A trip to Middlesbrough

8.40- I’m on the train to Sheffield, to get another train which will then take me to Darlington, to get another train which will then take me to Middlesbrough for the Playoff semi-final match against Aston Villa. I will be there five hours before kick off. Lord knows what I will do, but I promise to write about whatever wonderful things I happen to experience.

As is often the case the night before a planned and suitably momentous event, I had a dream as precursor-

I was at a mostly empty football ground full of musky smog. I was standing on a small platform with a group of energetic football goons behind the goal. I never looked at them, they were just faceless goons.

It took a long time for us to score but eventually Adama got the ball in the middle of the box and caressed it into the right corner. The goons on the platform got animated. We started jeering an extravagantly dressed ballboy who seemed about the age of 25. He was hating his job, desperately retrieving the ball for his keeper to restart.

The dream ended with the ball-man goading us while Villa scored up the other end, with a tap-in in a crowded box for the last kick of the match. The environment was so dead we didn’t even realise an attack was on. That was full time, 1-1. Not a bad prediction from the dream I think.

9.15- I have a very nice limited edition 2015 Boro shirt, worn only twice by the players for kit clashes against Brentford. The only trouble with it is that it’s got Adomah’s name on the back, who coincidentally is now banging in the goals for Villa. We pretty much swapped him for Adama (the fastest and most skilful player on the planet). He is of a mercurial temperament. There were some games where he looked like he’d never played football before, others when he would skip past Premier League players like they were plastic cones. This inconsistency continued through the Monk season, then Tony Pulis came in in January, really fancied him,and he’s been our finest player ever since. He’s a rocket. Apparently Chelsea want him for 30 million. So today could well be the last time I see him play in red.

dav

9.24- I just got a call from an unknown number. I didn’t answer of course, but I did check the voicemail about twenty minutes later. It was from a smoggy lady saying it was about my ticket. What the fuck is that about? I wonder. I check the front compartment of my bag and notice that my ticket has gone. I call the nice lady on the Boro helpline and she tells me Loughborough station just called to tell her they’ve found my ticket, but it was fine, she said. They’d duplicate it for me.

In the olden days about forty years ago they probably wouldn’t have been able to do that and I wouldn’t have been able to go to the match at all. That would be all I deserve really. That and no anaesthetics.

9.28- The last time I went to the Riverside was when I was just turning 15, in 2008. We got hammered 5-0 by Chelsea, Juliano Belleti scoring the finest 40 yard strike I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. The first time I went to the Riverside was 2007 vs Aston Villa. We lost 3-0.

10.55- Do you know what? I think I might treat myself to a nice refreshing lager-beer soon. Do you know what also? I don’t think I’ve had a weekend without a beer this year. I know this because I last took a mental note of this in January, and since then the pattern hasn’t been broken. Something tends to happen every weekend, and when things happen, you just have a beer. That’s just what you do.

I bet for most people it’s been like that for forty or fifty years. People complain about not having enough money, but if you can afford a beer most weekends you should be very grateful to be a citizen of your country and not one of North Korea, getting shipped off to the gulags for saying you’re not that much of a fan of Kim Jong’s hairstyle.

Which brings me to what I’m reading. I’m reading the text by Yevgeny Zamyatin- We. This is a largely under-known and underappreciated text that was instrumental in inspiring the two powerhouses of modern literature- Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. I loved both of these other texts, particularly Brave New World which was more humorous and mind-boggling. The text is a satire of communism, and exists at some point in the future when the world is One State. Everybody is named after numbers, all buildings are made of glass so that all behaviour can be observed and everything is dictated by the Supreme Benefactor (some Russian version of Jeremy Corbyn). It’s very prophetic of North Korea today. I do enjoy it. My affinity with Russian Literature grows still greater by the year.

11.40- Today is a thirteen hour solo quest; a chance to get in some quality Jamo time. Sometimes it can be very good to spend a bit of time with yourself. Sitting on a train, reading, listening to electronic music, staring out of the train window like you’re being filmed for a documentary.

I actually enjoy my own company most of the time. It’s just the anticipation of it that fills me with dread. Hanging out with other people is much easier.

We often have a decision in life, to do one of two things. One of these is to go out and meet friends, have a few drinks and a few laughs. Needless to say this is an easy, enjoyable option. But alternatively, we can sit glued to our desks battling with King Lear. Which is not something to look forward to, is difficult to persevere with and is enjoyable only in a few fleeting, mentally draining moments. But when we take the latter option, we can enjoy the next day much more, and we lubricate our minds with new ideas that refresh us in ways we couldn’t imagine if we just took the easy way out. The people who spend their lives on their own, reading, meditating, wandering through distant lands. They’re the mad ones, and they’re the real ones who vanquish the difficulties of human life.

Today I am simply in the North, completely unshackled, free to roam wherever, whenever I choose. And for this opportunity I owe life a lot of gratitude.

dav

11.32- Just got into Darlington. If there was one thing I would say to summarise the North it would be that there are considerably more red bricks around. And viaducts, the cities are all full of viaducts.

