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The Warky Report: Cambridge United (a)
at 15:32 17 Oct 2021

Life is sweet. Morning walks are like a dream, deep breathing and a Bisto-Kid 'aah' amongst the fallen leaves and the late flowering wild garlic, stepping blithely past the dogs**t and the evocative scents of dressed fields and the sucking sulphurous mud of the river.

My cock, slightly sore in that chapped way, rubs against the cotton seam of my boxer fly-hole. I went 'commando' on Wednesday before work, the dusky dawn at 6am with a red sky too good to miss, leaving Paula asleep in my bed, the covers pinched around her bare breasts, one naked leg peeking out from the duvet.

Back by 7am to awaken my bedfellow (how good it sounds and appears; her slanting eyes slowly opening, the purse of her lips as she yawns coquettishly, her smile a balm to my craven soul) for her job co-managing a supermarket in Chelmsford. She showers with me; we share a tender kiss and do each other's backs. Sometimes, when we're early, it leads to sex. Almost every loving action leads to sex these days. That's why I don't invite her on my walks. Gross indecency in a public place may at most involve sackings. At the very least, it's an embarrassment you could well do without. Especially as my erstwhile colleagues would start rumours around my 'involvement' with local dogs or wildlife.

I've been out with Terence as well. He doesn't know any of this yet. We decided we'd tell him together, lest he get the wrong idea and think I'm supplementing my otherwise barren sex life by 'bangin' someone 'oo's pracktickly me dorter, an' she's still marrid in case yer din't realise, yer dirty sod". This conversation is imaginary, as we've not had it. Yet. I have realised that, in this matter, I am a coward. Still, keeps things interesting.

We went down the local and to the Indian on Friday. Paula was working late and she promised her mum a trip to Lakeside yesterday. We felt it might be better for her to do this with her sister and her mum on her own rather than me tag along. I agreed. Her mum has a mouth like a cockney clam. Tel would get to hear of it third hand. I was happy for each of us to be the other's "dirty little secret" as she said with a smile. We'd meet in the pub about nine and get a cab back to mine.

Tel was in good spirits on Friday. Three days off work, a Friday spent driving 'rand'n'rand bleedin' 'Averill dumpin' bits 'ere'n'there' had left him slit-eyed with fatigue but with a thirst like a stoker in a furnace. The first beer evaporated. He did his "Fletch out of Porridge' and swallowed almost in one, then belched like a plughole after a deluge. He sipped the second with overbearing care, having seen the look of naked distaste on my face.

His talk was mainly work, interspersed with Mrs Tel bits ("Got a check-up next Fridee, sed I'd go wiv 'er but she said 'nah Terry, don't wanna take yer from yer work'. Quite sarky, she sounded. Dunno if she's got the 'ump wiv me or not. Still, you knar wimmin. Or p'raps.." correcting himself with a grin "..yer don't"). I snickered back, thinking, Oh what little you know. The first courses came. He cracked the poppadoms into lethal looking shards and reached for the chutneys.

It was during the starters that he mentioned Paula. "Int seen 'er for a while" he commented blandly, focussed on picking whatever meat was left on the carcass of his chicken tandoori. "Reckon she might be seein' anuvver bloke, someone from that soopermarkit she's workin' at, probably some bleedin' marrid boss or summink" he added with raised eyes and a resigned up tilt of the head. He'd spoken to "one of 'er mates, reckons she's 'avin' a bit on the side 'cos she aint bin ter see 'er for ages". He smiled and said "still, yer knar wot rumours'r'like rand 'ere". I asked him what he felt if she was. He shook his head lightly and said "I aint geddin' involved. She's old enough ter look a'rter 'erself. Blake's ledder darn, 'im carryin' on wiv that Polish bird in 'Arts. Stoopid bleeder. They could 'ave bin 'avin' kids by now. Still, ah'm on 'er side. So's the wife. S'pport 'er anyways we can".

We drank brandies after the meal and talked on, him gleefully telling me he'd missed my company and getting slowly more 'loose' with each sip. We left at twelve with Mrs Tel driving me home. I panicked for one moment, just in case Paula had changed her mind and parked her car behind mine on my drive, but it was empty, and I covered it with a backseat chat with Mrs Tel. She kissed me as I alighted and I wished her luck with her Friday hospital appointment, to which she shot a quick look of surprise and furrowed brow at the grinningly pissed Tel. We embraced again and they took off, Mrs Tel saying something to Tel in the front as they rounded the corner. I hoped I hadn't dropped him in it.

The bed smelt of Paula's Coach Floral perfume. I sniffed like the Bisto-Kid again and remembered our embraces in the spot where the pillows 'vee'd'. Then, for once, it was sleep.

Saturday 6am, awoke because I'd forgotten to switch off my alarm clock. Then I realised as sleep slowly departed that I had a few jobs to do before P-Baby came back to mine that evening. Changed bedclothes, washed the old stuff, cleaned, hoovered, dusted, found the tea light candles and put them around the bedroom and lounge (they add that certain romantic je ne sais quois to the house, which otherwise is about as romantic as a Youth Hostel dormitory). I've found one thing about having a regular female lover; you don't half have to clean and tidy.

I went to Braintree Freeport for some new clothes at 10am. They do the stuff I like, plus it's a bit cheaper than Coes in Ipswich. I bought shirts, multipacks of striped socks, a new jumper (Raging Bull) and new Chinos and Jeans. All on my credit card because they'd written to me asking when I was going to use it and promising 20% off all purchases for October. Went for a drink at 3pm (not the local) and watched the Sky Footy thing with Jeff Stelling and was overjoyed at 2-0 up at Cambridge. Came home, showered, cleaned teeth again and gargled with mouthwash, changed into new clothes and leather jacket and liberally doused myself with Fahrenheit, 'cos Paula likes it. Thought about putting some on 'the old man' but then remembered it stings like a million bees, so contented myself with neck, face and chest.

Put the telly on and found we'd drawn 2-2. What? Even worse, they'd scored in the 88th minute. Swore like a navvy for a bit, then settled down to a bowl of fresh chicken soup with some chicken gyozas in it and spring onions. I find if I eat heavily, it affects my sexual performance later. No woman wants a bloke farting on each thrust. It affects the mood. See, Rommers, I remember to teach you stuff when I'm romancing?

Went to the pub at eight. Sat drinking shorts; Glenfiddich, and looking out for my lover. In the end, Paula greeted me by placing her cold, slim hands over my eyes. For one awful moment, I thought she was Tel.

We had a few more drinks. The cab arrived. It wasn't a local cabbie I recognised, thank god. We went back to mine and I made cocktails; Negronis and something with peach juice and vodka. We drank, chatting about her day with her mum shopping and she made me laugh with her descriptions of getting her mum in a changing room to try a new blouse on. Then we sat closer and kissed, her breathlessly, as I held her tight and she broke my clutches to hold my face, her eyes lit with more sparkles than the tealights I'd remembered to apply my Ronson to when I was making the drinks.

We shared a cigarette on the patio. She left her lipstick imprint on the butt. Then we went back inside, upstairs, me cradling her as we walked, her kissing me. Then the bedroom, the duvet nearest the pillows turned back, me placing her gently and fully clothed on the bed, then slowly divesting her of her clothes and she mine as we kissed. She rolled my boxers down like she used to roll her fags outside the newsagents. I unclipped her bra and stroked my face around her breasts, reaching for her cotton knicker hem. And buried my face in the bare, whiter bits I'd uncovered.

Sorry. You've probably all been there. I shouldn't write this stuff. It's private innit? Yet also strangely cathartic. As last night was the last time we'll see each other for a week or so (until next Friday night to be exact as Tel's working and I'm off for two weeks after) I find I need the memories to be written as well as in my bonce. Sign of ageing, that. One day, when I'm eighty and drooling in a chair, I'll need these memories. In an age where nothing is certain anymore, they can be the comfort and the solace I need.

In truth, the bang of her car door closing and the engine starting are now my worst sounds. Not the booing of another bad result, not the joy of a bunch of scum supporters to a point gained against Brighton at home. She left at two. She's having tea with her mum tonight. I can feel the love crystallising in me. I just hope she feels the same. I'm frightened to mention it, just in case this is the 'rebound' fling following the pain of betrayal from a much-loved husband. And, despite all my former cynicism and my self-loathing, I really am scared of her answer to that.

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The Warky Report: AWOL (h)
at 16:41 10 Oct 2021

Three home games missed. I was glad I chose to reduce my DD payments per month. It doesn't seem as harsh when you're only paying £20 a month.

You may ask why I missed three importunate matches; the lucky 1-1 with Wednesday, the euphoric 6-0 v Doncaster and yesterday. I knew you would. Believe me when I say that I never meant for it to happen. Although that's a cop-out, frankly. I allowed and encouraged it in a moment of weakness.

So you remember Paula? You know her story; that of divorce from her errant, snake-eyed cheating hubby who is now ensconced in some foreign bird's flat in Cheshunt, doubtless enjoying acts of jigglement and heavy breathing which would enrage that puritan instinct borne in everyone who has suffered extra-marital cheats.

Terry is now working a five-day week, his rota as fickle as a spoilt child. Sometimes he does a Saturday, sometimes a Friday late, sometimes he's off and texting me about potential lunches in locals when I'm stuck in Birmingham. He thinks I'm of sufficient means to just drop everything and go. I suspect he thinks Brum is just 'a coupl'a'ours darn the road' as he's often pointed out to me in drunk conversation, almost dismissively. So he texts at ten a.m, poorly spelt sub-English which reads better by proxy, usually aloud and in a cockernee accent that would shame Dick Van Dyke. "Fancy sum drink n food 12 in loocal" he texted me as I prepared to attend a morning meeting. No I replied. Just no.

