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The Warky Report: Hull City (h)
at 22:29 30 Mar 2019

Ah, the first home game of Spring.

The dew stuck half my lawn to my bare feet as I opened the french doors at 7am, the sun blazing through the curtains and leaving warm spots on the carpet, lit like a church window. The birds gathered, ever hopeful of the odd crust or mouldy loaf or bacon rind. I've got the world's fattest wood pigeon, a portly beady eyed cavalier, dressed in fineries of blue and mauve and grey, waddling around the garden, inspecting the verges, pecking at nothing. He looks like Dumbo when in flight.

I took two Alka Seltzer in a glass of tap water with me. Hungover again. The house smelt musty and of the night before. Windows were opened to let the air in. I drank the noxious fizz and belched. They probably heard it next door. They probably heard it in Harwich.

Tel was annoyingly chirpy. "Luvly mornin' innit?" he greeted me as I carefully negotiated his threshold, past the racks of comestibles and the Coke fridge. "Not 'ungover agin?" he chortled. I nodded, too fragile to attempt speech. He had Absolute 80's on the radio in the backround. They were playing 'Material Girl' by Madonna, her interjecting those little hiccups she did. "'ated Madonna me" said Tel, sniffily, doing something unseen with a pile of Daily Mail magazines. "Me dad coun't stand 'er eiver. He fought she was pony. That Izzla Boneeta fing, load of old toot". The song finished and on came "Hold Me Now" by the Thompson Twins. "Gawd, two rubbish'uns in a row. You've jinxed it. They 'ad Sledge'ammer on before you came in". He found the Daily Mails and started putting the magazines in, haphazardly. "On me lonesome terday" he admitted. His bacon and egg bap stood still bagged near the till. He remembered it and took a bite, egg drooling from the freshly chomped bit. "Did I evver tell ya me dad played the joanna?" he asked. I shook my head. "Nah, well 'e did. Used ter play darn the British Legion and fer the old folk in the 'ome in Dagenham. trouble was..." and here he became confidential, "'e only knoo four chunes. That rinky-tinky one they used on Pot Black, Oh Danny Boy, Wund'ful Day from Seven Brides and Happy Birfday to you". I raised my eyebrows, wondering what he did when he'd played his repertoire. "The old girls used ter ask 'im fer Stranger on the Shore an' Summer Place'n stuff'n 'e 'ad ter pretend 'e never 'eard 'em. Right old job it was". I smiled, wondering where the story was leading. "Madonna reminded me" said Tel, lamely.

He and I are planning a curry next Friday, partly pleasure, partly picking our National horses. We didn't go out last night as he had to meet up with Paula and Blake in Colchester, and I was out round the girlfriend's. I asked after Paula and he made a face. "Tryin' to save up fer a deposit and the weddin'. She's back on the vapes, 'e's on the rollin' baccy I got him from Spain. She's tighter than a gnat's chuff; I paid fer the Nando's an' the drinks larse night. Still she's OK, don't change much, except 'er 'air an' 'er dresses. Blakey's a good bloke. 'E's doin' extra shifts ter keep 'em tickin' over. Can't be much fun, like". I nodded, thinking of the snake-eyed prick, glad to hear he was pulling his weight.

I got to Manningtree by 10.20. Lovely morning. I felt a genuine anticipation towards the game, a poor lower table Hull, us playing better and deserving more than the endless 1-1's, The omens smiled with the sun, glinting off the car roofs, sparkling the sea, shimmering the sky. A few stray gulls wheeled as I waited, screeching at each other like teenage girls, their plumage snowy against the blue sky.

Drinks, food, good company. It was turning into the sort of afternoon Bill Withers would sing about. People sat in the beer garden wearing shades, drinking amber pints and some in shorts. We couldn't lose.

Then the players came out and, being honest, I'd have rather seen the people in the beer garden playing. I thought we were past the careless possession-giving, the hopeful misplaced passes, the lack of any threat going forward. But clearly not. It was as though we were already relegated and on the beach, supping Vodka Red Bulls and toe-ending beach balls to the kids.

Two easily-given goals and a general apathy. I left on 84 minutes, strolling down Portman Road, my face as sanguine as it was two months ago, when I finally became convinced we'd be heading to Sarfend next season. It's the hope, the need to know we'll happily hammer League One next season in our flip-flops, the crying out for a barnstorming end of season run to give us optimism and sell season tickets. Anyone choosing Hull at home to get their irregular fix probably wished they'd wasted the day away picnicking in Frinton. There's positivity, and then there's Ipswich Town FC.

I got the early train home and stopped for a beer in my local. "How'd the Town do?" asked Jamie the Landlord. "Lost 2-0" I replied. "Blimey" he said. And that was that. No alarms and no surprises. Just "Blimey" said automatically, expectedly. It's what we do.
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The Warky Report: Forest and that (H)
at 22:26 26 Mar 2019

"'Ad the frupenny bits all the second week" said Tel, filtered through a mouthful of bacon roll. Welcome back. Sorry for the hiatus.

Tel's been back a week and a half. We had the Forest game before, but I missed that. Girlfriends sort of take priority, especially ones who normally work on a Saturday and then 'surprise' you by announcing they've got a free weekend. It wasn't particularly diplomatic to be saying "well, that's great love, and when I come back from watching Ipswich play Forest half cut, we'll go and have a curry and a few down the local before Match of the Day". And so I ended up in Holt.

Anyway, back to Tel. He came home on Thursday week ago, dodgy guts, late taxi from Stansted ("we never bleedin' tipped the cow son eiver, kept us waitin' forty minutes then charged me ninety notes. Ah'll get Tone ter do it next time; 'e owes us one") and bags laden with cheap booze and jeans for Mrs Tel. He gave Mickey and Kaylee a hundred quid tip each and a bottle of Malibu each for caretaking the shop, then kept moaning about not finding things and the shortage of milk and crisps (they forgot to do the order on the Tuesday).

His guts have been the biggest issue, certainly in the shop where I noticed a big can of Febreze was placed on the table near the lav, presumably by one of the girls. It certainly smelt like the inside of a packet of dry roast peanuts last Saturday. "Dodgy bit'o' fish" he muttered, kneading his bowels with a cupped palm. We didn't go for a curry last Friday. Must be bad.

Spain sounded just tolerable. The lack of sun was bemoaned ("greyer than a turkey'n'tinsel coach trip) and Mrs Tel's profligacy with shopping, and the need to ditch some of her swimwear to fit it in the suitcase, was blamed for the strain in his shoulders taking the cases back to the airport. They ate out most nights, which meant he ate the aforementioned dodgy fish and then couldn't find the Alka Seltzer. It was a tetchy Tel that greeted me on the Saturday, apologising with a mutter for the lack of milk, yelling at Mickey to close the back door as the fag smoke drifted in like dry ice at a Genesis concert.

Then his guts just became a backround noise, and we were nearly back to normality. "Fought I'd crimped one off in the bed larse night, I was fartin' so much" admitted Tel, taking another bite of his bacon roll and chewing with gusto. "Bloody foreign food's never agreed wiv me. I told 'er I fancied steak, but oh no, you've 'ad steak all week Terry, 'ave a bit'o'fish ternight instead. So I goes'n''as the John Dory'n'iss all bones and tastes funny, and wake up in the night sweating like a fat bird in a disco, 'n she says woss that smell Terry, you farted you dirty git? An' I 'ad. Coun't 'elp it. An' then there was me, on the bog all night, an' 'er moanin' on about the smell and tryin' ter cover it up wiv a few squirts of 'er Anaze Anaze stuff. Never again. Thass the larse time I'm 'aving the bleedin' fish".

He sipped his tea (the cafe round the corner, £1.25. "One twenny five for a cuppa? Bleedin' disgrace. Thass yer Brexit for yer. They'll be chargin' for breavin' next") and did the football bet, moaning about the international break and his ignorance of Leagues one and two. We lost anyway. He thought Scotland would beat Kazakhstan.

Mickey didn't tell him about the lost key. It turned up again, and he wasn't in the mood. He's OK now. Guts back to their normal capacity, lager drinking resumed, milk ordered and delivered, crisps no longer at crisis point. Hull on Saturday. I'll be there. She's working. No 'nice' little trips to North Norfolk to have expensive lunches in Byfords, or trawling the quaint but expensive food and drink bits in Bakers and Larners, or oohing at little stone cottages in Estate Agents windows. It's half cut Saturday. With a win. That'd be nice.
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The Warky Report: Reading (h), West Brom (a)
at 20:29 10 Mar 2019

Two for the price of one today. Sorry I missed last week. Combination of too much drink, savage Sunday hangover (like I'd eaten the sadly missed Keith Flint and he was partying in my guts) and the ennui which follows a decent bout of toilet-based activity. And we lost to Reading, so that's officially IT. Prepare the motor for those trips to Bradford and Carlisle. Get the Little Chef map book out.

Tel's in Spain, of course. He flies home on Thursday, at 9pm. They're getting a cab. I've had six tweets and twelve texts and a incompetent skype (the top of his head for thirty seconds while he said "Can't find 'ow ter git this fing ter record" hopefully to Mrs Tel as it was in their hotel bedroom. Then he grinned and said "Hiya, make it quick 'cos we're booked in at the local restaurant at seven" and he then gave me his football predictions). The weather's been 'fine, not too 'ot like' and the food's been mainly steaks, fish and some sort of saffron stew he's quite liked.

He's doing his Cheltenham bets on his phone so the texts have been mainly about checking stuff hasn't gone to pot here and that the two girls in the shop are coping. They haven't and they are, I replied. "Wot one wiv wot?" he sent back, but I pretended I didn't receive that one.

Reading was a drunken semi-dream, based on an early start in the Cricketers and a finish in the Three Wise Monkeys, with a bold mixture of alcoholic drink and a good friendly punch in the guts from Benters, who was hanging around outside TWM looking like a well-dressed panhandler. I nearly lobbed him 20p, before my pissed eyes clocked him. As Springsteen wrote, we went back inside and had a few drinks and all he kept talking about was glory days. It set the tone for what was to come. I was convinced we'd beat Reading before; now my hopes rescinded like an old girl's shrivelled right tit. I'd never been to the same game with Benters that we'd bloody won. It was always either the scum home game or someone decent we'd been done by.

Anyway, we lost, surprise, and played badly and I was drunker than Peter O'Toole on a closing night and swayed where I stood and left just after Mo Barrow scored the winner and had to go for a massive jimmy in the bogs on my way and the goal kept replaying in my head.

The rest of the week was tame without Tel. We'd won £289 on the footy bets, but he was out when I texted him and didn't reply until Tuesday evening. "Brill" he wrote. I'm not sure if that was a comment on the bet or what he was having for dinner. He watched the Spurs and Man U Champions League games in some bar in Marbella, surrounded by ex-pat Brits who all looked like one of the Krays, the Spanish barman looking like Manuel from Fawlty Towers. He sent me a photo text of two blonde women smiling and holding day-glo drinks somewhere dark. "Justin and Leeanne from Manhcester". 'Justin?' I thought. 'Bloody hell, that's some sex change op'.

