Another Leicester Weekend

A trip to Leicester? Don’t mind if I do. A nice early train from Crawley. Earlier than the one specified. But I know how rubbish Thamestink are at being on time, and the window at St Pancras to change trains is a narrow one. As it turned out it was the correct decision. The original scheduled train on my ticket was late and I would have missed the booked train from St Pancras to Leicester.

I’m travelling solo for the weekend. Helen is going to a rum and reggae festival tomorrow and it clashes with the reunion meetup I’m going to. I have come up to Leicester early to get a chance to wander around. Take more photos, and to get information so I can write some more pieces about Leicester. And it just so happened that there is a home 20/20 game for Leicestershire (la-la-la) tonight against Durham. So I have tickets and have arranged to meet up with old friends, Chris and Karl to go to that. It’s always good to have a catch-up, and the weather looks as if it is being kind as well. I will also be taking the opportunity to have a poke around in some record shops and see if I can make any more progress with the top fifty singles from my date of birth hunt that I’ve got going. I have identified four shops to have a look in.

I will be staying at the Holiday Inn at St Nicholas’ Circle, and am hoping for a view out over the church and Jewry Wall. The latter of which is still closed as the upgrade to the museum, work which seems to have been going on forever, but which should be complete by the time we come back to Leicester at the beginning of October. It is a nice central location for me to be starting at, with lots to see in every direction. Covering ground not really done much before. I want to cover the strip between Vaughan Way / Burleys Way and the canal all the way from the hotel to Abbey Street / Belgrave Road. And then do the bits the other side around Wharf Street (north and south) and up to St Georges retail park.

And as the reunion tomorrow is in the same place as last year it will give me the opportunity to get better pictures up the New Walk and back down London Road after last year’s were a bit blurry after I’d knocked the auto-focus off and couldn’t figure out how to turn it back on until I got back home. I’m also hoping its third time lucky for me to get inside the magnificent St James the Greater church on London Road and get some photos.

There will be some old favourites revisited as well. I want a couple of sets of photos. First up some nighttime shots, I have a list of places to shoot. And then to do the same list of places early on Sunday morning to get them as black and white photos as the streets are likely to be empty at that time, and then it will be time to head home. I also promise not to comment on any more Leicester institutions. I did a piece on them last year, mentioning ten of them which were permanent fixtures and part of the identity of Leicester. Less than a week after I wrote that piece and posted it, one of them announced it was closing, and now, just a year on, four of them have gone. It may not be me jinxing things, but I’m not going to tempt fate anymore. Perhaps I should just comment on soulless coffee chops and bland chains stores instead, or perhaps there are places that need to go. That should be mentioned. Let me know.

Travelling Solo

It feels strange to be travelling alone. I don’t mean for journeys like the commute to work, that is different. But to be on a train going somewhere for the day and I’m sat by myself. It doesn’t take long for it to kick in that there is something missing. Well, not something, but someone. There is no Helen sat beside me. No little conversations, no little observations, no pointing out interesting objects out of the window. It is rare for us not to be travelling together, and now I am on the second such journey in four days.

Saturday I was off up to London. I had a full medical check up at the Euston BUPA site. A direct train to St Pancras. A journey made more times than I could accurately count. I used to travel everywhere by myself. Headphones in and left to my own devices. But I’ve gotten used to the interaction and now it doesn’t feel right to have replaced it with the headphones.

The medical was somewhat less than optimum, but I haven’t unpacked that all yet. Something for another piece on another day, I think. So much so that I didn’t even notice anything on the journey back to Crawley.

Now it is Tuesday, and I am back on the train and on the same route again. Only this time I am bypassing St Pancras and carrying on to the end of the line – Peterborough. I’ve switched my non-working day so I can go to the rearranged game against Peterborough United. Instead of it being the middle of a week off where we have leisurely driven there and stayed in a hotel overnight before and after the game, it is a there and back in the same day trip this time. Not something Helen is up to at the moment.

And so I am a solo traveller again. And it doesn’t feel any less weird than it did on Saturday. I am left to look out of the window across fields, at trees and bushes, at walls and fences, or to overlook people’s back gardens, see the activity around factories and warehouses, trundle past the death-defying feats required to get the graffiti in that particular spot. How every glance up and out is a different snapshot, a different vista.

I turn to point something out to Helen, forgetting I am by myself. And now I turn back to the window and study my own reflection as we pass through a tunnel, and everything is black outside. And I look old and tired. And sad.

Portslade Station Can Do One

Because I refuse to drive the hire car for both my own safety and blood pressure, and for the sake of all other road users out there, I got the train to work today (last Thursday now).

The train down isn’t too bad, change at Brighton, and with a reduced timetable due to strike action, there wasn’t the usual step foot off the train from Three Bridges to watch the one going through Portslade just pulling out from platform one. Though as usual the ticket wouldn’t work at one end, the Three Bridges end this time.

It let me out (this time) at Portslade station. I’m not a fan of Portslade station as a whole. It’s lay out is just fucked up. It would be great if there was a gate into work from the far end of the platform, but I know that one is a pipe dream. But they have barriers and a ticket office in the building you go through to the south bound platform. But there is no ticket machine in there.

To pick up pre-ordered tickets you have to find the ticket machine. It is outside, well away from the ticket office – which makes no sense to anyone – and is out in the elements, so you either get soaked, or you can’t see the screen as the sun is always on it. it’s a stupid layout.

But not as stupid as the platform on the other side is. On the south side you enter/exit through the building. On the north side you are drawn to the building, the path leads there, and there are steps up and a handrail, but it is only a bicycle store. If you get there and find that out you have missed the only entrance to the platform, a ramp up behind more bicycle stands. Once up the ramp, the barriers are in a position where if they were any further west, you would be on Boundary Road. And at a point where you are not in line with a train.

So, I wasted thirty seconds going to the wrong ‘entrance,’ and then the barriers forced me away from the train on the platform. I scuttle to the rear door and press the button, but the door doesn’t open, and I carry on scuttling to the next door, which doesn’t open either. I can see other doors further up the train that are still open, but they are too far for me to scuttle to to get on, and they close, and the train goes without me.

