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The Warky FA Cup Report: Round 2 - Coventry City (a)
at 20:02 1 Dec 2019

On the day that I opened the first window of my 'Cheeses of Britain' advent calendar (a piece of Wensleydale with some sort of candied peel in it and a picture of the farm that produced it, in miniature, the workers wearing festive tinsel round their white hats and blue gloves), and struggled with unravelling the outside Christmas lights, we went to Birmingham for a Cup second round match.

I didn't. There was cursory talk of a ticket with the spotty, Coventry-loving work experience kid at our office in Brum, who was more enthused about me coming than I was. In the end his mate Keith couldn't find a spare, so I pleaded tiredness and somehow got out of the Sunday lunch meet in the local in Broad Street at 11am. Which was just as well. I'm back there again tomorrow morning. Two unnecessary journeys up the A14/M6 the day before a necessary one felt like punishment. I don't drive for a living like Tel.

I missed the Wycombe game due to work. We should have won. By rights, we should have won today as well. We've had more draws than a branch of M&S lately.

Back to Tel. He's 'reigned in' the driving work lately. Mrs Tel isn't well. She's had a relapse in her 'wimmin's things' department and was taken to see her quack the other day, who then referred her to the hospital. They've given her medication and told her to refrain from "energetic sexual activity" until she sees her gynaecologist in twelve days. "Energe'ic sex" muttered Tel. "Chance'd be a fine fing".

As he doesn't need to work financially, he agreed a period of furlough with his contractor until New Year, just to ensure he can be on hand to drive her to appointments when needed, and do all the heavy lifting around the house. So he's been delivering to Felixstowe docks this week and that's it. It means he has time to come down the pub and for meals, like we did on Friday after he got back from the chemist getting the medications.

The Indian was half full, people messing up the starched tablecloths with strangely brown stains, like a genteel dirty protest. It was mostly couples, talking quietly between courses and making the odd amused 'wow!' face as tastebuds came into contact with spices. The sitar music jingle-jangled in the backround; Ravi Shankar next to the door to the bogs. Occasionally, some woman sang, in the tones Tel always describes, with a brief smirk at his own wit, as sounding "lark a bird bein' done wiv a dildo tied to the bisnis end of a noomatic drill".

We ordered Kingfishers on draught, a new introduction at our restaurant, which previously only had Carlsberg on draught. The pump still had the same plastic Carlsberg thing it had in the eighties. They brought them, informing us they still had 'plenty Cobra in the fridge', presumably in case the draught ran out. We sank our pints and ordered more.

Tel asked me about Christmas. He and the wife are spending it in Braintree, at a restaurant booked by Tony on Xmas Day "but we'll be 'ome for boxin' day, jers wondered if yer fancied coming over when we get back from the game?". I said yes. He's also kindly invited my parents, but they've got guests on Boxing Day afternoon for dinner, so they kindly declined.

They're out on Xmas Eve, so we arranged for me to come over on Monday 23rd evening for a chinese and to pass the pressies. That came as a bit of a shock as I thought we'd agreed not to bother this year. So i tentatively asked what they'd like. "A new gusset for the missus" said Tel, dabbing the stray crumbs from his poppadom off the tablecloth with a moistened finger.

We ate, and drank, and chatted, mostly about the perils of Christmasses past, two Scrooges comparing kipping on sofas 'cos your grandparents have commandeered your bed, uncles getting drunk during 'Carols from Kings' on Christmas Eve afternoon, the constantly occupied bathrooms and the snoring during the big film on Christmas Day afternoon. "I once set me nan's farts alight" said Tel, unconcernedly. This was the best one yet. "What happened?" I asked. "Well, me nan was seventy-six in 1969 an' gawd blesser, she couldn't digest sprouts proper. Gave 'er right old colic, they did. Well, me fambly all in the livin'room, 'arfer'em soundo, the ovver arf gettin' there, an' I get bored and start lookin' at some chemistry kit me uncle got me, right weirdo 'e woz, always 'opin' 'e'd make a stoodent out'o'me. So this kits got some book in it, an' in the book it tells yer about mefane an' 'ow it's flammable. It says yer can light it. So I goes an' gets me dad's lighter, sits under me nan's chair, and wait for her to let one go, an' I flick the lighter on near the seat. Well...." (dramatic pause as he forks a bit of chicken tikka masala into his mouth) "it scorched a bleedin' hole in the seat. Everyone who woke up later wondered what that burnin' smell was. I sed the fire spat on the carpet. Me mum 'ad to chuck the chair in the summer. Said she'd nevver seen burn marks like it. Me dad got the blame for fallin' asleep in it wiv a lit fag. He denied it until he died".

We had a nightcap in the pub. It was quiet for a Friday night, the landlord blaming Black Friday for keeping folk at home on their tablets, ordering stuff. We drank doubles and sat watching the pool leaguers lose another tie against local pub rivals. Our lot are rubbish. They talk the talk and walk the walk when they're in there with their mates, but in matchplay conditions they fold quicker than an IKEA bed. Tel gave them encouragement. "I bet Jimmy White's cacking 'imself" and "yer couldn't have missed that one more if you'd deliberately missed it". They were grateful when we left.

Yesterday was walk day, and I went for one in Oakley, down to the little beach through the fields, the skies threatening rain and the ships gliding into Felixstowe. I drove back and got showered and redressed for a night out with other friends. I drove so didn't drink. It was nice not having a Sunday hangover.

I forgot we kicked off at two, so got engrossed in the grand prix and then briefly saw the start of the second half of the scum game before I remembered and switched over to the Beeb just as Keane scored. I was hoping Norwich'd get a pasting from the Arse, but it never came, so I kept it on BBC1, shuddering at Dion Dublin's wisecracks and Jon Walters' accent. Just as I had visions of us drawing Norwich at home in Round 3, Coventry equalised. Their bloke did well, but christ, what crap defending! So we're in the hat tomorrow night, for a competition we never seem to bother with, following a replay we don't really need.

Oh well......

The Warky League One Report: Blackpool (h)
at 12:44 24 Nov 2019

I wandered amongst the throng of Superdry jackets and Debenhams bags, past the market stalls selling new age tat and veg, pausing to soak up the smells of the Hot Sausage stand, the fried onions tempting the old tastebuds to a foot-long beast in a bun, except I knew the ketchup would squirt at the first bite and drench me, Ted Bundy-like, in crimson stains. So I waited until we got to Yates' for my £4.99 chicken wings instead. Yes, it was match day in Ipswich. It felt like rebirth.

The rain we'd been promised didn't really happen and the big coat just made me sweaty. The obvious downside to a game in late November is the Christmas tat. Shops glimmered with cheap tinsel and market stall holders wore Father Christmas hats and proffered goods in Mr Bumble bellows. A choir, mainly comprising middle-aged women, sang 'While Shepherds Watched' by the Cornhill. They were backed by what looked like The Sally Army (unless a few of them had just come from a funeral?). They were a welcome diversion for many who were on their way to Marks' to get Great Aunt Norah's bath salts.

Still, that was later. The week began with cold. Tel's man-flu, affirmed by the packets of Kleenex he secreted in the various pockets of his cargo pants and pulled out frequently to sneeze into and then blow a rasping, honking nostril on, was caught from his brother-in-law's kids. At least, that's who he blamed. The alcoholic fix was a non-starter as he had deliveries to far-flung corners of Norfolk and Cambs. "Ah'm in sum place called Prickwillow on Wensdy, near Ely" he sniffed, reaching absently for his paper hankies. "Then ah'm in Heacham, then Yarmuff on Fursday. Might 'ave a go on the muzzies in Yarmuff if we get time".

He was at my place to say he couldn't make Friday night. "A deliv'ry in Harlow; they wann it for five in the afternoon so I'm taking the missus an' we'll go on to Braintree to see Sandy and the kids after'n' we're 'avin' a Pizza Express". I didn't mind in the slightest. He was going to Fakenham on Saturday to deliver a hot-tub, so he wouldn't have been drinking, and, as you know, Tel without drink is a lesser beast.

I haven't seen him since that brief encounter on Tuesday. So no tales of getting lost trying to find Prickwillow, no 'Scooby-Doo' themed stories of driving through the fens half-convinced you'll see one-eyed ogres or be tied to trees after stopping to ask directions and b*ggered senseless by bands of whooping local farmers at shotgun length, like in 'Deliverance'. It might even have happened. He might, even now, be sitting uncomfortably in the driving seat of his Daf, the rest of his Kleenex stuffed up his arse. You never know.

Friday evening was spent cleaning and washing. I get paid next week, so couldn't see the point in bankruptcy by arranging a night out. Besides, we were at home for two massive games in a week, and the associated drinks and grub and fares would probably account for what was modestly left in my account. I needed clean shirts anyway.

I did manage a quick one in the local at nine. Rob, one of Tel's mates was in there, sipping decorously at his pint of Ghost Ship. He regaled me with tales of Christmas shopping in Norwich (it's the best shopping place round 'ere, better than London for some stuff). Tel told me a long time ago that Rob once bought his wife a new ironing board for Christmas. 'E's practical lark that' I remember him saying. I asked Rob what he'd found so far. "Well, the missus wants one of them Dyson 'airdryers but they're about free hundred quid. So I noticed she needed a new iron....".

Saturday saw me awake and showered by 7.30am, the dawn breaking bluey-grey pastels like an OAP jacket. No hangover. I went to Tesco for papers and wholemeal bread and spreadable butter and milk, and picked up some fatballs for my feathered chums, who would be expecting the fatty rinds from my bacon sarnie as well. They were in luck. I made two bacon sangers, both with HP and a big pot of tea. I watched the sparrows and goldfinches peck at the fatballs and then the starlings arrived for the rinds, fighting amongst themselves on the bird table. It's dog eat dog round here.

