile mood this morning, the reasons are three fold: Ms Moon has failed to open his cage, turn the lights on and most importantly not switch on the wireless (radio to you kids) for the Brian Matthew Sound of the 60s Show. He is livid folks, raging in fact. The little lad is still knackered and radgy after his 400 mile round flight to Brighton Hove Albion's Amex Stadium to watch his beloved Canaries take a 5-0 gubbing.
I turn off down a public bridleway close to the plush apartments on Nottingham Waterside, where former Notts County Director of Football Sven-Goran Eriksson once resided - it sounds like a crazy dream, doesn't it?
I enjoy my peaceful one hour stroll. I return back to base just in time to hear the brilliant Colin Murray hosting Fighting Talk on Five Live. Fast Show actor Simon Day takes the rise out of former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips who left a coaching role at Leicester City at the beginning of the 2015-16 season to take up the No.2 role at D***y County. It's a footballing faux pas.
Ms Moon arrives back with bags of shopping. There's no time to chillax, we're soon travelling up the A614 towards Donny. The Audi is back on the road - it's had more lay-offs than Andy Carroll. Graham Norton is on the radio, he has played a pile of poo, as well as having Robbie Williams and his wife on as guests - both are bloody awful, as is some fool from the Sky Arts TV channel. The chink of light arrives at 12:55pm courtesy of the sublime Divine Comedy and 'Something For The Weekend.'
By gum it's tasty in Doncaster. Shoe-horned inbetween two bookmakers is a 'loan shark' shop. First port of call is the cemetery in the village of Arksey. On Friday November 20th 1931 at 5:45pm an underground explosion at Bentley Colliery killed 45 men and boys. I'm stood here now paying my respects at the memorial and the plots of those who were found. In 1978 a Paddy train crashed in the mine killing 7 miners. In 1993 British Coal announced the closure of the colliery - another community was crushed and broken.
We rock up, eventually outside the ground, fifteen minutes before kick off, having driven past the cricket ground, with Sat Nav sending us down a tight road at the back of some allotments. We've both got four layers on and woollen hats, as the weather is expected to turn.
I fiddle about in my coat and jeans pockets looking for my programme - chuff me I've managed to lose it. Most proper Hoppers would be having a nervous breakdown, crying their eyes out and preparing themselves for a sleepless night by now - as former Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies used to say (when he was really cross) "it is what it is."
Ms Moon returns to the car for a warm-up. I wander up to the back of the stand to retreat from the biting wind and general blustery conditions. I bump into Hugo the Pug who is gnawing on an empty water bottle. He reluctantly poses for a photo for the Non League Dogs twitter account.
There's a late rally from the visitors who deserve a couple of goals for their endeavours. We scurry off to the car at the final whistle as the weather conditions begin to deteriorate.
Attendance: Headcount: 21
Man of the Match: Bentley 7 jacket.