29/9/12 Brighton & Hove Albion V Blues. The Early Bird Gets The Worm Drunk.

I’d found out off a money guru, Martin Lewis I think, that when paying debt off, pay more than the minimum amount off the highest interest debt whilst maintaining the minimum payment on the rest. Once the highest is paid off, bang that payment on the next highest as well as paying the minimum. This was advice I took until the last debt. I was still paying off twice the minimum amount each month, but I wanted a bit of spending money. I wouldn’t say I was in clover at this point, but things were going along quite nicely. I was well thought of at the place I worked, didn’t need to work over at all, was able to treat myself to decent clothes to wear down the Blues. Most importantly, I was able to get down to Blues more. I was over halfway there. On the home front, My Brother Les and his youngest Liam had moved in. It meant that Bryanné stepped back. Her and Les didn’t get on. It was cordial enough, but there was an atmosphere you needed to take a chainsaw to. Me being me, am always on the lookout for an opportunity, opportunities that are always making themselves known from time to time. Opportunities that are still live in terms that revealing them would cause too many repercussions, and thus, I won’t be going into any detail. Sorry to disappoint, just to say that it’s juicy stuff and far too sensitive a material. If there was an official secrets act, that covered this sort of thing, my signature would be all over several documents pertaining to my carnal life. Will I reveal anything more? Maybe after I’m dead. I don’t particularly want to wind up dead because I’ve revealed them just yet. John had done well enough at school to go to college and had then done well enough at college to go to university. Unfortunately for him, he had me in his life again. Once he reached 17, he could pretty much do what he wanted, I wasn’t going to stop him and much to my relief, I didn’t have to meddle in his life anymore if he didn’t want. It was something that Trelayne didn’t take to very easily. For me, the transition from parent to friend was seamless. For her, it was like being hit by a truck. The only blot on this personal landscape was my Mom’s health was getting worse. She was on regular dialysis and her hearing was appalling and getting worse. A legacy of the clackity clack of the carpet looms she’d once had to work on. Had she been a family pet, we’d have been deciding about who had enough courage to take her for her last visit to the vets. We selfishly hang on to our elders, our memories of them when they were younger and fitter, when things weren’t falling off, things worked fine, are still fresh. Too fresh, we desperately cling to the hope that they’ll somehow, miraculously become better, young again, how we remembered them when we ourselves were growing up. Ageing is cruel and unstoppable. Death is the blessed relief. I’m being morbid. Sorry. To Blues. Chris Hughton had seen the writing on the wall and it said in huge white letters, “Get the Hell out of Blues Chris”. He’d managed to get us in the playoffs and but for some down right cheating, almost got us to the knockout stage in the Europa League. He knew his magic wand was being swapped for a broken twig and as he had plenty of admirers at boardroom level up and down the country, decided on taking Norwich up on their offer of employment. Blues appointed Lee Clark. I can’t say I was particularly happy with his appointment, but wasn’t disgruntled either. I was to grow more and more disgruntled, but in hindsight, (A truly useless thing to possess), nevermind trying to work with his hands tied behind his back, he was hog-tied at Blues. So although I was a little more affluent, it coincided with a fall in the fortunes of Birmingham City. That’s how it’s been my whole adult life. When ever I’ve had money to play around with, Blues have been awful. However, when I’m skint, I end up missing the big games. Both the semi final legs against Ipswich and final at Cardiff versus Liverpool in 01, MISSED, only two home leg playoffs out of 4 consecutive seasons, the rest, MISSED. The playoff final in 2002 versus Norwich in Cardiff, MISSED. Away leg and League Cup final in 2011, MISSED. Any of the Europa League games, home or away, MISSED. I could chuck in Huddersfield away (The promotion decider 95), both semi final League Cup games versus Leeds 96, both Vile league games in 02/03 (The first league games against them for 16 years), Reading away 09, (Another promotion decider) I’ve missed them all. When I have got money, I’m a part of the furniture. Middlesbrough away on a Tuesday night when it’s nailed on that we’ll lose, is not too far. Same as Portsmouth away in a League Cup game when it’s guaranteed that the manager will weaken us by making wholesale changes and playing kids from the academy. I don’t go to every game, I still hold an ambition of going to every single game in a season, even all the Cup games, but a lack of holidays have put that on a back burner for now. Also, I love going up to Hearts, and have an ambition to do at least 200 grounds. Although as I’m approaching that particular goal, 250 is next. Surprise, surprise, I’m digressing again. So