I left for the station at ten thirty. Joined the few early town shirts on the train, all chattering about team and formation, all seemingly confused about who'd be in today and who'd miss out. We pulled in to Ipswich and trooped off up the stairs. It wasn't raining. I walked into town and to The Cricketers where I was meeting my mates. We've stopped eating in there, despite the cheap'n'cheerful grub they provide to soak up the cheap'n'cheery booze. Their food has lost its appeal. Particularly the curry.

We fancied catching the West Ham game so sojourned to Yates Wine Lodge, which was packed. We found a spare table near the big screen and slewed our pints as the 'Ammers were torn apart. It was joyful. I don't like West Ham.

At 2.40, we arose, the detritus of chicken wings strewn with napkins around the table, the empty pint glasses stacked by the kindly waitress, ready for the washer and then the evening shift when the football kicked out and folk fancied Man City v Chelsea. Gentle belches, a quick readjustment of jeans around the wedding tackle area and we were off, braving the afternoon shoppers and the strains of Shakey singing 'Merry Christmas Everyone' from the major retailers. Folks walked, rosy-cheeked like a Danish milkmaid, their carriers rustling as they trailed in their wake, looking for the bargains and the offers.

Portman Road was busy. Busier than I'd seen it for a while. Then I remembered. I hadn't seen it for a while. The same old faces, the same old burger sellers and EADT stands with their giant plastic bags (perhaps Attenborough should do a documentary?). The same people standing by the railings in Sir Alf, having one last fag before their enforced 120 minutes of nicotine-less rigour. The same turnstile operators swiping my season ticket, the same stewards, the same 'last-minuters' supping overpriced pints at the foot of the stairs.

The game was a strange, hybrid mix of misplaced passing and expectation. We scored a tap in, then let them have a go and they scored an easy one, our defence trying to get back to prevent it, the look of panic on Chambers' face as he knew he'd failed to keep tabs on their scorer. Half-time, and the school kids took penalties and some were good but the proportion made Gus Uhlenbeek look proficient. No Rob Chandler, I noticed. The bloke who was doing the PA sounded like he'd been recruited from British Rail announcements.

We drew 2-2. Should've won. We both had penalties of our own. Their's never was. Well, might not have been. I didn't really see it. Ours was nailed on. Their defender caught it like a netball game. One cleared off the line that looked in. One Judge flick that nearly went in. And then the whistle went and we filed out, back into the night, frustrated it was just a point.

The train was packed like sardine cans. I alighted at Manningtree and walked home via the local to watch Man City. Then home at half-time to do my home-made Lamb Vindaloo with spices and curry leaves and vinegar and ghee that had been marinating in my fridge since nine that morning. It beat a takeaway. Served with poppadoms and a Peshwari Naan and yoghurt. And two bottles of Cobra.

And that was that. See you Tuesday!

The Warky League One Report: Another blank weekend (h)
at 10:54 17 Nov 2019

"Thass the problem wiv kids these days, no common sense. Iss all abart, me, me all the time. Gets on yer bleedin' wick".

Yes, welcome back to the latest instalment of these notes. I'm pleased to report that the lack of football hasn't diminished my weekend in any way, even though it feels like a lifetime since I was last at Portman Road, merrily drunk and discombobulated, kissing my female steward who guards the top of the stairs to rows 92-105 in SBRL, high-fiveing little Luke (who's now increasingly Big little Luke, and I'm not just talking about his cock here) and generally being a pain, spitting out songs between long hacks as I recondition my singing voice and try and remember what I'm meant to sing before 'Champions of England in 1962'. I even foray into the 'Little budgie' from time to time, just to test my range. If I cough on the first high notes, it usually means I'm not drunk enough, and I need to retire to the bar for a whisky minature to snap the old vocal chords into shape.

Anyway, I've missed all that recently. Cup games notwithstanding, it's been a rubbish November. No footie, cold, wet, Tel transforming like a rusty Optimus Prime into White Van Man, complete with McDonalds wrappers in his footwells and a pencil permanently affixed behind his right ear, work, work, work. It's not a period best remembered.

So imagine my surprise when he called round my house on Wednesday evening, clad in his work uniform of red polo top, blue fleece and cargo pants ("the pockits come in 'andy fer work; I can fit two tape measures an' a tube'o'polo's darn this leg alone") to formally invite me for a curry on Friday, his good news being that he'd been given the weekend off due to a family event for his boss, who'd graciously extended the blank weekend to all the drivers and drivers' mates with a proviso that they be ready for Monday again. "Which means ah'll 'ave ter get back on the wagon on Sundy, but ah c'n 'ave a few on Fridy and Sat'dy" he beamed, looking like a sh*thouse rat during a dysentery epidemic.

He'd swept the McDonalds wrappers out of the footwells by Thursday evening. "Iss that Callum" he muttered, shaking his head in disbelief on Friday as we met in the pub pre-curry. "'E goes on abart savin' money fer 'is college course'n then insists on eatin' that rubbish while 'e's workin'. I 'ave ter stop at any drive-froos we find so 'e can stuff 'imself silly on them bleedin' egg mcmickmacs 'n' quar'er parnders wiv cheese. Why 'e carnt do a packed lunch lark me, gawd alone knows". He paused to sip his pint broodingly and decide between a keema naan or a mixed starter.

He expanded further on the topic of 'kids today' which he'd observed from the month or so he's been working with his little mate. "Ah mean, there's me takin' 'am salad rolls an' bits'o'fruit an' bottled warter wiv me, all 'ealfy like, admittedly the missus does it for me in the mornin' 'cos she's good like that, and there's 'im sayin' 'can we stop at a Maccy's, Tel?' An' then 'e spends a tenner on that, an' eats it in the van an' it pens like gawd knows what an' 'e don' bovver clearin' the bleedin' wrappers up so it's muggins 'ere 'oo 'as ter sort that out". He paused dramatically to drain his pint and nodded at me when I asked if we had time for another.

This diatribe against youth continued when I returned from the bar ("An' a packet'o' dry roasted, ah need a quick snack if we aint eatin' til eight"). Callum, far from being the nice, bright, hardworking kid I'd heard almost nothing about for the last three weeks, was clearly beginning to irk. I should have known; Tel generally doesn't like young men. I remembered the time he employed Lee, his friend's son, in the shop. He was moaning about him almost constantly after a few weeks. The poor kid didn't actually seem to do anything wrong either, a few small mistakes that anyone could've made got magnified so large that they became almost criminal. I remember wondering whether, had Lee done what Mickey did to him, if Terry would have been quite as lenient. No. He'd've called the police.

The topic went briefly 'off-radar' in favour of what makes the ideal packed lunch. As someone who works away a lot myself, and therefore makes full use of local Tesco's and Sainsburys for cheap packed sarnies and bottles of Evian, I probably wasn't the best person to bounce ideas off. To me, a packed lunch is what kids take to school when parents decide it's cheaper than paying for school dinners. We've all been through it, those of us who were school-age in the '70's and '80's probably all remember opening their Spider Man lunchbox at 12pm and delighting in the classic combination of warm, curly cheese sarnies and a bag of Wotsits. It was rare that I got any chocolate in mine, or anything sweeter than a Granny Smith or an unripe banana. It got increasingly like iron rations the further we got into the week; my parents shopped on a Saturday morning as both worked full-time when I was a kid. So stuff you'd have bought for school lunches on a Monday had usually been consumed by Thursday, and you were left with the scrapings, the mashed banana sarnies and the cling-filmed scraps of cheese, the crumbs from the last three fruit shortcakes in the packet. That's why Fridays always meant an illicit trip into the local town, raiding my piggy bank for the ten pees so I could buy a Mars Bar or a kids portion of chips.

Tel favoured fruit and simple ham salad rolls and water. He said it in the same tones Jamie Oliver used to denounce parents who bought their kids pizza'n'chips for school lunch. I erroneously mentioned Big Macs and the fact I didn't even try one until I was about eleven and even back then, it was a massive treat, like a birthday occasion or something. This was a mistake as it bought us back to Callum. "'E's jus' like all kids terday; 'e's selfish and stoopid an' finks 'e'll live forevver".

The curry was jolly nice. Nicer still was the sight of Tel, now tipsy, opining on the state of today's youth and why he could have Callum in a fight. Yes, puerile, schoolboyish stuff but it beat the po-faced alcohol-less brevity of our last curry together. Tel told me that Callum had a place at Reading University to start in September next year. "Theology, Economics an' summink called Media Interests" he spat, scornfully. "Dunno what 'e's aimin' ter do wiv them, probly present 'Songs 'o' Praise'.

We bantered on, Tel telling me about his boss, bits that seemed to be gleaned chiefly from the sort of tattle disgruntled employees usually share between themselves when they're sure no-one's listening. "E 'ad an affair ten year ago" Tel grinned, tapping his nose. "Right brasser, she was, Mick in packing reckoned she'd 'ad 'alf the blokes in deliveries an'all". He smiled as the waiter brought him his bottle of house white in a plastic ice bucket. "Gaynor, 'er name was. Knockers out 'ere" (he held his hands cupped at chest height about two feet from his body. Exaggeration? I've never met her, but she reminded me of those misspent nights of my youth watching 'Eurotrash' after the boozers kicked out). "Anyway, 'is missus found out an' that was 'is first divorce. 'E's on wife number two now. No kids. Must be seedless after Gaynor had emptied him".

