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Cracking episode of TOTP 1980 tonight, including Tom Hark, plus Feels Like I'm In Love seeing Kelly Marie shoot into the lead in my Pop Babe of 1980 stakes. And as I write BB is on with my darling, the legend Aisleyne, back in!

I guess being back in Britain isn't so bad.
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I cast a few votes for young Molly from Ireland last night - hers was a nice song and, after all, in Eurovision nowadays everybody needs good neighbours - but not surprised she didn't go through. My favourite was Lithuania; delighted they, Slovenia and Poland went through, with massive kudos to the Polish lady for showing off her attractiveness to the full from her wheelchair. Gutted, though, for lovely Mélanie from Switzerland. Her performance was amazing, yet she was eliminated while a couple of really duff songs qualified. Yes, I'm looking at you, Azerbaijan, a couple of dancing hobbits should not be enough to carry a stultifyingly dull song to the final.

Having heard all the semi-finalists and snatches of all the Big 7 (and our song in full) I can honestly say Electro Velvet is my favourite! Being my favourite is normally the kiss of death, but the one and only time my favourite did win it was the UK entry (Katrina and the Waves) so fingers crossed...
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Pouring with rain. Welcome to British Summer Time.
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Friday was quiz night at the Legion. It was a tougher quiz than the last two, as question master Steve readily admitted at the end - but he added that he was pleased to see the top few places were tight. The other guys on our team groaned at the announcement of the 'Name The Year' round (from three events that happened that year) but I was in my element with that round. Mick guessed rightly that I must be a royalist from my knowledge of two of the years, 1960 from the Duke of York's birth and 2011 from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's marriage.

In the 'Connections' round I spotted the connection : the people in the answers to each question shared a name with a famous George. One of them was Susan Tully; I said to the others I wasn't quite sure who George Tully was; Mick explained it was Susan George, and added that he used to fancy her.

The inclusion of a Fleetwood Mac song in the music round had Mick confessing to another of his celebrity crushes, Stevie Nicks. I revealed that I always fancied Christine McVie, and Mick said "That's us sorted, then. Double date."

We came second by a single point. The winners were a new team and were on the table next to us ; Mick admitted he might have gifted them a few points with his habit of shouting out answers, which he blamed on the beer, and told us to thump him in future if he keeps doing it. The chaps said they reckoned the old boy with the walking stick on the winning team had definitely been earwigging on us, and might even have been cribbing at the piece of paper that I use to write answers on instead of saying them out loud. I suggested I move to the side of our table further away from the other team in future; Terry came up with the simpler idea of us simply moving to elsewhere in the room.

Saturday Gosport were away at Eastbourne Borough. Nice enough clubhouse and pleasant ground, but it was a dire game and Gosport lost 1-0. At the bus stop outside the ground I met Andy, an old pal I hadn't seen for years; he had a taxi booked to the station which he insisted I share without letting me contribute, then as he was going to Farnborough, for which he had to jack-knife via Clapham Junction, we travelled back together as far as there, chatting about grounds we've visited, matches we've seen and mutual old friends.
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Good episode of Top of the Pops 1980 tonight. Matchbox, one of my favourite groups from that era, were on at the beginning, it was fun to see Captain Beaky, Deborah from the Flying Lizards could be an outside contender for a medal in my Pop Babe of '80 stakes, and the camera lingered nicely on lovely Patti (my favourite Legs & Co girl) in her tutu.

Alas, At The Edge by Stiff Little Fingers was one of the songs chopped to get the show down to 30 minutes :( Will have to stay up for the very late night repeat on Saturday then. Though we had the consolation of the Ramones' Baby I Love You as the runout.
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The Axe did us proud this week, with pancakes with hazelnut syrup on Tuesday and a Chinese menu to mark the New Year of the Goat on Thursday - I went for a very tasty Szechuan chicken and noodles.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Elsie brought a box of lush Lindor white chocolates into the office. Terrible timing for me, being the first day of Lent, but I resisted. Start as you mean to go on.

Excellent TOTP 1980 on Thursday night, opening with one of my favourite songs, the Tourists' So Good To Be Back Home Again, with Cliff Richard's Carrie soon after, even if another favourite of mine, Someone's Looking At You by the Boomtown Rats, was one of the numbers chopped to fit the show into a 30 minute slot.

