Thursday, 20 October 2016

Halifax And Huddersfield

I've had another interesting if not always pleasurable week since I last scribbled on these pages. It started in Halifax on Saturday. Emma had bought tickets (the very last tickets available apparently) for Sheffield Wednesday's visit to Huddersfield Town on Sunday lunchtime, so we decided to make a weekend of it and have a stopover somewhere glamorous. Forget about our previous trips to Las Vegas, Orlando, New York and Barcelona. This was Halifax. The bar was raised.

Following the obligatory 20 minutes we always spend trying to work out how to get car access to a hotel that we can see right in front of our faces (Premier Inn) we had lunch at the adjoined Beefeater. It's the first indication that Halifax achieves the impressive feat of being less exotic than St Helens. The Beefeater on the linkway looks like somewhere you might host royal banquets compared to this gaff. It has a distinct air of fast food about it, with small square tables and plastic chairs. Fearing that the house red might be Ribena we order a beer with our food, which to be fair is pretty good despite the modest surroundings.

Before we can go and get horribly drunk we have to do a bit of shopping. In an episode that is entirely ny fault because Emma says so, she has not packed any of my jumpers. Readers of my last entry will know that I recently bought enough jumpers to clothe the last 14 European Ryder Cup teams, but because I left it to Emma to remember none of them are here with me. With astronomic levels of futility I try to make the point that certain places in our house that might contain jumpers are inaccessible, and those that are in sensible places are guarded by obstacles (742 pairs of shoes, a veritable ocean of cotton buds and an array of electronic appliances designed to do something, not sure what, to hair). Predictably there is no mileage in this argument. I should have remembered my own jumpers. But I didn't so if I'm going to avoid going around looking like Tango (more on him during the football) we have to find a menswear store.

Valuable drinking time is ticking down so I settle for Burtons, that despite having decided following my recent splurge that I wouldn't shop at any store that isn't named after a bloke from Parr (Paul Smith, Ted Baker, Ralph Lauren. Ok, not Ralph Lauren). I buy a plain black jumper and a similarly dull, similarly black t-shirt. Job done. They're only for travelling back home in tomorrw and after that I'll decide whether they ever see the light of day again. It's quite fun being a clothes snob. I quite wish I had been doing it since I was seven like my mates have.

We stop at a Wilkinson's and then a Boots but then it is on to our first proper watering hole, The White Horse. It defines the term 'dive'. But there aren't many places where you can buy four Budweisers for £6 so we decide to stay. Take that London. You can't get a glass of water and a bag of pork scratchings for £6 in London, even at the pubs that are no more attractive than The White Horse. We take a seat at the front by a window. On the table next to us a lecherous man is blatantly trying to shag one or both of the fifty-something women whose afternoon he is apparently ruining, They're meeting for the first time in 30 years when they had been at school together. They had got in touch again via Facebook, which is one in the eye for the seven people in the western world (including my dad) who don't have any social media accounts because they can't think of a use for them. On the other hand he'd probably tell you that he couldn't think of anything worse than meeting up for an afternoon drink with soneone he hasn't seen for 30 years. Personally I quite like the idea but then I've only got two real friends. Unless you count Emma.

The women soon tire of his repertoire and leave, but as they do he pulls one of them down towards him, almost sending her crashing over the table as he insists on getting his goodbye kiss. Their place is taken by a group of four people, among whom one woman is drinking her pint of lager through a straw. Emma, who was born in Yorkshire, insists that this is in no way a Yorkshire thing and that it happens everywhere. I'm suspicious. I've never seen it and I'm from Thatto Heath. You would think that if women drinking pints through straws was really A Thing that I would have seen it in Thatto Heath. Maybe it'll catch on, like VD has.

One of the things on the agenda for our visit to Halifax is a Formula One simulator which is housed at the ten-pin bowling centre. A boy of about 11 on the reception desk looks confused when we ask about lift access to the right floor, but eventually seeks the required help to point us in the right direction. We take the lift and then are led through a series of doors into what they call the Race Centre. Inside, a dozen or so 'pods' are spread out across the room. We have been assured that hand controls are available, but as we are directed to Pod 1 it soon becomes clear that our man hasn't thought this access thing through. The pods are all very low to the ground, with the small seats practically on the ground. The 'cockpit', such as it was, was completely comprised of fixed, non-movable wood and metal. A person with my mobility could probably have transferred down from a wheelchair into the pod, but good luck getting out afterwards.