And then the next one isn’t for another forty minutes.


If you are going to have a cock eyed lay out of a station, put clearer signs up and don’t have the main path leading to a building if you can’t get through that building.


With Nothing Else Occupying My Head

There has been a lot going on recently. A trip to Madrid has been well documented. So have the flurry of home games for Crawley. It has been a long time since it was started in January, but the bathroom is still not finished. OK it is useable, but there is still the bathroom cupboard and flexible mirror to go, and until they are done then the final tidy up can’t be. There are all kinds of things in unexpected places in the house, the front and back gardens, and until last weekend the loft.

After getting back from Madrid there were also a whole host of events with WORDfest. I was on stage for two of them. The Write Way Live at Ifield Barn theatre, where I read one of childhood memory pieces called “Cake.” The next night was the quiz, and someone came up as I was putting out a few nibbles on our team’s table to ask where the cakes were. Live interactive tales of Crawley in the old Ask building followed, and then on the Saturday there was the Crawley Creative Writing Group’s session for which I’d produced the books, then in the evening it was the Mother Tongue event where I read a poem in Gaelic (mangled might be a more appropriate description). And comedy night. It’s been busy.

I have been reading certain things and making up in my head what they actually said. Three weeks into using the toothpaste I can see it is called Oracare and not Oral Care as I’d read / assumed. Now all I can think of is someone having to look after Rita Ora.

Another example of this phenomena came when a leaflet came through the door for the local elections. It was from Labour for their candidate Bob Noyce. It took several attempts to get the name correct as I kept reading it as Bob Nonce, definitely not a voter friendly name.

And I spent years misreading a supplier’s name at work before I finally got their name correct. The company supplies the vast array of flexible benefits on offer alongside our payroll. And therefore, I always assumed their name was a mash up and called them Beneflex for at least ten years before it finally sank in there is no L in their name and they are actually Benefex. Personally, I think they missed a trick.

On to destroy it yourself. It is nearly two years since the kitchen was done. Not long after it was completed, I attempted to put a towel rail up on the wall behind the kitchen door. I made a mess, and one side came off the wall. So, it was removed with a view to fixing it later. Instead, last week a different rail was bought and on Saturday I got round to putting it up. I got two holes drilled in the wall without making them massive, got the plasplugs in OK, had one side fully screwed in tightly, and had the other side screwed in three quarters of the way only for the top quarter of the screw to snap off. I thought I would unscrew the first side and move it along a couple of inches. Only for the thread to disintegrate and make unscrewing it impossible. I could get it out of the wall. I’m still in a strop about the effing wall and its utter dislike of me and distain for me when it knows I hate DIY and I’m bad at it.

Anyway, a friend came round, managed to get the new rail off the wall and have securely fixed the original rail to the wall. But there is now a new blind to fit in the living room, and the thought of it is giving me the fear.

I was a bit meh all weekend. Part of which is the unrelenting horror show that I know work is going to be, and part of it is the destroy it yourself piece, as it makes me feel like a worthless / useless piece of excrement.

Helen suggested putting some music on and wanted a suggestion of a record to play. So, after umming and aahing I went old school. Not in a rave or rap view, but picking something from my teens when I first got really into Motown. Back in the eighties I had a set of cassettes. Motown Hits of Gold, volumes one to eight. I have the record box set now, which in addition to the eight originals had a disc nine of ‘future hits.’

I haven’t played any of these since the eighties, but I nominated volume seven side one, as it was one of the cassettes I played to death in my Walkman. It is amazing what memories it brought back. So much so I wrote a piece just about that album.

And both the music and the writing takes my mind off it all.

How Long Does A Shower Take?

Since getting back from holiday (over three weeks ago now) we have been waiting for the bathroom to be finished. It was started before we went on holiday and so it is now in week six of installation. That been week six of the original three-week estimate. Every day we get home, trek up the stairs, and have a look to see what has been done today. Some days there is obvious movement and other days it can appear that nothing has been done.

There was one day this week (it may have been Thursday) when it appeared as if all that had been done was that the bath had been filled up with water. (Other things had been done, but in the loft and behind the scenes, so not visible.)

The work is excellent quality, but it does seem to be being done at a glacial speed. You know when you have a jigsaw out on a table in a spare room and you nip in occasionally and pop a couple of pieces in, and over time it all comes together and looks complete eventually. Well, it would appear the bathroom is just like that jigsaw.

We still don’t have a working shower (* update, since I wrote the draft of this on Saturday morning the shower has now become operational), and so we have been having showers at neighbours, or at work, neither of which is great. (And if we hadn’t been on holiday for two weeks it would have been worse.)

Rumour is it should be complete at some time this week. I won’t be holding my breath.

Fridays, when not working, we’ve been heading out to try and get away from the ongoing work. The first week back it was over to East Grinstead, and for the last two weeks it has been to Burgess Hill. None of these trips have seen me take my camera with me. But they have all followed a similar pattern; ambling around, going into charity shops, having some lunch, going into more charity shops, and then having to rush back to the car park before the pay and display ticket ran out.

You may ask why we would go to Burgess Hill twice on the trot? Well, it’s the carpet’s fault. You see, not content with the fact that the never-ending bathroom replacement is still ongoing, Helen is looking at replacing the stairs and landing carpet. So, we had gone into the wonderfully named Disco Furnishings to have a look. And ended up walking out with some samples. Now, you may think that a little sample wouldn’t be an issue, but they gave the full set of carpet samples on a big ring, like the larges, most unwieldy keying ever. And so, we had to take it back a week later.

It wasn’t quite a case of run in, dump the big carpet key ring, and run back out again, but it wasn’t far off.

With ongoing work at home, we have been going to the office every day. An office which is colder than a freezer. More than once I’ve had a hat and gloves on whilst at my desk. It is worth noting that it is remarkably difficult typing in gloves.

