Today’s the Big Day

There won’t be much of a blog from me today as I have other more pressing things to attend to. I’m not going to spend the day sat by my computer.

I’m heading up into the centre of London shortly.

No, not for the Royal Wedding, but to meet Michelle and catch the Eurostar train to Paris for the weekend. I’m looking forward to it.

Friends Reunited

Sometimes its the simple things in life that give you the greatest pleasures. Its so often the case that you can have the happiest most enjoyable times without spending large sums of money.

A walk in the meadows with a loved one on a beautiful sunny day with a loved one can be far more pleasurable than spending £00s on a meal or drinks at a posh hotel.

Today was an example of such a day. The weather was glorious as I cycled to  or from work. The fact I was cycling was a pleasure in itself. Far more pleasurable than getting public transport.

Riding along quiet roads as most people are on holiday. Riding whilst wearing shorts and a short sleeved lycra top is a good feeling in the warn sun.

Getting to work and finding the office is quiet as most people are on leave was good. It became even better when RM bought cakes to celebrate his birthday. Even better when he had bought cakes for the whole office, so there were loads to go round.

I even managed to raise some more sponsorship today, including an incredibly generous donation of $200 from one of my work colleagues. Their generosity is incredible and I am touched by it.. I have not spoken to the donor today, so do not know why they have been so generous.

Other good things since my last post include learning that Spennymoor Town won 6-1 at home last night. The significance of that is that it means Spennymoor have won the Northern League for the 2nd year running. The Northern League is the 2nd oldest football league in the world. I’m delighted they won the league, but am sad that I was not able to be there to see it.

Even better is that I have managed to avoid watching all the TV hype regarding the Royal Wedding this Friday. The British media are great at overkill. Hours and hours of programmes already on TV telling us allsorts of things we don’t need to know or even to want to know.

However, none of this compares to the best pleasure of the day. I rode to work today on my fixed wheel bike. Its the first time I have ridden this bike for a good while. It is so pleasurable to ride the bike. There are no gears to worry about. Having no free wheel means you have to keep pedalling and you break by using your legs – i.e. resisting the movement of the pedals. So simple and so much fun. It was like being reunited with an old dear friend once again.

Guess which bike I’ll be riding tomorrow to and from work.

Back to the Future! The Past Revived

The  a quick note to say that my two previous blogs www.aminearlythere.blogspot.com (from 2009 re LEJoG) and www.bothesidesofthepond.blogspot.com (from 2010 re that year’s Police Unity Tour) are now both incorporated into this blog. If you look through the archive section, you will see posts in 2009 and first half of 2010.

The original blogs are still in place on the links shown above. Feel free to browse the old posts.

I drove back to London on Monday, resisting the urge to go via Carlisle for the Orient game. Perhaps I should have gone that way as Orient won again to maintain that slim chance of reaching the Play offs.

On the way back, I took a slight detour to deliver Tom back to his home and had the chance to speak to my ex-wife! No, we didn’t fight or even argue. A very civilised chat was had and a few things clarified. in particular, it is Tom’s 18th birthday coming up soon so we spoke regarding plans for that.

Arriving back in London was a  reminder how hot it is in London compared to the North East. It was shorts and tea shirt all night and it was still a hot sticky night. That’s what you get when you live closer to the Equator.

I have left a review of the hotel we stayed at in Blackpool at the weekend on www.tripadvisor.com I do however wonder if they will post it or if it was a little too critical!

I still never found out how much for a donkey ride in Blackpool. Hopefully Blackpool will stay in the Premiership so I can find out next season.

You will be pleased to know that I had an examination today and I passed it – well I think that’s what the optician said.

Work tomorrow sadly Sad smile

Census? What Census?

Now we had the 2011 Census a few weeks ago. Sunday 27th March 2011 was the day we were all supposed to fill in the form telling the government everything about our lives. The forms are great and include questions like question 19 which asks

How well do you understand English? – the options for answers range from very well to not at all.

Now how can you get through the first 18 questions if you don’t understand or speak English. Also, how would you understand that question?