The night flew by, a mixed metaphor of drink and music and curry burps. We went back to the pub to find a covers band installed, the lights dimmed save for the fairy lights they decorated last year's Xmas tree with, the band tearing through a terrible version of 'Breakfast at Tiffanys' by Deep Blue Something, then tuning up in the break between songs to launch into a travesty of ' The Passenger' by Iggy Pop. We danced like our crotches were on fire, bopping between tables, pints slurring dangerously near the rim. When they broke into a nauseating 'Your Song' by Elton John, we returned to the table and swigged down what was left in our glasses. "Brandy?" said Tel. "Yes" I replied, and we ordered doubles on ice, clicking glasses as we launched the bitter liquid down to our stomachs, doing a good proportion of the bottle between us as the band went for a piss and probably a quick shag with the ugly studenty-type women in the front row they'd clearly bought with them.

And I didn't miss the footy one bit, although I did miss the toilet a few times during the night, and then woke with one of the worst hangovers ever, a sort of combo of guts, head, back and eye pain. Even the birds seemed to laugh at me. Especially the starlings. They want to be careful. I might not be having spare bits of bacon rind for much longer.

Hope we win at Lincoln on Wednesday. I was going. But then I was doing quite a few things I haven't yet this month. November eh?

The Warky League One Report: The Seldom Seen Kid (H & A)
at 09:43 10 Nov 2019

Like the fireworks that light up the evenings round here, I've fizzled, briefly sparkled and then gone out to fall in someone's back garden, spent. It seems an age since I last saw a game. A lot has happened since I last wrote these notes, yet, nothing really has. Well, nothing you'd think was earth-shattering, anyway.

The lack of convenient Saturday home league games and my own inability to organise a trip to Sarfend, despite it being my nearest away trip, has meant that I've watched events from afar. It reminds me of seasons past when we've been in the Prem; unable to afford a season ticket or to get a match day ticket due to increased demand, watching from the sidelines like the metaphoric fat kid who was always the unused sub in the school team.

I've filled the hiatus with other stuff, mostly work and 'catching up' with friends. My employer, in a pique of earnestness normally associated with benevolent Victorian philanthropism, offered staff the opportunity to pay for Christmas through overtime. Everyone jumped at it. So my weekends have been grey, punctuated with work, the familiar taste of the office seeping though my skin so that, like my work clothes, my life smelt and tasted of it. Still, my end of month salary will have a higher starting number come pay day. The teeming disquiet that we've probably saved them employing extra, needed, staff is easily dismissed when you're expecting an extra couple of grand.

Still, I got over our bad dip in form by the simple method of not seeing it. I missed the Rotherham home game (work) and yesterday (enjoyment) and in between we sort of picked up the necessary at Southend and Rochdale. We're still top with Wycombe, and entering a run of more difficult league matches with a spring in the step and a hope that we'll have this league sewn up by March. The reality will probably be different, of course. It's never that straightforward at Town.

I've missed Tel. We barely meet now. He's busier than our local MP. He passed this driving test thingy, which meant he qualified to drive a white van, and then started work as a self-employed van driver for a former customer, who does the officially named 'Transport and Logistics' and basically delivers gardenware and home furnishings to private homes, businesses and anyone who needs a new shed in November.

I last saw him for dinner two weeks ago. We went for a curry, him eschewing too much drink now that he's driving for a living and instead sipping half pints of orangeade, the holier look raging battle against the distaste. "Need ter keep me licence now ah've got it" is his new mantra. It's his (sort of) apology for being less fun.

We ate the lamb naans and the tandoori chops and the funny red chicken stuff unequally, him staid and sober, me merry and tipsy on the house white and the lagers he encouraged me, by proxy, to drink. It was like having a meal with a recovered and disapproving alcoholic. If he couldn't have one, he'd have one through me. His chat, no longer loosed by drink, centred dully on the new job and deliveries to faceless, barely-remembered clients, with none of the funny asides or interjections of indignancy that you'd normally expect from my former newsagent. It became one-sided and thus my attention wandered, and this irritated him and he re-told the same thing again, and we ended the evening not sharing drunken philosophy over late-night brandies in the local but formally taking our leave. He drove us home in the van. It smelled of commerce and the laquer they put on new wood.

So he's kind of missing from my life at the moment. And that's presented me with a dilemma; should I carry on these reports? I know you all love Tel. I know you love his witticisms, his asides, his failures and his worrying reliance on beer and Spain and dreams of being a Costa del Shop-owner. But it's all died, quickly, in a miasma of duty and sobriety. Even the van's just a DAF.

I went round there last week. It was Mrs Tel's birthday. They had a quiet chinese takeaway at home for a select few neighbours and me. They'd invited Paula and Blake but they weren't available. I'd have even welcomed old snake eyes, such was the formality of it all. Mrs Tel came out with me for a ciggie on their patio (new bench and wooden tables and chairs, I noticed, must be perks of the job) and, as she exhaled the smoke distractedly, she said she was worried about her husband. "'E's bin diff'rent since 'e started this driving lark" she said, resignedly, as though this wasn't an unknown thought. "Every day all I 'ear is "Gotta go 'ere, then ah'm dropping this 'ere, be back at six love" an' 'e's off and gone". She sighed and stubbed the fag out on the patio floor and lobbed it in their garden waste bin. We returned to the 'party' in time to see Tel starting the one about how working for someone was more challenging than owning his own shop.

He's happy with his lot. The driving takes him to new and exotic places, like Huntingdon and Wisbech and Dunmow. He has to attend a Sunday meeting for all the drivers when his rota is provided for that week; sometimes early shifts, sometimes late ones, sometimes East Anglia, sometimes Greater London. The company have given him a pre-paid credit card for diesel, and a red polo shirt with their name on it in yellow print, like a Man United home shirt. He has a regular 'driver's mate', some pre-Uni kid called Callum, earning his keep and his future tuition fees by sharing the cab with Tel and helping him transfer stock from the van to the customer. "'E's orlright, bit of a toff but 'e works lark a demon. 'E's goin' ter Reading Uni in September so ah won' 'ave him too long". No funny little stories about their business relationship. It's all highly proper.

So I've filled the void by seeing old friends and working and drinking too much and not going to games. I missed the cup yesterday, a mixture of antipathy (a tenner to sit somewhere new with ten-odd thousand others when my regular drinking buddies weren't coming didn't fill me joy. So we went and had a drink away from the Town and had a bloody good laugh and it was a good day) and apathy putting paid to my first experience of us playing in the first round of a competition I usually can't be arsed with after Christmas. I knew we'd play the second string. Just knew it. Still, Lincoln's quite nice for Xmas shopping and that.

I'll be back. I dunno when or where. Hopefully Tel's new-found work ethic won't last and we'll be mates again. It's like hoping Emyr Huws recovers sufficiently to play the form he was in before the niggles started. Or hoping Freddie Sears makes it back before Christmas. It's the hope that kills you. I've said it before. I hope I don't say it again.
I can't make tomorrow
at 23:16 22 Oct 2019

Bloody work........

Is the game on live anywhere online?
The Warky League One Report: Accrington Stanley (a)
at 15:04 20 Oct 2019

As we slip further into Autumn and the leaves squelch brown underfoot, and the Hallowe'en pumpkins carved with caveman care leer from shop windows, the business bit of the season kicks in. A blank, rather wet weekend, punctuated by England internationals and Grand Prix races gave way to a workaday, wettish week, filled with management-speak and pragmatism in equal measure. Still, that's work out of the way until tomorrow.

Terry, my former newsagent and drinking buddy and mate, has had an offer of a job from a local delivery firm. The only catch is that he needs to do something called CPC Driver training, a course which his prospective new employer has asked him to pay for himself, along with a digital tacho (which admittedly made me think of young Callis off here) which he orders from the Post Office when done. He's booked to do the course in Ipswich on Tuesday 29th, so his thoughts have mainly been engrossed with the training and job this week.

We met on Tuesday night for a swift half, it being Eastenders for Mrs Tel, who, I was (somewhat peevishly) told by Tel "carnt stan' me bein' ararnd when thass on 'cos I 'ate all them soaps - I always manage ter put me foot in it an' annoy 'er by arskin' where Dirty Den is, fings like that". So the pub was a respite from the estuary shouting, the gloom and political correctness of Walford. For a start, it sold booze, and as you know, no-one's ever truly unhappy when they've got a nice pint in front of them and a bag of Mini Cheddars.

Tel told me about the job. It was offered by the manager of a local transport company who deal primarily with deliveries for building supplies and garden stuff. He needed a driver, and knew Tel had a licence ("Seven'n'arf tonnes'n'all, jus' wha' e wanted") and who had been a former customer of Tel's at the news shop ("Righ' up until 'e moved ter Felixstowe a few years ago, mus' be doin' alright to afford a place there"). Tel thought about it all last week and then decided to accept. "Ah like drivin' yer see, an' I'll be self-employed so ah can choose me 'ours and me deliveries'n'that. Iss perfect fer me, a tenner an 'our'n'ah can do the twenny 'ours I wan'ned to". The training is something new, a comfortable adventure he's never tried before. The manager also promised a lot of work so everyone's happy. "Gits me out the wife's 'air'n'all, she's been suff'rin wiv me 'angin' rarnd the 'ouse like a spare wedding tackle at a bar mitzvah".