Subsequently our meetings have been few and far between lately. We made arrangements to meet on Saturday 25th September, the same day as the Wednesday home game, at 7.30pm in the Indian. I was driving home after my Kettering refuel on the Friday night, back before the panic buying of fuel had started. Kettering is well served by garages. The Morrisons one I used was cheap and also sold fairly-priced cold soft drinks, so I bought a bottle of Highland Spring and a bottle of apple juice to refresh me on the drive home. I've got into apple juice lately. I used to drink it a lot as a kid (I had parents who progressively refused to have a fizzy soft drink in the house so my choice was apple juice, milk, tea or water). Having friends over for dinner became a bit of a chore so we'd smuggle cans of Quattro and Lilt and Pepsi into my bedroom via our jeans pockets, where they'd bulge indecently. I was never searched for illicit beverages by a concerned parent (although they must have found the prominent jean bulges an eye-opener) and, once safely in my bedroom, we'd sit playing Sega and merrily gulping. It was a while before we tried the same trick with cigarettes (well, about a year) but they had the disadvantage of smell, so the Polo mints and cans of Glade I hoarded were much used.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, so we'd arranged dinner, just Tel and I, and then the petrol crisis hit on the Saturday morning and Tel cancelled, citing the low level in his 4x4 and the lack of local amenities. I offered to pick him up, my (mostly) full tank being an incentive, but the moment had gone and he made some excuse about "needin' ter be wiv the missus 'cos she's gonna do us steak pie". So I rang the restaurant and cancelled the booking.

I went for a drink instead in the local. It was half-empty and I took an old book I'd been reading which I found in the staff room at work. It was a crumbling Penguin paperback of On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I'd read about two chapters.

Sat with another pint and engrossed in the book, I was suddenly surprised by Paula coming over to say hello. She was out with her sister and her mum's carer. They were heading off home having had a meal. Paula's sister was driving the carer back. Paula was walking; her newly-rented flat was only a few hundred yards from the pub. The others said goodnight to her (and me) and left. I asked if she fancied another drink and she looked uncertain but then nodded. She slipped into the chair opposite me and we chatted, desultory stuff about the petrol crisis and her mum.

I bought her a vodka and lemonade. "Double?" said the barmaid, with the glint of a leer in her eye. I must have hesitated, because she said "It's only one fifty more". So I acquiesced. She topped it with ice and then from the lemonade pump . I bought it back to the table. Paula downed it in two gulps. "Aah" she said. "Needed that". She bought the next round. I'd abandoned the beer. It was too gassy and I'd started on the brandy. Paula bought the drinks back. Both doubles. It continued from there, one of us going up to the bar every five minutes for a refill. It reminded me of that scene in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', when Karen Allen has that drink-off with those Mongolians.

By 11pm as they were yelling last orders, my teeth were numb. Paula seemed the worse as well, so we made our excuses and pulled jackets on, ready to leave. The fresh air was a succour. Then Paula said "Come'n'see my noo flat?" so I went. It was jolly nice. Well, she hadn't quite unpacked everything and the furniture looked a bit out of place. But it was comfortable and smelled neutral and we sat and had a few more drinks (she had vodka and a few cans of Red Bull so we had heavy VRB's. I could taste the vodka more than the Red Bull).

Then, well I dunno. She told me about Blake, on the verge of tears, her eyes wet and her top lip trembling a bit. At one point, when it seemed tears were imminent, I stood up and hugged her and made those vague "S'alright" noises blokes make when confronted with feminine distress. She looked up at me searchingly and then we kissed and then, well, we sort of found the bedroom and then....

I awoke at 7am on Sunday morning with the taste of something tinny in my mouth. I could hear traffic on the roads. 'Funny' I thought. I can never hear that in my place. Then I noticed the duvet smelled nice, sort of fresh and the room was a bit different, somehow smaller. I recognised my boxers draped on a sideboard in the hall. Christ, must have been a night, I thought. Then I remembered I don't have a sideboard in a hall outside my bedroom.

The next shock was Paula, coming back to the bedroom carrying two mugs of black coffee, naked. "Sorry, we're out'a'milk' she apologised. She bent over to place the mug for me on the little bedside table next to my side and her breasts brushed my face. Uh-oh. I got a bit of a stonker. I manfully rolled on my side to try and hide it. She pulled back the duvet and got back into bed. I'd rolled on my right side so was facing her. She kissed me gently and stroked my chest hair. The stonker became a bit 'fuller'. I kissed her back. The blood thumped in my head like a train piston. Then she reached down and put her hand....and suddenly we were kissing like two blind leeches sucking on a blood smoothie and then...

It was a lot tougher, doing it hungover. The added incentives of the Red Bull had worn off, but I thought I did quite a good job. At least she seemed happy. That's always been my fear with this sort of thing. I also started worrying about the old 'protection' thing. I hadn't worn anything and I reckoned I must have managed it at least thrice by now. But I kept silent. And had a bad week subsequently afterwards, worrying. I'm 47 years old. Paula's 28. You know what they say about women's body clocks and that?

We spent rather a nice morning lazing in bed, drinking her godawful coffee (she had a jar of Morrisons own, I later saw) and, whenever the blood pumped round the bits required, and at my age, you're always grateful when it does, made love. I got dressed at 12.30 and we kissed again and I went, with promises to call her later and also for her to drive over and see me when I was off on Wednesday. The walk home was on air, as it usually is in these situations, and I would have floated except for one thought: Tel.

He didn't call, which was a relief. Then at 7.00pm, my phone pinged and a message said "Sorry aout wkend wife n me went to Pier in Harrich, see yer nest week". 'Nest week' I thought. Yep, it probably will be at this rate....

As I write this, I didn't make the Doncaster game. Paula came over on the Tuesday night (dates were never really her forte) and stayed, and I threw a sickie on the Wednesday and she stayed some more. I've got better coffee, you see. I'm glad I changed my bedclothes on the Sunday night. She also came over yesterday. We had made plans. True, these modestly involved driving to Waitrose for some nice hand-held foodie bits and some bottles of wine and Vodka and Brandy and then coming home and having a drink and a snack and then taking our clothes off and retiring at 3pm. But it sounded better than a 2-1 win over Shrewsbury.

I haven't told Tel. We discussed this, Paula and I. We both agreed we wouldn't yet. I'm not entirely sure how he'll react. he's always been like another father to her. She's incredibly close to Mrs Tel as well. If the affaire continues, I can see some difficult conversations ahead. For now though, well, each day and all that. I'm off in two weeks as well. for two weeks. Hope my loins and, more importantly, my heart can take it...


[Post edited 10 Oct 17:01]
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The Warky Report: Lincoln (A)
at 12:32 19 Sep 2021

Sweet September. The month of misty morns and late summer days, ripening hard fruit, schools reopening, milky sun on backs and necks, the propitious chill in the air of a winter on the way. 5-2 home thrashings. Doubts sown and left to propagate, thick tendrils everywhere, on message boards and forums alike, all laden with gloom and demands for change. That feeling of depression, the curse of modern times when all seems feted to be sh*t.

I didn't bother with notes last week. Nothing really to say. Most of you went last Saturday. Most of you have eyes and ears to augment the pity and the incompetence. Most saw KVY have a horror twenty minutes. Most saw their centre-forward plunder us, like the Vikings plundered us over two thousand years before, wearing a clown's hat in celebration.

With Terry working full-time and therefore meetings at a premium, and me working full-time and missing him, it was a disheartening last weekend. The midweek defeat in the Pizza thing to West Ham's kids was just the blow upon the bruise. We finally met last Sunday for a carvery lunch, the sort where they hand you sliced meat on a platter and you join the throng queuing for overcooked veg and head-sized Yorkshire puds, all silver-surfers with their kids and grandchildren, eschewing the greener of the veg for the beige delights of cauliflower and gravy poured like a viscous moat.

We sat on our own at a table for two which scarcely let the plates sit and had Tel moving the cruet and the wooden box full of sauce sachets. People put HP sauce on their roasts. The f**king heathens.

I drank a pint of Fullers. London Pride. It goes well with roast beef and gammon. I had both. You could choose two meats. They had a sort of mutated turkey joint, the beef, the gammon or a strange veggie nut thing that reminded me of the stuff they put in coconut halves to feed the birds. Tel had extra beef. I went before him and didn't realise you could have extras. I kicked myself mentally as we decided on the veg. We took two big Yorkies each and both had the cauliflower, carrots, peas and curly kale. He was more liberal with the gravy, I with the English mustard and the horseradish.

Tel had lager, then a Coke (driving job the next day "dun wanna go mad"). We sat and ate and discussed Paula. This is the new big topic.

The next table were onto their ice cream before Tel got to the point. By the way, ice-cream with profiteroles? With popping candy on the top? And these were adults. Bloody hell.

Back to Paula. She's divorcing Blake. He has now vacated their rented home in Loughton to move in with some Polish woman in her flat in Cheshunt. Tel had a brave go at pronouncing her name. Malgorzata. He said it like he'd sneezed.

The divorce is in the early stages; the petition form has been done and she's paid the £550. She is going back to the rental property to "clear it out, the lot, everyfing" said Tel, overstating the point. ""E's payin' off the rent and they've given the landlord their deposit". "Yer don' wanna get involved, like, but issa'rd one ter take for me. Treated 'em bofe like family, I did. The wife's well upset. She likes Paula".

Signs were apparent that things weren't great long before. These were signs I knew nothing about. I was surprised Tel did. Then I wondered how often he'd been meeting Paula for coffee since her return. He seemed very 'up-to-date' with all of her news.