I don’t know what the fuck is going on at work, but it is manic, and just an all-round utter shit show. The bastards at the National Lottery appear to have lost my e-mail address, and so it is going to be the case that work carries on in the same vein for the next however many years it is until I retire or die.

My usual pre-writing ritual on a Saturday morning was followed as I went for breakfast in Maccy D’s. since my last visit they have started charging for sauces. Not that I have sauces myself (though if they start charging for salt sachets, I may end being bankrupt soon), but for others it is a culture shock, and it’s causing staff issues.

Not only are they charging for sauces (10p for a little tub of ketchup etc), but they have two tiers of sauces, standard and premium (which are 50p a pop). The staff hate this new charge, and they don’t try and pre-sell them. But they are getting pissed off having to ask for 10p, and as most people don’t carry cash anymore there are a lot of 10p card payments going through, which surely must be costing them.

I got to the library and was surprised to find, much to the relief I’m sure of some of the other members of the writing group, that they have had the lift replaced / fixed. It only took them the six months.

Let’s hope the bathroom is done before that long.

An Even Darker Age

Where to start today? Why does it feel like a confessional box? Father, I have sinned, it’s been four days since out last game, and I’m playing away today.

To be honest, the actual game of football being played this evening is the least of our worries. The new soap opera in town is Crawley Town F. Our third manager of the season parted company with the club yesterday morning; thirty-two days and three games Matthew Etherington lasted (what would the odds on that have been?) And the rumour mill has gone into full effect, which is great if you needed a shit load of flour, but not great for fans.

This afternoon there was a message from an anonymous source at the club to say that George Francomb, Tony Craig, and Jake Hessenthaler would not be travelling with the side and that foundation and fringe players would be making up the numbers. Then on the official club website there was a statement from one of the co-chairmen – Preston, that assistant coach Darren Byfield would be taking charge for tonight’s (and Monday’s) game, and that Preston himself would be on the bench to support. It also said that some senior players were no longer a part of Crawley’s future plans. (But it didn’t mention any names.) Then the other co-chairman – Eben, was tweeting all over the place, commenting on the Etherington situation, on Lewis Young not getting the full-time job, and about the senior players (again without naming any), saying that their investigation into the John Yems situation had uncovered things, and that there was a rotten core to the club that needed removing. So, all sounding great then.

All of the items in the previous paragraph came up after we had already travelled up to Stevenage. We had come up early and were staying overnight so we could have a look around, both at our ‘twin town,’ and we ventured outside of the central ring road to have a look at the old town, which was quite nice, and such a contrast to the centre of the town.

Ah, yes, Stevenage, the reason for me writing. We have already played them at home this season, and we lost 1-2. I had a look at the blog post I’d written for that game (link below), and it included a lot of moaning about the decisions given and not given by the officials, soft penalties against ones not given, and the general ridiculous amount of bias against Crawley in the decisions. I also said there wasn’t really much between the teams in that game.

Yet we go into tonight’s game in twentieth position in the league, on twenty-one points, after twenty-two games. A massive eighteen places, and twenty-four points behind Stevenage who sit in second in the league. With a game to go to the halfway point in the season for both clubs, Stevenage are only two points behind the total they managed for the whole season last season, and a win tonight would take them past it. (which they got ☹)

They were in the relegation zone as late as March last season when they hired our ex-manager, Steve Evans. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say, what a difference an experienced manager at this level can make without a reliance on stats, stats, and more stats.

Any experience at this level would be a bonus, not just winning and getting promotions. Leyton Orient got a new manager in March as well, not as successful at this level as Steve Evans, but still with a few years’ experience with different clubs. We played them in our last home game last season (you know the one, the phantom goal not given at one end, quickly followed by the ten-yard offside goal at the other whilst most of our players were still berating the officials and which we lost 0-2). They finished a place and three points behind us last season. If they win tonight, they’ll already have fifty-five points, only three less than they got all last season. (They drew so they only have fifty-three points at the halfway point).

All the chopping and changing isn’t doing anyone any good at Crawley. By the time we get another new permanent manager, we will have had six managerial changes in less than a year. We are managing to make the Tories look strong and stable. The lettuces are definitely lasting longer than our managers.

It had been raining off and on all day, but it had stopped as we walked up to the ground, and it was milder than we had been told to expect, so there were a lot of additional layers being carried in my bag rather than worn. At least I didn’t need to add the weight of a programme to it. Not because they had sold out, but because Stevenage FC are a bunch of cunts and only have it online, accessible by the QR code on the back of the ticket. Which is no use to anyone who doesn’t have a phone that can scan QR codes. And it is by no means any substitute for the traditional printed ones. Stop being twats and assuming everyone wants to go digital and stop excluding parts of your and other fanbases.

There is a good amount of Crawley fans here tonight. After all it is a straight train journey. It’s difficult to judge, and Stevenage didn’t announce the crowd figures, but of the 3,238 fans there must have been at least 300 Crawley fans there.

There is a minute’s applause before the game to commemorate the death of Pele. Crawley are in white shirts and sock and black shorts, and Stevenage are in all Purple as they were when they played at Crawley.

The whistle goes to start the game, and so does the fan chanting and abuse. All aimed at WAGMI and Preston Johnson. “We want WAGMI out”, “Stand up if you hate WAGMI”, “Preston is a…” (fill in any one of half a dozen adjectives here), “You’re not fit to run a club”, “I don’t care about WAGMI, WAGMI don’t care about me, all I care about is CTFC”, the latter being an earworm grower according to Helen.

We didn’t start badly and have a couple of corners back-to-back, but the second is cleared and Travis Johnson slips, allowing the Stevenage striker to run through and pass the ball into the net past an out of position Ellery Balcombe, and less than ten minutes in it is 0-1.

A couple of minutes later ball one disappears over the East Terrace from a panicked clearance from one of our defenders. The Stevenage ground is unusual. We, in the away end behind one goal are in a fully seated stand (although there wasn’t much sitting going on from the majority of the Crawley support). Behind the other goal, and along the west touchline is all seated as well, but the whole of the east stand is terracing.

