I got into town early enough to take the opportunity for a mooch. Something that is always nicest when it’s quietest. You get to admire the architecture better. New and old.
“Tramlines aren’t just something used in tennis”
I was joined by Mikey as I checked the train times. He’d been down to Lord’s the previous two days for the test match. After a complete washout on the Thursday, him and J.K. had gambled on there being no more play on Friday, and had made use of their ‘Plan B’, the beer festival at Olympia. They might’ve sampled some decent beer, but had missed out on the most amazing session of swing bowling, I’ve ever seen at Lord’s, in the flesh. Darrell joined us, and we went down to get the train. We spent the first leg of the journey, talking about modern life and how we’re forced to pay for things that we have to have, to be able to live. My bone of contention, is that everything is geared to the tinternet. How our mobile phones are not so much a luxury, as a necessity. I won’t get into a rant here, but I caught myself feeling a right grumpy old man. The subject got changed to how Middlesbrough had a growing number of micro pubs. Real ale aficionados, have grasped the concept and growth of micro pubs, but still appreciate and seek out pubs that are breath takingly historic, and lovingly looked after.
“The new Elizabeth line stretching to Burton upon Trent”
None of us were expecting to see an underground train today, let alone as far north as Staffordshire. We guessed it was on escape from the engine yard in Derby. One of Darrells app’s, told him that the train from York to Middlesbrough, had been cancelled. We would have an hour in York. The York Tap wasn’t open till 10, and the pub next to it, had a poor selection. A quick search, showed we’d got a Wetherspoons just round the corner. We landed on the Punchbowl and had breakfast and a pint. According to Darrells app, the cancelled train had been reinstated. Much as it’s our favorite form of commuting, it doesn’t help that train companies in this country, are ran by incompetents. We had a quick half in The York Tap, before hitting the last leg.
On the train to Middlesbrough was Angus Loughran. Mikey spotted him. His hair was unsurprisingly grey and he’d shed his trademark pyjamas and dressing gown, (No, that doesn’t mean he was naked, just wearing different clothes) but it was definitely Statto, of the long defunct, Fantasy Football programme. Statto got off at Thirsk to go and do his current job as a horse racing expert, and we carried on to Middlesbrough. We joined Steve Whaley in Infant Hercules, and got talking to a Boro fan and the owner. The owner endorsed Rafferty’s, that was our next port of call. Just walking through the door, I was impressed. Stone Roses was playing, track after track. Apparently, The Briar Rose has banned anyone in football colours. Regardless of whether you’re a hooligan or not, wearing colours is not allowed. Just football colours, everything else is fine. So if it’s a Thursday lunch time, not a game in the evening, you’re wearing a Juventus shirt, (For arguments sake) you’re with your elderly parents, you’ll be asked to leave. It’s not only ridiculous, it’s actually discrimination. From Rafferty’s, it was round to Sherlock’s. The Stone Roses, were following me around. I wasn’t complaining. I was complaining more at the fact that they had the Premier league game on, and I wanted to watch Hearts v Celtic. I was in a minority of one. Slater’s Pick was up next, my favourite micro in Middlesbrough.
“Yep, it’s a micro pub”
“Joan was puzzled”
In Middlesbrough, you trip over micro pubs, there’s so many. The Twisted Lip was next. I wasn’t a huge fan of this place, last time, and I wasn’t impressed this time either. It feels like it’s trying too hard, yet had pretensions. A quick half, and it was on to the Devils Advocate. No cask, so it was craft keg. None of us were impressed, so it was an even quicker half. As it was too cold, I left a fair bit of mine. I didn’t go in the Bottled Note last season, if nothing else, it was good to get back on the cask. It was time to go and see Blues lose
I picked up one of the last surviving fanzines still in production, and programme. Even programmes are going to start being faded out soon. Replaced by something that will be produced online and called an E-programme. In my eyes, it’ll never be able to replicate the smell of a brand new programme as you flick through it. Same as a book and a kindle. You can’t ask someone if you can just have a look at their E-programme. Programmes can be a conversation starter. No doubt, someone will moan that they take up too much room, but I’ll miss them. 12 minutes in, and Blues were already 1:0 down. I’m never surprised these days. Doesn’t matter who the manager is, or the players are. I’m more surprised if we go 1:0 up. Even more surprised if we make it 2:0. Extremely surprised if we make it 3:0. I can’t remember what it felt like to be 4:0 up in a league game. (I can, it was just a very long time ago. Well feels like it anyway.) Blues did look like they’d got an equaliser in them, however, Middlesbrough looked more likely to increase their lead. How they didn’t, I don’t know. Omar Bogle came on after 70 minutes, and I can’t say I wasn’t impressed. I have hope, albeit slim, that when Isaac Vassell manages to get fit, they can forge a fruitful partnership. Unfortunately, we’re not blessed with a lot of attacking nous in the midfield. Talking of the midfield, Gardner contrived to get himself sent off with 7 plus injury time left. Monk has brought in Craig’s brother Gary on loan. He even enquired about their Mother. Reluctantly, they gave Monk her number. Her answer was “There’s no way I’m going to play in the same midfield as that useless pair”, and put the phone down. It was the cue for our support to start to go. L.C, of Sunderland these days, and his mate was amongst them. I usually tend to see him at the Riverside. With a completely shaven head and a beard that your average Sikh would be proud of, he’s not hard to spot. It actually, really suits him. He still seems to be enjoying life up in the North East. The final whistle sounded my exit. I spotted a couple of usual suspects, the Noonans. Youngest, then eldest. Got assaulted by George, who pointed out a sad looking Indian Sid, already on the coach. I wished them a good journey home, and started making my own. Well to the Infant Hercules, that Mikey, Steve and Darrell were now holed up in.
It might be one of the easier new build grounds to get to, as opposed to somewhere like Reading, but it’s still not the easiest to get away from after the game. It wasn’t a sellout by any means, but you still find yourself shuffling at best, queuing, at worst. After having to pick your way over the train tracks, you’re funneled through an underpass, that wasn’t the brightest design. They were at least halfway down their pints, when I got to the pub. We chewed over the game, before they went off to catch the train. I read the programme and fanzine before going in search of some chips for the train. Problem was, there wasn’t a chippy near the station. 30 years ago, every station had a chippy close. Not anymore. Taste has changed, and so has eating habits. Except mine, I suppose. The one thing that hasn’t changed in 30 years, is the rolling stock that the good employees of Northern Rail, are still having to keep running. How the management of that company is allowed to use these museum exhibits, is beyond me. What is even further beyond me, is a government that keeps renewing Northern Rails contract.
“Summer in Darlington, at the right angle”
I slept most of the way home to Brum, and bailed on a final pint. Another thing that would’ve been different 30 years ago. A final pint would’ve been two. Blues might’ve got beat, but it had been a good day, and Hearts had beaten Celtic 1:0