Preston, Scotland, Football, Colin & Maria

Trip Start Apr 11, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sawadee Krab

We were the last people to leave Rickmansworth, mainly because it saved on paying for accommodation, the last night alone in the school had a surreal feel to it – the school was so empty, still no ghosts though. On the Monday morning I left the school at 7am and left the other two sleeping, yes I know such a nice guy. I made the mistake of leaving in shorts and t-shirt for my journey by public transport to Luton Airport to pick up our hire car, you see it was freezing cold and the English summer was still killing me. Once I had returned to Rickmansworth I packed the car and picked up the other two sleepy heads and off we went. The journey up north was a slow old process on the motorways. The M1 and M25 are glorified car parks in some parts and coming to a complete standstill is all too common. Eventually we reached Telford and accepted the kind invitation by my cousin Debbie to have her house for several days, to accommodate us Debbie moved in with her mum.

The next day we went our separate ways, Di wanted to visit where her family came from in Scotland so she headed north by train. Jesse and I went up to Preston where my mum's side of the family comes from, I actually lived in Preston in the sixties before coming to Australia. We were stopping the night of course with relatives and were going to a football match. On arrival in Preston we went straight to the Preston Football Ground. The reason was that the English Football Associations Football Museum is there. For any football fan this visit is a must see. The museum is free to enter and is a journey through the ages and all aspects of world football with photos, memorabilia, stories and simply everything football. Surprisingly they had a separate section dedicated purely to Brazilian football; surprisingly because it is the English Football Museum isn’t it.    

I have not seen Doug and Sandra for 21 years and even then I only met them for a day, but family is family and we blended together all so well. After dinner Doug, Jess and I were off to the Footy. The game was only a Carlings Cup game (ignorant Rugby League and non Footy followers please tune out) and was between Preston and Morecombe. No real big deal for most people but it was a huge deal for Morecombe as it was their first ever game in the Carlings Cup and Preston is their more prestigious next door neighbours. Morecombe plays in two divisions below Preston.  For you Australians it is a bit like Goulburn playing the Canberra Raiders. Such is the beauty and unpredictability of sport where fairy tales do happen – Morecombe won. The night was also special as we met my Uncle Tom who lives in Sydney and was visiting his side of the family in Preston for a few weeks. Of course Tom wore his South Sydney jumper – you can take the boy out of Botany but not the Botany out of the boy. Jess got right into the feel and spirit of being a Football yobo and bought a new Preston shirt and a ridiculous wig – he looked like a clown, well more so than usual.

After many drinks that night with Doug and Sandra and a phone call to my Mum and Dad we told many a story and had loads of fun; these are all special memories. Next morning it was off to Manchester and a game at the Greatest Football Stadium in the land and world – the City of Manchester Football Stadium aka the COMS. The glorious Manchester City was playing Derby County in a Premiership match. Jess was suitably equipped with his new Man City shirt and scarf and the excitement in the both of us was very high. For the record Man City won of course and for me it was a real father and son moment – but after saying that Charlotte was badly missed and I wish she could have been with us to give it that little bit of extra magic.

After the sensational Man City victory it was a mad walk across the city with all the other fans to the train station to meet up with Di who had arrived at the train station from Scotland. We then left Manchester at 10.30pm for the two hour drive back to Telford. We arrived at Telford okay, but things look a little different at night to what they do during the day and believe it or not we could not recognize the streets that were all so clear and easy during the day. Jess was fast a sleep in the back of the car and Di and I drove up and down every street in Telford looking for Debbie’s house. For the next two hours – yes two hours, we were unable to find the street – we even contemplated ringing Debbie at 2am. Thankfully sanity prevailed and we eventually stumbled across the street. Marital vows were tested that night – she just would not obey me.

