Well, it’s been another couple of badly behaved weekends, calorie-wise, so I got on the scales, just now, wearing my sunglasses, so the numbers didn’t look so bright. My friend Kirsty was up last weekend, and a gang of us went to La Tasca for a pre-theatre nibble. Earlier that Friday, though, she and I had chowed down on pizza and Scouse @ The Boot Room, Anfield, so we weren’t feeling overly hungry come teatime. Still, after the show, it turned into a bit of a sesh down the Excelsior, then criminal karry-kokey at the Rose & Crown.
Surprisingly, I actually managed to get out of bed, Saturday, even if it was just to move to the sofa. Vedging out in front of the FA Cup all day, was a good hangover cure, but it didn’t stop the evil carb monsters knocking on the door sometime around six o’clock, offering us two large Domino pizzas with all the trimmings. Would have been rude not to, right? So we poured a couple of VDCs, spread the feast upon the lounge floor, and spent the next three hours grazing like cattle in a field of junk food. No time to feel guilty, because Sunday was quickly upon us, which meant one thing and one thing only – the match. Not that I was going.
Eager not to miss the sub-zero temperatures, driving rain, and hurricane winds of the Albert Dock, K and I headed to Pan-Am for a lunchtime latte (her) and a pint (me), before meeting friends and bombing up to the King Charles. Good pre-match atmosphere, I think we all knew that Spurs was probably the most important league game of the season so far, so everyone was up for it. Watching through my hands for 89 minutes, and speed-drinking because of the tension, the fabulous 3-2 result meant the rest of the day would be packed with mirth and merry frivolity, which it duly was.
Counting up the weekend’s calories, that Sunday night, though, took longer than usual. Indulgent weekends can normally be neutralised by well-behaved weekdays, but the week ahead was destined, again, to throw me off my usual routine. The folks have the builders in at the moment, throwing up an extension to Mossley Hill Towers. It was supposed to be finished two weeks ago (yeah, yeah…), but it’s not, which meant I had to go and builder-sit, while Ma & Pa swanned off on a short break to Wales. That meant, obviously, having to walk past a fridge full of goodies ten times a day, as well as trying to write a script in a freezing cold house, with cement mixers, drills and god knows what else, crashing away in the background. I did manage to avoid the cheese & ham toast pockets, most of the bread, and only had a sliver of Cathedral City when the temptation got too much. Despite this semi-self-control, though, I still managed to polish off 200g of Brazil nuts, four bags of French Fries and some sweet chilli snackettes that had been carelessly, and needlessly, left by the fruit bowl.
Come Friday, and I’d done my 20 pages, despite all the distractions, and had even managed to squeeze in a couple of chicken stir fries, so I wasn’t feeling as self-loathing as I usually would after being left without supervision in a house full of cheese and televisions. Friday, it was time to reverse the previous weekend, and jump on a train to Kirsty’s in Milton Keynes, ready for another match of the season – MK Dons v Tranmere. Kirsty is a Red and has been going the game for years, but with costs spiralling out of control and the recession hitting everyone, she had no choice but to accept that making the trip to Anfield every other week was just too expensive. Instead, she’s hooked up with MK Dons – down the road from her house – and is getting her footy fix supporting her local team. She’d shown me around the place a few months ago (some of it is still under construction), and I’d been very impressed with the set-up – state of the art, UEFA-accredited stadium, a hotel complex, leisure club across the road, conference facilities, good transport links, plenty of parking, lots of Scousers in the team and, most importantly, really, really big seats….
They might only be in League One right now, but chairman, Pete Winkelman, and everybody at MK Dons are definitely looking towards the future. The infrastructure is in place and everything has been thought about, from match day logistics and supporter comfort, to player-supporter relationships and, most importantly of all, value for money. There’s a real family-feel about the place, they know that getting the kids in today, means securing the next generation of bums on seats. Everybody smiles at you, nothing’s too much trouble, you do actually feel like a real, valued supporter, not just a number. If the Stepford Wives were to run a football club, it would be MK Dons.
Obviously, with an average gate of around 8,000 in a 22,000-seater stadium (soon to be 32,000), it’s easier for the club to reach out to the fans and make them feel appreciated and valued, but still, there’s something special happening there right now. Maybe that’s down to Winkelman’s deliberate philosophy of involving the local community as much as possible, or that he likes to employ his own family and friends in all areas of the running of the club (including simple admin and sales). Maybe this approach is something he won’t be able to sustain if MK Dons get promoted, more people start going, and the monster gets too big to handle. But it doesn’t matter, really. It was just so nice to experience somewhere different, and the sheer joy and optimism that was swimming around that ground after a well-deserved 3-0 win, was infectious. It reminded me a bit of going the game as a kid. Yes, MK Dons might be a ‘franchise club’, with an embryonic history, but there was an authentic, old-club feel in the way the players interacted with each other and the fans, the attitudes of the staff and the other supporters, the all-round pride that seemed to ooze out of everybody I encountered. I’m not comparing my single day out at stadium:mk with years of going to Anfield, or any other Premiership club – they’re two completely different beasts. It was just refreshing to see another ‘version’ or, more accurately, another ‘vision’, of what football in the future could, or should, be like.
