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The Warky Lg 1 Report (dedicated to Phil Ham): Charlton (h)
at 12:28 29 Nov 2020

Portentous. There's a word I never thought I'd start a report with. It's been coming. Much like that Amazon Xmas pressie I ordered on Wednesday and which they said they'd deliver by Friday but never did. Much like that promotion we were 'striving for' when Lambert got the job. He'd make a fair Amazon delivery driver. Perhaps that's his next big thing?

It was frosty at 6.45am on Friday. I went for a pre-dawn stroll. Woke up at 5.30am, lay in bed, watched an episode of Ozark, then got a glimpse of the blue-grey sky and the light, a peachy-orange on the horizon and thought 'perfect for a walk'. My boots rustled through the frosty grass, leaving footprints akin to those of the Yeti in Arthur C Clarke's 'Mysterious World', one of those Readers Digest books my dad had back in the 80's which part-thrilled, part scared my younger self.

It was a daft time to have a walk, the twilight making every branch as frightening as that bit in Disney's Snow White when she gets lost in the forest. No cartoonish eyes peeped at me, but an owl screeched somewhere near and several smaller creatures of the night scurried through the bracken at my lumbering approach. My breath curled round my head in plumes like a vape turned up high. I saw very few others, the occasional dog walker, the occasional single, suspicious-looking bloke, possibly returning from burying a victim, possibly just, like me, dogless and enjoying a very early morning walk.

I met one of my near neighbours, Dennis, and his excitable Staffie Missy on the edges of the bluebell wood, now dark and forbidding but lovely in the early summer. Missy bounded over, uncertain of her target in the semi-darkness, but friendly and a bit scatty nonetheless. She greeted me by sticking her nose in my nethers. If only more women were like her.

Dennis is a lovely bloke. He's never appeared in these pages before, mainly because I haven't seen him in ages. We stood having a chat by the gate that leads into the woods. Missy prowled the edges, then sat by her master as though taking part in the chat. It didn't last long and she was soon off again, sniffing at something in a culvert nearby.

Dennis' grandad used to be the local molecatcher in these parts, back when the only alternative occupations were trade or service. Dennis himself is in his late 70's, still sprightly, clad for warmth in his wax jacket and plum jumper and checked scarf and cap and corduroy trousers. "Cold ain'ert?" he said rhetorically in his old North East Essex dialect. I nodded. "Still, tha'll get coolder yet. Ain't 'ad the larsa this". He told me that he walked "six moiler day, takin' Missy owt fer'er breath'a'fresh air before all them others gets'oot 'ere with'er bloody great dogs". He brooded for a bit as I told him I was doing the same, early-morning walks in the twilight, sets you up for the day, all that old spiel. He nodded. "Carnt beat ert. Cold mornens loike this demarnd a walk, bit of a noice breakfuss when yer geddome. It's our Froiday froi-up terday. Missus'll be doin' bit'o'bacon, sausage, bit'o'froied bread, few termartas, probly 'n egg. Good start ter the mornin' when it's all frasty loike this".

Missy returned and sat, tail thumping on the ground and swishing plumes of frost from the fauna so that they wafted in the air near her like ghosts. She got up and came over, head bent, tail still wagging and with friendly eyes and nuzzled her head on my jeans so I could stroke it. "Beddar be gettin' 'ome Missy" said Dennis and we shook hands and wished each other a good morning. Missy gave me an affectionate head rub as I bent down to deliver a final stroke, and then they were off, disappearing through the lightening murk, Dennis lobbing a stick for Missy to chase. I walked the other way back, down towards Tesco's. I suddenly fancied a fry-up.

Tel rang at 10am as I was washing up the pan and the plates and cutlery. The kitchen smelt of bacon and toast and the drips off the HP sauce bottle. "Orlright?" said the disembodied voice at the other end. I affirmed that I was. " Might pop rarnd later. "Ad a bit'o' nooze from Tone, tell yer when I pop over". I said I'd be working from home on the laptop until three and he snorted and said "'f yer can call that work eh?" and we bantered on a bit, then I heard him talking to Mrs Tel in the background and he said "Blimey, s'like the bleedin' war's still on over 'ere, wivout the doodlebugs and the powdered bleedin' egg" and he said a rushed bye and hung up.

I suffered the Hull game on Tuesday night. I also inadvertently paid a tenner for the privilege, despite already having a code. In the end, it was as bad a capitulation as ever under this tool of a manager. All we ever get is more injuries and bad defending and unfit or uncaring 'stars'. As incompetence goes, this is worthier than Johnson's crooked Tiers. The Tiers of a Clown. Tendring has a 65.8 average. Why the hell this means we can't have a pint without a 'substantial meal' (and what definition is a substantial meal anyway? Most of the pubs that serve food round here do a sort of bastard Tex-Mex/Brit hybrid. A few ribs and some onion rings aren't that substantial to start with) no-one knows. Still, it was something else to get all hot under the collar about aside from the apathy at Portman Road.

Tel arrived at four on Friday, just as it was achieving darkness outside. He was driven by Mrs Tel, who wore her fur-hooded parka and stonewashed Levi's and who greeted me affectionately from the driver's seat before roaring away back to the warmth of her house. We stood in my driveway watching her depart, Tel with the merest hint of a wince as she screeched round the corner. "Keep tellin' 'er not ter take corners that quick" he muttered to me, lest, I suspect she could lip read at distance.

He had a beer. An Asahi, one of the twelve I bought last week in Tesco. I did Waitrose yesterday morning. I'm currently writing this with a cup of their excellent breakfast tea at my elbow. It's darker than builders tea, even with more than a splash of milk. I've had my morning walk already. I was up at six. No Dennis or Missy though. Sorry, off at a tangent there.

Tel sipped his beer from the bottle appreciatively and reclined on my settee, his hand reaching lazily for a mini poppadom or a festive turkey and cranberry flavoured crisp. I'd laid out the plates for these treats. I was waiting on the festive party Indian snacks to cook in the oven.

"Tone's gotter bit'o'work for me in the Noo Year" said Tel, lugubriously. He took a swig of beer and then finished the dregs and I brought him another. "Plasterin', bit'o' paintin', new build in Braintree, them sorta boxey-lookin' places they always build these days". He looked at me for affirmation that I knew the type and I nodded, and said Oh yeah. "Gonna be cold in Jan'ry" he said, gloomily, like a depressed Michael Fish. "They got nah 'eating set up in them 'ouses. Be like workin' in a bleedin' meat wagon". He sipped the top three inches off the new bottle and swallowed noisily. A slightly muffled belch. "Them Indyan fings smell done by the way".

"Still cummin' ter us fer Chrissmas?" asked Tel through a mouthful of pakora. I said yes. I'm seeing my parents on Christmas Day, but I'm at Tel's on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. "We've got the board games ready" said Tel, brightly. "Usual pap on the telly, so we'll be playin' cards fer money, bit'o' Frustration, bit'o' karaoke in the evenin'. Should be orlright wiv enuff booze'n that". I agreed. It will be a different Christmas this year, as Boris and his medical advisers keep telling us. I might enjoy this one.

He went at seven, after a few brandies for the road and a wincing sip trial of that bottle of Sambuca I've had in the back of the drinks cupboard since about nine years ago, following a 'lost weekend' with friends in Amsterdam. "Bleedin' 'ell, sure that aint paint remover?" he grimaced. "Tastes like aniseed balls mixed wiv white spirit". Then he had an idea. ""Ere, bring that wiv yer when yer come on Chrismuss Eve. Ah've got a load'o' drinks we nevver fancid'n'all at 'ome, Warninks fer snowballs'n'bloody awful sherries'n'stuff. We'll get drunk on the good stuff first'n'then have a game'o' russian roulette wiv the crap". I prayed my liver would survive til Xmas Day and wondered if I'd make my parents' Xmas morning walk and champagne breakfast. I could feel the spew rising already.