to Brighton then, and a new ground for me. Sky Sports had deemed this entertaining enough for the armchair fraternity and moved the kickoff to a 5:30 kickoff. I did enough research to work out that I could get there and back. I was still a bit of a kid in a sweet shop though. For so long, I’d been living on the bread line and now I was able to get to away games. I got the first train out of Telford, crossed London, got on the train to Brighton. Touching down in Brighton, I walked down to the waterfront. It was a gorgeous day weather wise. Nice enough to sit on a bench and look out to sea as the early morning joggers went passed me. It was only 9:45. I had enough of soaking up the late summer sun and wandered back up to the Railway Bell. It was just opening. Although home fans only, it was far too early for either home or away fans, and I was able to get a drink. I was drinking real ale by now, although I was only taking my first tentative steps in the stuff. My palate wasn’t so discerning as it is now. Arriving so early wasn’t probably the best thing to do, starting drinking early definitely wasn’t. If anyone is in doubt about the alcoholic volume of real ale, it’s almost always stronger than what’s advertised on the clip and stronger than the mainstream keg fizz. Like I’ve said, I was taking my first tentative steps with the stuff. That first pint of the day made me want another. I hadn’t got an itinerary like I do one now, so instead of following what I plan now (Or try to) I went in search of another pub. I spotted The Post and Telegraph Wetherspoons. It was full of coffee couples. Middle to old age shoppers who drop into a Wetherspoons to recharge. The clientele changes throughout the day at a Spoons. Depending on where the place is situated, depends on when proper drinkers go in. I had a quick pint in there, before looking for somewhere a bit more ‘traditional’. The Great Eastern was that place. An olde worlde place that an absent minded, discarded match, would’ve put paid to. Three pints down, I carried on mooching, I found the Laines, a retail therapeutic dream. I’d still got a taste for beer, so didn’t spend too long browsing, though I easily could’ve. Gravity was taking me down hill to the Royal Pavilion. Part of what is great about ground hopping/away games and ale trailing is seeing things you don’t see if you just do home games or official club coach. The Royal Pavilion in Brighton is a ‘must see’ building. I did have a phone with a camera, but not a good one and even had I actually taken a photo or photos, chances are, I wouldn’t have them now. So you’ll either have to take my word for it, or go and see it for yourself. I wanted another pint so went in The King and Queen. The lunchtime game was on, and it featured Chelsea v Arsenal (Or Arsenal v Chelsea. One of them was at home to the other) the pub had a huge projection screen showing it, and the pub itself was cavernous. As pubs go, it’s one of the biggest pubs I’ve ever been in. The whole pub seemed to be split into Arsenal and Chelsea armchair fans. One lot could’ve easily have got tickets to see ‘their’ club at home. It’s not the longest train journey in the world. If I could make it all the way down from Telford, they could’ve made the effort to get the train up to London. As you can tell, I’ve no time for armchair fans. It takes no effort at all to buy the latest replica shirt every year but to actually never watch ‘their’ team in the flesh. Any muppet can buy a shirt and wear it in the pub to watch ‘their’ team. I didn’t catch the end of the game. I didn’t want to get caught in the rush for the door, when the final whistle went. I walked up passed the station and towards a couple of pubs. I managed to blag my way in the Sussex Yeoman for one, before going across the road to the Battle of Trafalgar. The alcohol had taken effect, but I wanted one more pint before getting the train to Falmer. I went in the Prince Albert. Coming out of the pub, I was disoriented. I couldn’t work out how to get in the station. In my inebriated mind, I thought there must be a set of steps, as it was above where I was. There isn’t. I did still make it on to one of the shuttle trains to Falmer and somewhat sobered up enough to want to grab another pint when I touched down. Thing is, there’s nothing near the ground. I asked a Brighton fan, who directed me to The Swan. Although they advised me, it was a 15 minute walk, I was now on a mission. There was 40 minutes left before the game started. 15 minutes there, 15 minutes back, 10 minutes drinking time. It was viable. Didn’t matter that I didn’t know how to get to the pub. The ground is near the university. I was asking students who had no interest in football and whose directions were vague at best. I eventually found the pub. Just by walking into the place, I doubled the average age. A group, obviously students were pooling their money together, counting it out on the table. They kept looking at the food menu on the wall and working out what they could afford to share. I had wondered why they had looked on envious, when I had paid for my beer with a tenner. I watched the scores on Soccer Saturday, as I made short work of my pint, and then hurried back to the ground.

