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The Warky League 1 Report: Doncaster Rovers (H)
at 11:40 28 Feb 2021

If Carlsberg did great footie weeks.....well, we'd all be drinking Skol out of the can, warm, muttering about how it only happens at other clubs and not ours.

A great week on and off the pitch, memorable for two early morning walks when I saw my first badger in the wild and then my first coypu. The former was a shock. It scurried, low to the ground, like a long-haired terrier, only with something cat-like about it. In fact I was convinced it was a cat. Deep in the woods of Lawford, I saw a cat. It didn't feel like a story I could tell, breathlessly, in the pub to awed Terry-like audiences.

The only reason I know it was a badger was when it stopped and turned to look where I was, lest I be armed with snarling lurchers and a spade. I forgive Alfred Bestall a lot; he was a childhood hero from my old Rupert annuals. But Bill Badger wore a suit, and this looked like a grey Dougal from the Magic Roundabout, only someone (Zebedee perhaps?) had been let loose with tins of black and white paint which they'd adorned his head in, liberally, like Mel Gibson playing William Wallace. It definitely wasn't a cat by then.

The coypu was, I thought, one of those pesky toy dogs that tarty women tend to carry in handbags, possibly let loose amongst the riverbank to sniff and slink away from the presence of other people with those odd protuberant eyes. But careful inspection revealed a small beaver with teeth the colour of Johnny Rotten's hair in the mid-to-late seventies. It reminded me that I needed a good brush and floss.

So, cheered by the glimpses of exotic wildlife in the otherwise slightly chilly early morn gloom, I returned home by foot, my Tesco shopping bag filled with Burford Brown eggs and Olde English sausages. I've attempted McMuffins this week. Put off by a bad experience with McDonalds, and anxious to see if I could do better, I skinned four sausages and patted the meat into vague circles before frying it. I then poached two eggs in a flat round poacher dish and toasted two English muffins and buttered the cut side and carefully, as though baptising a new born child, eased the fried discs of sausage meat and the eggs between the sides of muffin.

They were jolly nice. Jolly nice. Not as greasy as McD's, which tend to make the brown paper bag look like you're transporting unpackaged lard. Easier than a bacon butty, with all the ensuring the rind gets crispy before the bacon turns black. I wished I had some of those cheap lurid orange cheese slices to add, but it was probably better without. No tommy k either! I can't usually eat a bacon sarnie without a bit of HP or tommy k. These didn't need it.

The takeover news was exciting. Now I just want it done. Even if the yanks are worse owners than Evans, it'll at least be a novelty for a few months. A new manager as well would be good; someone who can get promotion and play a good bit of football would be perfect.

Tel said much the same on Friday. I might have known he wouldn't be impressed with the badger and coypu. Guess what I saw on my morning walk? I mistakenly said. We went through the gamut of serious answers; from an alien, to a leprechaun and finishing with a jogging Christine Bleakley, her bouncing breasts thinly covered by diaphanous material. No said I, still smug. When I told him, he said 'Oh right" disinterestedly. Then he said "Could've been a pair'o'cats?".

Tel has also had some good news this week. His solicitor from the sale of the shop rang him to say they'd miscalculated the funds and were sending him a cheque for just over five thousand quid. Plus he's had his first vaccine. "Surgery rang me on Choosdy. Went yesterdy, Colchester General, me'n'the wife although they aren't doin 'er yet. Me asthma. Underlyin' elf condishun like". He smiled and showed me the non-mark on his left arm near the shoulder. "Lumpy innit?" he said. Yes I nodded. About as lumpy as an ironing board.

So Tel was the first of us to get his jab, a fact he rubbed in until, bored, I pointed out he was older than me and in a vulnerable group. His face dropped a bit, but he got the point. I did notice he made a pantomime of carrying the takeaway curry bag when we left the Indian. "Jus' 'ad the corona jab" he grimaced to the unsmiling waiter. He might as well have told the fake potted plant in the waiting room.

He's thinking of investing the five grand so we had a debate on the best investments. I asked him facetiously if he was one of the backers for the Town takeover, but he didn't get the joke, so obviously he's not been keeping up to date with his Ipswich news. When I explained it, he was surprised, then pleased, then angry that Marcus Evans had let things slide for so long. "Bleedin' rubbish he's been" said Tel, bitterly, snapping at his samosa with pent-up aggression and making peas and bits of potato fall on my kitchen floor.

We talked investments until ten when Mrs Tel appeared in the car to collect him. She looked a bit careworn; her hair was bushier than usual and she wore a blue Blondie t-shirt under a black puffa Gilet and stonewash blue jeans. She got out of the car to greet me with a hug and peck on the cheek. "Orlrite luv?" she husked as we held each other. "Nearly back ter normal" she added as we released each other. "Nearly? There's still a good munf and a bit to go before we can all start jarring it darn the local" said Tel, the bitter edge from the Evans talk still apparent in his voice. Mrs Tel raised her eyebrows at me, as if to say "Look wot I've got ter take 'one wiv me, this bleedin' wet blanket". But she didn't say anything, just smiled a goodbye at me and got back in the driver's seat.

Tel came round yesterday at 2.30pm to watch the Doncaster game on I follow, so I paid another tenner and regretted drunkenly inviting him on Friday. It was a fairly good game, and Tel was impressed by Judge's free kick, even if he did think "the keeper should've 'ad that. I'd've saved that an' I'm a nightmare in goal". "Yer needs a decent wedge wiv that lot" he said as we clung on in the last ten minutes. "Five quality players, a better 'keeper, a better right back, a play-maker in midfield 'oo can run quick, a lightening striker an' sell Dozzell an' replace 'im wiv someone 'oo can win a ball in midfield, bit like Matt 'Olland used ter". He sat back, cheered by the final whistle as he'd backed a Town win on Ladbrokes and a quick check showed we'd won another £270.

He left at five, driving himself so he drank lager shandy during the game. The roads were dead and the afternoon a warm delight, perfect for another walk. The nights are drawing out, slowly, and the ground is drying, so the perfume of daffodils and snowdrops scented the pre-Spring air. No badgers or coypus, but I did see a heron. I sweated a bit on the walk home and then enjoyed a cool pint of Guinness as I cooked salmon to go with my salad.

The world feels like an awakening at last. So does the football club. Awakening from a dystopian nightmare of neglect and disinterest. Two wins against top six sides in a week and a new owner with, hopefully, fairly deep pockets and impatience. Game on.
The Warky League 1 Report: Oxford (h)
at 12:50 21 Feb 2021

Oxford, bloody Oxford. The dreaming spires, the DM-booted anarchistic 18 year olds who supposedly represent the top three percent of our great land in terms of academia and intellect. I never made it. I did a bad interview for Magdalen. Then went on a brewery tour at Hook Norton and spent the train ride back pissing. It wouldn't stop, that whole 'decent beer intake/urination' thing.

The Magdalen interview was granted because I passed the entrance exam, but only just. 1992. Town were on the cusp of greatness under John Lyall and, naturally, mine and my Town supporting chums interests were based more in attending games than any academic prowess. We went home and away, from the opening day 3-3 at Brizzle Rovers to the jean-ripping climb up the tall metal fences at The Manor Ground. Great times. For those too young to have similar memories, this was our first experience of success. It brought us together, made us a fanbase of blue, in our Fisons shirts and carrying the odd inflatable banana. Folk older, who'd seen the Robson years, suddenly had a new generation to argue with. We, in turn, starved of success, too young for Sir Bob, resigned to long ball merchants and third-rate players, were ecstatic. Even the ground smelled fresh in April, like newly-mown grass and hope.

Anyway, to parental disappointment, I b*ggered up the Magdalen College interview and thenceforth my offer to study English Literature in their esteemed and hallowed sandstone citadel. My parents stopped having dreams of my befriending Sebastian Flyte, quite by chance, and summering at his ancestral home. I got ready for South-West London. Town got promoted on the day I officially became an adult and able to drink legally. That was April.

Fast Forward nearly 29 years and here we are. A club more divided than the quadrangles in Magdalen. My University alumni mostly half-remembered faces in a haze of illicit pleasures. Terry, who thinks of University students in much the same way as he regards the long-term unemployed, was impatient when I mentioned the 29 year anniversary. "So wot?" he said, scowling. "Firty four years ago, we got the shop. Now THAT woz 'ard work. None've yer bleedin' academicals or self-indulgent drug-takin' fer us. Lucky to get a beer at the end of the working week, me". He nodded curtly at me. "You try runnin' a shop open all 'ours, cleanin' it, stocking it AN' tryin' ter get yer missus up the spout at the same time".

The mind boggled once I'd pictured Tel wearing marigolds and simultaneously having Mrs Tel from behind while he sponged his magazine racks. It was like one of Bosch's paintings.

I didn't bother with Ifollow yesterday. I was there for Northampton on Tuesday and my eyes were still adjusting to the tedium. Tel couldn't make Tuesday, which was probably just as well. He couldn't make yesterday either. They were 'avin' a drive round, like, fancied a trip out, just round the coast locally sorta fing'. It was a nice day, so I had a walk. A few people were about, several in face masks, panting like Darth Vader, stentoriously as they hit inclines. Not many dog walkers. They tend to be earlier and later. Just families in Karrimoor and North Face and corduroys and those hippy hats they wear in Scandinavia. Rosy cheeks and swishing fabrics and thousand-yard stares.

Tel came over on Friday afternoon, just as I was finishing off a project for work with a written conclusion that, when read again, made very little sense. Still, a few words omitted here and there and it sounded better. He sat in my living room clutching his beer bottle, looking like the wallflower at a riotous party. "You got a load'o'birds on that table, intcher?" he said after a short watch from my french door. Yes I said. "Probly eat better'n'me" he added dispassionately. I'd provided mini cheddars and Bombay Mix and Twiglets and he'd applied himself well to all, waiting for the hour when I could collect the Indian we'd ordered, amazed at the lack of presence of 'Just Eat' in my neighbourhood.

The hour came and we both went to collect, me driving, him sitting in the passenger seat moaning at my lack of road craft and advising me to "geddin there quick before that Toyota nicks yer space". The Indian made us wait in their takeaway area, with two regular bottles of Kingfisher to while away the time and a copy of last week's Sun and a well-thumbed 'Hello' which promised us an 'Exclusive' look at Princess Beatrice's wedding plans. Tel actually read this. He was disappointed it made no mention of stocks for her dad, or the groom's plans for the wedding night. "Eyetie innee?" asked Tel. "Probly divorced by nex' year, 'im playin' around 'cos let's face it, she looks like a beaver".

The sullen waiter brought us our takeaway, all white plastic bags containing brown paper ones and tin trays and pots. Tel paid on his card and we left. They threw in an unordered Bombay Potato and two extra poppadoms. "Nice of 'em" said Tel, eating one of the extras in my car and dropping bits on the seat and footwell.

It was a better curry than usual. King prawn Madras, Chicken Vindaloo, Lamb samosas, Cauliflower bhaji, the unwanted Bombay spuds which were lovely, Mixed Starters for two, keema and peshwari naan and the poppadoms. It made my kitchen smell of grease and spice. This transferred to my toilet the next morning.

I drank Guinness. This was a bit of a mistake (see the toilet next morning above). Tel drank lager. We had two large brandies (he bought the rest of his latest bottle) each and then Mrs Tel arrived and he was off. Mrs Tel pecked me on the cheek and withdrew back into the car quick, as though the pungent curry fumes and Guinness were the very soul of Covid.

My walk was a bit flatulent yesterday but luckily no-one heard or cared, aside from my boxers, and they're used to it. It was the sort of broken wind that sounds worse than it smells, and which eases a cramping gut to the point of ecstasy. I resisted the urge to do raised-leg ones, just in case a stranger came round the bend and caught me in the act. In an unguarded moment, an elderly woman did look as one trumpeted behind her, but her look of disdain was reserved for her white-haired hubby who'd stopped to admire some daffodil shoots. Clearly he'd got form.

I came home and despaired at the 0-0 result. It seems we were better than Tuesday. That was no achievement. Lambert came out with bigger guffs than me on my walk, only everyone heard these and the looks of disdain have been apparent towards him for ages now. Does this man have any shame? Will he follow through against Hull on Tuesday? Will Marcus tire of all this sh*t? Or is it another Carry-on, with Sid James as PL and Charles Hawtrey as Stuart Taylor, Jimmy Walker played by Peter Butterworth and Kenneth Williams as Marcus Evans.