(Before you ask, I know about this as it has been in the paper and I have seen other people’s copy of the form)

Now, as you know it is compulsory for every household to complete the census. So, how do you do it? Well you can either fill in and post back the paper form OR do it online.

Now, I have not received a paper form, so that option is not open to me. So, I decided to complete it online. Simple eh? Well, its the government, so not at all simple.

So, I find the government website to do the census online. That’s easy, then the first task is as follows

Please enter your personal internet access code to begin your online questionnaire, or to finish one you have already started.

  • First block of your access code
  • Second block of your access code
  • Third block of your access code
  • Forth block of your access code
  • Fifth block of your access code. If you make a mistake, please close your browser and start again.

You will find your personal internet access code on your paper questionnaire

Your personal internet access code can be found on the front of your paper questionnaire in the top right hand corner.

Oh yes, that will be the paper questionnaire they have not sent me!

Never mind, the government have said they will send people round to houses who have not returned census forms and if necessary issue new forms. So, I’ll wait for them to give me a form and then fill it in.

I returned home from my week away to find a hand delivered card through the door telling me I am one of the few people who have not completed the census form and to complete the paper form and return it or use the personal internet access code on your paper questionnaire and do it online. Oh and it helpfully tells me that I face a £1,000 fine if I do not complete the form. Remember, this is the form they have not sent me yet and the personal internet code is on the form they have not given me!

Oh, I also have a letter via the Royal Mail telling me I have not completed the census form and that the quickest way to complete it is to “Go to www.census.gov.uk and use the internet access code on the front of the questionnaire”. This will be the number on the form they have not sent to me yet.

So, when they prosecute me for not completing the form they haven’t sent me or for failing to fill it in on line using the personal internet access code  they have not supplied me, will it be a defence to not fill in the form they have not sent to me.

Now it seems to me that if they want me to fill in the form, they should supply me with the form or the means to fill it in online.

Now after trawling round the website www.census.gov.uk I find the following section

What happens if you don’t take part
1. If a questionnaire is not completed and returned, reminders will be sent out to households.

2. Census staff will visit and offer to help householders complete their questionnaire.

3. If the householder continues to refuse, information will be forwarded to the census office.

4. A letter will be sent, along with a replacement questionnaire, to enable householders to take part.

5. If the householder continues to refuse, census officers will make a final visit. They will offer to help the householder complete the questionnaire

6. If the householder continues to refuse, the case will be referred to solicitors.

7. Prosecutions will take place in magistrates’ courts. Successful prosecutions will result in a fine of up to £1,000 and a criminal record

I presume that the letter in the post was item 1. The card through the door was meant to be item 2? As I have not refused to complete the form and indeed want to complete the form (its my civic duty) how can they complete item 3.

Rather than this would it not have been simpler simply to send me a form in the first place?

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Whilst typing this blog post, I have just seen an advert on the TV about the referendum on 5th May on the potential change to the voting system. It says that the changes are explained in the booklet “Local elections and Referendum on the voting system used to elect MPs to the House of Commons” that has been delivered to every household.

All I can say is that the leaflet must have been in the same envelope as my census form as it also has not arrived. Now, before you ask, I am on the electoral roll and have received my polling card for the referendum.

 

So Mr Politician any chance of sticking a census form in with the leaflet preferably BEFORE the referendum takes place? If you took a few minutes away from your expenses claims you could get a system that works.

HM Government – wasting your money on half baked ideas since 1066!

Faulty Towers lives on

Yes indeed, the long thought extinct guest house proprietor as portrayed by John Cleese has been found alive and barking mad in Blackpool

Saturday brought a trip to Blackpool for Tom Michelle & I. Tom and I were to watch the Newcastle game and Michelle was coming along for the cultural experience.

As it was Easter, a bank holiday weekend and St George’s Day, I expected Blackpool to be very busy, so I booked a hotel/ B&B in advance- ok on Friday afternoon. finding a conveniently located place with a triple room was not easy, but we found the Midland hotel in Rigby Road and booked it online.

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Now before I go any further, I know my mother reads my blog, so for her benefit here is what happened.

We drove down to Blackpool from Tyneside at a  sedate speed, never exceeding the speed limit at any time.