Di had a nice time in Scotland and found the street where her Grandfather had lived. She wandered down to his house and saw an elderly lady in the garden. Di introduced herself and explained why she was there. The lady was very excited and they chatted for a while, though one wonders how on earth they could understand each other. Eventually the lady invited Di in for a cup of tea and a biscuit. The lady had lived in the house for many years and did not know the previous owners. They exchanged emails and the lady gave her brochures about the area. Di started to ask her about another location and took out the piece of paper with various addresses on it. A casual glance at her Grandfathers address and guess what?? She saw she was at the WRONG NUMBER!!!! The twit!! Her Grandfathers house was up the street on the other side of the road. She did not have the heart to tell the lady. Now you know why WE get lost all the time. After leaving the lady, Di walked to the CORRECT house and took a quick photo and then walked off.

The next day we went for a day trip with the relatives Aunty Edna, Ron and Debbie to the town of Telford’s claim to fame – The Iron Bridge. The Iron Bridge is an Iron Bridge of course, but it is credited with being the First ever Iron Bridge in the world. The Iron Bridge spans the River Severn and today is only open to foot traffic. The location is very scenic and pretty with an old English village surrounding it and it has a rather beautiful river walk.

Wales is only about 20 miles away from Telford so a trip across the border was a must, if anything it was another country visited on our journey. The interesting part about Wales is their passion to up hold the Welsh way of life and not be simply English. All the sign posts are in English and in the Welsh language. If ever there were a language full of tongue twisters the Welsh language is the king. There are many clusters of consonants which are very difficult to get the tongue around. The Welsh language also seems to consider that the longer the word the better and have devised some rather lengthy conglomerations. We had lunch at a town appropriately named Welshpool.

That evening we traveled back to Stafford for dinner with Uncle Peter and Aunty Maureen, it was a good bye thank you type of dinner. I had a bit to drink, how unusual you say, so Di risked the wrath of the hire car insurance company and drove back to Telford. Things started out bad on the drive back and simply got worse. After leaving Peter’s we were going to take the motorway to Telford rather than the back roads. The traffic on the motorway was horrendous at the junction were we changed from one motorway to another and there was a huge queue of vehicles. Di, 'the bull at the gate’ can never be confused with someone who is patient, said blow this they all cannot be queuing to go the way we are? So she darted around them on the roundabout and followed the queue directly to our exit. At the exit we could see a line of cars and car lights off into the distance and knew it would take ages to get through. The problem was that on that weekend there was a three day rock concert in some field starting the next day; hundreds of thousands of people were attending. The only option was to return to Stafford and use the back roads.

You would think that Di and I were reasonably intelligent people – well perhaps you would think Di is a reasonably intelligent person and that we would learn from our mistakes. We arrived at Telford at 11pm and came into the town from a different direction than we were used to – that’s right we got lost again and started going round and round in ever expending circles looking for Debbie’s house. Telford is not a big town, the question arises ‘How the hell did we get across Asia when we cannot get through Telford’. At one point we actually were on the road we needed to be on, but Di had an inspirational moment and decided to take a short cut – well done Di another hour looking for the road we were originally on. Eventually, ‘even a broken clock is right twice a day’, we found the street and woke Jesse before the sun rose and put him to bed.

It was with some fear and trepidation that we set off the next day as coming back to Telford seemed such a daunting challenge. We were off to Stoke to visit Colin, Maria and Francis who we had met in Bangkok and as an added bonus Colin had three tickets for that afternoons Stoke City versus Charlton football match.

The game was good and very enjoyable with Stoke winning which made Colin happy. At halftime the Staffordshire army regiment who had just returned from Iraq marched around the ground and received a very rousing sentimental cheer. Watching these fifty or so men and one woman march around the ground I was surprised at how young they all looked, yes I know I am getting older (I use the word older and not old) but some of these kids only just look older than Charlotte and Jess. The only negative aspect of the game for me was when the club organised a minutes silence for a 15 year old Stoke City fan that had died in a car crash the week before. The lad’s parents were at the game and a small section of the Stoke City fans kept chanting during the minute’s silence. Then to compound the problem other parts of the crowd started to yell and ‘swear’ at them to be quiet. I just felt so sorry for the parents; the club was trying so hard to do the right thing by the parents.