Finally, yesterday. I didn't watch it live. Fearful of accidentally spending another tenner on something I'd already paid for, I left it. This was, by all accounts, the right thing to do. Doesn't make things any better, I know. But, much like my email to Lee O'Neill yesterday, which started conciliatory and then, as the anger and the red wine gripped my fingers, became a bit emotional, it's not a subject we can all just blithely gloss over yet again, or dismiss as "another one of those things you have to put up with as an Ipswich fan". We shouldn't and we needn't. Respect cuts both ways and I don't feel like we're getting our share at the moment.

Phil Ham is an ITFC legend. He doesn't have much to do with these reports, but he lets me do them, despite their subject matter sometimes stretching the accord with the club. I don't apologise for my thoughts. As the disclaimer reads, they are not the views of the people who own and run this site. The same goes for every poster on here, regardless of agenda. I may not agree with you, but I'd never stick anyone on ignore, even those borderline scum fans with one brain cell between them who occasionally alight on here (Not you, Ullaa. You are decent). Maybe this is something certain people at the club we love and support would do well to remember. You're only a bit-part of the story. Not even a good bit-part. You're no Dennis and Missy. You're definitely no Tel. Banning our star man for something he didn't do just makes you look petty and vindictive. No-one wants that at our club. We stand for more than short-term myopia here.
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Can't get Ifollow to work
at 15:33 28 Nov 2020

when I click on 'Pay' it just doesn't take the voucher code. F*** this.
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Lambert OUT!!!
at 20:39 24 Nov 2020

WE ARE CRAP!!! Take off Norwood, f*ck off you scotch tvvat
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Blimey........
at 19:19 24 Nov 2020

We're crap and lightweight - mitigating circumstances be damned
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Just paid a tenner for the game when I had a code
at 19:10 24 Nov 2020

Balls
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Ozark fans
at 07:34 24 Nov 2020

Got to say, whoever gave the recommendation for Ozark on here, many thanks.

I'm currently on Series Two episode 6. It's dark but very good. Better characters than most series. I particularly like the Snells and the FBI Officer Petty.
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The Warky League 1 Report: Shrewsbury (H)
at 13:52 22 Nov 2020

The house seemed mournful when I returned on Tuesday this week. It wasn't that cold outside but it managed that 'unlived in' feel the moment the key turned and the stale air rushed out to greet me. I set the overnight bag and my laptop case down gingerly on the stairs and went off pottering around, refilling the kettle for a cuppa and looking for the bird food.

Tel's last entreaty on the phone was that I "should'a left me a key 'cos I'd've tidied the place up a bit, like". It was a kind gesture. I do have experience of his form of 'tidying' though. It is reminiscent of being burgled. Stuff you'd always placed in a certain spot moved and (often) never seen again. He is of the 'if in doubt, chuck it" school. The same school where classes include 'If it don't work, 'it it, 'ard" and the ubiquitous "If yer can't see it, it's tidy".

I made a pot of tea, enough for about six people, and, reading the pile of bank statements, gas bills and the 'in sympathy' card sent by kindly but badly informed neighbours, I managed to drink five mugs. The rest stewed until it resembled pond water. I lobbed it down the sink and fished out the five teabags from the plughole and lobbed them in the food recycling. This smelt, so I bagged it up and put it in the green box thing outside in my shed. I sprayed the bin with Domestos anti-bac. The smell protested and then died, leaving a clinical fresh fragrance with hints of rotted veg. I cleaned out the fridge. I had fresh milk, two cans of lager and an unopened block of cheddar when I'd finished. Shopping time.

Tel rang again in the evening. He did the polite formalities about my aunt, then launched into a story of how his friend "'ad the same fing, rushed in by amberlance, flashin' light job. 'E's orlright nah though. 'Ad is surgery, 'as to take asp'rin every day, like, can't do anyfing too excitin', like para-shoot jumps or long sessions wiv the missus. I told 'im to take up wotchin' the Town".

He formally invited me to Chez Tel on Saturday evening. "Ah'm doin' steaks" he said, proudly. "Swiss Farm deliver ter me now, did an order last week, comin' Thursdy. Ah've ordered free fillets, two rib eyes 'cos the wife don' eat 'em and a coupl'a their apple'n'erb sossies. We're doin' proper chips in the fryer plus popcorn cauliflower an' garlic mushrooms. We'll 'ave them negronis an' all, cheer us up a bit. Can you bring..." here he composed a list of drinks and mixers. Martini Rosso, ginger ale for the Moscow Mules, couple of red wines and a sparkling white (don't 'ave ter be champers though).

He rang off. I opened the new red I'd bought and turned down the central heating a notch. I'm currently in the middle of Series One of 'Ozark' on Netflix. It's enthralling, but I do sometimes nod off in the chair during quieter moments. It's very dark. I spluttered awake to find two men engaged in sex on one of the episodes. I thought I'd sat on the remote and had accidentally accessed some hitherto unknown porn channel on Sky.

I worked from home all week and had a decent walk on Friday, the incipient cold riming the fields with frost, the smell of woodsmoke from the odd dwelling making the whole feel Christmassy and medieval. I nipped from my hip flask of brandy during breathers, and watched a muntjac deer skulk away alarmed at my panting approach. Twelve miles I walked. I'm getting fitter. My trousers need tightening on new belt notches. My legs no longer burn like my fags uphill.

Tel rang again at four, quick reminder of Saturday night, and had I got the Martini yet? Only it was on offer in Waitrose. I needed more shopping anyway so went to Waitrose in Sudbury on Saturday morning, even though Colchester is nearer. I don't like the Ipswich one, and Colchester is a nightmare for traffic. Plus the drive to Sudbury is prettier, along the Colne Valley to Stoke-by-Nayland, through to the Sudbury main road and then all country until you hit the Cornard outskirts.

I returned, store-weary and about a hundred-odd quid lighter, at three fifteen. I'd resisted the temptation to switch on BBC Suffolk on the way, because we always lose when I do so. Plus Mick Mills' voice is as soporific as Mogadon and I have trouble enough concentrating when driving. Put the shopping away, switch on the laptop, pour a glass of red, try and find my Ifollow code for the game, swear at the website for a bit, then find it, copy and paste it, do the order for the game and then, like the parting of the vines to reveal the Parthenon, up came the familiar empty stands and green grass of PR. And two teams, one in familiar blue, the other in white, fumbling for the ball and making backwards passes to team-mates. And the score. 0-1. To Shrewsbury. In shock, I nearly closed and rebooted the 'Watch Live' button. Surely not?

The disappointment turned to bafflement, as it appeared we had former Spurs and Pompey star Darren Anderton in midfield for us. Surely he was too old by now? Then Brenner said 'McGavin' and the penny dropped. He gave the ball away and, for a moment, I wondered where Gwion Edwards was. Then I accessed TWTD and read that he was out.

Half-time came and the players trooped off, shoulders slightly slumped, heads down. Ready for that Gorbals b*llocking. Mick Mills said something and I switched off the sound and drank the remnants of my glass in a deep, careless swallow.

We won. We never deserved to. In fact, it was more long-ball than the last knockings of McCarthy. Only with lesser players and no urgency. The subs did OK. Keenans looked like Falcao, running at the Shrews with abandon. Alas, his final ball was dogsh*t. Still, he 'scored' the equaliser with a deep cross from nothing which eluded everyone to nestle, apologetically in the back of the net. Lankester (Note to Mail on Sunday - it's not spelt like the county) stumbled to head the winner. Cheered, I logged off and went for a shower.

The cab arrived at seven. I knew the driver. It was a bloke called Gray. Short for Graham. An East Londoner with a cockney accent you could cut bread with, he'd moved from Limehouse in the 80's to rock up in Bradfield. He owned a Potton mock-tudor place with a big garden and a hot-tub. He was one of Tel's former punters, although I don't think he's all that keen on Terry. He never says anything about it, but his face changes to something a bit guarded whenever you mention Tel's name. He is a teetotaller, which is unusual in these days of non-temperance and lockdown. He drinks full-fat Coke on nights out. He's been out with us before. Doesn't want to risk his licence I suppose?

