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The Warky League One Report: Wimbledon (h)
at 21:16 21 Aug 2019

The Coke fridge sat, unplugged, forlorn, but at least cleaner than it's probably been since its arrival. It's been moved from the traditional spot, mainly because Tel needed to clean the floor beneath it (which brought to mind the pit in those Quatermass films). He 's given away the contents because the supplier who is coming tomorrow ("bleedin' sed Choosdy then he din't bovver showin', the cowson) can't take any products with him when he collects.

So Tel and I are drinking the scrapings that are left; the Ben Shaw's dandelion and burdock, vaguely reminiscent of creosote in the nose, the long finish on the palate brings to mind Happy Shopper-brand Vimto paired with the drippy bits from used sanitary products and a bit of Pledge. Or Diet Irn Bru, piss-like in colour, tastes of your fingers when you inadvisably feel under the seat for a dropped twenty pence piece on public transport and come into contact with a blob of already-chewed bubble gum. The faces we made! It was like being at a Les Dawson tribute.

Still, the Coke fridge is not the only departee from this sunny side of Essex; the magazine racks have been dismantled ("took me all flippin' Sundy that did, unscrewin' 'em an' folding 'em back up") and are bound for the glories of Daventry, to some corner shop owner who snapped them up for fifty quid; Tel's (thus far) only foray into the delights of E-bay. "Bet 'e's Pakistani 'n'all" said Tel, grudgingly (he thought they'd make a hundred quid. The photo he took to advertise them came out a bit dark so he redid it in the shop bog. "Looked alright, din't get any of the pan in the shot" said Tel, modestly, as though he was David Bailey taking Twiggy). The racks left a lasting memorium; angular brown stains where they'd lay on the wall. They look suspiciously like skidmarks in the gusset of a pair of Y fronts.

He's had "Sorry you're leaving" cards through the door already. One card said "In Sympathy". The message inside read "With our deepest condolences on this sad day". It went in the bin, Tel snorting "Eiver someone finks I've snuffed it or they're too tight to buy a bleedin' leaving card". It was signed, but the signature, like a doctor's, looked to have been written by someone with a lot of mental health issues, so he's still none the wiser as to who it's from.

More tales from the early days of the shop. "I 'ad a regular, Reg, who used to be a copper in West London in the fifties. Anyway, he did his rounds and used to nip in people's 'ouses for a cuppa and to 'ave a chat, like, about securi'ee and keepin' doors locked when they went out, yer knaa the sort'o'fing. So he goes to this 'ouse and notices a bleedin' nasty smell outside it. He knocks an' the owner comes to the door; Reg said 'e looked a right rum sort, like a norvern Dr Mengele, one of them Nazis. An' the bloke don't rearly want 'im in but Reg goes 'Only be a minute sir' and he lets 'im in, an' Reg says 'Ah'm finkin' I aint 'aving a cuppa 'ere no matter what. An' the bloke leads 'im into the front room and Reg says 'it didn't arf pen and there were these big old meat flies 'anging round the ceilin' and the floor. So 'e says 'is bit and goes'n free weeks later it's all in the papers about this bloke an' turns out 'e was Christie. An' Reg said 'e was nice as pie once you got chattin' to 'im".

Tuesday dawned with no shop. Tel had an errand and had pre-warned me he wouldn't be opening until 10. So I went to Tesco. And, whilst the woman who served me at the checkout was quite nice and smiled, she didn't tell me stories about one of her punters in the 80's knowing Ron and Reg, or anything like that. Impersonal service. It's killing this country with blandness.

I love evening games, but from a drinking point of view, Saturdays are better. No rushing home from work, no coming in your work clothes (ooh), no hurried, furtive double gins with your pint, necking them like lemonade lest you miss the first five minutes. I could and probably should have taken my time, given that the first half was as exciting as Christmas day at my devoutly methodist aunt's place. Without the presents and my grandad's attempts to play "She'll be coming round the mountain" out of his arse after a particularly plentiful feast of everyone else's unwanted brussels and the leftover stuffing.

The second half was better. At least I saw Norwood's powerful headed equaliser. In my haste to try and make the 9.43 home, I missed Jackson's winner. I was just exiting Portman Road headed towards the station with the drips and drabs of other home fans when the cheer hit me. B*gger, I thought. I'd meant to be taking Tel but he muttered something about stock forms and wanting to save his pile for Spain in two weeks. He might be coming to the Shrewsbury game though. I said 'might'. He's booked a ticket online anyway, just in case.

Onwards, upwards and outwards. See you after the (possible if they're still in business) Bolton game.
Why don't the train companies run a London train before 10.23 on a match night?
at 07:05 21 Aug 2019

Given the demand it seems daft to have people waiting 30 minutes for the next London-bound train. It gave a few rival fans the chance to have a bit of handbags last night as well.

The Warky League One Report: Peterborough (a)
at 10:38 18 Aug 2019

It's the final countdown (der der der der, der der der der der) in deepest Essex. No blokes with long blonde perms playing air guitar, admittedly, but Terry can now count the number of days of his life as a newsagent on the fingers of both hands. Come Thursday, it'll be one hand.

It's been a week of introspection and reflective thought amongst the various Mirrors and Mails on his counter. He's got the whitewash ready for the windows. True, it's a long-opened and neglected tin of gloss he found in his shed at home, but it still stirred up a treat. The new owner has her builders coming in on Wednesday week to demolish and refit. They won't have much demolition to do, at this rate.

It's been a part of local life for 35 years and yet Tel feels ready to just bow out, anonymously, without fanfare. When our local Post Office shut, it made the front page of the Harwich and Doverourt and got a mention in the EADT; a picture of the octanagerian owners not smiling and holding up a bit of post they still had from when it opened in 1901 (how's that an endorsement of their services? Shouldn't they have delivered it?). Tel wants no part in any of that. He was embarrassed enough last Tuesday when his regular supplier gave him a cake and a bottle of champagne to mark the end of their working relationship. "Champagne off 'em!" he snorted to me the next morning. "Jers looks like I've bin over-orderin' from 'im all these years".

He's having a sort of party at home next Sunday evening. We're all invited (sorry, I mean, you're not, 'cos he doesn't know you, even if you feel by now that you more than know him). He has invited Paula and Blake and some of his regulars and former staff (not Mickey who's now moved to Yarmouth and hopefully not Jayden, the porn-filching stunt-bike owning paper boy) for a few drinks and some food and ' a bit'o'an ole knees-up'. "Ah'm gonna be sayin' farewell to a lot of it all" said Tel, with a stoicism that made no sense seeing as we all know where he lives and (for some of us) will probably mean seeing a lot more of him than when he had the shop.