Carry on Despairing. In a major Football stadium near you right now. Shame you can't join us to see it. Oh well. Keep paying them Direct Debits, kids.

The Warky Lg 1 Report: Shrewsbury Town (PP-Icy pitch)
at 14:26 14 Feb 2021

Unplayable has been the theme of my week. The snow continues to refuse to melt, leaving treacherous skid pans on walks and the child-like glee of seeing middle-aged dog walkers go for 'pearlers' of the sort favoured by old silent movies, then the amusement dies in the throat as the concern kills it.

I helped a 50-ish lady to her feet on Thursday, her replica Uggs not the best choice of footwear in the circumstances. She nearly did the splits as I held her arms. Her legs brought to mind old 'Prodigy' music videos as she battled to gain a grip in the opaque ice. She gave a decent demonstration of the Moonwalk (I had 'Billie-Jean' in my head all day afterwards) and then I pitched her onto the gravel and she stood, panting, breath steaming around her, panic done. She thanked me profusely, as did her dog, which nosed my genitals in gratitude before departing for another whirl on the snowy banks.

It was cold in the early hours pre-dawn. I don't have a dog, so my appearance may bring to mind 'mass-murderer-a-burying' for the denizens out exercising canines at 6.45am. I should have taken a shovel and left them in doubt. Truth is, my sleeping patterns are wrecked. Up for work on a laptop at home by 8.30am, but needing exercise, then shower, coffee and breakfast before contemplating pushing the start button for the day, I am a lockdown anomaly. My hair is beyond control and my clothing smells lived-in. I wash it daily but it still hangs and bags and bobbles.

I had company on Friday in the form of Tel, his usual escape from the 'horrors' of Mrs Tel and her constant finding of little jobs he can do. "Mended the gutter this mornin'" he muttered, hands still slightly black from the experience. "We 'ad icicles the size'o' carrots". He sipped his bottled lager succinctly. "Then she wants 'er winders cleaned, all of 'em, wiv Windolene. Well, ah said t'er, aint the wevver ter be outside doin' them, need to wait til Spring, like. But no, wants 'em done. So muggins 'ere (thumb jerked at his chest) ends up freezin' me nadgers off up the stepladder, constantly worryin' the legs'll slip out an' I'll end up splittin' summink". He took an angry pull on the lager bottle and set it back on the table with a bang.

He had the odd amusements during these escapades. "Woman nex' door was 'avin' a right ole go at 'er 'usband, poor sod. Talk abart nag. She's normally quite nice as well. Still, be'ind closed doors an' all that, they can all be a bleedin' nightmare. Betchoor glad you aint got that anymore?". I was. I remembered my wife. I felt a little shiver as well. It crawled down my back and then disappeared again. I just remember the rows and the sleeping in separate rooms. I've never liked the spare bedroom since. It's now full of disused or broken furniture and fittings.

We chatted on, inconsequentially, Tel telling me rumours he'd heard about mutual acquaintances, which I doubted but listened to anyway. Amongst the various topics ("Rob's been let go by BT on a redundancy package, Bob reckons 'e'll get fifty grand. Yer know they own that 'ouse, dontchar?") one stood out and was worthy of report. "Tony's retiring next year" said Tel casually. "'E wants ter move ter Spain, if we're allowed by then and that". He took another swig and swallowed. "We might fink'o' joinin' 'em out there, sorta go 'arfs on a villa wiv a pool. Fing is, wiv me niece doin' university an' me nephew in 'is last year at school, they wanna wait til they're settled an' that so it won't be for anuvver two years at least".

All I could think to say was 'oh'. It had a world of meaning, but the tone was flat, expected almost. Then I mentioned Mrs Tel and Sandy having that contretemps when Mrs Tel went to help them the other week, and he looked uncomfortable for a minute and said "I know" quietly. Then he said "The missus wants ter fink abart it, she's the one 'oo's not that keen on the idea. Me, well yer know, I'm less trouble. I jus' go wiv the flow". He emptied the bottle and I went to the fridge for another. "Money's not an issue for once" he said to my back. It hasn't been for a while.

We collected the takeaway from the Indian. I'm off the booze again by the way. Guinness still gives me a bit of gastric distress, nice though it is. Back to lime'n'soda and my new 'thing', very cold Sprite Zero. Very cold. It's refreshing, if a bit too fizzy sometimes.

The Indian was good. Lamb Vindaloo, Chicken Biryani with veg curry and peshwari naan, sheema kebabs and chicken tandoori and prawn puris and a rogue King Prawn Shashlik Tel ordered as an afterthought. We cried tears over the Vindaloo. Mine had a bit of resonance following Tel's earlier disclosure.

I had a cigarette on my patio chair, a towel placed in the seat before I sat to warm my nethers against the chill. Tel declined the other chair and stood, stamping his feet and blowing on his cupped hands as I smoked. Then he muttered 'bleedin' geddin' second'ry cancer AND hypofermia!" and went back in. I stubbed out on the patio and lobbed the end at a disused flowerpot. He poured himself a brandy from the remains of the bottle he'd brought and offered it to me with a raised eyebrow. I nodded and he poured me one as well. It was one to sip slowly.

Mrs Tel arrived at ten. The beeps from the car told us. I went outside while Tel finished the dregs from the brandy bottle. She wound her window down. I stayed two feet from the car, but then she reached out her arms to hug me, so I went closer. She kissed me. "'Eard the noos then?" she asked. Yes. "And? Wotcha fink? Would purple suit me?" I looked confused. She laughed. "Oh, bin talkin' bout Spain 'ave yer?". I nodded, still a bit confused. Purple what?

"Won' 'appen" she said, dismissively. "Tone 'ates Spain. Can't speak the lingo, dunno wot 'e's eatin' 'arf the time, don' like the 'eat all that much. 'E's a goer, not a beach bum. She's like that as well. They won't be 'appy in Spain. An' I couldn't bear it wivvem in the same 'ouse. Drive me nutty, she would".

Tel came out. "Yer told 'im then?" said Mrs Tel, with a mocking tone of accusation in her voice. "Yeah" said Tel. "Won' 'appen eiver" said Mrs Tel, decisively. Then she gave me a peck on the cheek. "Purple" i queried. "Oh blimey. Finkin' 'o' changin' me lounge colour, found this light purple colour done by Farrows'n'Ball in a catalogue. They call it summink like "Provence Lavender". Tel'll do the paintin' an' that. We can order it online". I caught an expression of hangdog resignation from the passenger seat.Then the car started and they were gone.

Saturday was quiet. My walk was ice-ridden but I remained upright. I eschewed a cooked breakfast for toast and marmalade. I went shopping. I did housework. I checked on our football bet and we won £260. It was strange having no Town game. But not that strange. A relief more than anything. I expected us to draw at Shrewsbury. But we'll know soon enough. Or not, depending on the Salopian weather and the fixture list.

Valentines Day has been quiet. I wondered what my ex was up to, then I remembered it was best not to wonder. In a week of slippery slopes, that one is the slippiest of all. Guaranteed never to stand up again. But it's thawing slowly. Or maybe I'm just getting old?
The Warky League 1 Report: Blackpool (H)
at 12:53 7 Feb 2021

Snowbound. My garden looks like the last scenes in 'The Shining'. When I fed the birds this morning, I half-expected to see a dead, deep frozen Jack Nicholson, his head resting against the bird table, his features a rictus, evil grin of fulfilment. I didn't of course. All was quiet on the eastern front, save for a few cracks as the branches tumbled under the weight.

My morning walk was through a blizzard, driven by a gusty wind which blew crystals into my hair and eyebrows. Underfoot was treachery of the muddy churned kind, slippery with ice, still wet enough to create slurping fart noises as I trudged. The dog walkers slipped past ghost-like, not stopping for anything but a muffled 'Mornin' greeting, hands gloved, heads bowed, leads visible in coat pockets. Their pets bounded and sniffed, unencumbered by manners or accepted behaviours, snow flecked on backs and heads, expressions of unbridled joy that you don't see from their human counterparts, except those aged under ten. "Snow!!" they seemed to exclaim as they ran past. It was different to wet. Excitably different.

Yesterday was a good day for a change. Tel came over in the afternoon, his cold now a recent memory, his packets of paper Kleenex now used mostly to wipe his top lip free from beer foam or to mop up spills from my table. He came because he thought I could still get Ifollow for free on my laptop and he fancied watching the Blackpool game. In the end, I took pity and paid a tenner.

"Din't knar you'd stopped payin' fer yer season ticket?" he asked, a little vein of cantanker in his voice. He did know. I told him back around Christmas or possibly before it. He just doesn't absorb information. "Blimey, fings geddin' that bad at ole Ipswich then, are they?". I didn't answer, just clicked the button to pay and got the screen up. I turned the volume to 'High' and we sat listening to Graham at BBC Suffolk discussing the rugby.

"Never liked rugby" said Tel. "All that public school communal barfs and joking abart each ovvers John Thomases". He enlarged on his theme after a sip of lager. "Stickin' their 'eads up each ovvers nevvers'n'all that". He winced, distastefully, and shuddered at the homo-erotic pictures he'd evinced. "Nah. Awful game. Middle class people like it though, so.....". He trailed off and drank more beer from the bottle. His mouth separated from the top with a pop like the plug coming out of a full bath.

I heated the snacks I'd prepared the day before; mainly little filo pastries filled with grated cheddar cheese, little Yorkshire puds filled with shop-bought roast beef and horseradish sauce and the remains of the takeaway chinese starters I ordered on Friday night when I fancied a takeaway. 'Just Eat' don't deliver round my way so I drove to collect, fully masked and coated against the drizzle. I over-ordered as usual, unable to ever get to grips with the 'eyes bigger than belly' homily my parents banged on about when I was a child.

I drank Guinness. Yes. I'm drinking again. Furtively, and rather nervously, and with alcohol I'd've scorned before Christmas. I never drank Guinness before. It used to make me wince, and then it'd rumble around in my guts like a thunderstorm. It was Tel who convinced me. I'd done a month on the wagon when he suddenly came over last Tuesday with four cans of draft Guinness he'd been given by a neighbour as a reward for washing their car. "Carnt stand the bleedin' stuff" he said, handing them to me with a sour look. I drank one to be polite. It's reported to be full of iron and I'd been feeling a bit faint recently. Blood count's probably low. It tasted OK. Perhaps the makers have sweetened it a bit for the Brits?

Now I'm hooked. A convert. But I discipline myself to two cans every now and then. Both poured into one of the myriad of pint glasses I've collected since I was about fifteen and never used. I had to wash the dust out of one before I could pour the black stuff into it. Very cold, it's divine. Less gassy than beer, more flavoursome than lime'n'soda. I've missed enjoying a drink. Perhaps that was the problem; enjoying it rather than just gulping it down and moving on to the next?

So back to yesterday, anyway. Tel ate the nibbles. He particularly liked the Yorkies with roast beef. "Get the missus ter do these. They're luvly as a snack". We talked about Mrs Tel, now safely back from the In-laws. "They told 'er ter go back. They're all fine an' Sandy likes fings done 'er way in the 'ouse, so fink it was causing a bit of frickshun". He smiled at a memory and told me it. "She came in once an' told the wife not to 'oover the chairs 'cos it was causin' the velour to get all rucked up. Well, red rag to a bull, that. Talk abart earache. She won't shut up abart it. I fink she'd made 'er mind up ter come 'ome after that. Don' like bein' dictated to". He drank and then said, quietly "Even by me".

The game started, Tel making snide quips about the picture quality ("Looks like that film Cloverfield, an''ere comes the big ole monster" he said as Lambert waddled up the touchline) and wondered why we were getting a personal commentary from Brenner and Mick Mills. That's what a tenner gets you, I joked. "Blimey, so fer twenny notes do yer get Terry Baxter and Matt 'olland, like?". Yes I said, just able to keep a straight face. Then he said "'Ang on, this is the BBC Sufferk commentry innit?". Is it? I replied. Then he lightly cuffed the side of my head.

The first half was actually really good and we were enjoying the game, between debates on whether Terry Butcher was better than The Beat at the back or, a favourite, if we had a DeLorean capable of time travel, who'd we bring back to compliment the current crop. Tel favoured Paul Mariner. But he then changed his mind and said "Terry Butcher, 'cos that defence looks lightweight". Then we scored through Judge, who Tel had called "bleedin' useless" only moments before. We cheered and then smiled at each other self-consciously. "'E' still a waster" said Tel, maintaining his dignity on Alan Judge.