We found our hotel, checked in and then went for a stroll along the promenade before going to the game. After the game we had a walk back on the promenade, before sharing a bag of chips and going to bed early.

Sunday morning, we woke early had a brisk walk before breakfast and drove steadily home, once again being sure not to break the speed limit at any time.

Right mother, you can stop reading now.

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For the rest of you, its Blackpool uncovered.

The three of us drove down to Blackpool at a brisk rate – hope there are no speed cameras on the M6 or M55. 2 hours to get  from Tyneside to Blackpool does not sound too bad, but the time taken on the A69 was far longer than intended- thank you Sunday drivers out on a Saturday. Do these people not know what their right foot is for.

Anyway, we found Blackpool and the hotel thanks to the help of the prat sat  nav. It was however amusing to see the sign saying “ignore your sat nav” on the outskirts of Blackpool. We chose instead to ignore the road sign.

The hotel has no parking of its own, but it is next to a car park. £10 for 24 hours seemed a tad expensive but beggars can’t be choosers. The parking machine allows you to pay for up to a weeks parking at £30, but only takes coins, it doesn’t even take £2 coins let alone credit/ debit cards. So you need a wad of coins to pay for parking in Blackpool.

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The sign outside the hotel seems friendly and welcoming enough. However, should I have picked up that the host is said to be John. Not a couple- hmmmm.

We checked into the hotel and met John – an interesting character. He decided that Tom was my brother despite the 27 year age difference! When he learned we were going to the football he started grilling me about whether I was there to cause trouble. He also lectured me about our behaviour on returning to the hotel. I suspect he thought Michelle looked shifty as it couldn’t be me.

The reception area had numerous signs thereabouts. A selection are below. Bear in mind this is only the reception area

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Rules, rules and more rules to be added to the numerous other signs. I think John is still operating in the days of the unfriendly seaside landlady when you were thrown out of the B&B all day.

Still, the room was only a place to sleep – right? Well, the single bed seemed to be bigger than the double bed…. more later on this.

We headed out for a beer in the Foxhall pub where we were to meet a friend who had a ticket for Tom for the game. Cheers Anthony Smile. We stayed there for a few minutes and had a quick 3 or 4 pints. I also managed to acquire another ticket for Michelle so she could also go to the game.

The DJ in the Foxhall got the crowd singing, after a bit of Madness he played the Boystown Gang’s “Can’t take my eyes off you” or as Newcastle fans know it – the Coloccini sang. Then followed it with the Monkees’ Daydream Believer – aka the Cheer Up Peter Reid song. Passers by wondered what was going on in the pub as the songs were belted out.

We then had to leave this pub to meet another acquaintance who was in a pub nearby. Another few beers were had here, then the walk to the ground. Eight pints before the game should numb the pain of watching the Toon.

When we got to the ground the fact that Blackpool were not used to the Premiership showed by the length of the queues to the turnstiles. Fortunately I spied a mate in the queue and joined him about halfway along the queue!

As usual, Northumbria police were in attendance, so it seemed appropriate to have a snap with them given my t shirt which says, “I Fought the Law” – I’m not saying who won.

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You will note from the picture Tom’s cunning disguise to fool the police. He wore this get up all night.

The less said about the game the better.

At the end of the game we had arranged to meet at The Castle pub. Tom was going directly there, we were to go back to the hotel to change first. Tom gave us his phone and asked us to charge it whilst we got changed.

Now Michelle to charge the phone you need to put the power lead in the charging socket. If you plug it into the headphone socket it doesn’t charge!

Leaving the hotel we found Tom outside. He had forgotten the name of the pub and couldn’t ring us as we had his phone!

Anyway, we found the Castle pub and Michelle discovered wine was cheaper per bottle @ £4.95 each than for a single glass, so she was buying a bottle of wine per round. We got through another 4 bottles of wine and several pints, shots etc. before the night was over.

Number of units consumed per person was slightly in excess of the 21-28 units per person per week. In fact I reckon Michelle & I consumed each around  50 units each in a day – whoops!

