Sunday, November 13, 2016

Biggleswade Town 1-1 Hitchin Town

We're back in the Herbert Kilpin, in Nottingham, early doors on Saturday evening. I sink a couple of Kilpin's - a session beer from the Black Iris Brewery. We're up Market Street, the home of the famous Selectadisc record shop that appeared on the front cover of the Oasis album 'What's The Story Morning Glory.' The venue is Revolucion De Cuba, to celebrate Piers' 40th - he's a top lad who has organised some legendary weekends away over the years in Whitby and Abersoch.

If I'm honest, I'm not confident of a real ale or draught lager at this Cuban joint. I shout up a Babycham (prosecco) for Ms Moon, as a pint of lager flows from the beer tap - it suddenly grinds to a halt a quarter of the way up the glass - "sorry sir, that's the lager done for the night" - it's not even 9pm. What Bolt picked this 'watering hole, Fidel Castro ? We mop up kebab and chips at another dodgy outlet, before watching our good friend Sean Dyche enjoy another home victory for the Clarets.

It's bitterly cold on Sunday morning and hammering it down with rain. We repeat my walk of yesterday around the picturesque setting of Colwick Country Park - it's not a patch on the previous day, the place is deserted. The only folk taking advantage of the inclement conditions are the sailing boats racing down the Trent from Colwick Yacht Club.

Ms Moon has some food shopping to do - I make my excuses and head up back into town to the Kilpin for a couple more pints of their signature brew. A barmaid, whose arms are plastered in tattoos, provides waitress service, having recognised me from the night before. I smash out the blog on my return home, as Ms Moon watches a film called Joy which sends Murphy the budgie to sleep.

It's a filthy evening on Tuesday. I'm sat in my car outside the Co-op in Ruddington wolfing down a gorgeous piece of cod from the Fish Bar. I hook up with The Taxman at the Nottingham Knight, before making the short journey to Ilkeston FC's New Manor Ground. The visitors are Spennymoor Town, who exited the FA Cup at MK Dons on Saturday in a narrow 3-2 defeat. They play fast-flowing football, comfortably winning 3-2, despite a stubborn resistance from a young, plucky Ilson.

The old 'Barnet' needs a trim - I head up to Wisdom's Barbers on Mansfield Road on Friday tea-time to see the lads from Kurdistan. I tick off the newly-opened Six Barrel Draughthouse on Carlton Street. I neck a pale ale from the Roosters Brewery in Knaresborough, before hooking up with Ms Moon at the Missoula Montana Bar on High Pavement. Fizz is half price and the craft ales are decent. I have a pint of the aptly-named Blue Moon as Motown music booms out the pub sound system. We manage to stomach an hour of England v Scotland before as if by magic Emmerdale Farm appears on catch-up.

In the morning Murphy the budgie and I have a heart to heart. It's no secret that he and Ms Moon don't see eye to eye - particularly when he whistles throughout Strictly and Pointless. I'm leaving the little lad in Ms Moon's capable hands today - Murph is terrified of an all-day lock-in. I leave him the phone number of the RSPB and tell him to keep me posted of any nasty goings-on that we can use in a grievance leading to a HR investigation.

Today is a 'Jolly Boys' outing and Keyworth reunion. I race across to my old neck of the woods to pick up Trumpy Bolton and White Van Man - the old gang. Bolton saunters down to WVM's crib - he's only eight doors down. It's the same old scenario - he's swinging his carrier bag with a litre bottle of cider nestled in the bottom.

We're travelling executive style in the 4x4 - first port of call is Saffron Walden in Essex, with its rich heritage and historic buildings. I'm flapping a wee bit that it's hosing it down and might not end up seeing a game, as my twitter timeline is filled with postponements.

Blog legend Bolton has had a toasted slice of fruit loaf with a smidgen of Clover butter, accompanied by a bottle of Hopping Hare from the Badger Brewery for his breakfast. White Van Man is a friend to the stars. He often sits in the sauna of the local health club, chewing the cud with former Leeds United and Manchester United striker Alan Smith, who is now a player-coach at Ray Trew's Notts County. The other day, whilst sweating in the sauna, WVM was asked his opinion on Nottingham Forest - "they're shit" he replied. A guy in the corner upped sticks and left for the showers, it was the NFFC assistant manager, Serge Romano. A faux pas at its finest  ... lol.