His reminiscences are nearly all (unintentionally) funny. "Ah remember when yer could pay wiv a fiver for two Sundy papers, twenny fags, a white-sliced, a pint o' milk and a firs'clars stamp an' still get over a quid's change. We won't see them days agen. That was yer Conserva'iv guv'ment, that". "Ole missus Beard, we used to call 'er, always came in fer 'er Daily Mail, 'ad to 'ave the one off the bottom 'cos it was less creased. Called 'er Beard 'cos she 'ad a better five'o'clock shadder than me. Used ter giggle like a school gerl if yer told 'er she looked nice. Reckon she fancied me". There's a lot more of these. I should spend one of these reports telling you more. It's a sort of education, talking to him about the 'old days'.

The weekly bet will continue. We won £278 last week. We've done alright again this week. If Sheffield United and Chelsea both win later, it'll be a cracker. The sausage/bacon baps continued unabated. "I'll miss these when ah'm gone" said Tel on Thursday, the greasy white paper bag at his elbow, stained with ketchup and the runny yolk of a fried egg. He wouldn't think of cooking one at home. Tel is the J2 Blue of home cooking. He can do steak OK, though.

He and the wife are off to Spain on September 9th for two weeks. Marbella. He's promised me a bottle of decent brandy. "Better'n the stuff they give us darn the boozer". Mrs Tel made an appearance in the shop on Friday, helping with the papers, as Tel peeled all the advertisements off the walls and windows and started bagging up the tobacco products he thought he wouldn't sell. We all went for a meal on Friday night. We did Lucca's in Manningtree as Mrs Tel likes a good Italian. We ate the salads and the seafood linguine and the fresh pizzas and drank rose wine. Very civilized compared to the local Indian, which serves good food but suffers, by association, from the quickfire rounds of brandies we consume once we've eaten and which then cause such gastric and cranial pains the next morning that we blame the chicken tikka jalfrezis.

Mrs Tel thinks her husband should be more emotional about the shop closing than he is. We went for a ciggie together (yes, I know) at the restaurant and she whispered to me how he's actually joking about all the free time he'll have come Tuesday week. "An' it's not right. Ah keep tellin' 'im, 'e's not retirin'. 'E'll never retire. You wait, 'e'll come back from Spain an' wanna do summink else. 'E'll get itchy feet". She puffed out a long stream of smoke in exasperation and fidgeted with her handbag. This could be the start of a whole new chapter for the Terrys'. I'm not sure she really wants it.

Saturday. Feed the birds. Get showered and dressed. See Tel for the papers. Go to Tesco for a loaf and a jar of crunchy peanut butter for my satay chicken I was cooking later. Nip to our local butcher for a pack of chicken breasts, drumsticks and thighs (free-range). Pop in to the greengrocer for eight limes, a pineapple, two lemons and a punnet of local strawberries for meringues (pudding for today's lunch at my parents'). Get home, decant into fridge, read the papers and eat toast with lime marmalade and make a big pot of tea. Watch Soccer Am whilst ironing shirts for next week. Don't bother with the Sunderland v Pompey lunchtime live game. Drive to Felixstowe Ferry. Have a walk. Buy some fresh fish from the shack near the jetty. Drive home. Pop the fish in the freezer, marinate the chicken for later. Walk down the local. Order a pint and some loaded nachos and watch Soccer Saturday for news of the second half. Learn we're losing 2-1, having been 1-0 up. Feel glad I turned down the offer of a ticket from a friend of a friend, even though I'd said yes in June when the fixtures came out. Drain my pint and leave the nachos at the very bottom of the dish which don't have any cheese or sour cream or meat on them (making them just warmed up, now cold, tortilla chips). Order another pint. Watch in wonder as Chambers 'does a Norwich' and scores with a header in the last minute. Hope this isn't a 'Chambers does a Norwich' and they nip up the other end and score themselves. Kid myself that a 2-2 away at Peterborough is a decent point. Agree with Jamie the landlord, who says "Peterborough away is a decent point, yer knaa?". Wait for Tel who'd promised to come and watch the Man City v Spurs game and have a pint, even though "Ah carnt stay long, we're 'avin' the neighours rarnd fer a chinky at 8" then proceeds to ring the chinese at 7.30 to order the delivery for 8.15 and nearly tells them to bring it to the pub. Share a cab home with him, do my dinner on my grill, drink more beer, watch "Fantastic Beasts" on the telly, have a few brandies, fall asleep during MOTD and wake at the end of the Everton v Watford "highlights", lock up, go to bed.

Still, it's probably a good point, in the scheme of things. See you Tuesday.
The Warky League One Report: Sunderland (h)
at 09:00 11 Aug 2019

Optimism can be a cruel mistress. August should be hot; the kids off school, long lines of traffic waiting for a parking space in Frinton-on-Sea, ice cream cones melting down forearms.

Two days after the terrific away result at Burton Albion, I hoped. But this is a marathon, not a sprint. I was minded of the phrase "You don't win anything in August", probably spoken by a McCarthy-type, all pragmatism and long-ball tactics and hoofing. Another phrase, "Proof is in the pudding" would be uttered y many of my fellow Town aficionado's as the bookies' favourites, Sunderland, marched into the old Port with their strange accents and Reg Vardy shirts.

I had to use some of Tel's WD40 on a paper hankie to get the sticky stuff they adhere the virgin season ticket to the letter off my card. It kept pulling my credit card out of my wallet when removed. If that's not an irony, then Chaucer can stuff it. Tel thought it resembled the masticated blobs of bubble gum he often has to tease from the pavement outside the shop; "Jers in case some ole dear treads in it". Trouble is, he's running out of "old dears" who still frequent his establishment.

The shop is dwindling like a school fete stall at 4pm. It resembles one of those Communist stores you used to see on the news as a kid, only without the massed lines of hard-faced women. They've all gone to Tesco. Terry is proving to be more of a success in running down his stock than could be imagined. The closure date, pencilled as bank holiday weekend, seems to get nearer every hour. He now only opens for the papers, and they're going on Sunday 25th.