A day's leave yesterday to go to London to lay roses for Sarah. By then, thankfully, my cold had pretty much eased off. The train going there was absolute sardines, to the point of the guard repeatedly apologising over the tannoy and explaining it was because of the school holidays. The tube was almost as packed. Sloane Square was crowded too with people going about their business. I laid down my bouquet in the corner of one of the theatre front's side panes and stood facing it, on the block at the side of the front steps, thinking about my memories of Sarah and some of her works, for a while.

Arrived back at Euston with a train home ready to go and just made it. Standing room only again. Went to the Heath Inn to raise a glass to Sarah. Then had to head for MK for the shopping.

Late night downloading, on the old addled laptop, songs for an online international song contest I vote on, and writing up last week's England women's match for a groudhoppers' group on Facebook.

Quiet day today. Doing stuff on the laptop, spotted that it had been invaded by an ad-site-promoting virus. Managed to get it uninstalled (though my attempt to change my Firefox home page from the virus-promoted site doesn't seem to have gone through). No problems since then, fingers crossed...
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Friday night was the quiz at the Legion. Passed an agreeable evening with the Friday Night Boys, knocking back several Magners and just talking about this and that in between the quiz rounds. We started on minus 10 for winning by that margin last time (actually 11 but they don't deduct more than 10). In the second round, when we clocked up our eleventh point to climb to plus 1, Terry said to us "Are you feeling positive?" This time we did get fed during an interval halfway through. Beforehand Terry told me "They're vegetarian sausages, though they don't call them that." The sausages might not have been special, but the chips were first class. When the call went up advertising seconds I was first in the queue - this was noticed by my team-mates. We lay third every time the periodic scores were read out. By the time we'd managed only 4 on the 'shit or bust' round, where you can pass without being penalised but a wrong answer means scoring zero for the round, victory was beyond us. I said "We're still in with a chance of a medal" and Alan added "And there's the jackpot round and the meat raffle". We missed out on the jackpot round because none of us knew that the African country whose name means 'lion mountain' was Sierra Leone (we put Zimbabwe). We ended up third; Terry remarked on our being just 9 points behind the winners, having started on minus 10.

Yesterday was my local Gosport Borough game, away to Hemel Hempstead. Arrived early; on entering the ground I immediately met club chairman Mark, and followed him and Lynn into the clubhouse. After a quick chat with them settled down to watch Tottenham v Arsenal alongside the players from both teams and a few other early arrivers (both North London sides were well supported among those present) over a couple of bottles of a tasty fruit cider, Jacques.

Got talking to a guy who lived in Hemel and also had a house in Gosport, so was a neutral for the day. He asked what I was doing supporting Boro and living in Leighton Buzzard, I said I grew up in Gosport and was a Privett Park regular from age 8 until I left for uni. He knew the street where I used to live and my parents still are.

There weren't more than two dozen on the terrace Gosport were kicking towards. "Bit different from the last time we were here," I observed to a guy near me - our last visit was two years ago for the Southern Premier play-off final, when we took a horde that packed the terrace to the rafters. "It was a lovely sunny day too," he replied - today was freezing. This chap was accompanied by his daughter's boyfriend and a group of friends who live locally. The daughter's boyfriend and his pal were Villa fans; I told them about my recent visit to Villa Park. They gloomily relayed details of Villa's game with Chelsea and kept us updated on other games as we asked. On the pitch the first half was dull and goalless. Ten minutes after the break Hemel got a penalty and converted, but from the restart Gosport went straight down the other end and Rory Williams fired home an equaliser. Near the end, though, Hemel scored with a header from a corner and that proved to be the winner.

Home for The Voice, then down to the Legion to see The Fortunes. They were brilliant, playing not just their own well known hits but a wide selection of 60s numbers, many of them songs one of the present Fortunes line-up - which includes former members of Badfinger and the Dakotas - had connections to, and at the end they threw in Twist And Shout. They even managed to make me line their version of Seasons In The Sun, which was somewhat closer to Jacques Brel's darker original than Terry Jacks' sanitised version.