It was then back to Colin’s house and dinner with the girls and lots of reminiscing about the good times in Bangkok and we even laughed at all the things that went wrong in Bangkok – time has a way of perverting a memory. It was so good to catch up with these wonderful people. Thanks for a great night Colin, Maria and Francis. We cautiously set off for the trip back to …………… you know where!!

Well miracles never seem to cease – we made it back to Debbie’s house without getting lost or having to enjoy the night time sights of lovely Telford. The next morning it was going to be the day of all days – the crème Della crème as it were. Jess and I were back off to Manchester for the football match of the century – MANCHESTER CITY versus man united. Anybody who knows anything about football knows this is a match which has few rivals and we had tickets. The trip there was done in pouring rain and driving the high speed motorways in rain is a traumatic experience at best. We soon had to endure two major traffic jams as we passed two major car accidents. In the first one a car at high speed had lost control and slammed into an embankment and had caught fire and was completely burnt out. In the second one a car had slipped off the roadway and overturned several times coming to rest on its roof. Seeing these things gives you an eerie feeling.

In Manchester we parked the car and joined the stream of Manchester City fans walking to the ground. Light blue and white was everywhere – we were part of a light blue army going to war with a despised enemy (sometimes I get carried away), not a glimpse of red could be seen. Outside the ground Jess had his photo taken with a Manchester City player,  the Brazilian Geovanni. This would prove significant as Geovanni would score the match winning goal. Another highlight or was it a low light, was the walk through the crowd by the new Manchester City owner disposed ex-Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin. When he walked past Jess, Jess spoke Thai to him. Thaksin simply turned and said ‘You speak Thai very well’ and walked on. I was surprised that he replied in English and that he never stopped to chat a bit with him. Thaksin probably thought Jess could have been a Thai government assassin sent to ‘rub him out’.

The atmosphere in the ground was different to the Derby County game. The Derby game was a carnival atmosphere as we were expected to win. This game was subdued anxiety as we were expected to lose. The crowd was just over 46,000 with 90% of the crowd Man City fans. The United fans are allocated a small section of the ground and have a cordon of police surrounding them throughout the game. The chanting and taunting between the fans is worth the price of admission alone. Geovanni scored a sensational goal for Man City and the crowd erupted with Jess and I joining in with the wild celebrations. To be fair the rest of the game was centred on United’s efforts and repeated failures to score. In fact they missed goals that seemed easier to score than miss. One comical moment in the last minute was when a united player had an easy header into an unguarded net – he missed!! The Man United manager, Alec Ferguson, thought he had scored and was doing a little gig along the sideline with his arms in the air until the City fans once more erupted in cheer and then Ferguson stood there looking very bewildered until he realised the twit had missed. A great father and son moment – I wish Charlotte was there.

When the final whistle went a sense of relief swept through the crowd and the celebrations started – we had won the war. The departing Man United fans were given some terrible taunting and abuse. Jess and I stayed to on savour the moment in the emptying stadium. Then we began the slow walk out of a truly wonderful moment. What is surprising is that the Man United fans are kept at the back of the stadium in a caged off area. We watched as they were given a police escort out of the ground and through the city. All the United fans leave on busses in convoy. This was a new experience for Jess as the supporters from various teams in Australia all sit amongst each other. Also consider both teams are from Manchester, though united gets most of its support from outside of Manchester – Manchester City is the true Manchester team. I had heard this statement before and wandering around Manchester I believe it is true. Jess went to the toilet at the train station, he was supposed to pay 50 pence, and the attendant opened the door and let him in for nothing. The attendant said it was because he was wearing blue. Many people showed their support to him and Man City as Jess wore his Man City shirt.

After a long drive back to Telford we talked about the day and what a great week we had just had – four football games in six days – does life get any better than this, I think not.

Cop jai my friends.

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