I get up ridiculously early most days for work. It was Saturday, a day off and I was up even earlier. This is supposed to be for pleasure so why was my bed trying to entice me back. Once clean and tidy, suited and booted, I was out the door. It was still dark so effectively, still the middle of the night. I had a smug but slightly guilty feeling as I got on the bus. There’s me dressed to impress, with a day of travel, ale and football ahead of me and everyone else on the bus were on their way to work. There’s an air of depression. I feel an empathy for them but also contented in the knowledge that I hadn’t got to drag myself through another groundhog day and what I was doing was what I love doing most. However, with all that said there was still a bloke who hadn’t discovered headphones yet or thought everyone else on the bus also enjoyed his awful taste in music as he was subjecting the bus to it. Headphones,invest in some headphones.
Birmingham at stupid o’clock on a Saturday morning is a strange mix. You’ve got hyped up clubbers going home. The homeless, some sleeping as best they can, others arguing between themselves and then you’ve got the people trying to pick their way through on their way to work.You’ve also got delivery drivers already working and then there’s me. I got my papers for the train from the 24hr shop down by the market. The poor lad behind the counter was having trouble trying to explain in his broken English that the other assistant was putting the papers out. We don’t do ourselves any favors as people. We are universally lazy. We don’t have any patience with people whose first language is not the same as our own. We gravitate to people of who have. It causes a barrier. I’d like to think that if I had uproot to another country for a better life, I would not only learn the language but I’d strive to become fluent in it. I feel I’m lucky to have been born in a country where I won’t have to migrate to another, to seek asylum. Before I go into a full on rant, I’ll get back to what I was planning to write.
Birmingham New street at stupid o’clock.
There was a small mob of Blues I didn’t recognize. I worked out they were of the Carling brigade. Sooner or later, I’ll explain what I mean by that. Some will already know. So instead of listening to them, I stuck my headphones on, stuck my nose in the various supplements that come with Saturdays Guardian and tuned in to radio 2. Unfortunately the radio didn’t last as the reception disintegrated to interference. I cursed myself for not sorting a playlist on my new phone. Told you I was a technophobe. The Carling brigade found out they were in someones seats and moved. A bloke and his lad got on and the Dad went on one about nothing I wanted to listen to. He wasn’t laying in to his Son but the Dad never took a breath. I thought I’d gone deaf when he finally ran out of thread or words. One or the other. I’m not sure who was more relieved, me or his Son. There was two blokes opposite across the aisle from me. They gave me the impression they were a couple and it made me wonder when public shows of affection will ever be acceptable between gay people.
Touch down Euston. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to London. I’m no expert on the place but I am compared to most. You can spot the never done it befores or the hardly ever do its, a mile away. I would have been on the tube from Euston to Liverpool street before some would’ve left the station. They make me smile. Then I got off at Liverpool street and hadn’t got a clue how to get out of the place due to the engineering works going on. Gave my ego a bit of a kicking. I don’t like WH Smith’s staffing policy anymore. You’re “Obliged” to use self service. The technology is not good enough for them to consistently work properly and regardless of that, the things are putting people out of work. Either immediately or on a phasing out basis. I went on a fruitless search for a papershop. I ended up going to Smith’s anyway. On this occasion, I’m glad I did. Gave me the opportunity to be served via self service by a lovely girl of Somalian decent. Impeccable manners, attitude and never stopped smiling. No doubt she won’t be in there next time. The development at Liverpool street is huge. Can’t say I’m not looking forward to using the new Elizabeth line. I picked up a couple of tube maps as a keepsake because they will change once it’s up and running. They opened the platform up for the Norwich train I walked the 3 miles to the coach I was meant to be on. Spent the walk admiring the roof. An amazing feat of Victorian engineering and architecture. Most people don’t look up so don’t see it. The work that must have gone into the patterns and designs is truly wonderful. Well it is if you’re into that sort of thing. I contemplated taking a photo and stupidly didn’t. Next time I will. This journey was ruining by the worst passenger that I’ve ever had the displeasure of sharing a carriage with. He was utterly obnoxious. His language and delivery was disgraceful. His disregard for fellow passengers and his disrespect for his traveling companion was simply disgusting. I’ve only managed to download 3 songs on to my phone. They got repeatedly played. I can only think that he had some kind of mental health issue as I couldn’t understand why the bloke hadn’t been seriously damaged by someone who he would have definitely offended with his odious personality. Then I spotted he was wearing a Man Utd polo shirt. He was one of those that never goes. It all made sense. The route took us passed the West Ham ground. Reminded me that I need to tick it off. Not one I’m looking forward to. The layout looks awful and there’s no pubs round the ground. Not that the Brady bunch care. That’s another rant for a later date.