Carbonite was working today so made a start on the downloading - thankfully if you download files individually they don't come as Zips, and have had no problems so far, touch wood. Axe and Compass for roast at lunchtime; John from the quiz team was there, as were another regular, Bernard, and his son. They asked me about the Fortunes - they'd been intending to go but Bernard's son was bitten by a dog. They were glad there'd been a good crowd as they reckoned the village Legion had been losing money on the concerts lately. Bernard said the village Legion was relying on member numbers to stay on an even keel, and urged me to join, saying you soon make up the membership fee on discounts on drinks and concerts.
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I like number 4 - if only there were Olympics every month...
In 2015, 1988orange resolves to...
Spend less time on fraktur.
Pay for my imperial measures on time.
Lose ten sanya richards by March.
Go to the olympics every month.
Keep my london clean.
Start an eurovision fund.






Get your own New Year's Resolutions:
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Have a cracking Christmas!

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Improved in the second half, but that was the least Christmassy Christmas TOTP2 ever :(
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Went up to Bury yesterday, keeping my promise to the Grange-over-Sands greengrocer. I'd got cheap advance tickets last month, including the joys of first class travel on the way up.

Had to change Metrolink trams in Manchester, involving a short walk between two city centre stops. The centre of Manchester was buzzing with Christmas shoppers, decorations in all the shops. There were more festive goings-on in Bury town centre, including two guys with a stall collecting for Children with Cancer, one of whom was singing Christmas hits over instrumental backing tracks. They were starting to sound a bit dispirited, so I chucked a pound in one of their buckets.

I was on a mission : find some black pudding, a food I've always liked, which originates from Bury. I struck lucky in the busy Bury Market where The Barbecue Barn offered black pudding in a roll - or 'barm' as they're called in those parts - for £1.99. Quite tasty.

It was still only 1.15 when I finished my barm but my continuing detox ruled out a visit to a local hostelry so I just made the walk out of the centre of town and on to Gigg Lane, just in time to see the last of the lads getting out of the team coach. There were half a dozen other early birds waiting by the away turnstiles.

The ground was a fine traditional English lower-division one, converted to all-seater by the addition of seats to the terraces. In the away stand that meant the seats were a bit low above the ground so our knees ended up bent a bit upward. I sat in the second row from the top ; about 35 Hatters stood all along the top behind the back row of seats, singing non-stop. With 23 minutes of the game gone, some stewards came up and told them to go and sit, explaining that they were occupying an emergency gangway. Some of them got argumentative, but within minutes they'd all moved on to a previously empty block of seats - where they stood all game and kept up the singing.

Luton took the lead on 50 minutes, Mark Cullen pouncing on a ball spilled by the Bury goalie. For the rest of the half Bury pressed forward a few times until, in the first minute of smegging injury time, a Bury corner led to a goalmouth scramble that ended with the ball finding its way into the net.

On the walk back to town I met Keith, who said that equaliser was gutting as we could have done without the extra fixture. We chatted till we reached the bus station. Waiting for the tram a guy spoke to me ; he'd been a steward at the game, but was a Manchester United fan - he worked both Old Trafford and Gigg Lane and also music concerts. We talked on the tram until we reached his stop.

Had to leg it through Piccadilly to get to the right platform - the furthest-flung one in the whole station - on time. The train was ten minutes late, which on the one hand meant I made it comfortably, but on the other hand meant it was touch and go whether I'd make my connection at Warrington - to the only train home my booked cheap ticket was good for. The change at Warrington, bizarrely, involved walking from Central station to Bank Quay station which was a fair old hoof. I ran some of the way, then met Paul, a fellow member of one of the fan groups on Facebook, and we walked the rest of the way chatting about football. It looked like we were going to miss the all-important train by the narrowest of margins, but thankfully that one was late too. We met another Hatter on the platform and all moaned together about having to play a replay, until the train turned up and we had to separate to our reserved seats.

One knock-on effect was that we didn't make Milton Keynes in time for a connecting train to Leighton and had to wait there for half an hour - or three-quarters of an hour as it turned out, yet another bloody delay. At least the guy I'd met at Warrington Bank Quay was also waiting for the Leighton train and we were able to take cover from the cold in the platform's coffee shop (closed of course). Made it home just after 10pm.
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To MK Theatre on Friday night for Calamity Jane. I was in about the fifth row from the front of the stalls. I think I may have been a bit too near the orchestra because they drowned out the lyrics of a couple of the musical numbers. Jodie Prenger was excellent as Calamity though, ably supported by Tom Lister as Wild Bill Hickok and Phoebe Street as Katie Brown. Rob Delaney was hilarious as Francis Fryer. It pained me to shun the bags of chocs on offer on the little cart by the entrance and just buy a bottle of water, but duty called and I knew I'd be getting a substantial dinner yesterday.