We won 2-0. "Shoulda been six, easy" said Tel as the players hugged at the end and Mick Mills started his ditchwater-dull summary. I switched off and we watched Sky for the other results. Tel stayed for the drab 0-0 between Fulham and West Ham. "Glad I weren't ever an 'Ammer. All my mates were. Them an' Orient. Went and wotched West 'Am in the seventies, wiv me mates, sorta fing yer did then, in yer Bay City Roller flared jeans and scarf tied rand yer wrist. Bleedin' borin' except fer the rucks an' the crowd. West 'Am ad players what looked like yer pervy old uncle in them days, Pop Robson, ole Trevvah Brookin'. One o' me uncles looked lark Trevvah. Right ole pervert 'e was. Sort that used ter watch the porn flicks in cinemas and get caught tuggin' one off by the girl who came rand wiv the ice cream tubs. 'E's dead now. Went blind". I must've looked shocked because he grinned. "Yeah, 'it by a number four'een bus 'e never saw cos of all the 'and shandies".

He left at eight, collected by Mrs Tel. The first sleet was falling and he warned me that we'd be snowed in tomorrow morning. I must have smiled because he gave me his serious face and then nodded, to show he was telling the truth. Our football bets paid £124 for a twenty outlay, which was satisfactory. "Ope we can make a couple grand this year an'all" said Tel, prothesising gloomily.

Mrs Tel waved. She wore a honey-coloured zip-up faux wool coat and blue Versace jeans, probably knock-offs she'd bought from Freeport in Braintree. She was driving in carpet slippers, grey ones with a blue lining. She didn't get out but did wind her window down. We chatted for a bit and then, conscious of it being cold and wet, they drove off. I waved from the drive and went back in. I fancied a curry takeaway, but made do with the jacket spuds and tinned tuna I'd bought and not eaten.

I resisted the temptation to wash it down with a Guinness though. I'm getting good at discipline. So is our team. Mind you, like me with the drink, it probably won't last too long, so make the most of it.
Do Poltergeists exist?
at 10:39 5 Feb 2021

I had a book about the Enfield Hauntings for Christmas by Guy Playfair, one of the investigators of The Enfield Haunting in the '70's. I've just finished it and found it fascinating if a little hard to believe. What's the general consensus on this?
The Warky League 1 Report: Crewe Alexandra (A)
at 13:35 31 Jan 2021

Aah, Crewe. I'd've gone to this were we not in the grip of the pandemic. I've (rather perversely) enjoyed some good times in Crewe as a younger man......

I met my ex-wife in Crewe. It's a long story. She was from Sandbach. In a moment of rash post-University poverty, of the sort where you 'get to know' your bank manager rather better than you'd have liked and he you, I took a job. I was probably urged on by the sort of overdraft which, in the true spirit of the bohemian, I'd largely ignored until my cash card kept getting spat out by ATM's, much in the same derisory way that my schoolmates gobbed on the playground.

The job was advertised as 'Research Co-ordinator' but in actuality meant spending very dull periods of time reading dismal articles in libraries about social administration and welfare, scribbling copious notes in reporter's notebooks. I was living in South West London, precariously, not paying rent, at a friend's two bedroom hovel in Tooting Broadway. He was working on his Master's. His whole rent was subsidised by his affluent parents who lived somewhere exotic in Surrey (I think it was Virginia Water). He was a slob. I mean that with great fondness. He never cleaned the place once. We frequently found mould in the stainless steel sink.

I earned £20,000 per year, which was a fair sum for 1995. The trouble was, I kept half of my earnings. The other half was stolen by the bank to 'reduce' my overdraft.

I was happy though. I'd previously read and written essays on Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London', so I knew how to budget. We ate the brown-turning fruit and veg from Tooting Market for '10p the lot'. We drank in the local Wetherspoon pub where a pint of their Scotch Bitter was 69p. Poverty is useful for the young. They thrive on it. We also used my friend's NUS card to drink in my old student union, where a tenner could get you very drunk indeed and the walk home was across Wimbledon golf course, tripping over divots and falling fully into bunkers.

I got involved in Crewe because I met a friend of a friend who edited Crewe fanzine 'Super Dario Land' and invited me to stay at his parent's semi in Nantwich and 'take in a game'. My biggest expense was the train fare, and that was reduced by my friend's student reduction, so I went. The first few times it was rather jolly. Crewe played Notts County and won 2-1. They then played Mansfield and drew 0-0, which was a bit crap. We got drunk in The Cheshire Cat before and after the match. Jules (the Crewe fanzine editor) had his parents' place to himself. They often went to his grandmother's house in Northwich. We got gloriously drunk and stoned in their absence. Jules' girlfriend, Suzie, introduced me to her best friend. We got on well. Then, three years later, we got married.

So I like Crewe. Always have, even when they beat us in the late 90's as we were going for automatic promotion and needed the points. I became friendly with Jermaine Wright when he played for Crewe. He was always out on the town after a game and we often bumped into him. I like to think it was me that persuaded him to join Ipswich. It wasn't though. He was ambitious and he fancied it.

I left London in 1996 and moved back home with mum and dad for a year, financially better off, overdraft paid, student loans being repaid, a couple of thousand in my new current account. I found a job locally and then found another and then another until I ended up where I am now. I married my girlfriend. Her parents, Jules and his then-wife all came. Mum and Dad put them up in the Premier Inn down the road. They all joined me for an Ipswich game, the first Bolton play-off semi, which we lost.

And then we settled into married life in our new home. It's still my home. The mortgage is paid. My ex didn't want half the house when we divorced. It's the only thing I thanked her for.

Tel had this down as a draw on his Ladbrokes bet. He hasn't been seen this week. Mrs Tel decided that their in-laws were over the worst of Coronavirus and, as I write, is now staying with them, having gone last Thursday. Tel then went down with a heavy cold, a chesty one, for which he is dosing himself liberally with decent brandy and Benilyn. "Fought I'd caught it" he spluttered on the phone on Friday. "But issa cold for definite. Bleedin' cough's like a load of treacle toffee an' me nose keeps runnin'. Don' wanna give it yer". I hastily agreed and he sneezed twice, loudly. It sounded like a wet foghorn.

He asked me if I had any antibiotics I hadn't taken. "I'd see me GP but they aint gonna want me cumin' anywhere near 'em in this state. 'Is receptionist even sounded scared speakin' ter me on the blower". He thinks it's a chest infection. Sadly, I had no antibiotics, but I did have menthol crystals. "Bleedin' wot?" he asked, irritably. Then he said, crossly "Don' need no noo age rubbish around me. I need anti's".

He called back yesterday, success in his voice. A late appointment. Prescribed antibiotics for a 'mild chest infection'. He can drink on them as well. The best of all worlds. He sounded slightly better. "Brandy. Thass wot yer need when yer coughin'. Drank the 'ole bottle larse night. Two left in the cupboard tho' fank gawd". He rang off, promising to ring next week to arrange a meet up.

I had a walk before all this, my usual, only increased over Cattawade and to the shores of the Stour, the calmness and the slow-rising mist enveloping me. I popped to Tesco on the way home, buying bread and milk and sausages and bacon and tomatoes and Tropicana smooth and a paper and some fags. Fry up. Pot of Tea. Shower, then dressing gown over joggers and t-shirt, did some work on the laptop, cleaned and dusted and hoovered the house, fed the birds, marvelled at a buzzard soaring high over the house. By then it was one o'clock. Footy. I eschewed the scum game and watched Everton v Newcastle.

I didn't watch the Crewe game on Ifollow. But I'd've gone as I said earlier. Just to recapture those happier memories, before the fall-outs and the arguments and the silent spells, when she spent her time not speaking to me or staying away with her friends in Chelmsford, and then she'd come home and nothing was right, not me, not where we lived, not her, nothing. And then the affair. And then the affair. And then the leaving, the packing up, the driving to her friend's to be with him, except he didn't know what he wanted and so he failed her as well. And then, nothing. The occasional visit for money. Her dreams, expressed forcibly, from someone I once knew well but now didn't recognise.

And now there's nothing left of her, no tangible thread. Only memories. You can't relive those. You can only recapture. Jules doesn't live in Crewe any more either. He divorced as well, and moved to the US in 2011. So there's nothing left. I prefer it kept like that. Onwards, ever onwards, never back. No regrets. But that's not true. There are always regrets. They just dim, like the memories.

Ipswich is becoming the same and that's my greatest regret. The equaliser, the Bishop red card, all spilled out in front of me and I just sat numbed. Even the forum on here was blasé. What's happening to us? Is it altruism? Is it stronger? Is the repeated pain just too much?

Jules would have been unhappy with a 1-1 against Ipswich. I guess that's the most painful realisation of how far we've fallen of all. But we never learn. Oh well.
The Warky League 1 Report: Peterborough (H)
at 12:41 24 Jan 2021

Imagine losing at home to a side like Peterborough? Trouble is, I could. Through the navel-gazing and sitting at home all day breathing in the same fumes and titillating the same old bits of brain that wallow and drift, like a rotting water lily on a stagnant pond. There are no shocks. Just apathetic consent.

Work has become a bore. Spark up the old laptop at 8.30am, pretend to do something for eight hours, leave unfulfilled for regular fag breaks on the patio or to make more tea, distract the mind with bird watching (they've grown by the way. Not like Pterodactyls grow. They're not the Warky winged warriors yet. I'm no Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon). They still evince fright at my approach. I held this romantic notion that I'd train one, a blackbird or a thrush, to sit on my shoulder Long John Silver-style. To this end, I experimented by putting seed on my shoulder one frosty morn, to see if, like the pigeons at Trafalgar Square, they'd flock and sit happily pecking. Do they heck. They just look a bit like the neighbours do, fearful that the fat nutter is going to erupt from that patinated chair with murder in his eyes. So that was a failure. Another one.

Strange times these are. I said this much to Tel on Wednesday when he appeared at five, emerging from the gloom of a cold evening in the family car, driven by an increasingly wild-looking Mrs Tel, who resembles an ageing Viv Albertine, all punk-style comfy clothes in black, velour-style top, black jeans and black slip on pumps, her hair as bushy as my pyrocanthus without the berries. She waved. I went over. She recoiled a bit and then wound down her window by the touch of a button. I didn't get too close. She blew a kiss at me and said she'd been talking to Sandy, her sister-in-law, via Zoom. She said Sandy sounded like Weed from Bill and Ben. That's an unfortunate side effect of the virus, I guess.

Tel came in and had a beer. "Gotta go at six firty, she's talkin' ter Tone an' she's rubbish on compooters". He sipped his beer and looked around critically for dust or dirt. The house is cleansed every evening, a habit that has become something akin to OCD. My shopping basket now consists of lime cordial, fizzy water and cleaning products. I've got two Ambi-Pur plug in fresheners in every room. My house smells like the Yardley scent counter in Debenhams.

"Carnt bleedin' wait til we can nip darn the boozer again an' 'ave a curry or a Thai" reflected Tel as I got the Bombay Mix and the lesser-flavoured Walkers I don't like in a bowl (mostly Tomato Ketchup and Prawn Cocktail, which taste very similar). He ate the Bombay Mix and most of the crisps. I made a lime'n'soda with ice from the implement on the front of the fridge. This is also clean (Milton).

The bets have gone south. We keep picking 'definite' teams who don't then deliver. Liverpool mainly. And Chelsea. "Bleedin' FA Cup this weekend' said Tel with antipathy. We decided to risk a tenner each from our dwindling funds. I chose Villa, Derby, West Ham and Peterborough. "Going' against the Town then?" said Tel, surprised. Yeah. "Posh aint good away though. That'll be a 0-0. All your strikers are injured'n'all". It didn't matter. I just thought Posh would do us again.

So I won, as I learned from the paper this morning. Tel didn't. He went for value. Still, he was unlucky. OK, Pompey were crap, and so were Colchester, but he had four from six. I wondered how much we'd won from mine. Think it's about £400. The comeback is on.