I touched down in Ipswich a couple of minutes late which is apparently perfectly usual for Greater Anglian. I breathed it all in. It was good to be back. Not so much in Ipswich but back watching football, back watching Blues, back watching away games. A world away from the daily grind. I like the layout of Ipswich. Football ground, town centre and train station are superbly close to one another. It’s got a good feel about it. People are nice. The bad thing is that out of 4 visits, I’ve seen us pick up one point. I picked up a copy of the Big Issue. I always over pay. I’m a bit hesitant to give to beggars as not all are homeless. Big Issue sellers not only are definitely homeless but they’re trying to do something about it. I picked up a lottery ticket and went in the Cricketers, one of the Wetherspoons chain. It had a lovely little sign on the door saying home fans only. Something I make a point of ignoring. I don’t where club colours. I don’t have a defined Brummy accent so I don’t get too many problems with getting served. Breakfast finished and as it seems to be ever diminishing every time I have one, didn’t take long. Soon to be served on a saucer the portions are getting that small. First game of the season and I put an accumulator on for the league winners. Every week I put a couple of small bets on. I use Ladbrokes. I like them better than the rest. I have no idea why. The Bournemouth couple were in there. We had a quick chat. It was good to see them. They’re regular away travelers like myself. It was on to the Plough. I was expecting to bump into some of the lads I usually drink with by now. So I stayed with my plan. I was sat watching the cricket in Plough, another pub with the home fans only legend on the door, the nice barmaid didn’t even bat an eyelid when she served me, when I saw my mate Shane go passed the window. By the time I’d got my phone out to give him a ring, he’d entered the pub a quick plan was thrown together, he wanting food so we headed to Mannings. We talked about Ticketmaster and their ineptitude, Hearts v Celtic. He’s Catholic Irish so no surprise he wanting Celtic to win. I explained why I was Hearts and the conversation tuned to how bad some fans are on social media. I’m a technophobe, this blog will be the closest I will ever be to social media. I don’t even know whether doing a blog is actually being on social media. It could be for all I know. Mannings was loud and had no food on. The Bournemouth couple were in there. They’d met up with Blues I didn’t know and as the music was ridiculously loud, good but loud, I made short work of my pint and headed for Dove Street. There are three excellent pubs in and around Ipswich. The Fat Cat, St Judes Brewery Tavern and Dove Street. I never get bored of doing away games, you can go to the same place once every season but it’s different every time. It’s just nice sometimes to know where you’re going. Familiar unfamiliarity. I had not long sat down with my pint in Dove Street (Which actually isn’t in Dove street.) when Spoons came into the pub. I let him turn round to spot me. We moved to the back room where there’s a T.V. they put the football on. We were joined by J.K. Ian Allen, Christophe from Sweden and a new Blues top wearing Nat Peters. Wearing colours at an away game can attract unwanted attention and limits your movement. Spoons is an old school greebo with long hair. He is less conspicuous as someone wearing colours. Nat is a naturally loud person and he’d got the new top on. Nat certainly doesn’t do subtle. Both J.K. and Ian Allen were cheering Celtic on, even Christophe was joining in. Nat has got a season ticket for Rangers so as Hearts started leaking goals, the Mickey taking got worse. Spoons excused himself to visit St Judes and I followed not long after. The rest stayed in Dove Street.
St Judes Brewery Tavern
I love St Judes. It’s got a magic feel to it with a great mix of clientele. One of those pubs you want to take with you everywhere you go. It’s a unique in that choosing what to drink is very much the same as a beer festival. Once at the bar you are confronted by stillages with beers dispensed straight from the barrel. There is a helpful beer menu to the right of the bar but you still find your eyes drawn to the labels on the front of the barriers. I was like a kid in a sweet shop. Unless I have a substantial pub list that is too long to do before the game, I always tend to go back to the pub I like the most. In Ipswich, you won’t be surprised to discover St Judes is that pub.