We met again on Friday night for a Chinese at his place, a celebration of his new job which he felt was a fresh start, away from the confines of a local shop which served local people and from which there was no escape except selling it. The duck-filled pancakes squirted hoi sin sauce over the table mats as Tel used them to explain how the deliveries worked. I got the idea, but didn't interrupt him, as he utilised the cruet set and the crispy chilli beef to show me how he'd be driving back and forth between destination and depot to restock. When he'd finished, he sat back and took a deep draught of his can of San Miguel and looked happy. The chinese got slowly colder as he then thought of something else. I felt I knew enough to run the business after he'd finished.

I asked him to come and watch the game in the pub, and perhaps have a bit of Sunday lunch (they do a great roast beef there) but he declined. He and Mrs Tel were having a weekend staying with Tony, his brother-in-law, in Chelmsford, as it was Tony's birthday on Saturday. They were all going for Sunday lunch at some golf club nearby. "They do a right good carv'ry" said Tel. Tony's ex-wife and kids were also invited. "Be nice ter see Sandy an' the kids, she's geddin' on better wiv Tone these days, reckon they might get back togevver at this rate". He leered, much like one of the aforementioned Hallowe'en masks I'd seen.

So I had a punitive Saturday of washing and cleaning and ironing, watching the footy and the rugby and generally being dull, as I usually am. I went for a mild walk around Alton Water in the afternoon, stopping for a pint on the way home. Then I cooked my evening meal, a Skate wing with capers and butter, served with french fries made in my new deep fat fryer which only needs a tablespoon of cooking oil in it, some heritage carrots and green beans. I ate watching The Hairy Bikers on catch up, marvelling at how insipid my Saturday night was. I had a nightcap, watched Match of the Day and hit the hay at twelve, not bothering with the dull 0-0 between Bournemouth and the scum.

Today was mainly sh*t. I woke at eight, eyes bleary, mouth dry. The bird food was nearly gone, so I refilled the poor, fat little blighters and watched my local Robin attempt to flop onto the bird table, now filled with seed and stale bits of doughnut I bought last week and never ate. I watched the Welsh flail against, and then luckily beat the French in the egg-shaped ball thing that I never really understand. Then I made a big pot of strong tea and nursed a persisting hangover with two Nurofen and a cold flannel on my forehead.

I debated mowing the lawn when I came back with the Sunday papers, but it was wet, and I'd have only had an hour before the game on Sky. Decided to leave it a week instead. The game started, we were terrible and made Accrington look decent, they scored and then won a penalty, we were 2-0 down, I came on here to vent about Edwards and the useless Toto, went back to watch the second half with a very large glass of red, ended up spitting little rivulets of it at my telly as we huffed and puffed, then thought "Christ, roll on Tuesday" when the whistle went. Now, after typing this, I'm seriously considering opening another bottle. I can't face Sunday lunch. I might have a cheese toastie and some Branston later.

Bloody hell. Our unbeaten start ended by possibly one of the worst teams in this league. We'd better have more of a gameplan against Rotherham. A much better gameplan. And KVY back. And Downes. And Norwood. This was the wake-up call, if ever one was needed.
Gwion Edwards is terrible
at 12:58 20 Oct 2019

So's Toto, Judge and Dozzell.

The Warky League One Report: International weekend #2 (h)
at 12:33 13 Oct 2019

The notice on the mobile blackboard outside the pub was missing a few letters, presumably washed off in the rain. It said "Qui Nite" in pink chalk, outlined in the tone of neon blue bad headaches consist of. "7.30 til late" and "Fish'n'chi Bufett £10 per member team of four & over". It reflects something of the mundanity of Terry's and my lives recently that we were actually looking forward to it.

Like schoolchildren picking their footy team from the uninspired line of fat kids, small-for-their-age kids and those who'd forgotten their PE kit and were playing in the malodorous never-washed reserve gear all schools chuck in a foetid bin somewhere in the changing rooms, we selected our team. We ended up settling for Brian, the annoying bloke who you get stuck with when you're there on your own, Tel's mate Rob, who briefly raised confidence with his brisk assertion that he'd "be quite good on Telly and Sport" and Cathy, a fifty-something divorcee and closet alkie, whose laugh could grate brick and who needed constant infusions of Spiced Rum'n'Coke, to the extent that we considered setting up a tab just for her.

The quiz night was a new venture from the landlord, aimed solely at preventing the alarming drop in trade on a Wednesday night. With no footie on the box, and only 'The Apprentice' for visual entertainment, we jumped at it, confident in our ability to answer enough questions correctly to secure the winners' spoils (£100 for the team and a bottle of Liebfraumilch each) and secure the inaugural bragging rights and be treated to snide comments about how brainy we were for months after by the regulars.

Monday at work was spent pretending to do work whilst furtively studying general knowledge questions on my phone. I quickly bored colleagues asking them to think up questions for me, testing my long-forgotten and ill-spent years in the English education system to the full. They invariably asked geographical questions. I invariably got them wrong. I comforted myself by the thought that I didn't do Geography at school.

It was Tel who broke the news on Tuesday that he'd also invited one of his near-neighbours, Roy, an 83 year old widower who lived in a modest bungalow five doors down and kept budgies, because he'd been corralled into it by Mrs Tel, who'd met him when she was cleaning her front windows and 'jus' 'append ter menshun it to'im". Tel felt duty-bound and formally went to see Roy to offer him the fifth place, and to sample his home-made bitter, which he later said reminded him of the time in his youth when he'd drunk snakebite made with Special Brew.

So 'The Famous Five' made their way to the pub (Mrs Tel bringing her husband and Roy, and then wisely roaring off in their motor). Cathy was up at the bar flirting with a bunch of builders. We heard her laugh 500 yards away. She was giggly drunk, her dyed-blonde hair cascading around her shoulders, showing her roots. She reminded me of Lily Savage. You could see her dark bra through her diaphanous yellow top. "Long as yer carn't see 'er draws" sniffed Tel, pragmatically.

He bought a round of drinks, lagers for the four males under 80, a pint of Ruddles for Roy and then, with a twist of distaste, a Morgan Spiced'n'Coke for Cathy. They did doubles for an extra quid, so he doubled it. The barmaid wanted him to say "When" as she splashed the cola in from the tap. He didn't, so she filled it nearly to the top. The ice kept it from overflowing, but Tel had to suck drops off his hand as he weaved his way back to our table. The look of pure disgust as his brain registered the taste was only matched by that of an Extinction Rebellion protestor to Donald Trump.

"Is that proppah Coke, darlin'?" asked Cathy as he placed the offending glass on the frayed beermat in front of her. Tel nodded quickly and took a slurp of his pint to rid himself of the memory of her drink. "Did they pour it out of the little bottle" Cathy continued, a bit ungraciously since she hadn't actually paid for it. "Yer" said Tel, busy arranging the pens and bits of paper around him for our answers. She sipped it. She went quiet. When he went to the bogs, she muttered in my earshot "That weren't proppah Coke out of the fridge" and then downed it with a brief flicker of distaste and then got up, presumably to find another mug who'd buy her another "Proppah" drink.

We started with a category facetiously called "Ye Olde England". The quizmaster, a waistcoated grizzled old geezer we'd never seen before, asked us 'Which King was on the throne when the cakes burned?" Blank faces. Then Cathy said "Elvis" and the table next door to ours sniggered. I said "Alfred the Great". "He wernt a King" said Tel, amazed at my ignorance. Eventually, Roy said he'd read something in a book about George the Third being 'nutty an' thass the sort of fing 'e'd've done' so Tel plumped for that.

It went on, slowly, inexorably, fuelled by rounds of lagers and the odd pint of Ruddles (Roy drank slower than Bobby Sands; we suspected he couldn't afford a round so we'd get him another when we noticed he only had an inch or so left in his glass, which meant he had two pints by the time we'd finished the quiz). We each bought Cathy another one; Brian even getting in her good books by bringing her a small bottle of Coke with his round. "Ah reckon 'e's 'oping fer a bit of action later" said Tel.

Cathy thought 'that Shakespeare' wrote A Tale of Two Cities. She thought 'Osama Bin Laden' was the 28th President of the US. Brian thought Rory McGrath won the 2011 US Open. We came fourth. Out of six teams. And one of them was pissed. No-one said the answers before they wrote them, such was their assurance that they were right. I gave up. So did Tel. We started chatting about meeting for a curry on Friday night.

We did just that, still smarting at our defeat, Tel bitterly regretting letting Brian write the answers after two rounds because his spelling was terrible and Brian offered. We relapsed into a comfortable gloom, spilling mint and mango chutney on our tablecloth as we topped our poppadoms, morosely quaffing our Cobras. I doubt we'll be doing that again. We need to get some ringers on our team if we do.

I spent Saturday shopping with my dad. He drove us to Aldeburgh in the gloom for a quick look round. The parking, even on a wet Saturday morning, was chronic and we ended up in a side street outside some million-pound house. We nipped into the Adnams shop for some beer and then staggered back to the car, ending up in John Lewis in Ipswich, looking for sundries and joining the throngs at the tills.

The best bit was stopping at the Bull in Brantham for a Saturday afternoon pint. I like doing that. Paul and Gemma, the landlords, are big Town fans; Paul's a former resident of Eye, that vaguely backwards bit of Suffolk where you half expect to still see horses and carts in the road and big-eared blokes in flat caps with a brace of ferrets under their arm and at least ten teeth missing, not to mention their fingers.

I hate sounding all TripAdvisor (mainly 'cos I really actually do like the Bull) but if you're ever out that way and fancy a quick bit of lunch and a decent pint, I can recommend the burger and I can heartily recommend their fries. They are the standard by which I judge all others. They even have their own pizza oven. Just go, and tell them Warky sent you. You might even get a few extra chips......