How to round the night off? Yes, take away pizzas which we took back to our hotel room. Sounds civilised? Well it was until Tom & Michelle started a pizza war, throwing food at each other. Children eh? I can safely say it had nothing to do with me as they can’t remember what happened and have no recollection of me starting it. Open-mouthed smile

We crashed into a drink induced coma and managed to forget to lock the room door. I slept well until 06:15 when someone’s phone alarm went off. Who has their phone alarm set for so early on a Sunday? Who then can’t find where they put their phone. I’m not one to snitch or grass anyone up am I, Michelle?

Having been rudely awoken, I became aware that the bed mattress was sadly lacking in comfort. In fact I’m not convinced I was sleeping on anything but the bed base. The pillows were certainly not the spring back type.

Oh well, it was time for using the en suite facilities and the luxury towels. Well they probably were luxurious back in the 1970s. They were now so thin you could see through them.

Using the toilet was an experience. The toilet was squeezed in next to the shower and meant that there was a rather tight squeeze to sit on the toilet. As for the toilet roll holder- this was on the wall- some 5 feet from the floor – yes 5 feet off the floor!

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The bathroom gave our genial host the chance to set out more rules on his posters

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Not content with rules in the en suite , there were more orders in the room.

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As breakfast would not be served before 09:00 and not after 10:00 we had time for a quick walk onto the seafront.

Back to the hotel and the dining room in the basement was proceeded by more notices

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Thanks to John as I had not realised that water in the water boiler would be hot.

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John was so generous in allowing us to use his mugs & teapots. So thoughtful of him to save us from having to bring our own teapots to breakfast.

John himself insisted on trying to make inane small talk at breakfast whilst we just wanted him to sod off and leave us in peace to eat. He eventually took his mind numbingly tedious and inane patter to bother another table of guests.

The dining room itself is also where the “non-alcoholic” bar is situated. The optic holders are still there, just no optics in place but there are nice little umbrellas on each optic holder. Above the bar are an assortment of cuddly toys and a cuddly horse’s head- why? No idea.

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After breakfast Michelle went back to the bedroom and whilst looking for her ear ring, looked under the bed to discover what was several years of dirt and grime – this should have been of no surprise given the state of the sink in the bathroom. Salmonella, listeria, e-coli etc. all come free of charge

I don’t think John knows what cleaning is or replacing worn out goods means. He probably hasn’t got time to do this as all his time is spent making posters.

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I drove the trip home as Tom suffered the effects of alcohol poisoning in the back and Michelle contemplated if she had sold a kidney the previous night and if it was renal failure she was suffering now. We did have to make a stop at Forton services for more liquids to rehydrate the bodies.

24th April 2011 is a day that is missing from Michelle’s life forever!

I’m off home tomorrow to let my liver recover.

Ground Hopping: Blackpool v Newcastle United FC 23rd April 2011

St George’s Day brought the long awaited trip to see Newcastle @ Blackpool. This was the highlight of the fixture list when it came out in June 2010. A trip to Blackpool on a weekend, a bank holiday weekend at that! Great Smile

I will be posting a separate post re the day itself. This is just re the ground & the game.

I had been to Bloomfield Road the home of Blackpool twice before, in 1983 and again in 1987. The latter for a League Cup game involving Newcastle when we lost 1-0 to an own goal scored by a former Newcastle player. That was in the days of the “Sack the Board” Campaign. I got a ticket from my cousin, a Blackpool fan and then a supplier to the club, so my ticket was in the Directors box. It probably was not a good idea for me to be standing there chanting for the sacking of the Newcastle board.

Well since then, Blackpool have rebuilt their ground and have 4 new stands – the one we were in is a hurriedly built thing after Blackpool unexpectedly won promotion to the Premiership last season.

The ground is small, and the 3 permanent stands look good. I’m not sure the same can be said for the one we were in. £34 should buy you a better view than a new stand with lots of pillars in it.

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The view for away fans – not very good is it?

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The ground itself is handily placed for the town centre, the pubs and is surrounded by 1000s of parking spaces, normally used by tourists not football fans.

There is not much more to tell re the game. Blackpool turned up, the Newcastle team obviously forgot there was a game today. There was a distinct lack of effort and passion about the team and it is fair to say Newcastle were lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw. The day made worse by learning the Mackems had gone from 0-1 down to win 4-2 Crying face

Still there was the night out to come – read my next blog post which will hopefully tell something of the day.