Tel then discussed the 'Tone and Sandy' issue a bit. "They've 'ad Corona, right. Wife wants ter go darn there to stay an' 'elp 'em all, sorta home help wiv a mask on. I says to 'er 'yer carnt go ketchen' that bleedin' virus; issa killer according ter the nooze. But she says she wants to 'elp an' they aint 'fectious after free weeks or summink. Well, I put me foot darn an' said no. So she gets the 'ump an' I end up settin' 'er up on that Zoom fing ter help 'er speak to 'em evry day like. So now thass what she does. An' Sandy specially says 'we need 'elp in the 'ouse' so she's usin' sorta emoshunal blackmail like. Thass wass 'appenin' at ours at the mo".

He breathed and sipped his beer. I made conciliatory noises and he raised his hand. "Yer, 'eard 'em all mate, save yer bref. Ya just using' all the logic arguments ah used wiv 'er. An' she comes back with 'they're family, Terry, wot am I s'posed ter do, jus' sit 'ere an' ignore 'em?". I can't argue wiv that. Frustrates the 'ell out of me. But there we go".

We chatted on, aimlessly, til six twenty when a loud 'beep' outside reintroduced Mrs Tel, now clad in a grey wool coat in the driving seat. Tel rinsed the beer bottle at the sink and lobbed it into my recycling box. "Blimey, this used ter be full of yer empties. Looked like the back of Wevverspoons it did. Ya doing OK?" I nodded. He raised an eyebrow, Roger Moore style. I didn't know he could do that. I imagined him practising it in the bathroom every morning.

"Well, see yer nex' week" he said and we went out. It was dark and cold. The water in the puddles in the road were rippling like a windy tide at Walton after they'd gone.

I had an 'incident' on my walk on Friday. I found a wedding ring on a footpath. A gold one. It glinted when I turned my phone torchlight on to gauge the depth of a puddle. I took it home and then to the police in Colchester as our local station is unmanned all day. They received it without enthusiasm and I left my details with a dyslexic desk copper who spelt my name wrong and then proceeded to spell my address wrong as well. They'll have a laugh when someone collects it. Especially as 'Walford' (his spelling of Lawford) is the fictional borough of London for popular moan fest Eastenders. As if Grant Mitchell would spend his time strolling the back way to Flatford.

Yesterday was cold. No abandoned wedding rings or people hunting furtively for them with torches. Just dog walkers with Staffies and Black Labs and Collies, all sniffing tree trunks for a quick leg-cock, and splashing through puddles and looking for rabbits in copses. It was a freezing walk. The puddles had semi-formed ice crusts. The churned bits of mud were like iron. I came home to warmth and light and made a fry up, sausage, bacon, beans, scrambled egg, toast and HP, big pot of tea, the Times, a quick fag on the patio while I waited for the sausages. The birds like bacon rind and bits of sausage. I even chopped them up for them. I spoil the little b*ggers. Yet they're still afraid of me.

I didn't watch the football. I watched a cup game on BT Sports instead. Then I switched to Sky and Jeff Stelling for the results. We'd lost 0-1. No longer a ST Holder, I can't get Ifollow codes any more so I don't bother. McGuinness OG it said.

I had caesar salad and chicken for tea. My homemade caesar dressing was a wow. Moreish, spicy from the mustard powder and anchovies, poured over a deconstructed little gem lettuce. I can still taste garlic when I belch this morning.

Another week nearer February. But February isn't March. It's still winter. It's still lockdown. It's still.

Cheese or not cheese?
at 13:18 20 Jan 2021

Dairylea triangles?
The Warky League 1 Report: Burton (A)
at 13:30 17 Jan 2021

Work, walking, good diet and not drinking. The sort of life I'd have had nightmares about last year; health, wealth and an uncanny knack of ordering slightly-too large clothing online.

Convinced by previous forays into the world of online clothing that most stuff needs to be a size larger than I usually wear, I end up ordering stuff that sags and bags on me like a tent from Millets. Still, it's comfy. Who cares if the crotch of those jogging bottoms summons the memory of MC Hammer videos on MTV in 1990? You can't touch this? No-one would want to. It could start a new trend; lockdown loose. Most of Cotton Traders stuff is also very easy to wash and iron. It gets here in two days. No 'international shipping' or any of that malarkey. It's just, well, depressingly safe. Striped rugger shirts, plain joggers and chinos. The uniform of a man who has given up and taken safe over sexy.

Tel is slowly adapting to lockdown life. He came over on Thursday afternoon, ostensibly for a chat and a beer, dropped by Mrs Tel who sat resolutely in the car with the windows wound up and waved from the driver's seat. "She wants ter go'an'see Tone and Sandy an' the kids but they're still isolatin' after that Corona so...." he trailed off as I got a beer from the fridge. A Hophouse lager. He eyed it critically and then sipped, slowly, lest it be as bad as he expected. It wasn't. He relaxed and gulped more. "Nice this" he said, slightly breathlessly. "I'm on ter Superbock at 'ome, they were on offer in Tesco". I have three bottles of lager I left when I stopped drinking. The Hophouse, a Cobra and a big Corona, all of which i left in case Tel dropped by. I made a lime and soda and sat drinking it with him. "Bleedin' serious abart this teetotal lark then?" he said. I nodded.

"Fing is, ennyfing can make yer guts dodgy" said Tel conversationally, harking back to the incident two weeks ago which left me convinced that alcohol was affecting me. "Missus'n'I 'ad a pizza delivered on Tuesdy an' we bofe felt dodgy the nex' mornin'. I could only eat two bits'a'toast for breakfast on Wensdy. Thass un'eard of fer me. I'm usually four bits wit butter an' Marmite an' a big cuppa". He looked crestfallen at the memory. "Pebbledashed the bog" he added, unnecessarily.

This wasn't just a stomach ache though. They did liver readings and blood tests and my liver is enlarged and my kidneys aren't functioning as well as they should. It's too much drink. I also had the beginnings of gout, apparently. So I stopped and I feel brilliant for it. Sleep is better. More energy. I walk further. Give the fags up and I could be entering a fitness renaissance for 2021. And how many can say that?

Tel snorted. He's gone off walking ever since that day before Christmas that we went for one. "Wait til the Spring, might join yer then, bit warmer an' less wet and that". I now do a circuit walk near home, six miles in all there and back, through the dripping countryside. Yesterday's was through the light covering of snow that hit us early, the flakes driving into my face, each step a crunch rather than a wet sloosh. I saw a Barn owl in the murk and a fox and what looked like a badger but could just have been a cat. I came home with raw, red face and hands and made a cooked breakfast; egg, sausage, bacon, beans, grilled tomatoes and a few slices of toast and sat reading the papers and sipping hot tea and felt wonderful.

Tel stayed for a snack, chinese bits I'd been to our local M&S for. Prawn toasts, dumplings, funny money-bag shaped thingies full of crunchy veg and pork and prawns. I made a curry for last night, king prawns, coconut milk, peanut satay sauce and extra chillis. It was lovely with a few noodles and some mange tout. I added mango pieces and some potatoes to it and let the remainder go cold. I had it cold for breakfast this morning with a frozen naan I reheated. Bloody delicious.

I missed the Ipswich game; couldn't be arsed to pay the tenner for the pleasure. I went for another afternoon walk in the rain and through the remaining slush. It felt like a naughty treat, a glorious effortful waste of time on a Saturday. These used to be sacrosanct, Saturdays, a day in the week when I wasn't working and could get jobs done like shopping and housework and still see people at Ipswich home games, rushing off on the train to be disappointed by the match, reeling home drunk for a curry. Now it's like a 'lost weekend' wandering round a stately home on your own, finding little bits of interest. We did this a lot when I was a nipper. My mum loved stately homes. I remember spending a Saturday dressed in an approximation of Tudor gear made by my mum, at a re-enactment at Kentwell Hall in Melford, one hot summer day when the smell of woodsmoke was pervasive and the peaches were ripe and I got moaned at for dripping the juice down my tunic.

They were great days. I still get a funny feeling of warmth and sun when I smell woodsmoke. Like sitting in a pub garden under an umbrella at a wooden table drinking Coke through a straw, or strawberry-picking in the local PYO, all sunburn and red squashed smudges and gritty knees, or going on the beach at Frinton, with the smell of Amber Solaire and the eighties Laura Ashley floral skirts and the picnics of cool bag ham sarnies and quartered pork pies and a Dracula ice lolly from the Mr Softee van parked near the Greensward. Washing the sand from feet at the taps and ingesting it with the sarnies. Great days.

I came home in time for the results on Sky. Leeds lost. Derby lost. The grins were starting. Then the Burton score flashed and the grin was complete. Tinged with ambivalence though, for I've started the process of being ambivalent where we are concerned. It only hurts more when we fail if you hope. I think we will fail as well. Other teams seem so much more 'up for it' than we do. Plus we play as pedestrian-like as Ipswich town centre. Minus the aged/fat on their disability scooters.

It's said that you hark back to childhood memories when you're depressed. But I'm not. I'm fed up with the lack of unnecessary shops open which sell clothing I can try before buying, and I miss the Town sometimes, but mainly just the socialising bit, not the football, the crowd, seeing friends, listening to the smartarse comments and singing the songs. I don't miss the spots, the feelings of unworthiness, the fumbled attempts to remove a bra, the lackadaisick efforts in school, the novelty erasers which smelt like Coke or strawberries, the double maths on a Friday, the double PE on a Monday, the grey slacks and badly-knotted ties, the smell of cabbage at lunch, the latest Smash Hits with Sonia or Five Star on the front, the expectations which I was unworthy enough to disappoint.

I don't miss anything really. I've adapted. And, though it is often lonely, this is it. Get on with it.
The Warky League 1 Report: Swindon (H)
at 13:20 10 Jan 2021

The slow pace continues. No, I'm not talking about the team, although like everyone else, they looked half-dead yesterday. Creatures who shuffle and blink in light, ponderous, rabbits with advanced mixey, walking blank-eyed around Tesco because it's there and it's open.

Face masks, avoidance, the papers filled with mock distaste-cum-triumph over the last drippings of the Trump fiasco, frosty branches and grass, the long slow dawning of a winter day where everything is bathed in phlegmatic acceptance and milky sunshine. It was like awakening from hibernation then finding it wasn't yet spring, but the bedding had got cold while you were up.

The morning walks have necessarily become localised. Like a stye in the eye, I walked in my red cagoule, greeting perfunctorily the dog-walkers with their squatting steam-wreathed pets as we crossed paths, the odd early-morn cough eyed suspiciously as though I wore cowl and bell and a big red cross on my chest.

I've stopped drinking alcohol. Yes, really. I had a nasty moment last weekend; I won't bore or repel you with details, suffice to say that it was a wakener far more effective than any radio alarm set permanently on 'Kerrang'. At forty-six, nearly forty-seven, the realisation that I am mortal after all was painful. I feel very, very old. And very, very sober. San Pellegrino and various cordials/squashes and juices now align themselves in the drinks cupboard. I've not bothered with the low alcohol alternatives, lest they reawaken the appetite without slaking it.

Tel's in-laws have the dreaded virus. He rang on Wednesday, breathless and sweaty-sounding himself, to divulge the news. "All got it. Coughin' an' lost their taste. They never 'ad much anyway, just the money to pretend they 'ad". Tel is now a series of quick phone calls and badly-spelt texts. Mrs Tel won't allow him out and they "don' like the idear of yer cummin' over ter see us at the mo, like". So we correspond via mobile phone and my landline when he remembers. Which is erratic and compulsively, like a teenage kid with a slight crush.

Walks, breakfast, work are all punctuated with fatuous texts meant, I suspect, to 'cheer me up' but which contain no portion of the personality of the sender. Sometimes it's memes that he's had and laughed at, briefly, then shared. Mostly it's bad jokes and cod-wisdoms, flanneled by lonely sorts who don't have lives on Facebook. There's nothing worse than conventional thought reheated as originality.

Our phone conversations include Mrs Tel who appears onstage like a self-conscious kid in a school play with just one line to slaughter and then a whole scene stood watching the mains. "Say 'ello love" says Tel. "Ello darlin'" says Mrs Tel. Then she's gone as though murdered on the spot, not leaving a familial trace of her ever having been. No chuckles in the background. Nothing more.

