I’d hit the snooze before finally dragging myself up, it had been against my better judgement after all, night shift doesn’t do your body clock any good. On the bus into town, I was already thinking of catching sleep on the train down to London. WH Smiths is a chain that grew up round train stations, holding on to the coattails of a booming transport system, innovative thinking at the time, it’s a brand that is grasping the concept of self service, something I can not abide, the branch manager was at the counter at New Street station, and yet instead of serving me, dismissively directed me to the self service, I dropped the magazine I was attempting to purchase on the counter in front of him, and walked out, vowing, never to go to WH Smiths anywhere in the country again. I did indeed fall asleep on the train, waking up and wondering if Darrell was doing the same on his train up to Glasgow, touching down at Euston, I weaved in and out of the clueless, hitting the tube at Euston Square. The idea had been to have a look at Classic Football Shirts in the Old Truman brewery, instead, I discovered that the market there was shut, taken over for the weekend, by a coffee festival. To me, coffee is just coffee, unless it’s a coffee stout, hugely disappointed, not least at the growing obsession with the stuff, to the detriment of tea, I was back on the tube to Blackfriars, to the Black Friar. Another tastefully kept, Nicholson’s owned pub, one that needs to be visited.
“As per usual, photos don’t do it justice”
The pub has some fantastic wooden carvings on the walls, it’s something that amazed me, the very first time, and even after a couple of visits, still does. The craftsmanship is a wonder to behold. I got chatting to the barmaid, finding out, she came from the Czech Republic, and amongst other things, mentioned her daughter’s father was Greek, and that he insisted she only spoke English to her, we agreed that their daughter should be able to speak all three languages, for a whole host of reasons, before I tucked into a bacon sandwich, I hit the tube to Waterloo, making an inspired, but hectic change at Clapham Junction, finally touching down at Twickenham, I was struck, compared to most of the suburbs, just outside central London, how pleasant Twickenham is, it’s got an up market feel about it, similar to St Albans, you could sense the money.
“Was I even in the U.K.?”
Moving in and out of middle class families, and sport enthusiasts, I took in the White Swan, down by the river.
“Egg chasing and canoe racing round here”
I couldn’t go a whole day, ale trailing without going wrong, at least somewhere, and trying to find the next place, was then. At least the weather was beautiful, and the Sussex Arms was well worth the effort to finally find.
“The Churchend one was Pooh”
“I was a kid in a sweet shop”
The Churchend beer clip depicted the bear with a likening for honey, but Spoons sense of humour, must’ve been behind it, I felt aggrieved that I’d missed it. Almost stopping to take another photo of a scene that didn’t seem to belong in London, I got the train to Hampton, changing at Teddington. Jolly Coopers, was the last on the list before the game, the eclectic decor, making it feel like home, which it had been for the owner Nick, for over thirty years, a local historian, had compiled a list, including dates, of the previous tenants, from when the pub had opened, and that list had been made into a plaque, Nick was the longest serving. The Coopers was one of those pubs that have a library of second hand books, I chose ‘Football Grounds From The Air’ to flick through, except for almost all of the Scottish grounds, the only English one I hadn’t visited, was the now knocked down, Saltergate, at Chesterfield. Drinking up, it was time to add Jezzards Beveree Stadium, to that list.
I’ve warmed to non-league football, it’s inhabited by passionate, hard working volunteers and money, although desperately needed, just to keep solvent, isn’t the be all and end all. It’s the love of the game, the camaraderie, that drives these people on, not a clinical, cynical desire to accumulate wealth. Once through the turnstile, I spotted a garden shed type structure, packed floor to ceiling with old football programmes, a bloke came over to me, inquisitive to what I was after, after advising me, to just go through the tubs and boxes, I delved in, finding one that I’d relinquished, and one from before I started going down to Blues, A quid was all the charge for them. Flicking through the programme for the game I was at, found out that the goalkeeper for Hungerford, was Michael Luyambula, on loan from Blues, oblivious to the fact before picking this ground to hop, it instantly added to the appeal.
“I went a bit mad with the camera on my phone”
A higgledy piggledy, mishmash of a ground, that will never need words spelt out in coloured seats, to be mistaken for anywhere else. The football wasn’t as good as some of the stuff I’ve seen at this level this season, but it still had patches of good stuff, mainly from Hungerford, who rightly took the lead, I’m still getting used to the idea, you can have beer in sight of the pitch, at this level. Football is so much more a civilised past time, with a break in play, I headed in the clubhouse, to see what was on offer. What was on offer, surprised me, though in all honesty, it shouldn’t do now. There was two different ales, from a couple of the smaller breweries, pint in mit, I returned to the football, observing fans eating chips out of paper bags, basic and environmentally friendly, not polystyrene plates turning potato into cardboard. The burger I had at the St Albans game, had been gorgeous, I fancied comparing.
“A couple of Tron’s mates”
Second half, and it was a different story, Hampton and Richmond came racing out of the traps like snails, if they’d been rubbish in the first half, they were showing that they could get even worse. It wasn’t inevitable that Hungerford would increase their lead but H & R were never going to be in danger of equalising. Hungerford almost apologetically scored their second, and the third was an age old training set play, that was embarrassingly easy in its execution. The on loan keeper, got his deck chair out, only putting his newspaper down every now and again, to catch the ball, giving it a dismissive hoof up the pitch. The only thing I had learnt from watching Luyambula, was he made kicking look ridiculously easy, in fact, if someone told me that he’d kicked it out of Wembley stadium, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. As for Hampton and Richmond, even if nearby Twickenham decided to join them, the new combined team still wouldn’t even beat Nuneaton. I smiled at the home attempts at gallows humour, it reminded me of watching Blues.
One thing that I keep falling for, (Well I am an old fool) is I can’t gauge from an underground map, how long getting from one place to another, actually takes. After the game, I’d got two pubs on the itinerary, I wanted to do, after making it up to the Dukes Head in Highgate, it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to do the Black Lion at Plaistow. I suppose I could console myself in that, at least I was able to do the Dukes Head, and its quality range of local beers, from which none of the breweries I’d heard of. I’d learnt from the London Drinker Camra mag earlier in the day, that there’s now something in the region of 140 independent breweries based in London, so I shouldn’t really have been surprised, but it was still a welcome surprise. I looked at the time as I supped, and started to panic that I wouldn’t make my advanced ticket train back home to Brum, like I’ve only just stated, gauging the time between places from the underground map, is beyond me, I didn’t break into a run, like I’d needed to in St Albans, but I wasn’t going to dawdle, as it was, I hadn’t needed to panic, and I reached Marylebone station with plenty of time to visit the Allsop Arms. I know it’s a Green King owned pub, but I kind of enjoy the ambiance for the open mic sessions, they have on a Saturday night, so maybe it was a sub conscious thing, I chatted to one of the acts waiting to go on, wishing that I’d have been able to listen to him, after he had advised me to check out Clapton F.C., I wished a broken limb on him, and got the train. I got a text off fellow ground hopping Darrell, and met him to swap photos and stories of the day, in the Post Office Vaults, he and a couple of hundred or so, had rattled around Hampden Park, watching Queens Park, before heading home.