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The Warky League 1 Report: Fleetwood Town (H)
at 20:13 9 May 2021

There was no fancy dress, no inflatable beach balls being palmed around the crowd, no shirtsleeves, no 'final pint before I go up', no Luke in his seat, with his skinny jeans round the tops of his legs, no Dolly with his hipster beard and french onion-seller t-shirt, no guzzled pre-match drinks in Yates, no final day lap of honour by the players and their kids, no seagulls swooping dangerously around the burger stall by Sir Alf, or rousing chants of "Blue Army" in the underpasses.

The final day of a deeply disappointing season passed on my PC, just like all the others I've bothered watching have. Home has its advantages, true; cheaper booze and food, no negotiating the railways or route-marching down to the pub, no piss-taking banter about haircuts or fatter guts. But the atmosphere is awful. The pre-match build up consists of swigging from a bottle of suds and trying to copy the I-follow link from one web page to another.

I didn't have Tel either, despite his promises on Friday, when we sat in my kitchen sucking duck bones from the Peking Roast and wiping up blobs of hoi-sin sauce with a poised finger. "Not doin' nuffink on Sundy" he said nonchalantly, eyeing the unopened bag of prawn crackers with longing. True, he's not been the most steadfast of Town fans for a few years now, but the last game? I just thought he'd be there. Instead, I got the inevitable phone call with the excuse ("din't knar it kicked off at twelve, me'n'the wife are goin' to Tesco, like, need some shoppin' an' she needs a new ironin' board, so...."). In truth, it's a sign of how far we've fallen.

I was having roast pork later. Between the end of the second half and the start of the Grand Prix to be exact. In the end, I had it at five. I'd bought a pork loin joint in case Tel fancied a bit of lunch/dinner, and made a nice apple sauce with pink lady apples and a drop of brandy. Pork's not bad cold, I suppose. Plenty for sarnies tonight and tomorrow.

Friday, after a week of frustration with home-working and the inability of Brummies to understand an Essex accent on Zoom, was the end of a week spent back doing something productive rather than taking increasingly solitary walks around local countryside and getting drunk at 5.30pm. Tel arrived at six, we had a snifter at mine and then went down the local for three or four more and to (ostensibly) wait for our chinese to be cooked. We sat in the warm damp of the beer garden, amongst London workers relaxing in suits and strangely mottled locals, sipping beers and shorts. We ordered the Chinese at 7.30. It takes them at least 40 minutes to cook it and they text me when done. It's about a five minute walk from the pub.

We left at dead on eight to collect and then, as Tel was moaning about back ache after finally installing his garden fountain, got a cab back to mine. It was a bit lazy; my place is a 20 minute walk. The cab driver eyed us with open derision when I told him the address. Tel was happy though.

"Larse game'o'the season?" said Tel, speculatively, when I mentioned it. "Sundy'n'all?" He shattered a prawn cracker with a bite and then chomped, noisily, as though eating coal. "Yeh. Aint up to nuffink on Sundy. Wife wants some shoppin' so it'll probly be Tesco an' that tomorra, so...yeh..could do". This was an affirmative in his parlance. He'd have hedged his bets if offered a place on a lifeboat on the Titanic.

We got merrily drunk and Mrs Tel arrived at eleven and graciously accepted my offer to come in and had a Coke with ice while we polished off the remnants of the bottles. I don't think she's well if I'm honest. Tel mentioned she needs more tests on her pelvic floor, but, thankfully, forbade to give more details. She walked gingerly and her kiss on my cheek was a little peck, like a small, frightened bird might give. She looked drawn. I was a bit ashamed Tel had asked her out so late to collect him. She looked like she should have been at home in bed, resting.

So I worried a bit and to be honest, I'm still worried. Tel poo-poohed it on the phone this morning, with an easy reassurance, but to me, she looked unwell. I hope I'm wrong and she was just tired. Anyway...

So yesterday it rained like a monsoon and I couldn't be bothered walking in it so stayed in and read the papers and watched Derby jammily stay in the Championship, and Waggy in tears at the end and all that. I wish we still had Waggy. I sometimes wish we'd kept Matt Clarke, only he looked a bit of a prawn in their defence.

And on to today, and that phone call from Tel, and the little heft of disappointment which then became resignation as I fired up the old laptop and wondered if I could possibly write a report before the game, given how it would likely end 0-0 with many people offering tearful two-fingered farewells to many of our players on here, or maybe offer to drive Keenans Bennetts back to Stansted for the next flight to Germany, preferably in their boot.

And lo, we were brilliant and attacked with purpose and scored three in twenty-odd minutes and it was as if the last laugh was from this overpaid, overhyped bunch of wasters after all. Finished ninth in League One, below the superior teams of Blackpool (who we beat twice), Sunderland (who are as consistent as rancid piss), Lincoln (fair do's but they are our bogey side and should've won automatic anyway) and Oxford United, who always make any failings look Mickey Mouse. Even Portsmouth, play-off certs in their last game at home to an Accrington side that stutters worse than Arkwright, even Portsmouth who played like a League Two side and were deservedly beaten 1-0 at home, even Portsmouth got three more points than us.

As The Stranglers sang, Something Better Change. And it will. New players, hopefully more play like today, better players who actually try and strive and compete and don't look like they're one pay day away from coaching half-assed kids in some academy or fitting kitchens.

We can dream. Only this time, the dreams may come true.

Have a good break

The Warky League 1 Report: Swindon Town (a)
at 12:54 2 May 2021

"So it's Thai then innit?" asked Tel, rhetorically, as we studied the takeaway menus online. Friday 11.30am, his place, Mrs Tel away in Braintree Freeport buying "the usual tat" according to her husband, who said it with the sneer of a man who had long ago accepted this as his lot in life.

It certainly looked like Thai. Bored with Indian, and having had Chinese last week, the joint tastebuds were craving a new experience, one which combined spice, crunch and freshness with the familiar grease and grime of a curry or a Chicken Chow Mein with pineapple.

The pub loomed. Not our usual haunt though, as we're also tired of that. The beer garden is normally a den for smokers and ne'er-do-wells who want to escape the saloon. The tables are sticky, the seats splintery; they make a sort of groan when sat on, which for me is a better gauge of my weight than any scales. The louder the bench groan, the fatter the arse. We fancied proper summer chairs and tables unencumbered by faded and stained umbrellas advertising popular soft drinks. So we went to the next local.

The next local fancies itself. If it were human, it would be David Beckham, plebeian but with added gloss and carefully manicured. The outdoor seats were placed under a marquee, which flapped and rattled in the wind. It had a nice view of the Stour estuary. It still had Fosters on tap, along with three ales it euphemistically called "Real' and which included Broadside, Timothy Taylor Landlord (which was off, as the barmaid explained as though talking to a small, idiot child) and John Smith's. The lagers were the aforementioned Fosters, the wife-beater, and San Miguel, which Tel opted for after a long, internal argument as to the merits of Stella.