""Avin' takeaway ternite, from the chippy, fancy fish'n'chips" said Tel, leerily on Friday morning, interrupting my train of thought on management restructures at work. I've not bothered with grub much this week. I do a big weekly shop and fill my freezer with stuff that I can cook easily, and quietly despair at the lack of variety. I'm eating more fruit and veg. I made veggie bake last night; cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, leeks and a nice béchamel sauce with herbs. It was delicious. I washed it down with a glass of orange squash and felt self-righteous. Breakfast is toast and marmalade. Lunch is normally a ham salad with coleslaw and wallies and a bit of leftover Xmas chutney. Simplicity is often better.

I watched the football yesterday evening clear of head and eye. It didn't help. I presume everyone else saw it, of those of you who can still be bothered watching eleven players go through the motions in front of cardboard supporters and echoing stadia. We were bloody dire at the back. McGuinness and Woolfie seemed to back off a lot. Brett Pitman, he who runs slowly and resembles someone living rough at the back of Yates, scared our defence.

Screaming at the telly, the sort of insults I'd usually reserve for moments when I stub my toe on furniture, we huffed and haltered back into things. Like a cut-price synthetic Arsenal, all little passes to nothing and no-one, all dawdling in front of the ball, all headless panic behind it.

I switched off when they went 3-1 up, juddering the remote, inadvertently changing the channel to a repeat episode of Antiques Road Trip; Anneka Rice cooing over a 'rather old statue'. I wondered if she'd been watching Stephen Ward attempt to play the wing as well.

Ho-hum. The acceptance is a dull ache somewhere unfathomable. Like a loose connection that you can never find, we totter on, forever destined to remain a beatable club in a tin-pot league, overstuffed with pretty little midfielders who try hard, but. I'm sure it won't change. We'll probably be the first to vote 'Yes' if the EFL fancy cancelling. Just to save on the lecky.

It's all a bit of a downer, innit? Long, drawn out and low. Never mind. Carry on Camping. Or Isolating. With Sid James as the lothario and Fenella Fielding as the looker.
The Warky League 1 Report: New Year (H)
at 12:29 1 Jan 2021

I've never liked New Year's Eve.

All that Scottish thing of Hogmanay, with people getting hammered and bits of coal, never got it. I once spent December 31st in Edinburgh, courtesy of some girl I was hopeful of (and which never happened because I couldn't understand more than two words in ten that she uttered, and constant 'eh?'s aren't a good precursor to sexual intimacy). I ended up drunk at some party thrown by some friend of an acquaintance of a friend, where everyone flecked me in spittle through just engaging in conversation and I slept on a coconut-weave doormat near the front door, despite having a perfectly good hotel room. Never since has the word 'Sassanach' been so widely banded and sounded such an insult.

In recent years, New Year's Eve has been the signal to remove Christmas decorations. It's also bidden some of the worse hangovers ever experienced; proper, skull-splitting efforts, Geoff Capes ripping my head like a copy of the phone book, Gemma Collins trying to kickstart a truculent Norton in four foot of cold rice pud in the old guts.

The 1999/Millenia celebrations saw me partying with friends in Clacton. We were being tormented by doomsayers about the effects of the millennium bug on ATM's so I circumvented this by having £500 in cash on me for taxis. How I escaped a good mugging, christ alone knows. In some ways, I was mugged, because friends who were a bit skint suddenly stuck to me like barnacles on a ship, the 'lend us a tenner mate' brigade becoming my shadow for the evening. We drank cheap beer and shorts, ate takeaway pizza and then, later, did a good, if not novel, approximation of the pizza we'd eaten on the pavement outside.

The 2020 'celebrations' were supposed to be at a friend's in Colchester, only she came down with a hefty head cold and, such being the fear in Tier 4, cancelled 'just in case' on Wednesday morning. So, worried not, I stocked up on a nice cardboard box of a Chilean Pinot Noir and a bottle of aged Glenlivet and reached for a glass yesterday afternoon, following a chilly, frosty walk in the nearby woods. The Terries were in Braintree. Or so I thought...

By four, the night was crawling rapidly and I'd enjoyed four glasses of the red. Then the phone went. Expecting my mum's dulcet tones from my Auntie Gina's, probably with a restorative glass of Bailey's clutched in her left hand and the sound of my uncle moaning about Brexit in the background, it came as a shock to hear the gruff London growl of Tel. "Wotcher mate, lissen, we aint gone ter Braintree arter all, summing about me neffew 'avin' a cold an' earache so we din't wanna take a chance'n that. So I wondered....(here he broke off to answer, presumably, Mrs Tel who muttered something. 'Yeah 'e's 'ome'n'all' I heard him say to her)..if I might nip rand ter see the noo year in wiv yer? Missus won't be cumming (the mind boggled) 'cos she's in 'er jim jams ready ter watch a bit'o'telly, so I'll get 'er to drop me an' I'll sleep rand yours if it's OK?".

I made a quick mental note of the booze I'd got left. I told him we'd need any more he had lying around and he said, a bit quickly, "yeah, fought of all that, got two bottles of champers untouched from Boxing Day plus three of them bottles of white you bought and a pack of Miguels". I went food shopping on Wednesday morning so had ready-made curries, naans and indian snacks. "Lovely" he said, more animatedly. Then it was a done deal. He'd be coming at five. "She'll chuck a pair of jeans on or summink, drive me over. She's 'avin' a night on the old Coke so she'll be fine to drive me back tomorrow". He rang off.

He arrived at five thirty, clutching bags and awkwardly getting out of the passenger seat being careful not to drop any. I helped him in and gave Mrs Tel a peck on the cheek and wished her a Happy New Year. I also gave her the last eight in my packet of fags, safe in the knowledge I had forty more indoors. She smiled and accepted them, gratefully. I had images of her fogging out her front room during Eastenders or whatever it was she was watching. "Doin' The Crown on Netflix, 'e 'ates it but's'only chance I get" she said conspiratorially.

She drove off. I went inside to find Tel stacking bottles on my kitchen table. I'd managed a partial tidy up so at least he wasn't inspecting surfaces for dirt. We put the already icy champers in my fridge and had an ice-cold beer apiece. "Kept 'em on the patio larse night" said Tel. "Fought they might've froze solid this mornin'" Clearly not. They were eminently gluggable.

We sat chatting at the kitchen table. He was talking about Tony and Sandy. "Din't fancy Noo Year round there anyway" he said. "She's gone vegan wiv the kids, so it'd be all veggie bakes and nuts'n stuff. Start the noo year wiv gut rot, lovely. Tone's still a committed meat eater, but it's 'ard fer 'im ter get a bit'o'steak in when 'e's gotta cook the bleeder 'imself, so I don' reckon 'e's that committed". He took a long swallow of beer. "Nah, definitely Maccy D's and the odd KFC I reckon. 'E told me 'e brings 'ome kebabs and stuff, eats it in the kitchen so they're none the wiser. Wot a way ter live".

We drank more beer and opened one of the champers. "Leave the ovver one fer Midnight, like" said Tel, reading my mind. I heated the food and we ate about six thirty. We talked more, then I found my playing cards and we resumed the game of poker. I keep about thirty quid in loose change in an old sweet tin in my kitchen draw, sort of parking money and spare change for stuff. He gave me a ten pound note and I gave him ten ones back. It was a war of attrition. I won, he won, I won again, he won again. By eight-thirty we both still had a tenner. "Bleedin' unlucky that was" he muttered at his last hand.

We broke off at nine for Irish coffees. Now, I know using malt whisky in an Irish coffee is a terrible waste, and long may it cause me sufferance, but it tasted lovely. I did the fresh cream on the back of the spoon so it looked like a Guinness. Tel drank deeply and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and said "mmmm, why din't yer tell me yer could make these? My fav'rite drink after a meal, apart from brandy". I made another round, and then a round of brandy coffees. It kept the chill out. We drank brandy after this. Conversation became slurred.

I showed Tel my sofa-bed at eleven, pulling it all out to show him how it worked, just in case I decided to kip on my front door mat again once we'd seen in 2021. "Nice" he spluttered. "Aint time fer bed yet though. Nice cushions" he added, eyeing the ones I bought in John Lewis with some of my bet winnings.

We played Dub's 80's playlist on my laptop, linking it to my stereo. Many thanks to Dubs. Cheers Pete. "Oo's this?" asked Tel, trying to look at TWTD on my laptop. I lurched over quickly before he made it and pretended to turn it up, getting rid of the TWTD site so it left the Mixer site open. "Pete 'oo?" said Tel, reading the site. Then, "bleedin' beard on that. Looks like a hillbilly, that sod. Still, wotta taste in music the boy's got. An' them changes. I ain't 'eard that Nick Kershaw one fer years. He danced like it was the '80's again. Hopping from one leg to the other. "Gotta lissen to this again, wife'll love it". He tried keying the website into his mobile, sat bent on the arm of my settee like a hovering kestrel. In the end, I did it for him. One more listener, Dubs, potentially two. Tel reckons your patter's perfect as well. "Don' bleedin' bore us ter deaf wiv talkin', jus' play the music".

Midnight happened. We hugged drunkenly and wished for a better 2021, one where we can meet in the pub and watch a game of footy. We drank on. And on. Suddenly it was two am. Tel stifled a drunken yawn and went for a piss. Then he crashed full length on my sofa bed, without bothering to open it. I covered him in blankets and left him.

Woke at 6.30am to the smell of burning toast. Shoved my jeans and sweatshirt on, came downstairs. Fog of burnt toast and kettle steam. Still, he'd tidied up. All the empties were in the bin, the washing up done and he'd neatly folded the blankets on the edge of the sofa bed. He stood munching toast and marmalade, a big pot of tea steaming. I joined him in a cup, too mullered to eat. "Should eat summink" he said through a full mouth. I marvelled, not for the first time at his constitution. Once a newsagent, always a newsagent. He'd probably consider that he'd slept in.

Mrs Tel hooted outside at nine after he called her, and he left, thanking me for a new year's eve well spent. We did a party in the pub last year, he reminded me. I felt scarcely less hungover then as well.

Mrs Tel looked fresh. "Get sum kip love" she said as I greeted her, hair wild, breath probably killer. Tel found Dub's radio station on his phone and then bluetoothed it to the car digital system. The familiar tones of Grange Hill echoed round the neighbourhood. "Lissen ter this!" Tel said to her. She started grooving in her seat as The Smiths took over. Then they were away, waves and hand kisses from her, a sheepish, sickly grin from him.

I'm thinking of going back to bed in a mo. Still, plenty of time for all that. Tomorrow's Saturday after all. But that's my Christmas reports done for another year. Happy 2021 folks. See you soon.

January 2021.

The Warky League 1 Report: Boxing Day (A)
at 17:55 27 Dec 2020

Feast upon feast. That's what it felt like. Christmas Day evening spent with my parents, playing board games, drunk on excellent wine (my Dad is a member of Wheelers, the local wine deliverers, they used to be called Lay and Wheelers until Mr Lay was laid, quite literally, at rest in the 1990's). I became a living, breathing Hogarth caricature. Not the Rake. No lowly maid was up the duff as a result of my attentions. This was more Gin Lane. Without the gin. Although that was present as well.

I stayed the night after all, on the sofa bed, heaped with checked blankets and my old bed duvet, the browny-yellow piss stains a memory since they'd had it cleaned. I went to bed at 2am, following the last rubber of bridge I played with my father. Sounds pretentious, but it wasn't in the same league as Bond or the Raj. We played for ten pees. He beat me. He also beat me at Petanque, back in the days when we played on hot summer evenings at a long-gone pub in Monks Eleigh. The Bull. The 1980's. Steve Winwood singing 'Valerie' on the radio. Mum under the Coke shade on the wooden bench, watching, sipping her Britvic orange'n'lemonade because she was driving us home.

Dad remembered this as he counted his £1.60 winnings. I smiled at the memory. I was twelve. He'd lost to me in all mental agility games since. He took pride in this; the expensive education he'd paid for bestowed upon his only child. so that he could win at Trivial Pursuit and pub quizzes because he knew that Steve Norman was in Spandau Ballet, and that Homer wrote the Iliad. What else is education useful for in adulthood?

I left the comfy parental home on Boxing Day morning, promising to return much like Aragorn in those Tolkien books that everyone watched as films and never read because they bore, frankly. I had breakfast there first, a jovial post-Xmas feast of fried tomatoes, sausage, Burford Brown eggs and dad's bubble and squeak cakes, made from the cold leftover swede, brussels and roast spuds we couldn't finish the day before. Belching animatedly as I drove home, the house cold and not speaking to me, left forlornly celebrating a Yule of its own making in my absence.