Mickey's lost a set of keys for the back room and back door. She's bricking it, according to Kaylee, who seems to be rather enjoying her friend's discomfort. I helped look for them last Wednesday, but it was like looking for a golden straw in a haystack. They'd managed to do the deadlock on the back door so nothing can get in. After a fruitless ten minutes, I asked where she kept them. "In me 'andbag" she replied plaintively, "but ah've gone frew that an' they aint there". I suggested she turn her handbag out on the counter and she did. Used bus tickets, lipsticks and something plastic that looked suspiciously dildo-ish rattled out. There, laying amongst the detritus was a set of keys with a blue tag marked "Back Door" in red felt-tip. "Yev farnd 'em" she nearly blubbed and gave me a heartfelt hug which pressed her voluminous breasts to mine and left me smelling of Elnett and cheap fag smoke. Panic averted.

I went out yesterday, for a walk, on my own as the girlfriend was working. I took a camera in my backpack and photographed buzzards wheeling and Constable skies. I sat in a country pub, supping beer and watching Soccer Saturday, seeing Alan McInally give Jon Nolan his dues for our equaliser. It's not enough, of course. It's never enough. I'm looking forward to trips to Southend and Lincoln and Peterborough though. Should make a refreshing change to be a big fish in a smaller pond again. Or, if we don't get the personnel right, a smaller fish in a smaller pond where everyone else is a potential pike.

Back home on Thursday. Can't wait for the normality again......
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The Warky Report: Wigan (a)
at 22:57 24 Feb 2019

"'Ardly need ter go ter Spain at this rate" muttered Tel as he moved the Mails to make room for his accounts book. He meant the balmy weather we've been enjoying. He could, however, have equally been talking about his misgivings at leaving his assistants in charge.....

Welcome back to another WR. It's been an odd week; fulsome weather and warmer skies, a week of Colchester and early finishes for me, a week of amusing forehead-slapping frustration for Tel. This is based on both Mickey and Kaylee's skills in mathematics, or, to be fair, their lack of them. Faced with these two, Professor Higgins would have long since quit and instead gone haunting the slums of the old East End armed with a good, sharp knife.

Monday was the start of it. The shop was busy at 7.45am, people buying papers and twenty Players and packets of mints for the start of a working half-term week. Tel served, commenting to each on purchases ("Yer won' 'ave dog bref after them" he told a young woman who purchased cigarettes and a packet of extra-strong mints with her Mirror. She smiled and then raised her eyebrows as she passed me on her way out). When they'd all gone, he sighed and called Mickey from the back room. "Al'righ' less go over it agin".

"Graham the delivery bloke comes on Tuesdy; now 'e wants payin' in cash. 'E normly charges 'undred'n'thir'y quid. Now..." he produced a buff envelope like a magician from under the counter and then found a black marker, uncapped it and wrote 'GRAYHAM' in bold letters on the front, "...yer need to remember to add the float in the till first and then take the money off it. We started with a two'undred quid float this mornin', so take it out an' count it now" She did this. She made mistakes and started again. Then she counted two fifty pences three times. I'd have stayed for the denouement, but I was late, and Tel's expression had fallen quicker than a Prem footballer near a penalty box.

Tuesday he saw me on his own, gesturing with his head that Mickey was out the back, then whispering that he was having a few misgivings about leaving her and Kaylee in charge. "Jus' turned bleedin' fick, the pair of 'em. Can't even do the simple stuff. Plus they both go for a fag at the same time and leave the back door wide open. Anyone could walk in and nick me stock by the time they've finished". He gave me a look, and then Mickey came in to serve. "Alright love?" said Tel, scanning my paper with deliberate care. He sniffed the air. "'Ad anuvver fag while you were sortin' the stock?".

We met for a drink on Thursday rather than Friday, as Tel was meeting Paula and I was meeting my new amour. He was there when I turned up, pint half swigged, eating dry roasted peanuts and chatting to Jamie the landlord. I'd promised to drive him and Mrs Tel to Stansted on Thursday next week for their holiday. It seemed to have come round very quickly, as these things do. We sat and chatted, him distractedly about the shop, although he was a bit more reassured that Mickey could cope. It sounded false when he said it.

He told me about Paula and Blake, admitting that he'd thought something was up a while ago. Blake had started asking him for recommendations on jewellers. Tel had recommended Berridges in Ipswich. "I fought after that they'd be a bit pricey'n' I was right. 'E went ter the local one instead". We ordered steaks and more drinks. "Nice bein' away from the nitty-gritty at home" he said. Mrs Tel needed a new towel and a new hand luggage bag, so he was having to go to Colchester on Friday. "Good chance fer the terrible twosome to learn the job agin" he smiled.

I had a walk on Saturday, not far, but enough to leave me feeling like I'd had a bit of exercise. I went round the back waters at Walton, admired the views, thought about the evening before and how pleasant it'd been. I've missed the company. I was always cynical when people I knew suddenly found love again after a period of being alone. I'm not sure it's love yet, but it feels nice nonetheless. The Walton backwaters are the place I return to when I feel like this (I proposed to my ex-wife here and we used to love sitting on the beach with a bottle of wine, just talking and laughing). I still haven't told Tel. There never seems to be the right moment.

I heard the last fifteen minutes on BBC Suffolk as I drove home. 1-0 to the Town said Brenner. We sounded comfortable. I smiled and switched off, hoping we'd do Reading as well next week and only be four points off safety. I called in at Morrisons for more wine and a few beers, the shadows starting to lengthen as the beautiful day gave way to night. I'm lucky, I thought. Things seem to be alright for once. No killing meself on daily grinds to Birmingham, everyone around me happy and contented, us winning at Wigan.....Well, OK, I'm fairly lucky in love. But in football, well, it just isn't my year....

See you next Saturday.
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The Warky Report: Stoke City (h)
at 19:52 17 Feb 2019

"Paula's geddin' married" said Tel, matter-of-factly, as though he was recounting another meaningless anecdote about someone I didn't know. 'Great' I said, conscious of the lack of enthusiasm in my voice, thinking of the snake-eyed Blake in a monkey suit, a pink carnation in his buttonhole. I always think of Gollum when I think of him. Only he's got better hair and teeth.

He proposed on Valentine's Day, Thursday, whilst on a trip to The London Eye with her. "Went ter Nandos for a meal after'n' she texted me there" said Tel, proud of his microscopic part in the excitement. "They've invited me'n'the missus to the wedding" he added. "She'll probly invite you to the evenin' do", an afterthought as he suddenly remembered I was still there. 'That'll be nice' I said, thinking of Gollum in a suit boogying to Hi Ho Silver Lining.

The wedding's probably next year. Tel thought they were "savin' up" for it. He likes Blake; indeed, he meets him for lunch when both are off. He's invited him down the pub, but Blake's only made it once. "Busy" said Tel, dismissively. "Still, be nice ter see 'im at one o' our curries, wunt it?" 'Yes' I said, feeling he'd be right at home with the Cobra.

So that's the big news out of the way. The other news, which I haven't told anyone apart from close friends, is that I've met someone, and we've been seeing each other since the middle of January. I won't say her name on here if that's OK. It's still early days and all that. I haven't told Tel. He'd demand to meet her, and I'm not sure it'd last much longer if he did. I mean this in the nicest possible way. I love Tel and Mrs Tel; they've both been good to me. It's just that........well, I can't explain it. Perhaps we'll leave it at that for now.

We didn't make Friday down the pub because I was meeting my new girlfriend. I lied and told Tel an old mate from London had called. We were having our own Valentine's celebration a day late, because we both work and we weren't available on Thursday. Tel took the rebuff at face value. I felt a bit guilty. It went off though. In more ways than one .

I saw him in the shop on Saturday. Still going on about Paula. He caught me off-guard by asking about my mate, and I blushed and said we'd gone for a piss-up in London. "Spendin' more moolah" he admonished. "Yer should be savin' it fer when yer meet a bird agin". I blushed a bit more and said "Yeah" and he changed the subject to what suit i thought he should buy for the wedding. I suggested Coes. "Ah'm fifty-odd, not seven'ee odd" he spluttered. I get my clothes at Coes and I'm a good ten years younger. I suddenly felt very old though, and looked at my wool coat with jaundiced eyes. Truth is, I'm fat,and they cater for fat men better than Debenhams.

The train to Manningtree left late at 10.35am. The day was overcast, with squally clouds and a slate-grey sea lapping lethargically at the estuary shore. The train was full of women lunching in Norwich, saying 'yah' to friends and checking their mobiles for texts from their banker hubbies. One said "Tim's orf to Wales next weekend for the rugger, so this is my treat to me. Awfully good to get out of London and taste the country for a change" They drank bottled water, the coffee cups from some independent chain stood on the tables with their mobiles and their Gucci handbags. They tutted at the litter as we pulled into Ipswich, past the school with the litter beswathed playing fields and fat seagulls drifting lazily on the breeze, pecking at wrappers, having a whale of a time. "Dreadful place, Ipswich" said one, in the tones of someone inadvertently finding a foreign bogey on their Jaeger jacket.

I got out as we stopped and charged the stairs, relieved to be back amongst people I understood, the elderly couple with strong Sufferk accents, the mother with crying toddler, the Town fans after a pint. I met the lads in the pub, we drank and talked to Stoke fans who were also after a pre-match freshener. We compared Pulis and Mick, Nathan Jones and Paul Hurst. They were happy with Jones, despite the lack of results. "Yer went fer the wrong woon" said an older Potter, face flushed with the Guinness.

We made the game by 3pm, the seagulls having followed me from the school and now noisily wheeling around the burger vans. It was a poor game, punctuated by some poor passing by both teams. We neared half-time at stalemate, and just as I was thinking about chancing another pint from the infamous SBRL concourse, Knudsen and Bart got in a muddle and MaClean, the IRA sympathiser and poppy flouter, stole in to tap home unchallenged. "Yer f*cking idiot" screamed the bloke in front, though I'm not sure he knew who to blame.

Someone scored 25 points on the "Kick a ball at some badly cut out holes on a bit of canvas hung between the posts" game. I chatted to Luke. I denigrated Chalobah, to his clear irking. As though justifying my criticism, Trev than had a shocker in the second half. Luke's bet that he'd be a Prem regular in two seasons, well, let's just say I'm confident of winning the money.

I went on 86 mins. We looked as likely to score as John Merrick without his hat. As I wandered slowly as a cloud, avoiding the exodus from the Cobbold, I stopped as someone said "We got a corner!". I shlepped into the end of the Cobbold and watched amazed as Will Keane nodded us level. I nearly missed it.

No trains on the way home, so I boarded a coach to Manningtree and rang my beloved to make arrangements for Sunday lunch at mine. She accepted, intruiged at what sort of home I lived in. Probably thought I was squatting in some slum. We had a jolly nice day. She's gone now (work in the morning and it's a long drive back to where she lives). Tel wasn't working this morning, so I missed the forlorn damnation of our survival hopes. Mickey knows nowt about football. Still, least she's not marrying some snake-eyed West Ham fan. Or boasting to me she was the first to be invited.

Grateful for these small mercies sometimes.
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The Warky Report: Scum, Derby and all that jazz (a/h)
at 23:39 13 Feb 2019

Apologies for the other day. I had a belter of a report written, all about my Sunday down the pub with Tel, watching us lose to that lot. I'll reprise it here for your enjoyment.