Ground Hopping: Bishop Auckland FC v Spennymoor Town FC 19th April 2011

For this game, I ventured into my earliest football roots to go to a ground I have never been to before.

Confused?

Well the first football matches I went to were to watch Bishop Auckland back in the early 1970s. I remember watching Bobby Charlton playing for and managing Preston against Bishop Auckland in the 1974/75 season. Preston won 2-0. This was my first introduction to football hooliganism Surprised smile. There was sporadic trouble all afternoon.

Bishop Auckland played in those days at Kingsway, a wonderful non-league ground in the town centre. It only had 2 1/2 sides as it shared its ground with the local cricket club.

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These photographs were taken from the final game on the old Kingsway. The ground once held a crowd of 16,500 for an FA Cup tie in 1954/55. By the time of the last game at Kingsway, the Kingsway Terrace had been much reduced owing to a road widening scheme.

After several seasons of homelessness, Bishop Auckland FC finally moved into their new ground Heritage Park earlier this year. There is a story behind the delays over the new ground and it can be found on the club website @ Bishop Auckland FC .

I have, as you will gather from earlier blog posts and by my user name, got connections with Spennymoor Town – formerly Spennymoor United.

I was fortunate to be accompanied to this game once again by Michelle & a debut for Josh. It is always good to have company. The ground itself is on the outskirts of Bishop and is adjacent to a Sainsbury’s supermarket. Spennymoor fans have labelled Bishop Auckland as “Sainsbury’s Car Park FC”, perhaps rather unkindly, or perhaps not.

The ground itself is a simple modern ground, with a main stand housing the bar and function rooms, toilets, changing rooms and some 200+ seats. Behind one goal there is a covered terrace. The rest of the ground is just a tarmacadam standing area, although there is room for expansion.

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The Above 3 Pictures are of the Main Stand From Outside.

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The windows at the back of the main stand are the bar/ function room. This is a very smart room with a reasonably well stocked bar – shame there was no real ale on draught. There was also food available here, including hot pork sandwiches and chip for £3.50. There is a separate catering concession outside in one corner of the ground.

I had been tipped off before the game that the pitch was not in the best condition. This was an understatement. The ground was one of the worst I have ever seen. The pitch seemed to be lacking in grass which had been replaced by sand to the amusement of the Spennymoor fans. There were chants of “How much for the donkey ride” and when the keeper was making a divot to take a goal kick from, some wag warned him “Your sandcastle will be wiped away when the tide comes in.”

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Pictures 5 – 8 of the above sequence show the goalmouth at the covered end of the ground. You can see the excessive amount of sand on the pitch. There will have to be major remedial work on the pitch this summer. I would go as far as to say the pitch was in too dangerous state to have allowed the game to go ahead.

The game itself was effectively over by half time with Spennymoor taking a 2 goal lead after 36 minutes. After that Spennymoor eased off, whether that was to avoid injury or save energy for the 3 games a week they have to play to finish the season on time.

Ground hopping: Hayes & Yeading v Darlington 16th April 2011

By the time I have posted the blog of my trip to The Church Road Ground @ Hayes, the ground is no more, it has ceased to exist, it is an ex –football ground. It has fallen off its perch….. [Enough Monty Python type puns]

On Saturday Tom & I had a free afternoon as Orient were playing away at Exeter. I had never been to Hayes & Yeading (H&Y) before, so a drive across London was in order.

We had once previously been to watch Yeading in a home game in the FA Cup in January 2005.  I say a home game, but it was actually played at Queen’s Park Rangers ground, “Rangers Stadium” at Shepherd’s Bush in West London. Back then, Pre their merger with Hayes, Yeading drew Newcastle United in the FA Cup 3rd round. The game had to be shifted on police advice from Yeading’s own ground to QPR.

That game resulted in a comfortable win for Newcastle in front of 10,824 people, most of whom were Newcastle fans. This game was expected to produce a slightly lower crowd. Darlington for example were not even running a coach for away fans. H&Y are also one of the clubs in the Blue Square Bet Conference National with the lowest average gate.

