I thought I’d got the dates wrong when I walked into New street station. There was a pocket of Blues fans on the concourse. I recognised a couple of faces but the one that stood out was Squid. Still on his crutches. He stands out at the best of times but stands out even more with the crutches. Where this lot were going, I don’t know, and didn’t really want to find out either. Dawn didn’t so much break as slither in. The weather was as miserable as my mood. To save a bit of money, Cross Country being one of the more expensive rail firms, I’d split my ticket at Bristol. It gave me a 40 minute wait between connections. I made use of the Knights Templar, Wetherspoons. Got back on to the station to find out that my connection down to Plymouth had been delayed by way too long. The station bar looked open, it was and it was serving alcohol. Result. Owned by Green King and called Bonapartes. No idea why it’s named after a French Emperor. Pretty impressive interior for a station bar though.
I know it’s an age thing but I seem to be getting more and more memory triggers. Whilst I was sat drinking, I glanced out the window and was immediately transported back to the first time I’d been to Bristol, I was just going out with L.J.’s Mother at the time and she was with me that day. I’d arranged to meet a couple of mates I used to go to away games with at the time. This was in the days before mobile phones and they’d missed the train. Looking back now, were they trying to tell me something??? They never used to miss the train. Eventually my connection arrived. This was eating into my drinking time. I’d forgotten the line I was on took me through Dawlish. Another memory broken. My Sister Chris and Hubby Bob used to take their caravan down there when they had one. Me and my Brother went down there the year of the Queens Golden Jubilee and joined them for a couple of days. I’d forgotten how close the line was to the sea.
It’s this close.
Not sure I’d want to be on a train when the sea is at its worst.
Is that Doc Martin I can see?
It’s this sort of thing that makes me travel. It’s what gets me through the week. Washes your mind, keeps you fresh. Well it does me anyway. Darrell had text me to say he was doing Carlisle. Arranged to hit the P.O.V. when we touched down back in Brum. He’s closer to doing the 92 than me but not by much. Could we have found grounds to do that were any further apart? Looking out of the window I saw something that I’d only seen on the telly. Alpacas. Quite a few of them. Not something you see on a daily basis in Birmingham. Maybe they’re scared off by the rats. Idle thinking got me from Alpaca farmers to who has historically played what sport. Seems to me, when it comes to the working class, farmers and miners play rugby. Dockers, railway and factory workers play football. The rest play cricket.
Finally, I touched down in Plymouth, seeing that this was Brunel country, I was disappointed with Plymouth station. I was expecting something a lot more grand. Something more on the lines of Bristol Temple Meads. I found the first pub on the short list I’d worked out. James Street Vaults. A student place with an eclectic mix of paraphernalia on the walls.
Reminds me of the old hair cut photos you got in the barber shops.
The barmaid mentioned the weather had been bad, I explained that I’d only just got off the train and then tried to explain what I was doing in Plymouth. She hadn’t even realized that there was a game on. Every now and again, I get an insight into how normal people live without football. Not even a passing interest. Sometimes, I envy normal, sometimes I wonder how they function without it. I moved on to the Fawn Private Members club. After a wrong turn that is. Least I got to take a photo of a Banksy/Banksyesque.
I don’t tend to do these kind of places but this one had got a good write up in the G.B.G. and it was on the way to where I wanted to be. I’m glad I did. Ian was very welcoming. The range was good and immaculate. Had an extremely informative chat about ground hopping, football club owners, local football, Camra members and real ale. I could have easily stayed and tried every beer and carried on talking but it was on to the Fortescue Hotel on the curiously named Mutley Plain. I half expected to be run over by Dick Dastardly cheating his way to winning the Wacky Races. Another good pub with another good range is the Fortescue Hotel. I found a corner to sit in. Couldn’t find the dunces hat but I did take this.
I can’t say I was expecting to see this, somewhere like here. A cricket museum maybe but a pub in a county that isn’t known for cricket was a bit of a surprise. As I read the names of the team, I noticed one had the same surname as a bloke at work. Turns out that Van Der Merwe is the South African equivalent of Smith. The last pub I hit before I made the ground was Hyde Park Corner. A strange set up in that it’s on a traffic island. Not only that but it’s a busy junction. This place should be boarded up and derelict. Far from it. Vibrant is a word that doesn’t do this place justice. To walk in here is to have your visual senses assaulted in the best possible way. You could spend days looking at everything in here and still not get bored.
