5.30am, Saturday morning – the alarm sounds – Liverpool matchday Riiiiiiiiiiiise and Shiiiiiiiiiiiine!!!!
Not quite with that ‘Vietnam’ enthusiasm due to the Autumnal darkness but breakfast, shave and shower, South Dorset Spurs polo shirt on, kiss the ‘chicken’ badge and off of to the local bus stop to meet my fellow travellers.
We all get there just before the bus arrives at 6.30am – with the exception of the Admiral, who staggered up the road with his dodgy knee (we know it is a war wound but he won’t let on!) he still makes it on time – so no club fine. It is light by now, making it easy to spot the rest of our crew on the deserted streets of Weymouth. Remarkably, everyone is early today, even Billy was stood in the correct place with his newspapers, sarnies and enough cider to sink one of the Admiral’s battleships. We enter the edge of the ‘Moor – Lower Beirut as it is known – to collect Ralphie and we leave Weymouth behind. The ‘no drinking before the Ridgeway’ rule is broken already. We used to have a ‘no drinking before Littlemoor traffic lights’ rule – 2 miles into our journey but when the Council put a roundabout there we extended the boundaries for health reasons.
We hear that bus number 2 is well on its way and is picking up in Dorchester so we can all relax. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes at SDS HQ to order tickets and transport but the logistics always come together – even allowing for big human allowance of over sleeping. We are on the outskirts of Poole before you could say Paolo Tramezzani and the last 3 climb aboard the fun bus and we are Wembley bound.
Our two buses catch up with each other on the M27 with lots of waves and other hand gestures a plenty as the buses continually overtake each other in a ‘Wacky Races’ style and around 8am we arrive at Fleet Services for a much need Pee stop and a quick snack. We then gathered round one of the picnic benches to celebrate Alan G’s impending 40th birthday. A high-quality bottle of Portuguese’s finest Port (probably endorsed by Hélder Postiga himself), is poured into plastic shot glasses and candles on two birthday cakes (there were 25 of us) flicker in the early Surrey breeze. Like the candles, Alan is blown away. Birthday celebrations and Port finished, we take the remains of the cake to the buses and speed off towards the home of English football – well it was supposed to be White Hart Lane version 2 – but the less said the better. Music blaring out of Bob’s quality sound system we settled down for a sing along and copious amounts of alcohol. We had a video call from Jason who was outside WHL and it was great but with a heavy heart to see our future home.
The Wembley arch appears on the horizon and in quicker time that Vedran Corluka could ever muster, we arrived in convoy at The Torch, parked our bus and disposed of the bulging dustbin bag full of empties – we always do our best to help Brent Council’s recycling figures. We pop in for a swift pint or two and catch up properly with those on Bus 2. We also see our fellow Travellers Kernow Spurs who left their Cornish homeland at 3am! Hopefully with Brexit the Devon-Cornwall immigration rules will be lifted and they can all drive straight in and leave home later.
The troops are mustered and we wander down Wembley Way to the Novotel to meet and spend time Punjabi Spurs before kick-off. It is always good to catch up with them and especially Chairman Josh who has become one of our firm friends. Paul, the Yorkshire Spurs chair is there with his northern entourage and also the familiar Devon and Somerset clubs. We are introduced to our SDS ‘neighbours’ Guernsey Spurs who have flown over and a chap from Singapore Spurs. A couple of Pitchers later and a fleeting visit from the ever-popular Chris Cowlin, the swollen contingent of nearly 50 SDS members slowly drift off into the September sunshine for what should have been the main event of the day – ‘Liverpool’. Well, that is enough about that match!
We return to our mini-buses, a quick pint for some and polish of the last of the birthday cake before heading towards North West London on our way back home. We always have a livelier journey on the way back to Dorset when we lose – no point dwelling on a bad game and definitely no points today! Progress is steady as we take the back roads to avoid the Wembley traffic. Just after South Ruislip Tube station, bus No.1, our bus, grinds to a halt – battery warning light on and shredded fan-belt on the road. This is our 3rd breakdown – having had 2 last year but a different vehicle. Tim, our driver, calls the AA, whilst the rest of us, including bus no.2 plundered the very convenient convenience store where we had stopped and alcohol supplies were topped up just in case of a long delay.