Tel and Mrs Tel arrived at 3pm, just as the football on the telly was getting good. "Back again" said Tel with a smile. This'un'll be better though. We got snowballs and champers and brandy'n' beer". Dad gave me four bottles of a nice white burgundy, so I took those as well. I'd ordered the cab for 1am this time. They said it'd cost extra. I replied that I didn't mind. One thousand eight hundred quid untouched from the betting money. Even I doubted it'd be that much.

Mrs Tel drove us back. She smelled lovely. New perfume? I asked her. "Yeah, big bottle of Marc Jacobs and a big bottle of Chanel" she said, turning her neck so I could sniff it. It wasn't necessary. The whole car was impregnated with the scent. It was like driving with Penelope Pitstop.

We reached Chez Tel, him complaining about the neighbours. "Ad bleedin' fireworks last night, one of 'em at the back, about tennish they finished. Well, I loved it when they started, but that was 8'o'clock. By ten, it was geddin' like some trench in Flanders". He snorted derision. "Fand free empty rocket packets on the lawn this mornin'. Like bleedin' kids they are".

We went in, removing shoes, my chance to flash my new Xmas presents, socks with Munch's 'The Scream' as the pattern. "Oo got yer them then?" asked Tel, critically. My parents I said. "Very la-di-dah them" he said. But I think he was impressed. He later asked me if they were available online.

The first beer was welcome. I had a throat like a lime kiln. Too much Chanel in the car, and a slight hangover from the wine last night. It was a San Miguel. Tel's reverted back to his favourite. He liked Estrella for a while, but then he got pissed on it and it's been Miguel ever since. He showed me his Xmas presents from the wife. Alan Brazil's done well out of Xmas; another copy of his new tome. Tel said 'Greatest Ipswich striker ever' as though wanting a debate. I said I thought Crawford and Phillips might have been better, and Marcus Stewart, and Paul Mariner. "Mariner!" said Tel. "'E just set 'em up for Big Al". We agreed to disagree.

Mrs Tel reappeared. She looked like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. She'd combed her hair forward and put on a Givenchy singlet with a pair of black leggings. The singlet was quite tight. Her breasts looked like two Tesco carriers half-filled with sh*te in it.

Tel put on some light music. We had Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell, then When We Dance by Sting. It was low, easy listening stuff for conversation. Then suddenly the roof sounded like it had caved in, and Dolores O'Riordan had an Irish orgasm as Zombie started. "She's dead yer knar?" said Tel, hastening to the music centre to minimise the volume. I did know. Mrs Tel made a face. "Let me put one on, Terry" she requested. We then had 'Always the Sun' by The Stranglers, followed by Reasons to be Cheerful by a dulcet Ian Dury. All before the suds of the first beer had been reached.

We played cards with the background music seemingly ACDC's greatest hits. I'd changed a twenty into 50p's and pounds for this reason, earlier at Tesco. We started with Pontoon so Mrs Tel could join in. By the time we'd broken for a fag, she'd taken us to the cleaners.

We watched the King George highlights on the telly. We'd done Frodon as part of a triple bet, only because the name reminded Tel of Frodo in Lord of the Rings, one of his favourite modern films (he classes anything filmed since 1985 as 'modern'). "Got some bird on it though" he said, dismissively as they lined up. He'd put £20 on it to win though. We'd agreed £50 on Clan Des Obleaux. It came third. "Could've ridden it 'arder" was Tel's comment after. Still, four hundred quid was better than a kick in the nuts.

We were cheered after the racing, especially as Tel had £100 on Killer Clown at Kempton at 9-2. "Just fancid the name, like" he said, strangely bashful. I pressed him a bit on this. "OK, 'ad a tip" he admitted smilingly. I bowed at his feet. He pushed me away, laughing. "Don't start worsh'pin me for good luck" he said laughing. But he caught the sentiment and was very pleased by it.

The card school continued. We had to 'borrow' change from Mrs Tel. Poker. "Good noos is she dunno 'ow ter play that" said Tel. She went off for another fag, clutching my silver Zippo like it was a precious jewel. I'd bought a can of petrol and some flints for it in my leather holdall. Just in case.

The champers got opened. We drank two bottles between us. I'd told Tel about the offer on Taittinger in Tesco and he's bought two, plus one of their own brand Vintages. It went down smooth. Tel did his Roger Moore impression during the Taittinger. "We've 'ad me Connery. like. 'Ere's me Roger". It consisted of raising both eyebrows in a look of perma-surprise, like he'd been goosed on the sly. He then raised one eyebrow and sat forward. "Not a lot of people know that" he said in a sort of posh estimation of an Oxford accent.

I pointed out it was Michael Caine. "Oh". Then he said "Roger Moore din't 'ave any cashphrases did 'e?" I said the one about attempting re-entry. He laughed. "Moonraker" he said. Then he gave up.

Dinner. Cold gammon, cold turkey, pickles, fresh-fried chips and tempura prawns, something that looked like minced guts in a jar but which was actually red-hot chilli piccalilli. Hot it was as well. I feared for my poor bowels (rightly as it transpired - my arse puckered like a granny's lips kissing a grandchild this morning). We ate it merrily.

We had a dance after dinner, by now on the brandies, me drunk to hell as was Tel. Mrs Tel also showed me the empty Warnincks bottle, high on milk and alcohol like Dr Feelgood, and sugar. I surreptitiously rolled a joint in their kitchen and we went outside to christen this beauty. She came back laughing at everything. Tel looked pleased, unaware of my treachery. But it wasn't really. She's nearly fifty seven for crying out loud.

The cab came early at 12.45am, but by then we were onto Matt Monroe and I'd had it. I wished them a Merry Christmas again and we hugged and then I left, Tel waving me off from the road. If only every Boxing Day was like this. True, I'd've liked the football and, knowing him, Tel would've come for the Northampton game, despite his misgivings about the Town lately. But if this virus has taught me anything, it's that friendship and love and being with true friends is more important than a game of third tier footy in the wind and rain.

It's been a good Christmas after all. I'm glad it's over though. Back to reality, but temporarily back to life.
The Warky League 1 Report: Christmas (A)
at 20:08 25 Dec 2020

The Shepherds weren't watching their flocks as I meandered through the fields. There was no angel of the lord and glory didn't shine around. Mud did, as did muddy water and the odd squawking pheasant. December 24th 7.30am. The rain started as I left the house but then it ceased for a bit and the roads, wet with it, reflected the twinkling Christmas lights from the houses. The kerbs were saturated. I drove to the river and parked near the sluice gates, feeling self-conscious.

The white egrets and the cormorants tiptoed bashfully amongst the sodden mud beds of the river, hunting at dawn. The sheep in one of the fields huddled like old women at a bus stop. Soundless, except for the noise from the road and the wind. I came back with wet jeans and a muddy sock, my right, when I'd had to negotiate a stile and trodden heavily in a puddle at the other side. This didn't feel much like Christmas. No snow for a start. Just windy and wet and desolate.

Tesco was like one of the three ships. It came sailing into view, lit brighter than any neighbouring homes. The bloke on the till scanned my newspaper and my brown bread and jar of thick-cut marmalade without comment. I asked for sixty fags and he grimaced and reached for the cupboard they keep them in. I wished him a Merry Christmas and he sort of grunted and nodded, and then I was off, my mask obliterating the harsh mutterings of 'miserable bastard' I found myself saying as I walked back to the car. Just as well. This wasn't the festive spirit.

Balls to the rest of the morning. You're not interested in the minutiae of my breakfast, sat eating toast and glugging tea from the pot and reading about Tier 4 and the amazing Brexit victory that wasn't. You want Tel. Well, don't say I don't please you.

The car pulled up at 2.30ish. The horn beeped twice, then the passenger door opened and my front door suddenly erupted. "Bleedin' late in't'we?" said the YSL clad apparition in the door, all gelled hair and five 'o'clock shadow. He pointed to the wife in the driving seat. "Told 'er ter gitter act togevver. Don't bleedin' start 'ooverin' at 2pm. She din't achully 'oover anyfin' up. Just makin' sure the place looks clean for yer". He snorted with derision and took the countless carrier bags I passed him, stopping to eye the contents of a few. "Blimey. We 'ave GOT drink, yer knar, like, already?"

I locked the front door and got into the back of their SUV. Mrs Tel greeted me with a peck on the cheek. She smelled like she'd bathed in Anais Anais. She wore an unzipped powder blue fleece with her black Levis and a black t-shirt with spangled design on the front, which I couldn't see properly. We drove off. Tel pointed out the decorations down my street. "Looks like a bleedin' poor man's Vegas" he said dispassionately.

We arrived at theirs. They helped me cart the bags from the car to the bungalow. There were seven in total. Some were very heavy. Tel got those. They clinked and clanked all the way up the drive. Three bottles of champagne. A bottle apiece of Sambuca, some sh*t flavour of Baileys, a Green Chartreuse my dad gave me last year which might have gone off (hadn't sniffed it in months), a bottle of some bloody awful-sounding cocktail mix I found in Asda, a bottle of Chambourd someone in Birmingham gave me as a farewell present in September. "The Russian Roulette's lookin' good later!" enthused Tel as I unwrapped these beauties from the bags.

House rules: There were none. The Chinese was being delivered at 7pm. Tel circled the order, a set starter for four which included spare ribs, seaweed, chicken satay on skewers, prawn toasts, dim sum, a whole peking duck with pancakes and something ominous called 'Capital Pork'. "Iss only starters, like, 'cos thass wot we said, don't wanna overload yer guts wiv all that grease". He looked pleased with this. I prayed that we'd have started the 'Russian Roulette' games long before the food arrived so it could soak up the crap booze.

We had a beer. Mrs Tel had a Coke with ice, saving herself for the later onslaught. We sat at their dining room table discussing horse bets for Boxing Day. Mrs Tel watched something on the telly and then came back in and we played Jenga. I lost, but only because Tel jogged the table at my turn. The little wooden bricks fell crashing. Two went under the table, and I had the unedifying sight of three inches of Tel's arse crack over his jeans waist as he bent to retrieve them.

We then got the cards out. We were only playing for 20ps but then it got serious and suddenly we were all searching our wallets for pound coins. We'd started on the champagne by this stage. Taittinger, £25 in Tesco. "Not a bad drop" said Tel, drinking it like lemonade. I told him it was James Bond's favourite in the books and he preened himself a bit and then glugged back a glass and tried his infamous Sean Connery impersonation, which consisted of adding a 'shhh' to everything while sounding like a pissed Irishman. Miss Moneypenny being bossed by a slightly irate Ian Paisley.

Tel was fifteen quid up when he decided to go all in on his final hand. Twenty seconds later, I was a fiver up. He eyed my winning cards ruefully. "Bleedin' racked they were" he announced.

We finished the second bottle of Champers by five thirty. My head swam like a piranha chasing a chicken leg. Tel cheered up, a sure sign he too was in the old festive spirit. We played Concentration for money and I won that as well. Another three quid. Mrs Tel came and played pontoon with us. Money wasn't discussed. Then Tel won four hands in a row and suddenly it was. But his winning streak deserted him.

It was Russian Roulette Round 1 time by then. I set the drinks up, small shot glasses of nice booze versus slightly larger glasses of rubbish. The game was played with dice - roll any higher than a seven on two dice and you choose a drink from one to twenty. These included the rubbish alcohol.

We played for an hour. Mrs Tel retired after 10 minutes and a gobful of my Sambuca, which she rolled dangerously around her mouth before disappearing. By the end of the hour, Tel said he wasn't sure he'd ever drink Chambourd again and he didn't like Green Chartreuse. We had a beer to wash the taste away. I went for a slash and laid my fevered brow on the tiles near the cistern. The room now swam like my washer on full spin.

The food arrived. We ate it, slightly pissed. I gave the delivery bloke my winnings as a tip. He thanked me. I said Merry Christmas and took the bags from him while Tel paid him. It came to £85 all in so he gave him £100 and told him to keep the change. That's not a bad tip in all.