Big mention also to their son, Harry, who does the designs for many of the Ipswich Town website stuff, It's his design you see if you look for the team news before a game. He's only 16 as well! It's scary, these kids today.

I'm off to watch Coventry v Tranmere. It may not be much, but it's footy.........

The Warky League One Report: Tranmere (h) and Fleetwood (a)
at 21:34 6 Oct 2019

The long grey dawn split the night open. A night spent kneeling in my bathroom, the cold tiles warming from the heat of my body. A rumble of bowels and I heaved again, the bile trapped somewhere near the entrance to my throat. Spasmodic heavings, that old familiar tune, the same noise I used to make in the throes of sexual ecstasy, believe it or not. This was nothing sexual. This was vomitus.

So that was the Tranmere game. I was going with Tel, only he caught a bad cold which turned into gastric flu, which he then kindly gave to me. I was still going, right up to 12.45pm on the Saturday when I suddenly (and rather inconveniently) lost control of my bowels, having spent the aforementioned night kneeling in plaintive prayer to the God of Bad Guts in my bathroom. His altar, my white Armitage Shanks, had more bleach on it than Courtney Love's hair. Discretion being the better part of turning up to my seat in Block 5 walking like John Wayne and trailing a funny nasty smell and probably several flies, I missed the 4-1 demolition of the Scouse wannabes. Still, it sounded good on the radio. And Mick Mills' voice is the perfect accompaniment to wet farts and urgent, skittery splashing.

Tel's cold, which wasn't, came kindly from Tony's son, who'd been off school and at home in bed with a bucket and a chamber pot nearby. Tel spent a day with Tony shopping for a new dressing gown for his lad in Freeport. I didn't get the full story but understood it involved an urgent change of bedclothes and a chucked dressing gown. By Wednesday night, Tel was complaining of feeling 'bleedin' odd, like, sorta gut rot an' all blocked up'. He still managed to make an appearance in the pub on Thursday, but I noted the unease at eating the food he ordered and his reluctant sips of his pint with alarm. By Friday, he'd backed out of the Tranmere game and I was feeling distinctly funny. The rest is history.

We both recovered last Thursday. I took the week off work, buoyed by the sick note from my GP, who wrote it in his mean little shorthand and said I'd be fine by Friday if I took gloop and ate nothing more taxing than toast and drank plenty of fluids. So I spent the early part of last week in bed watching old episodes of The Sweeney and Minder and that box set of Breaking Bad I ordered last week. It's hard to drink hot tea in bed, isn't it? The mug kept missing my mouth and wetting my upper torso.

We met again last Friday, chastened, ignoring the pull of the boozer and the curry house. Tel told tales of being sick on their duvet and the wife seeing it and being sick on it as well. "Ole 'ouse smelt of sick" he sniffed. "Ah got the Jeyes out and splashed it abart a bit, that killed it". We met at the coffee shop which was his former shop. Yes, he's had a change of heart and has got to know the new owner fairly well. They do a lovely latte. It settled my troubled guts like nectar. Also, they 'lend' laptops with free wifi access. I say 'lend' 'cos they're security chained to the table. Anyone attempting theft would have a hell of a job carrying that away quick.

Tel told me that Tony and his ex are 'geddin' on well at the mo, looks lark 'e might be goin' back for anuvver try soon". Mrs Tel was 'fine'. We talked about my job, a sure sign we had nothing much else to talk about, us both being metaphorically 'up on bricks' for the last two weeks. He feels lost and bored, he started to tell me, but then he smiled and changed the subject to his illness, and the moment went. He needs another job. Life for him is too easy, too steady, too peaceful. He showed me an application form for the Tollgate Sainsburys and said he'd contacted Paula, who'd provided the application and said she'd come over to help him complete it. It was a depressing moment, seeing him embarrassed to discuss applying for a job as a lowly Retail Assistant. But he wants to do something and doesn't want the hassle of running his own business again, and this was all he could think of.

Saturday woke me with blustery rain and cloud-scattered skies. I went for a walk along the towpath into Flatford, my hip flask banging against my ribs as I traversed stiles and leapt puddles. Lunch in Dedham was a pate ploughmans, consumed with a pint of Oscar Wilde mild, as my walking boots steamed by the open log fire and the tourists from London sipped their boutique gins and Fever Trees and loudly scolded children called Max and Arabella for talking over them. I got back by two and went to my local for a pint in more congenial surroundings, ones where the locals wear their Hammers home shirts with pride and you get the piss taken if you're called Arabella.

It's surprisingly nervy watching us on Soccer Saturday, but we won, and no-one seemed to care (not even a reporter at the ground!). Terry joined me for the West Ham game after, sliding in to the chair opposite me and lobbing the food menu onto one of the neighbouring tables with a look of disdain. He ordered more pints, and we sat chewing the cud, back to long. distracted draughts from our glasses and laughing about our ailments. West Ham lost 2-1 in the last minute, which cheered us both immeasurably, especially as the claret shirted home fans sloped off, their pool games ceased for the evening as Ayew kissed the camera.

"S'alrite, ah've chucked the application fer Sainsbrys" said Tel to me as we eased back the brandies. "'Int told Paula yet though. Gawd knars what she''ll fink", He smiled and relaxed. "Mart try summink else, dunno what yet, plenty'a'time" and he held up his glass to show it was empty and I smiled and lifted myself from the chair and went to the bar for another pair of doubles. And we sat and sipped and revolved ideas around like bubbles in a glass of Babycham. And the Town were seven points clear of third, and it was soon the international break, and tomorrow was Sunday. All good enough reasons to raise a glass. So we did. And then we ordered scampi and chips.
The Warky League One Report: MK Dons and Gillingham (a)
at 13:41 22 Sep 2019

In a week of bright, cloud-skudded days and relentless work journeys, the oasis was the footie. It makes a pleasant change to look at the league table these days. It doesn't make it much more pleasurable to stick the radio on and hear Mick Mills' droning, proselytizing filler as another game ends with us 'holding on', but you can never have everything at Ipswich. It's been decreed. Like another sod's law.

So we leapt from the disappointment of Donnie to the wet blanket of a working week, via sporadic texts from Spain which made no sense but meant everything. Monday was a blank, admittedly, filled with dreary meetings and replies to pointless, word-vacuous emails from managers and the type of staff who glide with them, like pilot fish around a flabby toothless shark, hoping that their lickspittle union will eventually bear a bit of the rotten carcass. In a tie-less work society, they still cling to the fifty inches of brown polyester knotted around the creaseless folds in their Peter Storm shirts.

Tuesday's gem was a 7.30am text. "Thyve run out of bloddy pan cakes at the buffit" it said, the tone shot with tangible disappointment and outrage. It was the sole contribution until I was driving home, when he called on my mobile. It went to speaker, causing me to be pleased I hadn't offered anyone a lift. "Iss Terry" growled a barely -recognised voice, as though talking through the spout end of a half-full watering can. Hi I replied, how's Marbella? "Eh?" he said, and there was a pause of ten seconds, which seemed a lifetime. "Yer still there?" he asked, anxiously. Then I heard a few mumbles. "Dunno wass wrong wiv this bleedin' fing, can't 'ear meself let alone any ovver sod.....'Ello? (said louder, and causing his voice to echo around the car). I'm still here, I said. "Oh...thass better, c'n 'ear yer now". He launched into a brief account of water skiing (never agin, though ah quite enjoyed it, the inside of me legs ached like gawd knars this mornin'. I'd've been a rubbish shag, even if the wife was up fer it, which she aint been, not wiv all 'er problems recently, like) and then we got to the 'Great Pancake Debacle at the Breakfast Buffet' (Ah sed to the wait'a, 'ere June, wass all this wiv the pan cakes? He's called June by the way. Silly name fer a bloke, tha'. So they made me me own special, like).

He wittered on, encompassing diverse topics including the wife and him trying to buy Nurofen, his companionship with Dave and how he'll miss him when he goes home on Thursday, the wife saying Lynne told her that she thought Terry was 'stressed out and needs to relax more' and the football bet, which he'd only done for Saturday as he forgot it was Champions League week. "So 'ave a little bit on, but do Chelsea and Liverpool to lose, 'cos Dave reckons ol' Fat Frank'll play the reserves. We're watchin' it in the bar tonight". He signed off with a small brag about having lobster for Lynne and Dave's last meal on Wednesday. "Pickin' it meself out the tank" he said proudly, as if it was the de rigeur upper-middle class thing to do and he'd 'arrived'. He hung up, leaving me thankful for the sudden loss of earache.

I could've gone to Milton Keynes. I was in Birmingham on Tuesday, and it's on the way home. My first away game of the season. But I hawwed and hummed as I always do, and the chance was gone. I drove home missing MK entirely, just in case I got tempted. I watched the Chelsea game on BT Sports instead, at home, eating a home-prepared lamb tagine on my lap, the couscous falling off the fork and disappearing in the cracks of my settee. I hopped between that and the Live scores on Sky, the expected avalanche of goals to follow Nolan's opener never happening. Still, we held on, as Mick Mills said later as I switched the telly off and caught the remnants of BBC Suffolk. His voice was a powerful aide to sleep. I listened until the programme ended and some old duffer came on playing 'Africa' by Toto, soothing the nerves of murderous truck drivers from Swaffham and late-shift nurses in the James Paget.

I didn't hear again from Tel until Friday evening, when he rang to check on my health and also to anxiously confirm I'd be at Stansted Airport at 4pm on Saturday. I was missing my home county play in the 20-20 cricket finals for this. I could have had a ticket for it. There was a spare going at my office in Birmingham on Thursday. True, I'd be sat with several Nottinghamshire supporters. But it seemed a small price to pay for £45. But again, I was true to my word and went to pick up the Terry's from the airport.

