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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've never liked New Year's Eve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We're crap and lightweight - mitigating circumstances be damned
Just paid a tenner for the game when I had a code
at 19:10 24 Nov 2020

Ozark fans
at 07:34 24 Nov 2020

Got to say, whoever gave the recommendation for Ozark on here, many thanks.

I'm currently on Series Two episode 6. It's dark but very good. Better characters than most series. I particularly like the Snells and the FBI Officer Petty.
The Warky League 1 Report: Shrewsbury (H)
at 13:52 22 Nov 2020

The house seemed mournful when I returned on Tuesday this week. It wasn't that cold outside but it managed that 'unlived in' feel the moment the key turned and the stale air rushed out to greet me. I set the overnight bag and my laptop case down gingerly on the stairs and went off pottering around, refilling the kettle for a cuppa and looking for the bird food.

Tel's last entreaty on the phone was that I "should'a left me a key 'cos I'd've tidied the place up a bit, like". It was a kind gesture. I do have experience of his form of 'tidying' though. It is reminiscent of being burgled. Stuff you'd always placed in a certain spot moved and (often) never seen again. He is of the 'if in doubt, chuck it" school. The same school where classes include 'If it don't work, 'it it, 'ard" and the ubiquitous "If yer can't see it, it's tidy".

I made a pot of tea, enough for about six people, and, reading the pile of bank statements, gas bills and the 'in sympathy' card sent by kindly but badly informed neighbours, I managed to drink five mugs. The rest stewed until it resembled pond water. I lobbed it down the sink and fished out the five teabags from the plughole and lobbed them in the food recycling. This smelt, so I bagged it up and put it in the green box thing outside in my shed. I sprayed the bin with Domestos anti-bac. The smell protested and then died, leaving a clinical fresh fragrance with hints of rotted veg. I cleaned out the fridge. I had fresh milk, two cans of lager and an unopened block of cheddar when I'd finished. Shopping time.

Tel rang again in the evening. He did the polite formalities about my aunt, then launched into a story of how his friend "'ad the same fing, rushed in by amberlance, flashin' light job. 'E's orlright nah though. 'Ad is surgery, 'as to take asp'rin every day, like, can't do anyfing too excitin', like para-shoot jumps or long sessions wiv the missus. I told 'im to take up wotchin' the Town".

He formally invited me to Chez Tel on Saturday evening. "Ah'm doin' steaks" he said, proudly. "Swiss Farm deliver ter me now, did an order last week, comin' Thursdy. Ah've ordered free fillets, two rib eyes 'cos the wife don' eat 'em and a coupl'a their apple'n'erb sossies. We're doin' proper chips in the fryer plus popcorn cauliflower an' garlic mushrooms. We'll 'ave them negronis an' all, cheer us up a bit. Can you bring..." here he composed a list of drinks and mixers. Martini Rosso, ginger ale for the Moscow Mules, couple of red wines and a sparkling white (don't 'ave ter be champers though).

He rang off. I opened the new red I'd bought and turned down the central heating a notch. I'm currently in the middle of Series One of 'Ozark' on Netflix. It's enthralling, but I do sometimes nod off in the chair during quieter moments. It's very dark. I spluttered awake to find two men engaged in sex on one of the episodes. I thought I'd sat on the remote and had accidentally accessed some hitherto unknown porn channel on Sky.

I worked from home all week and had a decent walk on Friday, the incipient cold riming the fields with frost, the smell of woodsmoke from the odd dwelling making the whole feel Christmassy and medieval. I nipped from my hip flask of brandy during breathers, and watched a muntjac deer skulk away alarmed at my panting approach. Twelve miles I walked. I'm getting fitter. My trousers need tightening on new belt notches. My legs no longer burn like my fags uphill.

Tel rang again at four, quick reminder of Saturday night, and had I got the Martini yet? Only it was on offer in Waitrose. I needed more shopping anyway so went to Waitrose in Sudbury on Saturday morning, even though Colchester is nearer. I don't like the Ipswich one, and Colchester is a nightmare for traffic. Plus the drive to Sudbury is prettier, along the Colne Valley to Stoke-by-Nayland, through to the Sudbury main road and then all country until you hit the Cornard outskirts.

I returned, store-weary and about a hundred-odd quid lighter, at three fifteen. I'd resisted the temptation to switch on BBC Suffolk on the way, because we always lose when I do so. Plus Mick Mills' voice is as soporific as Mogadon and I have trouble enough concentrating when driving. Put the shopping away, switch on the laptop, pour a glass of red, try and find my Ifollow code for the game, swear at the website for a bit, then find it, copy and paste it, do the order for the game and then, like the parting of the vines to reveal the Parthenon, up came the familiar empty stands and green grass of PR. And two teams, one in familiar blue, the other in white, fumbling for the ball and making backwards passes to team-mates. And the score. 0-1. To Shrewsbury. In shock, I nearly closed and rebooted the 'Watch Live' button. Surely not?