As a consequence, we have regular glimpses of his life 'post-shop', which mainly revolves around the boozer, running errands for the wife and preparing for their holiday in Spain in September. "Bit'o'proppah heat" explained Tel, ignoring the 26 degrees outside. They're also spending pre-Christmas in the US, in California, partly because Mrs Tel has always fancied it and mostly because he's got another insurance policy maturing in November, which he's hopeful of receiving ten grand from. He's got the uneducated view of the US; massive steaks at every meal, baking sunshine and cadillacs everywhere on the roads. He probably hopes to see Frank and Elvis sharing an open-top Chevy. They're fitting San Francisco into the agenda. "Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair then" I smirked. "I aint an iron" he muttered back, looking disgruntled.

The week passed comfortably; no disasters at work. We did the footie bet on Wednesday morning, him handicapping Premier League teams as he debated their chances, avoiding the easy calls which had no value. He didn't anticipate Watford losing at home to Brighton, sadly, but I think we've done OK. He had Ipswich v Sunderland down as a draw. If only he'd been wrong.....

We went to the pub on Friday night to watch the great scum massacre (only it wasn't in the end), sitting with two huge bowls of loaded nachos, the chilli making perspiration prickle on the forehead, the tortilla chips at the bottom like bits of warm cheesy cardboard. Tel chortled throughout the first half, gobbing bits of tortilla chip, as Norwich succumbed to Liverpool's attacks. He was quieter in the second half. We all were. Even the Liverpool fans in their shiny new home shirts. We didn't have any scummers. Not here. Not in West Hamville.

The drinks flowed and we both got merry, ending with celebratory large brandies to toast the fortunes of the Town. Saturday dawned with me still belching chilli flavours and with a slight, persistent headache behind my eyes. Perfect for the opening home game. As if I'd never been away. The birds were pleased with the bits of cake and mouldy bread I supplemented their bird feed with. I did think of taking the leftover tortillas back with me for their delectation. I'd have probably been done by the RSPB.

The train was late and the wind got up, spitting rain as I waited. It reminded me of October. The sheep in the field behind Manningtree station huddled in disconsolate groups and chewed the cud. Ipswich was free of everything but the breeze. I sauntered past Dolly at the station (sorry, Brixton Blue) and gave him a playful kick up the arse as I went, a smile on my lips. I hope he doesn't hold grudges.

The pub was rammed with familiar faces, an alcohol-themed Groundhog Day. We were all there to see the rebirth, the redemption. The Magical Vegas home-shirted newbies staked their place and sipped their Bud Light tops with belonging. A smattering of Sunderland, served despite the 'Home Fans Only' notices on the front door. They were nee trouble.

We should have won so much that a draw felt like an anti-climax. The walk back to the station was punctuated with grateful away fans and muttering, sour-faced homies. Still, if that's the favourites for the league, we just need our injured back, and surely we'll be up there? Everyone blamed Chambers on the train, dismissive of the first half when he and Woolfy looked imperious. I thought we'd lost, such was the deflation and the blame and the bitterness. Bloody hell, my fellow Town, give it a chance to improve. We should feel proud that we've made the favourites look so ordinary, surely?

Back home, a curry, a few drinks, and now it's off to hear how Tel's barbecue went in Stones Green yesterday. See you all soon!
Josh Magennis
at 19:05 5 Aug 2019

Heard a rumour we're 'close' to agreeing a deal with Bolton for him. NI international, dunno how much (anything?) we'd be paying. My source is a Bolton supporter and former youth development coach who works in our Brum office and who kindly emailed me today. He's not one for bothering about Ipswich, normally.

He hoped they'd raise some much-needed funds from it. "Phwar" I said as I choked on me cuppa and spat it on the keyboard.
The Warky League 1 Report: Burton (a)
at 10:45 4 Aug 2019

"Yoo int signed ennyfing fer moolah'n'yer relyin' on rubbish" said Terry on Tuesday, marking the betting slip as a Burton win, feeling the money in his grubby mitts already. Yes, welcome back to the world of weekly football bets, disinterested newsagents, unused season tickets and kids off school and on little excursions hanging round said newsagents in voluble little gangs, sharing the odd Bensons and trying to do tricks on scuffed-looking skateboards.

It's not social breakdown that's the problem round here, it's boredom in kids who should really know better. When I was their age, the summer holidays were an oasis, a paean of 'messing about' on the beach or in rivers, bike rides that took all day, washing neighbours' cars for fifty pee so we had a bit of lolly for lollies or cans of warm pop or Wham bars. We didn't waste it hanging round shops, annoying everyone and pretending to smoke. That was the winter sport. They're doing it all wrong.

And Tel encourages them. Safe in the knowledge that the shop is being sold (subject to contracts and stuff) he's given up. He even goes out and chats with them. He's on his own again. Carol,his 'assistant' gave up two weeks ago, a mix of family holiday in Cornwall and her earnings affecting her ESA payments, because she couldn't lie to them like everyone else does. So he welcomes any distractions from sorting out the Daily Stars and cleaning.

We've restarted the bets at his insistence. We had five hundred quid each out of last season's debacle for the Town, mainly by him betting we'd lose each week. He's been half-hearted about the gee-gee's, mainly because he doesn't actually know what he's doing with them. Not that he'd admit it. He's not been helped by the loss of 'Templegate' and Claude Duval, namely Bob and Dave, his chief tipsters, who now frequent Tesco's for their news and their pints of Cravendale. "Fought ah'd shut already" said Tel, with a trace of aspersion. Tesco should be paying him a finders fee. Most of his regulars have been going there for a few months now.

The shop's official closing date keeps moving. At the moment, it's bank holiday Monday. It was next Sunday for a while, but then his buyer came up with another query about who owns the garage attached to the rear, which the surveyors then wrote to his solicitor about, and this meant another delay. Truth be told, he wants out now. It's like the metaphorical albatross. He shuts at 2pm, once all the papers have (largely) gone and he's cashed up. Then he goes for a "quick 'arf". He's applied to B&Q for a part-time job, just to keep himself from going mad more than for any financial benefit. He doesn't need money. He stands to swell his bank account by £180k once all the fees are paid. He's thinking of buying a boat.....

We went for a Thai on Friday. He was recommended this place in old Harwich. I'd been before but didn't say anything. Old Harwich is positively blessed with boozers so we had a bit of a pub crawl before the meal, finishing in The Alma, where they didn't have any rose wine so he had to settle for Magners. The meal was fantastic. The pad thai, the soups, the satay, the green curries, they were all really good. Thai on the Green it was called. It's a trek from Ipswich, but if you're ever in this neck of the woods.......

