Wednesday 8 September 2021

Arsenal Tales


'Arra … Yer An Artist!' - Highbury Tales  

With Alan 'Arra' Murphy getting some heading practice in just in case the Reds need us.

Easter Tuesday 1967. Tom McGowan, Rob Nicol, Alan Murphy, Dick Dighton and me. Draped in our colours, the red and white of Liverpool F.C. This was a night match at Arsenal and we were sitting in a cafe just down on the  Pentonville Road, a short walk from St Pancras for a pre match beer and chips. It was mid afternoon, the sun shone and we were in high sprits, taking the piss out of one and other, having fun. And talking over the probable team line up. Alf Arrowsmith, the reserve centre forward was in for St.John who was injured. New signing from Blackpool, Emlyn Hughes was also in. Replacing Geoff Strong. Which added an extra dimension to proceedings. It was always good to see new players for the first time. Idle chatter ensued and Dick and I decided to take a walk, to have a 'butchers' at a few second hand book shops nearby. Suddenly a big black man appears in our path. Being young lads from the sticks, I doubt if any of us had seen a black man before, except on the tele or at the 'flicks' as there were no black people in Corby in the 60s, we felt a tad threatened. Why I've no idea! 

"Hey man, where can I  get a coffee?" he asked in a slow Caribbean drawl. This catches us by surprise. "Er, around the corner there's a good cafe", Dick answered encouragingly. "Right" the big feller says, "Take me to it". Ay? "No, it's easy" I piped up, "just around the corner, you can't miss it." Standing stock still, his frame silhouetted against the sunlight over his shoulder, he then informs us that WE are goin' to buy him a coffee. He wasn't looking too kindly at us - and we ran like hell! It was obvious the guy was either half pissed or stoned. We didn't hang about to figure out which. Thankfully he didn't pursue his cause, or chase us. Getting back to our pals still dining at the bistro, breathless, they laughed at our tale of woe and naivety - and ribbed us mercilessly for the rest of the day! 

This was the first time we'd been to Highbury, home of the Gunners. Of all the games in London, Arsenal was the easiest to get to. A couple of stops on the Underground and unbelievably, the ground was right opposite the station. 

This match, over the years, should have been one of the most eagerly awaited of them all, if only for the easy access. As it happened, it became quite the opposite. The Arsenal v Liverpool encounters throughout the late  1960s and the 1970s produced some of the most boring and interminable matches going! This first affair, for our troop set the tone. A dull 1-1 encounter only enlivened by a goal from Arrowsmith and a classic scouse crack from an equally bored Red supporter - "Arra, yer an artist.." Alan Murphy found this particularly amusing and nearly fell over laughing, and from then on, Murph was bestowed with the nickname 'Arra'.

Alf Arrowsmith

An idiosyncrasy about Highbury back then was the pre match entertainment provided by a police band in the corner of the ground. What was that all about? Some type of tradition stretching back the halcyon days for the Arsenal in the 1930s? A nod to their own perceived grandeur and their famed ‘Marble Halls’? When the Beatles, Stones, T.Rex and whoever were forever in the charts, down at Highbury all you got was the police band churning out garbage like 'Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...' or something just as dull and inane! Boring must have been embedded in Arsenal's DNA!

The following 68/69 season Alan and I took our girlfriends Doreen and Sue along for a day out in London, with the highlight being a trip to Highbury. A meal in a Lyons Coffee House by the Piccadilly Underground station before the game was also our intention to impress the ladies. Until the bill came along. All four of us made a sharp exit  out of the door and ran half way down Oxford Street without paying! Gave us all a good laugh. 

Emlyn Hughes

The rest of our gang was also out in force this day. Alan Clarkson, Nick, Tom, Jimmy Knocker, etc. and we teamed up when meeting them outside the stadium. The game was another drab affair which ended 1-1 and is remembered more for a thunderstorm which broke just before kick off, evoking an immediate response from the Liverpool supporters chanting, 'Shankly has spoken!' The other memory of the day was Nick 'picking up' a girl in London and bringing her back home to Corby on the train! Nick had more patter than the rest of us, but his taste in women, it has to be said, was rather less appealing on the eye. As was this one. Joining Alan, Doreen, myself and Sue in the compartment, Nick didn't hang around and soon had his hands down her pants. Unbelievable. And the look on his face was smug. 'That's how you do it boys!'

According to my diary for the 69/70 season, after Arsenal had beaten Liverpool 2-1 it appears that me and Knocker settled for a drink in Piccadilly, while the rest, Tom McGowan, Big Alan and Pat Devlin went to a strip show! That tells you how memorable the game was. I think me and Knocker felt we'd seen enough tits on show that afternoon. Ron Yeats scored a late goal for the Reds.

Arsenal were THE name of English football way back in the 1930s, but could only boast a couple of F.A.Cup triumphs since. Under the stewardship of Bertie Mee and later Terry Neil and George Graham they became universally acknowledged as the most boring team in the land. Mee was in charge when the clubs met in the 1971 Cup Final when Liverpool was in a period of transition. The previous year's exit from the F.A.Cup at lowly Watford had signalled the end for stalwarts Tommy Lawrence, Ron Yeats, Roger Hunt and Ian St John. Tommy Smith was now the captain, leading a team consisting of fresh recruits Ray Clemence, Alec Lindsay, Larry Lloyd, Alun Evans, Brian Hall and Steve Heighway, signed from amateur side Skelmersdale United. Nobody gave them a chance against an Arsenal team that was going for the elusive 'double'. They had won the league at Tottenham the week before and were out to emulate their North London neighbours who had achieved the double of league and cup winners in 1961. Tickets were hard to come by, as was always the case. However, Big Alan, Tom McGowan and Jeff Stewart managed to come by a ticket and left everyone else back home green with envy. Pat Devlin lifted our spirits by arranging a get - together to watch the match in his pal Noel Gibson's flat, which was over a shop on the corner of Gold Street in Kettering. Furthermore, he had a colour TV! Which was as rare as rocking horse shit back then. Armed with 'carry-outs' of cider and lager and a barrel of beer, ‘Wilf’ Wilson, Pat, myself, Jeff 'Scouse' Paton and a crew of 'Kettering Reds', crammed into Gibby's flat to enjoy ourselves and cheer our team on. Outside, Kettering was buzzing with shoppers, the sun was searing. Inside we were getting wrecked. The game was far from a classic, no change there then, passing us by as we grew steadily more pissed by the minute. After 90 minutes it was still 0-0. Then in extra time, ecstasy was reached when Heighway gave Liverpool the lead. We were going crazy, drunk with glee as well as alcohol. Liverpool had endured a particularly barren trophy less spell for over five years. Shankly had built his second great team and were going to deliver their first pot. We were beside ourselves. Until Arsenal's Scottish defender Eddie Kelly popped up and mis-kicked a fluky goal through a crowded area to equalise. Deflation was complete when Charlie George then scored the winner, shooting from outside the area, catching Ray Clemence off guard. In truth, Clem had no chance, but it didn't stop us from screaming BASTARD!!! We took it hard. Morose, our heads spinning, we staggered off to find a chip shop, ended up in Wicksteed Park somehow, and then made our way to the station to meet Al, Tom and Jeff off the train. They were equally distraught. Big Alan was re-running the game, calling the Gunners every unrepeatable epithet he could muster. Couldn't understand how Arsenal had beaten the Reds. Alan was always a bad loser. Funny in a way because it always used to amuse the rest of us! You kept out of his way when he was like that. The gentle  giant would turn into a raging giant at times! Can't remember how we got home. It didn't matter. At the end of the day, the Arsenal had won the cup, we hadn't.

