Once I’d managed to get my ticket for the game, I’m not ashamed to say that I was excited about this one. The forecast snow hadn’t materialised. It looked more frost than snow. I saw J.K. at New Street. He was heading up to Leeds to see his Sister. After a quick chat and a sortie for food, we somehow contrived to miss each other on the train. I buried my not insignificant nose in my book and wedged my headphones in my ears. I glanced periodically out of the window. There was a lot of surface water about on saturated fields. An ominous sight. Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North eventually loomed over the horizon. The guardian to the North East. To me, it looks like a body wrapped up in cling film, with a plank strapped to its back. Regardless of whether I’m a philistine or not, this statue has become iconic. To the likes of Ant, Dec and Sarah Millican, it means almost home. The train I was getting, coming into Newcastle was already packed. With the amount of passengers getting on with me in Newcastle, there was no way I was going to get a seat. I made my way to a spot where I could lean against something and stick my bag between my legs. Headphones on, nose back in book. I was just happy to be on the last bit of the journey up to Embra earlier than expected but alas due to the Cross Country strike, no where near as early as I should’ve been. Now I know it’s a long journey up to Edinburgh but the amount of people who took it upon themselves to try and battle passed a whole aisle worth of passengers who were stood up was way beyond reasonable. Because of genetics, luckily I’m a stick insect. It was a relief to get off at Waverley, though it took about half an hour to actually get off and out of the station due to owners of wheeled suitcases who have no idea how to control the things. I weaved in and out of the sales shoppers on a heaving Princes street till I could leave down a side street towards the hotel I’d booked. I found it easy enough and was welcomed by the proprietor. A Canadian named Mary. I quickly emptied my bag and got organised. I then hit the evening. Thompson’s Bar was the first place. One that I’d been recommended by both Dingle Dave and Jinksy.
This place now knows how bad the Birmingham Mail is
Montys was next. A new entry in this years G.B.G. Not undeserved recognition. This place is trying hard to please and it’s winning hands down. The Italian barman couldn’t have been more helpful. He was like it with everyone. It was obvious that the lad had lived in Scotland for a few years, the occasional slide into a Scottish accent was quite funny. Like a character in a sketch on the Fast Show.
Gin not whisky.
I can definitely see myself going in this place quite often. I wanted to sample a bit more of the derby atmosphere, so headed out and towards the ground. Although there was a heavy police presence, it wasn’t on the scale that I’d seen at certain Blues games this season. It was less oppressive. I got in the Diggers. It was already packed in here. I bought a pint and a steak pie. A small cloud of ash escaped as I bit in to the pie. Half an hour later, it had cooled down enough to only burn my mouth. The pub was showing a recording of the recent 4:0 victory against Celtic. I’m going to repeat that because I’ll never get bored of it. 4:0 victory against Celtic. The build up to every goal was met with a the whole pub going “Whoaaaaa” and then cheered when the goal went in. I got talking to a girl who had noticed my accent. I say girl, she was in her early thirties. I’m getting old. She was with her Dad and brother. We got talking about all things Hearts and the reasons why we followed them. I left to take in a bit more of the atmosphere around the ground. The evident electricity in the air leant to this being one Hell of a passionate, and every bit as well fought a game as any other derby game. No less love lost. I felt a compulsion to do something that I never do. I bought a scarf.
I look so much better when I’m fuzzy.
This statue is inside the ground and rightly so. A club proud of the part they played in this country’s history.
Hibs got into the game quicker than Hearts, in what was a white hot atmosphere. An early attack led to Hibs hitting the bar. The ball rebounded down on the goal line and out. That’s what it looked like to me. Nowhere near being a goal. In my biased eyes anyway. The odious Neil Lennon was going rabid on the touch line. Hearts managed to get a foothold in the game but the pace was frenetic. I’d only ever seen this derby game on Sky and knew that it was real blood and thunder. It was even better in the flesh. I might be biased but I still felt the three yellow cards that were dished out to Hearts players were a tad harsh. In what felt like seconds, the first half flew passed. Second half and Hearts were a lot better. For much of it, they were on top but that little bit of quality was missing when it was truly needed. Jamie Walker ran himself into the ground and went off injured. I hoped that I would get to see him in the maroon again. The second half was as quick as the first and the game finished 0:0. Although the scoring chances had been at a premium, I’d really enjoyed it (Not the times I thought Hibs might score obviously) and could’ve watched another hour of it easily. Had I watched another hour of it, I’m sure my toes would’ve fallen off though.