I settled for an Aspalls. This tasted a bit like a car battery to start with, but got sweeter as I drank. The barmaid, unasked, added two massive lumps of ice in it. Fortunately she didn't bother with a lager and blackcurrant cordial top. Yes, it was THAT kind of boozer.

We watched a couple of seagulls loudly scrapping, until one flew off, wheeling, with something in its beak. "Got a chip" murmured Tel. Then "Sh*te'awks love chips, don' they?". When David Attenborough dies, he'd be a shoo-in for nature documentaries. "Ah'm 'ere in this jungle, bleeding 'ot'n'sweaty it is, an' look, there's a monkey wiv a big red arse on it. They love chips, they do".

My week off following birthday celebrations was a week of curious abstinence from society. I went in to Ipswich town centre on Thursday afternoon, ostensibly to look through the 80% reduction jumble sale that was Debenhams for a pair of jeans and a nice shirt. The town was quiet, and mostly Eastern European voices blasphemed and bounced from the walls of the great Citadel. The dusty roads and the water sprinkler in the middle of Cornhill made it vaguely unseemly, like those dreams I have where I'm somewhere supposedly familiar but can't find anything. I bought the jeans and a nice grey Jasper Conran shirt for £40 the pair and then went seeking the car, unwilling to remain for more time in this strange town of empty-ish shops and market trader stalls selling fag papers and brown fruit.

I had an afternoon pint at The Bull in Brantham and then came home, pleased to have got what I went for, saddened at the lack of positive energy in this post-lockdown public space. Mrs Tel is off for her hospital treatment next week. She'll be in for one night, The Oaks in Colchester, having her genitals prised open with metal rods and scraped, as Tel succinctly put it on Friday, for tests. He's arranged a pub meeting on the Thursday night when she's in. We'll have dinner there. Hope it doesn't rain. I'll probably get the blow-by-blow account of Mrs Tel's medical procedures then. Must remember to avoid the fish.

Yesterday was a good day. Awoke at six, walked with the early dog-walkers and the nutters, got a paper and a pint of milk and a loaf and some bacon from Tesco, came home and made bacon sarnies with HP sauce and a big pot of tea and sat reading the Times until ten. Had a clear-up, did my washing and ironing, watched Sheffield Wednesday draw 0-0, did some work on the laptop, then tuned in to Sky for the 3pm's. Tel avoided the Ipswich game in the weekly bet. "Gotta win one aint we?" he said, with the foresight of Zoltar the machine from Big. In the end, he was right. His bet was also a good'un. £269.

There were no highlights on Sky as Norwood crashed in the opener and then the second. Shame, as they had highlights of just about everywhere else, including Sarfend's attempts to beat the drop. Again, I thought, we'll show 'em next season. They'll be cooing over us like they have the Scum this year. We'll be their favourite little club. My day dreams are based on us running at teams like a rampant Barcelona, perhaps winning the title in February, de-boned of the losers who let us down this and in previous seasons. The mouth waters at the prospect of being there to see the renaissance. Then the earth comedown starts with the whispers of us retaining some of the crap. Let's hope not.

The Thai was lovely as well. You were right, the sirloin steak was a stunner, as was the Pad Thai and the duck thing spelt like prick that Tel laughed at before asking me to make the order as he didn't find it consistent with his dignity to be ringing some Thai woman to ask if they had prick. In the end, it wasn't a Thai woman who answered. It was an Englishman, business-like and clearly experienced in handling people who had difficulty pronouncing the names of dishes.

We ate on my Kitchen table, the bottles of Estrella iced and the brandy calling us from my drinks cupboard. We ate the lot, save for a few coriander stalks and a bit of rice. Tel departed with Mrs Tel, fresh from Freeport and wearing a black leather bomber jacket and a Clash T-shirt and dark blue Levi's. She didn't walk like a woman with problems in the old gusset. Mind you, she didn't exactly walk too far either. Their car roared away with hands out of windows waving goodbye.

Nearly at the end of another season. Been a strange one, this. Not set eyes upon Portman Road, except for the faintest glint of floodlights from the Orwell Bridge and from Cardinals car park. It's like seeing the Mary Celeste dock at Felixstowe. You know it's there, but you also know it's ethereal. Hopefully, the team playing in it will be a darn sight less ghostly next season.....

What should Tel and I have from the Thai tonight?
at 17:19 1 May 2021

Takeaway as no outdoor seating......


The Warky Birthday League 1 Report: AFC Wimbledon (H)
at 12:37 25 Apr 2021

Yes - 47 years young today.....it seems longer. Now teetering towards fifty, when I'm supposed to have officially grown up and checking my pension pots and worrying about the grey hairs amongst those in my nethers and on my bonce.

This morning's walk was chilly but fresh, the wildlife reticent except for the dogs being walked. A buzzard took off in fright from a field, soaring up to the heavens on fingered wings. A kestrel hovered near the towpath, head bent, watching something small and furry. Two dog owners grunted 'Mornin's' at me as I passed. I'm becoming known. I might even have my own nickname. My money's on 'fat plonky Harry-no-dog'. That's what I'd call me if I saw me coming at 7am on a Sunday.

I've given them nicknames (clearly ignorant of real names as we don't stop for a chat, which is something very modern and bad mannered). There's the bloke who looks like 80's Spurs striker Steve Archibald, with his greyhound/whippet thing that seems scared of me and therefore gives me a massively wide berth, even venturing into nearby fields to avoid contact. He's 'Archibald's Ghost' due to his wan complexion and habit of never uttering a sound. We've got 'Proud Mary', an overweight women with an arse like two beachballs ('Big wheels keep on turnin'") who rolls to the river and has an overbearingly loud voice when she calls her spaniel Rusty ("Oi Rusty, 'ere!"). Then there's 'Captain Beaky', a bloke with a big hooter who wears a Chelsea baseball cap and walks a friendly Staffie he calls Sid who cocks his leg a lot (Pissing Sid). There are others, but they haven't earned a nickname yet. They're yer crowd cast.

Tel celebrated my birthday with me last night, a paean of several pints in the pub from five, followed by a taxi back to his and a Chinese takeaway of such proportions that my belches still taste of chilli sauce and aromatic fried stuff this morning. We met in the pub on Friday as well, sat outside in the sun, the breeze rippling the Coke umbrella at our table. "Nicer now 'e's cut the bleedin' grass innit?" said Tel, dipping an index finger into his pint of Estrella to remove an adventurous insect of some description. The pub was half-full with people who looked like walkers, enjoying liquid refreshments after a slog around the Constable trail, backpacks slung carelessly on seats. One bloke even ordered a mineral water with a straight face. "Bleedin' warter in a boozer" said Tel contemptuously. The food, a strange mix of traditional pub fare and the deep-fried exotica of Iceland (not the country- the cheapo supermarket), kept coming on plates and dishes doled out by the face-shielded staff.

