Sunday, 9 December 2012

Trans-Pennine Adventure

Wigan Athletic 2 Queens Park Rangers 2

Last Friday my family and I went back to my father's home town Doncaster to surprise my Grandmother for her 84th birthday. Being a typical London family and with my brother and I having flown the nest several years ago, it's not easy to get all of us together at the same time. So it wasn't surprising that the train journey up was not a quiet one as we spent our time catching up with each other on our past working week and all the new music and books we were discovering. Grandma was extremely chuffed and rather speechless when we arrived at the Wentbridge Hotel Brasserie at 8pm. And it's a good thing too, because I'd pretty much spend the rest of the weekend travelling to Wigan and back to see the Rs play.

As many know, while half of my roots lie firmly in Yorkshire I didn't grow up there. So even if everyone else is still there (Aunt, Uncle, Grandparents, cousins and other offspring) and I have visited several times I always get the 'You're obviously not from 'round 'ere are you love? where are you from' from people. In fact I had that question in the cab back from Doncaster station after the match. When I told him 'I'm from everywhere' he took it as a sign that I didn't want to tell him. Little did he know that I was actually speaking the truth. It is amazing how one person can make you  feel disconcertingly like an outsider when he asks such a question so pointedly.

I booked myself on the 10.42 train from Doncaster to Manchester Piccadilly and kitted myself out with my Michelin Woman 4 layer outfit I was ready to rock n' roll. Having just discovered Ladyhawke's 'go get 'em' sounding song 'My Delirium', and being excited about recent positive performances under Harry Redknapp I was absolutely positive that QPR would win. I'd never taken a train through the Pennines before and I was in for a treat. I soon learned that reserving a seat wasn't going to get me a seat, and had a chat with some people who thought it was hilarious that I had decided to leave my family behind in Doncaster to watch a football match. (Well of course they didn't really understand the football decision, but they liked the idea of family in small doses). People came and went, stopping at various places to do Christmas shopping, and fellow supporter @loftboy63 came on board half way along. While all this was happening and I was chucked out of my seat I was exposed to some of the prettiest landscape that England has to offer. Rolling hills, snow capped peaks, under bright sunshine on a crisp cold day. Nothing like it. I really did feel like if there ever was going to be a day to win, this would be the one.

Bright skies and rolling hills...

Can you see the snow topped hills? Crap photo really..

So, what of the actual football match? Well I can't say it was good football. I think everyone knows too keenly that our biggest problem is a horrific defence. I have that image from last night's Match of the Day literally engraved in my mind of five defenders (circled in red) surrounding that Wigan player in front of goal and losing our lead after three  minutes. It was painful for us fans. I was stood at the back with many of the singers, and it was text book mistake after mistake. Not only that, but when we did manage to hold the ball for any period of time, it looked as if there was some sort of anti-magnetic field that stopped anyone from coming forward and scoring a goal. I've been banging on these last few weeks about wanting a team that at least plays with some pride and passion. but without any confidence it doesn't matter how much pride and passion you've got. And this, I'm afraid is why we are now in this vicious cycle of a lack of confidence due to  a lack of wins, which will in turn lower our sense of pride again the next time around..

What does this mean for me personally? Well, I'm trying to erase the painful memories of Mark Hughes's reign from memory. I know that a psychiatrist will say burying such pain isn't healthy and that one day it bubble over and it might just tip me over the edge. But right now, I've got to think of my short term health and I have to believe the our boys need as much support as possible. This would be an extremely difficult task if I remind myself of the fact that we're probably going down. So the plan is to take every game as it comes and enjoy each one 'game by game'. Never mind survival, never mind a potential Championship season next year. We've now got 'arry and Fernandes is still around - and I think they'll stay come what may. If you'd asked me ten years ago whether we'd be here I'd have laughed in your face, and would have said I'd take a season in the Premiership even if it meant we'd go down the next season. So come on everybody, let's make this a festival of ultimate fan support and enjoy not just the football but all the ancillary activities around it.

Speaking of ancillary. I would like to congratulate Wigan for creating the best pie I have eaten in a long time.I had a great pie at the DW Stadium. And may I also recommend the meat pie at local bakers Galloway which is situated just across the road from Wigan Wallgate station (this I did not eat myself but am told by @loftboy63 was very good). I was unaware until that day that I was heading for an area which is quite famous for pies. And given my proclivity for pies, this was extremely exciting. For anyone reading this blog, pie recommendations from the various football grounds around the country (Championship included in case I need to know for next year), would be most welcome.
A miserable evening in Wigan (Galloway Bakers on the left)

Above, you will see a photograph of Wigan just outside Wigan Wallgate station. it is about 5.30pm and it's dark, drizzling and about 5 degrees. Shops are closed although a couple of chippies are open. And although QPR have drawn it feels like a loss for QPR fans given the dire situation we are in. On the train heading back across the Pennine's we will start to see people come on and off the train under-dressed and oranged up for their big night out in Bolton or Sheffield. We'll stare and giggle at them, but really we're probably a bit envious because they haven't just spent their whole day travelling across the country for 90 minutes of pretty bad football and will spend their money on a few drinks to cheer themselves up while we've just spent our last penny on a pie after the £70 quid we've spent on our ticket, train journey and beers.

I arrived back in Doncaster after being questioned by the taxi driver who was probably thinking; 'who is this woman? She has a strange accent, she is wearing a QPR top, and she wants to go to Balby.' The reason why  I knew he was thinking this was because he did the pointed 'you're not from here' comment, and then said he didn't quite know what road I was heading for because 'people from poor areas' don't use taxis from the train station. I honestly felt like taking my QPR scarf and strangling him with it for a moment. But I took a deep breath and decided I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in prison.

At my aunt's house I was greeted by my beautiful three year-old niece at the door, and after dinner the whole family sat down to watch Paddy Kenny (also known as Christopher Maloney) sing and get knocked out of the X Factor Final. Everybody wanted to know what kind of pie I had at the DW, and laughed because my answer was meat (what type of meat Emily??). QPR had equalled the record for worst ever starts but I was still looking forward to all the games that are to come.

I am very grateful for the wonderful experiences I have had in my life. I may travel around the world a lot for work to exotic places like Brazil and India.  But sometimes the biggest lessons you can learn are much closer to home and right in front of your face.

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