This was to be the 2nd last game at the ground. The site has been sold off for housing. This was Hayes FC’s own ground before the merger. I understand the plan is for Yeading’s old ground to be redeveloped. The last game was on Tuesday 19th against Gateshead.

So, where is Hayes & Yeading’s ground? It is 5 minutes walk from the centre of Hayes, a small town near Heathrow Airport. The social club has to be one of the most impressive looking buildings you are likely to find as a clubhouse.

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Well, its certainly a homely looking place. H&Y are trying to boost their gates by giving 1/2 price admission to holders of season tickets at other clubs. The size of the crowd expected was shown by the fact the only turnstiles open were the 2 shown in the picture below

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Home and away fans go in through the same turnstiles. There is no segregation in the ground. Neither club has a reputation for any form of trouble making fans. Yet despite this, parker just outside the turnstiles was this

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You can clearly see 6 police officers in the photograph. There were others still in the van. Why? You may recall earlier blogs when the police claim they can’t cut expenditure without putting safety at risk. Well Met Police, here are numerous officers who could be deployed elsewhere. Incidentally, there was not a single police officer in the ground. Thus showing that there was no realistic expectation of trouble.

Public funds being squandered again?

 

Tom & I took our orient season tickets and got in for £7 and £4 respectively. A bargain in this day and age. The view when we got into the ground was of a traditional old ground. Open terraces at both ends, an off centre covered terrace and a small seated stand on the other side. Note the wheelchair facilities.

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The main stand was built in the days before minimum criteria for grounds existed.

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The stand straddles only part of the touchline. Admission to the stand is by paying £2 to the chap at the top of the stairs as shown in the top right picture. Thee bottom left picture shows 2 rows of seats – around 48 seats in total. These seats are in front of the stand and were obviously necessary to increase the seating to the minimum 450 seats required for a club to be in the Conference. On one side of the stand are a few steps of terracing and on the other side is a flat tarmacadamed section of standing.

The short section of terracing is in front of the snack bar and its al fresco dining section. Now, I’m not sure if it says much about the football standard but the seats are located so as not to be in view of the pitch.

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Now, many non league clubs make money from a raffle draw. H&Y are no exception. In front of the club shop was the stall selling raffle tickets and showing the raffle prizes.

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No, I am led to believe it is an offence to bring alcohol into a football ground and also to have alcohol in sight of the pitch. Look careful at the raffle prizes, crate of Budweiser, whisky, Baileys, vodka etc. Seem these are all alcoholic. I kept looking at the gates expecting the Metropolitan Police outside to be smashing the gates down and arresting everyone in sight. It figured now why there was such a large police presence outside the ground.

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The next set of pictures show various views of the ground from the open terraced end opposite the entrances. At one time this ground would have had a decent capacity, but without any barriers on the terracing, safety limits would be quite low now. However, given H&Y are vacating the ground soon, it is understandable little has been done to the ground.

Now, there was one aspect of the ground that puzzled me. Safety is a key issue at sporting grounds and rightly so. All exits have to be clearly signed. This ground has 3 exits which were clearly signed.

EXIT C – out past the toilets

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EXIT B – out the main gates

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EXIT A – ermmmm you decide where it leads

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Any clues where this exit is? Perhaps you need to bring your own road workers drill and tunnel out?

I think the sign used to be in situ here

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Which now forms part of the building site for the new homes to be put on the ground. So, why if the exit doesn’t exist does the sign remain in the ground?

The game itself was interesting, with lowly H&Y going in 2-0 up at half time and adding a third shortly afterwards against an out of sorts Darlington. However, when it was 3-0 Darlington woke up, got 2 goals back and then missed 2 open goals. The game ended up 3-2 to H&Y.

One final comment. H&Y have a club shop in their ground. It is in a container from a ship and stocked the usual programmes, shirts, scarves etc. – and seemingly from the photo below – prams!

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The crowd 432

I’ve Been to Mecca

No, I’ve not been to Saudi Arabia but read on.