I just bought a can of IPA for £2.50 from M+S. I remember somebody or other in politics- some fucking idiot, saying that us millennials should stop buying coffees from Starbucks if we want to get on the property ladder. He could equally have been talking about beer as well, which is more expensive. My only point to add is; what kind of psychopath thinks houses are that important?

13.00- I’m in Boro now. The streets are very wide. It took me a while to find real civilisation. I’m sitting in a courtyard with another pale ale. I found a street where the pubs are all like shops. There was a pub called The Devil’s Advocate, which is probably among the best pub names I’ve ever hard. But for arbitrary reasons I didn’t go there, and settled for the Slater’s Pick, which is a mediocre name in comparison.

There’s nobody in the courtyard, except a headless multi-coloured manikin, with a motorbike t-shirt. I’ve had worse company in recent weeks.  

13.57- They always say how much of a terrible city Middlesbrough is, but I’m a big fan. It even has an art gallery, so I thought I might as well go there. To the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. As soon as I got in there some middle aged smoggy with red hair on both sides of her head like rose petals, kept talking to me about a couple of Lowry paintings. I felt mostly ambivalent towards this artist. Apparently he painted his paintings by commission mostly, some of them taking less than an hour each. Which was something, at least.

In another room there were a few strange Chinese videos, one of a naked woman devouring a variety of cosmetic products. Another of a woman, probably the same one’s feet, in ice skates as she is dragged by a trailer across the ground. There was also a photo of thousands of bikes piled up on a landfill site. Conclusion: China has got some serious problems.

14.48- I’ve still got a lifetime before kick off, so I find a nice place on the grass nearby to bask in the sun in. I soon discover I’m not alone- there were lots of gangs of rowdy little smoggy kids waddling around making noises at each other. I was listening to music so was alarmed to find a particularly ugly child, covered in freckles and with two very prominent front teeth like a beaver right trying to talk to me. He was with a posse of fellow juveniles but I didn’t look at any of them.

“Why have you got eggs?” he asked. He was pointing to the boiled egg next to me. It had crushed in my bag, so I was planning on disposing of it.

“Just boiled eggs for a snack.” I explained.

He crushed it up with his hands and threw it down the hill.
“That’s fine, I wasn’t going to eat it anyway. “

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh just relaxing on this hill.”

His faceless minions remained completely silent except for a few giggles. The little brat then turned around, but I withheld my celebrations.

It went completely quiet, oh for fuck’s sake I thought. I turned round to see in the corner of my vision that the freckled brat had exposed his arse to me. As I turned turned, his cretinous gang then cackled to themselves and scurried off back to a nearby garden with a trampoline.

For about five minutes I reclined on the hill and thought about what I was going to do to entertain myself for the next three hours in this crazy northern place.

Then a small rock landed on my rucksack by my side. I turned round and saw the freckled brat’s head peeping round the garden fence. I wasn’t welcome. It wasn’t safe. I grabbed my sack, got up and left.

16.30-  Is drinking on one’s own in a bar permissible? It always seems so in the books. Maybe the literary guys get a free pass in that regard. Maybe I am just one of the ordinary losers.

19.00The game was terrible to watch. Villa mugged us off, scoring a header from a corner and then shutting up shop. Boro all over them but never looking like scoring. My seats were wank as well, I was lodged in between some bloke and an absolute meat-sack. I could barely move my knees. Nobody around me was singing. It must be policy for the fans on the horizontal sides of any grounds not to sing. And let’s face it, most home grounds don’t even sing from the vertical ends. That’s why away games are what being a football fan is all about.

I still love the Riverside though. You can’t beat this for pre-match music. Stolen by many inferior clubs. I hope they paid us for it.

19.43- The train journey back was long and left me much time to ponder my own past, present and future. Swathes of drunken thirty somethings carousing down the carriages drinking pink cans of gin and communicating with extra volume. I found a peaceful carriage to relax in and listen to Valvate by Recondite on repeat until I got to York.


A group of wankers with IPhones sat next to me and turned out to be Villa fans. One of the wankers, referred to me as Bamford. Whom I’ve been likened to before, certainly a compliment. He started attacking me saying every player in Villa’s team except Gibson was better than Boro’s. 

“What you’re saying is just bollocks, just argument without substance. You’re just trying to provoke me,” I told him.

I was glaring at him the whole time. Giving his eyes no peace whatsoever. I think he respected me a bit more because of that. If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently, you can win an argument with those balls lodged in the middle of your face.

22.10-  I can now say that I’ve been to Chesterfield and Doncaster stations, adding those Leviathan public transport bases to my checklist. The day was extremely deflating over all. By voyaging to the Middlesbrough town I gambled on a result and didn’t get one. But I experienced a few new things, and jotted a few of them down here, so it’s not all crushing disappointment.

Until my next venture into uncharted lands, my imaginary readers.