We laughed and ate and drank and it was like the old days; taking the mick about my season ticket renewal, hoping we'd do Burton rather than go for one. Tel reminisced about the early days in the shop, the mid eighties, punters coming in dressed in rolled up suit sleeves and jeans, the days when someone was censured if their account ran over a fiver. He wants to come back to PR. I offered for next Saturday, but he and Mrs Tel are out at a friend's barbecue in Stones Green. I got the fixture list on my phone and he debated over home games against Rochdale or Gillingham. Then he saw Southend away in October. So we're going to that. "Saaarfend" he muttered. "Fer a game'o'footie and a night on the lash". I think we might book a Premier Inn.

Saturday was bright, and the birds pecked stoically at the feeders and eyed me with longing, until I realised they were empty and went out to remedy the shortfall. Tel was in a good mood and the bacon baps were back. He'd had second thoughts and had a tenner on Ipswich to win. "Din't feel rite" he said, although whether he meant the Town or himself wasn't clear. I'd fancied a trip to Burton. Then I didn't. So I was having a walk instead, all round Shotley, stopping in the Treasure Chest for a pint and admiring the sea views.

My car radio can't get Suffolk for some reason. So I went home and watched on Sky, nervous, hoping we'd win our opener just more for the fact that folk on here would be less depressed. We did. I cheered as the result was confirmed, waiting for Stelling to say "Late Drama at the Pirelli, could ten-man Burton have rescued a point?" But, much like the papers this morning, no-one really gives a stuff about League One. We rate two lines in the Mail, even with the absence of the Premier glory boys. That'll take some getting used to. So will the teams we face.

Still, it's a fair start.
The Warky Summer Report: Number Four (h)
at 08:43 28 Jul 2019

If this column were a metaphor for the summer,, I'd be wandering the promenade at Clacton with rolled-up trouser legs and a knotted hanky on my head, licking a quick-melting ice cream with it dribbling down my arms. In the winter months, in the dark mornings, in the cold and rain and the gloom, I dream of summer with fondness. Yet it never seems to meet expectations once here. The heat is too hot. The dryness is too dry. The pre-season friendlies are too pre-season.

Life carries on as ever down here, albeit with adjustments for heat. Terry and I are still going for curries. He's still drinking pink wine. We're both still working; early starts and early evening finishes. The shop is now officially 'on the market' and he's had three potential non-time-waster enquiries. Two of them want it as a non-going concern. The other one, I suspect, is gauging a long-held romantic dream of running their own shop. Tel likes her the most, but she's offering the least money.

It was Paula's wedding last Saturday. Suits, ties, polished shoes, ennui. We started at 8am having breakfast in the local caff, still hungover from the night before, Mrs Tel dropping us both with a look of distaste at the premises before heading over to her local hair salon for a new coating of cherry red peroxide. Tel sat sniffing (hay fever) and watching the other natives, a mug of tea in his hand. "Get back an' 'ave anuvver shower a'rter this" he said. Plates piled with breakfast foods arrived. His was called 'The Morning Mega'. The beans swam dangerously close to the rim. It was like archaeology. He found his fried egg by digging out the bacon.

Breakfast done, we wiped mouths with insubstantial paper napkins and drained our tea. We went outside to wait for Mrs Tel. "She'll be anuvver 'our" muttered Tel as we sat at the metal tables outside. But she came along and dropped me back at home with a promise to be back at 12.30 for the drive to the church. Her hair glistened redly, like a ripe morello. "Looks a darker stain that" said Tel in the car, inadvisably. Mrs Tel hates social gatherings.

I smelt of fried stuff, so I had another shower and washed my hair. I sat in my dressing gown until 11, reading the papers and drinking coffee. By 12, the suit went on and the wrestling of the Windsor knot was over. I waited for the car hooter outside, the breakfast repeating on me.

We arrived at 1.15, the third car in the church car park, scrunching to a stop in the gravel. The other two cars eyed us suspiciously. They were full of people in smartish dress who we didn't recognise. "Blake's lot" said Tel dismissively, and wound a window down via the electric button to let in more air. No-one moved to make contact and we continued to try and pretend the other cars weren't there.

Another car screeched in, a convertible Merc, driven by two men who looked like thinner Blues Brothers. This was Blake, driven by his brother Glenn. The two men were laughing about something as they exited the vehicle, stretching and smoothing the creases in their suits. We were the furthest away so they went to the other two cars first, kissing occupants and having their hair ruffled by old grannies. The other occupants got out, as though safe in the knowledge they'd got the right venue after all.

Blake came alone to us and framed himself in Tel's open window. "'Ullo" he said lugubriously. Mrs Tel got out of the driver's seat on the other side and kissed him. Tel pumped his hand and joked with him. I felt like a spare prick.

We wandered to the church and were greeted by the vicar, a man who made Mick McCarthy seem shy and retiring. He boomed when he spoke. He was facetious. He remarked on the absence of other guests and said something about had he known, he'd've booked his garden shed and saved them a bit of money. This met with a few titters and a pained look from Tel.

Other guests arrived, flowery summer dresses teamed with inappropriately flowery hats, old women in chiffon and organza, younger ones in strapless vibrants with shoulder and back tattooes on display. Paula's mum Carol arrived, driven by her female friend Julie who asked for help to get her wheelchair out the back. I'd never met Paula's mum, so, once she was comfortably ensconced, Tel introduced me. She'd clearly once been a bit of a looker, but a combination of MS and life had hardened the looks. She sat in white long cotton trousers and a peachy coloured top. She hand rolled a fag as we chatted.

Paula's estranged dad was giving her away. He came with the bride in the hired vintage Merc. A tall bloke with a five o'clock shadow you could sand walls with. His suit was hired; it bunched around his shoulders a bit. He had a tattoo on his neck, a small one that I couldn't make out. The wedding march started and we all rose. The bride wore pink satin. She looked lovely. Even Tel's sardonic humour was checked as she made her entrance.

Blake grinned through the service. You couldn't hear his vows from where we sat. Paula and he kissed when requested, then (a new one on me) both held hands and turned to the congregation in salute, like Rocky when he makes it up those steps.