The disappointment turned to bafflement, as it appeared we had former Spurs and Pompey star Darren Anderton in midfield for us. Surely he was too old by now? Then Brenner said 'McGavin' and the penny dropped. He gave the ball away and, for a moment, I wondered where Gwion Edwards was. Then I accessed TWTD and read that he was out.

Half-time came and the players trooped off, shoulders slightly slumped, heads down. Ready for that Gorbals b*llocking. Mick Mills said something and I switched off the sound and drank the remnants of my glass in a deep, careless swallow.

We won. We never deserved to. In fact, it was more long-ball than the last knockings of McCarthy. Only with lesser players and no urgency. The subs did OK. Keenans looked like Falcao, running at the Shrews with abandon. Alas, his final ball was dogsh*t. Still, he 'scored' the equaliser with a deep cross from nothing which eluded everyone to nestle, apologetically in the back of the net. Lankester (Note to Mail on Sunday - it's not spelt like the county) stumbled to head the winner. Cheered, I logged off and went for a shower.

The cab arrived at seven. I knew the driver. It was a bloke called Gray. Short for Graham. An East Londoner with a cockney accent you could cut bread with, he'd moved from Limehouse in the 80's to rock up in Bradfield. He owned a Potton mock-tudor place with a big garden and a hot-tub. He was one of Tel's former punters, although I don't think he's all that keen on Terry. He never says anything about it, but his face changes to something a bit guarded whenever you mention Tel's name. He is a teetotaller, which is unusual in these days of non-temperance and lockdown. He drinks full-fat Coke on nights out. He's been out with us before. Doesn't want to risk his licence I suppose?

We chatted inconsequentially on the journey. He dropped me at Tel's and I paid him. He said he'd be back at twelve to collect me and I thanked him and told him to bib me when he was outside. Tel answered the front door before I'd made two feet of his drive. "Was that Gray?" he asked as I entered the threshold. Yes. "Fought so. Funny bloke 'e is. Bit mental. Wun't come for that night out we did back in November last year, though I invited 'im" He pointed his index finger at his temple and twirled it. "Yer knar there's this rumour 'e stabbed a bloke in London? Wot made 'im an' 'is missus move up 'ere. Caught the bloke nickin' from his cab or summink. Never arsked 'im o' course. An ole customer told me".

He took my coat and lobbed it vaguely at the settee in the lounge. We went through to the dining room. Mrs Tel was sat at the table reading "Grazie" and drinking what appeared to be Coca-Cola from a Coke glass, the ice tinkling with every movement towards her mouth. She stood up. She's lost weight. We embraced. Her breasts felt like last week's balloons against my chest.

"How's it goin' love?" she croaked. She'd left her hair uncoloured so the greyish strands peaked through at the roots. She wore a new baby-blue velour top and plain black jeans, Levi's. She kissed my cheek. I smelt Anais Anais and I felt tiny, prickly hairs from her top lip. We chatted, mostly about my aunt and her recent illness. She said she was sorry to hear it. She's never met my aunt, but it was a nice thing to say.

We went for a ciggie. I'd bought forty, just in case. The patio heater was on but moved to the central bit between the two chairs. Tel bought me a beer. He was wearing a chef's apron and carrying what looked like metal pincers. He went back and bought Mrs Tel her drink. She asked him for a top-up and he rolled his eyes. "Vodka'n'diet coke" she smiled at me, as if this was the height of naughtiness.

We went inside after smoking and chatting, and Tel bought me the ingredients for the opening salvo of Negronis. "You c'n mix the first one" he said, generously. "I'm busy wiv the food". I mixed three, strong ones with the maximum of Campari and Gin and the minimum of Martini. I tasted mine first, anxiously, and then, confident, added ice. They were good. Mrs Tel's went down quickly. Eye-openingly quick. Almost a one gulper, despite there being a tumbler full. "Mmmmm' she said, appreciatively. I made more for her and me.

By the fifth, we were giggling in the dining room about my aunt farting in the ambulance. She said her mum had farted when she was dying in the ward at hospital. "Right loud one, din't know where to look, they all heard it. One old girl in the bed opposite had hysterics. Worse fing was, the matron was a right starchy type, so was me dad. They din't see the funny side at all. Me dad kept sayin' 'stop showin' us up'. Couldn't 'elp it. 'Is look made it funnier".