Saturday dawned warm and bright. I sat in the garden, drinkless again following a dry Friday night spent washing shirts and towels and watching Southampton V Bournemouth sipping nowt stronger than a Sprite Zero. I even forbode myself a takeaway, settling for the last of the fridge contents in an omelette with chips and an apple and a big hunk of extra-mature cheddar for pud. It was joyless but simple. It tasted better than some of the takeaways I've sampled as well.

The birds have been eating like locusts lately. My feeders, filled before the dawn breaks on another journey to work, were empty and rattled like spare gibbets in the gentle breeze. I refilled them and they came, plipping on the rose trellis, floating onto the feeders and the table, munching with an eye cocked suspiciously towards me, sat in my dressing gown sipping hot coffee from a mug. The morning smelt warm and inviting, a last day of a dying summer. I needed shopping, so went to the 24 hour Tesco at 7.30am, filling a wheeled trolley with requisites for the week, stopping in the booze aisle to eye the ciders and the brandies with more than a proprietary air.

I had a walk at ten. I drove to Bures and walked the circuit around Henney and Laymarsh, the birds whistling overhead, the day unclouded and fine. I nearly stopped at a pub, but reasoned even one pint would become three and I'd promised Tel I'd be there at four. So I walked on, and back, and got home at one to watch the cricket. I compensated myself for the loss of alcohol by having a piece of cheese instead. Mountain Gorgonzola from my local deli. The flavours were beautifully enhanced by a pear.

Left home just as the Town were coming out at Priestfield. The drive along the A120/A12 through Marks Tey was filled with traffic and azure skies. Colchester were clearly at home, judging by the cars parked outside their new stadium on the A12. It looked soulless. These new stadia always are.

I arrived at Stansted and texted Tel, then waited ten minutes for a reply. "B there by 4.45" he said, omitting the gate number. I parked and paid a tenner for the pleasure (a tenner! Who do they think they are, NCP at the Buttermarket?) and walked into the terminal, lacking only a big cardboard message with 'TERRY' on it in red felt tip. I had a coffee (a fiver! For a little cup of coffee!!) and then debated taking another mortgage out for a sandwich and an egg custard tart to have with it.

They arrived. We met in the foyer, Tel in his familiar uniform of Oakleys, YSL blue-checked shirt and pressed Levi's, Mrs Tel resplendent in black velour tracksuit with sandals and a pink cotton t-shirt underneath. "'Ave yer parked nearby?" said Tel. Yes, I said. "Was it eggspensiff?" he smiled. Yes, I said, slightly less enthusiastically. "I knarr" he chortled. "Tone reckoned they wore masks and 'ad pistols when 'e paid 'em". He tried to give me twenty quid, but I said no, so he slipped it back in his pocket, looking a bit more cheerful still. He loves a result.

I drove them home, Tel in front with me, Mrs Tel with the hand luggage in the back. "Yew in't got much boot room in this ole banger" said Tel as we loaded in his cases. He found Five Live on my radio and was chortling at Spurs losing and Watford getting done 8-0. "How'd the Town do?" he asked. "Dunno" I said. He looked disappointed. We couldn't get BBC Suffolk, so we turned it off. "Ah did Leicester ter beat Spurs" he said, contentedly. "An' I did Sheffield United to beat Everton". He smiled and relaxed, closing his eyes in the passenger seat, leaving me to talk about Dave'n'Lynne with his wife from the back seat.

I drove them home. They disembarked and took their luggage out, making me promise to drop the car at home and then come back for a takeaway and drinks with them at eight. I duly dropped the car at home and Tel picked me up in his at 7.45. We got the Indian and a load of beers and cider and came back to his. Mrs Tel looked sleepy. She drank a few glasses of prosecco and ate a miniscule bit of curry and then excused herself and went to bed to watch Strictly. We ate and drank and laughed at his Marbella tales. Dave invited him to a game at Stamford Bridge, although "not Sundy, tomorrow, like, even 'e carnt magic up tickets fer Liv'pool at 'ome".

Town won 1-0. We looked it up on Sky Sports. "Great news" said Tel. Then he looked at me and reached down for a white plastic bag he'd left next to his chair. "A pressie from Spain" he said, simply. I undid the bag. A bottle of XS Napoleon brandy. A bottle of Crystal Head vodka. A bottle of Casamigos Anejo Tequila. I spluttered my thanks and he smiled. "I fancy a brandy after all that grub" he announced. So we cracked the XS. "Only 1-0" mulled Tel over his brandy. "Think I'd better come to the Tranmere game, after all".

And I was glad he was back.

The Warky League One Report: Doncaster Rovers (h)
at 12:04 15 Sep 2019

It was a Saturday comparable to Marbella in town. Admittedly, it didn't have the beach or the Estrella del Mar, where Mr and Mrs Tel are currently vacationing at a five-star hotel, but the trip from the station to the Cricketers, sampling the delights of their sticky tables and uncollected plates and enforced queues for bar service, made the sweat prickle on the forehead and under the arms.

Welcome back to the footy. After a bland, England-heavy diet of 5-3 wins over countries who didn't exist twenty years ago and the usual substandard knockings from mid-table League One teams on Sky, we were back to the day job. Hooray. A day of drink and food and an authoritative, comprehensive win over the mighty Donny Rovers, which would have the twenty-odd thousand present drooling and dreaming of games back where we belong, back with the Derbys and Bristol Citys and Readings, that Chambers fist-pump at the end being cheered like he was lobbing one on Paul Hurst's conk. Then home, via the local, to watch the scum get stuffed 10-0 by Citeh live on telly, the laughs continuing and leading to vacuous day-dreams of playing them next season and winning and.........oh.

Speaking of Tel, as I so often do even when he's not here, he called me on Friday evening to wish us joint luck with the footy bet (£896 in the kitty, the much-anticipated Xmas payout should be a blinder this year) and to gloat about the mid-day sun and his sunburn and the hotel, which, apparently "'as the best rest'raunt in the area, blindin' it is, steak'n' salser vardy (which must be Jamie's less vulpine-looking sister) an' fish done in olives an' the brekky buffay 'as pancakes wiv bacon an' eggs which is luvly". Mrs Tel goes shopping and does Pilates and Yoga in the pool with her friend Lynne, who hails from Chertsey and who they've 'palled up wiv, 'er and 'er 'usband Dave, 'e's a site manager for Barratts, supports Chelsea'n'as a season ticket at the Bridge. We've been 'avin' a larf about us s'porting the town, we 'ave".

So he's enjoying the Spanish sun on the Costa. He texted me yesterday evening about the scum win over Man City. He and Dave watched the Chelsea game live in a bar at 3pm. They're going water-skiing today. I thought of reminding him that the Med has a greater recorded number of Great White sharks in it than the US, but then I thought "Nah, don't be petty".

They (obviously) got their flight OK, although Tel fished for me to pick them up as Tony can't make it on Saturday at 4.30pm. I said yes. I wasn't quick enough to get tickets for Gillingham. and, having been there before, wasn't in any great rush to go back. My friend and his son who are Gills supporters won't be attending as the son has a party or something. They're coming to PR on Boxing Day instead.

The week dragged interminably at work, punctuated by training dates and the usual Brexit fears come the 31st October and office gossip of the sort that considers impending doom to be a positive. With no Friday night Tel date, I did the housework instead, saving money and making everywhere look a bit cleaner in the process. My washing machine grumbled at the sudden influx of clothing into its metal bowels but it did the job. I haven't ironed it all yet; I'm saving that for the footy this afternoon.

Yesterday was an early start. I awoke at 6.30am for some reason, clear of eye, bowel and head, humming the last song I heard on the radio alarm before it got binned until Monday (which was 'Make it with you' by Bread in case you're interested). Coffee, bird-feeding and watering, brief sit down at the kitchen table to open yesterday's post and grimace at the junk I get sent. Then wash up, shower, teeth cleanse, deodorant, dress, shoes on, keys, car, paper from Tesco with two-pinter of Cravendale and a fresh loaf of wholemeal, home, make more coffee, toast with marmalade, read the paper, go for a dump, wash up breakfast things, get walking down the station, train to Ipswich. Never varies, always mundane with a thing of beauty tucked in somewhere. Today's was the rippling waters of the Stour, the morning sun glinting as boats rocked gently on their moorings, the wading birds feeding at the shore edge, the last swallows flitting and swooping before their long flight south, the Summer waving a sad farewell before the leaves start falling and the days darken and get colder and people stop wearing shorts that reveal their cheap tattooes and the stubbly hairs on their legs.

I've mentioned the Cricketers already. That's their lot. Suffice to say, I miss the Robert Ransome. They actually had enough staff serving for one. Disillusioned by the Wetherspoons model, we went instead after three cheap pints, to the relative madness of Degeneros, and then, when we tired of waiting half-an-hour for service, to the sedate newness of The Swan, with its places to sit and its decent beer list. I fancied Isaacs, but reasoned the courtyard would be packed at 1.30pm in the hot sun, Town fans in their replica shirts and their shorts, the long walk back through the docks. So we stayed at the Swan, although Isaacs will be one for the future, perhaps when we start getting a few frosts?