Last Thursday, we had an epiphany. We were standing in the newsagents, watching an old boy walking his Scottish terrier, watching it sniff the bottom of the lamppost outside then casually cock its leg. "Wish I could get away wiv doin' that" muttered Tel. Seconds later, it started squatting. "I bet you wish you could do that as well" I remarked. Tel grunted. We watched it have a sh*t. I still don't know why. The old boy left it on the kerb and pulled the dog away. "Bleedin' marvlous, yer old codger. Just leave it there for me to sort, that's right, don't bovver scoopin' it". Then Tel said "Pass us one o'them East Anglians an' I'll cover it wiv that". Why he chose the EADT for this dubious honour is anyone's guess. Poor Stuart Watson copped a faceful of dogsh*t.

The epiphany struck me as I watched Tel shove the 'paper parcel' in the bin. This is what it's come to for Town. Good honest copy from Lambert, Skuse and Chambers used to clear up sh*t. And I knew from that very moment we'd get b*gger all at Carrow Road on the Sunday.

Saturday came, fairly spring-like compared to the cold we'd had recently. I had a stinking hangover. Tel and I went for a curry on the Friday night. We weren't supposed to. Mrs Tel wanted him home to sort out their tax returns. But we went. She dropped us, with only a bit of ill-grace that he'd defied her. "She wotches Eastenders an' Corrie an' all that palaver anyway, dunt need me there for gawd's sake". He salved his conscience further by reminding himself he'd booked a five star hotel as a treat on their trip to Marbella at the end of the month. "Cost a packet" he admitted, "But she's wurf evry penny". He ordered the beers and we sat at the table, eating poppadoms messily and eyeing our fellow diners. "Couple in the corner's 'avin' a bit on the side" remarked Tel as the poor couple in question locked eyes over their lamb bhunas. I thought they were just married and enjoying a night out without the kids, myself.

We got a bit drunk after that. Then we got even drunker. We ended up leaving the local pub at 1am and ordered a cab. Mrs Tel wouldn't have come to pick us up if we'd begged her, which was fair enough. "She'll be in bed by ten" drawled Tel, swaying as he stopped to squint as his mobile phone, looking for the cab number. The screen lit his face blue, making him look like a smurf version of Ian Dury. We'd ended the night on shots at his insistence. A tenner for 6, one was called a Rough Shag. It tasted like sweet dishwater. Tel did 18. No, he ORDERED 18, but then ended up giving six to me. They all tasted alike, a bit like when we used to have the Corona man delivering our pop in the early '80's and then couldn't tell lemonade from cherryade, except one was redder than a pillar box.

We staggered to the cab and he took me home first. Tel wound the window down and tried to kiss me. Fortunately, I was looking for a dropped quid at the time. He then loudly exclaimed "See yer Sundy, big boy, we'll 'ave some more fun then!" The cab driver gave me a sly wink and then puckered his lips and made kissing gestures. I was f*cking pleased I never tipped him.

Tel wasn't working Saturday. I wasn't surprised. He'd have had to have been superman to drink all that and still open up at 5.30am. I got in the shop at nine, guts groaning, head full of potholes, a bit queasy. I bought a paper and decided I needed a walk. So I had one. All round Shotley. Ended up at the Shipwreck at 4, where I chanced a pint of Ghost Ship and it stayed down, despite protest.

Sunday dawned with me in a better health, having stayed in on Saturday night to save a bit of dough. I was meeting Tel in the pub at eleven. He fancied their Sunday carvery after the match. We were taking three other blokes he knows, all West Ham fans, but handy in case any irate Spurs fans demanded the big telly for their match v Leicester.

The West Ham contingent (Boz, Jimmy and Leyton) stood at the bar as we got in, supping pints of Stella, watching some rubbish with that bloke who used to do Soccer AM. Boz is the only bloke I've ever met to have "MCAVENNIE" tattooed with one letter on each knuckle. Jimmy was in the ICF when he was a young man. Tel told me casually as we queued for our pints. He was six foot three and looked like he could do you serious harm if riled. He was as nice as pie. But then i bet they said that about the Krays.

The game started and we conceded. Tel choked on a dry-roasted peanut. "Bleedin' 'ell, aint even sipped me drink yet" he cried. The Hammers chortled. We played quite well after that, without ever troubling the goal. The punch-up at half time could've been the second Rumble in the Jungle, given the reaction by Tel and the Hammers. "Gorn Lambo, deck'im!" yelled Tel, as it all got a bit heated on the touchline. Jimmy said "Iss that beardy b*stard star'ed it, should smack 'im one for that". Farke winked. Tel said it reminded him of a flasher he'd known in Barking in the '70's. "Ole Billy Bobnotes" he told us. "Used ter flash at schoolgirls darn Essex Road". "Wot 'appened to 'im?" asked Jimmy. "Died - he was seven'ee when I was 16" said Tel. We sipped our pints.

Then the Spurs fans came in and said not to worry, they'd got the game on in the pool room and were playing a few frames in between chances. They too sniggered when they asked us the score. One even did a quiet "Goin' Down" refrain, til the Hammers trio glared at him. He quickly shut up and went back to watch his Wembley heroes.

We lost 3-0, but, surprisingly, played OK. It didn't feel as bad as, say, that 5-1 at our place under Jewell. Tel was happy. He'd had money on Norwich winning.

We ate lunch. It was OK. The apple pie'n'ice cream pud was the best bit. We then had a few more drinks, and then Mrs Tel met us in the car at 5.

So to tonight. I didn't go. Work and that. I was in London today and didn't get home until 7, then had to briefly nip round my parents' to pick up an occasional table my Mum didn't want any longer. It looks lovely in my lounge.

I watched on the ubiquitous red button and we deserved our fourth win tonight. Shame it never came. Like an ever decreasing circle, we wend our way downwards to Charlton and possibly Colchester next season. Never mind. Only a game.
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The Warky Report: Scum (a)
at 18:48 11 Feb 2019

Sorry, cocked it up and now can't be bothered. Wrote the whole thing and it won't post on an edit.

[Post edited 11 Feb 19:44]
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Apologies, report coming tonight
at 07:05 11 Feb 2019

Got a bit drunk with Tel yesterday.....
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The Warky Report: Sheffield Wednesday (h)
at 20:42 3 Feb 2019

I was woken by the Saturday morning radio playing "The Time is Now" by Moloko. I'm getting old. Not only did I not remember the song or who it was by, I didn't recall switching the radio on before I slept. Perhaps Town-supporting mice, bored of raiding my fridge for leftover lasagne, had recognised the half-truth for their footy team and switched it on at 6.30am so it could permeate that dream I was having about looking for a toilet in Kersey, accompanied by a sulking ex, mountain ranges visible in the distance?

Wearily I rose and turned it off, feet freezing on the bare wooden floor. I went for a piss and stood for a full five minutes as it trickled like a gentle stream, doing sumptuous raised-leg farts which warmed the gusset of my boxers. A coughing fit, a stumble in the dark downstairs, a stubbed toe, an angered shout of 'C*NT, a quick search for the keys to the french doors, out onto the patio in bare feet, the bitter wet of the lawn a shock. I creaked the metal chair back and sat, the damp soaking through my dressing gown. The birds were starting, the night lightening.

Coffee was soured by the lack of milk. The drop I had left smelled like when I scratch my arse in bed. It slithered down the plughole in the sink like a noisome creamy slug. Black coffee. Sipped with the same look of abject distaste I usually reserve for indigestion tinctures or Lemsip. I'd have to go to Tel's soon for a paper and some more milk. I ignored the shower and pulled on a pair of jogging pants and a jumper.

The shop was lit when I parked, but the lack of custom was reassuring. Tel stood behind the counter, his bifocals perched on his nose like pince-nez, reading something in the Mail. He effected surprise as I walked in, past the "nee-nah" sound that greets all punters to his establishment. I didn't even bother a quick sneak at the porn mags on his top shelf. Mainly 'cos I can't reach 'em.

"Blimey, wet the bed or summink?" he asked. He wouldn't have said 'sh*t' anyway, but it's the best known phrase. I grunted and went to the fridge for milk. He only had skimmed. "Where's your milk?" I asked. "Oh gawd, don't ask" he said, then "deliveries cummin' at 8, when Mickey's bin ter Asda for it. Won't be Asda milk though" added quickly, as if I was checking and might report him for selling unlicensed produce. "Nah, told 'er ter get that Craven stuff". Images of John Craven, in his brown and orange tank-top, squatting over a big white plastic bottle and grunting, filled my head.

He was actually reading the football bit in the EADT. "Big game terday" he said, half-mockingly. The Eighties radio station he keeps on in the back room, as though commandeered by the same mice in my house, began playing "The Only Way is Up" by Yazz. I wondered if I was still dreaming. Bad news if so. I'd surely pissed the bed for one thing.

Tel wittered on about formations and Lambert and new signings "'ardly stellar them" and then we got on to the holiday in Spain, through torturous references to "remember Pablo? Loved 'im I did. 'E'd be better than any of this rubbish they call a team these days. Oh by the way, free weeks til we're in Marbella, got loads ter do before it". Yazz faded and was replaced by "I'm going slightly mad" by Freddie Mercury. I paid for my Times and wished I still smoked.

Home via Asda, where I bought a two pinter and picked up some danish pastries and croissants, the put them back and picked up some bacon and a fresh loaf and some eggs instead. My (doubtless already sky-high) cholesterol levels groaned in my veins. But my hangover rejoiced. Two bottles of red wine and three large whiskies last night with friends. Then we found the tequila and the Cointreau and the rest of the vodka and someone nipped out for a bottle of Bacardi and we made potent Long Island Ice Teas. I nearly razzed in the taxi home.

The week was short and easy. Tel was absent on Monday, back grumbling on Tuesday ("startin' to 'ate this life again, I am" he snarled as I enquired if the pained look on his face was caused by sickness) and then full of the joys on Wednesday when he had a tax rebate of £560. "Blimmin' miricle tha'" he enthused, and proceeded to fill out the footy bet, "feelin' lucky terday". Thursday saw him back on form, ticking off Mickey in mock severity for failing to add twenty-eight and forty-nine successfully and then compounding her error by smoking out the back door and leaving it open. "Blinkin' ell, not only carn't yer do kids sums, yer determinned ter kill me wiv passif bleedin' smoke an'all".

By Friday he was back down sufficiently to be morose. "Carn't make drinkees ternight" he informed me with a hang-dog expression. "Me an' the wife's off ter see The Faverit at the pictures in Ipswich". He asked me what it was about, and I made up some rubbish about horse-racing to wind him up, knowing that he's never successfully sat through a period drama in his life. He only watched Pride and Prejudice because a regular told him it was the same actress as in The Camomile Lawn and she 'took 'er kit orf innit, lovely knockers she 'ad, bit like Jane Tompkins darn our road in Barkin' in the seven'ies'. Apologies Jane, if you're reading. Still, Tel never ''ad' you, so be grateful for small mercies.

So our drinks were off, and I made other arrangements and it cost a small fortune but was eminently successful. And Tel fixed me with a solemn eye and said "The Faverit weren't about 'orse racin'" but that he'd quite enjoyed it nonetheless. "Lesbos" he muttered under his breath as I cocked an eyebrow. Surely he wasn't changing to Greece this late in the day? "Nah, Lezzers, yer kna', Royal Fambly doin' the old tuppence lickin' stuff". The mind boggled. But he'd enjoyed it, sort of.