They did the register and all of that, then the organist played "2 becomes 1" by the Spice Girls as we all exited. Back in the daylight, we lobbed confetti and watched the photographers fussing around the bride and groom and immediate family. The bride and groom sat on either arm of the bride's mum's wheelchair for their one. The bride's estranged father took a call on his mobile and reached for a Players.

The wedding feast was painful. I shouldn't have been there. Everyone looked at me, wondering why I was. It felt like a place had been given up that someone who knew the bride and groom could've had. Tel, unconscious to all of this, tucked into his melon and parma ham starter and reached for the bottle of Pinot rose he'd ordered from the bar. The pub regulars were shepherded into the other side as we took over the saloon. I went for a jimmy and found Paula's dad playing the fruitie with the air of a man for whom this was a natural part of life. Dunno if he won though.

The meal ended with plasticky profiteroles in a chocolate pool. I skipped it. Tel and I had a brandy instead. Then another. They did speeches. Then at about six o'clock, other people dressed up arrived for the reception party. The pub closed its doors to non-wedding folk and the DJ, a bloke in a black shirt with a big gold chain and tight leather slacks, arrived to set up his decks and his amps and his lights, self-conscious, sunglasses on even indoors. A hiatus. The queue at the bar became longer. People paid by debit card and headed for the beer garden, sunglasses perched amidst coiffeurs, bottles of Budweiser frothing.

Paula and Blake danced to "Viva Forever" by the Spice Girls. Then we had a medly of crap from the 00's; B'witched and S Club and Beyonce. Then he started "catering for the older generation" and we had a Grease megamix, a bit of Saturday Night Fever and something from Donna Summer. Nearly everyone got up for these. Then, incongruously, he played "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin, and got a brief nod from Paula's dad.

Blake's parents were introduced. They were still married. He inherited his snake eyes from his mum. His dad, Geoff, was five years older than me. He was a Spurs season ticket holder. We chatted about Spurs. He asked me who I supported so I told him. He smirked and then said "Yer'll 'ave a good season darn there tho'". This brought Blake's brother in. He's a Southend supporter. He thought we'd win the league outright. "You lot'll be too good fer us". He thought we'd just had a really bad season last time out. He could be right.

We left at 12, Tel and I. The taxi came early. He'd ordered it for 12.30. Mrs Tel went after the meal, citing recent illness and tiredness. It was handy because she took the car with her, having drunk J2O. I got in at 1am, Tel dropping me with a curt "See'yer termorra". Strange day.

Still, the footy season's nearly here......

The Warky Summer Report: Number Three (H)
at 21:50 14 Jul 2019

The Lake District. I've had a week there. Along with countless coach parties of old biddies, grimly eyeing the Beatrix Potter house and moaning at the walk involved. They've emptied the East Midlands of the over 75's last week. There they were, floral cardies, tweed skirts, queuing at the tea tills like it was bacon week at the butchers in the war, ordering over-priced tea and cake, then grumbling at the cost and the paucity and the weather, and the seats and the Polish girl who served them, smiling at each, helpful. "Blewdy Eastern European, tha'" stage-whispered one as I sat sipping my latte and watching the sun glint on the lake beyond the house. "Ah kna'" said her friend, carefully checking her slice of Simnel cake for traces of sh*t. "Get ev'rywhere them lot, don't they?" said the first lady, bitterly, dunking her flapjack in her tea cup. They lapsed into a depressed silence, punctuated by gummy chews and comments about the walk back to the coach. "'E's parked well away from t'house, the daft booger" said the first lady, as if she was being asked to navigate the Hindu Kush.

I went for a lot of walks. Mainly because I kept finding coachloads of these types of people wherever I went. Day out in Kendal? Masses of them, grouped like parties of schoolkids in a museum, moaning. I walked Helvellyn in blissful peace and solitude, like a vagrant Wordsworth, marvelling at sights and sounds. They infested tea-rooms like chintz; slurping tea and noshing cake and giving everyone that withering look of entitlement as they ate.

I came home via Birmingham on Thursday morning, mainly because an ex-work mate had secured me a ticket for the ICC World Cup semi-final. Hotel (Jury's Inn) on credit card and down to a half-empty Edgbaston in time for the toss and a beer with a bacon roll. Great match it was too. The pubs were rammed after the match, with the familiar refrain of 'Three Lions' being sung by England fans once again. Lucky I did the hotel. I got sh*tfaced.

Tel's OK. The shop continues to function, with the (sort of learning-disabled, and I mean that nicely, I really do) daughter of one of his neighbours 'helping out' for £50 a week and her pick of the chocolate bars nearing their sell-by date. Mrs Tel is hors de combat, a succession of vague 'wimmin's problems' and toilet difficulties hastening her departure from Tendring's favourite newsagent shop. Hence the recruitment of Hayley, the fifty-two year old daughter of Ken and Denise, the elderly couple who live three doors down from Tel. He reckons it was a put-up job. He had no choice. "They came in an' sed to the missus "Could yer use an 'and in the shop?" an' the missus says yeah, an' then ah'm lumbered wiv 'er". Hayley is very nice, by the way, but she talks incessantly, and inconsequentially, about nothing much at all, and does in essence, nothing in the way of work.

An example: Tel thought he'd teach her how to use the till. She watched him, nodding all the time, interjecting with a rambling tale of how her sister-in-law once got bitten by a dog in a newsagents in Manningtree. He worked on this for about a week, then gave her a trial run and she was hopeless. She hadn't taken in a word. So now, she just stands behind the counter and stacks newspapers in 'Leaning Tower of Pisa' style stacks, and they totter and sway dangerously as you walk in, like a massive paper game of Jenga, and you daren't ask for a Daily Mail, not just because it's Tory reactionary rabid rabble-rousing sh*te, but for fear that she'll whip the bottom one out and you'll be left brained by two dozen collapsing tabloids.

She doesn't half talk as well. A simple 'Good Morning Hayley' can leave you reeling away fifteen minutes later, sated with the cautionary tale of the time her Aunt had to have a hysterectomy and couldn't drive for two months after, or the one about her dad's haemorrhoids. Tel's gone from patient politeness, through the barely polite stage and now just disappears into the back room gritting his teeth.

