Thursday, 29 September 2016

Trains and Boats and Games

Trains and Boats and Games

I was due to meet Andy at Temple Meads:
He was coming on the train from Yate,
 I was coming from Stroud via Swindon
(I wanted to call in at the Radical Book Fair,
To collect a pamphlet on smuggling),
But the signals were down at Parkway,
So I sat on a bench outside Temple Meads,
Listening to a man talk of seeing the debuts
Of Colin Bell and Wynn Davies,
While I ate a cheese and onion pasty,
Awaiting Andy,
When another man sat next to me,
Opened a map and asked:
''Do you know Bristol?'
I thought – correctly - that he might be a Derby fan,
So asked him if he fancied going to the match by boat,
Just as Andy texted:
Train cancelled, he'd have to drive,
So he'd meet me at the ground with my ticket.

My new, substitute Rams mate introduced himself,
Shook my hand: ‘Peter’; ‘Stuart,’ I replied,
Explaining that I wasn't local, but a Swindon fan -
'We've got something in common then,'
'Dave Mackay,' I replied.

It was going well.

We talked of Derby pubs:
The Brunswick, the Alexandra, the Peacock,
And how I’d never been to a match by water before -
Peter has previous, however:
‘When I watch a match at Derby,
I have a couple of pints in the Peacock,
Then walk along the River Derwent,
So that’s going to a match by water, I suppose.’

This sounded all a bit Arnold Bennett to me,
Transposed from the Potteries to the Peacock,
And I drifted away:

‘Around the field was a wide border of … hats … pale faces, rising in tiers, and beyond this border, fences, hoardings, chimneys, furnaces, gasometers, telegraph-poles, houses and dead trees.’

I thought of Arkwright, Cromford, the Derwent, and Bennett,
Until Peter asked me about Stroud, and Slad,
And, reverie over,
We spoke of Laurie Lee, the Woolpack, Clough, Taylor,
Forest, Mackay, Robertson, the European Cup Final,
Our banner referencing George Orwell at Real Madrid:
'Homage to Clough n Taylor',
And my letter to Brian Moore,
Asking if the cameras could focus on our pennant,
And his reply, written in fountain pen,
'What a night in Madrid, Stuart!
Hope you got the message over,
Best wishes, Brian.'

Peter Quinn, for it was he, then talked of his book:
A Ram's Fan's Fanfayre,
With chapter headings,
All starting with the prefix ‘For’:
‘Fortune, Forgettable, and so on,’
Conversing as the ferry made its way through the docks.
Until we alighted, asked the way of some Bristol fans,
And I left Peter in safe company at a cider- house,
The suitably named ‘Orchard.’

The build up to the game was great –
Peter and the ferry,
Andy with my ticket, driving befuddled through Bristol,
Eventually meeting me at Ashton Gate,
Then meeting his B.C.F.C. mate, Lee,
Who took us for a tour of the ground …

Then the constant singing of the beer swilled Derby fans,
'Forest are losing, Forest are losing,
'We are Derby, Super-Derby, Super-Derby, Super Rams',
'Derby Army', 'Derby Army', 'Derby Army',
The man in the fancy dress outfit: ‘Sheep on Tour’,
Hearing the half times: Swindon, two nil down,
Meeting my BCFC brother in law, Trevor, after the game,
With Bruce, my wife's cousin, over from Canada,
Meeting my charming, new grand-nephew, Rupert,
For the first time …

The match was a slightly tedious one all draw,
With countless throw-ins, a general air of ineptitude,
And if it wasn't for the Rams fans,

But the build up, and the aftermath,
The meeting of friends old and new,
Peter the Ram,
Andy the Ram.
Lee the Robin,
Bristol supporters on the ferry,
Bristol supporters at the Orchard,
Bruce, political reporter for the Toronto Star,
The greeting of a new baby,
A fourth generation Bristol City fan:
Rupert the Robin,

All mean that the day, and hence the match, too,
Have to be filed under the chapter heading:
Because sometimes a football match
Is only incidental to the enjoyment of a football match -
It’s what happens before and afterwards that count:
Trains and Boats not Games.

No comments:

Post a Comment