After the shock of the Saturday morning paper'n'milk run, the day improved. My bacon'n'egg'n'brown sauce sarnie stank the kitchen out and made me feel (and smell) grubby but was lovely. At eleven, and showered, dressed and smelling sweet, I made my way to Manningtree station for the train, half hopeful of a win to start the Great Escape, thirsty for ale and inconsequential chatter about normal stuff. The pub was rammed, and we found a table at the back. The ale flowed, then did the gin and the obligatory Disaronno, served in a dirty little glass and drunk quickly in case anyone else noticed.

I weaved to the ground, unfed (the bacon sarnie was repeating on me and the burgers were tainted as a result), then fed as I sneaked a burger at 2.55pm from the one in the little car park behind Sir Alf. I even managed to smuggle it in the ground, past the old boy on the turnstile, who checked my ST card with the perfunctory attention he normally gives to blowing his nose.

The Wednesday fans were full and in good voice in the pub earlier. In the ground, they were largely silent until they scored in the last minute. The game was very open up to then, and we more than matched them, although without troubling Westwood in their goal. Knowing we had bigger fish next Sunday, we stood anticipating a goal from the breaks we kept fashioning, but Quaner was hopeless as a lone striker and it was, frankly, a relief to see him pulled for Keane, who instantly made us look more menacing.

An honourable mention for Luke's girlfriend and her mates, who I was coerced to greet at half-time, declining their kind offers of Mini-Eggs and listening to embarrassed chat from Luke, acutely wary of my presence in his courtship, happily managing to refrain from lengthy tonsil-sucking snogs or indecent 'touches' as I stood by him, drunkenly nattering b*llocks. Nice to see you all. Hope you're all as enthused for League One come August.

I left when they scored, gutted, worried about Sunday and more humiliation on Sky in front of hordes of inbred piss-taking, sister-worrying heathens in yellow. Orks dressed in casual clobber and vomit shirts. Shots of Delia in her director's box, yellow and green scarf flapping, a smug smile on her lips as the sixth goes in, her mum a fossil dug from someone's cess-pit, not knowing where she is or what that noise is. That smug, complacent grin should be on our dressing room walls this week. That sound as hundreds of yokels invade their pitch and taunt us, the long-suffering, should fill the training pitches and the coach up. I want fight. I want respect. I want blood.

Plus I'm watching it in the pub with Tel. And if anyone's gonna take the piss, well........
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The Warky Report: Villa (a)
at 19:30 27 Jan 2019

The ticket had been bought by my (now former, sadly) colleague Andy, a man who has been with the Villa since his birth in 1975. He'd been a Junior Villain, which made him sound like he'd been out nicking from a young age and then been caught and chucked in Borstal. Expecting 'McVicar' like tales of cells, slop outs and psychotics, it was something of a let down to realise this was the Witton equivalent of the Junior Blues, with its mascot wannabes and its birthday cards 'from' Paul Mariner. Still, he got to meet Tony Morley once. He looked proud at this.

I'd not been back to the Brum office in 2 weeks and still haven't. My credit card shrugged and permitted me a night in 'otel, which I chose as Saturday night, from Trivago, which gave me a choice of fine establishments down the Hagley Road at £76 inc. breakfast. Reasoning it was just for a bed and some fried stuff in the morning, I ignored the '70's 'Crossroads' decor of the place and looked for Benny. He'd been replaced by Mohammed, a non-English understanding porter who reacted to my casual question about where breakfast was served like it was the £500k question on 'Millionaire' and he hadn't a clue. Still, he hung around for the tip, so I guess money is still the universal language.

More of the Villa away experience in a mo, though. Many read this column for Terry (which I acknowledge) and my erstwhile newsagent has been prolific this past week. First, he has finally rid himself of his brother-in-law; by a miracle his ex-wife Sandy has allowed him temporarily back to the marital home as he'd got work in nearby Rayne. "Issa miricle tha'" said Tel, in the tone of one marvelling at the Sphinx or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The cheerful two-fingered wave bye bye it wasn't but Tone was conspicuous by his absence at the Indian we had on Friday night.

The week began with cold and more cold. The mornings frosty enough to mean de-icer, the nights gloomy and cold and damp and dark. Tel had his shop windows cleaned by Findlay, a guy he's known for years whose actual first name is Roy but whom everyone calls by his surname, for reasons I never fathomed. Findlay was dressed for the arctic; his dirty old check shirt unbuttoned to show dirty sweatshirt and multi layered t-shirts beneath. Tel moaned that he put his prices up last year, but it never occurs to him to use anyone else. The windows were sudsy on Tuesday morning as I called in and there was a lack of effort outside. I went in to find Tel and Findlay drinking tea, he from one of the spare Cadburys Mini Egg mugs Tel kept last Easter when they didn't sell.

I was introduced, and then ignored. They were talking about Spain. Tel goes in three weeks, Findlay went in November. "Me son lives in Alicante" he told me, beaming. "'E's made 'is money aint'ee?" put in Terry, and then for my benefit "Findlay's son used ter work in 'igh Finance fer Santander (pronounced like Ant and Dec) and he moved there in 2011". "Made a bleedin' killin' 'e did" said Findlay proudly. "Gort one'er'them big 'ouses on the seafront, spic missus and two kids, luvly area 'e lives in, all the tapas bars'n' posh rest'rants. Load'er Brits in Alicante, so yer never feel lost fer company in the bars". "Course" he added in an undertone, "Ah don' speak the lingo, me, can say Ohla'n'that but yer need a few English to talk to".

He drained his mug and left it on the counter and wiped his mouth with the back of a grimy-looking hand. "Well, on wiv the cleanin'" and nodded a farewell to me. I stood chatting with Tel and heard an old van trying to start, the engine not catching a few times, before it suddenly went and off drove Tel's window cleaner, ladders on the roof rack, sign on the side peeling a bit. It said "_Indla_s Windo_s Har_ich". Tel smiled. "'E's 'ad that van twelve years, no wonder it looks a bit knackered, dunno 'ow 'e affords free trips to Spain a year. Fink 'e does backy runs fer mates, still, gotta luv 'im". I could still hear the van as it pulled away.

The rest of the week was a blur of work and Mickey in the shop. Tel was off Wednesday and stayed out the back on Thursday, emerging like Dracula into the light of the shop to hand me the football bet and make sure I knew we were meeting at 7.30 at the Indian on Friday. "Jers' in case I'm called away termorra, never knaa what the missus might want me ter do". In the event he was there on Friday morning so we had a chat and he had a sausage and egg bap with his tea, the tomato ketchup riding the egg yolk as it slowly drooled from the edges. He mentioned that he might be seeing his bank manager later as the investment account he's using for the money he made on the sale of his father-in-law's property was starting to accrue interest and the bank want him to open something else to pay it into. "Don' really unnerstand it" he admitted, then dismissed it with a roll of his eyes and a smile which said "Nice problem to have innit?"

We met again at 7.45 that evening. I was late as I walked to save money and misjudged how long the walk was. I found him comfortably installed at the table, sipping Cobra and eating poppadoms. "Where you been?" he demanded, a bit put out. "My cab was late, sorry" I muttered, taking my coat off, trying to hide the rosy-cheeked glow that belied the walk.

We ordered another two beers and some more poppadoms, this time with the silver chutneys'n'raw onion server they bring. Tel mumped onions and mango chutney on a whole poppadom and spread it carefully with the spoon, as though buttering toast. He left broken bits on the cloth, which reminded me of old Pathe films of WW2 desert assault, their sandy coloured fragments and the pools of spilt lime pickle adding a macabre touch to the likeness. We had lamb tikka chops and chicken madras and no rice but two keema naans. And Bombay Spuds, which looked well roasted and very spicy. And were. My bedtime burps tasted of them.

Tel spoke about Mrs Tel "She's fine, lookin' forward ter the 'oliday, got 'er check up next week" and Mickey "fank gawd she's back at work, she's a diamond" and the FA Cup "Innit Arsenal-Man Yoo ternight? Eat up an' we'll watch the secon' arf darn the pub". So we did that, and Tel punched the air as the fifty quid of our dosh he'd had on United to win came true. It more than paid for the evening.......

Villa. I was up at 7.20 on Saturday, fingers still strangely yellow from the Bombay Potatoes, looking for my overnight bag and stuffing it with sweatshirts and a spare pair of jeans and my washbag. I left at 8.15, the shower diminishing the yellow stains on my fingers to that of a lemony tinge. I stopped at Kettering services for a poo, the smell clearly too much for the bloke in the cubicle next door, who I clearly heard mutter "F*ckin' nora". Perhaps I should give curry a rest for a while?

Birmingham was bright and cold. I checked into 'Crossroads' and dumped my bag, then had another sh*t in their toilets near reception, this time using the disabled bog to avoid onsmellers. I texted Andy and he replied to catch a 54 bus to the pub, which confused me until I found the right bus stop and the kindly Brummie driver promised to let me know when we reached it. Then came a protracted 30 minute drive around Birmingham, past derelict housing and mean-looking terraces until I was convinced he'd got folk waiting for me in some wasteland to nick my £60 and my i-phone and give me a good kicking into the bargain. But then we rounded a corner and there was the pub, nice and new looking, with Andy waiting outside, smoking a Superkings and looking intently at his phone, his Villa top discernable at the bottom of his coat.

"Alroight mate?" he greeted me and led me into the pub to a corner table where other colleagues Ben and Walshy sat nursing lagers. They were clad in Villa tops over Gap hoodies. They immediately took the piss about Ipswich ("bloody 'ell, wass 'appened ter your lot?" "Three well-easy points terday for us" "Enjoy Walsall next season, son, p'raps we'll meet oop again before it?"). We drank and laughed and bantered and cursed Hurst and Evans, Bruce and Dr No, or whatever their owner's name is.

We ate burgers. They were good burgers. Everyone's trying to be the new 'edgy' burger kitchen, I noticed. These came with gherkins and a sour cream sauce and tomato and lettuce and cheese and jalapeno's. We drank more beers. They ordered shots of vanilla flavour vodka and we drank these. "It's a tradition" said Andy. "We always win when we've been on the vanilla voddies". I crossed my fingers and hoped.

We went to the game. The Holte End was three quarters full, and we were sat near the left hand side as we looked at the pitch. The teams came out. We clapped, and the chant of "Villa, Villa" poured from those around me. We were wearing blue shorts. The first half was dreadful, full of misplaced passes and Villa pressure. Sears kept coming back to help the defence, meaning we had little threat up top when we cleared it. Abraham scored a fortuitous goal and we went in 1-0 down. "Can see why yer stroogling" said Andy. "No pace in tha' lot, we'ze 'ardly any better but we've got classier players". I sat and agreed and we went for a half-time pint. The concourse was murder but we got served quickly. A lesson for SBRL caterers, that.

Second half we improved as it went on. Freddie should've had a penalty. He scored a cracker. They were given a soft penno when Judge moved off their midfielder and he fell like a Jenga stack. I liked Alan Judge. He's the player I wish Flynn Downes could become. Chalobah, who'd done nowt before it, hit the post with a flick of his leg. I ooed, and was told to "Fck off" by the hardcase-looking Villain in front of me, who'd clocked I was Ipswich when I didn't move for their goals. It petered out, and we'd lost again. Still, better game than of late and no relentless pressure like the Rotherham one. We're slowly improving.