Mrs Tel and I went for a fag while Tel laid out the plates and the food and forked up the duck. She was drinking Vodka and Coke from a large Libby glass. "Nearly 'ad 'arf a bottle" she giggled as we lit up on the patio. She apologised for the Sambuca. I said I didn't blame her. "Never liked it, 'ad some at me friend's weddin' in 1986; she'd been to Greece and bought it back. Dun'like aniseed or lickrish". She swayed slightly into me as she talked. "We'll get some choons on later, 'ave a boogie like". She smiled coquettishly from the rim of her glass and had another puff from her diminishing ciggie. "Bit'o' Spandau an' Wham" she said, smiling. I smiled back. I was slowly getting hammered.

The food went quickly. Being starters, it was ideal. Small portions and lots of them, although only Tel touched the crispy seaweed and only Mrs Tel ate more than five duck pancakes. It all went. We cleared away and loaded the dishwasher and then opened the third bottle of Champers and we all had a toast for a Merry Christmas and then staggered out to the lounge where we sat, shoes off, and chatted drunkenly about Covid restrictions and Ipswich and told stories from our lives. Tel went off to fetch some old photos and seemed to be rearranging the bedroom as he did. When he returned, he was armed with two large cardboard boxes. Then we had an hour of nostalgia, with gritty, Kodak quality photos of Tel and Mrs Tel in the 1980's, he looking like a non-gipsy version of Kevin Rowlands from Dexys, she doing a sort of Goth vibe in all black, a bit of pert, creamy boob peeking out from the armhole of her sleeveless black Stranglers top.

Tel pointed out the scenes in London; them at parties where someone appears to have taken Mrs Tel by complete surprise judging by her slightly wide-eyed expression. He showed me one of them in their new newsagents in 1987, him now the very model of the sober business owner, she seemingly in thrall to the tight jeans and jumper look slightly younger middle-aged people succumb to when they reach thirty. There was a strange one of Tel and a very young Paula. The photo looked glossier and newer. "2004" said Tel. Me and my best-ever worker. She was brill, was P". I looked at the photo and this young, Kappa-trackied girl with a blowsy loose perm in her blonde hair and a look of slight panic stood next to a grinning, slightly fuller-haired Tel. He was pointing at the camera with both hands. He reminded me of that Kenny Everett character with the massive pointing fingers.

Then we danced. The settee was moved back, the armchairs moved and we created a reasonable space for three drunk people to shift a few shapes to some terrible '80's music. This started with "Young Guns" by Wham and degenerated from there to "The Safety Dance" via "No more Heroes", which I liked, but then got worse with "Karma Chameleon, Rock me Amadeus, Tarzan Boy, The Reflex, Wouldn't it be Good, You Spin me Round, Love and Pride, Chant No 1 and Lessons in Love". Then we had a few slow ones to catch our breaths. And suddenly, I was dancing with Mrs Tel, slowly, arms wrapped round each other to Frankie's "The Power of Love".

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're saying, or thinking, or whatever. The truth is, I couldn't avoid it. I was like Mowgli trapped by the hypnotism of Kaa. The record came on, we were near each other, she raised her arms up to me, we danced. Her breasts rubbed my stomach. She didn't let go. Tel smirked in the background. When it ended he put on "One More Night" by Phil Collins and they danced to that. "Thass 'ow yer do it son" he slurred. "Jus' in case by some miracle yer ever get married agin".

I felt very awkward, so went for a fag, Mrs Tel coming as well. We sat and smoked silently. Then she said "We danced to The Power of Love at our wedding, only not that version, which is the one we meant. Ended up wiv the Jennifer Rush one. Should'a made it more clear". She puffed at her fag. "Still, least it weren't Huey Lewis".

She smoked and then stubbed out the cigarette. I stood up, embarrassed a bit, to let her past me and she paused in front of me and said "Yer never too old, boy. Keep lookin' fer the right one. You'll find 'er. Wish you was ten years older and lived in East London though. You're a smashing bloke. It'll happen, probably when yer least expect it". And then she smiled at me, encouraging, like my mum did when I'd hurt something as a kid and come in for tears to be dried and a plaster. And it was nice, and I suddenly relaxed again and chided myself for ever thinking anything else.

We had another round of Russian Roulette. This time Tel won. We cut the Chartreuse and the Sambuca and the Chambourd. They went where they deserved to go. Down the sink. ""Ave the cleanest bleedin' drains in the street at this rate" said Tel, thoughtfully.

So here I sit now, at my parents, bloated from luncheon, not fancying cold Xmas pud and repeats of The Good Life on telly. The hangover was fierce but a round of social distancing at church at 10am and a fair walk through the chill coupled with a shared bottle of Krug opening pressies and a goodly dose of Alan Brazil's new tome with its reminiscences of Ipswichs I barely knew, have cleansed the soul and rejuvenated the body.

Back tomorrow with the Tel's for cold meats and probably cold turkey, although hopefully not because I fancy another good drink. More later. Merry Christmas.

The Warky Lg 1 Report: Happy Christmas (definitely Home)
at 11:42 20 Dec 2020

The ghosts of Christmases past came floating down the Stour last week. My early morning constitutionals, through the damp and the chill, shrouded by mists, wet of sock and trouser-bottom, marching on through the sound of raindrops on the hood of my cagoule (to recapture this experience yourself, walk a few times round your garden drumming your fingertips on the top of your head). The illicit couples who spring apart at the sound of my approach. The dogged dog walkers, calling to unseen pets away rummaging in dank woods. The people who purportedly walk for pleasure dressed like a cross between a regency buck and a condom.

This is Christmas for me. Yeah, so's wrapping the presents whilst listening to Carols from Kings on the telly on Christmas Eve, and sweet sherry in schooners with a home-made mince pie which is more crust than mincemeat, and old Bond movies whilst elderly relatives snore in chairs, their paper hats festooned over one eye, their top plates descending by infinite degrees to their chin. The washing up after the Christmas luncheon. The binning of the uneaten sprouts and carrots. The sneaked, illicit tots of dad's navy rum with a drop of Schweppes blackcurrant in it. The game of cards for tuppences, the squiffy but light-hearted accusations of cheating, the early evening cold meat sarnies and leaden lumps of cold Christmas pud in custard, the opening of that bottle of Liebfraumilch a canny and miserly elder relative bought for two quid 'to go with the dinner', the wrinkling nose of disgust at the sweetness of it.

As a kid, we went for walks a lot at Christmas, me and my dad. It was a great excuse for a breather from inconsequential chatter about Aunt's hysterectomy op or a cousin's undeserved good luck. We usually went down to the Stour or on the beach at Frinton, or just round the neighbourhood, depending on how much he'd drunk by the time we fancied it. I particularly remember the Stour walks, the frost on the ground, the odd person out walking a grizzled mutt. The swans gliding over on the still water, looking for grub. We gave them the rest of the mince pies one year. I think it was the year my nan made them and they brought on indigestion symptoms.

Sometimes we'd find a pub still open and he'd buy me a bitter shandy and we'd sit in the bay window on a church pew and exhale contentedly. The landlord, all Pringle jumper and Farahs and paper crown and clunky gold bracelet and Kouros fumes, would join us in a pint of best in a silver tankard and then we'd go back home in time for the Queen's Speech, a game of Monopoly or Frustration, dinner, Grandad's second world war stories, then later, Grandad's ghost stories, accompanied by Nan's (she once visited Borley Rectory in the early thirties. It sounds like it has the makings of a good story, but in fact, nothing actually happened. She 'just felt it').

Alas, they're dead now, my grandparents. Their stories went with them. I've shared a few of Grandad's on here in the past, but they were numerous and, I'm ashamed to say, I've forgotten some of them. He was the seventh child of nine, back in the days when it seems the only light entertainment available was shagging the wife.

Back to the present day and, as I prepare for a Christmas Eve with the Terries, I'm reminded of the Christmases past. Like Scrooge, they are tinged with the sort of romantic regret that all of us get when we remember. I never asked them to tell me more, my grandparents. Their greatest Christmas gift wasn't the messy day-to-day trivialities; the surreptitious farting after dinner, the hand-knitted pressies, the accompaniment of the big Christmas day film with mutterings of 'bleedin' load of old toot this is' and common-sense appraisals of the plot. No, it was their memories. Alas, I disregarded them.

Tel feels the same, although regret isn't a word or an action in his vocabulary. We haven't met this week, not had a chance. He had a potentially illegal visit from Tony, Sandy and the kids on Friday. The present exchange. "Forchoonatly the missus'd wrapped 'em" he told me on the phone afterwards. He was unavailable for yesterday evening as was I, so no curries or chinese. I was meeting friends in Colchester for drinks and nibbles at their new home. He still had Tony and his family. They had fish'n'chips last night.

"Be round yours at two on Fursdy so be ready" he said at our brief telephone parting. I'm working up to Wednesday, at home, on the laptop. I've got the pressies and the drinks and the odds and sods I'm taking with me. I've ordered the taxi to take me home at twelve midnight on Xmas Eve. "Missin' midnight mass then?" said Tel sounding surprised. Yes. Our local church isn't having one this year.

So Merry Christmas one and all. I'll be back to report on Christmas Day afternoon. The Warky Report live from my parents' home, sans relatives. It'll just be the Terry Xmas Eve experience if that's OK? He says he's ready for a "strange Chrissmuss Eve like". Hopefully, it'll be just like old times......

Warky - December 2020.
The Warky League 1 Report: Portsmouth (h)
at 11:58 13 Dec 2020

Gloomy weather. Essex to be put in Tier three so the pubs and restaurants shut. The Town. Sigh. It's been a difficult week. The weather hasn't helped; recent walks becoming a mini Maldon mud run, with me coming back home looking suspiciously like I've been roaming the nearby fields interfering with the livestock. "Ooh, Gerald, 'e's not 'ad a girlfriend fer a while, eiver, the dirty b*gger". The neighbourhood net curtains twitched. My washing machine shook like a sh*tting dog on the spin cycle.

At least my neighbours have entered into the general Xmas spirit. Most of the bungalows are lit like the Griswolds, with sparkling blue icicles and cheery multicoloured lights and little white lights in hedges and trees. Either they get up bloody early in these parts or they leave them on all night; either way I bet the electricity companies are rubbing their hands together with glee.

Tel has paid out our joint bet winnings, which is just as well considering my feathered friends are eating like gannets and costing me a small fortune in seed and pink briquettes of flavoured suet. I've got the fattest tits since Katie Price became Jordan. I'm amazed they can fly. Their fluttering wings sound like an emergency helicopter raid during Vietnam. I'd back them against sparrowhawks in a ruck.

So Tel paid the winnings, in fresh twenties all neatly stacked and then casually lobbed into a manila envelope which he gave me as we alighted at the restaurant, lest other diners suspected we were drug dealers. "Five fousand six 'undred'n'ateyfree quid and 67 pence total" he said proudly, businesslike. So we got two fousand'n' seven'undred each 'cos I cou'nt be bovvered wiv the spare two eighty free, an' we'll need a bit left in the account fer the King George and the boxing day footie". He smiled and became confidential. "The missus finks we're 'having a quiet Chrissmuss this year. 'Aven't told 'er yet. I'm treatin' 'er to a noo free-piece sweet. She's picked it out already in John Lewis. Leavver. Real Leavver'n'all" he added quickly as a small grin alighted on my face.

The envelope felt heavy in my hands. I transferred it to the inside pocket of my coat. "Don' get yer coat nicked or nuffink" said Tel, anxiously. I promised him I wouldn't. "D'yer want me to 'ang to it?". No I said. I've got a zip on the pocket. It'll be fine. Reassured, yet slightly twitchy, he led me into the Thai restaurant we'd chosen. I noticed with amusement that he insisted on putting my coat on its own chair, folding it neatly and then guarding it with his life when I left the table for a slash. He'd make a good security guard. Perhaps that's another future career move?

We ordered beers and they bought little bowls of hot-spiced nuts and prawn crackers with them. The waiter took our starters order, all smiling and friendly. "Probly knows yer've got the bigger part of free grand in cash in that coat" said Tel, paranoia automatically making the formal politeness seem sinister. He only relaxed when we left.

The prawn satay skewers came with fresh pineapple and a finely-sliced guava salad. "Good prawns these" said Tel, sticking the whole skewer in his mouth like a sword swallower and then pursing his lips on the end to remove the prawns in one. He looked like Dizzy Gillespie playing a rousting solo.