Having said that, the prices in the club shop were worse than McAnfield…. 😉
To celebrate the win (and to forget about Liverpool’s debacle at Southampton), we headed for Kirsty’s local, The Broughton, to heckle some rugby fans and abuse the frighteningly high number of Man Utd shirts who’d taken root in front of their season ticket Sky Sports pub telly seats. The original plan, had been to head to a friend’s party in West London, until we realised it was a 5-hour round train trip (sorry, Mooro…). So, lucky for all the MK Mancs, we stayed local instead. It did mean feasting on high calorie, high alcohol stuff for another six hours, though, but, technically, I was on holiday, so it didn’t count. Until about 11 o’clock, then, we behaved like 15-year olds let loose in a pub for the first time, drinking shots of E-numbers, and throwing peanuts at knobheads in beanie hats. There was even a drugs raid, which was proper exciting, made even more special by the fact that every single copper smiled and said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ every time they wanted to search somebody. Everybody in a uniform is just so nice down here….
We continued drinking back at K’s, as we tried to stay awake for the 9-second MK Dons coverage on The Football League Show, which also meant having to sit through 90 minutes of Steve Claridge, surely the most annoying pundit on earth, after Garth “it’s all about me” Crooks. And Andy Townsend. Oh, and Mark Lawrenson. And Alan Shearer. And…ah, sod it.
We swerved Match of the Day, as we’d both run out of painkillers by then, and Kirsty fell asleep before Claridge got his groove on, anyway. All in all, a great day, and I was even up and dressed before midday on Sunday, which had absolutely nothing to do with having to catch a train home – or needing McDonalds.
A fabulous week or so, socially, but just plain wrong, as far as the diet goes. And the only chance I have at redemption, is between now and Friday because, this weekend, it’s a double Scouse christening…
Things I’ve Learned This Week
1. Hangovers aren’t always inevitable every time I go out
The past two weekends have involved quite a lot of drinking. But each morning-after, I’ve been found alive and moving. Not just moving, but actually dressed and able to converse in sentences. Yesterday, I even managed to get on two trains without help. I feel like I qualify for an award, or something.
2. Mancs are Mancs are Mancs
They’re just horrible, aren’t they? All of them, especially the southern ones.
Things I’m Dreading This Week
1. Not getting back on track
I’ve eaten crap for about three weeks solid now. Or at least, that’s how it feels. I’ve got four days to pull some of that bad behaviour back out of the gutter, as this weekend won’t be very slimming, either. Thankfully, I have a lot of work to do, which always focuses me, so if I can just behave for a mere 96 hours or so…maybe all is not lost.
2. Getting into more arguments with faceless organisations
I got fined for parking in my own parking space, last week. It’s my space, I own it, but I got a fine. It’s so ridiculous I can’t even bring myself to go into details. But it means swapping more sarcastic letters with yet another company who basically makes its money robbing people, forcing you to invest time, effort and more money, righting the deliberate wrong. Because I really don’t have anything else to do right now.
Last Week I Was Mostly Watching…
1. Sons of Anarchy
Well, it’s all over now. I reached the end of Season 5 as I was trundling between Stockport and Liverpool South Parkway on Sunday, and when I got off the train, I felt a slight wave of grief wash over me as I realised I now have at least 6 months to wait for more Anarchy. Aside from it (eventually) becoming great drama, they had some excellent guest stars, too. Stephen King as a ‘cleaner’ who gets rid of dead bodies, delivered maximum creepiness. So, not acting at all, then. But the undoubted highlight was seeing Walton Goggins (The Shield, Justified) camp it up as a transgender prostitute called ‘Venus Van Damme’. The funniest cameo in US TV history, surely, and utterly convincing. But I feel empty now…there is a void which needs filling. Suggestions?
2. The Following
I caught up on this while K was here last weekend. We’d both thought the pilot episode was pretty ace, but it’s been going downhill ever since. After a 2-ep hangover session with Domino pizza and all the trimmings, she just turned to me and said “it’s all getting a bit silly now, isn’t it….?”. I couldn’t disagree.
The Stats Bit:
Month 1: 8.75lbs
Month 2: 5.25lbs
Month 3: 1lb
Month 4: 0.5lbs
Month 5: 3lbs
Month 6: 1.5lbs
Week 25 – 0lbs
Week 26: 1.5lbs
Week 27 – 1.5lbs
Week 28 – plus 3lbs
Total after 196 days: 20lbs