We went back to the pub we left and found the same table free. It was mainly empty from 6ish onwards. At 8, we got a cab back into the City and went for a pint of proper beer at Bennett's on the Hill. Then we went for an ATM and ended up in Grapes in the City Centre. I got back at 2am, in a cab as there were loads of panhandlers on the streets and it was cold. The cabbie asked if I'd come for something special and I told him. He snorted. He was a Bluenose. He thought we'd do the Villa sh*te today. He hoped we would, anyway. He charged me a fiver for the trip, which was cheaper than the bus, and smiled as I got out and chucked him a two pound coin as a tip. "Cheers mate, yer goin' down by the way I'm afraid, but yer'll storm that League One. We've been there. I enjoyed it. Big team in a little league'n that". He drove off.

Benny wasn't there to meet me, but Miss Diane was. And she told me where breakfast would be served. "6.30 to noine, mind" she added, noting my intoxication. "Groovy" I think I said. Groovy. Just to reiterate that, at heart, we're all living in the past, us Ipswich-ites.
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The Warky Report: Blackburn Rovers (a)
at 15:04 20 Jan 2019

"D'yer know" said Terry, his hands warming around a mug of tea, the steam rising from the rim like a sorceror's enchantment, "ah reckon ah've sold ten million papers since I've been 'ere in 1985?" He let the words sink in. "Ten millyon papers" he repeated, a toothy grin belying his cunning in bothering to work this out. I didn't know whether to sound impressed or not. In the end, I played it safe and said 'Mmmmm?'.

The mornings are chilly and dark and the rimes of frost made the pavements glitter. The win over Rotherham already seemed distant, like I'd watched it a century ago. We were moving, inexorably, towards the next game, with entreaties by Lambert in the papers and the signing of Alan Judge, a player whose career we nearly wrecked with a Luke Hyam tackle back when we were starting to be sh*t. I'd give anything just to be that sh*t again. It's transgressed to 'utterly hopeless' since.

In addition to useless speculation on the amount of newsprint he's sold in 34 years of early mornings, Tel also gave me the 'benefit' of his ham psychology on the people he's served it to. He did this by grouping them into the products they bought; Sun readers were "salt of the earf, bit stoopid, voted for Brexit, Tory supporters, like comfort eating, all ages but mainly workmen, over fifties, people 'oo wanna read a paper wivout 'aving to fold the bleeder". Mirror readers were " old Labour supporters, fevvered their own nests when the GLC came to power, over sixties, mostly old wimmin and retired dockers darn the East End, workin' people, 'ate the Tories but can't vote fer that Corbyn". He was ungenerous about those who read the Daily Star ("can't unnerstand The Sun, labourers on sites, like a pair of knockers wiv their news. Iss the most unsold papers I 'ave left, the Star") and more ungenerous about Guardian readers (work in local government, like to fink they're still big noos, modern lefties who live in big 'ouses and complain a lot abart the neighbours). I read the Times. He didn't bother with me. Or Telegraph readers. He just snorted and said "You aint middle-class yet bruvver". Mail readers were his favourite. "Knar where yer are wivvem. Honest, straightforward people wiv 'earts of gold". Terry doesn't take a paper 'cos he reads them all anyway, but he'd be a Mail reader if he did, he told me proudly.

He suddenly remembered his bacon bap and reached for another bite, eyes on me to gauge my reactions to this brilliant insight. Instead, i handed him the football quickslip and he rolled his eyes as he chewed, then swallowed and spat little flecks back at me as he said "I come up wiv genyus bits an' all you can fink of is the footy bet". Then he went into the back room for his pen, muttering "Chelsea won't beat Arsenal anyhow", acknowledging my first forays on 'my line' of the slip.

Work was easier. I went to London on Wednesday, drove to Newbury Park and got the Central line into Farringdon. The office, a modern mess of glass and perspex and concrete, was jammed with desks and computers, but light on staff at 8.20am. Then they trickled in, clutching reusable coffee cups and with Apple pods in ears and multi-coloured scarfs under black wool coats. My department, a mix of budgeting teams and IT, all seemingly had season tickets to Costa along with their Oyster cards. We had a meeting. They eyed the boy from the provinces with wary charm. Someone spread a rumour last week that the Birmingham office contained all the people who did redundancies, and I could see the beginnings of fear as I was introduced. I didn't say much to disprove it. Keeps 'em on their toes.

I was in Colchester the rest of the week, nice and early, savouring the short drive and the luxury of being home by five pm. I'm one of three other managers there so life is relaxed, although we eye the telephone with disfavour and are wary of our emails.

Tel was in a mood on Thursday. A late opening the day before (Mickey was sick with the flu, although Tel was adamant it was just a cold) meant that he lost out on the early commuter crowd but made it in time for the last knockings of the school run. He was alone on Thursday and Friday, although Kaylee was due in to help over the weekend. "Bleedin' cost me, that 'as" he said as I picked up the Times on Thursday morning. I sympathised and said conciliatory things like "Lot of it going about" and "time of year", but he just growled and carried on sorting the Suns. He hadn't had time for a bap or a tea, so I went for him. He was grateful. The ladies in the bakery wanted a chat, which I did but then noticed it was getting on for eight, so I paid them and wished them well. The bap was out the bag and in his gob the minute it touched the counter.

We weren't meeting on Friday night as I'd made arrangements to see some friends in Ipswich, so the pub night went for a burton. We've agreed to do the Indian again next Friday. My evening was all the poorer for the lack of Tel, but I soon got over it. It was nice to be allowed to get a word in edgeways once in a while.

Yesterday I had a day out with my dad, as my mum went on a coach trip to London to see a matinee with friends. We went to Coes for some new shirts for him, then on to Martlesham for M&S and then down the pub. The Bull in Brantham, to be exact. Great place. The owner, Paul, is a mad Town fan, and has Town paraphernalia up the walls. He also does Asahi on draft, and the best bowl of fries I've ever had in my life (and I've had many, as those of you who know me can attest). Good food, good beer and good views of the Stour. What more could you ask for? Anyway, that's my Trip Advisor bit done.

Dad was encouraging about the Town's plight; he reads the EADT regularly so is up to date on who and what we have and do. Tel would've called him a 'melancholic local who desperately wants to deny that London is encroaching on his East Anglian idyll". No he wouldn't. He forgot the EADT. Like he forgot the Express.

Anyway, we went home and I turned on the Sky Sports thing and it was 0-0 and Dad said 'great stuff, get a nil-nil there' and then seconds later they had a penalty, and then minutes later we were back with Ugly Ian Dowie and it was 2-0, and Dad raised an eyebrow and exhaled deeply, his sympathies lying with his son who said, merely, "Oh well...." and carried on pouring the whiskies we had with our afternoon coffee. And we raised a toast to better times and drank. And I cooked Dad his dinner and he helped me fix a shelf in my living room, and we watched the Arsenal game together and we ate in my dining room and talked about memories of Ipswich Town FC and why we felt Paul Lambert was the right man to get us back to some kind of equilibrium.

And Dad got his taxi so he could get home to mum before Match of the Day, and he said 'it's only one game, boy, there'll be plenty more twists and turns before it ends" and we hugged and he went. But it's always been 'one game'. It's winning the b*ggers that matters. And I'm off to Villa with a load of Villains next Saturday. What hopes? I do. I don't want them crowing all round me again.
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The Warky Report: Rotherham (h)
at 18:35 13 Jan 2019

Grey all around. The Xmas cheer taken down until next December, the '1984' dystopia and gloom descending on the bungalows and semi-detached's round my way. House lights sparked at four pm, reflecting on roads and shiny streets, dappling warmth onto the canvas where all else was ink and bare branches.

Still, despite the gloom, we won! More in a minute......

Terry's shop reminds me of the closing credits of 'Open All Hours' in the early dark morns. I sometimes expect to see him outside, ruminating aloud on life's misadventures as he cleans a window or puts out the advertising hording for Walls ice cream, a rusty, optimistic ad for something no-one wants. He'd get on well with Dolly in that respect.

He'd run out of festive cheer last week and was back to his seasonal affective disordered normality on Monday, a wraith dressed in comfy shirt and ageing Levis. His counter was awash with plastic tape from the paper deliveries; his back room a hive of grubby-fingered activity as Mickey checked 'em in and sorted 'em. I picked up the Times and some milk, and he snickered about our cup defeat at Accrington, although he blustered more the previous Sunday. He complained about the way I'd done my tie ("'ave yer tried a Win-zer knot before? Well tha' just looks like we used ter wear 'em at school in the Seven'ies") and he moaned when Mickey went for a fag ("yer blowin' that in, shut the door for gawd's sake") and he moaned about his luck and his life and his Coke machine.

He was better on Tuesday. A regular had come in and, knowing he was a sucker for a bargain, had sold him two Medium cashmere jumpers he'd got from relatives for Xmas but couldn't fit into. "Twenty quid for two an' both M&S" he bragged as he showed me them, folded neatly into a Morrison's bag for life. He took one out and put it on to prove it fitted. It made him look good, the dark blue with his jeans and his Ben Sherman checked shirt. "Aint wearin' 'em 'ere" he said and he took it off again without giving me the benefit of seeing what the other one looked like. His midriff looked like he'd stuffed a balding Gnasher from the Beano down his trouser top.

We spent the week arguing about football results for the Saturday bet and making arrangements to meet at our favourite Indian, the Mogul, on Friday night. This involved Mrs Tel driving us and picking us up again. I asked why she didn't just join us. "'Ates Indyun, the wife" sniffed Tel. "She won't even eat a korma". I offered petrol money but he waved it away. "I can afford it" he said with a smile.

I caught a cold on Thursday. It started, as all colds do, with the vague feeling of muzziness, turned into a slightly snotty nose and then I woke in the early hours of Friday shivering in bed. Having taken two paracetamol and slept, I woke knackered and cold at 5am and decided I'd better go to Birmingham anyway. This was an omen of good fortune, as I've just been told that I'm temporarily being given London and Colchester to cover until the end of March. So no more long drives! And London only one day a week!

I told Tel as we met on Friday evening, in the car as Mrs Tel drove us into Manningtree, avoiding pot holes and limping along at 40mph until Tel said, pointedly, "The accel'rators the pedal on the right, luv". She smiled at this and put two fingers up at him, so we avoided having to walk home later. She couldn't drop us right outside so Tel got her to drop us near the pub and we went and had a couple to stimulate our appetites. Tel waved her bye as she drove off. "Notice she's drivin' 'ome quicker than she did coming?She's prob'ly 'avin' an affair". He grinned at me. "Pity the poor sod if she is; she 'ates missin' Eastenders and Corrie".

We drank our drinks and he told me about his forthcoming Spanish sojourn, ten days in Marbella at the same five star hotel they did last year, only "Ah got a discount an' we're only payin' fer seven nights 'cos we dun't like all incloosive" The trip happens on Friday 8th February; I've got a week off from that Friday and am taking him to Stansted. I offered, before you ask. Tony had work and the local taxi firm have fallen out with Tel after he stopped delivering their free local papers. "Ain't got the paperboys any more" he said, with a trace of relish. It'll be ten days of sun, sangria and steaks, although Tel will probably settle for the local beer.