I walked back up to the Diggers to find out that it was closed. I wasn’t impressed as I’d hoped to get to talk with the girl, Dad and Brother. I quickly made my mind up to do The Blue Blazer only to find that when I got there that the place was shut. The Bow Bar, it was to be. I liked this place, the last time I did it. I read my programme as I thawed out. I checked what other bars would still be open on my phone and decided that if The Jolly Judge was shut, I’d go back and do Sandy Bell’s. The Jolly Judge was still open. This place has tourist trap prices. There was a group of Americans with irritating accents. They were also quite loud too. However, other than they were loud and had irritating accents, they were really funny. Sometimes, preconceptions are a complete waste of time. After upholding the traditional of spitting on the Heart of Midlothian as I walked passed I headed for my hotel. If it hadn’t have been so cold, I could’ve walked round Edinburgh all night. I was hungry so I looked for a place that was open. I’m not going to say where I went and what I had through fear of ridicule off my Son who I know will read this. Besides, he has enough ammunition on me as it is, without me adding to it.
My hotel room had it’s own bathroom but it wasn’t en-suite. A strange kind of set up but certainly not unpleasant. I was still able to have a shower and that’s all that mattered. I actually could’ve had a shower or a bath, so in all fairness, I couldn’t moan at all. After thanking Mary for the room, I headed back to the ground. I wanted to get my Kilmarnock ticket and also my Sister’s Christmas present. A soft cuddly piggy bank, if you’re curious. Anybody who knows my Sister Val, will know of her love of pigs (Maybe that’s why she puts up with me). I contemplated another visit to the Dickens Bar but fancied the walk to the Roseburn. I’d got a bit of time to kill till I needed to catch my train anyway. Once there, I picked one of the pubs papers from off the bar to read with my pint. By now, I’d learnt that the ball actually had crossed the line. It was a hot topic. Didn’t matter, the score still said 0:0. I got talking to a lad called Mike, a season ticket holder at Hearts who had leant his ticket to his Brother who was back in the country for the holidays. We talked all things football but mainly Hearts. I think he was impressed by not only my presence at the previous nights game but also my knowledge of Hearts. I’d like to think so anyway. I called into the Diggers and bought one of their T-shirts. Something I’d promised myself, the second time I went in there, last season. I also found out why they’d shut early the previous night. Apparently, there was trouble between customers watching the game on the T.V. in the pub. I’d done a short list of pubs in the G.B.G. that I hadn’t done. I headed to one of them, Lock 25. It had a swanky feel it. The emphasis definitely on food. It was in here my phone rang. Not recognising the number, I rejected the call. Within seconds, I had a text off the same number. It was Nat Peters. He was in town. I arranged to meet up, once he’d been round the castle. I finally went in The Blue Blazer.
Capital city prices again.
This place was worth the visit but I wouldn’t make a habit of it.
I’d arranged to meet Nat in the Bow Bar and that’s where I went next. It’s not the biggest of places but it is good. It was also busy. I didn’t get a seat at first. By the time Nat had landed, not only had I got one, but there was one for him too. Once we’d caught up, we got on the subject of Blues and how appalling we are. It led to a game of who could make the other wince more by coming up with past players who were truly awful. He asked me who I thought was the worst player I’ve ever seen in a Blues shirt. I conceded that I couldn’t even narrow it down to a bottom ten. With both of us needing to get trains, I suggested the Halfway House for our next place. I’m still getting used to the old town bit of Edinburgh, so a wrong turn was always inevitable. Another couple of trips and I won’t be so clueless. In all honesty, I could think of worse places to take a wrong turn. Once I got my bearings, I knew where we were and how to get to the pub. Our accents attracted a Scots bloke who had Brummy connections. Turned out that he was Rangers, so Nat was happy and his wife’s family were all Blues, so we were both happy. Nat went off to get the train back to Glasgow and not long after, it was time to get mine.
The delayed train gave me the opportunity to take in this masterpiece of a ceiling.
A masterpiece of a different kind
After finally getting on the train, I found my seat and snuggled down. I woke to find everyone getting up ready to get off. I took my headphones out. Because the power lines were damaged between Lancaster and Preston, the train was terminating at Carlisle. They were putting on coaches. In freezing conditions, we waited for said coaches. And we waited and we waited and we waited. 23:17 and I was still in Carlisle. Finally, I got on a coach. As we were coming out of Carlisle, the bloke of a couple in front of me, starting having a go at the driver. Even with my headphones on, I could hear that he thought the driver was going the wrong way. He even went up the front of the coach to argue the point. I tried to ignore it and by the seem of things, so did the driver. Once I’d thawed out again, I got a little bit more sleep in. We got to Preston, I saw a train on one of the platforms. I was hoping it was for us. It wasn’t. Yet more waiting on a freezing cold night. We’d gone down from coaches to taxis now. I was the only one for Brum and thus got a taxi to myself. It was 01:50. Getting in the taxi, I was happy I was on my own. Not squashed up with five others. By the time I’d got to Brum at 4:15, I was wishing I’d been squashed up because the back of that taxi was like an ice box. I finally got into bed at 5 o’clock.