With Tom McGowan and 'Wilf' Wilson

The following year Arsenal would provoke our ire once again on the final day of the season. This time it was for denying Liverpool the league championship, their mission helped by referee Roger Kirkpatrick. This was the same ref who once swallowed his pea in a game at Corby of all places during a game against Barry Town some ten years before. Kirkpatrick resembled someone out of a Charles Dickens novel. Squat, bald on top, huge sideburns. He obviously played to the gallery, running backwards at great speed during matches. Liked to be in the action. A poser. Contorting himself to get a better view for a Corby corner at Occupation Road, he had keeled over and it was apparent he had bitten the end of his whistle off! Much to the merriment of the Corby crowd. Anyway, here he was at Highbury taking charge of the most important game of the season. And he failed us!

Derby County won the championship - sitting on their backsides in Majorca. Their programme had finished and it was a three way battle with other contenders Leeds playing away to Wolverhampton the same night as the Arsenal match. If results went our way with Liverpool winning at Highbury then the title was heading to the North West. In attendance was our usual crew, Pat, Wilf, Big Alan, Knocker. We were going to games in my Escort van these days, having passed my driving test the year before. The atmosphere at Highbury was intense. Thousands of Reds had made the trek to see Liverpool crowned, singing and cheering themselves hoarse throughout the ninety minutes, willing the boys to grab the all important goal. It was 0-0 and time was running out when Heighway whipped in a cross that big John Toshack fired home from close range to send everybody crazy. Our prayers had been answered. Liverpool were champions! The fans were going bananas. So were we. Hugging each other, FANTASTIC! Then, bewilderingly, silence and disbelief engulfed the Clock End where we were all gathered. That prick Kirkpatrick had disallowed the goal! Off Side! No way!! The bastard! There was hardly any time left. The final whistle went almost immediately and we had been robbed. Robbed at the death. Despair and grief hung like a cloud. Liverpool's players slumped on the pitch. What Shankly and his sidekick Bob Paisley had to say about it would have been worth hearing. Traipsing our miserable way back to the Escort van, solace was sought in a pub  where we argued and went over the relevant points of the game, and Mr. Kirkpatrick's role in robbing Liverpool of their first title since 1966. "He was a pain in the arse when he refereed Corby's matches in the 60s" was a painful but reflective observation from Wilf.

Referee Roger Kirkpatrick

Later on it was revealed that Kirkpatrick had traveled to the game from his home in Leicester by train, and on the return journey was joined by Jeff Stewart and a few other Liverpool supporters from Corby. They let him know what they thought of his performance and were delighted to discover that he spent most of the trip, hiding in the toilet!

The following year's fixture was again more notable for a particular incident rather than anything else that went on during the match. Making our way to the 'gates' we had suddenly sidled up to a flash car trying to make some headway through the throng of supporters. Inside at the wheel was none other than Jimmy Hill, the well known former Fulham player and PFA Chairman cum television football pundit. No mistaking Jim. His chin with that unmistakable 'goatie' looked even longer in real life! His face always looked like a cake to me! One of those shortbread cakes with chocolate on the end. In fact to this day I always ask for a 'Jimmy Hill' when in a cake shop!

Little did we know that this wasn't going to be the last time we'd see him in the flesh that day. Midway through the first half a linesman went down with cramp and had to be carried off. There was no fourth officials in those days and after a public address announcement, asking if there was anybody in the ground with even a modicum of experience to take over, Jimmy Hill suddenly appeared waving his flag! Amazing. The game, another 0-0 draw, saw Liverpool's old enemy from his Everton days, Alan Ball, running around like a headless chicken again. It did give the kopites an opportunity to air their tonsils with the old favourite; 'Alan Ball, Alan Ball, is it true what Shankly says, you’re worth fuck all!' Sung to the tune of 'Teenage Opera'.

In 1978 Liverpool were in the semi finals of the League Cup, a two legged affair against the Gunners. Having won the first leg 2-1 it was with great anticipation we traveled to Highbury to witness what would surely be a formality of reaching Wembley to do battle with Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest. Not that we were expecting a classic. We weren't disappointed; the Reds hung on for a 0-0 draw which was enough to book their passage. What we didn't expect was that one of our boys, Pat Devlin, would be arrested for nothing more than shouting a tirade of abuse at the referee during the second half. Looking back we should have seen the warnings. The police, having finished with their drums and trumpets were drafted in to mingle amongst the Liverpool supporters in an obvious attempt to dampen any over the top exuberance. On reflection it could have been they were fed up of the scousers taking the piss out of them! Whatever, Big Alan took umbrage when he was warned as to his future conduct by one of the Scuffers (Scouse for copper in the 60s), following a few verbals in the first half. Alan roared; "Fucking hell, do they think we're at the fucking pictures!" The copper in question used his discretion and ignored the big feller, which wasn't an unwise thing to do. Pat wasn't to be so lucky. Alright, we had all had a drink before the game, we were a wee bit excited, and we were enjoying our night out. The tie was going our way. Which was why probably, out of the  blue, another copper decided he'd had enough of the singing and abuse of the Queen's language, and grabbed Pat by the neck and dragged him away to the cells as if he was an escaped convict! We all looked on in disbelief. Wilf, Alan and myself tried to intervene but were warned we'd would be joining him if we didn't back off. As it happened, Pat revealed he was slung into a police cell in the ground and found himself in the company of a few other scousers, all left to dwell on their plight before being released at the final whistle. Wankers! Though come to think of it, there was many a time down the years at Highbury when a seat in a cell might have been more interesting than watching the game!