Yesterday I joined the organiser and four other lucky raffle winners in hospitality at Luton v Mansfield. We met up outside the ground soon after noon, and hung around introducing ourselves to each other and making the odd bit of small talk until we got our cue to make our way to the club's main reception round the back of the stadium.

Through the entrance, we were led up to a room, with trophies and memorabilia in wooden glass-fronted cupboards on the walls, laid out with about a dozen dining tables, bought drinks at the bar (again water for me) and sat around our table chatting while Charlton v Ipswich showed on a big screen above us, until it was time to go for our stadium tour. Just before we went into the home dressing room we met manager John Still and all said hello - one of our party said "Thanks for everything, John" - before he disappeared through a door. The home dressing room had motivational slogans printed in bright orange on signs above the pegs; all the outfield players' shirts were hanging on their pegs, while goalie Mark Tyler's peg had his civvy clothes on (he was already on the pitch warming up). I noticed a piece of paper on a table, on which some of the players were having a competition predicting the results of some of the day's games. From there we went out to pitchside, and queued among the other groups of sponsors to have a group photo taken on the pitch.

Then it was back to the room for carvery lunch. Each table was called up in turn to get food from the hotplate - slices of beef, turkey or both and assorted veg, including roast potatoes and roast parsnip. Delicious, as was dessert - lemon tart, which was brought to us at table.

We had seats in the VIP box, almost overlooking the halfway line, though there was a pylon in front of the pitch just to the right of us. The others had all been saying before the game that they were going to vote Paul Benson as our Sponsors' Man of the Match, because he's been a solid performer for the Hatters - a real Steady Eddie who made a valuable contribution to last season's promotion - but apparently he'd been getting a fearful slating on some online LTFC forums. To our delight, on 27 minutes after a goalmouth scramble Benno scored, but, alas, soon afterwards he was stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle (in the evening we'd hear it was a broken leg). In the second half Shaun Whalley scored two brilliant goals - a cross shot from out wide and a driving effort from the edge of the box into the top corner - to wrap the game up. A couple of us had gone for a 3-1 win in the hospitality room prediction competition and Mansfield tantalised us by coming close a couple of times, Luton also had a couple more chances, but it stayed 3-0.

Afterwards there were presentations in the room. After the mascots had their photos taken with man of the match Shaun Whalley and were presented with framed programmes and team autographs, it was the turn of one of ours (we drew squares of paper for the honour, Craig won) to present Shaun his MoM trophy and receive a team shirt signed by the squad. For a while we all had fun trying to decipher the autographs (most of the players had helped by writing their numbers next to their signatures) then Craig suggested we auction the shirt for Supporters of Luton Youth Development; that was agreed on all round.

Then I had to say my goodbyes and walk up to town for the bus while the others were staying on for a Christmas party being held in the same room. It would just have been pointless my going while I'm only drinking water, and with no late evening buses home, a hotel room for the night or taxi all the way back would just have been too expensive on top of all the expenditure that December brings (which in my case includes my car's annual service).

Easy day today, retro chart shows, Carry On Again Doctor on ITV and excellent roast chicken and Christmas pud at the Axe.
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Luton at home to Tranmere yesterday. On the bus there I got a phone call from my mobile phone network offering me a discount on switching to pay monthly. The call dragged on, partly because the bus noise meant I had to keep asking the lady to repeat things, and also because she just had a hell of a big script to read and a fair few questions to ask. She was still going strong when the bus arrived in Luton so I had to duck into the foyer of a gym next to the bus stop to carry on the conversation.

After all that rigmarole I had a hell of a time getting my bearings and finding the way to Kenilworth Road. So it was 2.15 when I finally got to the Beech Hill Con Club and there was a lengthy queue for the bar. Before long, a bloke appeared to be cutting in front of me, so I just said "Excuse me, I am in the drinks queue. Sorry." Perfectly polite - but he went ballistic. He went into a rant about how he wasn't cutting into the drinks queue but was going to the food table, and made a great issue of how he was a member of the club (clearly he resented the fortnightly influx of football fans that the club allows in for £1 on matchdays). Later he came back and gave me another mouthful. After I'd got served, I heard him at a table not too far away swearing and ranting about something, so this guy had clearly already been extremely radged off for some reason and my apparently accusing him of queue-jumping was the last straw. But there is still no need for that kind of behaviour.