"She 'ad 'er daarts a year ago just a'rter lockdown ended. "E'd come 'ome from work late, even when she noo 'e was working local, like. Said she noticed 'im keepin' 'is phone private an' on silent. 'Is bruvver started not comin' rand ter see 'erm. Told 'er 'e din't wanna get involved. An' 'e used ter go rand a lot.

We broke for the dessert menu. Tel tossed it aside. Not a sweet tooth. I had the creme brûlée with berry sauce. When it came, it had a sparkler studded in one of the strawberries, and looked like it had been casually adorned with gratings of Milky Bar. I didn't eat much of it. Even Tel didn't fancy the remnants.

We talked some more. It seems Paula is looking to transfer to a nearer store and may get offered Little Clacton. She's also looking at rental properties in Clacton. "Don't blame 'er" said Tel. "Ah couldn't live wiv 'er muvver eiver". He moved the barely-touched brûlée to another vacant table so we had room for our elbows.

We remained there until four, when Mrs Tel picked us up. She looked dazzling in a white cotton shirt undone at the start of cleavage, jeans and Gucci loafers. She wore her Oakleys to drive in. She smelt of Anais Anais and Lenor fabric conditioner. I smelt like a fag-fumed roast. She still kissed me.

We're meeting again at four today for the Spurs game in the pub. They're expecting a fair few, given that Spurs and Chelsea are the primary-supported teams in our local. It's role-reversal tonight. I'm the one who can't drink, courtesy of Birmingham in the morning. It'll be mineral waters and looks from Tel, who is off tomorrow having worked Saturday.

And we won. 1-0 at Lincoln, our bogey team in recent years. I watched Soccer Saturday after the shopping and the cleaning. They were as surprised as me. I expected at least a late, cruel equaliser.

So that was me. The morning walk was sweet and warm and my trainers got wet in the long grasses. Saw a muntjac and a squirrel and two buzzards in a field. Not the same field. This wasn't Christmas Critters. Their eyes didn't glow red and force me to die, messily, on the towpath. No dog walkers. Perhaps I beat them? Or perhaps they still had eyes like 'piss-drops in the snow' at 6.30am on a Sunday? Breakfast assuaged my recent porridge bloating. Bacon, eggs, sausages, tomatoes, fried bread and beans. Champion.

Hope we win next Saturday. Tel's coming to it again.......
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Some of those players look like they don't really want to be here
at 09:38 15 Sep 2021

That's the issue. A lot was made about 'dropping down a level, wouldn't have done it for anyone else but Cook' especially from the likes of Evans, Morsy, Chaplin.

The only ones who've looked inspired are Bonne and Burns. KVY has lost confidence, the defence as a whole is shambolic and Bolton won on Saturday because they looked a team, rather than a collection of hastily recruited individuals who switch off at key moments.

If Cook is sacked, I can see a new manager having the hell of a job keeping some of that squad motivated to play well. It's becoming worryingly apparent that he recruited players he was previously close to and who have bought into us because of him and him alone.
[Post edited 15 Sep 9:39]
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The Warky Report: International Break (up) (h)
at 11:48 5 Sep 2021

"So ah'm jus' doin' it as a favour, like". Nine badly spoken words in a crowded pub last night that supposedly justified Tel's new employment opportunity. More in a mo.

Firstly, some news. Regular readers of this may remember Paula. She used to be Tel's assistant when he had the newsagent's. She's been missing in action from these reports for some time, mainly due to the fact that she married a snake-eyed tosser called Blake and then became something in Retail Management for a couple of supermarkets dotted around the south of Essex. And so, as happens, she faded out.

Until Tel had a telephone call on Tuesday from her, asking him if he could meet her for a coffee and a chat at one of the local cafe's (not his old shop though, which became a coffee place as that's been shut and abandoned for a few months. It's on the market, which is something else I'll come to in a mo. Sorry to prevaricate but this needs telling properly). "Yer can imagine me s'prise" he said nonchalantly. "Fought I'd deleted 'er number yonks ago".

So he went, and in short, Blake's been playing away from home with a Polish girl he met at his work. No more details. Tel's not one for storytelling. He couldn't embellish the Rokeby Venus. He'd be too busy trying to see how they nailed the canvas to the frame.

Anyway, Blake's two big mistakes appear to be a) having an affair and b) being caught by his wife having an affair. Details were sketchy as to how he was caught. Tel muttered something about "phone calls". He'd be rubbish at writing a problem for Dear Deirdre. You want the salacious bits otherwise it's all a bit dull.

So Paula has moved back home with her mum, who has apparently welcomed her with open arms. She's currently deputy-managing a branch of Morrisons in the outer-London bit of Essex so her commute to work has just increased exponentially, although Tel thought this was ephemeral to the plot, partly due to the fact that, as I'll mention in a minute, he's now driving a delivery van all around East Anglia and the South East again.

"Fank gawd they never 'ad kids" said Tel, piously. "She's lookin' a bit drawn, like, an' she's 'ad twenny-odd texts from 'im sayin' he wants 'er back, but you knar 'er, she's stubborn in't'she? I noo it'd end like this. Always sed it ter you, the wife....". Erm, no he didn't. He always thought they'd be married for life. "She's started smokin' again n'all. Told 'er yer don't need that, luv, not all that agin. But she don't lissen ter me. Never 'as. Puffin' away outside she was. Like a navvy".

That was the end of the story. Partly through lack of more details, partly because Tel is as good a listener as I am an international playboy. Mostly though because, as usual, Tel had more pertinent personal news to impart and he is nothing if not singular.

"So Mick rang me, bloke who used to be the transport manager fer that firm I drove for last year, you remember?. So 'e goes 'Orlright Tel, had a few drivers let me darn 'cos they've been offered more dough by the big boys for HGV Class Two work. 'Ave yer still got yer digi Tacho?' an' o'course I do an' I'm at a loose end at the moment, what wiv the 'oliday bein' cancelled an' that. So I've said yes, an' I did me first deliv'ry on Thursdy". He broke off to sip his pint, a gleam of triumph and pride etched on his face.

I had an inkling he was looking to get back into the labour force when he mentioned last Monday that his old shop was back on the market. I knew it'd shut because I still sometimes drove past it. I thought it was a temporary thing due to Covid until I saw builders' tools through the window and yet nothing seemed to happen. If it was a refit, it was taking an eon to sort out.

"Nah. She's sellin' it" said Tel when I mentioned this to him last week. "She called me, abart two weeks ago, just as a courtesy she said, although.." (here he moved in closer and tapped his nose and spoke in what he thinks is a whisper) .."'tween you me an' the missus, I reckon she was castin' fer a bite, see if I'd fancy makin' an offer, like. Well she was disappointed, like. She wants more'n she paid forrit an' it'd need me payin' to put it back 'ow I'd wannit. An me an' the missus are too old for all that again". He said this last part as a sort of hopeful statement, hoping I'd say 'No you're not'. When I didn't, his face fell a bit. But he's right. He is too old. He's been out of the game for two years and, as you know, he used to moan incessantly about the early starts and the late finishes and the working 7 days a week.

So it got put on the back burner and now he's landed a new (old) job driving deliveries around, working 35 hour weeks and earning a fair whack for his trouble. He likes his new van-mate, a bloke called Danny who, unlike his predecessors in the role, doesn't eat fast food, fart in the cabin, need stops for a piss or talk endless waffle. I have met Danny as he dropped Tel at the pub on Saturday following his third shift. He's got today and Monday off. Danny was as talkative as a Rodin statue; a bald forty-five year old divorcee who sees his two teenaged sons regularly and doesn't drink or smoke, as Tel told me as Danny looked on passively. We shook hands. I wondered if he did drugs, to make up for the lack of other vices. "Nah" said Tel. "Straight as a die, 'e is. Drinks tea or water, or the occasional diet Coke". It's those ones you have to be wary of.

So he's back. Back into the groove of a regular wage and delivering non-edible household goods, garden ware and whatever else they get given to households and businesses around the great expanse of the East. I should be happy for him. He seems happy enough after all. But there's this nagging doubt somewhere....

No Town games due to the World Cup qualifiers. Still, you knew that already. Boring innit? I'm even contemplating weeding the garden this afternoon. All the other household chores were done yesterday, to the sounds of the '80's via Absolute radio. 'Shout, shout, let it all out' sang Curt Smith as I dusted the lounge. And he's right in a sense. These were the things I could do without. But still, they make life a bit less samey. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
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The Warky Report: AFC Wimbledon (H)
at 11:45 29 Aug 2021

After a week of Tel-less abstinence and a desperately crap stint at work, Saturday dawned cloudy and mild. The leaves on some of the trees have started turning. The morning walk was a bit chilly. It had all the ingredients of a 7.30am stroll; dog walkers out in force, still-wet puddles dotted about, slowly stagnating. The dogs were more excited than the owners. They nosed and sniffed and gambolled off the lead. The owners, dressed in Gap hoodies or Timber worker checked shirts, merely wore a bit more rubber off the soles of their Reeboks.

The audit went well last Monday and everyone seemed cautiously pleased, although we won't know the official results for another few weeks. The MD, a man of middle-aged dress and with hair the colour of salt on a turd, was given the due diligence and anonymity he clearly craved. He didn't introduce himself to the rank and file or mutter much beyond a hurried 'Morning' when he appeared, genie-like, from the bogs. Someone said he spent an hour in conference with the senior management. They had filter coffee made in the unused percolator, the one someone once pissed in at a Christmas party before the pandemic made parties a no-no. I hoped they'd given it a quick once-over with the tap.