Nodding sagely in recognition of the problem, the man in charge unhelpfully adds that he is 'not allowed' to help me in or out of the pod. I take the decision not to try. The last thing I want is to spend the remainder of our night out waiting for the fire brigade to free me from the pod. I'm almost certain that sort of shit never happens to Lewis Hamilton. The only place he can't get into is Wimbledon, the posh, entitled, tax-dodging, deluded twat.

Having sheepishly exited the Race Centre we decide to stay for a drink at the bar overlooking the bowling lanes. At one, a chap called Rob (we can see the players' names on the monitors above each lane) is lording it over his female friend Rebecca because he's beating her. If you've ever seen the scene from The Grinch in which Jim Carrey's Christmas-cursing lead character taunts a small girl about beating her in a sack race then you'll have some idea of how Rob is treating Rebecca. All of which is made more pathetic by the fact that he has the lane guards up when they bowl. In proper, Big Lebowski league conditions pretty much every ball they bowl would roll harmlessly down the ditch and miss all of the pins.

We have an uneventful beer at The Duke Of Wellington before moving on to the wonderfully named Old Cock. We had passed this place earlier today but the need to do the shopping had taken us too far away to put it on our route immediately. Most people are bewitched by the berserk antics of Tony Bellew on the television. Having won his fight with someone I've never heard of, Bellend Bellew begins bellowing things that I can't hear at the watching David Haye ringside. Almost unnoticed, a young man has stopped at our table and introduced himself. He's Andy from Huddersfield and before I can stop myself I've made the rookie error of telling him that we'll be in that neck of the woods tomorrow for the football.

At some point during the conversation Andy decides that he isn't from Huddersfield. He just lives there but really he's from Widnes. So the obvious rugby league conversation ensues, and it is claimed that he could have been a professional with the Vikings if only it hadn't all been ruined by beer and women. Being from St Helens I know a lot of lads with similar stories but I'm too polite to stop him if I've heard it before. He goes on to explain that he was engaged to be married, and that the whole shebang was paid for when she suddenly, out of the blue, started seeing another man. Andy had my deepest sympathies until he revealed that at the time of this dramatic jilting episode his bride-to-be was just 17 years old! Are you spotting where Andy went wrong here? What went through his mind? Don't answer that. Moreover, what kind of parents forked out thousands of pounds for the wedding of someone who's still watching fucking Home And Away? The heart wants what the heart wants. I get that. But I can't shake the feeling that Andy is a fucking moron.

The experience has done something to his orientation too. As he relays his tale of woe he is getting closer and closer to me until by the end he practically has his arm around me. I think he fancies me. It makes sense really. He's got abandonment issues and the idea of finding someone who can't run away obviously appeals.

The weather is miserable on Sunday. Having drunk a little too enthusiastically we skip breakfast and sleep in a while longer until it's time for the drive to Huddersfield. On arrival we are informed that all disabled parking is sold out and that we'll have to turn around and park back down the road at The Gas Club. The attendant there is helpful (though not enough to avoid charging us £4) but the walk to the stadium now has another 10 minutes added on to it. Uphill. In the rain. We make our way in and find our seats on the raised platform behind the goal. I say seats. Emma doesn't actually get a seat unless she uses the ones which are fixed to the wall at the back of the platform. But it is impossible to see the game from there so like everyone else accompanying a wheelchair user she stands. We eat dry hot dogs and wait 45 minutes for kick-off. At least it's dry here under the stand.

At half time it is still goalless. Wednesday have had the better of it but failed to make the breakthrough. As we wait for the game to restart we see Tango meeting and greeting people in the row in front of us. Tango has attained minor celebrity status just by refusing to wear a shirt while at the football, whatever the weather. It's wet today but conditions are not particularly challenging by his standards. He poses for selfies with his inglorious gut flapping about the place and I feel a mixture of revulsion and bafflement that he actually gets away with this shit.
Not getting away with it are Huddersfield who, to the strains of The Barry Bannan Song go behind to Fernando Forestieri's penalty given generously for a handball. Forestieri and just about everyone else in the John Smith's Stadium had thought he had scored earlier when his deft lob over the onrushing Town keeper somehow came back off a post. So it's some relief when his penalty hits the net. Wednesday, clad strangely in black and orange, hardly look threatened thereafter and should go 2-0 up when the plodding Leon Palmer is repelled in a one-on-one with the Huddersfield stopper.

And so our trip to West Yorkshire ends. With a soggy 1-0 win and a mercifully short Sunday drive back to the advanced civilisation of Thatto Heath.

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