15/4/23 Sunderland V Blues. Mackem N Tackem, Backem N Fackem.

This had been a fixture I’d been looking forward to. Not because of anything on the pitch, although a win would be nice, but because this would be the first time I’d be drinking in the place, and at my forth attempt. The first time I’d gone up there, me and my brother Les had gone up by a coach, laid on by the St Andrews Tavern. (Or the Black Horse, as it was still known by almost everyone who used it.) Although there was a scheduled stop at a service station where you could nip through the hedge to an adjacent pub (I forget the name. ), any alcohol drinking, had to be done in secret and on the coach. At the time, I’d devised a concoction that was undetectable. A 2 litre bottle of supermarket own brand traditional, cloudy lemonade, with a half bottle of vodka in it. It did the trick. The second time, I’d travelled up for a night game, with the idea of getting a hotel for the night. However, I hadn’t booked anything, and I went up on spec. Unfortunately, it was only after I’d got to Sunderland, that I discovered that all the hotels were fully booked and the only viable option was staying in Newcastle. This wasted an awful lot of time and in the end, and I was left with grabbing a couple of pints in Newcastle, before getting the metro to where the ground is. The third time, (You still awake? I haven’t bored you to sleep yet, have I?) was purely down to a strike on anything Cross Country. I managed to get to Sunderland, but only with about enough time to get a lightning fast, couple of pints in The Avenue, a pub near to the Stadium of Light. Right, after all that, back to the present day. Originally, I’d had ideas of stopping in Newcastle for the weekend. Money issues, (Poor wages and expensive hotels.) blew that idea out of the North Sea. Cross Country train ticket prices, are the most expensive on the network. Even with Advanced tickets, even with splitting tickets, or even with a railcard, it’s still expensive It was to prove too expensive for Daryl’s pocket, and he reluctantly gave it a miss. This was where Ian pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. Me and him share a railcard, and with this in mind, he’d secured two anywhere to anywhere tickets from a contact with Cross Country. The cost to me, was just a tenner and a pint. I couldn’t have been anymore grateful, if I’d tried. It was then, a ridiculously early bus into town. So early, there wasn’t even the usual knot of workers waiting at the busstop. Getting to a virtually deserted New Street station, I spotted Alex wandering around the concourse. After a quick moan together about how early it was, she went in search of somewhere that was open. Steve was the first of the crew to arrive, that was catching the 06.30 up to Newcastle, followed by both Jinksy and Ian. Knowing that at least they’d be fresh and hot, as they’d only just been cooked, I went in Gregg’s and got a bacon and sausage bap. Although us Brummies call baps, cobs. A bap for me, is soft, and a cob is crusty. I prefer a cob, but that wasn’t an option. It was still nice though. As we pulled out of New Street station, it was finally getting light. We now just had a long journey up to Newcastle to fill with conversation and banter. Thankfully for us ale trailers, that’s never ever going to be a problem. The problem is remembering all the different subjects we actually cover, and that’s without the many, many ‘one liners’ we all punctuate the conversation with. One subject we did cover, was the recent news that Wolverhampton Wolves Speedway team, have been given notice to quit their home of Monmore. Like many speedway tracks, they’re shared with greyhound racing. Unless you live on the planet Zogg, you won’t fail to have noticed that Betting is now non grata. Firstly, it was cigarette smoking that was not only frowned upon, but squashed and pummelled to the point of social unacceptability/pariahity. Then it was alcohol that received the woke treatment, and now it’s gambling. The bottom line, is that regardless of immense peer pressure, aggressive advertising campaigns, or genetic traits, every choice an individual makes, is down to them. We live and die by what we decide, and we have a thing between our ears, that enables us to process those decisions. Knowledge is the brain’s greatest gift to itself. Suppression it’s greatest enemy. As humans, we believe deep down that we’re far superior to others. In truth, we’re nothing of the sort, but it doesn’t stop us being delusional enough to think it though. Because of this unfounded self-righteousness, we repress others. Ridiculing and humiliating, in equal measures. As a species, we really need to embrace and emerse ourselves in that thirst for knowledge of everything, and not just the things we enjoy and find interesting either. Oh, and believe me, I’m no different to anyone else, I’m just as mentally lazy. For instance, I absolutely hate computers, but It’s only because I don’t understand them, and find them extremely boring. And I find them extremely boring, because I don’t understand them. Are they? No, of course they’re not. It’s just my mind that’s covering the subject in a debilitating fog. That’s what happens though, we allow ourselves to wallow in an irrationality that can ultimately lead to our individual downfall. Anyway, as per usual, I’m digressing again. I start writing about something, and just go off on a tangent. A bit like when I talk really. There I go again, off on a tangent. Right, rewind, back to Greyhound racing. There’s a serious movement to get both Horse and Greyhound racing banned, and it’s gaining rapid momentum. Ian not only owns two retired racing greyhounds that he absolutely dotes on, but also has shares in several dogs that currently race. Like with the vast amount of things that people want banned and are not physically connected with, they don’t really see the consequences. Either that, or fundamentally, they just don’t actually care enough. There’s approximately 8,000 greyhounds that race in this country. If Greyhound racing was banned, then in the immediate, the majority of those dogs would just end up becoming strays, and eventually, even the breed itself would simply become extinct. If you feel that’s being overdramatic, then I’ll point you at shire horses as an example. Before the introduction of automated road haulage, shire horses were an everyday sight on British streets and roads. In less than a century, one of the most impressive of breeds, has virtually vanished. Back to greyhounds. Aesthetically wise, they’re not exactly dogs that look good. They’re not cute like border collies or pugs, and it’s not like they don’t need a lot of exercise either. Temperament wise, they’re docile and friendly, but given their size, looks and need for exercise, they will simply get overlooked at the dog refuge, when people are searching for a dog to rescue. Unlike shire horses, greyhounds won’t look good pulling a dray at special public events. And by the way, that seems to be the only time you ever see a shire horse, these days. So before the overzealous, ignorants get their way, make the most of seeing well groomed and well looked after greyhounds and race horses, because future generations will have to make do with photos and footage of them. Oh, and if you’re thinking that I must enjoy betting, other than doing the lottery, I very rarely ever bet. What I am though, is pro-choice. I hate computers, but I wouldn’t ban them, and computers, or the use of them at least, can damage lives every bit as much as betting can. Touching down in Newcastle, Spoons and Jk, who were actually stopping up there, were already waiting for us at the barrier. They’d been a lot more organised than the rest of us, and had had the sense to book something much earlier. With luck, there’s always next season. We first tried the nearest Wetherspoons, but as it wasn’t serving alcohol before 10 o’clock, we had a rethink. Thankfully, we’d only got a few minutes to wait anyway, and so went in the Victoria Comet.

