7/8/19 Darlington v Gateshead, National League North, I’m Not As Quakers As Some.

With living in a flat that only has a bath, having a shower is a taste of luxury for me, so was never going to pass up on the chance before vacating the digs, then it was onto the second double header of the season. Despite of what had transpired at Fratton Park, I’d enjoyed Portsmouth. The station is a strange affair though, similar to both Tamworth and Smethwick Galton Bridge, where you’ve got an upstairs/downstairs arrangement, but the upstairs seems to be made of tin, not something that initially perturbed me, but the structure vibrates when a train docks, something that was disconcerting to me, for some psychological reason. Once on the train, we headed up to London on what must be the most boring railway line I’ve ever been on. It’s mostly tree lined. Not like I dislike trees and shrubbery, but when you’re racing along, everything out of the window, is little more than a green blur. Headphones are a Godsend. (Or whoever invented them anyway) we were late arriving into Waterloo, (Not leaves on the line just yet) although past rush hour, I was still anxious about making the connection from King’s Cross. Getting across London on the Underground is becoming more and more chaotic. Maybe it’s just an age thing, the famous quote from Samuel Johnson, ‘A man who is tired of London, is tired of life’, well I’m having difficulty in stopping from yawning. Final leg of the journey deposited me in Darlington, and I checked into my digs, nowhere near as nice as the previous night but being less than half the price it was more than adequate. Once I was organised, I headed back out to discover what delights Darlington had in store. The Quakerhouse was the first place, with its delightfully named ‘In house’ brewery, Mad Scientist.

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“No Carling in sight”

I could waste plenty of afternoons in this place, though it wasn’t even the best place in Darlington. The Half Moon wasn’t open yet, (Well it was a Wednesday day time) so visited Number Twenty 2, I’d been looking forward to this one as I was led to believe it was in keeping with what you’d expect in a micro pub.

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“It wasn’t”

Even with it having a good range, and that range well kept, I was unimpressed, it didn’t have the right ambiance for me. The time had moved on past the opening time that had been stated on the door of the Half Moon and not on the Whatpub site, so I toddled off back to there, and I am so glad I did.

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“Who are they?”

The Quakerhouse was brilliant, but the Half Moon was even better. I hadn’t been in a pub this good since the demise of the Anchor in Brum, the place was that good.

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“Yep, this was in the pub”

Whilst I was in there, I got talking to a couple of blokes who turned out to be doing the same thing as me, except they don’t blog about it, (Certainly not like this tosh) compared to them, I’ve been playing at this football watching lark, the older one of the two, had been to over 2,500 grounds and watched over 9,000 games. Lincoln supporters for their sins, they go to around 180 games a season, like I said, I’m playing at it. Unsurprisingly, they knew Steve Mundy, a Baggies fan, who seems to do nothing but watch football, coupled with sampling beer, someone I’ve actually yet to meet. I had still a couple of pubs on the itinerary before taking the game in, so moved on. The first one was better on the outside, than it was on the inside. The outside of The Hole In The Wall, looked like the pub belonged somewhere like Beamish or Ironbridge open air museums, but the interior had been completely destroyed and ‘modernized’, it was as bland as a shopping mall, a quick half and I couldn’t get out of the soul destroying place fast enough. Onto the ORB, a micro pub close to Number Twenty 2, but much better. The Lincoln two had had it on their list too.

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“A different way to cover the cracks in the ceiling”

Had I known that the Hole in the Wall was going to be like it was, I’d have gone straight to the ORB, a place much more my taste. the Lincoln two were getting a lift to the ground, so I got the directions I’d written down, out again, and hoped I’d got them right.

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“Gates ahead”

As I walked through the car park of the ground, a double decker bus carrying Gateshead supporters arrived, I’m not sure where they’d hired it from, but as the bus was almost completely immersed in smoke, I would be surprised to find out, if it made it back to Tyneside. I also wouldn’t be surprised if I was to hear that it had been hired from Northern Rail, I would have taken a photo, but along with the rest of the victims who experienced this event, was too busy choking and trying to breathe, to worry about taking a picture. Once through the turnstile, I was able to start breathing properly again.

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“Not quite Sky sports coverage from Old Trafford”

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“This was, after all, a rugby ground”

Darlington were getting the better of the early exchanges, until Gateshead broke away, and scored with a shot that took a heavy deflection, and sneaked in at the near post. The 400 ish Gateshead fans celebrated. The home sides task was made harder when one of their players went down clutching his knee, with no one around him, he did however, manage to gingerly limp off without needing to be stretchered. Not wishing to queue for the whole of halftime, I made use of the portaloo, whilst the queue for it, was only four blokes long. On the way back, I was spotted by the Lincoln two, who I found out, was a Dad and lad team. Of the two, I found the Son friendlier, the Dad came across as dismissive of my lack of ground hopping, and feeling somewhat inadequate, tried to vindicate the meagre amount I’ve been to, by explaining poor personal life decisions. As I was chatting to them, I was moved on by an over officious steward, so I went back to where I’d been standing in the first half. (Maybe there’d been complaints that soap opera’s weren’t allowed) Gateshead should’ve doubled their lead, in the second half after a mistake from one of the Darlington centre halves, and with the net inviting, the Gateshead striker air shot. There wasn’t really any pressure coming from Darlington to get an equaliser, but they got one. It hadn’t been a particularly good game, so a draw was probably fair, though with Gateshead’s recent problems, their fans would’ve been the happier of the two sets, at least their club was still in existence.

I fancied something to eat more than a pint, so got myself some chips, eating them on the way back to the digs, not as nice as the ones in Portsmouth, but then I hadn’t been seduced by the sea air. Next morning, with more time on my hands before needing to get the train back to Brum, I found The Tanners Hall, and had a Spoons breakfast. (No, not a meal made by the great man) Leaving Darlington’s Wetherspoons, I took a mooch down to where the football club used to have their ground, Feethams was adjourned to the cricket ground, the football ground is now covered by houses, but the cricket ground is still there, complete with its lovely Edwardian pavilion. I took a leisurely walk back through town to the Half Moon, Thursday brought an earlier opening time, I may not have gone back to the pub after the previous evenings game, but the temptation for one last visit, before catching the train home, was far too great. Like several hostelries I’ve been into, I wished I could’ve tucked it under my arm, and headed back to Brum with it, though I think the regular clientele would’ve put up fierce resistance.

 

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