Portman Road sparkled in the afternoon sun. They've cleaned it a bit since last season. Throngs of short-wearing fans strode around the SBR clutching kids arms' and looking relaxed. It's great when you have a good start on the pitch. You feel the team could 'do' anyone just by showing up. Sadly, the pre-match optimism evaporated a bit during a tense and turgid first half, where Donny played like anything but the expected mid-table lot I thought they'd prove. They even had the odd chance. We huffed and puffed and Kenlock mustered the usual groans and prescient forbears of doom as he sashayed around the left back slot like a swaggering dan who'd accidently sh*t themselves. The early support and the songs muted, and folk behind me watched Edwards being ineffectual and wondered where Danny Rowe had gone.

We reached half-time in stalemate and people evacuated for drinks and the bog, a look of perplexed frustration on faces. We watched the kids taking penalties and wondered if they'd be the only goals we'd see. Some mentioned we'd got a strong bench and we waited. The frustration continued. I'm sure Norwood and Jackson will have better games. I'm sure Flynn Downes was just having an off-day. I'm sure we'll face lesser challenges in the comig weeks. But this reminded me of last season, worryingly. We looked toothless and yet strangely composed at the back. Credit to Donny, but they'll surely never have a better chance of nicking three points from a (hopefully) top two side as they had yesterday. It was the "top-two side" bit that caused the momentary unease. Perhaps others in this league are better? Perhaps they'll punish our mistakes? Perhaps we haven't played the best teams yet, nay, OUTPLAYED the best teams? This game threw up more questions than answers.

The train home was the usual, a mix of sweating folk and sun-drenched countryside. I went for my pint and watched horrified as the scum went 2-0 up against a toiling Man City. It gave me a bit of hope and perspective for the future. If even the best can be waylaid now and then, surely it's just a learning curve? It'll get better as we progress.

My curry was a takeaway, eaten in the confines of a clean home, with cans of icy cold Wild Wave cider at the elbow, the empty tinfoil trays and the scraps from the poppadom paper bag rustling as they fell down the side of my chair. I had a vindaloo which brought back the prickles from the mid-day sun in town. The keema naan was a triumph of fluffy bread and rich, slightly tangy minced lamb. The samosas were crammed full of meat and veg, spicy and moreish on the tongue. The cauliflower bhaji was soft, spicy, nutty florets of yellow and chilli, the bombay potato which I hadn't ordered but which they'd chucked in anyway was small globes of floury fried potato loveliness. I drank too much and then compounded my Sunday hangover by finishing off the brandy. Still, I've got cold curry leftovers in the fridge and there's a walk with a pub in it beckoning me at lunchtime.

See you next Tuesday. Sorry, didn't mean to call you that. I meant, see you for the MK Dons away. Let's hope for three points on our travels again!
The Warky League One Report: International weekend (h)
at 22:28 8 Sep 2019

The nights draw in, the kids are back in school, the leaves become golden and the last of the summer wine is partaken from bottles in metal buckets in pub gardens. September. Like spending a day in a stately home; marvelling at the surroundings yet slightly bored and itching for a bit of life. It never happens, not unless pretending to be posh with the elderly middle-class room guides turns you on.

I remember a visit to Anglesea Abbey. Everyone spoke like they were permanently 'upstairs' at Downton. The effeminate twenties American whose house this was rose from his grave and even the most timorous of lower-middle class guest cast off their pastel coat and became Lady Mary. 'House' became 'Hice'. A nice pot of tea for two with scones and cream and jam became 'High Tea'. It's funny, the way that people in this supposed 'classless society' still react to the upper classes, as though belonging is the be-all. Don't make 'em think you're living in a bungalow in Bungay. Don't show 'em the coarseness of your manner, or the living hell of pretence. Just act all posh and the world could be yours.

It's like a certain former newsagent I know. Fair enough, Tel would rather die than betray his London roots and his accent is thicker than the clotted cream on an Anglesea Abbey scone, but even he gets the old class itch now and then. Take his holiday, which starts tomorrow when they get the 7.45 am flight to Spain and then pick up the Merc he's hired for the fortnight. It's Marbella. The Spanish Clacton, albeit with nicer weather and a lack of amusement arcades and sticks of rock. But wait; it's the 'local' bit of Marbella according to Tel. The bit unaffected by all-inclusive hotels with pools, building sites, stony beaches, fat English tourists in pastel vests, shorts revealing their varicose veins and the sunburn. We voted to leave Europe. I bet they've thanked their lucky stars since. People who, sixty years ago, would have seen Skegness as a treat, now pool and slouch around Spanish resorts, moaning about 'ow 'ot it is' and looking for a nice cuppa or an English beer they can drink without it 'givin' me the squits'.

But to Terry, it's the unspoilt bit he's heading for, the bit where only the best Brits bother, the bit that doesn't have all night bars and cheap sombreros and loo holders shaped like Senoritas. He'll be watching the England game on Tuesday in a Spanish taverna, sinking Estrella, eating the tapas, soaking up the old currant bun. I argued the above point with him on Friday as we sat eating curry, the sitar music twanging on low in the backround. "Yeah but yer don' want the squits when yer over there, waste'o'time that is, 'ad tha' meself, spendin' all day in the 'otel room bog, gettin' the rim of the seat marked on yer 'arris". He sniffed and looked pointedly at me, as though the argument was won.

He's spent a fruitful week seeing his brother-in-law, Tony, in Chelmsford, his brand spanking new townhouse completed, decorated by the builders in greys and whites and more greys. The furniture came from John Lewis. The spare bed was 'bleedin' luxury' according to Tel, who also mentioned with a bit of pride that Tony had installed two Laze-E-Boy reclining leather armchairs in his lounge. 'Like sittin' in the air' said Tel. "Comforts own" he added, in case I hadn't got the picture.

Since his divorce was finalised, Tony has thrown himself into work with a zeal that Tel found disconcerting. "'E's fifty-free, aint a spring chicken no more, an' 'e's gawt all the money 'e'll ever need, dunno why e's still lookin' to make more?". He looked pained at the thought. Tony always was a grafter though. Mrs Tel once told me a tale that, when he finally started making serious money from building and development in the eighties, he bought a new Porsche. Their mother told him off for it. "Whadd'you need that bleedin' Kraut toot for?" she said; Mrs Tel reminiscing about his extravagances. "Fing is" Mrs Tel continued, "by the time 'e was firty, he 'ad a new Merc, a new Beamer and 'e'd paid 'is morgage off. 'E was earnin' 'undred and fifty grand a year in 1995. 'E's always 'ad the knack".

Tel said that Tony now saw his kids on weekends and Thursday evenings. Sandy, his ex-wife, is dating a bloke she met in the gym. "Nuffink serious, accordin' to Tone. She's still a good-lookin' gal is that wife of 'is". The last bit was said with resignation. Tel's always liked Sandy.

They talked Tony into spending the weekend with them, so he could take them to Stansted for the flight on Monday. Hence we had our weekly meet up and curry on Friday. I spent yesterday walking in Walton-on-the-Naze. I caught the train so I could watch the England v Bulgaria game and have a few drinks in the pub in Walton. I met an old friend there and we got drunk and laughed about him being my best man at my wedding, and how he never liked my former wife. Could have said something at the time, I remonstrated, and he mulled this over and said 'Wouldn't have mattered though if I had, would it?" and I agreed and we got back on what her mother looked like at the reception, pissed up on cava and the dregs from the champers, dancing with anything male and under thirty she could find.

Tel texted me this afternoon, mainly to ask if I fancied a bottle of Tequila or a bottle of Brandy from the duty-free. I said Brandy, and thanked him. 'No prbs, b about on the 21st wen were back' he replied. The former shop opened to customers on Saturday. It was open this morning as well. I went and had a coffee in there, feeling guilty because I'd always told Tel I wouldn't bother. Nice coffee. Americano. The owner, a middle-aged woman with carefully tinted hair and an air of motherliness, welcomed me with a loyalty card which entitles me to get the tenth drink free. I'm not sure I'll use it, but still, it was a nice gesture. The shop smelt of fresh paint and flowers. She's done away with the downstairs toilet. She's also opened up the back room as an overflow seating area. She's aiming for the afternoon tea market. Let's hope they don't mind their P's and Q's like they did at Anglesea Abbey.

Ho hum. Another largely footie free weekend spent in good company and without a bet in sight. I hope the posh bit of Marbella's ready for the invasion. They'd better have plenty of steaks and beer......

The Warky League One Report: Shrewsbury (h)
at 16:20 1 Sep 2019

It's been strange, not having the shop around, no more early morning stops to collect papers and milk. It's caught me out once already; finding myself taking the old familiar roads, as though the car was doing what was expected and no-one had told it.

So I've seen the metamorphosis first hand, seen the new windows being put in, heard the builders' radio, tuned to some godawful R'n'B channel, heard them hammering and occasionally alighting from the open door in vests and shorts, trailing plaster dust, bringing back clanking metal poles or tins of paint. I've briefly glimpsed the interior and been sad at how little it resembles recent memories. It's as if all traces have been banished, locked away in a metal trunk and shipped back to Terry's bungalow, never to be seen.

We had the celebratory party to mark the end of the shop last Sunday at Tel's. It was notable not for who came but for who didn't. No Mickey (for obvious reasons), No Carol (for even more obvious reasons although she had an excuse; she was in Bruges on a coach trip with her parents "'opefully bein' shot by tha' Colin Farrell" said Tel, the film buff). Inexplicably, no Tony, Mrs Tel's brother, who was invited but didn't come as he was taking his son to a gamer's convention in London.

The arrival of Paula and Blake caused the big stir, Tel hopping round them like a lapdog. They brought pictures of their honeymoon and Paula had some grainy polaroids of her mum wheeling her in a pram in the mid 1990's and standing outside the shop. One of them had Tel in it, holding his arms up in the manner of Al Capone confronted by an armed Eliot Ness. A young Paula stood next to him, armed with a water pistol. Tel had a lot more hair in those days. He looked like the Fonz compared to his current state.