“Where’s Michael Caine then?”

Ian’s all-time favourite film, the pub was used in ‘Get Carter.’ Well one half of it was anyway. The Victoria Comet was originally two side by side pubs of those names, that were knocked into one. It’s a Nicholson’s owned pub now, and whether they were responsible for the amalgamation of the two pubs, they’ve put their always tasteful stamp on it. From there, it was on to one of the most impressive pub interiors in the whole of the country.

“And this place was almost destroyed by British Rail”

I did take one more photo of the Centurion, but for some unknown reason, I can’t seem to add it to this post. It’s things like this when I absolutely despise computers, because although I actually write this garbage on my phone, it’s still the computer bit of it I use. Anyway, before I go on a full on rant, I’ll count, take a breath and stay just about calm enough, so as to not throw my phone up against the wall. Originally, the Centurion was built as a waiting room for First Class passengers. In the 1960s, it was painted over, and used as holding cells by the Transport Ol Bill. It was then boarded up, and left to crumble away. Mercifully, it was purchased by developers, who realising what they’d got in their possession, restored it to what it is now, a wonderful example of historical Victorian decadence. I fully recommend that any visit to Newcastle, should involve a look at the inside of this pub, it’s truly breathtaking. After an all too brief stop in Newcastle, we got the Metro to Sunderland. For someone who has spent a huge chunk of their life associated with railways, Ian isn’t the most patient of passengers when it comes to trains that stop at every station. Let’s put it like this. It wasn’t the well used carriages that was making the whining noise when we were travelling to Sunderland. Getting off at Park Lane, we started off at the nearby Ivy House.


Or maybe it’s a relief. Either way, it appears I can not upload anymore photos to my blog post. For this reason alone, I give up. I won’t be posting anything else. Believe it to be a knee-jerk reaction if you want, but I’ve tried as many different ways as I can think of in the last two days, and absolutely nothing works. So whatever the reason is, and after doing this rubbish for 5 years, I really can’t see what the problem could be, this is it. There’s been times that I’ve found it a slog, and there’s been times when it’s flowed like a river in flood, but for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed writing it, and would like to think that people have actually found it entertaining. Anyway, T’ra all and enjoy what time you have left on this twisted planet of ours. Me? I’ll be carrying on doing what I do, I just won’t be writing about it.


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