Wednesday, 1st January 2003
Twice this season I've tried and twice events have conspired to make my journey a wasted one. It's become something of a tradition that, if I travel to a match that doesn't take place I should do a match report anyway. Well tradition is probably overstating the case a bit but, whilst lying on my deathbed with tonsillitis, I have been bombarded with requests from my fellow participants in the away jaunt to Charlton to chronicle the day's events. This was partly because they thought it might be a laugh, but mainly because, in at least one case, I suspect that one of my companions hasn't a clue where he was or what he did that day.
I have a confession to make. I live in South East London. This is largely a result of historical accident involving marrying someone from the area (don't worry I divorced her!) I look on my presence here as missionary work, bringing an oasis of intelligence and football knowledge to an otherwise culturally deprived area. So when the great God of the fixture list had us down to play Charlton away on New Year's Day I was well happy. It meant a nice lie-in after the previous night's celebrations followed by an easy journey about 3 miles up the road. Fellow KUMB regulars Romford and Sicknote agreed to join me in my local (The Station Hotel) for an early livener before getting a cab across to Charlton. The team was completed by two mates of Sicknote, Sam & his son Oliver, who had made the trek down from Norwich. We were nearly joined by a local who expressed an interest in a spare ticket but, wisely as it turned out, he decided that the weather was too rotten to venture out from the warmth and comfort of The Station.
The Norwich lads had family in the area who we'd arranged to meet in the Horse and Groom near the ground so, after an initial couple of drinks in the Station we headed off in our cabs. Well at least that was the plan. Sicknote & the Norwich boys went off in one minicab whilst Romford and I waited for ours to turn up. This wouldn't have been much of a problem had our driver known where he was going. Unfortunately he didn't. Thankfully the modern technology of mobile phones helped us catch up and, since the driver was a fellow Hammer we let him off, especially in view of his less than enlightened but very funny views on the driving habits of certain sections of society that I couldn't possibly repeat here. This being despite his own rather novel approach to the "give way to traffic already on the roundabout" rule.
The Horse & Groom was packed and it was like walking into a sauna. Worried that we might lose some weight, Romford and I adjourned to the tables outside next to the guvnor's bravely-parked Merc. At this point there were a few spots of rain in the air but nothing to worry about. Or so we thought. The sky turned the colour of a nasty bruise and the rain started falling as quickly as a Man Utd forward in the box at Old Trafford. With Uriah Rennie refereeing. Having decided that sitting in the guvnor's Merc to keep dry was probably a bad idea, Romford & I returned to the sauna where the first of the Chinese whispers about postponement started to circulate. A call was put into Chalks (via the delightful Mrs Chalks) who promised to get back to us as soon as anything was confirmed. However, the ultimate arbiter was Mrs Romford who called us with her decision shortly after 2.00pm.
Now some people are happy with technology - I love gadgets myself and am surrounded by remote controls as I type this. However, I suspect that Romford doesn't quite share my enthusiasm, judging from his reaction whenever he tries to make or receive a mobile call. The process invariably ends with Chas loudly informing the world in general that "I hate this @!!**ng phone". However Chas recovered his composure in time to receive the bad news that, from the warmth & safety of Romford Towers, his wife had declared the ground unplayable, which made it official as far as we were concerned. Chalks confirmed that the referee had agreed with Mrs Romford's decision and the game was officially off.
At this point we split up. Romford, Sicknote and I got on a bus and headed towards Greenwich. The Norwich boys stayed behind for a while to say goodbye to their family before hopping on a bus that was about 20 yards behind ours. A further mobile phone conversation established that a) traffic was slow enough for them to catch up on foot, and b) Sam's mobile interferes with people's deaf aids. Into Greenwich and the Mitre. The roast lamb in the carvery looked fantastic. Sadly there was only enough for Oliver to eat as they ran out of food. It was decision time as we had to decide what we were going to do. Given the journey time between London and Norfolk, the Norwich guys decided to remortgage their property and get a cab back to Liverpool Street whilst the remaining three of us decided that The Station, with its two large screens, would make a suitable venue to watch the remaining Premiership action. Thankfully our driver knew where he was going this time and we were able to join my two best friends Bruno (Chelsea) and his good lady wife Bridget (Stoke City) and a far from sober Sean (Moan Utd). We were able to see the Salford whingers do us a favour by beating the Makems 2-1 in the last few minutes, pausing only briefly to increase the mobile phone companies' profits by a few more quid by giving the Norwich guys directions to a pub near Liverpool St station.
It was only at this point that I realised that the constant intake of vodka & Red Bull (the official drink of KUMB) had taken it's toll on Sicknote. To be fair it was only Romford's comment that "he's gone" that made me realise - I thought it was my hearing that was slurred! I suppose the major clue was that, while the rest of the pub had its attentions focused on the two large screens, Sicknote spent most of the afternoon playing with the tv remote operating the miniscule 18" set in the corner. He never did find the shopping channel!
As the final whistle went up and down the country Sicknote decided that it was time to head for Waterloo East and started plotting a route taking in large swathes of South London, parts of the Peak District and several changes on the Jubilee line before Romford pointed out that there was a perfectly good direct train route (the phrase perfectly good being a relative term - we are talking about Connex here after all). The lads left to go home for more beers and, in one case, to shout drunken abuse at the telly whilst I hung on for a quiet pint, followed (probably) by a few noisy ones as both me and my Charlton mates both celebrated our unbeaten start to 2003!
A final warning. My next planned away trip is likely to be to Arsenal. So anyone with tickets - you may as well send them back for a refund now. My record is likely to ensure that the match will be called off due to a plague of locusts or something!
Er ... it rained. A lot. And got cancelled.
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