Jeff, Gareth and Dick

Barney Rubble meets Gareth Smith
In 1980 came another interminable  game with the Gunners, the F.A.Cup semi final tie which went to three replays! Me and Knocker made the third game played at Coventry. Tedious as it was it was with some relief when a goal was scored even if unfortunately it went to Arsenal. Even Liverpool’s David Fairclough was quoted as saying after the game that the game was a non event. The players were as bored as the fans then! It was draining and by the time it was over, we couldn’t have cared less!

A gap of five years followed before I saw another Liverpool v Arsenal match. The opening game of the 85/86 season in which I took my son Gareth along for his first trip to Anfield. Jeff Stewart and Dick was with us as well. Different team of course from the previous  time and prior to the kick off I managed to get a photo of Gareth with Alan Kennedy, Liverpool’s left back. Made our day! We sat in the main stand, which was a first for me. This was also the first game for Kenny Dalglish as player manager and was coming on the back of the Heysel disaster a few months earlier. The scoreline of 2-0 with Ronnie Whelan and Steve Nicol scoring, capped a great day all round!

Reunited in 2012

Plenty of other memories concerning these Arsenal games but most memorable was the final game at Anfield in 1989 when the Reds were expected to wrap up the championship but the Gunners scored THAT last minute goal! I was driving a Royal Mail lorry up the M6 on my way to Manchester Airport listening on the radio at the time. Never felt so pissed off in my life!

