So, my invitation arrived with about a week to spare. Dan was carrying out the threat he had made in May, and we were all going round his for a booze-up before the match against Southend.
Part 1: Saturday, 8th October 2005 – The trip to Dan’s, the drinking, the night out, the curry, and the sleepy people.
Having arranged a time with the inestimable Mr. Hawkins, I was dropped off at Colchester Rail Station by Neil, who had kindly agreed to give me a lift on the way to Comet with Hayley and Emma. I bought my ticket, walked through the barrier, down the steps, along the corridor, up the steps to Platform 4, and had to wait no more than two minutes for the train to arrive. This was going to be a good weekend, I could feel it.
Anyway, I arrived at Dan’s just in time for the last 20 minutes or so of the Northern Ireland – Wales game, and that was when the first beer was consumed. It was not to be the last either. Not that I wish to glorify drinking to excess. After that, the rest of the good folk arrived. Anyway, we had a bet on the England match, with Dan suggesting we pick names at random for the next England scorer. After the first (and, as it turned out, only) goal. Great timing Dan!
And so the evening wore on, and we tried Dan’s famous Mars bar vodka. This was surprisingly nice, and was rather like a Vodka Mudshake, but with a hint of caramel.
Later on (though not much later), we got ready to go out on the town. In this case, the town was Brentwood, and we started in the Brentwood branch of O’Neills. I (much to my chagrin) was the youngest one there, and had to promise the bouncer I would be a good boy. The reason for this was that they had an age limit of 21 on, and the bouncer had the final decision over letting any under-21s into the pub. Luckily, he saw that I was a well behaved chap, and let me in.
We then moved on to a pub with the brilliant name of ‘The Slug and Lettuce’. This was packed as well, but by that point, I was a little too tipsy to care, and made my way to the bar anyway. We stayed there for about half an hour, maybe a little more, and then relocated (via a short taxi ride) to a curry house called something like the ‘Rajmoni’. Not that the name made much difference – whatever you called it, the curries were still the best I’ve ever tasted. Mmm…… lamb bhuna…………. ahem.
Having finished our curries, we got into another taxi, and headed back to Dan’s residence. Here we continued drinking, and Tutts, Dan and Andy had a brief kickabout in the back garden with a rock hard ball. Rather them than me. I kicked it, and I felt it. Some of the group were feeling the effects at this point, and Alan had dozed off in a chair by Dan’s fishpond. Andy was asleep in an armchair, and it was decided that this might be a good time to retire to bed.
Part 2: The morning after the night before, the breakfast, and the kickabout.
For some reason, whenever I’ve been drinking, I find it hard to sleep for long. So there I was, awake at 6.30. Five hours of sleep, and I was awake again. Grrrr! Anyway, I lay there for a while, and watched it get light through the living room window (I was sleeping on Dan’s living room floor with Col, and Alex had the sofa). At about 7.30, others began to move. Col was awake, and got dressed. Dan was awake, and vomited. Or tried to, but apparently nothing came up. By 9 or so, most people were awake, and the preparations for breakfast began. A combined effort from Alan, Tutts, Andy and Col provided all the carnivores in the group with a full English breakfast, while Rich and Alex had some vegetarian sausages. Then the washing up began. As I had done absolutely bugger all towards anything so far, I volunteered to do the washing, and Andy helped out with the drying up. It took fucking ages!
Following the washing up, we sat down, and enjoyed the many varied delights of the Nottingham Forest 1988-89 season highlights video. Before you ask, yes, there were highlights, such as winning the League Cup. Then, we followed that with a brief kickabout outside Dan’s front garden, and I covered myself in glory as usual. In other words, I was shite. I would like to use a hangover as an excuse, but I didn’t have much of one, just a dull ache at the back of my skull if I moved my head too fast.
At about half past one, we decided it was time to make a move towards Southend, and all hopped in the cars. There was nearly a disaster as Dan drove as far as the end of his road before he realised he was supposed to be giving Tutts (who was moving his car to let Alan out) a lift to the game.
Part 3: Southend, and the stroll along the seafront.