I've been invited to Paula's wedding next Saturday. Tel forgot she'd sent my invitation with his as she didn't know my home address. So, one bright morning at the back end of June, he suddenly said "'Ere, I've got yer invite for Paula's weddin' at 'ome" and then, the next morning, provided it with a brief apology and a smile. I unwisely thought it was just the evening do. "Nah" said Tel in surprise. "Iss all day includin' the weddin' brekfus". We're getting a taxi home. It'll be my last summer report, probably next Sunday. The invite, written in a rounded hand on ivory card with two blueish-grey bears in wedding attire on it, said all day specifically. "I need yer there all day, can't stand bleedin' weddin's " said Tel with pathos and a soupcon of need in his voice. So the suit has gone to the dry cleaners and I've washed all my white hankies.

Tel's closing the shop that weekend. It was that or entrust Hayley with all of it. He chose wisdom over valour. We went for a Chinese last night, me celebrating England's victory over the Aussies, he celebrating getting Hayley to clean the toilet in the shop, arming her with a big bottle of Domestos, a bucket and mop and a full kitchen roll. She didn't realise you had to dilute the Domestos, so visitors this morning cried tears of purest bleach product and probably breathed in as much ammonia as is good for the human body. Still, it smelt clean. And it sort of looked it. True, she'd missed the big patch of brownish looking matter near the sink, but the bog pan sparkled like an afternoon in Pandora. "Had to clean up after me Grandad when he was ill" she told me, buck-toothed and smiling. "He'd sh*t the bed once" she added, unnecessarily. I went back out to the safety of Tel.

Summer is acuming on. See you soon.
The Warky Summer Report: Number Two (h)
at 09:32 16 Jun 2019

No heatwave as yet. The clouds, ominous as they float serenely down the Stour, 'blacker'n'Noogits knocka' as described by my erstwhile poet newsagent, seem pregnant with the threat of more rain.

The weather's not the only dark cloud on Tel's horizon. The shop winds down inexorably, like a sh*t episode of 'Open All Hours'; no Granville to lighten the cockney Arkwright's load. He's losing regulars hand over fist to the Tesco Metro down the road. "Even ole Trevvah's stopped 'aving 'is mornin' Mail'n'a chat; 'e's gettin'em from bleedin' Tesco" muttered Tel sourly one morning as I (unwisely) commented how quiet it was. The loss of Mickey is noticeable,not just because of the lack of a southerly breeze of Mayfair smoke from his back door.

He needs a new suit for the nuptials of Paula and Blake in July. He tried his sole current suit on (bought in 2003 for a spot of Jury Service) and "the wife moaned'n sed 'it looks shiny Tel, get a noo one' an' ah told 'er, don't need a noo one if ah'm only gonna wear the bleeder once, stoopid that is". He asked my advice on where to go and I suggested M&S, and he ended up in Fenwicks in Colchester, where they start at about £300. Perhaps he and Dolly should compare notes?

I've not been invited to Paula's wedding. I haven't told Terry. He thinks I have been. He's talking like we're getting a cab back from the reception in Colchester. "Late night that'll be" he told me solemnly the other day. I nodded, wondering if I should tell him, but then worrying he'd take it badly and would then pester Paula until she felt forced to invite me. That'd be embarrassing. I don't know them well enough.

He's now the sole worker in the shop. Mrs Tel suffered a spell of illness two weeks ago and hasn't been seen since. "Like a bleedin' albatross round me back" he told me, mixing his metaphors and surveying his gloomy kingdom with the jaundiced eye of a cynic. The shop's going through a renaissance period until it gets put back on the market; he's cancelled some deliveries so shelves look barer than a Playboy Pool Party. He's had evaluations from estate agent 'mates' and they all reckon £140k if he sells. "Ah'll retire from this game, might get a job in B&Q to tide me over" he says, mulling over a mug of tea. He doesn't need the money. No mortgage, the best part of £300k still earning him interest. Mrs Tel's investments doing well. He can retire and go and play golf all day. If he played at all.

We had a curry last Friday. He fancied one so we agreed to meet at 8pm. He ordered a bottle of rose wine and it came, ostentatiously, in a silver bucket rattling with ice. Rose d'Anjou has never been treated so regally. I drank Aspalls with mine. I like Aspalls in the summer. "Zoider?" said Tel, trying for The Wurzels, ending up more like Wurzel Gummidge's Dagenham brother. "Aint that gonna be narsty wiv a chicken vindaloo?" No. It went well actually. The Rose d'Anjou went strangely with chicken tikka and lamb rogan josh, but I didn't say anything. They all disappeared down the same hole, along with a portion of lamb samosas and three oily bhajis.

We left for the pub after. Tel on his mobile trying to order a local taxi, then nipping to the "'ole in the wall like, need some foldin'". Expresso Martinis, served in tumblers and downed almost in one. Then a couple of rounds of brandies to finish the night. The pub was quiet for a Friday night/Saturday morning, small tables of gently giggling women, the odd fifty-something bloke nursing a pint of best and looking at his phone screen. It reminded me of the shop. Perhaps they're all dying, these once-great establishments of news and drink? The advent of the takeout can and the internet doing away with the expense of buying either.

"Ye've signed some League Too striker ah see" burbled Tel through his brandy. "Scored firty odd goals fer some lot darn there las' season so 'e knars where the goal is at least. Should make a nice change fer your lot". I smiled and nodded, dumbly, not really bothered now we'd secured James Norwood's services; it seemed old news even though it only happened last Monday. Tel babbled on about how crap we were while I watched the bloke at the bar swill the last inch of his pint, wipe his mouth with the back of his hand and mutter 'seeyer' to the barmaid, who briefly looked up from her Guinness pouring to wish him a brief 'goodnight'. He walked out, hitching his trousers up at the belt, pausing to read the menu on one of the tables.

And it hit me. This is me in fifteen years time. And I got that feeling, like I've read about, someone walking over my grave. So I ordered another round of brandies, even though we were still drinking the last ones, and Tel smiled as I set them down, and, much like the bloke at the bar, swilled the last of his down, the ice rattling against his teeth, and then said "Read mah mind, yer did" and reached for the new one. And we both continued the slow advance to our deaths with gentle banter about the Town and the shop and a combined outrage about Mickey's betrayal.

Wish you were here. But you never are. I don't blame you, either, sometimes.
The Warky Summer Report: Number One (h)
at 13:32 7 Jun 2019

It's a Thomas Hardy summer; filled with tempestuous harlots and bucolic half wits, rammed with dappled sunlight playing on the oil seed rape and meadows lazily swaying like a stoned sixties pop concert audience. The occasional burst of rain dampening the dusty lanes. England getting beaten in semi-finals. The sound of mowers moving in unison. Tel clad like a lounge lizard in a Benidorm bar.

