It’s Tuesday evening and I’m walking down Burton Road, in Carlton, with Notts County diehard fan ‘Faggsy.’ The Millers are playing Liversedge F.C. from West Yorkshire. There’s only a small gathering this evening as the usual attendees will be at the World Famous City Ground for NFFC v Arsenal.
The game we're watching is thoroughly entertaining. Carlton are 2-1 down at half-time, with the visitors reduced to ten men after a rush of blood to the head for Liam Hardy sees two quick yellow cards - young refs, these days, can’t wait to issue a caution. It spoils the game. The FA and their referee assessors need to have a brainstorming session sometime, as the standard of officiating, particularly the game management side and communication to the players, is mediocre to say the least. At Step 4 many officials seem to be unapproachable.
Carlton fail to take advantage of having an extra man. A superb free kick from Liversedge’s Jack Carr seals their fate. There’s an extra bitter taste to the excellent real ale at the Old Volunteer, as Faggsy and I hold a post mortem over the proceedings.
Happier times are had on Wednesday evening at Jam Cafe, one of Nottingham’s coolest bars (of course it sells craft ales). There appears to be a vibrant underground indie scene in our fair city right now. Bloodworm headlines the gig. Their music sounds similar to The Cure’s debut album, Three Imaginary Boys. The lead singer’s haunting voice reminds me of Bauhaus’s Pete Murphy. They were a Northampton goth band from the 80s.
Local band, The Rain Age, play a blistering set too. It’s dark wave Manchester band, The Solution, who steal the show, despite being third on the bill. They are definitely one for the notebook, providing they manage to keep their young, wayward singer on track.
I get in big trouble with Mac for buying him a 12% abv imperial pastry stout. He’s up at 5 am each day, whilst I’m on a day off on Thursday. Carlton crew, 'Chief Wiggum', 'Casually Dan' and 'Herr Harlow' are all in attendance at the gig too.
I grab some tea with my two lads and ex work son Tom at Trent Bridge Inn, in West Bridgford on Thursday evening. It ties in quite nicely with a speakers’ evening at Notts Cricket Lovers, in the Derek Randall Suite. There is a question and answer session with new Notts skipper Haseeb Hameed. He is still only 27 years old, despite being on the scene for what seems an eternity. He’s stepped into Steven Mullaney’s shoes, who will now captain the Second XI.
I’m on the choo choo train with Tony Mac on Friday lunchtime. We change trains at Leicester as we head over to the town of Hinckley, where famous people come from such as: William Bass (Bass Brewery), William Butler (Mitchells and Butler), Human League singer Phil Oakey, and Alan Taylor, the scorer of two Wembley goals for West Ham United in the 1975 FA Cup final
The pubs are delightful, particularly Elbow Room Cask and Craft, where I buy my beers from, after a tip off from programme editor ‘Big Joe’ at Carlton Town. They import beers from the USA that blow your mind and head off. We finish up at a CAMRA heritage pub called Wharf, located on the outskirts of the town. It has an interior of national historic interest. Hinckley certainly is another hidden gem.
It’s just after dawn on Sunday, and I’m on the phone to my taxi driver, who has overlaid for an airport run. It’s Tenerife time of year again. I’m 60 years old tomorrow and it’s Ms Moon’s birthday on Friday. The Big Man (Bish) is also out in the 'Reef' celebrating his 50th with the Squadron. We’re on the beach front by 3.30pm, at Los Cristianos, eating prawns at a restaurant called Chill Out. It’s 26 degrees with a cooling breeze. Had I come 24 hours earlier I would have witnessed another 0-0 up at CD Tenerife in Segunda B.
It’s Monday morning, and my 60th birthday. Lord knows how I’ve made it this far with my unhealthy lifestyle. It coincides with my 30th anniversary of no smoking, which I commemorate with four comedy drags of Ms Moon's fag. I celebrate in style with Ms Moon at a stunning restaurant in the harbour of a fishing village called La Caleta. We sit on a terrace just a stone's throw away from the Atlantic Ocean. A guy sat behind us proposes to his girlfriend. He then spends the rest of the evening facetiming his friends. I feel like lobbing his mobile phone into the sea.
I had a couple of pints earlier in the day with some of the bruised and battered 'Battalion' at a bar around the corner from the Cleopatra Palace Hotel, where we are staying. There's a lovely touch from Dafty who has bought me a smart Lincoln City away shirt with Palmer 60 emblazoned on the back. Thanks mate.
I receive some devastating news on Thursday. One of my best friends, blog legend 'The Taxman' (Steve Belz) passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning. I managed to have a telephone conversation with him the night before we flew out to Tenerife. We reminisced about our groundhopping journeys around the Midlands over the last 15 years. He was such a kind, gentle and friendly man, who never had a bad word to say about anyone. I have to admit some tears were shed at the end of the call. Rest in peace, I will miss you so much, my friend x
I've lazed around the pool at the hotel for six days on the bounce. I read a brilliant groundhopping/travel book, written by Daniel Gray, called The Silence in the Stands. Gray travels the north of England and Scotland watching football during the dark days of COVID restrictions. It's a riveting read with some heart-warming stories told by the author.
The final night in the 'Reef', Ms Moon's birthday, is spent at the highly recommended Limonella Italian restaurant, which offers an authentic experience with a focus on recipes from the Amalfi Coast. It's a lovely way to end a fantastic holiday in our happy place.
It's back to earth with a bump on Monday. I'm on shop duty at the world's greatest newsagent, MSR Arnold. I breeze through the afternoon, happy talking with customers about football, cricket and the weather (particularly in Tenerife).
Carlton Town's Tuesday night fixture versus West Yorkshire big babies Pontefract Collieries falls victim to the weather after another deluge of rain in the afternoon. My backup fixture at Clifton All Whites is hosed off too. I settle in with another cracking book by Daniel Gray called Food of the Cods - a history of fish and chips in the United Kingdom. Ms Moon is gripped by a weeks' worth of binge-watching 'The Farm.'
Wednesday is a day I have patiently waited for in a long time. I'm ecstatic when Trainline confirm that the £70 transaction has been made. I am now the proud owner of a three year Senior Railcard. Readers, you'll see me on more train journeys than Michael Portillo.
The rail card celebration (soft drinks only) begins at Baresca, a Spanish award-winning restaurant on Byard Lane, in Nottingham. Ms Moon's daughter, Becky, very kindly treats us both to lunch; and very nice it was too. The afternoon is spent at Broadway Cinema. I now have a concessionary membership which means I can view any film for £6. Today it's The Iron Claw, starring Zac Efron. It's the tragic, true story about a wrestling family called the Von Erichs. Wrestling hasn't really been my cup of tea since the unmasking of World of Sport wrestler Kendo Nagasaki in the ring at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall in 1977. But I'd thoroughly recommend this film.
Even if Carlton Town were to survive a pitch inspection there would be no Sticky Palms down at Stoke Lane this weekend as I've volunteered to do a 12 hour shift on Saturday as a colleague wants to take his lad down Forest. Friday evening is spent with Tony Mac in Nottingham city centre. We visit the Organ Grinder, Good Fellow George, Sir John Borlase Warren, Crafty Crow, The Castle and Junkyard (thanks for heads up Tim Widdowson re the tap takeover). We tip up at Neon Raptor at the fag end of the crawl for a couple of rocket fuel nightcaps. I can't 'arf pick 'em.