We chatted inconsequentially on the journey. He dropped me at Tel's and I paid him. He said he'd be back at twelve to collect me and I thanked him and told him to bib me when he was outside. Tel answered the front door before I'd made two feet of his drive. "Was that Gray?" he asked as I entered the threshold. Yes. "Fought so. Funny bloke 'e is. Bit mental. Wun't come for that night out we did back in November last year, though I invited 'im" He pointed his index finger at his temple and twirled it. "Yer knar there's this rumour 'e stabbed a bloke in London? Wot made 'im an' 'is missus move up 'ere. Caught the bloke nickin' from his cab or summink. Never arsked 'im o' course. An ole customer told me".

He took my coat and lobbed it vaguely at the settee in the lounge. We went through to the dining room. Mrs Tel was sat at the table reading "Grazie" and drinking what appeared to be Coca-Cola from a Coke glass, the ice tinkling with every movement towards her mouth. She stood up. She's lost weight. We embraced. Her breasts felt like last week's balloons against my chest.

"How's it goin' love?" she croaked. She'd left her hair uncoloured so the greyish strands peaked through at the roots. She wore a new baby-blue velour top and plain black jeans, Levi's. She kissed my cheek. I smelt Anais Anais and I felt tiny, prickly hairs from her top lip. We chatted, mostly about my aunt and her recent illness. She said she was sorry to hear it. She's never met my aunt, but it was a nice thing to say.

We went for a ciggie. I'd bought forty, just in case. The patio heater was on but moved to the central bit between the two chairs. Tel bought me a beer. He was wearing a chef's apron and carrying what looked like metal pincers. He went back and bought Mrs Tel her drink. She asked him for a top-up and he rolled his eyes. "Vodka'n'diet coke" she smiled at me, as if this was the height of naughtiness.

We went inside after smoking and chatting, and Tel bought me the ingredients for the opening salvo of Negronis. "You c'n mix the first one" he said, generously. "I'm busy wiv the food". I mixed three, strong ones with the maximum of Campari and Gin and the minimum of Martini. I tasted mine first, anxiously, and then, confident, added ice. They were good. Mrs Tel's went down quickly. Eye-openingly quick. Almost a one gulper, despite there being a tumbler full. "Mmmmm' she said, appreciatively. I made more for her and me.

By the fifth, we were giggling in the dining room about my aunt farting in the ambulance. She said her mum had farted when she was dying in the ward at hospital. "Right loud one, din't know where to look, they all heard it. One old girl in the bed opposite had hysterics. Worse fing was, the matron was a right starchy type, so was me dad. They din't see the funny side at all. Me dad kept sayin' 'stop showin' us up'. Couldn't 'elp it. 'Is look made it funnier".

Tel brought the food in with the same look, I suspect, that Mrs Tel's father had in the hospital ward. "Woss funny?" he asked, suspiciously. I started explaining. He laughed, but I noticed he watched his wife with an expression which belied the humour. Interesting though this was, it was brief and he went back to fetch the chips.

We ate the food in merriment and it was delicious. Tel relaxed. I got several more Negronis into him and he became the life and soul once again. We were dancing to eighties hits in their lounge, stumbling over furniture and throwing stranger shapes than those you'd find in Polish animations. By brandy time, I was, metaphorically, up on bricks. The brandy eased down like silk. I checked the time surreptitiously. 11.45pm. I decided to sit down and await the beeps from Gray in his cab.

They came at 12.10pm, just as the music stopped and Mrs Tel had kissed me goodnight. "Should do this more often in Lockdown, we should" she slurred, and then she did a slow waltz with me across their living room. I embraced Tel. He was pissed. He came out to the cab with me. "Orlright Gray, long time no see" he shouted. Gray wound his window down. "Right, tel? 'Ow's the missus?" They conversed, Terry leaning in at the driver's side window. He had to bend down to do so. It looked like he was being sick from the back.

Tel gave Gray a small wad of notes. "Geddim 'ome safe Gray" he said. "Little summink for you as well on top". He smiled at me. See yer soon, matey. We'll ketch up in the pub when all this madness is over". I got in and waved. He waved back, then the cold him him and he walked back up the drive.

"Good night?" asked Gray as we set off. Yeah. Good night. And, though the hangover was a beaut this morning, I don't even regret it. Had I earned a bit of a good night? I like to think so. Like the Town, better late than never.

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The Warky Report: The extra bit as an explanation - dedicated to Bankster (H &am
at 17:41 21 Nov 2020

Hi all

So it was the international weekend and some of you might've thought 'Warky's not bothered. England games, not really anything special, friendlies in all but name'. And you'd be right. But it was slightly more than just that....

I'm currently writing this at 5.15pm on Saturday. We've won jammily. More tomorrow. I'm at Tel's later at 7.30pm. We're having steaks and Negronis and a laugh. More tomorrow. I promise. It'll be funnier than the game (unless you like sadomasochism, in which case carry on nailing your b*llocks to that dungeon wall dressed in rubber).

I watched the Sunderland match on Ifollow. Fumed at the final whistle. They were crap. We were robbed. Etc, etc. I didn't post because everyone felt the same. I didn't watch with Tel. He'd already decided the 'Online fing' wasn't for him. The last vestiges of any Town support drained physically like the bloody last drippings off the wife when she was 'on' and used to come to bed wearing stained knickers. Yes, it's all part of the magic. Ladies, I have been married, disastrously, ruinously married. Married when I yearned not to be. It was her affairs that ended it. Or 'affair' singular. We just decided meekly that we weren't right. It was the biggest copout of my life. Alas, human weakness purports greater wisdom than human strength.

So, anyway, we lost at Sunderland. Then, on the Wednesday, came the call. I was working from home and my uncle, aged 68 and sounding concerned, rang to ask me if my dad was at home. No, I said. Everything alright? No, he said. Your aunt's suffered a massive coronary in the night. He woke up to find her next to him, struggling to breathe, skin blueish, eyes sunk. Called 999. They took an hour. Defibrillator. Rushed to Southampton General. Uncle said, slightly humorously "They started doing the heart pump stuff and she let one off, real pearler, rattled the ambulance like a tropical storm. Well, we've been eating a lot of veg lately. The smell! It was like the chimp quarters at the zoo".

Anyway, she's home now. Being cared for by carers who nip in for an hour, smelling faintly of fags and Thierry Mugler. They prop her up in bed, feed her, administer medicine and then leave for some other poor needy who wants her dressings changed or her potty pushed.

I cared for her for a while. My uncle works in London. My cousins work further afield. I called my boss and explained. We're in lockdown. I took my laptop and accoutrements down there and sat working from their home in Fleet. Their internet connection was better. All I had to do was feed her and roll her to prevent bedsores. She's due for stent surgery. Gawd alone knows when. Once the government decide that lockdowns aren't really the answer to massive Northern cases, I guess.

So that's why I've been absent. Still, I've not missed much. An extra-time defeat in the cup and three lacklustre England games. Fleet's better than home though. Aside from the M3, it's actually a very nice village. I've got to know the local newsagent quite well........
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Bloody hell Freddie
at 16:20 21 Nov 2020

Stop being such a wuss
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Just got back from Waitrose....
at 15:58 21 Nov 2020

Have I missed anything?
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Anyone's I follow working yet?
at 19:46 3 Nov 2020

FFS
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The Warky League One Report: Crewe Alexandra (H)
at 21:09 1 Nov 2020

My boiler's broken down. It happened on Friday evening. Went to turn on the hot tap and got a series of clunks and crunches you normally only ever hear when Steve Evans goes to return a ball kicked out of play.

Thinking I could (probably) sort it out myself, I lifted the hatch armed with my trusty minature Phillips screwdriver and a hammer, just in case something needed hitting, hard. The lights flashed like the spaceship landing in 'Close Encounters' then a red one flashed and everything switched off with a series of sharp clunks. The digital panel didn't need to say 'That's all folks'. Nothing would turn on again.

I rang the boiler repair man on Saturday morning, who is coming on Monday. Then, just for the hell of it, I rang Tel. I regretted it a bit when he s said "Ah know summink abart boilers, I'll nip rand later an' 'ave a look fer ya". I reminded him I'd meant boilers that heat water rather than the sort I thought he meant. He laughed. "Thass a good'un that. Nah ser'ously, one of me old customers was a boiler engineer, like. Gottim to tell us a few tips. Saved me parnds in lolly 'e 'as over the years". He rang off chirpily, to take a quick shower. Bastard, I thought. Can't have one of those til it's fixed.