Our curry was lovely. I had a mixed kebab starter, chicken vindaloo and cauliflower bhaji main, and we ordered enough sides and breads to feed half the restaurant. Tel ate all of his lamb keema naan and his King Prawn Jalfrezi without getting any on the tablecloth, a feat that should have earned him a standing ovation from the waiters, looking around at other diners' tables which resembled a bad roadkill day on the A14. We paid and went back down the pub for brandies, then rang Mrs Tel at 11, who was on her way anyway. I felt guilty and bought her a bunch of flowers in Marks on Saturday morning to say thanks.

Tel didn't fancy the game. "Too much ter do, matey, sorry an' all that but I gave Mickey the weekend off so she could go to Westfield Saturday mornin'. She's meetin' Paula an' Blake, 'e's off ter the West 'Am game". So Blake's a hammer. Another good reason to hate him.

In the end, I waited on a blustery cold grey mid-day platform at Manningtree for the 12.12 train, joining friends for a drink in The Cricketers, then trying Yates' when it got too busy and finishing lunch with 2-4-1 cocktails. The walk to the ground was punctuated with repeated grumbles about 'needin' a jimmy' and a very quick on at The Curve Bar, a Grouse apiece to keep out the cold. We finally made it at three as the players came out and Section 5 were warming up with a quick chorus of the "Won the League in '62"song. Rotherham clad in a strange yellow and blue away kit. Their fans were in the pub saying this would be their first away win. "Spoke too soon" I thought, and I was right.

Everything went right on the pitch first half. We looked sharp, had some great movement and the new signings gelled. Keane's finish sent us into raptures; the first time a Keane has done that here ever. One of the half-time competitors even got the ball through one of the holes in that canvas thingy they put over the goal. Second half, all I remember is Rotherham attacks and desperate defending. It sort of angered me. Rotherham. We should be piddling all over teams like that. It's a confidence thing, clearly.

We held on and celebrated, Paul Lambert doing a better fist pump than Chambers as he clapped us. Perhaps he's the future? Perhaps this'll be the brand new dawn? Who knows? It felt good to finally be exiting the ground having watched us win an admittedly poor game when our opposition arguably deserved a point. It doesn't happen often. But it cheered my grey weekend. See you for the Villa game?
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“Skuse, Huws, Young Elder too, Collins, Quaner and Keane”
at 17:21 10 Jan 2019

The potential line up for Rotherham has a very ‘Trumpton’ feel about it......
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The Warky Report: Accrington FACR3 (a)
at 18:17 5 Jan 2019

It probably wasn't the best idea to affix fairy lights to a Coke fridge using Gorilla glue.

After swearing at it, then trying to 'wash' them off with a red bucket full of lukewarm water with a bit of Fairy in it, to swearing at it again ("Cow Son" was a new one on me; Tel doesn't like using F or C and even the odd 'bastard' is rarer than people who still buy The Daily Sport) and then scooting off to B&Q for a few hours and coming back with wallpaper scrapers and a big bottle of white spirit, still the glue resisted. When I came into the shop this morning, he sported the smile of a man who has grimly achieved success against all odds. Trouble is, success, as is often the case, came at a price. This one was the removal of patches of the red Coke colours on the plastic, giving the fridge the look of suffering psoriasis, as the white plastic covering gleamed through in several places.

Still, this was the least of his problems this week. No more curry nights down the local came as a shock last night; the chef, a Sri Lankan who went home for Xmas has contacted Jamie the Landlord to let him know she's decided to stay there for 'a few months' to look after her father. With no imminent likelihood of a replacement, it's back to the regular menu of pies, deep-fried fish, the occasional steak, the microwaved chicken curry that no-one ever orders (and worse, fails to eat when they do) and sundry chicken drumsticks coated in sauce that looks like it flowed through Mars prior to landing in North Essex.

"I know someone who'd take over" I said confidently, and then thought of messaging J2. The egg Vindaloo would surely be worth the admittance on it's own? But then sense prevailed and we decided to do two weeks at the pub and two at the nearest Indian. Tel's aghast and upset. This was worse than anything, even his brother-in-law asking Mrs Tel if she wouldn't mind him staying for another two months so the builders can decorate his new house.

Yep, Tel's got Tony for two more months, an alliteration which he spat at me on Friday morning, shortly after he discovered that his assistants had used super glue to stick the fairy lights on his fridge. Still, it's not the end of the world. "'E's 'ardly ever there, over at Braintree most'o'the time, it's not a worldie. Never bleedin' asked me though" (quietly to himself). Tony's come in very handy for finishing off the Xmas booze, and has insured Mrs Tel to drive his Merc when needed, so he's doing his bit. "Bit being the op'rative word" said Tel. Then he shouted at the fairy lights stuck on his Coke fridge again.

We've hit hard times in the footy bet. We watched the Man City v Liverpool game at mine on Thursday, Tel appearing with his unopened polypin of San Miguel and a big bag of dry roasted. We were on Liverpool in quite a big way, £100 to be precise, with Mane to score the first, Liverpool to win 2-0, 2-1, 3-1 or 3-2 and every combination of bet using corners and fouls you could think of. Sadly, only three of these came off, winning us an exciting £17.66 all in all. Tel blamed Guardiola. "'E aint playin' the game, that Gardila" he muttered as City scored and then won it. We had Salah to score at any time at 7/4 (£25) and Tel thought Firmino could've squared it. Ho hum.

The FA Cup third round was another opportunity, only Tel saw upsets everywhere, so we had Southampton, Everton and Chelsea crashing out, yet ignored Accrington Stanley and Gillingham. "I 'ate the FA Cup" said Tel with feeling. He'd forgotten to put the FA Cup special pullouts in today's Sun, so visions of him being inundated with irate punters this morning made me smile. He forgot to put money wallets in the Sun when they did a 'win a fiver' promotion a few years ago and still trembles at the memory of long queues of people accusing him of nicking them.

Apart from all this, he's fine. Mrs Tel is also fine (she was shopping at Freeport with Tony's ex and the kids today). Mickey and Kaylee seemed fine on Thursday morning when I last saw them (before the super glue incident). Mickey, I didn't know, is related to Paula's boyfriend Blake (thank gawd I didn't go and say something nasty to her about him) and they're cousins or something. Kaylee is looking for a new job in Asda in Dovercourt. Both girls stood and chatted as the shop was empty; then they decided to go and have a fag and stood by the back door puffing clouds and laughing. I waved my farewell and went for the car.

Tel's got a hospital appointment next Thursday ("Nuffing much, just a check up and do a wee in a bottle, that sorta fing"). He showed me the sample bottle and wondered aloud how he got his cock in the little hole. That was this morning. Fortunately, there were no onlookers.

And that's it. I'd report on the match, but, let's face it, there's no point. Good luck to Accrington in Round 4. We'll concentrate on losing in the league instead. See you next Saturday for the Rotherham game. Sigh. It's hard to motivate yourself for, innit?
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The Warky Report: New Year, Tel and Millwall (h)
at 21:27 1 Jan 2019

Happy New Year to everyone on here!

Unseasonably warm days spent idling amongst the greener sites in Essex/Suffolk have been harshly replaced with 'getting back to work'. My suits lay at the dry cleaners from Saturday 22nd December. They were picked up on Sunday 30th, clad in plastic wrappers, smelling of chemicals and not of crotches. I've washed and ironed five shirts, forgetting it's not Saturday today. Work looms like Steve Morison at a soft Millwall free-kick. I can't get pissed again tonight. Not that I want to, but it's nice to have the option.

Christmas done and packed away for another year. Tel spent yesterday removing all the fairy lights in the shop, winding them round empty toilet rolls till they resembled sticks of withered sprouts. "I ain't one fer Noo Year" he repeated as he did the footy bet yesterday morning. "'Ate it if I'm 'onest, loadsa stoopid people getting 'ammered in expensif boozers....." He paused to berate Mickey and Kaylee under his breath as he noticed he'd smashed a lot of the lightbulbs in the twinkly lights he bought in B&Q cheap. "Sod it" he muttered and chucked the whole string in the bin.

I'd thanked him profusely for his Xmas party so often that it bored me. He still found minor scandals to gossip about; things that mainly happened (conveniently) after I'd left. It seems all the minor players, including his neighbours and the bakery two, and me, had missed a veritable orgy of drunkenness and dissolution not seen since it was painted by Hogarth. "That Blake" said Tel, half admiringly, "'e got blotto on the red we opened and tried lighting 'is farts". I admired that as well. Last time I got blotto on red wine, I got the sh*ts shortly after. Imagine trying to light that?

It seems that Blake is 'orlright' in Tel's book, despite attempted demonstrations of combustible flatus. He and Paula have been back to take Mrs Tel some flowers after Xmas, they stayed to help clear up after the party, she gave Mrs Tel a huge bottle of Anais Anais and bought Tel a polypin of San Miguel. He waffled on about how proud he was of Paula getting so far and 'turnin' 'er life ararnd'. He respects Blake for his work ethic (apparently, he's a ground worker for some fencing company) and his manners. He hasn't seen the shark look in his eyes yet. I don't think he'd be bothered if he did.

The post-Xmas Friday night curry was cancelled as the Sri Lankan chef at the pub has gone home to Bogota for a few days, so we were back to good old overcooked veg and everything with chips. We met on Friday afternoon, as the sky was turning into night, for a few jars and a natter. Tony joined us, now back from the marital home where he'd enjoyed separate bedrooms and his son locking himself in his room in protest at the divorce all over Christmas. "Bought 'im some PS4 games and a new Gucci hoodie and tha's the thanks I got. Still, he came down when we 'ad lunch and for a drop o' me lager". Tony wants to take the kids to Spain for half-term in February. He and Tel decided on Valencia. "There'll be loads to do there" said Tel, the spittle-legged, pasty Judith Chalmers of the boozer.

We had steak. I asked for rare and got medium. Tel asked for medium and got grey. Still, he was happy with that. We then drank too much, joined in the karaoke in the back room (Enola Gay by OMD and then, because it was easy to mangle without too many noticing and Tel and Tony knew the words, Pretty Vacant by the Sex Pistols) and ended up departing at closing, boisterously singing the full words to "Frigging in the Rigging" and stopping for a 'quick jimmy' at the most inopportune places, like in the gutter of roads and in litter bins as folk walked past. Tel and Tony parted with me at his bungalow, a light in the porch showing Mrs Tel was in bed, Tel 'shushing' us and flobbing over us as he did it, then not being able to get his key in the door and loudly moaning to Tony "Iss the wrong bleedin' 'arse". Neighbours' curtains twitched. I b*ggered off sharpish.

So that was Christmas. New Year was spent at a friend's fancy dress party. I went as Rod Stewart, but people accused me of coming as Jimmy Saville so I took it off before I got lynched. We drank and laughed and watched Jools Holland count down the last seconds of 2018.