Sunday 4 April 2021

A Bridge To Far


A Bridge To Far

Christmas Eve 1966. What better way was there than to start the holiday season with a trip to London to see the 'Mighty' Reds? Liverpool were playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Actually I nearly never made it. Alan Murphy and John 'Wilf' Wilson came round in the morning, draped in their red and white scarves, both excited, and I answer the door, sleep still in my eyes, and announce I can't be bothered! Pissing down with rain didn't help either. Their disappointment turned to anger until they managed to cajole me into getting off my arse and getting myself organised. We duly caught the 287 bus to Kettering, walked down to the railway station and to our surprise; we bumped into our pal Alan Clarkson, standing there with that great big grin on his face. Now there were four of us. We had previously met 'Big' Al on Leicester Station in October when we were on our way to Aston Villa. Today’s crew would increase to five when we arrived at St Pancras and found another of our Corby Reds, Stan Watkinson waiting for us. Stan, nicknamed 'Snowball' was a pure albino and there he was standing by the ticket collector at the gate, greeting us with a big drunken yell, "Smit!" Stan was a great character and the only one amongst us who had true Liverpool blood in him with his dad being a scouser. We had only seen him the night before, staggering out of the Rockingham Arms; 'going tomorrow Stan?' I asked. ‘Nah I'll give it a miss' he replied. Yet, there he was. He'd gone on to the clubs in Kettering, slept over somewhere, he couldn't remember, and jumped on the early train to London on a whim. Somewhere along the line he had also obtained a big floppy Reds rosette which was hanging on his lapel limp on the end of a huge safety pin! We all broke out laughing. God he was a case. Before this though, we had been taken aback when the train had slowed right down to a crawl as it approached the area of Kentish Town. We had all seen the news the night before about a train crash in London but we didn't realise it was on our line. A row of carriages were lying on their side, bashed and mangled and the signal box had also been damaged. It was a sobering sight and suddenly, we couldn't wait to get off! Piccadilly and Carnaby Street were our destinations as we plunged into the Underground. London was like a giant circus to us, full of wonder and discovery. The Christmas decorations adorning Oxford Street added to the buzz. After a hot dog and a drink in The White Horse Inn off Piccadilly, which turned out to be a 'Gay' pub, we eventually made our way to Chelsea, our first time to Stamford Bridge. The weather was still grim, damp and grey. Spilling our way out of Fulham Broadway tube station with hundreds of other football supporters, the streets were already packed, everyone it seemed, heading for the ground. Excitement was reaching fever pitch. This was what it was all about. Programme sellers. Where are they? That was always my first thought. Football programmes were magical, collectable. Other street vendors were shouting their wares above the din of rival fans taunting each other, 'lapel badges, rosettes'. All added to the thrill. Outside the turnstiles, queues were lined up, police on horses were nudging people to get in line, scousers were taking the piss, great laugh! Then, totally unexpected, a horse reared its back legs up, missed me by a whisker! The copper perched on its saddle, glared at me, 'didn't do anything mister!' I said panicking! Once inside we made our way to the terracing high on the right of the infamous Shed, Chelsea's end. Looking over, it was already a seething mass. Liverpool supporters were also in the mix, they hadn't heard of segregation in the 1960s. Clarkson, Wilf and Murphy decided to head for the throng. A fight started, the police moved in. Scousers welcomed them in song; 'Who's that twat in the big black hat, Scuffer, Scuffer....' The melee continued, with me thinking, 'bollocks to that'. I stayed put; it was a great view of the ground anyway. Wilf smacked a copper on the head; "Little fat copper with an ugly face, he was shouting abuse and I sneaked up and belted him - then ducked down into the crowd, I caught him a beauty". Big Stan was more than happy to stay with me. We'd all meet up afterwards. Looking over at the frenzy occasionally during the game it amused me to be able to spot Murphy, hands up in the air, clapping along to the chorus of the scouse songs. His 'Olive' hat stuck out like a beacon. A red and white woollen hat his mum had knitted with Liverpool stitched onto it. At the back of his head, the letters joined up to spell out Olive! Always a source of amusement to the rest of us! On the pitch, Liverpool lined up with virtually the same team that had played every game of the season thus far. Lawrence, Lawler, Milne, Smith, Yeats, Stevenson, Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Strong and Thompson. Chelsea included new signing Tony Hateley in their side. Hateley had already scored twice against Liverpool that season in the Aston Villa game we went to. He was a threat but we knew Big Ron (Yeats) would take care of him. The pitch resembled a paddy field, a description given by Kenneth Wolstenholme on that night's Match of the Day. Chelsea did the early pressing but were stunned when their wing half Marvin Hinton dived full length to head in a Peter Thompson corner. Brilliant! It was the cue for more fighting behind the goal. I seemed to remember a crash barrier being handed down over the crowd of heads to the pitch! Where's Wilf and Alan I wondered. Geoff Strong scored a second for Liverpool before half time. The Reds were coasting. Boyle scored for Chelsea in the second half but it wasn't enough. The Reds had triumphed. The referee's whistle went for full time and we gathered together again, made our way out of Stamford Bridge and rushed back to the Tube to get ahead of the Chelsea 'headhunters'. The West End was where we were heading to celebrate. A bite to eat in a Lyons's Corner House and a pint in the Western Bar in Leicester Square before ending up in the Euston Tavern opposite St Pancras for a last pint before catching the train home. Happy Christmas! The following season I was at the Bridge again. It was my 18th birthday. A Monday. I was working on dayshift in the C W Mills, and at one o'clock I walked out with my mate Henry Reid to go the game. Only problem was, we forgot to inform the foreman! Jack Lynch, a dour looking grey haired old geezer gave the two of us a right bollocking the next day. But what the hell! Henry was one of the most laid back fellers I'd ever come across. Docile, nothing fazed him. A gangly bloke with jet black hair in a 50s rock 'n' roll style he once joined our mob for a game of football on Studfall Green and turned up with his trainers in a carrier bag. "Henry's brought his golden boots" Tom McGowan howled. Henry took the jibes all in his stride. Quiet guy, even at work he rarely opened his mouth. Then one day he came and informed us that he was leaving on the Friday. "What?" thinking he was going to say he had another job in a factory or building site or something, I asked him where he was goin'. "To Luton" he said. He'd never gave an inkling before. "Luton!" It just happened that his family were moving to Luton and Henry was going with them. Never once mentioned it. That was Henry. Strange but funny guy. It was a real miserable night. Raining most of the day again. Liverpool support at the Bridge was sparse; Monday night was a bad time to travel for the scousers. There was the usual crowd from the Southampton Branch of Liverpool supporters in attendance though. We used to see them everywhere. One guy stood out every time and it became almost a game to see if we could spot him. Tall bloke in a donkey jacket with a mop of curly hair in an afro style. Big Alan called him Curly and it stuck. Never failed to see him. Liverpool's team showed just one change from the previous season's game. Emlyn Hughes, signed from Blackpool, was now the left half instead of Willie Stevenson. The game was poor, the Reds were poor. About the only thing I remember of the game is hearing Status Quo's Pictures of Matchstick Men, John Fred's Judy in Disguise bursting out of the tannoy above the terrace. The Lemon Pipers' Green Tambourine. The records sounded great. Chelsea gained revenge from the simultaneous game the year before and walked it, 3-1. Peter Thompson scoring a late consolation for Liverpool. I had hoped the game would be a memorable way to celebrate my birthday. But - you can't win them all! A very odd encounter I had was one day in 1970, when travelling on a train to Liverpool to watch the ’pool do battle with Chelsea. The trek to Liverpool those days, if you didn’t own an automobile, meant a four and a half journey via Kettering, Leicester, Nuneaton and Crewe, courtesy of British Railways. (43/-) £2.15p in English! Changing trains at the various crossover points often brought you into contact with other nomadic football supporters criss crossing the country to watch their favourite teams. Or joining up with fellow or opposition fans en route to your game. Changing at Crewe, there was always the chance of an encounter with London fans heading in your direction. This day, just two of us, me and my big pal, Alan Clarkson, all 6’ 6” and 16 stone of him, were forced to stand in the aisle of a packed carriage, amongst a whole mob of Blues supporters. Listening to the patter of the cockneys, discussing the prospects of our teams, I suddenly realised that the gum I had been chewing since Nuneaton, had lost its flavour. Glancing across a table, where six or seven ‘Shed Enders’ were sitting around, I noticed the small window open above their heads. With unerring accuracy, I figured I could dispense with the tasteless bit of chewy by chucking it through the gap. As the train rattled over Runcorn bridge, I took aim, and, ping! The gum missed, and rebounded off the window, straight onto this fellow’s head. Automatically, his hand went to his mane just as I leapt over his pal to try and catch the gum. He beat me to it, and the wet gum entangled itself into his mop. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, and thankfully his friends saw the funny side of it as well, or maybe they saw the imposing figure of the giggling Big Al, I apologised profusely and promised to sort it out before we got to Lime Street. Off I went, up and down the train, looking for any likely candidates that might have a pair of scissors on their person. Feeling a right divvy, explaining the rather unusual request time and time again, I finally came across an old woman sitting by herself, who had the utensil required, nestling in her handbag. Still looking bemused, I said to her gratefully “Thanks very much, you’ve saved the day.” Back in our carriage, Big Al and the cockneys were getting on great, laughing, all bar the miserable looking one with a blob of chewing gum stuck in his hair! “Right pal, if you can just lean this way a bit”. Snipping away, resisting any more attempts at humour by asking him if he wanted a short, back and sides, or a crew-cut, an audience built up, all looking on in bewilderment. Snip, snip, the errant strands were chopped off, eat your heart out Teasy Weezy! Another satisfied customer! A round of applause for my endeavour was given, “Thank you, thank you” I accepted. The Chelsea fan, an abject picture of misery, a chunk of his hair missing, his pals and fellow travellers all laughing at his predicament, was morose. “Looks good to me” I reassured him! 