Drinking morosely, I thought to myself "Bet we bloody lose and all now", but we ground out a dull 1-0 win, the goal a curler from young Ricky Miller that seemed to go into the net in slo-mo.

Back at the Galaxy Centre, waiting for the bus back to Leighton, a dysfunctional couple were loudly arguing about cigarettes, lighters and him allegedly cheating on her. The bus was over 10 minutes late and then when it did arrive on the road just before the high street it broke down, all of which meant I missed my connecting bus home. Went into the Black Lion to pass the hour until the next (and last) bus with a swift exotic foreign beer. Left the pub two minutes before the bus was due. After eight minutes waiting I asked two young men in the bus shelter, who said my bus had been and gone early. Unable to afford a taxi home I had no option but to walk the entire three miles. Made straight for the bar of the Axe and Compass on arriving there, but stuck to a couple of J2Os with my blood pressure review coming up, then slunk off home. Managed to have a brief phone chat with Katherine.

This morning I'd intended to write to Arriva Buses anyway, since yesterday the driver at Luton had refused to give me the usual discount - travelling for child fare on a matchday on production of my LTFC season ticket - on the grounds, new on me, that that discount only applied to journeys contained entirely within the Borough of Luton. I wrote enclosing my ticket and requesting a refund of the difference - then added about the late and broken down buses and asked about compensation under the Customer Charter since the delay put an hour on my journey (even before the one that came and went early is taken into consideration). That little job out of the way, it was time for Carry On Cowboy on ITV.

This afternoon was supposed to have been the Classic Retro Countdown of this week in 1980 on Atlantic Oldies, but halfway through the show the station fell dead silent. And stayed silent for half an hour, the whole of Part 3 simply left out, before Part 4 started up as normal at its appointed time. It turned out the station had been supplied with a faulty file. So I have to take a kick in the flex and knock off early on Thursday to get home for the repeat.

Radged off with the world thanks to the malfunctioning radio file, Mr Shitbag and the errant buses, I switched off the online radio and stomped down to the Axe for a slightly earlier than planned roast turkey. A couple of the regulars who'd talked to me before at least listened to my troubles, and the turkey was excellent - and they've now got Christmas pudding on the dessert menu and it was delicious.

Back home to the ironing. What fun. Thank goodness for a great chart from this week in 1978 on Mixcloud to get it done to.
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Sunday was the Gosport Borough v Colchester game. The ground was transformed for the occasion, with temporary stands behind both goals; in one of them a vocal group of fans, decked out in yellow and blue from head to toe, sang songs, rang bells and waved placards. They had a giant teddy bear standing at the end of the front row, with a T-shirt on bearing a list of the results from last year's FA Trophy run followed by 'The dream continues - Gosport v Colchester 9.11.14 FA Cup 1st round'. There was also a huge inflatable tent behind one of the temporary stands, acting as an extra tea bar.

Getting hold of a prog was fun and games - there were none by either turnstile, nor in the club shop - but I finally found a vendor walking round the ground with them. I was just in time; they sold out minutes later and the club shop lady took down people's contact info for a reprint run. Just had time for a Pompey Royal (from Oakleaf, Gosport's own brewery) in the clubhouse. While I was in the queue Bradford (sods...bastards...) City took the lead against Halifax.

Alas, the game was finished as a contest within half an hour as Colchester ran in three goals. To do Gosport credit they never gave up, and pulled one back late in the first half. Alas, I missed Gosport's first through being in the blow-up tea tent, having gone there early to beat the rush. Colchester scored again just before the break; although Justin Bennett scored a well taken goal for Boro in the second half, late on Colchester added numbers five and six, though Boro still managed an injury-time consolation.

Walking back to the parents' after the game I got caught in an absolute monsoon. There was a tree by the road so I took cover until the rain eased, though it didn't really provide an awful lot of shelter.