Stevenage are having more shots and chances, but the random team we have playing aren’t doing too badly. Until we are. A throw in is hooked into the box and there is no one marking the Stevenage defender who has a free headed which hits the inside of the far post and trickles over the line to make it 0-2.

The chanting goes from “Stand up if you hate WAGMI,” to “Sit down if you hate WAGMI,” to standing again, and then to “Shoes off if you hate WAGMI” and looking sideways there are two hundred fans holding up a shoe or trainer as the chant goes on. Two comments on this, first, my knees can’t take all this stand-up, sit-down nonsense, and it took me five minutes to squeeze my boots on over two pairs of socks, so there isn’t a hope of me getting it back on in the ground if I took it off. And secondly, why didn’t I take a photo of them?

There were two minutes of added time, but no board went up and there was no announcement, we were just suddenly into half time. A half time that came in with no music, just a few announcements. No ‘Chelsea Dagger,’ ‘Seven Nation Army,’ or ‘Bittersweet Symphony.’ All very strange.

Five minutes into the second half and ball two disappears out over the east terrace, this time from a Stevenage clearance. Not long after Ellery Balcombe skins a Stevenage striker, thirty-five yards out and on the touchline. Yes, it was a nice piece of skill, but seriously, what the fuck is he doing out there?

We create a decent change, but Ludwig Francillette puts it just over the bar from outside the box. Not long after Jack Powell, who came on as a second half sub, plays a free kick to Nick Tsaroulla, whose shot was just wide.

There are some chants aimed Caleb Chukwuemeka, who isn’t having the best game. He has power and pace, but doesn’t seem very committed, and who definitely wimps out of a couple of tackles, even more obviously that Jack Powell does. There is no way he is going to live up to Chumbawumba’s chant of “He gets knocked down, but he gets up again,” as he’s unlikely to be in a position to get knocked down.

But with just over ten minutes of normal time left, Stevenage get a corner and the same defender who scored in the first half has another header that goes in, and it is now 0-3. We bring on our fifth and final sub of the game (using all five of the outfield subs named for the game, we didn’t manage to name a full complement of seven subs).

With a couple of minutes to go, Nick Tsaroulla is tripped in the penalty box, and it is given. Dom Telford steps up to take it and puts it in the corner and it is 1-3. Five minutes of added time are announced, and pretty much straight away, Telford charges down a clearance from the Stevenage keeper, only for the ball to spin inches wide. It could have been very interesting if that had gone in.

The chants had changed, and were now veering between, “Preston Johnson, we’re coming for you,” and aimed at the stewards, “I know you won’t believe us; we’re going on the pitch.” To be fair the stewards, and head of security had been looking worried from about the second minute of the game, and well before the final whistle there were a lot of them lined up on the pitch side to prevent a pitch invasion.

The final whistle went, and the result was 1-3, not as bad as some may have feared. And the threatened pitch invasion didn’t take place either. There was an extended period of applause from the fans to the players and vice-versa. Jack Powell came over and shook a few fans hands and chatted to them for a couple of minutes before one of the coaching staff managed to drag him away. Nick Tsaroulla was miming ‘keep your chin up’ to the fans as well.

And we disperse, as usual Helen and I were pretty much last out of the ground, and as we walked around the side we could hear chants of ‘We want WAGMI out’ as some fans surrounded the team coach (and it sounded like they were drumming on the side of it), and then, matching more of the underlying menacing mood of the evening, ‘Preston Johnson, we’re waiting for you.’

As we walked back from the hotel, Helen commented on seeing a police car in the queue for the drive through Maccy D’s ‘Priorities, there’s an American being murdered back at the stadium, and you’re queuing for burgers.’

We stayed twentieth, as thankfully all the teams below us in the league had all lost last night, and Stevenage stayed second, only the point gap went up to twenty-seven.

The soap opera moves on to the away game against Newport County on Monday, and to a new manager at some point next year. You really couldn’t make this shit up.

Come on you reds.


The week saw clear skies, it comes with the cold weather, but it was also a full moon, which I got a couple of decent shots of.

Also visible was Mars. The shots of that weren’t as clear, and so I got just a blob of blurry orange colour.

We were getting a train Friday morning from Crawley station. After what seems to be most of the year, the main entrance is now back inside and undercover. But there must surely be more work to do as there is nowhere to get food or drink in the new glass and chrome station building. No chance of a quick drink before getting a train as there was in the old station building. If they are finished, then although the entrance looks shiny, it will be less use than ever. Plus, the rest of the station still looks like a tip.

Part of the improvements to the station was to build the new footbridge, along with its lifts. Something that has been needed for years. We’re just not sure why it had to be so far down the platform it’s half way to Three Bridges, or why they needed to take the old bridge by the entrance from East Park away. It wasn’t showing signs of falling down, and now for those who don’t need the lift it adds another couple of minutes to their time to get to platform one.

Anyway, we were off to Brighton. Not my favourite destination, but I needed somewhere without the chain store only mentality of so many towns nowadays, and the North Laines is ideal for finding individual shops. I needed this to get some inspiration as for what to buy Helen for Christmas. I used to be really good at this kind of thing, but I struggle a lot now with it. Bereft of ideas as my brain doesn’t want to work in that direction anymore. (or at all it would seem a lot of the time.)

Being on the first off peak train meant we were there before the crowds. And the cold was putting more people off as well. So much so that some of the shops weren’t even open.

It turned out that the second shop we went in was the one for presents, but that was only found out after visiting dozens of others, and I returned to it on the way back to the station and home.

One of the other shops we went in was Snooper’s Paradise. I know I have walked past it quite a few times before, but not paid it any attention in my rush to get the hell out of Brighton. But I didn’t know just what a wonderland it was in there. I think we were in there for about an hour, but that was only scratching the surface. I picked up a couple of random Leicester pieces, but there is a lot I would be interested in going through in a lot more detail, so at some point next year there will be a day trip there in full on snooper mode.