The bloke who picked us up in the Taxi was Liam, one of the local drivers we've had before, a man whose wife left him in mysterious circumstances last year and was never seen or heard of again. Tel thinks he murdered her. No, sorry, Tel is convinced he murdered her. He's wary around Liam as a result, lest an unguarded word should suddenly, like the Incredible Hulk, make him angry. So we passed the drive to Tel's ("'E knars where ah live'n'all" said Tel, meaningfully) having upbeat conversations which sounded a bit banal, like Geoffrey from Rainbow to Bungle.

Mrs Tel greeted me at their door with a kiss and a hug. She smelt like she'd showered in neat Anais Anais, her black Levi's and classic "The Jam" T-shirt a bit looser than I'd remembered. We went for a cigarette, Mrs Tel trailing behind as I opened their patio doors, Tel gone for drinks. The patio was a bit messy as they're having a fountain installed in the garden, but the chairs were out and we lit up, me pretending to admire the base of the new fountain which was, in truth, just three concrete breeze blocks cemented together.

"Lovely innit?" she said, looking up at the cloudless climes. I nodded. She asked me if I was pleased to nearly be a year older, and I replied, honestly, that like every other birthday, nothing felt different. I'd had previous birthdays which were a pleasure; the trip to Barcelona with the wife on my 40th, the night in London when I awoke in a strange woman's bed on my 30th. I've also had bad ones; the sickness and diarrhoea after my 21st, the hospital stay for major surgery on my 17th, the food poisoning episode on my 28th in Portugal. I can remember great times with the Town on my birthday; winning promotion at Oxford United on my 18th in 1992, the play-offs in 1999. As a child, my birthday treat was a trip to PR around this time if they were at home. I watched us beat Oxford in 1986 to nearly stay up. They were better days.

The Terry's bought me a cake, one with the Ipswich badge sugar-pasted on the top which I took home as no-one fancied a bit after the Chinese. They also bought me a bottle of Taittinger champers, a bottle of George Clooney's tequila (Casamiras) and a bottle of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc. I thanked them profusely. Tel said "Well, yer catchin' us up aint ya? Need to start drinkin' proper booze at your age, you do. I'm sick'o' seein' yer drop them Guinnesses. Bleedin' Mick muck".

Mrs Tel is going into hospital for her yearly "Ladies Things" check next week. The appointment came with more leaflets about Covid prevention than I'd seen in my local GP Surgery. She seems unfazed by it all, accepting it as a requirement of her condition, which I've never really asked too much about. It involves terms like 'pelvic floor' and 'uterine disengagement measurement". It's 'down there'. That's all I need to know.

We hugged again as I left. I didn't watch the Town draw 0-0 again. Balls to that. Even as a birthday tradition, it seemed pointless. That's the shame of it all; I never missed a game around my birthday, even when we were so bad it was a foregone conclusion. Tel had us for the draw on the footy bet again, so at least someone's happy. I'm off to my parents in a mo for Sunday lunch with champagne and a few pressies and a stay there tonight so I can sleep off the excess of wine and whisky. He'll give me the gentle piss-take about the fortunes of my footy club, probably with a tinge of sadness at the futility of it all, with Super Leagues in the offing and another season becalmed in mid-table in a league where even the crappest team can succeed if they fight a bit.

Take care folks. See you soon.

Warky - 25th April 2021 - aged 47 years 0 days.
Saving themselves for whichever League Two/National League teams want them
at 17:03 24 Apr 2021

Let's face it, they won't be offered contracts at League 1 level. Not with their track record of utter indifference.

I don't really give a frig about who takes us forward
at 18:51 22 Apr 2021

Just as long as they all work together to do what we need. I hope a lot of these players depart, I hope we have a plan in place to replace them, I hope.... Sorry if this reads like Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption, but I seriously, seriously hope we have a plan in place and that this plan will make us great again. At least as far as League One/Lower Championship is concerned.

F**k the other surmising. It helps no-one. Let's please become at least a competent team....
The Warky Super League 1 Report: Erm..fingy Athletic (a)
at 10:37 20 Apr 2021

The most important highlight of the last two weeks, aside from losing heavily at Wimbledon and the vanity of calling your barber to book a stupid time for that long-awaited trim on the old Barnet, was that pubs were allowed to reopen. Well, I say 'pubs'. Sitting on a cracked wooden bench sipping a chalice filled with foaming, pricey amber refreshment and repeatedly checking your trainers for dogsh*t sounds less pub than a 'picnic with cans' in some litter-strewn brownfield. Still, we went. It was a novelty last week.

Tel was cautiously optimistic. Our local pub garden is about as child-friendly as Pennywise the Clown. The grass is long, and wet. The brambles snaggle and trail, minor triffids that devour fences and the odd unguarded finger. The wooden benches are splinter-inducing, carelessly varnished, uncomfortable to sit at, the Coke umbrellas as stained as a sixty-a-day smoker's teeth. The sand pit, an attempt at attracting the very young and their inebriated parents is now a khazi for all the local strays.

In this idyll, people with varying stages of cheap full arm tattooing sit mournfully, inspecting pints before committing to the sip, just in case a wasp decided to swim in it unchecked. The staff all look like Bane from Batman, especially the women. Tel slurped his pint of Estrella ("ooh, 'Strella on tap, never seen that artside Spain, like") and munched on a plastic bowl full of curly fries and chicken wings. It all felt like ennui. The weather was nice enough though. We sat in light summer coats and felt ne'er a clout, except when it started drizzling. Then we 'retired to the snug', a canvas lean-to which brought to mind early '80's childhood camping holidays in Cromer and that smell you got when you walked into the tent from the heat outside. It was roomy enough for 6 people to stand watching the rain subside while sipping pints and talking b*llocks. The fag ends accumulated on the barbecue patio, flicked by people with tufts of smoke erupting from nostrils.

Tel was in his element, which slightly disappointed me. Like a horse freed from the reins and the bridle, he snorted and rolled and cavorted, pint in hand, the beer buzz kicking in. "Shoulda done this a year ago" he kept saying, which was odd because pubs were open a year ago and you could sit in the relative comfort of the saloon bar rather than the great English outdoors. People nodded in agreement, blindly, perhaps stupefied by the heady mix of lager from a glass and food they didn't have to microwave themselves.

We switched from ale to brandy and the artifice of the seasoned piss-head became complete. The ice tinkled and rattled with each sip and the world became mellow. "Might get me Qualcast up 'ere for a mow" said Tel with a jaundiced look at the ankle high grass. "You still got that strimmer?" he said to me. I nodded, dumbly, wondering when the reality had finally kicked in after months spent romanticising this very moment; the pubs reopening and the fun we'd have.

Last Wednesday was a bit of a downer. We agreed to meet in the pub at 6.30pm after I'd finished work for the day at home. Tel had seen the AFC Wimbledon score the night before. He now backs Town to draw on his betting slip, so the result made him moan a bit more than usual. "Free-Bleeding' Nil to tha' lot" he said with scorn. The anticipated end-of-season clear out can't come quickly enough.