Tel brought the food in with the same look, I suspect, that Mrs Tel's father had in the hospital ward. "Woss funny?" he asked, suspiciously. I started explaining. He laughed, but I noticed he watched his wife with an expression which belied the humour. Interesting though this was, it was brief and he went back to fetch the chips.

We ate the food in merriment and it was delicious. Tel relaxed. I got several more Negronis into him and he became the life and soul once again. We were dancing to eighties hits in their lounge, stumbling over furniture and throwing stranger shapes than those you'd find in Polish animations. By brandy time, I was, metaphorically, up on bricks. The brandy eased down like silk. I checked the time surreptitiously. 11.45pm. I decided to sit down and await the beeps from Gray in his cab.

They came at 12.10pm, just as the music stopped and Mrs Tel had kissed me goodnight. "Should do this more often in Lockdown, we should" she slurred, and then she did a slow waltz with me across their living room. I embraced Tel. He was pissed. He came out to the cab with me. "Orlright Gray, long time no see" he shouted. Gray wound his window down. "Right, tel? 'Ow's the missus?" They conversed, Terry leaning in at the driver's side window. He had to bend down to do so. It looked like he was being sick from the back.

Tel gave Gray a small wad of notes. "Geddim 'ome safe Gray" he said. "Little summink for you as well on top". He smiled at me. See yer soon, matey. We'll ketch up in the pub when all this madness is over". I got in and waved. He waved back, then the cold him him and he walked back up the drive.

"Good night?" asked Gray as we set off. Yeah. Good night. And, though the hangover was a beaut this morning, I don't even regret it. Had I earned a bit of a good night? I like to think so. Like the Town, better late than never.

The Warky Report: The extra bit as an explanation - dedicated to Bankster (H &am
at 17:41 21 Nov 2020

Hi all

So it was the international weekend and some of you might've thought 'Warky's not bothered. England games, not really anything special, friendlies in all but name'. And you'd be right. But it was slightly more than just that....

I'm currently writing this at 5.15pm on Saturday. We've won jammily. More tomorrow. I'm at Tel's later at 7.30pm. We're having steaks and Negronis and a laugh. More tomorrow. I promise. It'll be funnier than the game (unless you like sadomasochism, in which case carry on nailing your b*llocks to that dungeon wall dressed in rubber).

I watched the Sunderland match on Ifollow. Fumed at the final whistle. They were crap. We were robbed. Etc, etc. I didn't post because everyone felt the same. I didn't watch with Tel. He'd already decided the 'Online fing' wasn't for him. The last vestiges of any Town support drained physically like the bloody last drippings off the wife when she was 'on' and used to come to bed wearing stained knickers. Yes, it's all part of the magic. Ladies, I have been married, disastrously, ruinously married. Married when I yearned not to be. It was her affairs that ended it. Or 'affair' singular. We just decided meekly that we weren't right. It was the biggest copout of my life. Alas, human weakness purports greater wisdom than human strength.

So, anyway, we lost at Sunderland. Then, on the Wednesday, came the call. I was working from home and my uncle, aged 68 and sounding concerned, rang to ask me if my dad was at home. No, I said. Everything alright? No, he said. Your aunt's suffered a massive coronary in the night. He woke up to find her next to him, struggling to breathe, skin blueish, eyes sunk. Called 999. They took an hour. Defibrillator. Rushed to Southampton General. Uncle said, slightly humorously "They started doing the heart pump stuff and she let one off, real pearler, rattled the ambulance like a tropical storm. Well, we've been eating a lot of veg lately. The smell! It was like the chimp quarters at the zoo".

Anyway, she's home now. Being cared for by carers who nip in for an hour, smelling faintly of fags and Thierry Mugler. They prop her up in bed, feed her, administer medicine and then leave for some other poor needy who wants her dressings changed or her potty pushed.

I cared for her for a while. My uncle works in London. My cousins work further afield. I called my boss and explained. We're in lockdown. I took my laptop and accoutrements down there and sat working from their home in Fleet. Their internet connection was better. All I had to do was feed her and roll her to prevent bedsores. She's due for stent surgery. Gawd alone knows when. Once the government decide that lockdowns aren't really the answer to massive Northern cases, I guess.

So that's why I've been absent. Still, I've not missed much. An extra-time defeat in the cup and three lacklustre England games. Fleet's better than home though. Aside from the M3, it's actually a very nice village. I've got to know the local newsagent quite well........
Bloody hell Freddie
at 16:20 21 Nov 2020

Stop being such a wuss
Just got back from Waitrose....
at 15:58 21 Nov 2020

Have I missed anything?
Anyone's I follow working yet?
at 19:46 3 Nov 2020

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