The rest of the week dragged ever slower as the travelling and the anti-climax slowly caught up. I had Friday off as a reward for working last Saturday. It means I've had a long weekend, what with the bank holiday. I spent it doing all the housework I'd put off. Then I went for a pub lunch with the newly-in-law-free Tel. We had a pate ploughman's and a few pints and the sort of one-sided conversation you have when a friend has recently 'bin away, like' and has stories of bad wimmin' drivin' and the futility of Southwold.

"Bleedin' Sarfwold's a joke" he began after we'd ordered and were sipping the tops from our beer. "Took ages ter find a parkin' spot, then iss'all twee little craft shops and tea 'ouses full'o' posh old'n's eatin' bleedin' scons an' jam at eleven in the mornin'. I said to Tone, thass called arternoon tea for a reason. You eat it in the arternoon, dunt'cha? Not for bleedin' elevenses". He paused and sniffed derisively, as though the greed of old people enjoying comestibles before lunch was somehow a reason to sneer. "Din't manage lunch in the Sole Bay eever. Queue was art the door. Din't bovver in the end. Found anuvver boozer just up the road. Not as nice, granted, but it had seats and sold beer and grub, so..." His demeanour was one of missed opportunity. He hates second-best.

The ploughman's despatched, we had a few more pints and then Mrs Tel came by at 5pm to collect her ward and drop me home. We were going out after the game on Saturday for a curry so Friday night was all ours. Tel was "avin' fish'n'chips wiv the wife, geddem in 'Arwich in a mo, few wallies and a nice bit of bread'n'butter fer a chip sarnie, lovely". I was heading back for a homemade sausage casserole and a few brandies and a confused, dream-laden kip on the settee, drooling and probably snoring (I awoke at one a.m with a very sore throat and thought 'Sh*t, I've got corona' but it was just where I'd snored. It went the next morning).

Yesterday then. Back from the walk, bacon and the last of last night's sossies with an egg and some grilled tomatoes and a bit of toast. Pot of tea. Bacon rinds out for the birds. Washing done. Shower, sh*t and rudimentary shave. Off to meet Tel at Manningtree station at eleven. He'd moaned about coming to the game. Made his feelings clear. If it was boring, I'd find him back at the local. The train was full of scum supporters in their day-glo home shirts. It was a novelty. The old bill don't usually let us both play at home on the same Saturday. They were either from London or (more depressingly) from Essex. I think it was London. I hope it was London. Tel made disparaging remarks under his breath about "lookin' like a novelty johnny in them colours" and "sister-fingerers" but we made it to Ipswich with only the mildest of stares back from the heathen.

We departed for the pub. Comfortably ensconced at a table in the back, the lines at the bar forming like First World War sign-ups, we drank our lagers and considered the menu for lunch. The Cricketers has never been my favourite watering hole in Town but it is cheap and it does do passable food, so we went. Then we decided the queues weren't worth it and departed to the Three Wise Monkeys and had lunch there instead.

We left, following several rounds of gin'n'tonic and a bonus round of Expresso Martini, at 2.40, just as it started raining. Then it got heavier and we walked a bit quicker. I was half-cut. We briefly paused at Curve Bar for a brandy on ice each, knocked it back, got walking again. The road was hectic and Tel played a bit of 'chicken' with the oncoming cars. Then we reached PR and split; he to the Alf Ramsey for his seat, me to SBRL for mine. We agreed to meet at Ipswich station for the 5.18 back to the pub. Tel worrying that we'd miss the start of the Liverpool v Chelsea game. He'd also bet on us to win......

The game. Well, as last-minute equalisers go, that was a sickener. I won't add to the general voices of dissent on here, only to say that we look disjointed and low on confidence, despite having some clearly good players. It was good to see the regulars, Luke and his other half, the guys next to me who all sang their hearts out and then left with me as the Wombles players celebrated with the away fans in the corner in the 97th minute, outrage and frustration etched in faces and in voices.

The 5.18 was packed and some of the exuberance of the away fans joined us in the carriages. You'd have thought a last-minute draw with a bottom-four team was some kind of excuse for jubilation. Perhaps it was the drink?

Manningtree, taxi to the local (pre-ordered), get in just as the game kicked off, big Chelski contingent in their blue home shirts crowding round the two screens, table at the back with spirits in scratched glasses and an air of underwhelm. "Bleedin' fought yer'd hang on at two-nil up an' twenty minits ter go, wouldn't ya?" said Tel, bitterly. Then Chelsea scored and the roar made him irritable. "Gawd's sake, gits worse dun nit?" he muttered with rancour.

We stayed for the final whistle and then nipped off for the curry. That was a saving grace. So was Mrs Tel. She collected us at 11pm from the restaurant, Tel singing "Oh Wezzy Burns" to the tune of Danny Boy. I doubt if Paul Cook would've liked or agreed with the sentiments 'Oh Wezzy Burns, the right-back role's beyond yer, git up that pitch an' score anuvver goal" but Tel, sounding like a pissed cockney Val Doonican, was beyond redemptive analysis.

Mrs Tel wore her "Blondie/Parallel Lines" T-shirt and a cherry brown leather jacket she bought in Norfolk. Her peck on the cheek was the sweetest smelling single thing I'd experienced all day, a day filled with the scents of booze, knock-off Armani and disappointment. She wisely didn't ask about the game. She'd spent the day 'catching up' with her soaps. She'd avoided the real-life shenanigans at Portman Road. That's turning into more of a tragedy every game.

"Home at last" croaked Tel as I departed their vehicle, nearly falling out of the door. Those were his last words before they drove, waving, back to theirs. They are also the last words in 'Lord of the Rings'. Let's hope we have more success in our battles with the Orks of League One.

Bolton next. They must owe us one as well.........
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The Warky Report: MK Dons (H)
at 11:25 22 Aug 2021

This week's report is largely redundant. I couldn't make the game yesterday as I had to work. It involves a bigwig and a fiver, but isn't Watership Down. No rabbits were imperilled.

As those of you who keep a keen eye on these proceedings will be aware, I work in Birmingham. This involves a long daily commute and a lot of p*ss-taking about football from all of the Brummie variant footy fans, whose teams are all (aside from the old bloke who supports Walsall and the two strange Kidderminster Harriers supporters) are in leagues above the Town.

The majority are Villains and Bluenoses. The Villains think themselves the superior, what with their £30 million midfielders from the Scum and their Premier League top-ten ambitions. Next comes the Wolverhampton lot, a strange clutch of supporters who bemoan their Chinese owners Fosun for their meanness in the transfer market and the loss of their manager to the Spurs when they'd moaned about him constantly last season.

The Bluenoses are the poor relations. No, sorry, The Covvers are the poor relations; no home ground until this season, sharing St Andrews with the Bluenoses and all that. The Bluenoses and the Covvers are, of course, Championship sides. One is doing better than the other. The Birmingham City fans are convinced they're getting promoted this season. So are the Baggies, but they're represented by three now that two of their number have taken jobs in other offices, and so they can be shouted down in Championship inter-rivalry stakes. The Covvers number four supporters, three of whom bought season-tickets to the Ricoh/Coventry Building Society Stadium as it is now (they still call it the Ricoh).

It's a potent blend of flat-vowelled Broomie banter around the canteen. Then I appear and they all unite to take the proverbial. Even though we've probably outspent all but the Premier lot and the Baggies, we are officially the figure of fun. New team, no wins, a few former Baggies sprinkled around, we are an anomaly. The Wolves and the Villa dismiss us as lower-league fodder. The Bluenoses think we're destined to remain in League One like we did the Championship. The Cov fans chortle and say we've traded our jewels for junk (they'd wanted Flynn Downes and Dozzell, in fact they were incandescent that their club never bid for either). It's a difficult office to work at when your club isn't winning despite expectations.

The reason for working on a Saturday involves a bigwig and a fiver. Basically, the tale is this. We have a visit from our Managing Director booked for tomorrow. We've never seen him in the seven years I've been working here. Some of the older staff said they remembered seeing someone a long time ago, but no, that was one of the former MD's who has since retired and died.

I foolishly bet another worker a fiver that we (the Town) would have seven points from our first three games when the fixtures came out in June. Aah, those halcyon, hazy, transfer-frenzied days when we were embarking on eye-opening signings and were causing disgruntled episodes of green-eye from the likes of Pompey and Sunderland supporters. My co-worker, a Bluenose, took my bet and added another potential; namely that the loser would cover the other for Saturday 21st August when we would be required to get our sh*t in order for the MD visit on the 23rd. I looked at the fixture list again and failed to see how we wouldn't manage two wins and a draw from the likes of Morecambe, Burton and Cheltenham. I never even envisaged missing the MK Dons.

And the hope lasted until Fraser missed that penalty at the Pirelli and hence I was working with a few Bluenoses yesterday who hadn't been bothered by a trip to Luton Town and whose cheers rang out from 3.30pm to 5.00pm as they won 5-0. And meanwhile they gleefully updated the MK Dons 78th minute equaliser, and I shut my office door and got on with my paperwork in gloom, resolving to leave as near to 5.15pm as possible and to avoid the Burger King drive-thru at Milton Keynes.

Still, I got loads done and the MD will find us ship-shape when he comes at 10am tomorrow. I'm off shopping in a mo. I awoke at 9am this morning with a heavy heart and aching back and no bread or bacon in the house. So I had coffee for breakfast and dreaded the return tomorrow, the long drive and the mickey-taking from football fans whose teams all bloody won.

No Tel this week as well. He was ensconced in Braintree having steak with the in-laws on Friday and out at a restaurant in Chelmsford last night. He's spent a week with The Tone and Sand as he calls them, making them sound like a crap Wetherspoons in Dovercourt. They've been to Southwold and Yarmouth this week, probably having fun on the 'muzzies in Yarmouth and drinking the Adnams in Southwold. I don't know for certain because he hasn't called. He knew I was working yesterday and he knows I'll be working again on Monday, and he's still coming with me to the Wimbledon game next Saturday, despite his misgivings.