WVM is on full power, we're soon in the congested High Street of Saffron Walden by midday. 'When The Sun Goes Down' by Sheffield indie band Arctic Monkeys is blaring out the car stereo speaker as WVM leaves his hazard lights on in a loading bay. Sticky P is instructed to dash across the road into Humpherys Butchers. I pick up three carrier bags of bacon (don't ask me, haven't got a Scooby Doo). The butcher clocks the Notts County training top I'm wearing. He complains about Cambridge United manager Shaun Derry and their disastrous start to the season. I explain that Derry is known in our parts of Notts as 'Junior Warnock.' WVM is gesticulating and waving his arms around in fear of being booked by a traffic warden - I bid farewell to the Butcher.

We head towards Royston so Trumpy can tick a pub off. For those reading this blog for the first time (God bless you) Mr Trumpy Bolton is trying to make a financial transaction in every village, town and city in England, Scotland and Wales - it's a hobby he's pursued for over 40 years. He has a crumpled old atlas that has recently been reinforced with Sellotape - every place visited is highlighted off. Receipts and statements are meticulously filed in alphabetical order in ring binders.

WVM flicks the scan button on the car stereo, stumbling upon BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. The DJ plays 'Get the Message' by Electronic and 'Beautiful Ones' by Suede - Bolton and Sticky sing in unison.

We tip up at the Hertfordshire town of Royston, and more importantly the 'Jolly Postie.' We're met by a welcoming landlord and McMullen IPA - Trumpy poses in the back of a Royal Mail van that sits in the front window. A postman delivers mail to the pub as we exit to the car park - ooh, the irony.

Biggleswade Town confirm the game is ON, despite the pouring rain. We sit in a soulless Greene King pub, eating gammon, double fried egg and chips - Trumpy goes nouveau cuisine - preferring Whitby scampi. Tunnel of Love by the Fun Boy Three is the pick of the tunes on Radio Greene King.

Biggleswade is a market town situated on the River Ivel in Bedfordshire. It's the HQ of Jordan Cereals. Felix cat food was once made here. Biggleswade Town were founded in 1874 and play at the Carlsberg Stadium. The comedian and singer Charles Penrose, famous for the Laughing Policeman song, and Stevie V - a dance act famous for the song Dirty Cash (Money Talks) - are from this neck of the woods.

It's a short drive to a rain-puddled track that leads up to the car park. It's £10 on the gate and £2 for a programme light on content, but nonetheless the guy who sells it is cheery and friendly. The ground is a new-build. The playing surface is short, lush and flat. I bump into a Wrexham fan who has recently moved to Hertfordshire and now follows Hitchin - he rates them highly.

Bolton is already in the bar lining up the John Smiths as the teams observe a silence for Remembrance Day. Hitchin are in the top two, their class shines through with the give 'n go and movement off the ball. The final delivery and end product is sadly lacking.

A good mate of mine, Chris Keeling, played for Hitchin in the 80s - his brother, Paul is a great friend of mine. Chris tragically lost his life in a car accident in 1994 - he was only 31 and one of the kindest people I've ever met. We saw him play for Hitchin against Tooting and Mitcham in 1985.

Trumpy earwigs a conversation between the subs of both teams who appear to know one another. They moan and groan about not being in the starting XI and compare the dollar they earn. Bolton gets chinwagging with a Biggleswade sub who is coming back from injury and appears to have a geniune love for the game. Trumpy advises the lad to have a couple of looseners in the bar at the break to calm his nerves - it's old-skool Brian Clough.

Hitchin take the lead when 4 jacket lashes home a dipping, swerving shot that leaves the goalkeeper catching flies. Trumpy has caught on that they sell bottles of  Cornish real ale Tribute in the bar - I can't see him shifting now. He gets chatting to a visiting supporter who is sat with his little lad aged five years old. "What a goal", shouts up Bolton to his Dad. "We missed it mate, my son wanted the toilet and a bottle of pop" replies a disgruntled Dad.

White Van Man is steaming more than the piping hot tea he's bought, having been relieved of £3 for two cups of tea. The visitors sit on a one goal lead and pay the price five minutes from time when a shot from outside the area hits the inside of post before finding its way into the net. The replay is set for Monday night.

Man of the Match: The Laughing Policeman

Attendance: 325

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