Paula formed a harem of women who 'oohed' at her wedding photos and 'aahed' at her mobile phone honeymoon pics, like a safe fireworks display in the kitchen. They'd also nicked all the prosecco, sipping the cheap bubbles from multicoloured plastic goblets as they guffawed at pics of Blake in his trunks. The men graduated from the buffet through to the patio, standing in tight-knit groups with paper plates full of chicken legs and mini scotch eggs, bottles of beer close by. Blake hand-rolled a fag and regaled Terry with Paula's recent promotion (she's now been offered a temporary manager post at Sainsburys in Grays). He didn't bother with me. He never does. I was at the party, fair enough, but it didn't mean he had to talk to everyone.

They left at 10pm, Paula driving, her last J20 sunk. Blake hugged Tel and said "Yer'll be back soon on it", a cryptic comment which I presumed meant 'back to work'. He winked at me as he left. I said "See you Blake" and he smirked and said "Yeah". W*nker.

The rest of the week was a working one, as fast-paced as a tortoise on Mogadon, the bank holiday the only saving grace.

Saturday came, with a cold shiver which turned warm later. I met Tel at 11am and Mrs Tel drove us to Ipswich. We drank immoderately and he got merry and told me funny stories about a neighbour, which I can't remember. He meandered a lot telling them. We did a quick couple of footy bets in Ladbrokes near the Giles statue as we hadn't met in the week. Tel's getting ready for Spain on Monday week; he's bought a new set of short-sleeved shirts and some more towels for the beach. He has 'jobs ter do this week, wife needs a few bits and we're seein' Tone on Choosdy fer dinner in Chelmsford. Goin' to that place called Coat in town". "Coat?" I said, perplexed. "Yeah, fink iss called that, might be french fer summink".

We won 3-0 but didn't look convincing for spells. I won't bore you with more of the match, 'cos others do it better on here. Suffice to say I was very impressed with Kane Vincent-Young, less so with Kenlock, but they both got the job done. It was just the way they went about it. Tel met me at the end, ecstatic that he'd kept his 'lucky' tag with Ipswich, seemingly eager to come and watch another game soon, but in Spain for the next one v Doncaster. We might be going to Sarfend in October. "Sunny ole Sarfend in the winter, could be a larf" said Tel. His enthusiasm might wane before it though. You never know with him.

The train and cab back were full of laughs and drunken reminiscences. "Ah'm 'appier wivout the shop round me neck" he smiled. It was good to hear, but I'm not sure I believe it quite yet. The shop gave him an identity and a reason. Now, once Spain is over, he'll be back to colder climes and longer, bleaker days. I often thought how much bliss it would be to win the lottery and never have to work again, particularly when negotiating dark mornings on a motorway. It's not work that kills you, it's the lack of it. I hope he finds something else to fill the time soon.

Home, takeaway curry, beer, brandy, bed. It had been a good day. Top after August. Who'd have thought it?

Right...The Warky League One Report: Bolton (a)
at 11:44 25 Aug 2019

Tel couldn't get the paint right for the shop front window. "Keeps drippin' orf me roller" he mithered, hands and forearms covered in white gloss. Everything he touched suffered from white fingermarks. He trailed white gloss through the shop, like a cheap 'Hansel and Gretel'. "'Ope it comes off easy" he said to me, panic-eyed.

The shop is now shut. Finito. His last paper delivery happened on Friday. He cancelled for the weekend, depriving me of my last Times (I went to Tesco instead). He's having a "Knees-up" tonight, a barbecue and drinks and memories. He got the meat from our local butcher on Friday. I hope he gets the white gloss marks off before he cooks it.

In the end, it was easy. The "Sorry we're closed" sign adorned the door long before he actually shut on Friday afternoon. I had Friday off, so bought my spare roller and scraper and that tub of Polyfilla I bought five years ago and used about two pinpricks of, to fill any holes left by magazine racks or general disrepair. The tub's now half full. We filled in loads of cracks.

"Why are we doing this, when the new owner is having a complete refit anyway?" I asked during a break in cursing and yet more paint falling off the window. "'Cos she arsked me ter do it" said Tel, as though talking to a simpleton. We continued, me on Polyfilla duties with a spatula that now resembled a newly dug Anglo-Saxon trinket encrusted with brown matter, and Tel looking like he'd bathed liberally in the paint. We broke for beers at eleven, having twice had to yell "We're closed" at two old dears who tried the door, desperate for their fix of "People's Friend".

I bought the beers. They were cold when I got them. Now, on a gorgeous day with no chilling device in situ, they were like drinking b*llock water. Still, we swilled and gasped and sat on two deckchairs out the back in the sun, watching the kids perfect their skateboard stunts in the car park, hoping they'd fall off and hurt themselves. Tel said amiably "Well, we got more done than I fought" and we clicked bottles and drank the suds at the bottom and wiped mouths (Or Tel nearly did, but luckily he remembered in time and fished instead for a hanky, leaving white finger marks on his cargo shorts).

And then it was done, and we left and locked up for the last time, Tel with a last discerning look at his place of employment for the last 34 odd years, no emotion, yet a strange sort of comradeship that we'd seen it through to the death. He took the closed sign home with him "Jers' in case we ever start a noo'un, 'ad this fer twenny-five years, daft to buy a noo one". We went to his place to clean up, and change into shorts and t-shirts and then we went down the boozer.

Tel ordered rose wine and we saluted each other over the bottle, rattling in the ice bucket, as we surveyed the pub garden and the broken plastic tree-house swing thing that is the sole concession to the pub calling itself 'child-friendly'. The other customers, a worldly mix of the retired, the long-lunch-on-a-Friday brigade and the unemployed, all sat out, tanning their tattooes in sleeveless vests, slurping their Stellas and having great plates of fried comestibles brought out by bored-looking female bar staff in tight trousers.

We resisted the temptation for a late lunch, having booked the local Indian for later. They don't have a dress code, thank the lord. We looked like two builders as it was. It was still warm at six as Tel got the last round in (another bottle of rose with two scratched glasses and two double Napoleon chasers with ice) and we bathed in the early evening sun, regaling each other with funny stories and work. At least one of us felt a bit squiffy as we meandered along to the Indian, cars weaving down the street, sunburn starting to prickle on the neck and the arms.

The Indian was great. Tandoori lamb chops, king prawn vindaloos, chicken Samosas, poppadoms in stacks higher than skyscrapers. The beer was ice-cold and the paint marks had nearly worn off. Tel said "This woz 'ow I imagined it, lars' day on the job, 'ome for keeps". We shared a smile and he sighed and said "'Ope she looks arter it. Been a good fing, that shop fer us" and I agreed.'s getting a new lease of life as a coffee shop/deli/ice cream parlour. I'd imagine it'll do well. Near(ish) to the seafront, regular enough custom, opening in two weeks to catch the last of the summer trade. Then the autumn regulars, supercilious, drinking their expressos and eating their little pastries while reading the Guardian or on their micro-laptops. Blinding. Who needs newspapers when it's all on your phone anyway?

Tel texted her while we were in the pub. Just to let her know we were gone and she could start ordering the refitters. I fondly imagined her opening up, looking round her new domain with pride, wondering who the hell was stupid enough to try putting white gloss on the windows. It struck me as being an odd choice for a coffee shop. I might even use it when it opens, just to have a look, see if I can find old memories there. I probably won't. But still....

Saturday dawned bright and warm. I woke with the usual hungover reluctance, and fed and watered the birds who were (almost) pointing feathered fingers at their beaks and staring insistently at the french doors. Everyone seemed to be up to something except me. My parents were off to see Ed Sheeran at Chantry later, meeting friends at The Boathouse in Dedham for pre-Ed drinks and a meal. My mates were off to Reading Festival. My ex-wife was in Corfu. I was sat, lonely, watching Soccer Am in my pants, the curtains drawn against the sun, the hangover making my guts burble and my head throb.

I went for a walk into Flatford at 10.30. Me and fifteen thousand others, all in shorts and walking boots, picnics and metal flasks of water, Karrimoor backpacks and excitable spaniels on leads. The swallows darted over the Stour and the cows lay in the shade, hazes of flies round their heads, docilely watching the nutty humans as they toiled in the heat. It was a great walk. I only felt sick twice, and only one of those was a genuine panicked feeling which amounted to a quick dry retch in a hedge, away from prying eyes.

Got back to comparative civilisation (well, Manningtree) at two and went to the Skinners, joining the throngs for a cold restorative pint and the last knockings of the scum game. They lost. The Blue-shirted, unbearably smug Chelsea fans made disparaging remarks about carrot-crunchers and Kurt Zouma as they sipped their Carling-tops and looked furtively at their phones. I had another pint and watched expectantly as the 3pm's kicked off, expecting goal flashes from Bolton every five seconds as we cut through their under 18's like surgeons performing on bits of sponge cake. It was a long 19 minutes.

Top of the league and it's still August. Terry is coming next Saturday. He's even sitting in Sir Alf upper. He's hopeful of a good result. The last time he came, we drew. He's treating himself as our lucky omen. Our bet wasn't that lucky this week, but we've still got £700 odd quid in the kitty. Trouble is, arranging to meet to do it could be tricky in the future. Unless I fancy a pint on a Wednesday evening. I might just do.........
The Warky League One Report: Wimbledon (h)
at 21:16 21 Aug 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He hoped they'd raise some much-needed funds from it. "Phwar" I said as I choked on me cuppa and spat it on the keyboard.
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