A lovely cool day for walking and a fairly clearly defined route for me today, 15 miles. Potentially a day for me to gather my thoughts and muse over whatever came into my mind. Recently I have been thinking a lot about, or possibly reliving, some of the moments from my long walk. I do enjoy these local walks now even though they might appear to be a bit boring to outsiders, but there is nearly always an incident or two to remember or regale. Today there appeared to be more than usual. I gave myself a target of getting to Southampton City Centre within two hours, a tough ask with a number of roads to cross and their potential short delays. Target achieved almost exactly to the minute. So what were the incidents of note:
- After almost three miles, I noticed a man, a younger woman (his partner or daughter, perhaps) and a boy, who was likely his son, attaching a sign to a lamp post advertising Christmas trees for sale. He sensed me walking in his direction and actually asked me if I wanted to buy a tree. Without exactly transferring all my thoughts to my voice, I politely declined, to which he said, “Look, you can take it away now”. Yeah right, I’m walking along the road, I am not driving a car, so you expect me just to carry this home, looking a complete prat. By the way, the month is still November. So I just smiled politely, perhaps sneered slightly, turned on my heels and continued walking.
- Having left home at 11:20, I reckoned on reaching Bitterne just in time for the 12:45 kick off between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal. I said to myself that I wouldn’t turn on my radio until I reached the precinct there, only to find that the radio was dead, having been left on, presumably since I last used it, which I think was last Sunday. Ok, hearing Berahino net buckets of points for my Fantasy League team would have to wait. I bought batteries and then it took a full 10 minutes until I even heard his name mentioned. 5 games since I signed him, and no goals, and a drink driving charge. No doubt a jail sentence as well, just to the end of April. What is it about this season that I am the antithesis of Midas to every player I sign? Ah, a cunning plan. How much do Pelle, Tadic and all those Saints defenders cost?
- I reached Southampton and took a deserved break in Starbucks. I think their coffee tastes at least as nice as those at Café Nero or Costa, but they always seem to let themselves down some way or another. After quenching my thirst, I nipped off to the loo only to find that there is a keypad and that the code would be on my receipt. Receipt? I hadn’t got one or even offered one. I went to one of the baristas and it was soon clear I was going to get no luck here. “It’s on your receipt.” “I didn’t get a receipt.” “I can’t get you another one unless you buy something else.” On that, I once again just turned on my heels and walked out rather than make a scene. Hopefully he was embarrassed at the whole situation. I wasn’t absolutely desperate and there are some free public toilets further up in the City Centre. No more Starbucks for a while. So all three have niggled me recently. Starbucks here, Costa by the rudeness of a barista who responded to my question as to whether I had enough loyalty card points to pay for my coffee with “No, you ain’t.” Not even an “Oo, not quite. Nearly, you’ve got 272, so perhaps your next one.”, and Café Nero just by their inadequacy in having sufficient servers to prevent an almost 15 minute wait, despite having two other staff wandering about doing I don’t know what.
- During the second half of the aforementioned West Brom – Arsenal game, the commentator said that their featured 3 o’clock game was a cracker. Man United v Hull. And, not only that, there was a full programme in midweek, with the commentary game being Man United v Stoke. Look, that team is not particularly good, and even if they were, they could find one or two other interesting ones, even if only for a balanced coverage. Probably today, the most important game that might affect a key issue was QPR v Leicester, one that if it was in April would be drooled over as a relegation 6-pointer. And as it turned out, it sounded the most exciting of the day.
- Ok. I wasn’t going to listen to Radio Five in any case. Pompey and BBC Radio Solent. All the hope and optimism then. I did everything I could when I was out walking, avoiding three particular roads which always seem to coincide with us conceding. There was certainly no way I was going anywhere near Bitterne Road (a road along which I was once walking when we conceded four goals in about 15 minutes at Swindon) and so I returned to Sarisbury taking the Itchen Bridge. I even strode purpsefullyo my head music, a relentless 15 or 20 minutes of “Andy Awford’s Blue and White Army”. What good did it do me, or them? None.
- And I nearly got run over as I crossed across the end of someone’s drive just as the home dweller turned in. Quite why he was honking and sticking his fingers up, I don’t know. Am I supposed to look behind me every time I pass in front of someone’s house? How suspicious would that look.
At least the weather stayed fair, just getting sufficiently chilly for me to don my gloves in the last few miles. I can brush off football as ‘just a game’ as easily now as when Pompey were beating nearly all before them in the Premier League and FA Cup, but the same hope and optimism will return in time for the big game against Accrington Stanley in a fortnight. Yes, the big game against Accrington Stanley, that’s how far we’ve fallen. But we’ll be back, never mind that.
A few people have suggested I should take some of the best pictures from the walk and create a 2015 calendar that I could sell, with all profits going to the charity. I am having a number made up and if anyone does wish to purchase one of these, with A3 pages on glossy paper (150gsm) – they would make a lovely Christmas present or equally nice for yourself – they will be available from me in a few days, estimated date of arrival 11 or 12 December (at a very competitive price of £8). Please let me know, since they are available on a first come first served basis. If you have already told me, no need to tell me again – I have a list of people who have posted on Facebook and spoken to me at work. There are some really generous people around and still the walk is often the first topic of conversation with people I don’t meet that often.
Ok, I’ve cheered up a bit now. I’m not that much of a moaner, really. 15 miles, as I said. Feeling very very good about myself. But I know I do dwell on things so tomorrow could be another day. Well actually it is.