He arrived at 11am on Saturday, just as I was boiling the kettle for washing-up water. "Nice one, quick cuppa before we start" he said. Then he asked if I had any biscuits. We sat at my kitchen table drinking tea and discussing the boiler in words that lacked any real technicality. I described the noise it made to him and he nodded knowingly and said "Did it make a sound like a wet fart?". I said no, not that I could remember. He nodded again, slightly less assuredly.

It took him five minutes of struggle to get the drop down cover to open. I didn't realise that was what he was doing, until I heard him gasp and call it a 'Cowson'. I came in and found the two flaps and pulled it open. "Oh" he said. "One'o'them is it?".

He sucked his teeth at the display. "Bleedin' complex innit?" he muttered. Then he pushed a few buttons, randomly. A green light came on. "Goddit!" he said triumphantly. It quickly turned red. "Thass fine" he reassured me when he saw my face. He twiddled with the two dials and something clunked inside the boiler. "Thass the pilot light" he said. He turned the hot tap on in the kitchen sink. We could've filled the Hoover Dam by the time he turned it off again. "Still cold innit?" he said, decisively. I nodded.

He gave up when he thought he'd got the pilot light on again and it became obvious he hadn't. I boiled the kettle to wash the cups up and he said "Yeah, could go anuvver cup acshully, read me mind". We sat in various stages of despair at the kitchen table, me thinking of my credit card balance I'd recently got back to £0 and how I'd need it now, Tel defeated and stymied by something he'd never really had much idea about anyway. The hot tap dripped its cold contents as a sort of depressing interlude to our thoughts. Then Tel drank the remnants of his tea and said he'd see me later that night for a curry. I roused myself and nodded and said 'thanks for trying anyway' though it was a bit false-sounding.

I fancied a drink when he'd gone. So I retired to the lounge and poured a large, neat brandy and got some ice and put a bit of soda water in it. I sat back in the kitchen, sipping the drink, feeling it warm my stomach. Then the boiler growled and made a 'whumph' sound and I had hot water again. I went and had a shower while it lasted. I'd NEARLY got all the shampoo out of my hair when the water went cold again. Still, cold showers never did James Bond any harm. Or randy men.

I watched the game at 3pm on my laptop. It was terrible. I switched off at half-time, too dispirited to be bothered with a poorly-performing Town today. The birds wanted feeding and the rain started just as I got outside to feed them, the sharp patter providing the second cold shower of the day.

I came back soaked and sat at my laptop table in the lounge. I switched the game on again. No better. Hoofball, and a lot of misplaced passes. I left it running while I watched the birds eat. My goldfinches never turned up. The blackbirds did, so did the robins and the starlings. And a wood pigeon, sat underneath the table, waddling like Steve Evans on the touchline.

The game hadn't changed. Then it did. A deep cross into the Crewe box, what looked like a cluster of players jumping for it, a goal. Chambers wheeled away delighted. Then Hawkins got mobbed. Alan Judge only just reached his waist.

Crewe should've equalised but missed. And then we'd won at home again. I supposed it was the wins that counted, rather than the performances. No, sorry, I hoped.

I reached the Indian restaurant at seven as arranged. I had a quick cigarette outside. Tel turned up driven by Mrs Tel as I was flicking the ash off the last inch. I went over to say hello. "Hows'yer boiler love?" asked Mrs Tel. "I noo you was in trouble when you rang 'im (here she indicated Tel in the passenger seat with a flick of her chestnut curls). Yeah, ah fought 'wass 'e know abart fixin' boilers?'. He cun't fix ours that time,'ad to call a mate of 'is from the shop, 'n'e was next to bleeding' useless". She said this smiling, like the Joker having a quick laugh with Batman before knifing him one. I smiled and said Tel had tried. "All he's good for, love" she grinned. Then she kissed him goodbye and he got out. We waved her off. Tel said "Fank gawd for that" and we went in.

The indian was quite full of socially distanced tables and people strapping on face masks to go to the loo or nip out for a fag before the chicken tikka arrived. We sat in a corner at a table for four. It had 'Reserved' on it. We had booked but they've never done this before. Tel asked the waiter about it and he said, a bit surprised, that we'd booked, hadn't we? Tel started saying "yeah, but....." and he went off to the bar, returning with the bookings folder. He pointed out Tel's name and contact number with a '+ one' next to it. He did this in the manner of someone telling a small child that the table with their name next to it was...their table. Tel snickered and ordered a round of drinks. As the waiter moved off to fetch them, he muttered 'smartarse'.

He apologised for his lack of success in fixing the boiler. I didn't tell him the hot water had come back on, albeit briefly, because he'd have crowed about it and said that was down to him. In truth, he'd have had more success hitting it hard with my hammer. Probably.

We had a lingering brandy each and I paid the bill. Tel revolved the brandy in the glass and looked speculatively at the next table, who were finishing their kulfi sweets and coffee, eyes locked lovingly on each other. She was wearing a sort of lycra body thing under her dress. "Bet 'e'll knock 'imself art geddin' that off later" whispered Tel.

We left at 9.30, Mrs Tel already waiting in the car park, headlights dipped. We got in the car and she drove me home. On the way, she asked me what I was doing for Christmas. I said the usual, parents on Xmas Day and Boxing Day, probably off on Xmas Eve and the Monday. I asked for Xmas Eve as annual leave as if I can't go back to Birmingham, I'd rather be off. "We was wonderin' if you'd come to us for Chrissmuss this year?" she asked. So, flattered, I said yes. Although I'll have to forgo Christmas Day for my parents. So it's agreed for Christmas Eve and Boxing Day with the Tels.

They dropped me and they drove off, waving. I waved back and then, slightly merry, went looking to finish the job in my lounge. My brandy is better than the one they serve in the Indian. It only took me the rest of the bottle to realise it. I got some more today. Another two bottles. You need it when your gas central heating radiators are colder than a witch's tit.

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The Warky Lg 1 Report: Lincoln City (A)
at 12:34 25 Oct 2020

Wet and windy. And that's just my toilet habits. It's been a frustrating week.

I met Terry on Tuesday in the pub for lunch. Working from home is becoming the new excuse for not doing much. We'd arranged it purely for the chance to catch up, but he had ulterior motives of his own. Mostly Mrs Tel and her new-found passion for online exercise classes. "She's like bleedin' Jane Fonda" he moaned as the second pint was ordered from the masked bar steward. "S'like every bad keep fit video ever released by some fat celebri'ee, on and on, like an 'Amster on a wheel". The pints arrived, and he sipped the top of his, face articulated by despondency.

He's purchased a cross-trainer at her request; ordered online from Argos for a few hundred quid. He showed me a picture on his phone, a sort of gleaming white and grey plastic thing with two foot plates built in and moveable arms. It looked like something Doc Brown would build for time travel, a sort of upright exercise bike without pedals that you stand on and pretend to walk up the side of a mountain on, using the arms as ski sticks. It reminded me of a picture I once saw in a book about medieval torture implements. Only they weren't plastic.

"Its goin' in our bedroom n'all" he said, as though this was a done deal. "Won' get much kip. Or anyfing else. Not that I'm getting' much'o'that anyway". He studied the menu on the table and verbally weighed up the chicken club sandwich and chips or the chilli beef nachos with guacamole and cheese. I went for the caesar chicken salad with croutons and bacon. He snickered at this. "On a diet are we?". I shook my head. "Nah, didn't fink so. You should get a cross-bleedin' trainer". 'I'll nip round and use yours' I said. "No chance. She'll be on it mornin' ter night. It'll be the most activity our bedroom's seen in donkeys".