Reunited with Big Al in the 2000s

Just to make his day, Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 as well! This was the game that Steve Heighway burst onto the scene. We had noticed his name in the Liverpool Echo a few weeks before in a column concerning the reserves. Heighway, an amateur signed from Skelmersdale, unusual name too. He was getting rave notices. A long striding winger who was a university student to boot! All this just seemed bizarre. Named as substitute for this Chelsea game Steve made his bow right at the start of the second half. Bobby Graham who had made the centre forward position his own since the departure of Roger Hunt, Ian St John and the rest of the great 60's team, had gone down awkwardly on the edge of the area right in front of the Kop just prior to half time. I remember the crack! It sounded awful. Bobby was carried off on a stretcher with a broken leg to a rousing chorus of 'Viva Bobby Graham' sung to the tune of the Equals' Viva Bobby Joe. Little did we know that that was just about the end of his career at Anfield. Shankly went out and signed John Toshack shortly afterwards and when Kevin Keegan signed up a few months later, Bobby left Liverpool to sign for Coventry. There was a buzz around Anfield at the start of the second half; it felt as if everyone was waiting in anticipation to see this new young unknown student called Heighway. The ref blew his whistle; the ball was played immediately to Heighway standing on the half way line in front of the Kemlyn Road stand. He received the ball, came back inside with it, went past one defender, then another, then another! The noise resonating around Anfield reached a crescendo when this new young guy on the wing let fly from outside the box. Bonetti finger tipped it over the bar. What a start! Who was this guy? That memory has never left me. What an introduction. Chelsea's hatchet man Ron Harris had a torrid time trying to mark Steve. He ran like a gazelle. A strike from Alun Evans in the first half before Graham's unfortunate injury was the only goal of the game and was enough to send the Pensioners packing. January 1978, 3rd Round of the F A Cup. Chelsea away. By this time I was living in Steyning Close with my girlfriend Sue. I was driving a battered old Hillman Minx around. Nice looking car I bought cheap but didn't realise what a heap of crap it was until I had to change a headlamp one day. The whole casing surrounding the lamp gave way. It was a rust box! I could have cried! For all that it seemed to go alright, dodgy headlamp or not, until I decided to take it to London for the cup game. Pat Devlin, Jeff Stewart, Wilf and Dennis Taylor was the crew. We set off for the M1, everything going fine and then the oil light came on. "Bollocks" I thought. The engine began to overheat. The general consensus of the Brain's Trust in the car was that we pull into Toddington Service Station near Luton and buy a gallon of oil. This we did and set off again, hoping the heap would get us to the match in time for kick off. A couple of stops to top up the oil and we finally pulled into West London not far from Stamford Bridge and parked up a side street. Relief was tangible. At least it got us here! The woe was forgotten with a couple of pints and the build up to the game. This was going to be easy we figured. Liverpool were European Champions. This was the team of Clemence, Dalglish, Fairclough. Chelsea were in transition, a team of youngsters trying to make it in the big league. Names like Langley, Walker, Sparrow. Couldn't compare could they? A Chelsea website couldn't have put the outcome better; 'Ken Shellito's unremarkable team thrashed the reigning European champions 4-2 at Stamford Bridge, with two from Clive Walker, sending Bob Paisley into an uncharacteristic funk. "Bloody pathetic we were," he hissed. "I'm not taking anything away from Chelsea, mind, but we went out with sawdust in our heads." Complacency or what but Liverpool didn't turn up. They were running as well as my bloody Hillman Minx! Chelsea were 3-0 up before the Reds got going with a David Johnson goal to bring a smidgen of hope to the Liverpool fans. Then the Blues had the temerity to go and score again, unbelievable. 4-1 with time fast running out. This year's F A Cup run was over at the first hurdle. Dalglish restored a semblance of respectability near the end to make it 4-2. It was a shambles! As for the car. We filled it up with oil again, bought another big can at Toddington, limped home to Corby, dumped it outside my house and we went for a pint. The Minx never moved again. I scrapped the heap of shite. Another visit to the Bridge came with my mate from the Post office, Chelsea supporter Stuart Allen in 2003. Before I had time to settle down, Chelsea were two up! I hate this damn place I was thinking to myself. Just to show how pissed off I was, I got a book out of my pocket that I'd bought in Charing Cross Road on the way to the match. Elvis; Last Train To Memphis. Infinitely more exciting than the game!! Course, Stuart loved it! Haven't been back since. 

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Way Down Yonder in New Orleans

‘Good Morning America..How Are Yer?’

It’s 06.50am, I’m standing on the platform of Memphis Central Station, tired, cold. It’s still dark, a queue is lining up in readiness for the train called the City of New Orleans to roll into town. I’ve been here for over half hour after being dropped off by taxi. Despite feeling knackered I was really quite excited about this trip and finally out of the darkness two lights emerged in the distance, slowly getting brighter as they neared the single platform. The train which left Chicago some 10 hours before on the 900 miles journey somehow looked tired as well. Creeping into Memphis Station as if it was on its last legs. A mass of people waited in line for the guards to sort out the tickets and seat allocation. The train waiting patiently but enjoying the break. The City of New Orleans I learned wasn't the actual name of the train but the service. Like we used to have the Thames Clyde Express in Britain all those years ago. Allocated my seat, I was upstairs, the spacious coaches a far cry from the cramped replicas we have here in Britain. I stretched out, plenty of room, a few people chattering away slightly annoying at this time of the day but I closed my ears to them. One thing I was disappointed about was that I had half heartedly expected to hear Willie Nelson and the Highwaymen singing the anthem..

‘Good Morning America, How are yer?

Say, dont you know me? I’m your native son..

I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans..

And I’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done..’

Well, not really, but it would have been nice..I sang the song in my head instead.

Eventually, twenty minutes late, the huge double decker train pulled out of Memphis, slowly making its way through the suburbs, crawling along as if it wasn’t in the mood to face the remaining nine hour trek across Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. 

Stuttering along it gave way to freight trains, which seemed a mile long, at every juncture. I settled into my seat, thinking that at this rate we wouldn’t get to New Orleans until the next day! Took an hour for the train to start really moving. All part of the adventure though and I was determined to enjoy it as much as I could.

We settled into a pattern, the train chugging along, passing endless barren landscapes, the occasional small town, wooden houses and shacks scattered around, a church. All looked archetypical of the Deep South.

To pass the time I had my iPad ready for the opportunity to take photographs through the window. The train was going slow enough most of the time. Then out of the blue came an announcement from the train driver. Straining my ears I was somewhat amazed to hear; “First stop on the journey will be Greenwood in about two and half hours for a smoke stop”. I kid you not. He continued; “We will stop here for about ten minutes if anyone wants to get off for a smoke but don’t stray away from the platform’. 

Well I could imagine that happening on British Rail! Not. There’d be uproar!

And the train did stop. Passengers scrambled for the doors, stood outside in the cold, puffing away. I couldn’t believe it. My mind wandered to the Rockingham Arms Pub Quiz Nights on Mondays back home. Quizmaster John Day giving the quizzers a five minute warning to go outside for a last drag before the start. Followed up by; “the quiz will begin in one minute”. And the punters, gasping, stubbing out their cigarettes and rushing back to their seats. Cracks me up every week. 

Nobody as far as I could see, got on at Greenwood. 