The football on offer has been underwhelming. We watched a desperate, quality-lacking Champions League final down the pub, surrounded by white and navy clad Spurs fans, laughing and gloating at the start, embarrassed and shot at the end. "Glad I nevver s'ported them lot" said Tel, the glee dripping from his visage like beads of sweat on a fat bird in a sponsored mile walk. Even Ipswich wouldn't have embarrassed him as much as that. Partly, as he said, because Ipswich are now relegated to the "whatever 'appened to you?" category, and are as relevant now as Colchester United in the annals of great pub debates about footy.

There's been changes. Mickey, Tel's assistant, is no more. She was (daftly) caught nicking a tenner from the till, a crime in Tel's eyes which made her only slightly less felonious than Ted Bundy. It was ironic as well that Tel had, just that morning, been telling me about the new Ted Bundy film he'd watched on Sky. 'Bleedin' syco, yer wonder 'ow 'e weren't caught earlier'.

He'd noticed small amounts of money going missing about three weeks ago. A fiver here, a tenner there, a couple of quid down on his accounts when he cashed up. It coincided with a few uncharacteristic episodes from Mickey. She started turning up late, having been a stickler for punctuality previously. She was normally hungover on weekend mornings, and she dropped three previously good mates for no reason and had become friends with people Tel described as "complete pillocks".

It's a sorry tale, and Tel recounted how he confronted her. "Din't say anyfing, jus' cried and then left. I gave 'er a week in loo'n'all (which I hope was in lieu as the alternative doesn't bear thinking about; his shop toilet is now completely blocked and has thence become his rubbish room and smells roughly like I'd imagine an outside sh*tter does in hell). His thoughts are introspective and angry. "Gave a local kid a chance an' thass 'ow she repays me. Well, aint taking that agin". He's also rightly hurt and bewildered how someone he trusted so implicitly could do something like that.

So it's him and Mrs Tel again. Only, it's winding down. I fear for the future. They shut at 2pm regularly now. Mrs Tel moans about the early starts. It means he has more free time to meet up in the pub, but he's now being careful not to do this too often. We stopped the bets when Mickey left; it seemed there was never enough time for him to spend looking at form. We had nine hundred quid in the kitty so we shared it out. Tel's making tentative moves to sell the shop. "Missus don't wanna know, not really. We're 'ardly skint'n' it never was werf the 'assle. Ah don't trust local kids to give 'em a job, not now". So it looks like he'll be selling.

He made it to the England game last night and we watched in the comfort of the saloon bar, eating the pub's burgers and drinking rose together (which is my new summer tipple following Tel's love of the wine and it being cheaper to buy two bottles with the pub's 'BOGOF' offer they're running until July. "Bleedin' rubbish" muttered Tel as we stayed for extra time and the calamity of our defence. "Might as well be wotchin' your lot" he added, twisting the knife.

He's up for coming more next season. He might have a bit of extra time himself if he sells the shop. He's stopped talking about emigrating to Spain ("Nah, I can see Brexit makin' it impossible an' too expensive) but he'll surely need SOMETHING to do if the shop goes? He doesn't seem too concerned.

One happier tale. He took an Endowment policy out in 1989 for thirty years. It paid him last week, £35k. More than he expected, I think, although he still grumbled and said he 'fought it was werf fifty grand'. They're thinking of going to Florida for September. He's looking at a new three piece suite for the conservatory. "I don't need work rearly" he grinned this morning. "Ah'd rather be free of all this". Then he asked Mrs Tel if she fancied a cuppa, and I left them to it.

We're having a curry later. To celebrate my day off work today. In truth, we don't need an excuse.......
The Warky Report: End of season Blues (h)
at 21:30 21 May 2019

These are the days. Lighter evenings, pub gardens, abandoned pint glasses with half-drowned wasps in them, the optimism of a pub 'Bar-b-Cue' where the sauce comes in plastic bottles and the meat comes from the bits of a cow you'd rather not know. Little flies whirring in groups in the air, the threat of a shower, the cricket scores, a fat bloke revealing his unwise tattoos in sleeveless vest and garish beach shorts, his fake Gucci flip-flops squelching and plapping as he returns to the bar for more lager.

These are the days. Even the incongruous sight of Tel sipping a glass of crap rose-blush wine, sat out on the slightly damp and slowly rotting pub bench, the bottle placed in a metal wine cooler in an attempt to humour him by the landlord ("I ain't drinkin' that warm" he said as we ordered and no cooler was proffered. With a shrug, Jamie the landlord had a quick root below the counter, and, with a 'Eureka' expression, produced a dusty metal urn which he ran under the tap and then started to fill, clunkingly, with ice. It looked as much like a wine cooler as a spittoon does. Or a pisspot).

He's 'discovered' rose wine. Sorry, I thought the little accent on the 'e' would happen automatically. It's not made of roses. It looks like Tizer used to when I was a nipper. It tastes a bit like it as well. Having forsaken lager following a nasty blood pressure test in April, which he was outraged by ("Me wiv 'igh blood presha? Their tester must've been faul'ee. Never felt better") and being patiently told by his GP about eight hundred times that he wouldn't necessarily feel bad with high blood pressure, he's now revisiting his diet with the exaggerated care of an anal retentive.

Gone are the bacon baps in the morning. He now buys those ready pots of porridge you add hot water to. The shop smells bewitchingly of apple and cinnamon, until he belches, when it smells of appley off milk. He's belching a lot more. He eats two Ryvita with Philadelphia and grapes for lunch. He's even got a little tupperware lunchbox he was keeping in the new milk fridge, until some old girl tried to buy it one morning.

He's lost weight. One of his old shirts hangs off him like a student's washing. Trips to the pub, once a joy, are now punctuated by the fear that someone you know will come in and clock you sat with the bloke drinking pink wine. "Luvly stuff yerknaa" he constantly informs you as he slurps another glassful. "Drank this when we was in Spain lars time; went darn a treat". Spain, for all its alfresco lifestyles and genuine heat, is a bit of a culture change from a breezy beer garden in Dovercourt. Still, he seems happy enough.

