My friends shake their heads in disbelief, unable to comprehend why on earth I don’t just watch it on the telly (or, if truth be told, why I bother with it at all); whatever the subscriptions necessary, it’d be a heckuva lot cheaper and less stressful than schlepping up and down to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium by a variety of routes and modes of transport to watch the mighty Spurs attempt to live up to the long-gone Glory Glory days.
Like all football fans I live in hope – although I have a suspicion that I’d be derided as a wimpish non-fan because I don’t really hate Arsenall (it IS great when they lose) and I’m still baffled as to why we and West Ham are bitter, bitter enemies. The other day an Arsenal fan told me that not so long ago several Spurs fans hurried to speak to him, feeling safer there than anywhere near the Hammers’ fans who were in the vicinity at the time…
And, I have to confess, I go to games wearing very boring, neutral gear and with my Spurs clear plastic duffle bag (a pretty naff bit of kit admittedly) in a TK Maxx bag that has seen better days. I’ve yet to find a Nike-free Tottenham top that fits, so that’s another excuse. It’s a bit sad that I feel it’s safer to go incognito, I’d never dream of doing that going to a rugby match; which reminds me, must check that my current Ireland shirt fits. At least I know where the hat is and it’ll certainly fit; quite a lot of me is getting bigger but not my head – must be learning sense and perhaps perspective and I still have no idea about punctuation, so there are enough gaps to keep one humble…
For a variety of reasons – Commonwealth Games, dog-battered knee – my first home match of the season was to be Fulham last Saturday, at three o’clock, very old-fashioned, very traditional. I decided to drive because I was playing golf in Essex on Monday morning and thought I’d stay down, perhaps catch up with friends, that sort of thing. I had a plan: drive to Cheshunt and catch the overground train to White Hart Lane station, hard by the ground.
It didn’t work.
Instead of cheering my boys on to a hard-fought 2-1 win, I spent the day testing the motorway system (and my patience) to its limits and improving my geography no end but too late to help me reach N17 in time (no satnav, just an old-fashioned map to counteract a sense of direction best described as dodgy).
It went wrong from the start. There was a big hold up on the M42 south and, really, that was that. There’d been a nasty accident on the northbound carriageway that had damaged the central reservation, hence the crawl southbound. I stopped moaning and groaning and cursing the moment I passed the mangled wreckage. Missing the kick-off or even the whole match seemed unimportant: there were people having a much worse day.
The M40 then started grinding to a halt and I was sure I saw an electronic sign saying M25 100 minutes – it wasn’t that far – so I panicked and whipped off at the adjacent junction. Next choice: Aylesbury or High Wycombe; oh no, where the hell is Aylesbury and is HW any use at all in these circumstances? And there’s a car behind me; left it is and I’m on my way to Aylesbury, which proves to be no blooming use at all. But at least I have a better idea of where it lies in the scheme of things.
And I got to drive through Princes Risborough for the first time ever and realise why friends have lived there for years – it looked lovely – and was tempted to swerve off to Great Missenden to visit the Roald Dahl Museum. In desperation I followed the signs to the station in PR but it turned out to be 55 minutes to Marylebone, utterly useless for my needs.
I tacked across some delightful countryside in the vague direction required, thinking I might make the second half but by the time I’d hit the North Circular and yet more jams, I gave up the ghost and ended up in a very pleasant Spurs-supporting caff in Southgate.
I went home via the M1 and M6, heard we’d won 2-1 and was entertained by a cracking game between Villa and Man City on 5 Live. Lasagna and red wine with friends as we listened to Proms In The Park restored my equilibrium (too dark for pics) and set me up for the drive to Essex late on Sunday afternoon – M6, A14, M11 this time. It’s all becoming a bit of a whirly blur or a blurry whirl and I haven’t even started to regale you with Wednesday’s trip (by train) to watch Spurs against Olympique de Marseille in the Champions League. Beware of taking the last train home – you might never get there; they might just expunge your station (Second City be damned) from the timetable.
Quick, must mention the golf before it’s too late. The 44th edition of the TCP (not my antiseptic of choice but the Tom Clarke Putter) at Thorndon Park (the very grand building at the top of the piece is behind the 18th green) was a congenial affair with the sort of memorable outcome that befits a classic contest on a classic course. None of the distinguished journos present – Tom is a former sports editor of The Times and the Daily Mail and still moves in rarefied circles – could have scripted it better.
The winner, with a mind-boggling 47 points off a 24 handicap – on his home course, admittedly – was Jim Caulfield, a Roscommon man long settled in Essex, having a day of days. He modestly said that he hadn’t played that well for at least 20 years and confirmed that, yes, indeed, it was true that he had celebrated his 88th birthday.
Many happy returns from all us youngsters left floundering in his wake.