Next stop was to be Jackson, another couple of hours down the line.

Getting hungry I went to the Buffet and Dining Car, a coach with virtually large floor to ceiling windows, lounge seats, very comfortable. I bought a cheeseburger and a coffee, headed back to my seat and settled down to ‘people watch’.

A party of three were in front of me, all in there 60s, a guy and two ladies, one I ascertained was his wife. They had been ahead of me in the queue on the platform at Memphis. I had noticed them, they were very quiet, probably tired like I was. Now, a few hours later, they had come to life. The guy was particularly irritating, not only to me watching but to the two women as well! Up and down like a jack in the box, faffing around, fawning over his two ladies I could see he was getting on their nerves. “Why don’t you sit down and relax instead of changing seats, and give us some peace to read!” one finally said.

He did, for about five minutes. Then he was up again; “Anyone want anything to eat? drink?’ They were obviously peckish and a debate about what they should get ensued for about ten minutes. I’m sitting, watching, taking this all in. God almighty! I was chuckling to myself. What a pain!

Off he went. He returned around twenty minutes later with some bags of food and drinks. “Right, what do you want?” he said to the older lady and proceeded to describe every piece of scran he had bought, cheeseburger, beef burgher, crisps, Tuna sandwiches, biscuits, bar of chocolate..the three of them eventually sorted it out and got stuck in.. 

“Nice little picnic this..” He couldn’t even shut up when he was eating!

It passed the time of day watching this cretin.

The train kept a rollin’, as the Johnny Burnette song goes, miles of scrubland, Plains, the occasional river, a road leading to nowhere..through a town called Yazoo City. We stopped once again to let a freight train through, it went on forever! Never seen such monster trains like these. It must have took a good fifteen minutes to get past us, boxcars and wagons transporting everything from cars, fuel wagons, containers of all shapes and sizes..incredible. There seems to be a right of away for freight trains over passenger trains in America which again is remarkable when you consider the rail network and system in Britain.

The outskirts of Jackson appeared, June Carter and Johnny Cash’s song came into my head.

‘We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout,

We've been talkin' 'bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.

I'm goin' to Jackson, I'm gonna mess around,

Yeah, I'm goin' to Jackson,

Look out Jackson town.’

I was shaken out of my day dreaming by another announcement.

“We will be arriving at Jackson in around fifteen minutes. if anyone wants to get off for a smoke, we will be here for about twenty minutes. Don’t leave the platform, the driver won’t wait for any stragglers.”

And hordes deserted the train and filled up the platform. The guards included. It was like looking at a Smokers Corner at school as cigarette smoke drifted over the train and station. 

Just like John Day at the Rock, the driver gave everybody a warning that the train would be on its way again in five minutes. I watched as people stopped chattering, took a last drag, stubbed out the cigarettes and clambered back on board. Satisfied that nobody was left behind, the driver set off for the final leg of the journey to New Orleans. By now, he and his co-driver, I assumed, would be into the 16th hour of their shift driving this train. Chicago to New Orleans apparently takes 19 hours.

As we slowly pulled out of Jackson it gave us the opportunity to take some more pictures, very satisfying. There was a feeling that this indeed was the heartland of America, of Mississippi, suddenly it seemed so far away from home..

We were shortly traversing the bayous of Louisiana. The railway track right next to the lakes, over rickety wooden bridges, through swamps. How did they build this line? Amazing. Miles and miles of nothing but swampland, the haunting Ry Cooder soundtrack to the film Southern Comfort came into my head. Looking out of the window, it was murky with drizzle, you wonder what wildlife exists out there. Alligators? Wouldn’t like to fall in to find out that was for sure.

All of a sudden the train comes into a clearing, there’s signs of life with a road bridge adjacent to the rail track appearing. We are on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain; ‘a brackish estuary located in south-eastern Louisiana, covering an area of 630 square miles with an average depth of 12 to 14 feet.’

That big, I thought it was the sea. 

Still no clear sign of New Orleans, turns out we are riding on what is called the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway; ‘composed of two parallel bridges in Southern Louisiana. The longer of the two bridges is 23.83 miles long. The southern terminus of the Causeway is in Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. The northern terminus is at Mandeville, Louisiana. The bridges are supported by 9,500 concrete pilings.’ 

The driver breaks the train of thought, pardon the pun; “We have to apologise that the train is running late but we should pull into New Orleans at around 16.40”.

Well, what is another hour when you’ve been on the train for eight hours already?

Finally we arrive in The Big Easy but there’s another twist to come yet. The guards warn everyone that first of all, “the train has to go forth, then reverse into the station. So, when the train stops, don’t open the doors and get off! Thank you for your patience.”

After nine hours we emerge out of the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, weary. I grabbed a taxi and asked for the St. James Hotel, located in the heart of the city. The yellow taxi was shabby, looked like it was falling apart, as did the driver, an ageing black man, but he was polite, chatty, very nice. “Want a taxi Sir? for when you go home?”

“I’ll give you a shout, thanks”. He gave me his card.

“Have a great time in New Orleans sir”.

I intended to.

Tuesday 12 May 2020

Ice cold in Iceland


I was passing time surfing the internet when an advert appeared on the screen, ’Fly to Reykjavik for only £x.’ Forget what it was exactly but it was cheap. Price included the hotel as well. It caught my imagination. Take in the Blue Lagoons, a trip to see the Aurora Borealis otherwise known as the Northern Lights, maybe even a whale watching boat excursion, I thought ‘let’s give it a go!” 

Thus on Tuesday November 4th 2014, I was rudely awakened by my alarm at 6.45am to begin my journey to Iceland, a country siting on the top of the map near Greenland. Peering out of my bedroom window I was alarmed to find we were shrouded in dense fog. Not ideal when you have to drive to an airport early in the morning. Or any other time of the day if it comes to that. 
I was knackered from the previous night’s Rockingham Arms Quiz and consuming a few pints of Sam Smith Old Brewery Ale. I wasn’t ready for the drive to Birmingham but a cup of coffee helped ease the fog in my head, if it didn’t the weather. 