We had little pork pancakes, filled with a very spicy pork mix and garnished with chopped spring onions. We then had a small dish of sticky rice with spicy beef and bok choi and radishes grated on it. Tel despatched all and then despatched his bottle of Singha and ordered two more. He also ordered two more servings of the prawn skewers. He took it for granted that I'd want another couple. By the time we'd finished the starters, I was less sure I needed a main.

Tel's Pad Thai looked lovely. I had the Nasi Goreng with bang-bang cauliflower, which sounded like a Thai sex act but was actually florets of cauliflower covered in a light batter and deep fried with a fiery chilli sauce on the side. Tel started singing "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" when I ordered it. He made it sound slightly seedy. I don't think I can watch that film again, despite it being a childhood staple.

We had the foullest brandies known to man for dessert. Then we had a glass of Chivas Regal each to banish the taste. Then we had another. Then they brought the bill. Two hundred and forty quid. I reached for the pocket of my jacket but Tel made a wide-eyed prolonged head shake, like he was in the throes of epilepsy, and paid with his credit card. "Don' wannem seein' that!" he whispered violently as the waiter departed for the card reader. "Keep tha' under wraps fer gawd's sake! Never knar oo's wotchin' yer in 'ere". He looked at me like my dad used to when, as a kid, I'd messed something vital up. He did it when he heard my A level results back in 1992. And I got an A and two B's. Mind, it screwed up my place at Oxbridge.

We left and waited on the pavement for Mrs Tel. Terry was sucking on the chocolate minty thing they gave us with the receipt. "Nice choc'late" he muttered through sucks. "Tastes like a classy After Eight, this".

Mrs Tel eventually arrived and we piled in. I bent forward from the rear seat to give her a peck on the cheek, nearly herniating something as the gravitational force from the wad of notes pulled me like I was attached to a length of chain. "Nice meal?" asked Mrs Tel. Yes I said. "Ah paid, it was my turn" said Tel. "Good" said Mrs Tel, emphatically. "'E deserves a treat. Don'tchoo love?". I smiled and said a formal thank you to Tel and Mrs Tel. They both smiled back. There was a glint of a message in Tel's face as he turned to smile at me. It said "Don't you dare mention that cash to 'er". I nodded briefly at it and he relaxed again and launched into a paean of joy about his meal.

They dropped me at home. The Christmas lights had haloes round them, a sure sign I'd drunk a bit too much. I went and saw the Terries' Xmas decs the day before. I had a few beers and brandies with them and then got a lift home from Mrs Tel on her own. She needed to pop to Tesco for some more Diet Coke and a lemonade to make Snowballs. We talked on the way, the sort of derisory chat friends have when they're being polite. She asked me what I thought of their decorations and I was suitably complimentary, until she said, with a trace of asperity, "Terry diddem". Oh I said. "So you can be as 'onest as yer like" she said. I said they were very full-on, but he'd done the tree well. "Ah did the tree" she said, smiling. I felt like a small, trapped animal. So I shut up. She seemed disappointed by this. Or maybe embarrassed, like she'd said, or asked, too much. I've never been so glad to see the top of my street.

"I'm pleased yer comin' fer Chrissmuss, love" she smiled as I thanked her and exited the car. "Livens it up a bit fer me". I gave her the last four of the fags in my packet, knowing I'd got more indoors and my spare lighter. She took them gratefully. "They don' do tens no more" she said, apologetically. I noticed she was smoking one as she pulled away. Then I gave up the psychological struggle and went inside, much perplexed by the encounter.

Portsmouth on Ifollow. It needed booze, lots of booze. The single can of Estrella I'd laid next to the laptop seemed laughably inadequate. We were sh*t awful, the sort of crap that most Sunday League teams would only put on if they'd been out celebrating someone's birthday the night before. Pompey barely broke sweat. The small plugs of masked supporters in the stand booed at all the salient moments and otherwise were quieter than the cardboard representatives in the SBR.

It's not unexpected any more. That's what hurts. How blasé we've all become, how accepting of defeat. The club rolls on serenely like an out-of-control digger, crushing all before it, including hopes and expectation and quality. The scottish tvvat picks up his paycheque and probably laughs at the ease of it. Or perhaps he's really trying and this is the best he can get? Either way it's a scandal and an embarrassment for all concerned except the owner and the CEO. Even Mick Mills, in his blander-than-bland midlands accent sounds embarrassed by association with this turd of a club.

I clicked off before full-time, tired of the strain of watching us go through the motions. To be honest, I never meant to give another chance. I'm as daft as the rest of you. I care for the careless and the feckless and the meaningless platitudes that the owner fobs us off with when he feels he has to. It's all gone so wrong yet again. Nobody learns anything here. So why bother?

And yet.....I'm an Ipswich Town supporter. I've been here before. I should be used to disappointment and futility. I've had plenty of practice. So why now? Why again? I don't know. I never know. But I do care. Stupid, isn't it?

The Warky Lg 1 Report: Plymouth Argyle (a)
at 14:02 6 Dec 2020

It's funny how you look back on your formative years and think "What was I doing when I was ten?".

At ten, I was attending Portman Road for a first-ever game, buying an Ipswich replica shirt and scarf as a birthday treat from the shop on Portman Road where the away fans now sit. The shop was all cheap panelling and racks of shirts in 1984. We got there at 11am, Dad and me. I had birthday money from doting grandparents burning a hole in my C&A jeans. It seemed like a fortune then. Dad made me put £20 in my Junior Savers account at Barclays. They gave me a printed receipt and a smile. That was probably the last smile I ever got out of Barclays.

Shirt bought, I changed outside, exposing my hairless, pudgy little frame to the world as I put on my first replica shirt, the nylon blend sticking to rib and sinew, the label in the back tickling my neck. The "Pioneer" sponsors iron-on on the front came off after three washes. My mum's Hotpoint top loader was notorious for that. Spiderman's face, The Incredible Hulk's left arm, my nan's home knitted 'A Team' jumper, all went the same way.

Now, thirty-six years on, I remember the excitement of the game, the crowds, the pipe smoke, the Pizza Hut we had before the game in Ipswich, the novelty of choosing your own salad and going heavy on the potato salad and thousand island dressing, so that it looked less an appetising meal and more like something George the Hippo in Rainbow had shat on the studio floor before filming. Dad and I shared a little glass bottle of 7-up in the ground. He kept it in his coat pocket. It was like drinking warm lemony piss.

We were happy. I certainly was. Russell Osman played a blinder and scored. Eric Gates' locks glinted in the April sunshine. The crowd in the North Stand rippled and swayed forward like the tide at Walton. A 1-0 win. Back to the car with my Ipswich Town carrier bag and a swagger in my step.

It made me think of those days, this week. I have cancelled my season ticket DD. I'd've bitten your arm off for a season ticket when I was ten. Literally chewed flesh just for the opportunity. We lived a long way from Ipswich back then. It was a bit of a drive from home, down the A12, my dad moaning about the traffic at the Belstead turn-off. I can trace my life and loves through Ipswich home games. First hangovers, first girlfriend, first marriage, divorce, self-doubts, jobs. Now here I am, at that crossroads, my support tested to the limit, the sadness at something that has been an ever-present throughout those thirty-odd years suddenly waning.

It's been a week of this, funnily enough. Tel has turned down the opportunity to work with his brother-in-law as a plasterer. It didn't sound like a serious offer, and I think he's disappointed and his pride has kicked in as a result. "Told 'im nah" he said, dismissively as the poppadoms arrived and the obsequious waiter went back for the metal server of chutneys and chopped raw onion. Tier two meant a return to the Indian on Friday night. We ate substantially and they brought us beer in scratched Kingfisher pint glasses, the bird missing a beak or a wing. I wondered if their dishwasher was a Hotpoint.

Tel was in fair spirits. He was glad he turned down the invitation of a week's plastering in January. "Din't need all tha'" he repeated as we ordered, the plastic xmas tree twinkling in the corner and the plain gold and silver decorations on the walls belying the time of year. The tree looked good from afar, all alternating lights and sparkly globs of silver tinsel. When I got up for a slash, I walked past it and noticed it needed a dust. Still, you couldn't see that from where we sat.

Tel went over the plans for Christmas with me, his black Bic hovering over a scrap of paper. He's paying out the bet money next weekend. £2450 each. 'It could be more'o'course; we've still got the weekend footy bet and we've 'ad a tip fer a race on Wens'dy. Could easily be anuvver ton each". He sipped his beer reflectively. "Still, aint bad".

We've booked a better restaurant next Saturday night. Tel's Ladbrokes account pays him within 4 hours of a withdrawal, so he'll go to the bank to withdraw on Friday. I don't need to worry about Christmas this year. Or the new year. He's in Braintree for New Year's Eve and Day. "Tone wants us darn there fer champers and nibbles an' that. He's not one to bear a grudge. 'E knows I can't plaster professional-like". I'm working New Years Eve and then I'm at a friend's for the night.

Mrs Tel picked us up at ten, her hair gleaming brown and blonde tips, her Christmas sweater an angora froth of reindeer and gold bells. She was playing a "Now that's what I call Christmas" CD in the car, so we got the last thrashings of The Darkness and then the Moog synths of Paul McCartney leadenly lumped in. The Moon was bright and the spirits up. We'd had a brandy or two each. Tel switched the play track over and said "Always loved this'un, me' and we got a warble-sounding Bing Crosby doing "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas". It had done that morning. It snowed. I know. I was walking in it.

My walk covered a few woods and a slushy pathway. It was cold, dark, snowing, silent except for the odd pheasant clucking and an unidentified bird howling in a tree, possibly a barn owl, possibly a pterodactyl. I slipped twice. Didn't go over, but aquaplaned a bit. My knees creaked like the doors in a haunted house movie. I had a fry up when I got home. My hair dripped cold water and my trousers slowly dried.

The Terry's dropped me at home and then, for a change, came in to admire my decorations. I gave Mrs Tel a glass bottle of Diet Coke and Tel a large brandy. I switched the tree lights on and they invested the living room with a warm glow. "Blimey, done a treat 'ere innee?" said Tel. They've had theirs up for a week. I've not seen them yet. Tel said to come round next week so I will.

Mrs Tel and I had a fag on my patio. I dried the metal chairs with a tea towel and then shoved it in the washer. It was cold, slightly wet but not raining and the smoke drifted over next door and dissipated. She shivered and pulled her lambswool jacket closer around her. We sat and chatted about Tel and turning down that job with Tony. "Ah don' mind" she said. "E's never liked DIY. Madness 'im even finkin' abart it". She tapped the ash from her fag on to the grass near her chair. She eyed me candidly. "D'you ever fink 'o' remarryin'?" she asked. Surprised, I said no, not lately. My last amour was ages ago; it faded because I'm not really sure what I want any more. She nodded and smiled. "Yer better off wivout I fink sometimes". I nodded back and smiled. Then she stubbed out and I stubbed out and we went back inside.

Tel was reorganising the baubles on my tree. He twiddled with another and then stood back, critically examining his work. "Looks bedder that" he said, triumphantly. I said thanks and he smiled fatuously. "Do all ours at 'ome. Ah've just got this eye ferrit". He winked and bent down to switch the lights on. It did look better. Less clumpy. The lights caught the sparkly bits on the baubles as they twirled and made the room look like a cheap discotheque in Romford. I made a mental note to move them back when he'd gone.

They left at eleven. I finished off the brandy bottle and went to bed.

Yesterday was up early, papers, breakfast, tea, walk, shopping, pub lunch. I got back at three. Came on here. 1-0 down. No surprise. Just a blow upon a bruise. I switched off and went for a tidy up. Switched Sky Sports on at 4.30pm and we were winning 2-1. Blimey. Plymouth had someone sent off. Oh. It all became clear. Someone obviously important. We held on. I felt no twinge of happiness. Surprised at this, I looked for other scores. Scum won. Forest lost. Sunderland lost at home to Wigan. And then I just couldn't be bothered any more. Lassitude overcame me and I reached for the Sky remote and the red wine and sat supping and watching the West Ham game.

And, deep inside, something that has remained with me for more than thirty years, something small but important and a part of me that could still feel, and hope, and dream, mourned. And I told it, wait. This isn't my fault. It's something else. Someone or something has led to this happening. And it sighed and turned away, sad-eyed. But it hasn't left. It's still there, waiting.
The Warky Lg 1 Report (dedicated to Phil Ham): Charlton (h)
at 12:28 29 Nov 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We're crap and lightweight - mitigating circumstances be damned
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