Travelled back yesterday. After getting in the shopping and a walk, I was ready for a night of pub grub and football on the big screen. Alas, the Heath Inn's booze selection was down to the bare bones, and poor old Kerry, while she was friendly enough, was all on her own, so the clientele - who numbered about a dozen, probably more than the place was expecting on a Monday - ended up with some pretty long waits for service. And there were no cherry bake well sponges on. I mentioned to Kerry that this dessert had now been off for over a week and was still on the blackboard; she promised to have it rubbed off.

We had the FA Cup 2nd round draw on. When Bury came out of the hat early in the draw and the announcer said 'Will play', I, remembering my meeting with the Grange-over-Sands greengrocer, said out loud '25' - Luton's number. Would you believe it - it was 25. So I'm committed to keeping my promise to the greengrocer and attending the match.

After the draw, some of the other people in the bar watched Corrie. When the end-of-episode credits faded, I, as I have done tons of times before, walked over to the remote control and put BT Sport on for the Havant & Waterlooville v Preston match. At that point an older guy, sitting with his younger partner quite close to the screen, addressed me aggressively and sarcastically "Why don't you just put what you like on?" Thrown off balance, I explained that I'd never had a problem putting on televised football for the bar. I managed to ask him if he wanted to watch anything else. He sulkily said no. Kerry came back from the kitchen out back. From the safety of the other side of the room I said sotto voce to her "someone's not happy with me putting the football on". Kerry went over and asked everyone "Who's not happy with the football?" No-one spoke. After 10 minutes of Mr Allmouth N. Trousers griping about me and football to his partner, the two of them actually left.

All that was necessary was to say 'Excuse me, I would like to watch...' Then, I would have gladly deferred to him and walked down to the Axe to watch the match. There's just no need for that kind of behaviour. Daft onk.
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My LTFC wax jacket was ready when I arrived in Leighton this morning en route to Luton, and so far there've been no more problems with the zip. Fingers crossed...

The bus before the one I was expecting to get was late, and still standing at the stop when I came out of the dry cleaners, so made it to Luton with plenty of time for a leisurely bottle of Pedigree with my carton of chips and mayo in the Beech Hill Con Club. A guy went round the tables with a blackout card; I picked Hearts and won, to the tune of £25.

The game with Northampton was a sell-out but the atmosphere could have been better - mostly just the odd chant here and there. Both sides made plenty of forays forward, and the referee came in for some stick for persistently refusing to award penalties or give cards for bad fouls - while Northampton's Marvin D'Ath got on all Luton nerves, fans and players alike, by deliberately getting in the way at our free kicks and generally being an obnoxious little onk, but neither side much threatened the opposing goal.

Until Luke Guttridge, making a very popular return to action as sub after months out injured, got on the end of a Harriman through ball and rolled it into the net. Time : 89 mins 56 secs.

Of course we all went crazy and launched into 'E-I-E-I-O' in full voice. There were four minutes of injury time still to play but the Hatters rode it out. The consensus filing out of the ground was that we'd been lucky,; I pointed out that winning when not playing well is a good sign.

Axe and Compass this evening for Party for Parkinson's, a benefit event for Parkinson's UK. There was basket food at the bar - the chicken was very tasty - and live music under a marquee out back behind the pub. First up were Rock Chorus, a large group of people who meet every week to sing uptempo pop songs en masse. They were conducted by a lady standing in front of the stage, who also did the between-songs patter (including a couple of appeals for new members). They did a good selection of songs ranging from the 70s to today, and got an extra special round of applause from me for including Tom Petty's Free Fallin'. Next were Razz, a very good female trio who did 60s and 70s hits and got me among the handful up front boogieing with a great rendition of Da Doo Ron Ron. The last band were Red Diamond who played numbers by the Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd and similar. Someone in the audience said to me that both acts were local - Red Diamond are from Leighton, and lost their drummer in a car crash this week - they'd bravely decided the show must go on - while the Razz ladies are from right here in Heath and Reach. Cool.
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Scintillating performance from the Hatters against Dagenham & Redbridge last night. Mark Cullen bagged a hat-trick, vindicating those fans who've had faith in him all season, and Dagenham's late consolation goal thanks to sloppy defending did nothing to dampen our spirits. Every Hatter there ended the evening believing that something special is happening this season.

Flex day today to recuperate. After months of looking mournfully at my LTFC wax jacket sitting in a kitbag, took the bull by the horns today and took it to a dry cleaner's in Leighton who also do repairs. The guys there reckoned all that was needed was a zip runner, charging just £5.50, so here's hoping...

