SATURDAY NOVEMBER 30 2013
7:40 am: We have set off in the morning darkness towards the Milton Keynes coach station. The air is brittle and thick with moisture. I must say it is jolly good of Kat to walk me to the station along the main roads and through the shrubs. She even packed me a survival kit which included sarnies, chocolates, fruit and biscuits. Enough to last me the day, or at least the long coach journey that lay in wait.
Manchester is going to be a not so enjoyable five and a tad hours ride up the motorway. It isn’t helped by the coach running 20 minutes late. Eventually i’m on me way and with a kiss and hug goodbye from my better half the mission begins.
10:15 am: The inglorious pleasures of killing time in a coach station. To my left there are screaming kids and to my right we have American tourists talking far louder than one would think necessary. Then again, these are American’s we are talking of. Meanwhile, hordes of prospective passengers mill around bay 7, which just so happens to be the bay my coach transfer to Manchester will be leaving from. The waffle of Irish accents fills the air. I suspect this coach may be heading to Dublin or Belfast by the sounds of things. A few minutes later me suspicions ring true. Belfast it is!
Placing my best manners on show I allow everyone willing to enter the coach before me. Eventually, after a great deal of fluffing about I take my turn to board the National Express. As I enter I am hit with the reality that there are few, if any seats available. The only real chance of a comfortable ride is staring at me from the back of the bus. Two spare seats beside a young and pasty Irish lad. “Perfect” I think to myself. As I sit down the lad is coughing everything bar the kitchen sink from his insides up. How they even let someone so ill on a public bus is beyond me and I know understand why he is on his own up the very back. Ohh well, time to put my resistance to colds in place.
12:55 pm: Destination afoot as we churn our way through the crowded traffic that encapsulates Manchester in this glorious Saturday afternoon. There is still more than enough time to find my way to Old Trafford, collect my ticket and take my seat for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup Final. England are not there so I must settle for Australia V New Zealand in the final.
The ground itself and surrounds are splattered with green and gold. There is a small sprinkling of black and white from our New Zealand friends with the balance of the punters brooding a fine mix of English rugby league jerseys. I notice Wakefield, Hull, Wigan and St Helens colours more than any others. Hull has just been announce the English capital of culture and anyone wearing the colours of said team are zestfully reminded of what a shit hole Hull is to the rest of the nation.
2:23 pm: I have taken my seat in the Stretford End of Old Trafford. Not far from the front and just to the left of the goal posts. The pomp and ceremony has finished and the teams now gather in the tunnel. Kick off is closing in as the last few rays of sunshine hang over the upper reaches of the stadium. To my left sits a middle aged English couple from Castleford. To my right there is a lovely old aged couple from Wakefield.
As the match kicks off it soon becomes apparent that the predominantly English crowd are cheering the underdog, that being New Zealand. Just over an hour and half later they crowd still cheers New Zealand despite the little sheep shaggers getting a proper tasty belting to the tune of 34-2 in a match that never really reached any great heights. I suspect things may have been different had the vocal crowd had the home nation playing instead of Australia’s friends from across the ditch.
6:15 pm: With almost a full two hours in line a tram finally rolls past that isn’t packed like sardines. I use this opportunity to climb aboard and find my way back into town. One lady in the waiting crowds explains to me that, “We’re British, we are used to lining up”.
9:47 pm: Shoes off and a cup of tea in hand. I’m now in the lounge room of John’s parents on Merseyside after yet another coach ride with a short train journey thrown in just for fun. Match of the Day will be on soon but for now I am relieved to be enjoying some good conversation with John as his parents dog showers me in attention.
SUNDAY DECEMBER 1 2013
12:55 am: Well, Match of the Day is over and I am still amazed that Everton have won again! A 4-0 hammering of Stoke City to boot. I really thought Roberto Martinez would render them more incapable that David Moyes had the past decade or so. Mind, there is still a long way to go this season.
8:49 am: Well now, the train into town is late. Not surprised really but thankful that my connecting train towards Chorley is still 45 minutes away. Upon reaching Lime Street in Liverpool I find my Chorley bound train is infact running late as well. Some 15 minutes to begin with. Somehow along the journey it is delayed a another 15 minutes! God bless British rail yes?
10:55 am: Upon arrival at Euxton station I am happy to see Lorraine and Simon are not yet too disheveled after waiting in the car longer than they probably should have been. We commence the long journey along the motorway towards Hull and the impending match with Liverpool that shall commence at 2:05 pm. Unlike British rail and coaches the football is never late.
12:26 pm: Upon pulling in for a quick bite to eat at a services break somewhere near Leeds we notice a mini bus full of scousers on their way to the match have also stopped in. With many of them being young and cheeky looking I can imagine their pockets will be lined with all the goodies a service break can provide in a short while from now. As they say, them scousers again!
1:38 pm: We have arrived! I am now in a local pub watching the tail end of the Spurs V United match after collecting my ticket from Evo. It’s almost time to head into the ground and watch another fine away win by the red men!
The previous 29 hours or so of travel are beginning to catch up with me. I’m feeling tired and grotty. On the plus side United have been held 2-2 at White Heart Lane.
3:50 pm: Well, that was something to behold. An inept performance by the red men has seen them crash to a 3-1 defeat at the Hands of Hull City or Hull Tigers depending on which side of the fence you sit. Either way it was a rubbish performance which only makes securing wins against Norwich and West Ham at Anfield in the coming days even more important as Liverpool chase that top 4 finish.
Now it is time to battle traffic and the long drive back over to the other side of England!
6:55 pm: I am back at Euxton station. Lorraine and Simon have made the return drive palpable with their curious one liners and laughs amid the depression that always sets in after a loss by the red men. There is simply nothing better than the sharp wit of those who hail from the north of England.
I dearly hope the next time we head off for an away match the result is a little more kind to us. You would have to travel far and wide to find two better reds than Lorraine and Simon.
8:42 pm: My train, late again rolls into Lime Street and I am face with a solid two hour wait for, yep, you guessed it, another coach ride back to Milton Keynes. It feels as if I have spent most of my weekend on trains or coaches. Ohh, hold on a minute. I have!
Yes, by now i am simply grumpy, hungry and in need of sleep. Tesco has been a wonderful help providing me with some cheese and bread to fill my boots with. The coach station is full of Irish travelers who seem far too loud and chatty for a Sunday night. Thankfully they all board an early bus to somewhere that does not include yours truly. Bonus!
MONDAY DECEMBER 3 2013
2:35 am: The National Express coach rolls into Birmingham. The driver attempts to explain to passengers that anyone travelling to London can swap coaches and join the express bus. This creates mayhem as most of the punters on board don’t understand basic instructions. Half an hour later order is restored and we are on our way again.
Sadly i am unable to sleep thanks to the near full coach containing far too many noisy children for my liking.
5:23 am: The hot water rushes over my body. At long last I am home and preparing for some well earned sleep.
The past two days have been eventful. Despite nothing running on time and the red men getting tonked I ask myself one simple question. Would I do this again anytime soon? In a heart beat!