We ate, discussing life in between mouthfuls, him having a pop at Tony, his brother-in-law, who has just started work on an office conversion in Southend. "Din't 'ave anyfing for me, did 'e?" said Tel with a shrug. Tony is staying up at a Travelodge nearby, to be on hand if anything needs doing. "Well, thass 'is excuse anyway. Prob'ly got a bird on the go up there. Wouldn't be the first time". He smiled a conspiratorial smile at me. "You int 'eard that from me by the way".

We did a half-hearted bet on the Tuesday football scores. I say half-hearted because we now have over four grand in the joint account, a result of a few horse tips Tel had from an ex-customer in the days when he had the shop, and who he now sees regularly in Asda, buying his paper and his slim panatellas. "The bloke's dynamite" said Tel once to me, in the days when picking a horse winner became like winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. However, the tips aren't that frequent, and Tel is loth to back anything without a tip these days. Hence his half-heartedness.

"Doncaster'll beat Town" he said, gleefully taking the 7/4 odds for a home win. I must've protested, because we then had a bit of banter about the draw, which was 11/5. "Won't be a draw" maintained Tel with a certainty that grated. In the end, I was grateful he was so sure. It wasn't a draw. Or any points at all, come to that.

The rest of the week splashed by on the breeze, me working, me not working as much, me watching the birds huddled like pensioners at a bus stop on the bird table, disconsolately pecking the bacon rinds and cups of seed I shoved out there, slowly flapping between table and feeders like children at a buffet. I've got a pair of goldfinches who brighten the diorama a bit. Makes a change from the usual mob of starlings and blackbirds and robins and blue tits. Not that they hang around long.

I'd arranged to meet friends on Friday night in Colchester, so missed the Friday curry. Tel didn't bother in the end. The cross-trainer hadn't arrived when I rang him on Thursday to say I couldn't make it. He took the news with suitable dignity and didn't try the usual crack of "You've got friends then?" or something in that vein. He couldn't make yesterday as he and Mrs Tel were off for a day in Cambridge, shopping and "'avin' a look rarnd, not that much'll be open prob'ly". They were having a meal somewhere in the city. "Italian" said Tel, as if this was a new and perplexing concept. "Pasta'n'that" he added, as if I too didn't know what 'Italian' meant.

I had a walk, despite the spitting showers and forbidding skies. Saturday morning, 10am, clocks due to go back that night, the hedgerows shiny with wet, the paths a miasma of mud and puddles and churn. I walked past Lawford Church and round and into Manningtree and then home, calves on fire and knees cracking. I stopped in a pub in Manningtree for a pint, sat alone and becalmed at a table, the fire roaring in the grate and the smell of woodsmoke mingling with the scent of beer slops and polish. The lights were low so the inside was darkened by the gloom outside. The rain speckled the windows and then came harder, bouncing off the sills and the ground, making me pleased I'd stopped and wasn't walking in it. I had another pint and then a glass of wine. It eased and stopped. I went.

I was home by three. I put Soccer Saturday on. No news about Ipswich. I was dreading a Lincoln goal, but nothing came. They read the half-times while I was making a cuppa. I never drank it. I made it and then went and did some housework and forgot about it. It was cold when I remembered. Just as I was resigned to a decent-ish 0-0 at Lincoln, they announced a penalty there. Of course it wasn't ours. 1-0. Switch off. Back to making my bed.

I din't bother with anything fancy last night. I got nicely cut on red wine and brandy. I had cheese on toast with worcester sauce. Nice bit of cheddar. I've just got back from shopping at Tesco as my cupboards were barer than a page in a cheap w*nk mag. It's nearly pay day so I've been ekeing out my reserves in the bank with a stringency not normally seen. It's been an expensive month, yet I've got nowt to show for it besides a few thumbed paperbacks and a rattling drinks cupboard.

C'est la vie, as Robbie Nevill sang in the eighties, back when cross-trainers were de rigeur as were shellsuits, Thatcher and yuppies. All were consigned to the metaphorical bin. I hope Tel's got plenty of room in his wardrobe for his wife's peccadillos. I bet he'd say he hadn't. He'd probably think peccadillos were spanish sandals.

Another three points would be nice, Paul. Please.
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The Warky Lg 1 Report: Accrington Stanley (H)
at 12:50 18 Oct 2020

It was good weather for a walk. Overcast, cool, autumnal freshness, the leaves a quilt of golds and russets and goldenrod, the puddles small and the turf springy. It came wrapped in mists and occasional glimpses of azure sky amongst the murk. The smell of recent spent bonfires in back gardens spliced with woodsmoke and sharp air and the eggy scent of the tidal Stour at ebb. And Tel's Sauvage for Men, worn so liberally it seemed he took inspiration from 'Enry Cooper's entreaty to 'splash it all over'.

Yes, a walk with Tel. He came reluctantly of course. We'd been in the pub the evening before, sans Indian or Chinese as he'd had an indefinable episode of gastric turbulence from the week before, something he gave the generic name 'Gut rot' and then changed the subject. We ate in the pub instead. The pub that's not the local, by the way. The local, suspecting Tier 2 lockdown in our fine county means disaster for hospitality, has shut. Pre-emptive, yes. Surprising, no. It hardly had any punters before.

We drank too much as usual, and, fortified and cheered by the blend of cheap mass-produced cognac and beer and the large Baileys he bought us at the end ("fancid it" he said by way of explanation) and my latent urge to exercise some of these empty calories off my rotund form, he agreed to come for a walk yesterday. "We'll start early" he said, enthused by the drink and agreeable to a good stiff ten miler. It was a good evening. My head was pounding in my dream as I slept. The hangover was a pearler. Everything but the 'desperation at closing time' lady in bed with me, and the rancid guts. It even included the self-loathing. Must've been the Baileys.

It was a country gent who sat waiting for the knock from Tel at 8.30am. Socks tucked into moleskin trousers, Karrimor boots, tweed country jacket and rucksack with a freezer bag containing egg salad sarnie on bakery bloomer bread wrapped in foil, bag of Wotsits and two peanut Trackers, bottle of water, small can of Coke, hip flask full of the dregs of the bottle of Glenmorangie I found in the drinks cupboard which has been there since last Christmas. Trusty walking stick. I nearly forgot my binoculars, then remembered and shoved them in the rucksack. In case we saw any unusual birds, I told myself. They're not heavy. Might see a Marsh Harrier. Or an Avocet. Or an eighteen year old attractive virgin. All count as rarities round here.

Tel arrived at nine, dressed like he was out on a run in Adidas tracksuit top, sweatshirt, woollen scarf and grey tracksuit bottoms. He wore an old pair of scuffed black trainers and those sort of half-socks kids wear. We looked an odd couple. Two burglars returning home after a good night's thievery in Brantham.

"Why've yer tucked yer socks inter yer trousis?" demanded Tel, truculently. He eyed me with misgiving. "Got a bleeding' 'ead like a steamdriver's footplate an' now ah've gotta go for a walk wiv you dressed like Mr Bleedin' Toad". He sniffed and sneezed, blowing his nose on a bit of kitchen roll he found in his trouser pocket. "Gotta bleedin' cold already" he said, mournfully. We set out.

The river bank was a lot muddier than I'd expected. Tel, his track bottoms pristine on the paths, grumbled to himself behind me, then stopped briefly to slip the rest of his foot back into his trainer as he trod in a particularly boggy patch. He emerged back, face a sharp mirror of his disquiet at being made to slither along river banks at 9.30 on a Saturday morning when he could have been in bed, Mrs Tel frying bacon and eggs downstairs. "Nearly lost me right shoe" he said accusingly at me.

We stopped at 10.30 for a breather. I had my water. He fished in a Gola drawstring bag and brought out a small gunmetal thermos of coffee. "Forgot the biccies" he muttered to himself. He unscrewed the cup from the flask and poured a cup. He got distracted by my quiet shout of 'Kingfisher!" and ended up pouring coffee over his fingers. It wasn't a Kingfisher either. It was a bit of faded orange polythene in a tree.

We reached Dedham at just after 11am, rosy-cheeked and slightly breathless, Tel eyeing me with distrust as I walked while having a fag. "Undoin' all tha' good work, you are" he said, disapprovingly. The local pub was open but Tel didn't have a face mask with him, so I gave him one of my spares. "You aint worn it?" he kept asking, with mistrust. No, I said. He eyed me with uncertainty then slowly put it on. "You bleedin' 'ave worn it" he mumbled. "It smells of fags". No I haven't. I said and showed him the packet it came in. Mollified slightly, he pulled the straps over both ears.