Monkey

Oct. 19th, 2014 06:14 pm
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Early start yesterday morning to set off for Middlesbrough. To get there by train from Leighton Buzzard you have to jack-knife via London, travelling to Euston then tube to King's Cross to catch a mainline train to Darlington. So as you can imagine, the fare is one that leaves you thinking "I only want to travel on the train, not buy it." But Hartlepool was one of the 92 I hadn't done, and Uncle John was mad keen to join me at this game and have me as his house guest, so it had to be done.

At King's Cross there was a queue of Harry Potter fans a mile long lining up to have their photo taken holding half a trolley sticking out of a wall bearing a sign 'Platform 9 3/4'. I wonder if it's like that every Saturday, or if there was just a HP fan event on in London yesterday? Next to the photo feature is a shop also called Platform 9 3/4 dedicated to all things Hogwarts. I've seen the first three Potter films and enjoyed them so bought the first book there to read on the train.

At Darlo, phoned Uncle John to let him know I was there and popped into the station café for a very tasty heated chicken wrap while waiting for the Middlesbrough train. Uncle John, Aunt Pauline and their son Ronnie were at Middlesbrough station to meet me. We chatted about family news, work and football on the drive to Hartlepool and Aunt Pauline dropped us right outside the bar at the football ground.

We enjoyed a couple of pints of the local beer, Cameron's, and watched Cardiff beat Forest on the big screen - much to Uncle John and Ronnie's pleasure as Forest are one of Middlesbrough's promotion rivals. At 2.40 we made our way down to the away end. Once through the turnstile Uncle John and Ronnie made for the Gents; while they were there my pal Keith, the Scouse Luton fan, came up to me for a quick chat. Alas, by the time Uncle John and Ronnie emerged they'd missed the chance to meet one of football supporting's greatest characters.

Uncle John and Ronnie enjoyed the atmosphere in with the travelling Hatters, and even picked up and joined in with a couple of the chants. They were happy to sing along with 'We hate Watford' as the Hornets are another of Boro's promotion rivals! Luton took the lead through Mark Cullen late in the first half. Half time brought happy news for John and Ronnie - Boro were 1-0 up at Brighton.

Jim Stevenson seemed to have sealed the points for the Hatters, netting the rebound after the keeper parried a free kick with nine minutes to go. Tension returned when Hartlepool pulled one back from a penalty in the 90th, but Luton comfortably held on for the win.

We walked down to Morrisons car park where Aunt Pauline had agreed to pick us up. I'd set off at a faster walking pace; when the other two caught up with me Uncle John said they'd been worried for me in my Hatters shirt mingling with the Pools fans, but I'd had no trouble - only one monkey-hanger saying to me "How the hell did you win? Worst team I've seen all season!" We stood around for a while and John checked the other results on his phone - Luton stayed 4th, while Middlesbrough had won 2-1 at Brighton and moved up to 3rd.

Finally Aunt Pauline showed up and we set off for the Transporter Bridge only to find it closed for renovation. Meanwhile Ronnie was chatting on his mobile to a friend, who had the hump with Ronnie over his not being able to come to a party the weekend before because of work, but they eventually agreed to go drinking that night and so we dropped him off.

Uncle John, Aunt Pauline and I went on to a hotel-restaurant they knew well. More chat about their family over drinks and dinner; ?Uncle John told me about his two daughters, polar opposites - one of them a real diva princess, the other a Waynetta Slob! I went for an excellent chicken breast with rice. An advert in the hotel lobby said that they were staging 'An Evening with Adele' in two weeks - it was pretty clear that the young lady performing is a tribute act, but Uncle John said, laughing, to a receptionist on our way out "I'll be back in two weeks, I'm expecting to see Adele - it says An Evening with Adele on there! Wonder if she'll bring the baby?"

We headed to their home in Nunthorpe, passing a parade of shops en route; one of the shops was a Chinese take-away, Colin Cheng, of which Uncle John and Aunt Pauline both spoke very highly - "we never get Chinese from anywhere else". Uncle John showed me up the stairs to where I'd be sleeping, in a mezzanine room that was the diva daughter's before she moved out, then we watched some of X Factor, Aunt Pauline turned in and Impopped upstairs for a little rest before rejoining Uncle John for the Football League Show.