As you know we moved offices at work on 1st April. Our new offices are much smaller than the old offices and are open plan. this means that most of the contents of our old offices cannot be transferred to the new premises. We were given the option to ask for any of the old furniture for our personal use. Sadly the one item I asked for was not available.

Last Thursday though one of my colleagues was collecting some furniture from our old offices. She on her return to the new offices expressed surprise that no one had taken the office TV. This was of interest as Michelle had said her TV was on the blink. I asked and was told the TV was available, so on Friday I drove into Central London to collect the TV, along with my labourer Tom. We collected a TV and matching DVD player and TV cabinet. Bargain- at the cost only of £12 for congestion charge, 1/2 gallon of fuel and a small donation to charity.

As luck would have it, on Sunday I was travelling by car to see Michelle, so could get the TV to her.

Friday afternoon brought a visit to Tesco to do some shopping for tea. Now, I do not know about you, but when I see a label on the shelf saying 3 items for the price of 2, I expect to get 3 items for the price of 2. Apparently not at Tesco in Goodmayes. I was charged for all 3 items. When I went to the customer service desk to seek a refund, I was given a lesson in customer service.

Firstly, I had to wait for the 2 customer service staff to finish their discussion about their respective families before they deigned to bother speaking to me.

Secondly before I had a chance to explain why I had been over charged, I was told that the discount had been applied. When I pointed out I had not even explained what was wrong, the smiling willing assistant grumpily started to re scan all the items. When I pointed out the 3 that had been charged and not discounted, she told me the items were not in the 3 for 2, despite the shelf ticket saying so. I at this point couldn’t be bothered to argue and told her to re credit all the shopping and I would go elsewhere. I also pointed out that it was actually a criminal offence for Tesco to advertise prices on shelves and charge more at the checkout. However, I was informed that the law doesn’t apply to Tesco as they offer  twice the discount if they are wrongly priced. So there you go, Tesco think the law doesn’t apply to them.

I got my discount and trotted off later to Sainsbury’s where I got a better quality range of products and got service with a smile. Perhaps I should email Philip Clarke the CEO of Tesco on philip.clarke@uk.tesco.com and point this out to him.

Tesco & customer service – never the twain shall meet.

A quick Google search this evening reveals the following interesting websites

http://www.tesco-complaint.blogspot.com/

http://www.complaintletter.org.uk/tesco-price-fixing-more-like-cheating/

http://en-gb.facebook.com/pages/Tescos-non-affiliated-Every-Little-Complaint-Counts/186598138049284

On Friday late afternoon, I took Tom down to Hornchurch to see a friend of his who was 18 that day. Belated birthday wishes Barney! This resulted in an invite to join his family for a night out – drink, food and entertainment for £20 a head – a bargain. I was touched that Tom & I were invited to what was a close family function.

The location of this do was somewhere I have never been before. A chance to lose my cherry so to speak. Anyway, we all headed of to here

Whoops, no, sorry wrong Mecca. It was here we headed for

mecca_bingo_logo

Yes, we went to Mecca for a night at the Bingo. As you have to be 18 to play Bingo, it was the first time Barnet had the chance to play. So Tom, explain how come you were there, and drinking alcohol come to that. If I recall correctly you are only 17. You didn’t commit a fraud contrary to section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006 (fraud by misrepresentation) did you Tom?

Yes, after last week at Dagenham Market, this week I went to  Mecca Bingo @ Dagenham. I lead such a classy life eh? The food was as you would expect from a Bingo Hall, all served with chips. Actually, I have to say that for fast-ish food it wasn’t bad, although Greg (Barney’s Dad) did not agree. His steak pie seemed to lack steak.

The highlight of the night at bingo is apparently the “National Game” which had a top jackpot of £28,000 +. Sadly this was not won by me or any of us. Crying face

I did however manage to get a full house on one of the local games and won £100. Open-mouthed smile. This allowed me to get back my £20 admission money and the £20 I paid for Tom and to buy drinks for everyone for the rest of the night. I’m so generous eh?

At the end of the bingo session, there was a cake produced for Barney. This was no ordinary cake though. No, it was NOT an M&S cake. It was made up of Chupa Chups lollies, chocolate eggs, fried egg sweets and other sweets as well. apparently, Barney does not like marzipan. This was an unusual cake and absolutely delicious. A very novel treat and delicious.