The pub was packed and we had to stand out the front, self-consciously, away from the passing traffic. Jamie the landlord bought out a table and two chairs from the pub and sat us near the car park entrance, below the dying potted plants and behind the gate to the car park. It looked like an afterthought and felt like it as well. We drank desultory early pints and discussed the Friday night takeaway. Tel fancied curry. He always does when he hasn't had one for a while. He thought a chicken vindaloo and extra keema naan were in order for a stomach that had become used to the wife's home cooking.

I had my hair cut last Saturday. The great tufts I left as I dismounted the chair were alarming. They brought to mind a charity head-shave we'd once had in the office. The barbers watched wall-to-wall coverage of the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral as they snipped and shaved. Gone are the days of polite conversation about holidays booked and was the wife alright? Or the new motor they'd considered putting a deposit down for. This was done in near silence, the face mask a convenient aide to the cessation of inanities. Huw Edwards' voice was the only discord, framed by shots of men in Military garb doing what looked suspiciously like goose-steps as they blew tuneful fart-like noises on trumpets and bugles and the odd tuba.

Tel admired my hair cut on Saturday evening in the pub. He stopped short of slapsies on my naked head, but his remark of "Blimey, get it glued back. I can see yer now" was met with the disdain it deserved. He went for his last week. It looked good, admittedly. "Sadie, the wife 'ad 'er in ter do 'er 'ighlights an' she 'ad a spare five minutes so she agreed to do mine". It looked sleek and glossy. I tried to ruffle it, in an attempt at jocularity, but he was too quick and his retort of "bleedin' wotch it" was too near the truth to be thought jocular.

Friday night was a curry fest. That's all I can say. We over-ordered (I paid, it was my turn so he was in charge of the ordering) and they threw in free extras so I had loads left over for Saturday morning breakfast. I like cold curry. The Naan's were a bit stale and the poppadoms had lost their crunch but it was lovely nonetheless. We drank beer and brandy and Southern Comfort with ice and Mrs Tel arrived to collect her ward at eleven and we embraced and I admired her newly-blonded tips and the cherry and teak coloured strands which wove through her hair. It was shorter and more shapely than during lockdown, almost an elfin bob. She's lost weight, I noticed, as she climbed back into the driving seat and started the engine. She looked good for it.

I didn't watch the Charlton game. To be honest, I probably won't bother now. We're a pale imitation of the team that at least tried last season and the earlier part of this. Just counting down the days to the releases/sales and the new influx, as surely it must be, despite Paul Cook's blandishments of enjoying watching that load of underachievers draw 0-0 again.

Going through the motions, we are. In all walks of life. Even the universal outrage over the ESL thing in the media is blasé. Football, in this house, died a death years ago. Even the local Spurs fans won't be watching the EFL Final on Sunday in the pub garden, despite Jamie trying to get the 70" telly out there. Bigger fish to fry. It'll be cans at home in the relative warmth and security without the face masks or the dogsh*t. Some lockdown behaviours aren't as easy to change.
The Warky League 1 Report: MK Dons (H)
at 12:51 11 Apr 2021

Another walk with Tel. Yesterday at 7am, he arrived, dressed for the chill in puffa jacket, thicker jeans (these were Cotton Traders he bought online. "Needed a pair for ruff, din't I?" he said when I pointed out they weren't Levi. He never said what sort of rough) and tatty Adidas black trainers.

We set off down to the river at Cattawade and then over to the old ICI factory site to walk along the Stour as far as it went. Up back into Brantham, back to Cattawade and home, him pausing every ten minutes to wipe what he said was dog poo off his trainers. This done to his satisfaction on a patch of long grass, we meandered back to Manningtree and thence back to mine.

The promise of a cooked breakfast spurred him on up Cox's Hill and we arrived back at my house with a noticeable eagerness on his part for me to "git that front door unlocked an' git inside ter get them pans on". He removed his trainers "Just in case I never wiped 'em completely, like" on my front door mat and left them to stew in the sun, wisps of steam rising from the inner soles. "Ope no-one nicks 'em" he said, concerned. I nearly mentioned Sitters. It was on the tip of my tongue, but then I thought he wouldn't know what I was on about and this saved me. He'd have said "Oo?" and then looked at me as if I'd gone a bit doolally. He doesn't read TWTD. At least, I hope he doesn't.

The duties were divided accordingly. I cooked the sausages, bacon, eggs, fried tomatoes and beans. He did the toast and made a pot of tea. Then he decided he'd rather have a 'nice bit'o'fried bread wiv it' and so the toast went for a burton and he laid the table instead. He fetched the condiments and the table mats and then spent an age lining them up so they were perfectly square. It made him look a bit 'OCD' to be honest. He supervised the cooking ("turn them snags, they're bleeding' burnin', don' forget the iggs'n'all, I like me beans a bit over if yer knar what ar mean?"). I finally served it onto two plates and we sat at my kitchen table. He forgot the milk for the tea. I made a sarky comment and he said "You only 'ad one job ter do, don' forget".

We ate, messy about the mouth and table mat, him pouring the tea so it made a sound like the first piss of the morning. The windows fugged with condensation and a robin looked in from the sill on my kitchen window with eyes of longing. We saved the bacon rinds for him.

We washed up. I don't have a dishwasher any more. It broke down once too often and in a rage, I took it down the tip. It was the ex-wife's, so the destruction of it had a certain satisfaction.

Tel put down his knife and fork, an unused glob of HP still adorning his plate. He belched and sat back in his chair, picking his teeth with a fingernail. "Don't 'ave a fry up at 'ome, wife in't bovvered, says it smells too much" he said by way of thoughtful conversation. "Probly taken five years off me nachural, that, still, issa treat after that route march you took me on". We drank the rest of the slowly-stewing tea in the pot and then he bid me a good day and drove back home. He's having his garden done next week and Mrs Tel wants it looking shipshape before they arrive, hence the 'rough' clothes and the putting it off by coming for a walk with me.

He didn't come over Easter. They went to Braintree instead. Tony and Sandy and the kids, a "pretty nice" Chinese takeaway and all the accoutrements of Easter, the Cadbury's eggs, the Sunday roast lamb'n'mint sauce, the daffs in a vase. I was seeing friends on Friday so couldn't make that. Our next takeaway will be down the pub next Friday, in their beer garden. I bet it's wet next week.

So the walk was the first time we'd laid eyes on each other for a fortnight, and he was in good form. Mrs Tel is fine. He's got a possible job on with Tony in May, stripping wallpaper and painting walls on housing estates in Witham. "Free 'Undred sovs fer free days work, can't be bad" he said, looking smug. We discussed our Grand National bets and he did Minella Times for fifty quid at 14/1. I did twenty on Cloth Cap. He hasn't rubbed it in yet.