The shop continues, much like 'Gone with the Wind' without the benefit of an intermission, the ice-cream girl waving her torch in the aisle. The new milk fridge, a necessity when the old one headed south following a botched repair job by Tel, which included the use of his swiss army knife, a hammer and a pair of secateurs, to what purpose unknown, is the chiller equivalent of the Arctic. Twice I've bought a two-pinter of milk off him, and twice I've had to break the ice on the top. "Don't need turnin' darn, don' be daft, it should be that cold, said so in the manual" he interjected when I gently questioned whether it needed to be on that high. He can't find the manual now.

Still, it'll be a nouveau trick in time for the summer. Most shops sell ice lollies; I bet he'll be the only one doing ice ham rolls.

We won a game, amidst all this. Against Leeds. Their near 4000 supporters seemed in such high spirits when they arrived, as well. Since then, they've also exited the play-offs, having held the final in the palm of their hands. I love the play-offs when we're not involved. I'm not that keen on them when we are. We've also released a few players, mainly ones you forgot were still here. A couple of dead-eye strikers would be nice. And someone in midfield who can do the nasty stuff. Otherwise, we look OK. I'm a bit wary of too much optimism at this stage. Sadly, I still remember going OTT about Hurst.

I'll be back soon. Dunno when, where or why. Something'll happen.
The Warky Report: 5 defeats and a newsagent......(a)
at 20:57 27 Apr 2019

Sorry - it's been a while.

I don't have any excuses, except I've been a bit busy and the fare on the field was, well, sh*t. I've been neglecting this a lot this season because of that. Having just switched off the second half of the Sheffield United game, wracked by torment as the blades celebrated on the pitch like it was 1997 again, watching us pass it in little triangles but getting nowhere, oohing in desperation as Judge tried a 30 yarder which their keeper would've saved even if he'd been a thalidomide sufferer, wondering what Lambert sees in Kenlock and Big Trev and Toto the dog, ripping my front room with alarming yells of "For f*ck's sake Kayden, stop looking like a headless chicken and DO something, you waste of a million quid" and wondering why PL doesn't fancy Harrison so much he'd rather play 5-5-0. I'll leave it there. I reckon people on here have thought similar. If you haven't, ask yourself where we're going next season without even a half-decent goalscorer and a defence which doesn't insist on trying just another nice little pass in our own box.

I think the main thing I've learnt from the last few games is that we are f*cked if we're relying on the same tactics in League One. Truly, wetly, slobbily f*cked. Teams there will run at us like we're a Wetherspoons half-price sale in Chantry. Think these can cope with that? You're a more imaginative fan than me. Perhaps you should be writing this instead?

Even Terry, the luckiest, richest bloke I personally know who still manages to find doom in his day is flabbergasted by our demise. This from a man who berates his missus for a 'spending spree' in Fenwick in Colchester (total for two new duvets, a pair of designer jeans and a Jo Malone candle = £290. "Spends it lark waw'ar" he growled to me, as he ordered the King Prawn Madras and the bottle of £35 Gewurtztraminer to wash it down). He won't come to the Leeds game. "Busy" he said, flatly.

He is a recent convert to civilised behaviour. He's stopped drinking lager, following a bout of "guts ache; must 'ave bin a bug, cort it orf me carncil 'ouse reg'lars, probly". He now drinks white wine. By 'White wine', I mean the pricier stuff you see on the top shelves of the wine aisle in Tesco. He likes these. His favourite, currently, is Gewurtztraminer, for which he normally pays £16, but has paid £150 for six bottles in Majestic. True, they were quite nice, in a sort of '70's/early '80's Blue Nun/Black Tower sort of way. Thus he imagines his own sophistication. He does, however, turn his nose up at the standard 'house white' they dispense with bemusement down our local. So he's stopped going there at all, and we now meet for a friendly drink at our respective homes, him bringing a few bottles if that happens to mean mine.

The shop is now minus one member of staff. Kaylee quit after she got a job on the tobacco kiosk in our local Asda. Tel took this news with scorn ("she weren't much good 'ere so gawd knows 'ow she'll cope workin' fer them charlatans. Yer give someone a chance an' they chuck it back in yer face'n leave yer in the lurch"). Still, Mickey remains and now does most weekdays with Tel and Mrs Tel covering weekends and the odd days he doesn't fancy having off or she isn't in Colchester shopping. It seems to work, but I noticed the milk fridge now makes a permanent groaning noise, like an old man forced to watch the 'highlights' of our season whilst simultaneously being masturbated with sandpaper. Tel reckons he's on it. The 'repairs' he's done so far just make the noise a bit clearer.

The Coke fridge now seems to make the drinks a bit nearer room temperature than they were when stacked in the back room in polythene. Tel reckons it's because I've been unlucky and chosen one just as he's sold the last of the cold stock. I deliberately chose one of the worst sellers In there, the cans of Ben Shaw's Dandelion and Burdock, just to test this theory, and lo, they were tepid. I didn't say anything. I just now buy my cold drinks from Tesco's down the road, where they're a) cheaper and b) actually cold.

Mrs Tel's fine. She dropped Tel and me off for my birthday curry on Friday. He paid. We had a riot of starters and wine, and brandies at the end. We had to get a cab home at 2am after we went down the pub and met friends. Tel drank expresso martinis, ("Liven me up a bit arter all them brandies'n'wine). His subsequent hangover yesterday had him wearing his Oakleys in the shop and picking at his bacon bap like a small child. I offered to buy him a coffee and he blenched and winced, and quickly disappeared to the bog. "Dun't do that again" he said as he came back, chastened. The bacon bap disappeared into the bin and he took a bottle of Coke from the fridge. "Lovely that" he smiled after a prolonged sip and a good burp. "Icy cold". He gave me a meaningful stare.

So the entertainment on the pitch has been crap. And we're down, and now have the ignominious (R) against our name, unable even to catch the basket case that is Bolton, who haven't bothered paying their players since Xmas and seem to have sold their souls to a bent Italian in a shiny suit and a suitcase full of lira. From the 2-1 loss against Reading, to the waste of time that was Swansea on a hot Easter Saturday when Isaacs with a cold pint and a packed courtyard seemed preferable to the 90 minutes coming, we've been piss-poor. True, the football's been easier on the eye, but the Evans message to Season Ticket holders that was thrust into my paw as I presented my card at the turnstiles last Saturday was both the words of balm and hypocrisy. I'm sorry he made mistakes as well. But he keeps doing it. That team needs investment. We need hope.

Have a good summer, Might be back, one of these days. You never know.......
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.
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.
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......
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.
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.
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.
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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