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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I was glad he was back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry - it's been a while.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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