I had a bad head this morning. I didn't fancy the footy. Tel was in the shop at 8am, putting the final touches to his spring clean, clad in one of Mrs Tel's less floral pinnies and a pair of yellow marigolds. The Coke fridge got a good going over. He knew I was Ipswich bound, and he sympathised and hoped it'd be better than of late. It must be serious if even he's stopped taking the piss out of it. I asked him if he fancied coming with me and he looked momentarily alarmed and then said "Nah, too much ter do, fanks for the offer though". He was meeting Paula and Blake in the pub when he closed at two. I felt a twinge of envy. Then I remembered it was Blake and was glad I was going to the game.

No buses, so I panted down to the pub, had a few pints and a bite, sat consoling gloomy mates who had hangovers and had agreed to come and watch. They were even gloomier on the train home.

We scored early. Big mistake number one. Then we didn't score again despite dominating the first half. Another big mistake. Then they brought on Morison, and our defence decided it didn't fancy 45 minutes of direct running, flailing elbows and being outjumped, and we bottled it. Chalobah, our brightest spark, went off. Lankester, who'd looked like a slight Messi, suddenly didn't and that was it. I'd left before the Jackson consoler on 89. It just stank of relegation, of hopes dashed and good play soured. It was like watching a team low on confidence and ability and finesse compete against neanderthals who kicked anything that moved and got the breaks. The ref was singled out, and yes he was poor, but we just let them have it.

Their fans on the train home slapped each other on the backs. It must have made a nice change from opposition fans' faces. The consolation was knowing they'd take hours to get back to London, with 'coaches from Shenfield'. My season ticket is in disgrace. I might offer it to Tel. To take the crud off the bottom of his milk fridge.

Happy New Year, as I said at the start. Let's hope 2019 sees an upturn in Marcus' cheque book.
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The Warky Report; Xmas Eve (a)
at 22:58 25 Dec 2018

Merry Christmas to you all.

The walk along Frinton beach yesterday morning was cool and clear, the tide ebbing until it lapped the sand in lazy foam. Dog walkers left their footprints and used funny plastic ball chuckers to throw balls for excitable Labs to chase and worry. Those dogs who braved the sea came out with coats like a teenager's gelled hair at a disco. The gulls shrieked and wobbled as they stood in rebellious groups; teddy boys in white looking for a dropped chip or a dead crab.

I breathed in the air with lungs renewed by ten months of non-smoking, the salt on my lips a welcome addition to the dregs of the coffee I drank for breakfast. I should do this every day. It sharpens the appetite and gets me in a good mood.

I drove back via Terry's shop for a paper and a chat. It was his party last night. I needed to know what to bring. "Yerself" he said with a grin. "Nah, strate up, we got lager, red wine, brandy, whisky, tequila, white wine, bitter and gin. Then we got loadsa bottles of that Presecko stuff an' the wife's got 'er Baileys for later" He counted them off on his forearm using the forefinger of his left hand. "Ah weren't gonna invite Mickey and Kaylee; they smoke and they were going out anyway, but they might be by later". He grimaced at the word 'smoke', as if they'd got Ebola.

Paper bought and time agreed to be round the Terry's ("make it seven then you can 'elp me pick up the chinky. We're gonna order from the Noo Dragon in Manningtree. 'Undred quids werf, no chow mein") I went home and rang my mum, agreeing, stupidly, to be ready to be picked up by my dad at 8am on Christmas Day. He likes early. We can get a walk in before church at 10.30, then it's home for champagne and breakfast, followed by pressies and more champagne, before we all fall asleep in front of the Bond film. Except this year there's no Bond film. It's not natural, a Christmas Day without Roger Moore's cocked eyebrow or Sean Connery in a pastel blue shirt and shorts combo. You can fall asleep without any feeling that you've missed something.

But that was today. This is yesterday. I didn't do much. I wrapped pressies into odd shapes, swearing at them from time to time, a bottle of red open at my elbow for support. Then I watched "Bad Santa" on Sky. Then I did the crossword in the Telegraph and all the Sudokus. Then, at two, I had a stroll to the local and had a few pints chatting to Jamie the landlord, him telling me a story about one of his other regulars who'd taken a call on his mobile from (what he assumed to be) the wife asking him where he was and ordering him home. "Poor sod hadn't even drunk the first inch of his pint" said Jamie, shaking his head. Like me, Jamie is divorced and in no rush to get back on the market. Things like this keep us resolutely single. I mean, sure, you miss the company and the odd bit of sex, but you gain more in the long run. That's my excuse.

I got to Terry's just after seven. My cab was late. The driver spent the journey telling me about his sister-in-law in Epping, The wife wanted him to drive over there at five in the morning to pick her and the kids up. "Not ma fort she's on her own is it?" he asked. "Shunt 'ave divorced 'im last July - 'er wiv free kids'n'all. Gonna 'ave me 'owse bleedin' overrun tomarra; we've got two ourselves, plus me mum and 'er mum" This lasted til he dropped me, winked, said "eighteen notes please guv" and accepted the two pound tip as his birthright. He sped off and I turned round to find myself face-to-face with Tel.

"Turned up at last then?" he said, rhetorically as, unless there was a strangely fat apparition that haunted his drive and looked a bit like me, I had indeed 'turned up'. "Ah'm about ter order the chink, anyfing yer fancy 'ave a look on the menyoo and let us know". I followed him inside, wiping my feet, noting that he took his shoes off but ignoring it.

The menu was long and he'd forgotten the crispy chilli beef. So I rectified that, and he ordered two. He then ran down the list of other foods he'd added; sweet and sour pork balls, five lots of special fried rice, sticky chilli chicken, Kung Po prawns....on and on it went until I thought it might've been easier just to tell the woman serving to cook three of everything and leave it at that. I asked who else was coming and he smiled and said "neighbours, a few shop regulars, Paula and her new bloke, Chris and Daff from the bakers, Phil and Carol from the pub, you....." he paused and looked hopefully at Mrs Tel, hovering in the doorway with a lager for me. "Oh" she said. "Phil and Carol from the pub". "Said them" said Tel, irritably. "Wot about Des and Joan next door?". "Said them n'all" he added dismissively. "No you didn't!" I rejoined. "Well, I sed neighbours din't I? And last time I looked, they were our neighbours".

I eventually got my beer. And a kiss from Mrs Tel, who smelt of Chloe and Baileys. It sort of intermingled. "'Ad 'er 'air done Sat'day, cost seventy notes" said Tel, proudly. It didn't look any different, but I admired it anyway. We moved to the front room, me clutching my lager, slipping my shoes off to avoid covering their cream carpet in wet marks. We sat chatting, him looking at his watch constantly, timing when to make the call. He eventually went off to get the phone and came back ten minutes later with the news it'd take an hour and they'd deliver it.

Other people arrived. The neighbours, him jocular and wearing a Xmas jumper, her immaculate and gossipy, joining Mrs Tel in the kitchen where they both chatted excitedly, shrieking with laughter occasionally like the seagulls on the beach that morning. Tel, Des the neighbour and I sat in the front room sipping lager from glasses and talking about Brexit. "Ah voted for it" said Des, quietly, apologetically. "So'd I" said Tel. He relaxed, on firmer ground. "It was them Africans coming over wot decided me" said Des, an anxious look at the door in case a few Guardian readers might have heard him. "Aint right is it? I mean, me and the missus love a bit of the Italian coast. Every year we used ter go. They ruined it, they did. We go to Spain now". Tel's ears pricked up. "Wot bit?" he asked. "Tenereef" said Des. "The wife and I were thinking o' movin' out there but...well...." said Tel, ad we changed the conversation to the darts.

More people arrived. I didn't know them. Tel introduced us, and we chatted. Not about Brexit. One of them was a woman who worked in the baker's where he gets his breakfast bap. "Known 'im fer years" she said as Tel hovered taking drinks orders. He blushed as she pecked him on the cheek, leaving deep red lipstick smudges. Her husband was a Town fan although 'I 'avent bin for a few years. Coun't stand McCarfee. And they charge there for a game now. I remember old Bobby Robson, them were the days, Mariner, Warky, that Colin Vil-Joan" So it went on. He'd been to the same games I'd been to as a kid. We fell into that sort of chat, ignoring the others, as he relived his youth at the Town.

We were still chatting about Eric Gates' hair and how much he looked like a bird his mate had once pulled for a dare when the doorbell went and Paula arrived. She was dressed in a demure blue dress and heels, and had a strangely mute bloke on her arm, who gave the room a general smile and then stood as though glued to her side. "This is Blake" she introduced me as she did the rounds. We shook hands. He smiled but didn't look me in the eye. 'Something dodgy about him' I thought, then chastised myself for taking people at face value. Paula and he got drinks from Tel, who also shook Blake's hand and then made some sort of crack which got them both laughing. He got Blake a lager in a bottle. Desperadoes I think. Paula, who was driving, asked for a Diet Coke. "Not up the duff already?" asked Tel, in horror. They laughed again, and she blushed and said 'Nah' and then looked at him and smiled.

The food arrived. Terry paid in cash. The driver looked bored. It came in six plastic bags and two brown cardboard boxes. It was whisked into the kitchen, where Mrs Tel decanted it onto cheap plastic serving trays. There were fourteen people in the house. This looked enough to feed fifty. Everyone buzzed around the plates in the dining room. People walked out sucking on spare ribs and asking the wife to get them another pancake roll. I went in last and half filled a paper plate with starters and duck pancakes. They were tricky to eat standing up clutching a beer so folk sat down at the table. The smokers went onto the patio and ate there, a fag burning as they ate. I was disappointed to see Paula had started again. Blake was busy rolling his own one-handed. I should've asked him to do my duck.

Food half eaten, we had a bit of music. Blondie, then The Clash, and then someone (it could only have been Mrs Tel) put on a Xmas hits medley and the warblings of Mariah Carey took over. Tel said "I was enjoyin' the Clash" as she walked past. "Tough - it's Christmas Terry" she replied and walked back over to the kitchen where I assume Joan was waiting. When I went in the kitchen to get another drink, they were standing there, three of them, slagging some woman they knew who was away on a cruise for Christmas. "Where'd she get that lolly from, I'd like ter know?" said Joan. "Yer know what she was like when she worked darn the caff in Dovercourt? I bet her 'usband never saw 'er in the same frock twice".

I went at eleven. After the fireworks. Two didn't light properly and hit a neighbour's shed. "S'orlright" said Des. "We're the other side". Blake and Paula wished me a merry Xmas, she gave me a kiss, and a prolonged whiff of B&H. He held his hand out. It was like shaking an empty Marigold. "Got a good grip you've eh?" he smiled. "Sorry?" I said. "Yer andshake. Good grip". "Oh yes" I said. "Big hands, sorry about that". He nodded, eyes like a viper about to attack. I don't like him. I'm sorry and all that. But there's just something about him.....

I said goodnight to Tel and he drew me into their bedroom. My momentary alarm was allayed by him opening their wardrobe and bringing out a Morrison's bag for life stuffed with four presents. "Fer you fer Christmas from me and the wife" he said. I'd given them theirs already on Sunday. I thanked him and he said "S'nuffink much, not like last year. We both love yer, yer know that duncha". I wondered if he was pissed, but he patted me on the back. Then Mrs Tel came in and hugged me and we had a group hug, and then I said 'thanks for the party'' and my cab tooted outside, and I was gone.