There were a couple of retro shops, which had interesting stuff in them, but, Jesus wept, the prices were ridiculous. Three figures for stuff you can get on eBay for a third of the price. And yet they were full of people buying stuff. More money than sense, and yet all claiming poverty. The worst example was a vintage ugly looking Kappa sweatshirt. Three colours including a horrible brown shade. It was vintage in the fact it was obviously old, had been worn to death and washed within an inch of its life, out of shape and fit only to be used as dishcloths. The price? A snip at £79.99. A charity shop would refuse to sell it, it was so tatty. Yet it goes to show that a fool and their money are soon parted if any idiot decides to buy it.

Friday night saw a Crawley home game in sub zero temperatures, and it was a sub-zero performance to match.

Saturday was writing group, the last of the year, so included some nice non-healthy snacks. And then it was a trip to Argos. We have become wimps and gotten an electric blanket, and dug out the additional quilt to make it up to a lot of togs now.

Saturday night saw another disappointing football match, but at least the bed was nice and warm afterwards.

Helen had booked for us, her sister and mum to go on the winter lights special on the Bluebird Railway on Sunday night. We were meeting them at the Farmers Arms at Scaynes Hill. When we left home it was thinking about snowing, but more a sleet consistency. By the time we’d gone the ten miles or so to Haywards Heath there was a healthy covering on the road, and vehicles were struggling to get purchase to get up the hill in the opposite direction to us going around the ring road.

We got parked and went into the pub, the others turned up and we had a nice meal. In the two hours we were there, an inch of snow had fallen and covered the cars. During this time, we had (well Helen had) been checking the Bluebell Railway’s website and her e-mails to see if it was still going ahead in all the snow. There was nothing to say it wasn’t, and so we made out way there.

In the pub I’d overheard someone say that they weren’t sure about driving home as they hated driving in the snow. I thought to myself that they’d be better off driving in the car. But that’s just me. A couple came in not long before we were going. They had been booked on the 5pm train, but had been held up and missed getting there and had given up and come into the pub instead.

It was one of those evenings where the railway had taken on the wrong name, it shouldn’t have been the Bluebell, as Snowdrop would have been far more appropriate. We got there without too much trouble, only to find out they had cancelled the 8pm train. They had announced it on Twitter, not bothering with their website or e-mailing paying passengers.

It wasn’t directly cancelled because of the snow fall, but it was a by product of the snow and ice, as the 5pm train (which had left late and the couple who came into the pub would have been able to catch it after all), had got as far as Horsted Keynes, but was now stuck due to issues with points and signals and as yet hadn’t made it back.

The lights they did have around the site were good though.

We had a potter around the station (and a quick look in the gift shop), and then headed for home. A proper visit to the railway and gift shop will be something to do in 2023.

The journey back started off OK. The snow was melting quite quickly, and it was only as we started the drag back up to Scaynes Hill that it became heavy going. A long line of very slow moving (but mainly not moving) traffic, that continued in that vein until we got past the turn off for Lindfield (which we were going to take to get around Haywards Heath), but where, as if by magic the traffic disappeared, and we had a clear run.

The issue appeared to be getting around three separate abandoned cars, which was taking a lot longer than it should, especially when there was little to no traffic coming the other way. Three quarters of the hour or so long journey was spent doing two miles.

But we were still home a lot earlier than we would have been if the train had been running, and we’d had a nice meal. And it meant I was back just in time to see the first important action from the night’s football. American Football this time, and as RedZone went on, Deebo Samuel ran the ball into the end zone and the 49ers took an early lead against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. A lead that never looked like being relinquished, and turned into a 35-7 rout. All behind a quarterback who was the 2022’s draft’s Mr Irrelevant, the last man picked in the draft, who was in his first start. The first time Tom Brady has ever lost against another quarterback starting their first game in the twenty-three years he has been playing. A length of time longer than the age of Brock Purdy. So, a good night’s football after the two nights of disappointment.

And then it’s back to work.

You can’t have everything.

October Flies By

The first weekend of the month was a write off, as I spent most of it working. I never want to see a sickness reason code again in my life. (And to be honest, I never wanted to see one in the first place, but such is life.) I racked up a lot of time, so took an extra day off on the Thursday of the next week to make it a four-day weekend. Helen was off too, but she was off to deepest darkest Somerset with her mum to visit other family members. Something I politely passed on, and so I was left to my own devices.

I didn’t spend the whole time playing solitaire on my laptop (though the draw to it was real), and I was up and over in Horsham before midday, full details of that trip out are in a piece I’m writing on my Medium page.

I’d let the furry fussy pest out before going out, and when I returned, Sniffles was laid between the plant pot and the meter cupboard to the side of the front door. It is a good snoozing spot for him as he’s protected on three sides. On hearing footsteps, he lifts his head and looks around to see who it is coming before he recognises it is someone who will let him in, and he lets out a welcoming whine. Well, I’m not sure if it’s welcoming, it sounds more along the lines of ‘where the fuck have you been?’

He did the same thing when I got in from wandering around town on Friday. There is something about the way he does it that makes me laugh. It reminds me of Brad Pitt playing Mickey the Pikey in Snatch when Tommy and Gorgeous George turn up to buy a caravan and he’s squatting down having a crap and his head bobs up to see who it is that has arrived. Sniffles has mastered that action.

Anyway, on my way out on Friday I was aiming to stop and sort out physiotherapy sessions. Helen had bought them for me for my birthday and after some unsuccessful phone tag I was still no closer to a session four months on. The physiotherapist is only around the corner from where I live so I thought I’d knock on the door. So, I ambled down Southgate Drive and knocked on the door. I did think it was odd that there was a big Volvo estate blocking most of the drive that I had to squeeze around to get to the door. And when the door opened it is hard to say who was the most confused about me asking about physiotherapy sessions; me, or the old Asian woman who answered the door.