We ordered pints of real ale and sat outside. The steam from our heads whirled and dissipated into the ether. We stayed in the pub for three hours, leaving at two for the walk back, both carrying stomachs which sloshed with ale and a quick large brandy. "We gotta walk all the way back?" said Tel, plaintively. Then he asked how much cash I had on me. I found a tenner, crumpled into my wallet so tightly it was nearly a ball. We waited at the bus stop and caught one back to within half a mile of my house, where Tel would wait for Mrs Tel to collect him. He moaned about the half-mile walk. I made a mental note not to bother inviting him again. I'm sure he made a similar one.

I made it for the game on I follow. Mrs Tel arrived at 3pm on the dot. She's still medicating on anti-depressants but they've now levelled out, so she resembles a sixties hippy rather than a maniacally happy potential serial killer. She narrowed her eyes at my greeting and smiled like a Siamese cat. I wondered if she should be driving, but she seemed safe enough, just sort of absent in a minor way. Tel carefully wiped mud off his trainers and trousers as he got into the passenger seat. He was merrily calm. I was anxious for them to go so I could watch the Town on the laptop. They went. I waved them off and then went in to my laptop.

It was a strange game. They were better than us in the first half, but we were so much better than their best in the second. We looked clinical, level-headed, energised and organised. They played with a youthful ebullience which tired and flailed as the game wore on. Accrington weren't a strong overall team and we deserved the win. Their defence made some shocking errors. Mid-table for them. The Chelsea kids they have on loan will be too good for half the teams in this league.

2-0 said Brenner. Yes, said the boring stolid Mick Mills. I switched off as he launched into analysis. The PR pitch disappeared into the black screen and I checked the other results. Then I started preparing supper. My own burgers, made with rump steak I ground myself in my Magimix, with cayenne pepper, half a clove of garlic, horseradish sauce and some chillis. Two poppy-seeded burger rolls from the baker, raw onion slices, two thick slices of Keens Cheddar, gherkins and my own relish made from tomatoes, chillis, a drop of brandy and a bit of mustard.

They fell to pieces as I lifted them to my gob later. But they tasted great. Let's hope our league position doesn't fall to pieces in the next week. Two difficult away matches. Could be the defining part of the season. Unlike Tel earlier, we'd better not start getting stuck in the mud.

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The Warky Lg 1 Report: Blackpool (A)
at 17:31 11 Oct 2020

I've spent my ITFC vouchers! I bought a scarf and a wallet and a travel mug, all adorned with the ITFC badge in various textiles and designs. The shop was nearly empty yesterday. A few souls, armed with white envelopes stuffed with vouchers, stood and looked at the empty pitch from the upstairs window and then fingered the replica 1978 Cup Final shirt and the replica 1981 UEFA cup shirt and the replica 2000 Play-off shirt with the sort of longing you normally associate with dogs when the biccies appear.

The shop played 'Heroes' by Bowie and 'Better Days' by Springsteen in the background. Both missed the point. This was more 'Missing You' by Chris de Burgh, with a bit of Righteous Brothers lobbed in for good measure. I found my seat in SBRL. It was just behind a coverlet, sat forlorn, watching the seagulls on the pitch.

I hadn't meant to go to Ipswich yesterday, but then an old friend invited me for lunch in the town and I went, taking my vouchers with me as this would probably be the only chance I got before they expire in March 2021. In the end we had a nice-ish lunch and then I went home. The town was hectic and the shops seethed with people in winter coats, watching the skies with the same look St Anthony gave when Christ returned. It was wet, cold, miserable. I got back at 2.30pm and decided to watch the Blackpool game on Ifollow.

Tel and I met on Friday, thankfully alone this time, him in a better mood as a result. "Parky innit?" he said, his fleece and scarf hugged round him. We had a Chinese. The restaurant was nearly empty; a couple by the mock fireplace and another by the window. The bloke of the couple by the window looked familiar from the back, but then he turned round and I caught a glimpse of the face and no, didn't know him after all. Tel, thinking I was eyeing up his partner (who was reasonably attractive) gave a stage whisper "'Ere, don' make it obvious!" and then they both looked at me and I had to turn around so quickly I nearly gave myself whiplash.

Tel winked at the woman and mouthed an apology at the bloke. It was embarrassing. Luckily they both left shortly after, the bloke giving me his best Paddington hard stare as they passed our table. Tel eyed the woman's arse surreptitiously as she passed, unseen by her beau. Then he laughed and said "Yer dirty little sod" loudly, and the other couple looked at us. I could feel myself sinking in the chair. The Chinese waiter looked disapproving, but then it's difficult to say whether that was on behalf of his late-departed customers or his normal countenance.

The starters arrived with two beers, Tsing Tsao's in bottles, little tumblers on trays with napkins underneath. The crispy seaweed was saltier than the sea. I left it to Tel after a mouthful. He gleefully drained the bowl, commenting on my philistinism for not liking seaweed "Jus' cos iss diff'rent". I told him it was deep fried cabbage flavoured with MSG, but he scoffed and said "Nah, Chinkies don' mess abart wi' their food like that" all smug, so I refrained from arguing. The prawn toasts were overfried and the less said about the chicken skewers, the better.

The duck came, on a platter with steam wood baskets of pancakes and chopped cucumber and spring onions. We'd ordered a whole one. It was smashing. The Hoi Sin sauce seemed a measly little puddle in a saucer so we ordered another. They brought it eventually, albeit with a reluctance that bordered on defiance. Why Chinese waiters feel they must behave like this is beyond me. They're usually friendly.

We left after a brandy apiece and waited, sheltering from the rain for Mrs Tel to provide the lift home, in the take-away bit. They made us wear masks as we'd left the table. Tel muttered about "Cust'mer servis aint their strong point ternight" and said a firm but polite 'no' when they asked us if we wanted another brandy each.

Mrs Tel arrived. Now, either she was just very happy or she's been medicated with very liberal dosage for her depression, but it was like being picked up by Minnie Mouse. She was voluble in her gladness to see me, and we spent the journey discussing new curtains for their dining room, me answering in one-word affirmatives as she gushed on about these Neptune Green ones she'd seen with Sandy in Freeport last weekend. I looked sideways at Tel from the back seat a few times and he smiled tight-lipped and raised his eyes a few times back. I'm glad she's feeling better, but I think I prefer her depressed if this is the new norm.

She dropped me at my house, still rabbiting on in tones of insouciance, dominating the conversation, asking me in almost breathless wonder what I was doing tomorrow and reacting like I'd just goosed her when I replied. I was glad when she drove off. My ears were starting to ring. She waved and blew a kiss as they rounded the bend at the top of my road, and Tel made a grab for the steering wheel as they swerved near the kerb. Blimey. The peace felt like the end of the world.

They were busy yesterday. "Braintree Freeport with Tone, an' Sandy'n'the kids" said Tel. "Buyin' bleedin' curtains". 'Neptune Green?' I replied on the phone. "Look, don' start, alright? She's been on the ole 'appy pills since Tuesdy. She finks everyfings lovely. Iss like livin' wiv a Stepford Wife. She's even cooked me breakfast this mornin' and when was the larse time you 'eard 'er doin' that? Normally she'd 'ave told me to sod off an' do it meself. Thass where the shop came in 'andy, escape".

He rang off after arranging a pub meet for lunch on Tuesday. I'm off on Tuesday. Doctor's appointment. I've been feeling a bit depressed. Next week's notes'll probably be an endless paean of joy. I might not tell him I've been a bit depressed, just in case. I might just go for the original thing I booked it for, my slightly swollen left testicle. Less embarrassing.

Back to Blackpool. We had a spare weekend, so did they. Made sense to rearrange it. It made even more sense when a marauding Chambers hammered one from the edge of the box and their keeper grasped thin air as it pounded the back of the net. Then we took control, and the piss, and were two up with a goal their commentator thought was side-netting. Cue the depressed home commentary. I was thinking of offering them a couple of Mrs Tel's tablets when Bishop made it three.