The drive to Birmingham was slow, the fog failing to clear at all. Took me an hour and a half when normally the journey would be around 50 minutes. My head being hazy didn’t particularly help. I wasn't used to these early mornings having been retired for over a year. The Airport Car Park was pre-booked and paid and I dropped the car off thinking ‘this was all too easy’. I felt hesitant and asked a Security Guard for assurance, showed him my paper-work and he confirmed I was in the right place, but I was still not entirely convinced but by now I was in the building and there was nothing I could do. Funny how you get these feelings of doubt and that something isn’t quite right..
A cup of coffee was called for and it was then that sinking feeling that something wasn't right dawned on me.
‘My phone!’ I couldn’t find it. Searched my bag, my pockets -  nothing!
I then remembered putting my mobile on the seat in the car. Damn! I knew then what it was that had been bugging me. God I hate these early mornings!
I realised without my mobile the only other connection with the outside world while exploring Iceland would be my iPad. 
An ignominious start to my break it was fair to say.

The aircraft was a propellor job which was only the second time I had flown on one. Compared to the 747s the plane resembled a bus. Flying northwards towards Scotland and the Mull of Kintyre before crossing the North Atlantic only took a couple of hours.

Keflavik Airport is approximately 25 miles from Reykjavik. A bus to the city centre awaited. The journey giving an opportunity to view the rugged landscape of Iceland, an island of volcanoes. It looked more like the moon!
It was dusk by the time I arrived at the Central bus station and not having a clue where my hotel was I decided the easiest thing to do was jump in a taxi. The driver looked slightly surprised but nonetheless off we went, and less than five minutes later I was at the hotel! Just round the corner!
The hotel was up a backstreet, the entrance, at the top of wooden stairs, looking more like something leading to a warehouse. The reception was inside a cubby hole but if I was feeling less than impressed, the people seemed friendly enough, giving me a warm welcome. My apartment was spacious, clean, and colourful. Bright greens and yellow everywhere. Made me think that the lack of daylight in Iceland at this time of the year, bright colours was an attempt to cheer things up! I was aware the suicide rate in Iceland, which is part of Scandinavia was high and a few days of this and you can understand why.

 Over the next couple of days I discovered daylight didn’t happen until around 10am and dusk would begin to descend at around half three! Giving us around five hours! 
First task once settled in was to get something to eat and stock up the apartment’s fridge. A supermarket wasn't too far away. I bought milk, tea, crisps, rolls, a few nibbles, sausage rolls etc. and then went for a brief look around the immediate area. It was too cold to go far, but I found a pub where the Real Madrid v Liverpool European match was showing on the TV. The Reds lost 1-0. A couple of pints, some splendid fish and chips and I headed back to my hotel for an early night. 
Switching on a 42” TV screen on the wall at the bottom of my bed I was amazed to get the U.K ITV channel. Suddenly felt like home!

First surprise of the morning was waking up and finding it completely dark outside. It was 9.30am. I turned on the television, all the channels we get back home available! I flicked through them and ended up watching the Jeremy Kyle Show! Here in Iceland! I found that remarkable. Watched it for a bit but soon grew bored and I got up to make myself some breakfast. Not being an expert on the mechanics of the kitchen it took me half an hour to figure out how to turn the electric hob on! Ridiculous as it sounds. Course this was never my territory. 40 odd years of living with Sue and suddenly Im having to learn all the intricacies of living on your own. I had mastered how to turn the washing machine and dishwasher on thanks to some coaching from Sue in her latter days. Shameful really. As regarding ironing I didn’t have a clue, I was taking baskets of clothes up to my daughter Carly in Widnes for her to iron. I mentioned this when skyping her brother Gareth in Stockholm. “Ironing? That’s a woman’s department.” He scolded me; “that’s embarrassing dad! What a chauvinistic attitude!” Gareth is a modern day liberal thinking dad but I have to confess, he did make me think. Anyway, back to my breakfast. A boiled egg had been placed in a very large saucepan, that’s all there was in the cupboard, half an hour later I was still waiting for the thing to boil! And there wasn't any eggcups either! Not a great start to the day you could say.

I had booked the Blue Lagoon trip, the bus was leaving the station at 11am and it was freezing out there. The country was living up to its name, Iceland!
The Lagoon was in the middle of nowhere, looked more like the moon than ever. The weather was miserable, cold and drizzling. I was wondering what I was doing here feeling dejected, when suddenly I got my first glimpse of the steaming blue water. Now that did look inviting. Before going for a dip I discovered there were a few rituals to adhere to. Queueing up for a dressing gown took me by surprise. Onward to the changing rooms, all very clean and white. A series of communal rooms with coat hangers, lockers, showers, reminded me of schooldays and school changing rooms. First of all you have a shower before going into the lagoon. Swimming gear and dressing gown on, towel in hand I made my way outside. It was still drizzling. Dipping my toe into the blue water my reservations soon disappeared and I joined the throng of fellow worshippers in the pool. It was like a bath! Absolutely wonderful, the scent of sulphur adding to the experience. There was even a bar in the pool where you could have a pint. I wasn’t sure how you would pay for it or where you put your money but either way I didn’t have any on me. Some did though, amazing. The Lagoon was huge, I walked around, up to my waist, immersed myself to my neck in this amazing blue water, didn’t want to get out. It was just like having an hour soaking in a bath at home, and similarly after a while you start going all crinkly and reluctantly have to get out. I asked a couple to take some photos of me first, my iPad was on the side, and I went back for another shower and to get changed, Completely refreshed. Lovely! 

Back at the apartment I had the egg that I had boiled in the morning, put it in a sandwich. It was early evening, the wind was howling outside, it was still raining but I couldn't just stay in, I wanted to venture out and discover what the nightlife was like in Reykjavik. I didn’t go far, it was bitter. Opposite the street where my ‘hotel’ was, a crowd had gathered around a store window. All wrapped up in winter gear they seemed oblivious to the conditions and were transfixed with a singer/guitarist entertaining the milling crowd from the warmth inside the shop. Sat on a chair he looked like a bluesman as he strummed away and sang. He was really good. Made me wonder though, don't they have any music venues in Reykjavik? Still, it was different. I headed into the town centre, had a couple of pints, some more fish and chips and called it a day. 