The actual house I wanted was on Southgate Road, not Drive, so I went there on the way back from town. I walked past it once because I though the blocks in the large driveway were all saying number 10, but it turns out they were all the physiotherapist’s logo marking out parking spaces. I knocked but that didn’t sort out a session. They were going to give me a ring on the Saturday to sort one out. Two weeks later and there has been no contact.

The confusion stakes carried on later in the evening. Sniffles was curled up on the blanket in the corner of the sofa when Helen rang me. As I was talking to her, Sniffles got up, looked around, and then wandered over to me and looked up before heading back to the corner. Only to come back and end up with his paws on my chest staring at me all confused. I put him down and he got the hump and went to sit on the box of Halloween decorations in high dudgeon glaring at me. He eventually came back and investigated what I was doing, but it would seem he was confused that he could hear the voice of the nice lady who usually feeds him, and fusses over him, but couldn’t see her. He was looking at me as if I had somehow imprisoned her in my phone and was wondering when she was coming back. As when the phone call ended, he curled back up in his corner of the sofa and went to sleep.

After writing group on Saturday, which went quite well considering I was winging it big time. I headed for another afternoon of walking. I got a bus to Turners Hill and meandered back to Tesco’s at which point the walking boots I’m still breaking in were making both feet and knees scream at me, so I got the bus home and vegged on the sofa all evening.

Sunday saw a bit of cooking (well, chucking bits in the slow cooker for a chili, so cooking might be stretching it) and sport watching. The GP was odd, the football mildly entertaining, and the American football very entertaining. The 49ers eased to an easy win and top the division after five games as all the other teams in the division lost. And this win despite more injuries to key players (which came back to bite us the following week as we lost to the Falcons of all teams).

Crawley meanwhile lost whilst I was out walking on Saturday. 3-0 away to Grimsby Town. I had considered going to that game and had scoped out travel times for trains and hotels for overnight stays as there wasn’t much to do with Helen being away, but I decided against it. It was a wise decision by the look of things, as another poor result saw us ending up as the strongest team in the football league – bottom – holding all the other teams up. And it saw Kevin Betsy being sacked.

I still want to go to Grimsby. Well, Cleethorpes really, as I want some photos for other pieces I am writing.

Work was still shit when I went back, but it was only four days before ten days off. Although most of that time was going to spent with relatives of mine or Helen.

When work came to an end on Thursday evening, we went and picked Helen’s mum up and headed north. We were heading for Lichfield, as an overnight stop on the way to North Wales for a seventieth birthday afternoon tea.

Three times on the journey to Lichfield the ‘smart’ motorway signs signalled to move over for workmen in the road ahead. After there being nothing the first two times it was tempting not to move over the third time in a boy who cried wolf fashion.

We turned on the sat nav for the last stretch, only for it to immediately to yell turn left, only for that to be the exit to the south and a nine-mile detour to the next junction and back before we were on the right track again.

When we got out of the car at the Holiday Inn Express at Lichfield Helen’s mum asked where the cardboard box was. What box? The box that was in the porch. Well, at a rough guess, it’s still in the fucking porch, as it’s the first we’ve heard of a box. (A neighbour was rung, and the box retrieved).

Between Lichfield and north Wales, we were told of how Helen’s mum likes to stroke bees. Which both of us found a bit bonkers, but no one else we spoke to at the party batted an eyelid at. Who knew stroking bees was a thing?

Breakfast in the pub was interesting, as the coffee was served in a cafetiere, but appeared to be instant coffee.

The invites to the party did not have a standard start time on them. Some had midday, some 12:30 and others one o’clock. Most of the relatives going to the party were in the pub first, seemingly delaying the going to the party until the last possible moment. This included Bob whose party it was. In total there were thirty-five people invited, and a miraculous thirty-one of them turned up. But there was a mini exodus from the room just before the party games started. Strategic absences involved to avoid playing feed the baby and blind makeup. Packing up only took a few minutes compared to the hours setting up the room did, and most of the relatives headed to the other pub in the village straight after.

When it comes to it being time to leave the pub to drop off a couple of people at Joanne and Bob’s and to pick up Helen’s mum, we find that the room key to our room is still in the village hall, and there is no one there for us to be able to get it. Fortunately, there was a spare so we could get into the room and get the car keys. We may also have left some tweezers behind, as before dinner Helen’s mum asked if we had any tweezers as she couldn’t find hers, and she needed to screw the curtain rail back up. I still don’t know what the hell was going on, but our rooms didn’t have any curtains, let alone rails to hang them off.

There may well have been a spare key to our room, but it wasn’t fully legit. It allowed us to lock the room when we retired for the night. But it would not open from the inside in the morning. We had to get one of the staff to go into the crawl space outside the other end of the room for us to pass the key out of the window for them to come around and open our door from the outside. And that wasn’t even the worst part about breakfast.

We get out of the pub and drop Helen’s mum off at Joanne and Bob’s and head north to Morecambe for four nights at my mum’s. Despite the attempts at force feeding and the horrendous driving conditions over the next three days out, it wasn’t a bad stay. There are lots of write ups from those days out on Medium (or will be depending on which order I post things).

We met up with Joanna and Bob at Lymm services on the way home for a handover of Helen’s mum, and after dropping her off we were more than happy to collapse on our sofa and do nothing.

I know work is rubbish, but sometimes having time off can be more tiring.

Why Is Everywhere Shut?

The lawnmower has had enough of our shit. After sitting most of the long scorching summer in the shed, as there is no need to mow dry yellow chaff, it got called into action to deal with the sudden growth spurt the last couple of weeks’ worth of rain had brought about in making it a jungle out there. It managed three quarters of the “lawn” before some very ominous looking smoke came out of the bottom of it as the motor packed up. A new model will be required. Even so, I’m not convinced I would have been poking it and trying to get it to move whilst it was still plugged into the mains, unlike Nathan who was doing the mowing.