Sorry and all that for those who love a bit of Tel. Still, at least the next report'll be full of him. Perhaps not as full as he'd probably like. This was a write-off week. I get them now and then. It feels more 'Plague Dogs' than 'Watership Down' right now. But hey, it pays the mortgage.

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The Warky Report: Burton (A)
at 13:33 15 Aug 2021

Terry's North Norfolk report sounded as dull as a cockney Michael Portillo catching trains in deepest Bolivia and successfully avoiding any locals. It's true that I have a soft spot for North Norfolk; it feels like time-travel back to the 1950's with its quaint seaside resorts and villages filled with bucolics who keep rusting farm machinery in their gardens and themselves to themselves. It's about as far from HE Bates as Trainspotting is from Walter Scott. No Pop Larkin's here, just folk with funny accents who distrust anything modern and strangers even more.

So Tel's yarns about getting stuck by oncoming vehicles on narrow lanes near Morston or drinking in stone-fronted pubs which still had "'am rolls on the counter an' yer don' see that much these days do'ya?" felt more like something from Talking Pictures TV than a fly-on-the-wall documentary. I half expected him to describe Alistair Sim and Richard Wattis downing a pint of mild and a short at the bar before donning their trilbies and driving off in the Triumph.

Still, he seemed better for the experience; he'd caught whatever sun had been about last week and was a bit more relaxed than of late. He'd actually enjoyed the company of Sandy and Tone, his in-laws. Sandy and Mrs Tel did the driving, he and Tone did the drinking. They ate cockles with white pepper at Sheringham and treated the wives to a slap-up dinner at Morston Hall, and did the amusement arcades and ate the crabs and had strolls along the rolling sea walls and spent a small fortune at Burnham Market on merino pashminas for the women.

He had little sympathy for the Town's 2-2 with Morecambe last Saturday. It cost him "fifty-bleedin' notes" on his bet slip. "Two-all against tha' lot, bleeding Morecambe, ain't even a proppah seaside town that". He sipped his pint and ruminated upon the defeats against Newport in the cup on Tuesday and Burton today (we met last night for a pint. Tel couldn't make Friday night. He was watching the Arsenal game with Tony in Braintree with a takeaway chinese). "Burton. I can't even have a pint of that Carlin' now, not that I would, tastes like piddle". Then he described the locals in Norfolk again. "Went ter Holt, bleedin' posh for that lot, all expensive clothes shops and little bakers an' caffs'n'that. Went inter this food place, Bakers'n'Larners, decent wine but you paid forrit. Bought a bottle'o'bubbly fer 'undred notes, Bollinger 1996 vintage. Din't taste vintage if you ask me. Just tasted like shampoo wiv a bit less bubbles. Tone and Sandy liked it...." (here he sniffed as though Tone and Sandy were the epitome of the big spender) ..."but 'cher know wot they're like. Anyfing pricey".

He finished his pint and I bought another round. Up at the bar, the old boy who sits there constantly caught my eye and engaged me in conversation upon the redeeming features of IPA over Best. "Oipeeayes a parnd cheaper in 'ere. I c'n drink six pints o'that an' it only costs me fourteen quid". He drank with the pace of death, small sips to make a pint last an hour. I smiled and nodded at his thriftiness. He then asked me if I "like fishin'?" and I thought of the Fast Show and nearly asked him if he'd had five pounds of tench. But he just directed me to some unknown competition off Shotley next weekend. ""Oping I'll get a few cod'n that" he smiled toothlessly. I wished him luck. He retreated back to quiet reflection over his pint. And sly looks at the barmaid's bosoms whenever she bent to get a glass.

I went back to our table. Then, to my unease, the old boy from the bar got up and came over to join us, holding his pint in front of him like a nun with a charity tin, slopping ale on the floor. Tel said ""Allo Frank" without enthusiasm. "Forgot ter tell yer" said the old boy. "That fishin' competition's by boat as well as on the beach. Needs to get there early. I'm gitting down there fer six in the mornin', git a good pitch like. Don't knar anyone win a boat do yer? Could get more wiv a boat, yer could'n'll". Tel looked at me as if I'd introduced some nutter into his midst. "Ah don' do fishin' Frank an' I don't 'ave a boat mate" he said kindly, as if this ended the conversation. Frank said "Niver mind". And to me "Ah'll keep me eye out fer yer. Be nice to 'ave someone I c'n talk to down there". And he moved back to his perch at the bar with a nod and a wink. "D'you do fishin' then?" asked Tel mildly when he'd gone. I shook my head. "Then why the bleedin' 'ell...?" and he shook his own head and looked at me like I was batchy.

The morning walk on Saturday around the Stour was muddy but cool. It didn't feel like August. That month of heat and light and scorched turf in gardens and barbecues and sweating was replaced by breezy gusts and cloud and the occasional threat of rain. I bought bacon and bread and milk and the papers and came home just as the first patters of a shower were starting. Bacon sarnies and big pots of tea in my dark kitchen were just the job, but this isn't normal for the month. I usually feel like this around October time when the leaves are turning brown and the air starts getting chilly. And Ipswich start losing. It's started early this year. My internal clock is out of kilter.

Tel's off to Southwold on Monday with the Tony's and Mrs Tel. He was looking forward to it. More familiar territory than Norfolk. I'm meeting him for a pint and to watch the Newcastle game in a tic, so I'll end the report here. 2-1 defeats at Burton Albion are a bit of an anti-climax but hopefully we'll get better as the season develops. It's all a matter of time, patience and hope. That 'easy' start is beginning to look like a poisoned chalice though. A win on Tuesday would be nice. So would a win on Saturday. We've got to reach the bank holiday in a better mood. If only to get the hope back.
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The Warky Report: Morecambe (H)
at 13:00 8 Aug 2021

The rain splattered against my bedroom window. 7am on the first Saturday of a new season and it already felt like October. I surveyed the wreckage of the previous night; home at 2am alone, another nightcap which I could still taste, fleetingly, like a dream only slightly remembered.

My puffy, sleep-deprived face stared back at me in the mirror as I brushed the teeth. The McCleans toothpaste smeared around my lips like Aussie fielders on a hot day at the Gabba. BBC Radio Suffolk jabbered on from the digital radio in my bedroom. Someone said "It's a new season at Portman Road" and then crowd noise and blurb of Brenner Woolley celebrating a goal in a forgotten, long-ago season when we were allowed to watch unhindered by face masks or double vaccinations.

The morning walk was conducted wrapped like a Durex, every step a swishing, splashing swoomp around countryside in full leafy glory. No dog walkers except for one brave soul who wore a soaked tracksuit top and dripping bottoms and trudged through the puddles with that grim determined look that says 'the dog needed a walk and it's getting one'. His dog, a collie, was all goofy pleasure and wet fur. He nosed my genitals with a sly stop as the owner trudged on, then ran to catch up with a fleeting backward glance at me as he went. As sexual relations go, this was the equivalent of a quick hand job behind a skip followed by a slipped tenner into the clean hand.

Tel was in good spirits on Friday night; fortunately not in quite as good spirits as the collie, but he seemed more cheerful than of late. The Indian was packed but we'd reserved the table furthest from the madding crowd and their polite chat between sips of lager and fork hitting china plates to scoop up the Basmati. Farooq the waiter took our order and came back shortly with two pints of Kingfisher on a slate tray with two neatly folded napkins and our cutlery and a bowl of fresh poppadoms. He left us briefly to return for the silver server filled with chopped onions. mango chutney, mint sauce and the lime pickle that always puts me in mind of tarmac for some reason. The poppadoms were cracked apart and, amid crumbs, dipped into the condiments with gay abandon.

"Bleedin' Braintree this weekend" said Tel in a murmured growl. This was meant to be his holiday in Portugal. He was due to fly on the Sunday. They cancelled due to Covid and are instead having days out with the in-laws, with North Norfolk on the menu along with Aldeburgh and Southwold. "Decent beer at least" said Tel. "Sandy's doin' the drivin' so me and Tone can 'ave a few in the locals. Finkin' o' tryin' tha' Sole Bay inn for lunch, like". He rubbed his hands briskly and beamed. "Should be free sheets by 'ometime, us. Tone luvs a pint or free. 'E'll be fun on this'un". Our starters arrived. He broke off to pick at his chicken tandoori with his fork. "Seen more bleedin' meat on our local blue tits" was his response. But he still finished it.

By the time we'd eaten the chicken vindaloo and the king prawn jalfrezi and then the bombay potato and the keema naans, and drunk our fill of the Kingfisher (five pints apiece) and been lightened of thirty quid each (we went dutch. It was easier than paying one bill of sixty five quid and we both presented our debit cards with a bonhomie we both felt), we were walking shakily to the local where we'd agreed to meet Mrs Tel at eleven to seriously hammer their brandy bottle and part with more money. By the time Mrs Tel had arrived, been met by me in the car park and encouraged in for a diet Coke with ice, we were pissed. Tel did the footy bet with me. Two lines each, him commenting disparagingly about the quality of the EFL and doing wins for Blackburn, Luton, Stoke, Newport and Rotherham, all of which came good to win us another three hundred notes and take our combined bet total to over £2500. Muggins here didn't contribute. The Town let me down. So did Preston.