I didn't watch the footy yesterday. Couldn't be bothered. I went for another walk instead and then went to Waitrose for some shopping. My fridge has started making an unearthly buzzing noise which stops when you open the door. Might need a new one. Still it's working. Everything's as cold as it should be.

I saw the result when I came in. 0-0. Expected. Won another fifty quid so it made up for my Grand National. Tel rang me just before the Grand National started. "Bin sortin' out the garden, wife's gettin' on my wick wiv all the stuff she wants movin'. Good footy results for us, weren't they?" I didn't know. "Yeah" he said, a bit deflated by my response. "We 'ad Chelsea, the scum, Barnsley, Bournemuff, QPR, Luton an' Bradford. Free 'undred'n'twenny-nine quid. 'Course...." here he became modest as ever, "they were my picks. You did Man City an' Huddersfield ter win. Never mind...". He gloated a bit more, then he was having an irritable-sounding conversation with Mrs Tel in the background and then came back on and said "Anyway, gotta go" and he went.

We've got the local on Wednesday evening, reopen and ready. It would have been Monday but the landlord has a funeral for a distant relative so he's reopening on Wednesday instead. Tel and I have secured our spots on the table nearest the patio heater at 12pm. I've got the afternoon off work for it. I told them I had a doctor's appointment. There'll probably be some sort of karma to pay off later.

Hope the players had their excuses ready for 5pm yesterday. I reckon a few might be looking for alternative employment come May. Let's hope eh?
The Warky League 1 Report: Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
at 19:11 9 Apr 2021

It didn't mention it in the Times. There was no picture of Portman Road on the BBC Football site. It was just a vague wish, a tempter posted by Rommy of a 50-1 each way winner over the brushwood and conifer at Aintree, a political argument which didn't somehow descend into finger-pointing irascibility and smugness.

It's unusual for me to do a report when there's not been a game on, even in these days when we'd all much prefer the season curtailed, and the rebuilding project to begin. That was my truth on Monday night; the lack of effort/skill/ability (delete as appropriate) mixed with the stubborn black dog of this being it; our future laid out before us like a local council housing scheme, the cheapness and lack of clarity in an already weak group of assets combining to make me feel that finishing twelfth in League One might be a bonus and something we all look back on fondly. It even made me start positively appraising the days of Lambert.

The visions of achieving multi-million deals for our best players lost their lustre on Monday. The club became just another of those 'plucky' formers who crashed and burned and never regained 'it', mentioned disparagingly in the same breath as Swindon Town and Bradford City, written off as a club so far in decline, it could lick its own arse, and frequently took that opportunity. The likes of Dozzell, once much-heralded for his header on his debut at Hillsborough, now just another skinny pretender who goes nowhere and does next to nothing. Defensive errors, cheap replacements, ponderous play. It all seemed so unfair, somehow.

The suddenness of the news was as startling as it was welcome. The press conference via Youtube, the sort of chairman I would have been pre-disposed to take the mick out of at any other club, with his 'the doctor will see you now' manner; Brett Johnson's blue and white scarf worn with the sort of precision that made you suspect it was fitted with a ruler in place to get the folds perfect. Yet it was balm and relief for this foot soldier, this former season-ticket holder, this depressed-but-willing-to-believe-if-only-we-could supporter.

That feeling of 'it always happens to everybody else, never us' was suddenly quieter than the Alf Ramsay. The hope and the pride and the belief shed its scaly skin and stretched in the sun. And whilst it still might prove as fruitless as the Evans years, at least it's a change and at least, or so it follows, it deserves a clean slate and a chance. That's all any of us supporters can hope for. Well, that and a transfer chest bulging with silly money from a few well-chosen sales of talented-but-lazy players and the moving on of the old guard.

Ker-boom! And we're looking better. See you on Sunday for a dose of Tel.
The Warky League 1 Report: Wigan Athletic (A)
at 13:51 28 Mar 2021

The clocks changed overnight. My 7am start, overcast skies and slight lingering chill was actually my 8am start. It caught out several dog-walkers, exercising excitable pets along the river. Their dogs looked as dishevelled as I felt; several coats were encrusted in mud and stood wildly on end, like bed head. The owners, disinterested in conversation, merely trudged by, the odd muttered 'Mornin'' the only clue to life beyond the hoodie and the puffa jacket.

Walk done and with reddened cheeks and (ominously) stentorian breath, I waddled onward towards Tesco where the papers lay, as yet untouched, along with the brown bread and marmalade jars and milk. The young chap serving at the tobacco counter reached high for my forty, his Tesco shirt riding up to reveal a black tattoo adorning his lower back. It resembled gangrene. I felt momentarily repulsed, but he was cheery enough as he gave me my change, and I thought back to the oft-repeated mantra from parents when I was a kid. "Treat as you find". I thanked him with a grin as equal as his cheer and he became matey. "I noo watcher wan-ned before y' arsked" he said. I congratulated him on his psychic abilities and he nodded and tapped his nose with a wink. I came away wondering if I was that easy to read in all other walks of life.

Terry didn't meet me this week. Our usual Friday get-together was postponed as he had his in-laws round for drinks and dinner. The Rule of Six meant they were full, not that I'd've fancied it anyway. I'm still nervous about meet-ups and Tony and his family have had the virus fairly recently. Tel bought steaks from Swiss Farms in Bromley. Everyone likes steak. Except vegetarians or vegans, and none of that lot are.

He rang on Tuesday to apologise. "Wife made the arrangements, like, jus' rang Sandy and did the ole casual invite. We're 'avin' steak'n'all. Where'd'ya reckon the best place for mushrooms is?". I said a field and he chortled. "Nah, best shop". I offered Waitrose or a greengrocer, and he said he'd try Waitrose. That was it. He rang off promising "a right good Fridee nex' week, gotta be a Thai innit?" And that was it.

I spent Friday interspersing drinks with films on the telly. The chilli I made, served with plain boiled rice and a good drip of yoghurt, was delicious although I'd run out of kidney beans so just did mince, onions, some dried chillies, some fenugreek leaves and a green chilli/lime mix. I've frozen the bits I didn't eat (not the rice though). I had a bottle of Southern Comfort and a bottle of white (a Soave) and ten cans of draught Guinness in the house chilling nicely. The Saturday morning hangover deserved a harder walk over hilly terrain and the reward of a fry up. Both were achieved, although the hills were less taxing than expected. It was a nice day, yesterday.

Saturday was spent working (more projects) and keeping simultaneous eyes on the F1 qualifying and the footie scores. More walks in the evening as I drove to Walton and went down the deserted Naze and sat watching the sea lap against the beach in quiet whooshes and brought large cod and chips from the Walton Fisheries and put too much vinegar on so the bottom of the bag swam in Acetic Acid. And my can of Ben Shaw's Shandy was warmer than I'd've liked. Sat eating out of the bags on a bench near the Naze Tower and feeding the odd straggling seagull with batter. Then I came home and wondered how long it'd be before the pubs welcomed us into their beer gardens to feel slightly less lonesome among their broken benches and dog sh*t.