Stop licking the screen. It’s not real Carling.
I found a seat and tried to take in this Aladdin’s cave of treasure. I got talking to the bloke next to me. Lynn a Welsh lad in his late 60s. I learnt that he used to work in the building trade back in the 80s, went where the work was. Made some shrewd moves too. He wasn’t boasting, just stating fact. I’ve developed a nose for sniffing out liars over the years. (Some would say a rather big nose. Well my Son would) Plus the ones that embellish the truth. This bloke wasn’t one. Very down to earth, quite humble. Sometimes, the truth is in the detail and the detail was what made me know he was telling the truth. We’d been chatting about the usual sort of things. Jobs, why we were in Plymouth, football, music, family. This is where he mentioned that his Sister was living in the flat he’d got in London. Knowing London fairly well, I asked where. You can see the Chelsea ground from the window. He’d bought it when the area was run down. He took seeing my mouth open with astonishment as disbelieving. On the contrary, I was impressed. He showed me the address on his phone despite me saying I believed him. He guessed it was worth about a million. I suggested getting it valued. A 3 bedroom flat where he’s got his, would be going for a lot more than a million. I could have chatted all afternoon with the bloke. I had to decline the offer of another pint as it was 2:38, and I still needed to find the ground and then get in. It was a lot easier than I was expecting. As I got to the park that the ground sits in a genius had set up his catering van and was selling pasties. I’ve always found Cornish pasties overrated. Devon pasties on the other hand are much better. I found that out when I’d visited Dawlish all those years ago. I purchased his last peppered steak. Heaven in pastry. I don’t know what the locals thought of the appreciative sounds that emanated from me and I didn’t care, they weren’t going to get any and I would’ve fought them off with my free hand. With Autumn well and truly kicked in, the walk through the park is a must do. Forget your New England fall, Home Park for a game with a pasty. I got to the ground and for once, a club that you can still pay on the gate. No having to waste time by going to the ticket office. Once in, programme bought, I took my seat, well a seat. It’s quite a big ground and there was enough empty seats to have a bit of a choice.
A wonderful old stand that’s days are numbered.
The officials had got it in for Plymouth. Fleetwood were given most of the decisions. Something the home side could’ve done without as they were woeful anyway. Ex Blues Jake Jervis playing for the Green Army spent the whole game, before getting rightly substituted, looking like a player that thinks he’s better than what he is, instead of showing that he is actually a half decent player. Fleetwood took their time in picking Argyle off but pick them off they did. The home fans behind the goal who never wavered in their vocal support from start to finish, deserve better. Plymouth are too big to be this low down and by the looks of it, last season’s promotion will be followed by relegation this season. A goal in each half, the second by ex Blues Amari’i Bell in injury time was enough to see off an aimless, lack luster Argyle. Plymouth did manage to pull a goal back but they would’ve needed another hour of injury time to equalise. Even if Fleetwood had already left the pitch. It hadn’t been the best of games but after Hull the week before, it was light relief.
I got back to the station with plenty of time to go passed and get another pint. After a wrong turn, I found the Bread and Roses. A student place. Trying to be Bohemian but not quite carrying it off properly. I fancied doing at least another couple of boozers but time was in short supply today.
Not a sight you’d want to see if you’d had a bit too much to drink.
I made a right hash of trying to get back to the station. I made it in the end but not before having to ask two different people and having to put a right wiggle on. Darrell had taught me well in the art of walking fast. In truth, it’s down to my childhood. My Brother walked fast. Could’ve been because he was trying to lose me, I’m not too sure. By his own admission, he hated me before I made it to my 13th birthday. Still, in a weird way, I’m kind of grateful for that hatred. He says he loves me now. On the whole, or what I saw of it, I quite liked Plymouth. Friendly people. Although it was a tick off on the 92, I’m sure Blues will play down there again and when they do, I’ll stop over and do round the Hoe. The only downside to the place itself, is that the signnage is as bad as Cheltenham.
I got back to Brum and the P.O.V. I got talking to Rich as Darrell and Paul Mason turned up. We swapped notes. Apparently there’s two new places opened up in Carlisle that weren’t there when I went up last season. We talked about grounds we’d been to and how good the pubs were or in the case of some, weren’t. Not everywhere is worth going more than once. Blackburn and Milton Keynes to name but two to do once and once only. Another one down, back to the Blues.