I agreed to come home with the Terry's for a nightcap. Why I did that, gawd knows as Tel would probably say when he eventually awoke the next morning. Mrs Tel enticed me. She said sweetly "Yer aint bin rand ours for a while, come back wiv us an' 'ave a drink". So I did. We cracked a bottle of the decent brandy and drank the lot. I burbled like a fat frog and laughed as Tel did his impression of Michael Barrymore on 'Strike it Lucky' with the rations he poured. "Alwight?" he said as he poured half a tumblerful. I sank it with a smile. "Bleedin' 'ell mate, it aint Lemonade yer heavven!". Then he sank a larger one in a swallow, the look of brief distaste adding to the general hilarity. Mrs Tel and I cheering like Paul Cook had just made an entrance. Although she wouldn't know who Paul Cook was.

I was driven home by a sober, clean smelling Mrs Tel. On her own as Tel had collapsed like an England middle order and was dozing at the dining room table, muttering about 'shoulda gone wiv yer ter Morecambe termorro, still....". She wore her Blondie T-shirt and black Levis and smelled of Thierry Mugler. I felt a strange yearning. One that nearly wrecked me on the rocks when I heard myself mumbling to her about 'coming in for a coffee'. Nearly. Oh so nearly. But it was 2am and she was tired. So I said thanks for the lift home and brushed her cheek with my lips and staggered to the front door and she waited in the car and then, as the door succumbed to the key, she bibbed lightly and was off. And my thoughts changed from illicit sexual cravings with my friend's missus to another drink.

Saturday. Bacon sandwiches with loads of HP at eight. Coffee, black, scalding, redemptive. Birds on the replenished feeders squabbling. The rainclouds darkening the kitchen. Time for a shower and a clean set of clothing. Then a walk to Manningtree station for the train into Town.

The rain left bright diamonds on the roads as I walked. It cooled and dampened my ardour for a good game and a few pints in the boozer beforehand. My hangover crept and squalled in my bowels and my head. A few pints was necessary. Nothing to eat. Mustn't eat.

I knew it'd be a packed game before I'd even reached Ipswich. The shirts at the Station Buffet in Ipswich, on the train, at Ipswich station all told me this would be over 20k attendance. The pub was packed by 12pm and I found my mates at seats watching the lunchtime kick off with all the interest of one 'watching' crown green bowls. Pints were consumed, then vodkas, then we were off. The lines outside the SBR were long and snaked around like a Boa on a tree trunk in some exotic clime. The crowd was expectant inside. I voiced the songs gingerly at first and then forgot about the poxy virus and sang deep.

The homecoming at five seemed an anti-climax. The game was good, just error-ridden and a bit stand-offish from our point of view. Still, it'll come. Woolfenden was the biggest villain of the day and people on the train grumbled about his indecisiveness and hoped we were in for another competent defender besides Edmundson, who they hadn't actually seen play yet but whose precedence was reassuring. Fraser got a good press, as did Evans and Harper and, to a lesser degree, KVY. No-one mentioned Penney. I thought he played well as it went.

And that was that. Home came the hunter. Tel in Braintree. A chinese takeaway in front of the Sheffield United game and an earlier night, haunted by the brandy bottle and a sense that something, somewhere was unsatisfied. I think it was the performance. But it might just have been the unease about my previous night with Mrs Tel in the car. Oh God. What did I do? What could I have done? It was that embarrassment I'd not felt since I inadvertently wet myself at primary school all those years ago.

Tel's coming with me to the AFC Wimbledon game. At least he said he would. Mind you, he was pissed.
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The New Hope - A Warky pre-season report: (H)
at 10:50 1 Aug 2021

I never meant to write this.

Pre-season games are my nemesis. Like international weekends, they smack of not having anything better to do. A rainy Friday meant taking a jacket for the first time since July dawned.

I spent Friday night with Tel in the pub. Nothing abnormal in that. In fact, we spend most Friday nights in the pub, when we're not dining in local Indian restaurants. We didn't last night as Tel has had "gut rot, like, not eggsakly the squits or nuffink, jus' a bit'o'fartin' an' it smells". He gave me an ill-timed example in the car as Mrs Tel drove us to the non-local. The clamour to wind the windows down by both parties was as if we were in some crap BBC Saturday night gameshow; one which demanded that the quickest to seek and administer the electric button was the winner and would play for the star prize of necessary fresh air. The fart sounded wet, and I feared for his pants. It smelt like someone had successfully dredged the worst of the mud in the Stour. .

They're not heading to Portugal in August. Not allowed. Or at least they are allowed but they cancelled anyway. I didn't quite understand the story. Instead of two weeks in the Praya's, they're having a week in Braintree and several day trips to Wells-next-the Sea and Sheringham. And Southwold. Those beers in the Portuguese heat to be replaced by likely showers and a '99 on the prom.

So Friday night was spent discussing these matters and debating whether it was worth driving a 4x4 across to Sheringham from Wells along some of the narrowest roads known to man. The North Norfolk coast is popular and parts are lovely, but it is also uninviting to the day-tripper in a big vehicle. The discursive paused from time to time for a sip of the ale and, in Tel's case, a quick lean forward and another low rumble from his gusset. Two women who sat behind us drank up quick and left after the first salvo. Visibly wilting. I must have a poor sense of smell.

Saturday came. I had booked a ticket for the Millwall friendly online. In the SBR but not in my chosen ST seat. The train in from Manningtree seemed alien, something I'd not even tried to do in the preceding 18 months. I exited at Ipswich station feeling like the phrase 'After the Lord Mayor's Show'. A few backpackers at 11.30am, a few families with excited kids at the start of their holidays and off to London for something different. The clouds scudded across the hazy skies and people picked at black facemasks with their fingers. No Millwall in the Station pub. A walk into the town past the usual panhandlers and the odd elderly-with-trolley-on-wheels. This didn't feel like a footy Saturday.

The pub was half-empty. My two co-conspirators sat in tableau vivant at a table, pints half-swallowed at their elbows, necks craned over mobile phones. They consisted of James, a long-standing friend and Forest fan and Danny, his neighbour and long-standing rugby fan who James managed to coerce to attend a friendly game in a sport he had previously told us he's not keen on. Still, it got him out of the house on a Saturday, didn't it?

We stayed and chatted and ate and drank until 2pm. Then we walked into town so Danny could withdraw money at the ATM and James could buy a bottle of water for the game. We had a quick peek in that Danish store (Flying Tiger?) to look for hand-held fans, then ambled to PR, arriving at 2.40pm. The 'crowds' were sparse but enthusiastic. The echoes of chants and the seagulls wheeling made it feel like a seaside stag-party.

The game began brightly. Both sides looked energetic. I will say this for Paul Cook; we won't be left frustrated by dawdling players this season. We hit the outside of the post. And then Millwall scored. And suddenly we lost a bit of confidence and James groaned as we built from midfield but then saw it break down just on the cusp of it getting exciting. Half-time, 0-1. Millwall looked the more composed side but nothing special. The worry was the lack of gilt-edged chances created.

We left before the final whistle. 3-0 was unjust but yet sort of deserved as well. It wasn't a 3-0 game by any stretch. Look at a 3-0 scoreline and you'd think the away side were miles better, but these weren't, they just took chances. I'd be worried by that defence if it was regular though. We definitely need a decent left-back. Hopefully we'll sort this before next Saturday. Otherwise, it's been a good summer. If you haven't seen us play yet, you'll be pleasantly surprised. We're nowhere near fluent yet, but there were some nice touches and hints of understandings to come.

Roll on Saturday!

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Dude, where's my season ticket?
at 19:27 30 Jul 2021

Anyone else had theirs yet?

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The Warky Euro2020 Report: Italy (bollox)
at 23:04 11 Jul 2021

Oh well.

It's not coming home then.

Never Mind.

COME ON IPSWICH!!!!!!!!

See you all in August for the new season - The Warky Report: Promotion (h & a)

Cheers all - it's been emotional. Have a nice summer.

Warky - 11/7/2021.
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The Warky Euro2020 Report: Denmark (H)
at 13:16 11 Jul 2021

Anglophilia has hit this corner of North East Essex. I'm not sure it ever really left. St George's flags adorn windows and hedges around these parts; oft accompanied by the Estuary-English cry of "Come on Ingerland". Dog walkers wear the three lions with pride. The current vogue for the 80's Admiral red and blue epaulettes has hit people too tight to part with seventy quid for a new shirt. But these look new and so incongruous in their turn. It reminds me of folk at the Town who still wear their Fisons home shirts thirty-odd years after they were fashionable.

The only people immune are the regulars; the old dears in their blue macs and shopping trolleys on wheels, the older drinkers sat at the bar reflecting on lives through the foam of a pint of best, their vest, shirt and tie combo still de rigeur since their days of National Service and conformism. And Tel and I. We don't do football tops. I haven't worn one since the mid '90's, and that was the much-hated bleach-look home one that even Taricco couldn't make sexy. Tel has an England t-shirt he bought cheap from JD Sports in Clacton Factory Village after we exited the 2014 World Cup. It rarely makes an appearance these days. "I've worn it in bed once or twice" he admitted to me a while back. Mental images of he and Mrs Tel 'at it' while he wears it have impinged my mind a few times since.

After the high of the Ukraine game, we pre-planned our semi-final with the intricacy of D-Day. Pub table booked, food pre-ordered for 6pm, even the planned assault on the pub quiz machine which Jamie the Landlord has thoughtfully switched back on so that mugs like us can hammer it with loose change. The pub quiz machine is becoming a relic in itself; its "Who wants to be a Millionaire" still features Chris Tarrant, and it pretends Anne Robinson hasn't set foot near Countdown and is still doing "The Weakest Link". The newest game, 'The Chase', is harder than many Mensa tests once you start talking money.

I arrived on Wednesday at 5pm as pre-arranged with Tel, who was absent. I ordered the first pint, relieved to see our table with a metal 'Reserved' sign on it, the one furthest from the big screen where, as experience told us from Saturday, the beer-throwers tended to congregate.