Town drew 0-0. Im sure you know that already. Joleon Lescott on Sky did the studio commentary, he with the pockmarked face and semi-depressed scowl. I understood the scowl. I've often watched the Town with the same expression.

Given the recent paucity of good news regarding Ipswich, I was unsure if 0-0 away against a relegation cert was an acceptable result or another nail in the coffin of a (frankly) disinterested and rather ungainly-looking group of misfits, many of whom must be dreading being headhunted by the likes of Carlisle and Orient when their contracts aren't picked up for next season. On the whole, I decided, it was a bit of both.

So no real surprises. No hope of gatecrashing play-offs in this form. Probably. You can never really tell. We might go on a run of wins. We might not. But we need change. Like the clocks, we'll only go forward at the end of March 2022 if something changes. It's just knowing what and whom and when.

The Warky League 1 Report: Portsmouth (a)
at 16:42 21 Mar 2021

Shivers from the past. Under normal circumstances, I'd have gone to Portsmouth. My ex-in-laws are all Skates, living in their semi in Southsea, mean both of spirit and provender. My ex escaped deepest Hampshire in 1991. To the best of my knowledge, she doesn't go back too often. It was like a less salubrious Felixstowe, was Southsea. Even the Amusement Arcades looked like charity shops.

In the event, I'm glad the virus prevented me from going. They'd have loved a 2-1 win over my beloved Town. I have a feeling they quite enjoyed our demise as a couple. I heard not a jot from them after our split; not that I particularly wanted to but a card or an email or text would have been nice. Nothing. I relived moments in their company to try and second guess what I'd done to offend them and found nothing as well. I even came in useful when they preferred to use my wallet to pay for 'unexpected' costs when we visited. Like shopping, or meals out.

Tel has this theory that he calls "swings'n'roundabarts' but is in essence more widely known as 'Karma'. In his own words, it is "summink 'appens ten someone 'oo deserves a bit'o' sand in their sarnie". It happened to Tony, his brother-in-law, back when they were in their respective youth. "Caught a dose off a gel 'e was seein'" snickered Tel, enjoying it. "Ended up takin' 'im darn the Queen Middlesex for stuff ter be painted on 'is john thomas. 'E was givin' it a right ole waft o'air when 'e came out. You'd'er fought 'is pants were on bleedin' fire".

This is an older anecdote, one dredged from memory as he didn't mention Tony or anything about knob rot on Friday when he came over. He was jubilant. We passed the £1500 mark on our online bets last Friday, Minella Indo winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup at 12/1 with fifty quid of our hard won on him. "Seven'undred notes we won" said Tel with oily satisfaction. It was a tip, of course. "Can't beat Reg, known 'im since the early days in the shop". The fact Reg also tipped Envoi Allen was conveniently overlooked. Tel also won on The Flooring Porter on Thursday. This wan't a Reg tip though. He rang me to say he liked the name. I had an incautious twenty on it as well. Apart from that, our joint efforts were worse. This was mainly due to Tel's innate distrust of women jockeys; something I didn't share. Rachael Blackmore more or less kept my bank balance in the 'looking good' stakes last week.

Tel arrived with a recovered Mrs Tel driving him, her outfit of Givenchy jeans, leather jacket and blue and red Stranglers T-shirt topped with her Dior sunglasses a bit exotic for muddy, dank Lawford. Her hair was bushier and the highlights dripped down it like the butter from a hot crumpet. I kissed her and asked after her health. She nodded, glasses impenetrable, and said "Ah'm fine now love, bit muzzy but the 'eadaches went larse Sundy". Tel patted her on the arse and said something conciliatory about 'not bein' late' but she didn't mind. I think part of the cure is to spend time away from his ministrations, if I'm honest. I'd hate him around if I felt less than top notch. He'd make me feel worse.

He bought a new bottle of brandy with him, which was a relief considering I'd half-inched the last one he'd brought. He didn't mention this either. I provided the lagers, which he drank with due brevity and enjoyed. I brought his new favourite, Grolsch, in bottles. He popped the tops with a guffaw and enjoyed them.

The Indian we brought back was delicious. True, the bloke in the takeaway remained an enigma, his impeccable manners strangely at odds with his cold stare and his lack of conversation. They gave us an extra, unpaid for Bombay Potato and an extra Keema Naan and a Shami kebab we hadn't even ordered. The butterfly king prawn was light and crunchy. The mains, all Vindaloo or Madras this time, made us sweat like chicken in clingfilm. We munched and dropped bits and commented with gasps at the sauces and the heat and the sheer, dirty glory of it.

We got drunk watching Top of the Pops 1986 and 1987 on catch-up via my Sky Q Silver. Tel reminisced at the songs. ""ad this on constant play when we brought the shop, on me ghetto blaster, JVC it was, right bit'o' equipment that" he said as the woh-woh-woh-woh rhythm of Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer kicked in. He also remembered 'Hourglass' by Squeeze, and "Reet Petite" by Jackie Wilson and the Housemartins and Curiosity Killed the Cat's 'Down to Earth' ("missus loved that. Bought the single in Dovercourt"). It was like a modern history lesson of reminiscences, all eighties boom and boom, Tel dressed in YSL, the modern news vendor, making good money just by flicking the 'Open' sign and stocking debatable porn mags.

We drank brandy as 1986 became 1987 and the synths morphed into Morrissey. "Every day weren't like Sundy, the miserable sod" said Tel. "'E even made it sarnd like 'Arwich, walkin' slowly over wet sand and greased tea an' that. I 'ate the Smiffs. Navel gazin' at nuffink. Life was good in the 80's". I didn't add that life was only good because we lived in the South and that, just maybe, the north copped it worse during Thatcher's decade of South-centricism.

He went at eleven, called out by a mix of Mrs Tel's insistent beeps and the dregs of the brandy bottle. He went for 'a quick Jimmy' in my downstairs toilet and then emerged from the front door much as I'd imagine Elvis did on the stage at Las Vegas. Mrs Tel had shod her sunglasses and sat, amused expression, hair still bushy, as we hugged and he got into the passenger side. "Orlright my darlin'?" she said to me. "You've bofe obviously enjoyed yourselves". We kissed goodbye through the driver's window and Tel gave me a cheeky royal wave as they departed. The house seemed electrified by his presence. Then it diminished and I went to bed, drunk, drunker than I'd been in a while. The merry-go-round started but it eased when sleep finally came.

I didn't pay the tenner for Pompey away yesterday I had a very long walk near the coast instead, at old Harwich. I even stopped in a little corner shop on the way back to the car and brought four cold cans of draught Guinness and sat, drinking one, looking out to sea and remembering the days when I was taken on the beach as a kid and played with the behemoth of Felixstowe port behind me, the big ships churning the surf and the sound of hammering back in the eighties when the whole area was boomtown. And we didn't expect worldwide pandemics, or multi-channel telly, or internet or change. They filmed Hi-de-Hi just down the road. The chippy did buttered rolls with the cod and large. They pulled pickled eggs from a big plastic jar on the counter. My 50p a week pocket money bought a white-paper-bag wealth of cheap chewy sweeties.