The second half was less fun, as these games often are. We looked astonished to be winning 3-0 and retreated like a tortoise's head as a result. Blackpool got one back, a sloppy scrambled effort that we should have cleared long before. Then Edwards raced onto a Chambers cross-field ball and skinned their right back to make it four. Game over. I'd be worried if I was connected to Blackpool FC. We never got out of second gear. Didn't have to.

My efforts at cocktails have been improving. Last night, I attempted a gin sling. It was passable. I drank several, all slightly stronger than the last. Tonight it's roast lamb and red wine. Saint Emilion. I might try a Cosmopolitan as well. I've got Cranberry Juice and oranges and stuff. The lamb's cooking as I write.

Back for Accrington next Saturday. My third Ifollow match, only this one's free. If only everything in life was.

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Following on from fruit....best vegetable?
at 13:41 8 Oct 2020

For me it has to be the potato. Closely followed by Pak Choi. And then asparagus

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The Warky Lg 1 Report: MK Dons (A)
at 15:42 4 Oct 2020

"Trouble is..." said Tel, contemplating his pint glass with a frown, "the wife'n'I aint been geddin on well fer a while". He broke off as a waiter in a shiny black waistcoat and shiny black trousers, open-necked white shirt and mask, came to deliver our next beer order. Friday night curry. Changed from Saturday as Tel was off to the in-law's in Braintree yesterday. Welcome back.

The rain left beads on the windows; patterns of slowly trickling water snaked slinky-like across the panes. The patter of droplets on the restaurant conservatory roof was the timpani accompaniment to our conversation. Tel's mod anorak, the faux fur lining hanging outward so it appeared that his chair was a skinned sheep, pooled tiny puddles on the floor near his feet.

We had company; Rick, the new guy who disappeared when Tel went on holiday, reappeared as if by magic like the shop owner in Mr Benn. Tel invited him. I too had a friend, Ben, a mate from way back who I've known since primary school and who I'd invited ostensibly to meet Tel, something he'd been meaning to do for a while but never had. It was a bit risky as Ben is also someone I've known post the occasional comment on here. Not a regular by any means but he knows my nomme de guerre. He also knew not to say owt.

The week at work seemed never-ending. By Wednesday, with virus rampant and the news full of Trump v Biden and the trading of the sort of put-down's the writers of Have I Got News For You would dismiss as trite and schoolboyish (and they sure know unfunny when they write it), it was back to Autumn proper, with rain and wind and great puddles on roads. The work unfolded like a broadsheet paper on a train. It was just as difficult to fold back.

We'd arranged to meet at 7pm on Friday night but as it turned out, Tel was late and he was bringing Rick. So Ben and I sat, sipping bottles of Kingfisher, ignoring the dishwasher-clean tumblers proffered by the staff on the black trays they transferred the drinks by. A big notice on the brickwork that was the front of the bar said "Please. No service here. Take a table and service will be bought". A line of waiters stood by the restaurant door, fiddling with cuffs, faces alert for a raised hand or a call. We drank our beers down to the suds and called for two more, with a couple of prawn puris. It was 7.20pm. Still no sign. Ben asked if Tel was always late and I smiled.

The beers and puris came, as did Tel and Rick. Tel unhooked his arms from his coat and asked the same waiter who'd brought our beers and snacks for two more of the same. Introductions were made, elbows knocked in true Corona style and we were off. Rick finished telling Tel the story he'd clearly started in the car on the way. "So I wrote to the council and they said they'd sort it, so that's where I am". He explained the rest to the two of us who hadn't been privy to the start. Something about a nuisance neighbour cutting down a tree on his land. Tel grimaced. "Yer can't trust bleedin' ' councils fer action" he said. Then his beers and puris turned up. The conversation died for a bit.

We ate the poppadoms and the onion salad and pickles. Tel's bit of the table suffered direct onion strand hits, some with added pickles so they seeped minor blotches on the cloth. The rest of us managed to find our mouths. We talked about work and gossiped about colleagues and Ben's boss who'd been fired for sexual misconduct in 2018. Ben works for a firm of City lawyers in London. He's not a partner. It rankles.

Tel relaxed a bit after another beer and became expansive. When the others had left the table for a slash, he moved nearer to me and spoke about Mrs Tel. "Din't wanna talk while they're in earshot, like, but fings 'ave improved a bit. She's seen this counsellor in Colchester last week, pricey cos iss private but she needs 'elp so I agreed". Highwoods?, I asked innocently. "Yeah" said Tel, surprised. "'Owdyer knar that?" I said I'd heard of a counsellor up there. He nodded, satisfied, almost pleased that she was seeing someone well-known locally. I didn't let on about the card in the bin when I was round their bungalow.

The others returned and Tel said "Talk more in the pub tomorrow lunchtime" gently to me as he got back to his chair. The rest of the meal played out. Tel, driving us all home, resisted more beer and had a lemonade and lime cordial. He dropped Ben at the station for his train back to Colchester. He dropped me at home and then took Rick, who lives a few streets away from Tel, with him for the homeward drive.

Yesterday was wet and a bit wild. We'd arranged to meet in the pub at 1pm. Tel was off to Braintree at five, meal with the in-laws in some Chinese restaurant. "The wife's drivin'" he said, unconcernedly. I went for a walk in the morning, attempting to time it so I made the pub by 12.30. My timing was spot-on as it turned out. The walk was muddy, wet and blustery. My chinos had soggier bottoms than a Bake Off sponge. Still, rosy cheeks and a breath of fresh air, a good way to walk off the excesses of brandy I'd consumed the night before.

Tel arrived at one-fifteen, dropped by a taxi, his brown check face mask making him look a bit like Bane out of Batman at a distance. He sat at our table and asked the barmaid for a pint. There were a few in the pub, mainly walkers with wet labradors and old folk hoping for a slice of steak pie and cabbage with their IPA and Britvic orange and lemonade for her.

We drank and talked Mrs Tel. "She's been off for ages" said Tel, almost sounding sorrier for himself than his wife. "Bleedin' still got the hump wiv me, 'ad it all froo the 'oliday, din't wanna do much but sulk on her own. I said to 'er before we went, ah said 'yer need some 'elp love, get some. Try a couns'ler, like'. So she did. An' I fink iss workin'. Can't be any worse anyway".

He took a long, deep draught of his pint and fiddled with the beermat, flipping it up and missing the catch. Then he made eye contact with a barmaid and asked for a bowl of their chilli-beef nachos. I had a bowl of chips. We shared the two bowls, although the nachos aren't my favourite things. They taste of wet cardboard.

We talked on. Tel did the weekend footy bet at 2pm. We lost by the way. Ipswich let us down, for once this season. So did Blackburn. "Scored four 'gainst Derby larse week, should beat Cardiff" said Tel with conviction. Still, he did have fifty quid on Sottsass, and that just won the Prix de L'arc de Triomphe so we're up again. Rick tipped him it on Friday. Tel was going to do Enable. Rick changed his mind. Good old Rick.

We left at four, in a cab which dropped me first. Tel went home for a shower and the drive to Braintree. They were staying overnight and having Sunday lunch in some carvery today. He said it like it was a challenge, to be faced and got over, much like the wife and her issues. True, we did have a laugh as well, but these moments were fleeting and I felt sad looking back on them. He's becoming adrift in a sea of issues which aren't his fault and which he doesn't know how to overcome. He mentioned separation yesterday lunchtime, as if it was a last straw but one they'd clearly talked about despite this.

I mourned him a bit last night. I missed the old Tel, the one who always saw the humour and the funny side of even the trickiest of dilemmas. This version, the dismissive, deliberately misunderstanding mask which slips to show he does care, really, deep down, but which he wears because he thinks his caring somehow makes him vulnerable, is not the Tel I know. And yet separation would be the end of him. He needs her more than she needs him, or knows. And that's the most frustrating thing of all, the fact she doesn't know because he won't tell her.