Pint in hand and the top inch supped, I wandered over to the quiz machine, lonely as a cloud, the Tel-less state still holding fast. I slipped two pound coins in and they didn't immediately fall through the coin slot. A firm, but respectable bang with flat of hand on the slot and an empty-sounding clank and we were in business. As in most episodes of 'Who wants to be a Millionaire', the early rounds were piss-easy. Soon I was heading to the money, the £32000 question which winked the promise of a quid. I knew the answer. Then I guessed on the £640000 for two quid and guessed correctly. Then the £1250000 for three quid flashed up 'What was the name of the Inn the pilgrims left from in The Canterbury Tales?" and I knew it was the Tabard, having been deeply bored writing a thesis on The Knight's Tale at University. Three quid!

Then something happened. Something stupid. I collected the three quid. Then realised I knew the answer to the £250000 question after all. For a fiver. A fiver. The Angel Falls were in Venezuela. Not South Africa. Not Peru. Not Brazil.

Chastened, I switched WWTBAM off and lost the other quid playing The Chase, which took me to within two questions of a quid then asked me about battles in the American Civil War.

Tel arrived as I returned to our table, the three quid nefariously jangling in my pocket along with house keys and assorted bits of loose change. "Orlrite?" he said in greeting. "Sorry ah'm late like, wife 'ad ter nip ter Tesco on the way". I ordered him a pint and me another and paid using the tainted three quid and a dirty crumpled fiver I found buried deep in the clefts of my pocket. He stood at the bar in his face-mask, doing muffled innuendo with the visored bar maid.

The telly was switched on at 6pm for the build-up. The sound was muted, a relief as Roy Keane gurned and scowled, his mouth moving aimlessly. Tel sank his first pint and was up at the bar before I'd managed half of mine. He returned, amid jolly laughter and a wink at Cheryl the barmaid. The old boy in the corner smirking. Two England-shirted younger lads sharing a good belly laugh. He was still smiling enigmatically like the Mona Lisa as he rejoined me. "Bleedin' sods them lads" was all he said by way of explanation.

My Club England sandwich arrived, secured by a cocktail stick, on a plate the size of a cartwheel. The french fries were plentiful and scalding hot. The ramekin of curried coleslaw rattled as the visored bar steward set it down. Tel looked critically at it. Then he nicked the biggest french fry and dipped it in the coleslaw. "Mmmm, not bad" he added after masticating. The sandwich looked like something Shaggy would knock up in 'Scooby-Doo'. To be swallowed whole, lengthways. I pulled out the cocktail stick and it collapsed like a deck of cards. "Wouldn't'a'done that" advised Tel as the bread slipped apart to reveal a car crash of meats, salad bits and various sauces which leaked and drooled over the nearest fries.

It was bloody good though. Fortunately, Tel's steak arrived before he could further assault my chips, and he snickered while pouring the pot of peppercorn sauce over the meat, a brown speckled slick. "This is wot you should'a had" he pointed out, cutting his meat with a sharp blade and admiring the pink and the bloody miasma which spilled out of the darkened crust.

We finished eating and ordered one more pint each, intending to move on to brandies once the dessert had been eaten. He chose the trio of ice creams with meringue and strawberries. I had the New York cheesecake with toffee sauce. It tasted bland and was solid. I ate a bit and then admitted defeat. Tel finished it for me, alternating between ice creams and the cheesecake.

The game started just as we were revelling in our second brandy. The cheers and the badly-sung national anthem died down as we attacked early. Then we gave away a tame free-kick and one of the Danes, a lad who looked about twelve, smashed it over Pickford and we were 1-0 down. The pub quietened. The pub was bemoaning Pickford. "Should 'ave bleedin' saved that" was the general opinion from the front.

We equalised amidst the worst of the rancour. The fears of another cheap defeat from England in a big game were slowly percolating thick minds. Then Sako beat the offside trap and crossed low and BOOM, in it went and the lagers arched in the air and landed in globby splats on the fake slate tiling and folks were covering each other in celebration. The bar staff smiled politely, probably reaching for the buckets and mops.

Half-time brought relief in the form of queues for the bogs and at the bar. Tel put a quid in the quiz machine and played "The Chase". He retired, confounded after three rounds and blamed me for not knowing who had a hit in 2005 with 'Goodies'. He went for Bill Oddie.

Second half. It was a bit dull. Loads of backwards and sideways passes and a lack of threat from the Danes who looked a bit overawed. Tel told me a story about Mrs Tel and her asking him to reconsider not going on the Portugal holiday with Tony and Sandy next month. "An' I told 'er, sorta don't be 'avin' a go now, yer knar we wunt enjoy ourselves like we do in Marbella". He sounded firm. Then he said "But ah value me life too much, yer knar? She's got 'er 'eart set on it an' she'll be a pain in the jacksy if ah keep sayin' no, so I told 'er yes an' we're goin' on the seventeenf August for a week". He smiled and winked at me. It was a craven backdown. I was surprised. "Still, she's bin all sweetness and light, like, since I told 'er" he said, slightly defensively at my reaction.

Extra time. We won a penalty that looked softer every time they replayed it from every conceivable angle. Kane took it, waited with his monobrow flexed in concentration. He missed, then he scored the rebound. The "Oh" and the "Yeeeeeeessss" erupted almost simultaneously from the now-tipsy hordes. Even we joined in the group hugs this time. I was covered in Stella Artois. I washed my shirt twice and it still smells vaguely hoppy.

So too tonight. And here's where the problem lies. Tel's in Braintree, adding his wife and he to the travel itinerary for Portugal at the travel agency, same hotel, same flights, same old. They're staying for Sunday lunch and watching the game at Tony's before retiring to their spare room and returning on Monday. He was apologetic when he told me on Friday. We'd planned a great night. But then I've got work tomorrow and a full diary, and Italy will be a different kettle of fish, and, and, and....So I'm watching it at home. Shame. But I've got a load of beer and brandy and grub in. So it's not a hardship as such.

No reserved table at the boozer tonight. Perhaps someone else will have the pleasure instead? Just don't try the quiz machine, eh?
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The Warky 2020Euro Report: Ukraine (A) and the Germans (H)
at 12:13 4 Jul 2021

"E's playin' Rice again" said Tel with all the inflected bitterness of a woman scorned.

Tuesday night, Chez Terry, takeaway on order for delivery at seven thirty when the game finished; the menus scattered on the table for the local pizza place ("never fancy pizza, iss like cheese on wet car'board innit?"), the local Indian ("their chicken's like bleedin' sparra. Their Vindaloo aint hot eiver") and the eventual winner, the local kebabery, whose menu had pictures, glorious, dripping fat pictures, of kebabs and something called a 'treble top burger' which came 'topped with your choice of three extras: chilli,bacon, montarey (sic) jack, onion ring, hash brown, chedder (again, sic), donor meat (who the donor was we never knew) or something called shashlik. If the food tasted as good as the spelling, we expected to be sat on the bog with a bucket in our laps for the 8pm game.

We won 2-0. I expect you knew that already. Tel knocked back beer in between general slaggings of the German team, their country and the two world wars. He veered from WW2 Government propaganda posters ("can't never trust 'em, the krauts, take over merchants. Thass why we left the EU") to outright slander ("Merkel means 'mucker' in German, betchoo never noo that?").

Mrs Tel came in to watch sporadically, then found something better to do, like clean the kitchen floor or put some Chinese starters in the oven. She joined me in a cigarette at half-time, pinny on (map of Marbella with the words Hola Marbella written in slanting text across the middle) and clutching an official Coke glass filled with a pinkish-tinted liquid which turned out to be cherry lemonade. She exhaled the smoke from her nostrils and sat in one of the easy chairs on the patio, tapping her ash into the flowerpots and remarking that the football was "a bit borin'". She wore stonewash Levis and a blue gingham check shirt. She told me about Sandy and Tony, her brother-in-law. "Goin' ter Portugal in September, jus' the two of 'em" she said wistfully. "Asked us to join 'em, like, but 'e (here she jerked her head in the direction of the lounge) won' go. Said 'e wants us ter go back ter Spain nex' year instead". The sigh in her voice was reflective of her disappointment.

Tel said later that he "din't like Porchoogall". He said it dismissively, without confirming or denying Mrs Tel's earlier claims. He said it in conjunction with the commentator on the telly saying that all of the 'Group of Death' participants were now out of the competition: The Germans, the French and of course Portugal. He wasn't ecstatic as the final whistle confirmed an English victory over the old enemy, but he did smile and clench a fist. The doorbell went as we were talking about which side we'd fancy in the Quarters. The swarthy bloke with the heated pouch on the doorstep took Tel's thirty quid and decanted polystyrene boxes full of lukewarm french fries, Greek salad, large rubbery-looking, sweaty kebabs and Tel's double bacon cheeseburger, the fried onions spilling down the sides like rocks in a landslide.

That was Tuesday. I survived the sheek kebab and fries. They'd killed any likely bacterium by loading it with chilli sauce. It tasted like rubber strips in lava. The raw onion just added to the mix.

On Friday we went for a Chinese. Tel had crispy seaweed and spare ribs as his starter. He looked like the bastard child of the Creature from the Black Lagoon when he'd finished; wispy strands of seaweed adhering to red spare rib sauce waved around his chin and moustache line. The peking duck arrived and with it the straw basket of pancakes and the platter of cucumber, spring onion and hoi sin sauce. He distracted me by asking whether I thought the Town would sign more players, as we'd talked about the rumours earlier in the evening. My answer meant I lost out on the majority of the pancakes and best bits of the duck. Still, I quite like the skin and the wobblier bits.