Mr AA turns up within 45 minutes, looks at the fan belt on the floor and comically said that he thought he knew what problem was. Unfortunately, it was a bit more technical than he thought. A replacement minibus is hastily despatched from our home town, 3+ hours away. DJ Bob is due to fly off on holiday later that evening, so, as the transfer window is still open in the Ruislip area, we ‘sell’ him to bus no.2 and take young Jake in return – top marks to him for giving up his seat which meant he would now get home 3 hours later than planned – but he did get time to spend it with us – so all was worth it. Bus no.2 sets off, complete with the sound system. We then asked a passer-by for directions to the closest pub – no point is wasting time!
Although the football and transport gods (insert other mystical beings or simple bad luck if you like) were not on our side, the god of beer smiled upon us and low and behold, the Middlesex Arms was only a few minutes away! This turned out to be a decent boozer, although when we walked in there were a few Chelsea fans, probably thinking what the hell are 16 Yids doing our manor. It actually turned out to be a QPR stronghold – so that was fine. We all sat round a large table, ironically number 13, and settled down for the evening. We were all in good spirits, entertainment, apart from the pub grub and great choice of real ales, was the Watford game on the various tv’s dotted around the establishment and our pantomime booing of a solitary Gooner every time he passed us to use the toilets.
The beer flowed like Ruel Fox running down the wing, occasional efforts to get news of our rescue bus were not fruitful. Eventually and 8.30pm – 5 ½ hours after our match finished, the transport arrived, just as another round had been bought. By this time, we looked at each other – all thinking the same – hey, we are quite comfortable here – he can wait. Reality hit, the Landlord supplied us with plastic pint glasses to decant our ‘medicine’ and we climbed aboard.
Although DJ Bob, now safely home and winging his way to the airport, had taken his beat box, and our relief driver not seemingly knowing how to tune a radio, we started some boisterous singing, led be young Jake who knew more words than us ‘oldies’ – he even gave us a word perfect rendition of ‘Park life’ – which was quite apt as things where a bit ‘Blur’ry having had over half a day’s drinking behind us.
It was a nightmare of a journey home due to the erratic driving of our relief driver who at one stage also told us off for disrespecting his 13-year-old clapped out mini bus by banging the side of it to provide the ‘drumming’ accompaniment to our glorious singing – although he King of Rock and Roll would have probably agreed whilst turning in his Graceland’s grave if he could here 16 Elvis impersonators singing ‘Glory Glory’.
Eventually, we arrived at Fleet Services, for a much-needed comfort stop. The West bound side was burnt down a couple of years ago but the replacement building must have just opened – a relief in more ways than one as the toilets are no longer a ‘yomp’ away. The design of the new establishment appeared to be excellent, although signs saying warning – strobe lighting and bright colours should be put at the entrance as every thing was to bright and the floor appeared to have hallucinogenic appearances. This of course may be due to coming in from the darkness of the night and being alcohol induced. Back on the bus, I move nearer the back as the dodgy driving is making me frustrated but at the rear of the bus you could still feel the occasional swerve and the noise of rumble strips.
The mood on the way back was muted by the driver playing his Mumford and sons CD continuously until we got home – not even the Lion Man track made an appearance but that was his fault – not mine!
We jettison Jake in the New forest and he zig zags to his awaiting lift. Then onto Poole and 3 more disembark and onto deepest darkest Broadmayne, a few miles from the arse end of Dorchester to drop Al, our now 40-year-old, off into the darkened village, just in time to avoid the locals running up the road with pitchforks and burning effigies. We survive the cart tracks and then back over the Ridgeway with the shining lights of Weymouth and the moon kissed sea in the distance.
Before we had tine for a couple of choruses of ‘my name is Nicola Berti’ we were back at the bus stop that the left 18 hours earlier. At half past midnight I staggered into my house. A good day out, a bad footy game and an ugly journey home but our second Tottenham game of the weekend was only hours away. Surely things could only get better – or was this just a D. Ream ????