And the Town only drew. I say 'only' like it's a bad thing. Perhaps three wins out of three has made us complacent? All I know is the satisfying fist I made when I logged into my phone in the pub at three thirty to find we were 1-0 up was gone, replaced by disappointment at 4pm when they'd equalised. "Ah don' miss the footy sometimes" said Tel, and, even though he was talking about not watching the Premier League games on Sky, I knew what he meant. Sort of.
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The Warky League 1 Report: Rochdale (sort of Home)
at 12:33 27 Sep 2020

Windy and wet. The dead leaves stirred and fluttered on the lawn like a wraith. The birds, sensitive to climactic changes, ate more. I'd run out of bread and cake by Wednesday; in my generosity, I've achieved the avian equivalent of North Carolina in my own backyard. One Robin is so fat he'll start demanding Big Macs soon.

The Terries returned on Monday night, their sojourn in Broadstairs over. Tel was slightly tanned; not the deep mahogany of Spain but several patches on forearms and neck which spoke of 'deckchair on beach' and mid-day naps. "Chose a right good week" he muttered when I pointed it out. Mrs Tel too had red patches on her arms and a vee of redness on her upper chest. She'd clearly not sunbathed topless like she often does in Spain. I bet the good burghers of Kent were grateful for this small mercy. She'd have been missed this year by her pervy old Spanish fanbase.

Tel didn't mention the still-moist fake flowers on his hall table. I had a quick surreptitious feel when they both went into the kitchen. Should dry off now they've turned their central heating on.

Tel shivered and said "Woss 'appened ter the wevver darn 'ere then? S'like winta fer gawd's sake", He's started wearing his YSL jumper, a thin, lambswool top that doesn't usually see the light of day until November. He showed me some photos of Broadstairs on his phone. They were punctuated by the sort of obvious running commentary people with limited imaginations make on these occasions. "'Ere's the 'ouse" and "'Ere's the ovver side" accompanied ten or so photos of a 1960's bungalow-type building taken with as much panache as an Estate Agent. The garden took a further nine. The lawn was tan with drought and the hedges drooped. "Good size garden" said Tel admiringly. "Course, we din't do much in it".

We'd got on to the beach by the time Mrs Tel came back, carrying two bottles of Peroni. "Cheers luv" said Tel. She placed it on a raffia coaster on the table next to him. She gave me mine and I said thanks. She smiled and motioned me outside with a flicker of her eyes. I apologised to Tel, who was flicking through his phone looking for photos of the restaurant they dined in on the first night. I escaped gratefully.

We lit cigarettes on their patio, Mrs Tel drawing on hers with a grateful sigh. "They don't sell tens any more, yer know" she said, regretfully. "I asked in this newsagent. I could've done wiv one now an' then". I asked how the week had been and she said "it was alright" in a tone which spoke a world of otherliness. We talked on about pleasantries; the food, the holiday cottage which wasn't (it definitely had a bungalow look) and the locals. She didn't mention Tel. I wondered if it had been more of a trial than a rest.

Tel came out and joined us, coughing delicately as he hit the gently spiralling second-hand smoke. He held his phone like Chamberlain held the letter from Hitler. "Farnd 'em" he said decisively. I stood and looked at several grainy pictures of the restaurant at dusk, lit like a beacon in the shroud. "Best steak ah've 'ad in this country" he declared. "An' lobster. We gotta try this. Coupl'a'ours drive away but iss werfit".

I looked at the rest, politely, making several inane observations which he argued against so they begot conversation. Then he went back inside for five minutes and Mrs Tel asked for another ciggie. He returned just as she was stubbing it out in a plant pot. He held a tray of drinks; two clear with ice and a slice of lemon, one obviously a Coke in a Coke authentic glass. He smiled and offered me the Coke, then laughed and turned the tray so I got the alcoholic-looking one. "Try this" he said, expectantly. I sniffed it and drank. It tasted slightly sour and strong. He looked at me as I sipped. I shook my head. He smiled "Best G&T ah've tried" he said. He went back in to fetch the bottle. "Broadstairs own Gin". It tasted exactly the same as Tanqueray, only less smooth. I complimented it and he smiled again. "Thass the nuts innit?". He drank deep, the ice rattling against his teeth.

As I was going, I managed to slip Mrs Tel three more fags and my spare lighter. Tel went back in the house to fetch something. She thanked me and smiled with her eyes. She looked suddenly sad.

Tel gave me a white plastic bag with 'Broadstairs - home of Kent Gin" on it. The bag clanked so I knew it contained bottles. "A little 'olidy pressie" said Tel. I opened it. Three bottles of Boat Builder beer and a bottle of Broadstairs Gin and two bottles of Fever Tree Tonic. I thanked him. I also went back out and thanked Mrs Tel. She was smoking one of the fags so I replenished her three with another. She went to refuse it, but I insisted. Tel just smiled, tight-lipped.

We met on Friday afternoon. The pub shut at 10pm ("Bleedin' liberty that is" said Tel) so we had time for a few then ordered a bottle of red wine at 9.45, as the pub stayed open so we could drink it. In the end, we drank it in twenty minutes. Tel was saturnine; a mix of post-holiday blues and something undefined by him. I suspected he'd had trouble at home. Mrs Tel seemed in a funny mood when I went there on Monday.

"Bleedin' Tone's not come back ter me abart the job" he grumbled. I wasn't surprised. The new lockdown laws must have affected him. I said this to Tel and he snorted and said "Yeah" sarcastically. We discussed the holiday and the food and he became animated. We had a laugh. We got merry. Then we left and went our separate ways, him promising to call me on Thursday to make arrangements for a curry next Saturday.

I woke early yesterday, at 6.30am, wondering where I was. The dream I had was a strange one. full of strange vistas and fleeing people chasing me. I get loads of dreams like this lately. I put it down to the stresses of work.

I went for a morning walk to shake the feeling away and blow the old cobwebs out. It certainly did that. The rain fell and the wind moaned around the open country. I got mud on my trousers and boots. My cheeks were rosier than a cox's apple. I stopped at the local for a glass of red. They had an open fire in the hearth and I warmed my hands. Not even October and it's red wine and open-fire weather. Doesn't bode well for winter.

I logged in at 2.50pm, code in hand, met with a series of adverts for Screwfix and Aviva, then the pea-green PR turf focused lazily on my screen, followed by a sumptuous long range shot of the Co-op roof. The cameraman, his shots so shaky you thought he might have dropped a lit fag in his lap or suffered an epileptic episode, jerked his way round the stadium showing out-of-focus people moving the spare goalposts and the cones on the pitch.

The two teams appeared; Rochdale looking like denizens of Sherwood in their green shirts. They just needed longbows and little feathered hats. Town entered to no fanfare. We started.

You all saw it, right? We had a good Hawkins header well saved, we hit the post from a venomous Hawkins shot, we controlled the game even despite several daring raids from Rochdale. I was disappointed at half-time that it was still goalless. We'd deserved a couple at least.

Following the half-lime fag, where I left Mick Mills muttering and made a G&T (Broadstairs Gin. I used too much though. It made the players swim in the second half and that wasn't solely the camera work), I went back to find the screen black and had to reload it twice before a message popped up from Ifollow saying it wasn't to be used in pubs. Possibly because the camerawork and several pints combined would make you heave like someone with labrynthitis on a roller coaster.

Anyway, we scored two without looking that great and we won. Top by two goals, maximum points. Happy days. I rang Tel and he said "I won three 'undred quid on the footy bet. Did Town, Man U, Blackburn, Sund'land, Swansea an' Hull ter win". He waited for the congratulations from me. I gave them and asked how much we had in the kitty. "Nearly two an' a half" said Tel. Blimey.

And that was it. Top, two and a half thousand quid to be shared for Christmas and a bit of Tel marriage guidance needed. That was my week. Never mind.
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Bloody hell - who's operating the camera? Michael J Fox?
at 15:00 26 Sep 2020

Shaking like a sh*tting dog.
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Rick Parry on 5 live this morning
at 12:29 26 Sep 2020

'EFL fans won't be allowed back into grounds until March 2021'.

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