We ended in the non-local; that is to say the pub we're not so keen on as it a) doesn't have a telly and b) caters for the middle-class gravy eaters and the primly dressed bar staff discourage the non-booker. We scorned the beer for brandies and the odd Southern Comfort apiece. Each came in a twee little tumbler with a rounded bottom and the pub name etched on the glass. I thought Tel would scream and leg it, but he never said a thing. Normally, he hates pubs like this. The smell of recent roast-and-gravy dinners interspersed with the occasional tings of cutlery on plates and the genteel murmurs of conversation from the dining tables as folks tucked into banana split puds and sipped their filter coffees.

Saturday was better. I got up early and had a walk, a brisk six-miler with the early promise of a humid day, the sun peeking through Constable skies. No dog walkers. Probably still a-bed at seven am, their dogs restlessly pacing the kitchen for a stroll and a gambol. No hikers either, that curious breed of cagouled, rustling, trouser-leg-in-sock and Karrimor rucksacked non-conversationalist. No brand-new looking walking sticks or long pauses in the middle of footpaths to unfurl OS maps. Just me, the birds wheeling across the fields and the river and the breezes riffling the grasses and the trees.

Shopping at two after the housework. Spent eighty quid of my hard-earned on groceries and cleaning products and shower products and beer. Home at five, put away the shopping, had a beer and watched the Spanish progress to a tricky semi-final with the Italians. Then I left for the pub at seven.

Tel was already in situ. We'd drawn the short straw, the table near the faux wooden beams, so that we both had to sit at the far end to see the telly or risk severe back contortions to see the left hand side of the pitch. We ordered pints and a bowl of chips and chicken to share. The teams entered the Roman gladiatorial stadium just as the waitress was settling down the chicken platter, wings, drumsticks, popcorn bits and what looked like Table Mountain but was in fact breast meat cut finely, all covered in their hot sauce. Tel spluttered as the national anthem of the Ukraine was played but this was less jingoism, more a case of too much hot sauce. He drank half his pint in penance.

"Playin' crap again..." he started to point out, just as Sterling chipped a lovely ball in to Kane and BOOM, 1-0, eruptions from the England retro shirts near the big screen out the back and the occasional quick fizzle of thrown lager top as it arched in the air. We were sat too far from the action to be covered, but Tel tutted and said something about "'S'only the bleedin' Russia wannabees". Half time came and he carried on muttering as he joined the scrum for the bogs. "Only one bleedin' nil innit?" he said to anyone listening.

The second half started just as we'd moved on to the shorts. "Too much gas in the beer 'ere" said Tel belching lightly after swilling his fourth pint back. We had large brandies on the rocks, Courvoisier, a name Tel can never say, so he contents himself by ordering 'Curvesee brandy'. To be fair to the bar staff, they get it.

We went from one to three quite quickly. "'Ope the Yookrankies defend better against the Russians" said Tel, drawing a brief guffaw from the table next door. Then Hendo notched a fourth and then everything went back to backwards, sideways, tippy-tappy English possession and our minds wandered and we discussed Mrs Tel's hopes of Portguese Getaways in September. And Tel said "nope, told 'er I dun like Porchoogal an' I don't fancy two weeks win Tone and Sandy eiver, we'd be walkin' round every tourist trap known ter man". And that was the last, definitive word. Still, he's happy to take Mrs Tel to Spain when allowed. "Marbella' he said, beaming. "Or possibly Costa Brava, dunno yet".

And we looked at our respective mobiles and swallowed our drinks until the ice hit our front teeth, and we soaked up the celebratory atmosphere as man-boys in their England shirts, big drips of spilt or thrown lager down the front, took selfies of them and their mates in front of the big screen with the score behind them or started the Three Lions chant, or generally jumped in huddles in the middle of the beer garden. Then Tel said "nex' games Wensdy, down 'ere again is it?" and I nodded, and thought I'd take a Gaviscon or two before I tackled the chicken combo again.

We're looking to sign Celina as well. What a day!!

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FAO Dubtractor
at 10:29 3 Jul 2021

Please can you do another '80's megamix? Loved the one you did before Xmas last year.
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The Warky 2020Euro Report: A Welsh interlude (A)
at 12:22 27 Jun 2021

When I was a kid, we owned a holiday cottage near Llanberis in North Wales.

It was a proper Welsh cottage, stone and oak, stream in the bottom of the garden that I fell into a few times while fishing for minnows, rope swing that flew high over a bed of nettles and which would creak dangerously when swung on, adding a delicious element of 'Indiana Jones'-like peril to proceedings.

Snowdon was on our doorstep and we climbed it, Dad and I, every which way, even the difficult Crib Goch and the slightly less difficult Pig Track, scrambling amongst the scree, Dad remembering a work colleague who died falling from the same path in wet weather in 1983, telling grisly tales of how the mountain rescue team 'picked up all the bits' left. Drinking cans of warm pop on the summit in celebration, remembering to take the empty tins back with us so as not to litter.

The beauty of the Menai Straits, days spent idling round bookshops in Beaumaris and the haunted chill of the old jail, with its' working scaffolds and dank cells. Idyllic days. True, the North Welsh were renowned for burning English second homes but we never encountered any ill-feeling. It's said that the South is friendlier and less puritanical (pubs didn't open on a Sunday locally back then in 1985) but the North was equally as amenable and had better landscapes.

I remembered this as Tel, back in the local for a 'swift 'arf' as he put it, before our trip to the Indian, scoffed as the Welsh conceded their second goal and said, patronisingly "Taffs'r'out then, bleedin' knar their place now dunn'ey?". It was a strange atmosphere in the pub. People who'd clamoured to watch the earlier games sat indifferently, supping pints and noshing bowls of chips, the occasional belch or inconsequential piss-take interrupting the low volume of the commentary as Robbie Savage became disillusioned in the co-commentators seat. No-one's really bothered about the Welsh. It's not like the Scots, whose monthly protestations about independence and who people think get a better deal from the union than the English do; it's just a lesser country.

Tel's view of Wales is largely that of most kids who grew up watching Ivor the Engine. Serene, dull, funny accents. His attempt at imitating a Welsh accent owed more to Calcutta than Caernarvon. He couldn't believe I'd holidayed there as a kid, happily, until Dad sold the cottage in 1987 to finance our extension at home. "Wot, ackchully 'olidayed in bleedin' Taffland?" he said, as though it was Burkina Faso. He reflected on this bombshell. "Bleedin' ell mate. Deprived or what? Did'yer dad never 'ear of Spain or summink?". He was dumbstruck by tales of pubs shut on a Sunday and having to walk two miles through the old slate mines to get a morning paper and a loaf.

It was great though, I told him. My classmates, back at school in September and being asked to tell the class what they'd done in their summer holidays, told grim tales of campsites in the Dordogne, of basic toilets and locals laughing at parental attempts at pidgin french and sunburn and being bit by mossies. Mine were all more interesting; walks in the wilderness, cups of tea with people who still communicated in their national language, which sounded phlegmy and guttural and yet lilting at the same time, crabbing at low tide in the Menai's.

We continued the conversation in the curry house, over the poppadoms and chutneys and bowls of raw onion. Tel's childhood holidays fell into two distinct categories: Seaside in England, seaside in Spain when his dad bought the second newsagents and started 'makin''. Days spent in amusements in England or in tea houses eating buttered scones and eyeing up the local talent. Days in Spain spent getting burnt and eyeing up the topless talent on the beaches in the Costas. "Saw a bird once, must've bin like late teens she was, completely nakid on the beach, laying frontwards like, then she turned over when she fought no-one's lookin' and, well, there was me on me front an 'all, diggin' a pit wiv me knob". His affaires, mostly with younger girls when he was seventeen and they barely legal, were recounted with a bonhomie that made me suspect exaggeration. Still, they were boastful and shameless, just as these sort of tales should be.

"Nah, the Welsh. Never gottem" he admitted as we tackled the Vindaloo. "Don't mean I don't like'em or 'ave nuffing against 'em though". One of his regulars in the shop was Welsh. My money was on him being called Taff. "Nah, Les. Big Les from Pontypridd. Noo 'is 'orses, used ter give us tips. Big smoker, liked 'is Dun'ills did Les. Dead now. Cancer. Must be twelve years ago. Wot was 'is wife's name?" Here he broke off to spoon a mess of Vindaloo, rice and mango chutney into his mouth. "Freda. That was it. Came from Gants 'ill. Dunno 'ow they met".

We left at ten to go back down the pub for brandy and to meet Mrs Tel, who was this week dressed in black jeans, french crop top and Adidas trainers with her leather jacket. She's growing her hair again. She looked elfin, like Chrissy Hynde. She greeted me with a kiss and I got a lungful of her Anais Anais. She had a diet coke on draught with ice and a slice. Tel left the straw in, which she immediately took out and put on the table where it slowly dribbled brown bubbles from the end. We chatted. Tel told her about my childhood in Wales. "They lost ternight, dinn'ay?" she said, distracted by the idle chatter of the telly showing the Euro highlights. She'd been to Wales as well, once, back in the late seventies, on holiday in Llandudno with a friend. Their car broke down on the way, overheated. They met an Italian waiter. That was it. It lacked the sexual frisson of Tel's tales, but it was a charming tale of seventies retrospective. "Nah pubs opened on a Sundee" she recalled and I nodded, affirming this was still true in the 80's. Tel just smirked and tittered. But we had another common thread. Welsh holidays.

They dropped me at home with Tel barking orders for Tuesday night. Meet at five, quick chinese at his and then down the local for the England match by eight. I nodded in affirmation and he relaxed. "Be better than the Welsh anyway" was his parting shot. I'm not so sure. But we live in hope, don't we?
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