In the morning Uncle John knocked me up some bacon and sissies and let me glance through the north-east Sunday Sun before they dropped me at the station in plenty of time for the 8.50 train, with "Let us know next time Luton play near us, or if you fancy seeing a Middlesbrough game to help towards the 92" ringing in my ears.

Back home for a superb Classic Retro Countdown of 1974 and a tasty roast beef and Yorkshire at the Axe.
malmo58: (Default)
The journey on the Eurostar went without a hitch. The hotel was just a short walk from the Gare du Nord, there wasn't room to swing a cat in the rooms but the proprietor was very friendly and spoke good English - though I spoke in French the whole of our time in France.

Dad thought he'd lost his Kindle when we arrived at the Paris hotel and had to log into Amazon on my iPad to de-register it, before phoning the London hotel to ask if it had been seen.

Both evenings we went to eat around six - yesterday we went to the Buffalo Grill who did a very tasty half Kentucky style chicken - then moved on to a wonderful little bar opposite the station, Au Rendezvous des Belges, with a friendly host and an excellent selection of Trappist beers.

Tuesday we made our connections on the RER and out to Rouen with no problems and took the tram out to the nearest stop to the cemetery. It was a good mile's walk, but fortunately there was a supermarket along the way containing a florist's shop so we were able to buy a couple of white peace lilies.

The information sheet we had showed my great-grand-uncle's grave reference as 'P. V. L.' and a number so we were a bit thrown, when we reached P block, to find the rows were labelled P followed by a number then a letter. Meandering around, the thought hit each of us at the same time that the V might be a 5. From there we located our uncle's grave, paid our respects and laid the lilies.

Leaving the cemetery, I noticed that a sports stadium was next door. A sign told me it was a football ground, home of FC Rouen; Dad, knowing about my fondness for groundhopping, joked "If they're playing at home tonight you're staying out here on your own."

We faced our only travelling hitch of the whole trip on the way back to Paris as our train was held for 15 minutes somewhere in the suburbs; my French wasn't quite up to deciphering the announcer's rapid-fire explanation why. Walking from the Gare du Nord to the hotel Dad reckoned Patrice Evra passed us on the street. On the next pedestrian crossing, although the green man was showing two cars came around the corner, obliging us to run back to the centre. That evening in the Rendezvous des Belges, the Armenia v France friendly was on the big screen: Dad said "If Patrice Evra's playing, it wasn't him we passed earlier."

On the Eurostar back to London this morning Dad's phone rang. It was the London hotel - he'd left his Kindle on top of the rubbish bin in his room's bathroom. Detour there to collect it, then cab to Waterloo and train to Portsmouth.

Chilling at the parents' in front of the telly.

Gambler

Sep. 10th, 2014 08:05 pm
malmo58: (Default)
On the way home, tried to place a bet on two reality TV stars getting married (she knocked him back in the latest episode so figured I'd get good odds). Alas, neither Coral nor William Hill would take it. What happened to the good old days when you could have a flutter on absolutely anything?
malmo58: (Default)
Luton v Bury last night. I did think of the Grange-over-Sands greengrocer. With 89 minutes on the clock and the Hatters 1-0 down, quite a few fans in my section - and elsewhere - jumped up in frustration and walked to the exits. Then in the second minute of injury time, the ball fell to Pelly Ruddock just inside the penalty box and Pelly unleashed a rocket into the top corner for the equaliser. Penny for the thoughts of all the early leavers, who'd have been making their way out of the ground, when they heard the mighty roar.

On leave for the rest of the week. After catching the repeat of last night's Celeb BB (I'm a long time fan of Claire King) I moseyed down to the Black Lion this afternoon to check out their impressive range of Belgian beers. The friendly pink-haired barmaid remembered my asking last time which beer the one in the funny-shaped bottle was - it was De Gulden Draak - and asked if I wanted one, so I went for it. Quite pleasant. One chap, standing at the var throughout, was cheerful and a real chatterbox; another guy came in, flirted with the barmaid and told everyone who'd listen how he'd been to Milton Keynes last week and had a 6% ale that cost only £2 a pint but tasted like ditchwater. For follow-up I plumped for a strawberry beer called Fruli, quite refreshing. I love that place.