In case I missed anyone with my blanket social media approach in the week. I’m more than excited that I have some of my writing in print. In a proper book. Two collections of work have been published with my work in. A collection of writing about and from the Home Counties, in which I have one piece in the Sussex section. And a collection from the East Midlands, in which I have a poem and two short stories in the Leicestershire section. Next step – get something published which has my name on the cover.

I went to the doctor’s Friday morning. They wanted a routine blood pressure test. Which is never routine where I am concerned, as they take it, look at the reading, look at me – the fat blob sat in front of them – and take it again. Only to get the same result and be surprised that fat doesn’t equal high blood pressure.

What was more interesting about the trip to the doctors was the Crawley wildlife I passed on the way there and back.

On the way there, a couple, in their thirties, possibly early forties, were walking along Wakehurst Drive in the opposite direction to me, and on the other side of the road. There’s a stretch with a long wall / fence with some grass in front of it, but no houses. He was stopping to have a piss. She was squealing at him not to do it in the middle of the street in the middle of the day. He was saying that if you’ve gotta go, then you’ve gotta go. She said she also desperately needed to go, but you wouldn’t catch her pissing in the street. All this not much more than a minute’s walk away from the Downsman, which was open.

Coming back, I got as far as coming out of Best One after getting the local paper (a bumper edition, but nearly fifty of its pages were Queen’s death related filler) and a scruffy bloke of indeterminate age was saying, ‘is that a trick question?’ To which, a woman equally as scruffy and also of an indeterminate age replied, ‘no it isn’t a trick question, do you want a pot noodle to eat?’ I don’t know what the response was as he proceeded to neck the remaining contents in his bottle of cider before answering, and by then I was out of earshot.

Only to turn in Baker Close and find the piss couple sat on the wall at the top of the close, now with a little dog in tow. Which they hadn’t had half an hour before. I’m not sure that little puppy is going to get the best toilet training.

Over the last couple of months there has been a new phenomenon of scantily clad tarts whose profile pictures are mainly made up of their cleavage, following me on Instagram. Some are hawking for business on Only Fans, a couple are blatantly selling sex, but the majority have profiles saying they are ‘looking for love,’ ‘need the right man,’ ‘single and looking for a good man.’ As if it’s fucking Tinder. It’s amazing how many black holes are using Instagram as a dating site. A lot of them also have a large side of fanatical Christianity mentioned alongside their barely clothed bodies and man hunting. I must have missed the part in the Bible where it was saying to advertise your bits like a hooker to find ‘real love.’

We wandered over to Horsham on Saturday afternoon. Helen needed to return some things to a Cancer Research charity shop, and we don’t have one in Crawley, so it was the closest place. As she was getting a refund, I was finding a nice haul of vintage Ladybird books, a vinyl Motown box set I didn’t already own, and some trousers. Horsham also still has their H&M, as they think they are too posh for Crawley. Helen spent her refund in there instead. And there was that awkward forced social interaction moment. The one where someone from work sees you before you can hide, and worse still they speak to you.

Additionally, Horsham still has an Ask. Whereas Crawley are only left with Prezzo, and their microwave meals. So, we went for dinner there. We had nearly finished when they seated four women on the table next to us. One had a tight t-shirt with Abercrombie and Fitch across the chest. I thought it was a strange thing to call your tits.

We passed on dessert so that we could go to Rockafella’s instead. A good decision. I went for a massive sundae (even though it was only Saturday), but narrowing the choice down to just a single sundae was tricky.

On the way to Horsham, we drove through the village of Colgate. And do you know what? We didn’t spot a single person brushing their teeth anywhere in the village.

Meanwhile, the recent unbeaten run of Crawley Town came to a halt away at Crewe Alexandra. Judging by the difference in the match stats between half time and full time, it would appear that they didn’t bother coming out from the dressing rooms after half time at all this week, and not just their traditional two minutes later than the opposition.

On the plus side the 49ers played well and rolled over the Seahawks 27-7. Always good to give the dirty birds a bit of a shellacking. The game also saw us sort out any quarterback controversy for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, this was because Trey Lance is now out for the season with a broken angle, and therefore we are back to Jimmy G.

I think I haven’t been writing much over the last few months, and that I’m more up to date with my filing than I am. I came to file the copies of my recent writing, and there were two inches worth of sheets of A4. And that was before they went in plastic wallets. Of which I thought I had plenty, only to get close to the bottom of the pile before I ran out of paper to put in them. Then I found that some of the folders I was filing away in were full to bursting. This would suggest that there appears to be nothing wrong with the quantity (and with being published now, the quality can’t be that bad either), it’s just that the effort needs to be put into the correct channels. Less rubbish blogging like this and more work on the various novels that I have as works in progress. What I though would be a twenty-minute task ended up taking the best (or worst) part of three hours.

At least it meant that I wasn’t watching Mourn Hub. Helen put it on briefly whilst the big box was in Westminster Abbey. It got turned off when Liz Truss came on and started blathering something or other. Helen said she hadn’t noticed before that Liz Truss was speaking out of the side of her mouth, like some kind of untrustworthy spiv. I thought that it was an improvement from where she usually spoke out of.

We could still hear the whole ceremony through the wall though. But they were on satellite delay, as they were at least three minutes behind live TV.

Ridley’s Believe It Or Not

Listening to a Depeche Mode playlist today, and in “Personal Jesus”, every time they sing the line ‘reach out and touch Faith’, I sit there thinking that Faith is screaming back at them, ‘leave me alone you bastards, stop fucking touching me!’

All hyped up and ready for the Carabao Cup third round draw. Burnley away. Not the kind of draw you want. There is a certain symmetry as Helen was born in Burnley, but a Tuesday night trip to Burnley in November isn’t what anyone needs. It was a neither one thing or another draw. They aren’t in the Premier League (something our owners didn’t seem to know when they tweeted about it – they must have missed their relegation last season), but they are high enough up the league ladder to make it difficult. If it was going to be away, at least be somewhere decent, or against someone decent. Them at home would have been fine, but it’s just a bit of a let-down.