The following night, weather permitting, I was booked in for the Northern Lights adventure.
I awoke next morning feeling knackered. Thanks to a combination of the howling wind rattling the window all night and a disco bar round the corner blaring out crap music to all hours! Sounded as if the place was mobbed with all the noise emanating from the place and drunken revellers hanging around the streets. Maybe this is why the hotel was cheap I mused!
With the limited time I had most of the morning was spent, once the gloom had lifted, of walking around taking photographs. Wrapped up to keep the chill at bay I took in the harbour area and walked along the front. There’s nothing much to see in Reykjavik apart from whaling boats but I suppose its not exactly the Med. You’re not going to see sun seekers or bikini clad ladies roaming around  in these temperatures. Instead what you have is a nation of bearded people, battling against the cold. That includes the women! Joking there obviously!
Some nice scenes to snap though, murals and trawlers, statues of a kind. Good way to pass the time while waiting to find out if the trip to see the Northern Lights was going to be confirmed. I called in at the ticket office in the bus station twice before they gave the go-ahead. It was leaving at 5.30pm which gave me time to get something to eat and freshen up.

There was about sixteen of us on the bus which left on time prompt. I sat at the front, the odd one out amongst the couples. A guide sat alongside the driver. I felt quite excited. After all the Northern Lights is a phenomenon rarely seen and by not many people either. 
We had been going for about thirty minutes when the driver pulled over to a spot which was obviously a sightseeing vantage point. Everyone alighted and gazed into the night sky, looking in vain for a hint of bright coloured lights. 
The driver did say sometimes you could see them from here, but not always. ‘We will carry on’ he informed us. Well thank you I thought, thats what I paid good money for!
We stopped a couple of more times, way out in the wilderness. Everyone got off each time, and stood, staring with crooked necks into the sky. The driver and guide were clearly getting as frustrated as the rest of us. Doing their best to assure us there was a good chance we would catch the lights he repeated ‘we will carry on’. Reassuring, yeah..
Time was getting on, we drove for miles, and miles. Didn’t see anyone or any place of habitation, this was getting boring. As if to placate everyone the bus driver announced he was going to make a detour to show us another Icelandic phenomenon, a geyser. He was doing his best to salvage something out of the trip. Murmurings resounded around the bus, I stared out of the window. 
We pulled up and the guide warned us not to get too near the geyser because the water ‘is boiling hot and could explode anytime’. Well that made it a little more interesting. Into the black of the night we traipsed across the barren land, the geyser was shining lightly as if to beckon the spectators forth. To say it was underwhelming would be an understatement. Steam rose from the stream meandering from the geyser, there wasn’t much else to see apart from that. The driver and guide were almost urging the geyser to spout, or the blessed Northern Lights to make an appearance. I reckoned everyone was thinking it was all a waste of time and money!
Where’s the geyser?
Back on the bus, the driver announced we would, yes, ‘carry on’. I couldn’t have been the only one bored off his tits by this time, I would have welcomed it if he had told us ‘we’re heading back, there’s no point carrying on’. But he didn’t. Maybe he had some sort of schedule or timetable and didn’t want to get back to base too early. Who knows? Might have docked him his pay. Nothing much you can do but sit patiently and believe that eventually we would achieve our goal. We stopped again, same old story. Bloody neck was a stiff as a board by now. On we went, and all of a sudden, there it was. No, not the Lights, but an oasis in the distance, a cafe, similar to a Little Chef. It was deserted. We had a half hour break, a cup of coffee and a sandwich and I guessed that with it getting quite late, we would indeed, give up the ghost and go home. How wrong can you be?
Fuck me, the driver was determined and onwards we went. Miles and miles. I began to think that at this rate we would end up in Greenland or somewhere. Course I do know there’s an expanse of sea between the two countries but you get my drift.
At long last the driver and his guide admitted defeat. Everyone had cricked necks gaping into the sky, enthusiasm long since gone. Half of them were falling asleep only to be disturbed for yet another pit-stop on the return journey. ‘Give up for Chrissakes’ i said to myself. Turned out we had travelled a 100 miles, a 200 mile round trip. Bored shitless, hungry, thirsty. An absolute and complete waste of time! Ok you are warned beforehand that it’s not guaranteed you will see the lights but all the same. Getting back to Reykjavik, to make matters worse, the driver dropped everyone off at their respective hotels and you’ve guessed it, I was the last one! It was 1.30am!

I retired to my hotel to be greeted by another belly-aching wall of sound coming from the damn disco outside my window. Just what I needed. I buried my head in the pillow and did manage to drift off to sleep. Exhausted, aching from head to toe! 

The third and final day of my vacation was spent wandering around trying to catch up with a few sights I had so far missed. A church towering over the city from the edge of town. The National Football Stadium and to cap things off a visit to the famous Penis Museum!

I walked along the seafront first, until I was nearly blown off my feet. It was like battling against a hurricane, and so cold. I did manage to get some photos looking out across the bay and also the football stadium. Pity it was locked up though, sometimes there is an entrance somewhere you can sneak in for a peep. Obviously not today though. There were no vehicles parked  outside, no sign of life at all. Perhaps it was too cold even for the hardened Icelanders to play football in November. 
Back in town I searched out the Penis Museum, asking a couple of guys if they knew where it was and receiving some funny looks! I told them I wasn't a weirdo but this museum with a display of knobs pricked the curiosity if you excuse the pun! They laughed, admitted that they too had been there.
A seedy looking old gentleman took the money, £6 for the privilege, somehow that seemed appropriate, not the £6, the seedy looking bloke.
Inside were glass cabinets, photographs, examples, donations! Full of pricks! Everything from a mouse to a bloody elephant! As well as a display of human meat. There was something strange though, no veg! What did they do with the nuts? 
There’s only so long you can look and study these type of artefacts and twenty minutes was long enough. For those interested. The elephant knob was the largest on show. Proudly hung in the centre of the wall. 
Weirdest exhibition I’ve ever seen, I have to say.

It was back home next day, back home to a slightly better temperature and another twist in the tail.

Departing Birmingham Airport Car Park, I placed my pre-paid ticket into the machine, only for it to be rejected. An alarm went off in my head, my fears confirmed when a message came up on the machine. I owed them £500!! What! Panic set in!
I pressed the button. A voice on the other end explained I was in debt. I explained I had pre-paid and was then informed me I had parked up in the wrong car park. I was told to back up from the exit and go into a blue office on the right to sort things out. I was raging, admitted I had made a balls up but to charge me £500?! “It’s £100 a day in this car park sir” the guy behind the desk said. To be fair he did phone his superior and had a conversation about the mistake I had made etc. Eventually he gave me the ‘good news’. “My boss has agreed to waiver the full payment due in this car park and to only charge me £129”. 

Well my instinct told me; ‘I suppose its better than 500 bloody quid!’ The end of a very odd adventure!