It was a bottle of Glenmorangie, a bottle of Tequila and two bottles of Oyster Bay. I'm sipping the former as I sit here, my parents snoring to Call the Midwife. Happy Christmas.
[Post edited 25 Dec 2018 23:09]
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The Christmas Warky Report: Sheffield United (H)
at 09:51 23 Dec 2018

'Hark' sang the herald angels, 'Glory to the newborn king and Lambert is a blue, is a blue, is a blue, Paul Lambert is a blue, he hates Norwich'.

The reduced members of the Co-op brass band gathered on the centre spot at half time and tootled a medley of festive pleasers, even if you'd heard them in the Cornhill a million times since November. The sky darkened, hazy blue turning to ink like a spilt pint of Guinness on a tablecloth, creeping, engulfing. The loneliness of the Christmas tree at the topmost flat in the Churchmans complex, twinkling Celina-like, on and off to a small audience.

Speaking of Christmas lights, Terry's shop has had an epiphany. Gone are the cheap multi-coloured fairy lights from B&Q festooned hurriedly over shelf ends and magazine racks; this is a concerted, organised effort by the two girls he employs. Tiny white lights twinkled and winked from dark corners. The Coke fridge, never the most glintiest of commercial appliances, especially in there, sparkled like it had been left out on the frostiest night. Tel grumbled ("Bleedin' take me a year ter gettum off") but the effect was pleasing enough to prevent actual verbal bodily harm.

The man himself was busy last week. He was absent on Monday and Tuesday, shopping in Bluewater for 'bits fer the missus, 'ate Lakeside an'it's jus' dan the road'. He returned on Wednesday, seeing me off to work with a cheery tale about hour-long waits for parking and lukewarm McDonalds breakfast comestibles ("them Mcegg Muffins taste 'orrible an' that 'ash brarn I bought, took two mouf fulls'n' chucked it"). Still, he did well, judging by the Jo Malone and Selfridges bags he was attempting to hide behind the counter.

We'd already decided to go to the Friday night Xmas Curry-Fest down the pub. It was a date. We'd even invited Tony, who'd proved to be such good company the previous week. He'd accepted on condition we let him pay. Tel rubbed his hands together briskly, looking like Fagin faced with a veritable feast of nicked Rolexes from his boys on mopeds.He'd have let Tony pay as well. In the end, he bought the food and I got the drinks. It seemed fairer.

Before this came my office party at work, a lunch time affaire, at a local Italian in Brindleyplace, marked by a distinct absence of senior management and a pleasant atmosphere as a result. They provided the wine (five bottles as folk were driving) and they provided the subsidies (Gnocchi, Sea bream in pancetta and sage jus, Tiramisu, £11 rather than £29). Staff wore Xmas jumpers and paper hats and talked either shop or about the ingratitudes of family members. You've all been there, I'm sure. Yes that picture in your head is a good representation.

Thursday saw Tel AWOL again, running errands for 'er indoors, this time to Fenwicks in Colchester for a new serving dish and set of cushions for the occasional chairs, ready for their party on Xmas Eve. I've been invited. So's Paula and her new boyfriend, Blake. More anon.

Friday was my last day at work for a week. I left at 1.30pm. Was it worth it, the traffic etc? Yep. I got a kiss from lovely Lauren at the office and I finished my outstanding stuff. Feet up for a week.

We all met in the pub at six, ready for the delights of homemade pakoras with mint dips and potato cakes filled with keema kebab and roasted on skewers, served with fresh papaya. The poppadoms were sprinkled with edible gold, the main courses were a choice of Lamb chop tikka madras or Chicken Vindaloo served with homemade parathas and a jewelled basmati in which pomegranate seeds glittered.

Tel and Tony drank Peroni. This isn't the start of some indecent limerick. The local has Peroni back on draught while it figures out whether it wants the Craft lager it did have back. I drank Timothy Taylor Landlord. It goes well with curry. We talked about Tony's Christmas arrangements, the difficulty of Xmas when you and the wife are divorcing, the need to spend time with the kids. Tel was hoping he'd be over at Braintree constantly, and he appears to have got his wish. He apologised for missing the Xmas Eve shindig because he'd be seeing the kids.

Unlike last weekend, Terry didn't fancy the Sheffield United game. I didn't push it. He felt guilty at leaving 'the gels' in the lurch so often so he gave them both the Saturday off. He remembered the cold of last Saturday and the wet, so he was happier in the (relative) warmth of the shop. I went instead and we should've won. We're getting bloody better as we go.

Have a good Christmas, see you again soon for the Xmas Eve party report!
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The Christmas Warky Report: Sheffield United (H)
at 09:25 23 Dec 2018

'Hark' sang the herald angels, 'Glory to the newborn king and Lambert is a blue, is a blue, is a blue, Paul Lambert is a blue, he hates Norwich'.

The reduced members of the Co-op brass band gathered on the centre spot at half time and tootled a medley of festive pleasers, even if you'd heard them in the Cornhill a million times since November. The sky darkened, hazy blue turning to ink like a spilt pint of Guinness on a tablecloth, creeping, engulfing. The loneliness of the Christmas tree at the topmost flat in the Churchmans complex, twinkling Celina-like, on and off to a small audience.

Speaking of Christmas lights, Terry's shop has had an epiphany. Gone are the cheap multi-coloured fairy lights from B&Q festooned hurriedly over shelf ends and magazine racks; this is a concerted, organised effort by the two girls he employs. Tiny white lights twinkled and winked from dark corners. The Coke fridge, never the most glintiest of commercial appliances, especially in there, sparkled like it had been left out on the frostiest night. Tel grumbled ("Bleedin' take me a year ter gettum off") but the effect was pleasing enough to prevent actual verbal bodily harm.

The man himself was busy last week. He was absent on Monday and Tuesday, shopping in Bluewater for 'bits fer the missus, 'ate Lakeside an'it's jus' dan the road'. He returned on Wednesday, seeing me off to work with a cheery tale about hour-long waits for parking and lukewarm McDonalds breakfast comestibles ("them Mcegg Muffins taste 'orrible an' that 'ash brarn I bought, took two mouf fulls'n' chucked it"). Still, he did well, judging by the Jo Malone and Selfridges bags he was attempting to hide behind the counter.

We'd already decided to go to the Friday night Xmas Curry-Fest down the pub. It was a date. We'd even invited Tony, who'd proved to be such good company the previous week. He'd accepted on condition we let him pay. Tel rubbed his hands together briskly, looking like Fagin faced with a veritable feast of nicked Rolexes from his boys on mopeds.He'd have let Tony pay as well. In the end, he bought the food and I got the drinks. It seemed fairer.

Before this came my office party at work, a lunch time affaire, at a local Italian in Brindleyplace, marked by a distinct absence of senior management and a pleasant atmosphere as a result. They provided the wine (five bottles as folk were driving) and they provided the subsidies (Gnocchi, Sea bream in pancetta and sage jus, Tiramisu, £11 rather than £29). Staff wore Xmas jumpers and paper hats and talked either shop or about the ingratitudes of family members. You've all been there, I'm sure. Yes that picture in your head is a good representation.

Thursday saw Tel AWOL again, running errands for 'er indoors, this time to Fenwicks in Colchester for a new serving dish
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The Warky Report; Wigan (h)
at 09:45 16 Dec 2018

"Gorn then" said Terry on Wednesday as he folded a Daily Mail, "Ah'll come'n wotch them load'o'rubbish lose again".

Yes, welcome back for a Warky special. One I never meant to write. It took the combined might of Terry attending the game, us winning and him whining he couldn't feel his toes like a cockney Douglas Bader all the way home. The train smelt of wet dog and spilled Stella, but the exuberance was all.

There's a lot to catch up on first, though. For a start, Tel's now managed to go part-time in the shop. The reason is Kaylee, one of Micky's mates who was 'between jobs' since her seasonal contract as an admin assistant with a local charity came to an end in early December. Mickey gave Tel the spiel and lo! She was installed on a temporary basis and Tel suddenly had a bit more free time.

The other thing is that his brother-in-law, Tony, is living with them temporarily until his new home is ready for him in Writtle. Long story this so I won't bore you (and, to be honest, I don't really understand bits of it anyway) but Tony and Sandy have applied for their decree nisi which takes a few months or so. Anyway, he's seen a three-bedroom new build in Writtle he likes so has bought and is waiting until January 14th to move in. It didn't make sense to pay money out to his landlord to rent for 6 months when he'd only use two of those months, so he's living with Tel and Mrs Tel. "'E's nah bovver" said Tel, diplomatically in front of Mrs Tel. "'E's nevvah bleedin' there, off doin' his business and seein' the kids mainly" he said to me out of her earshot later.

Tony has however, been a new inductee to the local's Curry Night . We've managed three since the middle of November and he's accompanied Tel to all, buying rounds and cutting his poppadoms in half neatly and not leaving half his dinner on the table mats after. He and Tel are like 'The Odd Couple'. Tony prefers nothing hotter than a Balti, and often orders a Tikka massala or a Korma, to old fashioned looks from Tel and a pointed hiss of "'E's takin' the proverbial in 'ere orderin' that muck" when Tony goes for a slash. Still, he's good company and likes a drink, and has happily paid for the taxi home, so who's complaining?

That's been it basically, since I last wrote. I managed to talk Terry into coming to the football yesterday. It wasn't difficult. Mrs Tel wanted the car so she could go with Tony and see the kids and then go on to Freeport for a bit of shopping with the daughter and Sandy. Mickey and Kaylee had the shop all sewn up. I was going to the footy. He had no other outlet. So I paid for his ticket in SAR and he joined me on the train from Manningtree, dressed in his blue parka and blue YSL jumper and Levis. He moaned how cold the wind was and I agreed. Still, I said, we'll get down the pub and we won't feel it after a while.

Which was true. We drank a lot. Tel, who's not used to drinking at lunchtime, adopted a bit of a thirst, and found the Wetherspoon's app on his phone. We ordered pint after pint, then, bloated and belching, decided to switch to scotch, via drambuie and a medicinal Bailey's. I didn't feel the cold when I ventured out at 2.30. I didn't really feel anything. Tel sang 'Singing the Blues' badly and then said how pretty the town centre looked with the market and the merry-go-round and that. He weaved as he walked. I walked like an idiotically-grinning zombie. They let us in the ground, which was a miracle in itself.

Cold. The booze wore off quickly. Then the rain got up and lashed us all in the SBRL. Sodden, frozen, hair dripping icy plops down my back, I nonetheless sang myself hoarse and rejoiced when Freddie's miss-hit ended up in the net. Wigan had about six thousand free kicks just outside our box but somehow we held on. Cue a screaming tide of rapture as the seven minutes injury time came to an end and then cue the Chambo fist-pump, a special one that he dug from deep and forced out like a piston on a speeding Flying Scotsman.

Tel met me at the traffic lights on Princes Street, soaked, wet hair clinging in fronds on his head, the whiff of a half-time brandy minature on his breath. "They bloody won!" he said, incredulous. "Ah've bort 'em luck!". Yes, I replied, and they're at home again next Saturday. We'll need your lucky charm again. And he looked at me, and he smiled, and it wasn't mocking or in jest, just a smile. "We'll see if it aint as cold as terday" he said. Then he moaned about his toes.
[Post edited 16 Dec 2018 9:46]
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