And, much like the Town, it all slowly diminished until it became insignificant, a speck in the past, the roseate memories replaced by the modern-day altruism that all was sh*te because it wasn't recent. It wasn't. We still breathed air, we still got on, we still were. The Town were still better, even when Bobby Ferguson took the reins. That side would hammer today's herberts.

The pain of our present makes us long for the pleasures of the past. It's self-defeating, you know? We're not that important any more, except to each other and ourselves. Swings'n Roundabouts? No. This was surely never our fate?

The Warky League 1 Report: Plymouth Argyle (H)
at 14:05 15 Mar 2021

Mothering Sunday, with expensive flowers and a suitably poignant card, was a nice excuse for a rather pissy Sunday lunch with the parents yesterday. We had a leg of lamb, cooked just rosy in the middle, a hand-picked mint sauce macerated with caster sugar and vinegar and chopped so finely that the blade left deep scratches on the wooden chopping board. Roast Maris Pipers, crispy at each side and the middle fluffier than marshmallow. Cauliflower gratined with Taleggio. Carrots from the farm shop just five minutes' walk from my parents' front door. A rich, end-of-winter gravy made with meat stock and bones, dates, a drop of port and a squeeze of clementine. Mum's homemade lime posset and her garibaldi biscuits.

I used to resent Mother's Day, placing it in the same regard as I held for Valentines Day when I was single, or May Day when there was no fair to attend. Father's Day was alright. I usually just got him a bottle of gin and a card. But my mum no longer drinks or eats any sweeties and doesn't need clothes (and that's hardly a Mother's Day pressie anyway, is it? Who in their right mind gives their mum a card and a new tweed skirt or a pair of velveteen pantaloons on Mother's Day? It's as incongruous as my dad buying her a new iron for Christmas). So flowers it was.

£60 lighter after buying two supermarket bouquets and a miserable-looking bunch of Alstrameria, which behaved much like a moody teen in the car on the way home, refusing to raise their heads from the navel-gazing on mobiles, I gave them a quick sniff when I got home and was horrified to smell fags. I'd had a fag just before getting back in the car with them. It was me. Suddenly, the thought of clothes sounded appealing. Still, I reasoned, kept in plentiful water until Sunday, they may perk up a bit and lose that nicotine twang. Then I remembered something my mum had told me years ago about 'Tobacco Roses' and checked the label, just in case. Nope.

Thoughts of giving my mum flowers which failed to raise their head and smelled of fags caused a few nervous reassurance-searching sniffs on Saturday. I even considered giving them a quick once over with the Febreze.

Tel didn't help. Mrs Tel had a migraine on Thursday so he couldn't come out on Friday as she was still suffering. He rang me on Thursday night, adopting what he fondly thought was his 'whispering' tone, but just sounded like he'd contracted laryngitis. "Can't leave 'er" he said, more with exasperation, I thought, than any tenderness. He took the phone outside so he could talk normally. I asked him if he'd tried her with Feverfew, as that had helped my mum when she used to get them. "Oh bleedin' great advice" he said tersely. "She's in bed wiv a wet flannel on 'er 'ead. I'm pretty sure she won't fancy a bleedin' G and T". I explained patiently and he became less irate. He even agreed to try Boots the next day.

He rang again on Friday. No Feverfew. He had however found extra-strong paracetamol and something that helped migraines by cooling the temples. I asked him how she felt now and he said "Blindin'. She's out runnin' at the moment" sarcastically. Then he apologised a little and said she'd kept him up all night with sickness. ""ad to clear it off the barfroom floor" he said, expecting his medal in the next post.

So Friday was spent in, watching the telly and eating whatever I could find in the freezer that didn't need defrosting. And drinking Guinness and the rest of Tel's brandy, which he probably forgot about from last week.

Saturday was shopping morning proper. I went after the walk, before breakfast, in Waitrose for bits and bobs and supper stuff for that night, keen to get home and make use of the tenner I'd spent on Monday last week for the Plymouth game. Came home at eleven, put the shopping away, made a ham and pickle sarnie and a pot of tea and fed the birds, who now resemble puffballs. I had another walk, through the spitting hail, and came home at 2pm to get ready for the game.

Even though we won, I was a bit disappointed. We should have won by more, yet we let Plymouth back into it time and time again. Still, a win is a win. The second half was terrible though. Just aimless punts and lack of intensity.

Tel rang again at 7pm, just to catch up on the Ipswich result and tell me he'd won us £280 on the football bet he'd done that morning. "Bin darn the chippy for tea" he said proudly. "Bit'o' cod and chips fer me, 'addock'n'large fer the wife, though frankly might as well 'ave not bovvered 'cos she aint bleedin' touched it. Just ungrateful. All this for a bleedin' 'eadache. Given me a bleedin' 'eadache in return. And the arse'ole. Jus' lays there in bed wiv wet flannels on her fore'ead drinking water and Diet Coke and moanin'. Really good weekend this is".

He rang off, promising to be there for next Friday come 'ell or 'igh water. I smiled as I thought of him as a nurse. He'd be more Nurse Ratched than Florence Nightingale.

And that was that. The flowers perked up as well. They didn't need the Febreze in the end. My mum cried a bit and hugged me, and then shoved them in a big vase and put them on the coffee table in the lounge. They're probably dead today. Never mind. It was the thought that counted, I'm sure.

Warky Report incoming
at 10:40 15 Mar 2021

Sorry, spent yesterday having Sunday lunch with mater and pater. Was there until 7pm last night so forgot to upload. Be on by 2pm today. Apologies!!
The Warky League 1 Report: Gillingham (a)
at 12:09 7 Mar 2021

"Anuvver bleedin' Paul" pointed out Tel on Friday, a wry smile etched on his visage, reflecting on a tumultuous week at Portman Road. "Least this'un's got a bit of the ole knowhow. Stop us gaddin' abart in this league like we belong 'ere or summink. Better than ole Lambert managed anyway". He snaffled another twiglet from the serving bowl and crunched it like he was eating coal. "Aven't 'ad one'o' these for years" he muttered after he swallowed, not with any complimentary vein, it has to be said.

Yes, Tel was back, moaning about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and their forthcoming whinges on CBS. More in a mo. First, it was a week of work, walks and w*nking, not all at once lest I be arrested for lewd behaviour just as lockdown relaxes a bit. The work was plentiful and dutifully dull. I understood where Harry and Meghan were coming from when they said they wanted time away from opening supermarkets and the old flesh press. I wrote two reports this week, both with the sort of dullard detail that makes me switch off when I read others' efforts. These reports are my escape. Hope you're still awake?