The night ended with a karaoke session and provided much entertainment. Cheer Up Sleepy Jean anyone? Fortunately there are no photos of the karaoke to embarrass me. Well. I hope there aren’t!

Thanks Barney, Greg, Dianne, Joe, Ann-Marie and Matt for a great night & helping me lose my bingo cherry.

Saturday brought a visit to Lee Valley Youth Cycling Club and after that a trip to see Darlington play in the 2nd last ever game at Hayes & Yeading’s Church Road Ground. More about that in my ground hopping blog.

Sunday brought the Witham Wander  (see separate blog re this ride) before a 300 mile drive to the North East, dropping Tom off at my parents’ home before arriving at Michelle’s just as the clock was striking midnight.

She Hates Me – She Really Hates Me

No, not Michelle, I think she just tolerates me but hopefully does not hate me.

Anyway, yesterday, Sunday 17th April 2011 was the day I did my longest bike ride since last year’s Police Unity Tour. I did the Witham Wander which is a 103km (63 mile) bike ride in Essex. I did the ride last year and also back in 2006.

This is a great event and credit must go to the organiser for his time and trouble in arranging the event, along with a 150km and a 200 km ride also on the same day.

My son Tom did the ride for the first time, and I was also accompanied by Drew and his son Sam. Drew, Sam and I did the ride last year. It was interesting to see how well Sam has come on in the last year. Then he struggled round the 2nd half of the course, this year he positively flew round including up the steep hill near the end. Tom also did fantastically considering he has ridden very little in the last year. His new slim line figure proves how much easier it is to ride if you are not carrying excess weight.

The ride was around an area of Essex know to some as the Essex Alps. Well, its hardly the Alps, but there was some 2388 feet of climbing involved in the ride. It is a pleasant ride through the countryside.

An Audax is a ride where you get a sheet telling you instructions and you have to navigate the course. There are no marshals etc. You have to answer a couple of questions along the way and get your card stamped between certain times at a check point.

Well, the first question we had to answer related to the number of the first house on the right in a village we did not pass through! Hmmmmmmmmm, no wonder I got lost when I went to the village but couldn’t find the pub for the next turn!

Some 10 – 15 km before lunch, I got a front wheel p*nct*re  – grrrrrrrrr. Never mind, a quick fix and we were on our way again. After a cup of tea and a cake at the control point, we set off again, or rather weren’t. You see, I had managed to pick up another p*nct*re , this time in the rear wheel. Fixed the p*nct*re , got the flint out of the tyre and away again. Within the next 24 kilometres, I had another 2 rear wheel p*nct*re , each in different places, and Sam had a front wheel p*nct*re . I wonder what we (especially me) had done to upset the p*nct*re fairy.

The repeated stops for p*nct*res meant that we were struggling to get back to the finish point within time. We had to push on for the last 25 kms. At one point we were doing in excess of 40km/h trying to get back to the finish on time. We eventually made it back with around 2.5 minutes to spare! Good job we put our foot on the pedal towards the end.

There is a nasty hill at the end of the ride. It is around 1.5 km uphill. Last year, I got up it ok, but Sam struggled and I waited for ages at the top. This year, Sam rode up the hill very easily, whereas I struggled. Firstly, my chain dropped off , so I had to stop on the hill. It is never easy to get started on a hill again and get your rhythm going. I did manage to get going and was following Drew, when he had a problem with his gears, I tried to go round him, but he started to ride away again, so I had to slow down as I couldn’t go fast enough to get past him. This disrupted my rhythm and I never got going properly after that. I struggled up the hill after a couple of stops. Sad smile

Still we all completed the ride in the time and after a bite to eat in the village hall, it was time to load the bikes onto the car and head off home. In my case, it is off to Newcastle via Ilford – arriving home at around midnight, having driven around 360 miles and ridden 63 miles in one day.

Roll on the Police Unity Tour

 

So, who hates me? Obviously there are plenty of candidates for that role, but I was talking about the p*nct*re fairy. I have obviously upset her this weekend.