What was it that Fergie, the Sir Alex version, used to say? Football, bloody hell? Well, what about trying to get to the effin’ football, bloody hell and beyond.
This blog is being written in a state of extreme knackerdom, the result of three hours’ sleep max after a marathon journey to and from the state-of-the-art Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. I’ve yet to crack the trek to and from WS13 to N17 and Wednesday was right up there with the worst of numerous poor efforts.
Admittedly, I did get to the match against Eintracht Frankfurt (don’t mention the Fulham fiasco), was even there, in my seat, in time for the Champions League anthem and in plenty of time for the goal we gifted Eintracht in the 14th minute but it hadn’t all run smoothly on the way down. The saving grace was that I arrived at Waltham Cross station car park too late to have to pay and there was an actual person still at the ticket office, miracle of miracles. She was a very cheerful, friendly woman and a lot more help to a slightly agitated traveller in an unfamiliar place than an inanimate machine or any godforsaken app.
It occurred to me that it took as long to get to Northumberland Park station, a short walk from the stadium, as it did to get to the real Northumberland and I started to laugh. Looking on the bright side was the only thing to do. And at least we won the match, though we made heavy weather of it at the end. Son scored two goals, one of them spectacular in the extreme; the sainted Harry scored one penalty but blasted another miles over the bar; and most of us, happy with the win, stood patiently, chatting about our team’s inadequacies, as we waited to be allowed in to the station for the train home.
Ah, home. Sweet home. But how to get there?
Now, before you all start lecturing me about satnavs and the like, I do have a phone that can talk to me if necessary and I sat and studied the maps – real, paper ones as well as electronic ones – for quite a while before setting off. One optimistic route said it would take 2 hours 5 minutes but that’s still a work in progress. Even late at night, with not too much traffic, it took me hours and hours and HOURS…
Please don’t judge me too harshly but I opted for a straightforward return – A10, a bit of M11, A14, M6 and, really, that should be it. Fine in theory but of course, what happens at night? Road works and that means ROAD CLOSURES – not just the odd lane but entire sections of motorway, dual carriageway, any old road you care to mention – ALL SHUT.
What’s the problem, you say, just follow the diversion. Ever heard of ever-decreasing circles? Try driving any distance home at night and it’s likely to be a test of navigation, geography, patience, fortitude and stamina – and make sure you have a full tank of petrol, whatever the price.
You’ll be driving along happily, road clear, no rain, not too much traffic and then there’ll be an overhead sign saying something like A14 closed between junctions 22 and whatever….Oops. Which one’s junction 22? Where’s that? Where am I? Then there’s another sign – overhead, little orange letters – saying it’s closed between junctions 10 and 9. Oops again. As well as? Instead of?
Diverted to the A1M North towards Peterborough seemed the best option to begin with and then the blessed overhead informed me that the A1 (think it was still M) was closed after the A47….Who’d be a lorry driver? Nothing’s straightforward at night. It was round about this time, probably after another diversion, that I stopped, rooted out my torch, studied the map and realised that I could take the A47 to Leicester, sneak over to Hinckley and hit my old familiar the A5, not, fingers crossed, anywhere near Yardley Gobion. (That’s an old joke, dating back to Dai’s and my early days before he realised that my navigational incompetence was just innate, an unfortunate fact of my life.)
Of course, approaching the A47 meant signs to places like Kings Lynn and it crossed my mind that at this rate I’d be pitching up at Brancaster, Royal West Norfolk, in time for an early morning start. Should never have taken the clubs out of the car.
The A47 is an ordinary road, bit bumpy, a few bends and, presumably, very busy at times. I’m tootling along, with a juggernaut of some sort some distance behind me, no real rain yet, nothing much going on and then, not far from Leicester, there were lots of flashing blue lights and on the other side of the road there were two ambulances, three police cars and goodness knows what else; it didn’t look pretty and I didn’t look closely, just glad to ease past, feeling slightly sick. A few minutes later, there was another flashing blue light, another police car, hammering towards the scene.
Anyway, I stopped at a petrol station, hoping for a coffee but they were only selling petrol at that time of night, so I took off my Spurs tee shirt – extra large, to fit over everything else – had a stretch and set off to find Hinckley, the A5 and my bed.
Trouble was, I’d lost the A47. There was the A6, A46, an alleged ring road, various Ms but not the road I’d just been on. It was late, it was raining, I was tired, the signs weren’t brilliant but really….
Is there much more of this, I hear you ask, like a frustrated copytaker (the older journos will understand) and, yes, there is – much, much more but I’ll spare you the rest of the gory details apart from saying that they include the M1 south (closed from junction 21, I think), the M69, the A5 (at last) but guess what? It was closed too and I followed diversion signs that took me to villages I’d never heard of and one or two I had, a couple of Magnas, a couple of Parvas, one of them has an excellent Italian restaurant, family run, the real stuff, according to a WHGC stalwart who lives in the vicinity (wherever that is; I was dizzy from the diversions and worried that I would get caught up in the early morning rush hour and not beat the bin men or the new washing machine home).
Let me put you out of your misery and sign off with the German for Potential Penalty Review – VAR sufficed in both languages apparently. I can’t do the umlauts but it goes something like this: Moglicher Strafstoss Uberprufung Durch Schiedsrichter. (Correct and translate please Mr C, a devoted reader who’s fluent in Deutsch, among other things.)