I was impressed with the ground and the set up, if I’m being honest. Brighton fans hadn’t had it easy, due to bad ownership. They were making up for it. Even my match ticket had had the train ticket incorporated into it. I’m not saying they were responsible, but they’d been constantly consulted throughout the development of facilities. Everything seemed to be geared towards the fans. I’m not saying that they’ve got it smack on, but it’s close. I’m sure a Crystal Palace supporter would disagree mind. Brighton were high flying. Quite apt, given their nickname. Blues were kicking around mid table. Most of the squad that had served Hughton so well, were still there, but it just wasn’t happening. Brighton had most of the possession and it was a wonder how they didn’t score. With what was a rare foray into the Brighton half, Blues got as far as the edge of the penalty area. Chris Burke unleashed an absolute beauty of a shot. Inexplicably, we were winning. Brighton carried on battering the Blues defence for the rest of the half, but to no avail. Now I know I’ve been waxing lyrical about the set up at Brighton, however, at halftime the floodlights failed. This was when I knew I’d had a little bit too much to drink, it only felt like 10 minutes. It was actually half an hour. I wasn’t totally gone as to not know what was going on, but the edges of life were blurred. Come on, who hasn’t had that fuzzy feeling right? Eventually, the second half kicked off and it very much resembled the first except for any change to the score. Blues had basically stolen the points and it was time to escape without anyone noticing.

Coming out of the ground and seeing all the home fans heading down to the station platform, got me thinking that back to Brighton was on the other platform. Once over the bridge, it was evident that I’d got it wrong, I back tracked. On the train back into Brighton, I worked out that I needed to get a shift on to make all the connections back home. Touching down in Brighton, I went to dig my return ticket out. I couldn’t find it. I frantically searched pockets. I could find the outgoing ticket, just not the return. One of the guards on the ticket barrier took pity on me. They could see that it was bought as a return and so allowed me through. I just made it on to the train. It was then, I found the elusive return ticket, relieved, I promptly fell asleep, waking up just as we were approaching Clapham Junction. The anxiety of potentially getting stranded somewhere and sleep, had sobered me up. Getting off at Victoria, I ran along the platform to the barrier, once through, I ran full pelt across the concourse amongst startled glances. I think they were expecting a pursuit by the Transport Plod. I must admit, my speed must’ve attracted CCTV cameras to follow my progress to the underground. I wasn’t hanging around. I hurried onto a tube heading north to Euston on the Victoria line. Getting off at Euston, I’d got 12 minutes left before the train back to Wolverhampton departed. I could finally slow down, I wasn’t going to miss my train. I fell asleep again on the train, waking up as we pulled into Coventry. I thought of my lad and how he was getting on at University there. Getting off at Wolverhampton, I waited for the last train back to Telford. I’d been on the first train out, and the last train back in. It had been some day.

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