We arrived in Southend with only the smallest of hitches along the way. The traffic had been quite bad, and Dan (who was leading us all) suddenly decided to take a shortcut. Only two of the three cars made it in time, and we had to rejoin the main road later on in an attempt to catch up with Alan and get him to the game safely. We finally caught up with him a couple of miles down the road, and then we made it to a carpark with a couple of hours to kill before the game, so we decided to go for a stroll along the seafront. Having walked through a dubious looking pool hall, and a seedy arcade, we made it out into the bright sunlight, and walked along the road, marvelling at the tat available to all. Across the road from the end of the pier, the general consensus of opinion seemed to be that a trip to the seaside would be incomplete without an ice-cream. Having acquired ice-creams, we wandered across the road and onto the beach itself. Here we browsed through the inflatable items, and my eye was caught by an inflatable cowboy hat. Quite why you’d need one which was inflatable I don’t know, but it seemed cool at the time.
As we gently made our way back in the general direction of the cars, we stopped to amuse ourselves in one of the arcades, and here some serious money was spent (well, there’s nothing amusing about a 2p). The 2p falls seemed a guaranteed win, but I was clearly being fooled, as I came out with no coppers, and I had had some when I went in. To console myself, I raced Alan. The problem was that I couldn’t steer the bloody car, and it was only when we both stepped away from the machine that Alan looked down and said "oh look, there’s a gear stick, and handbrake and everything". Grrr…..
Part 4: The game itself.
Having amused ourselves beyond what we thought possible, we strolled back to the car (taking a route that was slightly longer then necessary thanks to another of Dan’s ‘shortcuts’), and relocated to his uncle’s house where we could leave the cars without being too far away from the ground. Having stuck his head round the door to say a brief hello to his uncle, we headed for the ground. This time, Dan’s shortcut worked, and it took us less than five minutes to get to the pub just down the road where he was meeting up with some other acquiantances of his. Roots Hall was visible over the roofs of the houses, and we quickly made a move towards it. We were slightly worried about getting seats together as Southend had given the away supporters unreserved seating (in other words, you could sit anywhere – the early birds got the pick of the seats, and the latecomers had to make do with what was left). As it was, there were plenty of seats available, and we all sat together just inside the entrance, and behind a corner flag (as you can see from the photos).
The game was preceded by the usual pre-match presentations, and the mascots wandering round, getting the home support gee-d up for the game. We were slightly disturbed by the presence some rabbit-headed people on the pitch. As someone put it "I thought for a moment we were at the filming of Donnie Darko 2".
Eventually, the match started, and the sun shone, and all looked good. Forest seemed to be on top, and Nicky Southall had a fierce volley tipped wide by Southend’s keeper, Aaron Flavahan (remember him?). The balance of the game seemed to shift, and Southend had a few chances, and with the referee randomly awarding free-kicks, they were presented with a fewdead-ball situations which they failed to take advantage of. During the first half, someone noticed that Dave Bassett was the pundit for Sky’s coverage (the Sky ‘studio’ was up on scaffolding almost right above us), and he was treated to a torrent of abuse.
Half time arrived, and the game was still scoreless. As the players re-emerged for the second half, a local lass decided that now was the time to run across the pitch topless. She headed towards the Forest fans (wahey!) before being caught, and this inspired Alan to make the comment of the day towards Dave Bassett – "You’re a bigger tit than either of hers!".
Sadly, that was the last high point of the game as far as the Forest support was concerned, with only a couple more chances, a crisp volley from substitute Gareth Taylor, and a tame curling effort from John Thompson. The performance dropped, prompting chants of "We want the streaker back!". The turning point of the game (if there was one, since Southend had been gradually taking greater and greater control of the game since half-time) came with 16 minutes left, with the introduction of their young star, Freddie Eastwood. Eight minutes later he had bundled home the winner, and Southend took all three points. We travelled home disappointed with the result, which hadn’t lived up to the rest of the weekend.
I should point out that all the photos accompanying this entry have been acquired from Col and Tutts – thanks guys! They are numbered to keep them in the right order, as you probably guessed.