It was time for the game. Up till now I’d been lucky with the weather, that came to and end. It was raining. I was determined to get a programme and take a photo of one of my favourite things in football. Ipswich have got this absolutely nailed. For me, not only is it breath taking in its simplicity but also in its originality. The mural of Sir Bobby Robson is a credit to the club. Whoever thought of it and got it commissioned was genius. You Tractor Boys should be proud of it. If there’s one thing you should do if you ever visit Ipswich for whatever reason then make sure you go and see it. The photo of it at the start of this blog entry does not do it justice. I spotted a Ipswich fanzine seller sheltering in one of the exits of the stand. I had a quick chat as I bought one. Very good read by the way. As I was queuing to get into the ground I spotted the Noonan brothers from Telford. Always good to see them. I saw Tron from Norway. But then where else would he be. He’s been to over 80 grounds in this country and has started on Scotland. Puts the “Those that never goes” to shame.
We were in good voice. We’re quite renowned for being loud and boisterous as a set of fans. Today was no exception. First game of the season I suppose. Middlesbrough on a night time when there’s hardly any of us there will probably be different. The team looked solid in the first half. Just needed the fireworks and sparklers up front. They didn’t arrive. Gardner missed a tackle in the midfield and with Nssue out of position Ipswich capitalized on the counter attack. 1:0 down. The longer the game went on the less we looked like scoring. With a first day 1:0 loss in the bag, we all trudged out. The new signings looked good and with the transfer window not closing till the end of August, I’m hopeful that the fireworks and sparklers can still be purchased. Redknapp is a good manager with a lot of experience. Maybe it’s just sheer hope but I honestly think things are changing for the better down St Andrews and in Harry we have the right man.
Got back to St Judes Tron had joined us. We chatted briefly about the game and then got reminiscing about games and days out from years gone by. J.K, Spoons, Ian Allen and Nat Peters went to catch the train home, so it left me, Christophe and Tron. Then just me and Christophe. It was the first time I’d really had the chance to talk to the lad. I wanted to find out what made a Swede become a Blues fan. Lets face it, it’s not like we’re a world famous successful club. His reason was pretty much like my own. A sense of belonging to a club and fans we can relate to. He, like me, has deep working class roots. If nothing else, Birmingham City is definitely a working class club. Every club has a unique identity and although football fans are fundamentally the same, it’s the identities that attract the set of fans who support them. That’s why some families split down the middle in their allegiance to clubs from the same city and others where the whole family support one club. I could’ve easily have stayed drinking and talking all night but I had a train to catch. No doubt I’ll be seeing him and the other Scandinavians a few times this season.
Feeling peckish, I hadn’t eaten since the ever diminishing Wetherspoons breakfast, I grabbed something from Greggs to eat on train. Once on the train, I snuggled down to sleep. Got off at Liverpool street and headed for the tube. The sky was full of some mentally shaped clouds and with the sunset on the wain, it looked like the buildings in distance were on fire, complete with billowing smoke. I took a photo and then noticed the woman next to me was crying, I made a right hash of trying to say something to console her and she walked off shaking her head. I doubt if she’ll ever read this tosh of a blog but if she does and recognises herself, I am so sorry for appearing to be insensitive, it truly wasn’t my intention. I hope whatever had upset you is resolved. I carried on to Euston, boarded the right train, found the right seat and then watched the flotsam and jetsam who had the audacity to buy either an open or full price ticket try and find a seat. How is it fair that paying full price doesn’t guarantee you a seat? I went spark out again. I love the sweep into New street station. It’s so satisfying to be home after a good day out. Feeling disheveled I made my way off the train and out into Brum. I’d forgotten that it was Jamaica weekend. There were Jamaican flags everywhere still. You can keep your City of cultures. Birmingham has been the City of cultures for as long as I’ve been on the planet. A city that doesn’t blow its own trumpet nearly enough.