Helen hasn’t been having much luck with her prescriptions this year, and the Kamsons next to Southgate Medical Centre have been little to no help. But they managed to surpass themselves this time, as when she turned up to pick up her prescription, they told her she’d picked it up two days before. Only to then deny having given her prescription to someone else, and as a replacement have her a totally different brand with not as many doses. All whilst trying to gaslight her and say they had never said they gave her prescription to some random. Absolute clowns.

Speaking of clowns, I’ve been playing a few more of my self-curated artist playlists. I created most of these years ago, at which point I can only assume I was completely shit faced. The David Bowie playlist had a track in it I didn’t even recognise. And the Michael Jackson one had ‘Got To Be There’ on it, which is OK, but not exactly one of his biggest bangers; and the duet with Paul McCartney, the very creepy ‘The Girl Is Mine’. If I did have to drag Macca into it why did I pick this instead of ‘Say Say Say’? the more worrying thing is that I’ll have played these playlists a few times over the years and never noticed some of these travesties before. They might all need reviewing.

Remember back in the eighties where the games on the Acorn Electron, or the Amiga, had you going from room to room to find things, but it got more and more difficult to get to where you needed to be the longer it went on. Well, we played a 2022 real life version on Friday as we tried to get to Standen House. We merrily made our way across Crawley to go up Turner’s Hill Road. Only for the roundabout on Balcombe Road to be closed. So, we took the detour the other way along Balcombe Road, and a sharp turn back on ourselves at the Cowdray Arms, and back past Worth School and Abbey. Only to get to Turner’s Hill and find the road through to East Grinstead closed. So, it was off through Crawley Down and Felbridge and into East Grinstead, past the Sainsbury’s and back towards Standen, only for that road to be closed at the roundabout as well. Fourth time we did manage to get there, and arriving there did feel like we had solved the game’s big mystery and completed the level.

We went for a pizza in East Grinstead after the Standen visit and were sat in the window overlooking the High Street. Where, for at least ten minutes, we saw a confused and hapless Deliveroo driver wander up and down, back and forth across the road, through alleyways, all trying to find whichever food establishment he was supposed to be picking up the food form. Obviously unable to read the map on his phone. Which didn’t bode well for whoever the poor sods who’d ordered the food were. If he ever found them (not guaranteed by any means), it was highly likely that their food will have been cold. Unless it was ice cream they were ordering, in which case it would have been melted.

Saturday morning felt like a rush. I was in town early, but the window seat in Maccy D’s didn’t offer up any observational gems. Then I was rushing around to finish off all the photos needed for the work photo scavenger hunt. And a detour to the museum to get photos of my pieces of work now on display (after being missed initially).

Then to writing group and back to town to get a haircut. Only to find my usual barbers in the middle of a renovation, and so no trim from Sideshow Bob this time. It must have been Crawley haircut day, as all the other barbers close by had queues out the door. It took a bit longer than planned to get my hair cut. The amount of hair on the cloak shows just how long and scraggly it had gotten.

Heading home, the bare-chested bloke pushing a bicycle with a new boxed microwave on it didn’t look suspicious in the slightest. Not did his about turn and detour when he saw a couple of police cars parked further up Brighton Road.

Why aren’t Crawley Town allowed to own a dog? Because they can’t hold onto a lead. After the heroics of easily beating Premier League opposition on Tuesday night it was back to earth with a bump as they played bottom of the league Rochdale. We were preparing for the cremation party, so I was checking the score at regular intervals on my phone, and was happy to see a 1-0 lead at half time. Not so happy to see an equaliser in the second half, or a sending off not long before full time. And even less so when looking at the match stats and seeing we were outplayed in all aspects. Still winless in the league, but at least out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

The cremation of the dearly beloved Adidas polo shirt went ahead on Saturday night. The fire pit was going well, and people were round, but hen the t-shirt went on they were all off doing other things. It burned surprisingly well as a solid mass as I sat there poking the fire with a long stick until it was just ash.

Later on, all the years of old paperwork we wanted to dispose of went onto the fire as well. Old bank statements, credit card statements, utility bills and the like. My favourite what do you call joke came to mind again and it may have been more appropriate if it was Helen throwing the paper onto the fire. ‘What do you call a woman who throws all her bills onto the fire?’ ‘Bernadette’. (Burn a debt for the terminally slow amongst you.) On one of the other open tabs in my head, the Four Tops were playing on top volume.

I went to the bathroom, and through the open window I could hear a loud, strident, woman’s voice shouting, “Die! Die! Die!” it did sound quite disturbing until I realised, they had friends round for a barbeque and that one of those friends is called Di. And that no murders were about to be committed. (That I know of.)

A new Sunday night cop drama. Ridley. Well, retired cop, brought in to help. We’ve seen the kind of carnage that can bring (Baptiste, I’m looking at you). A fictitious town/city called Bradfield, but supposedly in Yorkshire (so a cross between Bradford and Wakefield then). Both of the lead characters have had their natural Northern Irish accents beaten out of them. There are four episodes, and so I was expecting the long game, but it’s a single case per episode, so we can see what the pattern is going to be for the series before we get to episode two.

Some long-forgotten case the old git worked on is relevant again, so he’s called in to help. Everything is solved. They forget that AC-12 was a different character in a different series even if it is the same actor, and so throw in a sub-standard copper getting investigated for how they handled the old case. And finally, someone thinks that the main character can sing, and so at the end of the episode he goes back to the club he part owns and sings an ‘appropriate’ song to the crowd in the club who are wondering where the hell this random rocked up from, as elsewhere the real cop is putting the bow on the current case.

It is worth pointing out that there has been a series called ‘The Singing Detective’ back in the eighties. And that they’ve let many actors who have played fictional detectives sing in real life. (Bruce Willis – Moonlighting, Telly Savalas – Kojak, David Soul – Starsky And Hutch, to name a few). It would be good if we don’t get a Christmas album of “Adrian Dunbar Sings…” As, Mary, Joseph, and the wee donkey, no one needs that.