The walks were same, but with the hope of seeing more wildlife, following the badger and coypu episodes the week before. Sadly, as the milky sun penetrated the darkness of the woods, the animals sodded off back to bed, and all I saw were the usual suspects; pheasants, wood pigeons, the odd bunch of partridges'a'pecking. Early mornings were a bit warmer and less wet and the dog walkers traded their North Face puffas for fleeces and hoodies.

I saw Des, the old boy I last met over Christmas, out walking his staffie Missy and self-consciously keeping his distance as per the Covid regs. We had a somewhat raised voice conversation from afar, the sort where the other participant doesn't understand a word and you end up shouting like the Town have just scored to make them understand. Then Des gave up and came closer. "Orlroite?" he said, concerned. Yes. Just couldn't make you understand the word 'busier'. "Oh" he said, looking at me askew like I might have had a mental episode. "Yer, well, gets busier this time'or'year dunnett? Not rainin' innert? These people love'rt when it aint rainen' dun'ey?". No wonder he didn't understand me from afar. I barely understood him nearby. We said farewells and Missy nosed my wedding tackle in her own inimitable goodbye.

On Friday, I had the King of unintelligible conversation himself, for an evening of takeaway chinese food and beer and desultory chat. The first hour was much like I'd imagine the Oprah interview will be on Monday; blatant attempts at getting gossip from me, followed by his own 'news' told as cynically as possible. He arrived driven by Mrs Tel, who now drops him at the top of my road so she can hasten back to savour the hours out of his company. At least that's what I suspect.

Before that, I had an email from my boss on Thursday, asking if I fancied a bit of overtime yesterday, just a "few hours, say nine to four thirty to catch us up on the current Hansen project (don't ask - it involves using crap spreadsheets on Excel which need updating to form the basis of an online presentation due next Wednesday) and ensure we're fully up to speed on the budget guidance for business enterprise after April 12th". It made me think joylessly about the things I do to keep myself in fags and Waitrose grub.

So Tel came round, clinking bottles in a Tesco bag for life, dressed in slim-fit Ben Sherman blue check shirt, black Levis and bomber jacket, wearing his new black Converse Chuck Yeager Hi-tops he bought online recently. He looked like an extra from 'Happy Days'.

He decanted the bottles on my kitchen table; one full brandy, two Singha's and a Moretti. He stuck the beers in my fridge, noting the bottles of Asahi and Peroni I picked up in Waitrose earlier in the day. "Gone off Asahi" he said, ungenerously. "Too bleedin' fizzy, makes me burp all evenin'". Fair enough. All the more for me. He had a Peroni, cold from the fridge, flipping the top with his bottle opener. I had a Guinness. The widget rattled in the can as I poured. "That stuff turns my muck black, fought I 'ad gut bleedin' last time I was on an Irish bender" The mind boggled for a few seconds. But he didn't smile at my smirk.

The conversation got on to the Sussexes. I don't know how. "They're takin' the mick if you arsk me" he growled. "Millyonaires an' they still 'ave the cheek ter be snipey. They aint done a day's 'ard work in their lives". He became the walking, talking epitome of the Daily Mail for a good few more minutes. When I got a word in edgeways, I decided to play Devil's Advocate and said how I thought they'd been under pressure to perform things they clearly didn't believe in. He snorted. "Mental bleedin' turmoil, yeah, right, try doin' a day's graft why don' they? Try doin' stuff yer hate ter pay the morgidge". He relapsed into his lager, draining the bottle. "Sides, she was only a bit-part actress in a show no-one this side of Noo York ackchully wotched. Took her opportoonity, din't she?"

We went to collect the Chinese. They had a sign in their car park, marked 'Collect Food Order' in black felt-tip on a bit of white cardboard stuck to a post and pointing at the back of the restaurant. I parked and went over. "Yassir?" said an unsmiling face. I gave my name and the code they'd given me for the order, hurriedly scrawled on a post-it note I keep by the phone at home for such occasions. The face (it was a woman, I saw, as she turned to reveal long hair in a tight bun under a chef's hat) disappeared into the murk and reappeared a few minutes later with three white plastic bags and a card reader. "Fawty free parnd fiftfour" she said. She pointed at the receipt stapled to the first bag. It had a load of chinese characters in a line and then £43.54 at the top. I did tap and go on the machine. It made a noise like on 'Family Fortunes' when the answer was wrong. "No good, try again" she said. I tried again. This time it went 'ping'. "Fankyew" she said and withdrew. I walked back to the car with my bags. They smelt good. Sort of sweet and gravy-like.

They forgot our Saucy Ribs, but we couldn't be arsed to drive back to demand them. It was a good takeaway nonetheless. We had extra pancakes with the half Peking duck and they'd also given us an extra pineapple fried rice. We ate in the kitchen, messily, dropping bits everywhere and commenting on how nice the pineapple fried rice was compared to the normal egg fried. We ate everything. No little extras for breakfast on Saturday. Then we watched Top of the Pops 1981 and Tel relived his youth a bit. "Bleedin' youf! I was nearly twenny in '81! Going' steady wiv the missus. Cor, I tell ya, we were at it like knives back in them days. I still get a bit randy when I 'ear that Night Birds by Shakatakatak or whatever they was called". Shakin' Stevens? I said. "Nah, bleedin' Shakin' Stevens,'e just did crap Elvis stuff".

Mrs Tel called at 10pm. She gave me the customary hug and peck on the cheek. She smelt of Anais Anais and Lenor. Her hair has grown up rather than out, so it looks bushier then long. Gone are the tints and feather cut lines. She'll be glad when April comes in.

They drove off, smiles and waves. Tel left the rest of the brandy, a good two thirds of it, so I had another and watched the telly. Ended up asleep in the chair. Woke at three am and there was some kind of crap casino thing on. Switched off and went to bed with a stiff neck and brandy drool in the corners of my mouth.

I didn't pay the tenner. Tel was busy yesterday. He's looking for a gardener to help him build a fountain in their garden. I was working as well. I had my lunch between 1pm and 2pm, bored with Excel spreadsheets and even more bored by the stats I had to update. We didn't sound all that great and I left it at 2pm to start work again. By the time I'd finished, we'd lost 3-1. So the new manager bounce only happens to everyone else, apparently. Oh well. On to Tuesday.

I had a walk yesterday evening, not feeling hungry and to dust away the cobwebs of work and 3-1 defeats to teams as crap as Gillingham. Evenings are better than mornings. No dog walkers and more wild things. I saw a hare, and a buzzard, and a barn owl flying, ghost-like, on the prowl for mice. It was still and fresh and slightly eerie, with the mist from the river hanging over the trees in the distance so they seemed to be floating on a rolling white sea. Had I seen ghosts, I'd've scarcely been that surprised.

The brandy has nearly all gone. Must be osmosis.
The Warky League 1 Report: Doncaster Rovers (H)
at 11:40 28 Feb 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I resisted the temptation to wash it down with a Guinness though. I'm getting good at discipline. So is our team. Mind you, like me with the drink, it probably won't last too long, so make the most of it.
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