Saturday, July 14, 2018

Good but sad 1 in England ... so on 2 Croatia

Blimey, you take your eye off the ball for a second and four days slip by. Here's a catch-up blog for days 42, 43, 44 and 45. Monday 9th July through to Thursday 12th. I can't do the four days justice so here's a summary, and some maps, videos and photos, for record-keeping's sake.

Day 42 - Down to Devon

Having arrived back in blighty and finally met up with dear Leb, we stayed the night at Lucy's fantastic apartment in Stroud before setting off early for my sister's in Dawlish.

We stopped for brekkie at one of Harry Marsden's Fish & Chip outlets at the service station on the way. Very nice and (just about) worth the wait.

Champion Breakfast at Harry Marsden's
It's always very sad for me to go and see my dear sister and her husband David as they have a daughter, Helena, blighted with the most terrible neuro-degenerative illness -  Batten Disease.

Their love and never ending caring dedication for her are an inspiration to the rest of us.

I want to write more about them but I'm not sure it's the right place. All I can say is that more people should know much more about this terribly cruel disease.

Leb and me stayed nearby in an excellent B & B - the Coach House. It had the most comfortable bed and one of the best breakfasts ever.

Coach House - Best Bed, Best Breakie

Devon Countyrside

Drive to Dawlish

Day 43 - Back to Stroud, not not not Nottingham - France 1 Belgium 0

I had originally planned to catch the train to Nottingham for my bi-annual pilgrimage to my home town of Kirkby and The City Ground but the thought of a four hour train ride after yesterday's shenanigans was just too much. I texted Jeffrey to apologise as we set off for Leb's home ton instead.

We drove back to Stroud, pretty much the way we came, albeit with a stop off in Exeter to see Leb's good friend Nicky Brice, the ballet dance teacher who now had her own dancing school.

It was great to catch up with Nicky but when Leb and her started exchanging stories of recent years I knew it was time for me to leave them to it and do a bit of exploring.

I needed a haircut so I ticket that off first.

Best Besd in the World with Best Wife in the World

Followed by best Breakfast in the World

Best Kippers and Eggs

Dear Nicky!

Haircut in Exeter
Of course, the first visit had to be St James' Park - not the famous Newcastle United Ground but the one in Exeter.  I'd been here before, when I came to see them beat Mansfield Town 1-0 in 1999, but I had a very blury memory of the ground.

Onto to St James' Park
Exeter City just missed out on promotion to the third tier last season, so seem to be redeveloping the ground for better things..

New stand going up

The Grecians almost won promotion last season

They even made it to the play off final but missed out to the resurgent Coventry City.

St James' Park is on St James Road

Magnificant Exeter Cathedral

My contribution

Lego Cathedral

Zoom in to this "medical" text from the dark ages

Bye bye Nicky - until next time

My mug ruins the beauty

Walk while they talk
Coming into Stroud, off the M5 in Eastington, we visited Leb's dear old mum for a catch up and a cup of tea. Among other things we discussed her paintings which are really very good.

Back in Stroud we parked the car and set off, on foot, to Lesley's old pal from her school days, Ruth Hitchman. I bought fish and chips on the way. Not bad chips but the fish wasn't great.

Then it was up the hill to the Cross Keys where I watched the first semi-final and France beat Belgium in a tense but somewhat disappointing game.

Me, Rio Ferdinand, Jurgen Klinsmann and Gary Lineker 

The goal that put Belgium's "goalden generation" out of the World Cup.

Cross Hands was almost empty
In another cock up I told Leb the wrong time the match would end so had to wait for an hour an a half for her to come and meet me after the game.

Ah well... all's well's that ends well.

Day 44 - The Euston Flyer - England 1 Croatia 2

The next morning we got up early, got packed, tidied up Lucy's flat and said goodbye to Stroud for another year.

Leb had an appointment in Haddenham with another old pal from England. Anticipating hours of unpunctuated chatting, I decided to head off to London instead, get into our hotel and try to claim a table at the Euston Flyer where we'd arranged a rendez-vous with anyone who wanted to meet up before we flew off.

Drive from Stroud to Haddenham

Minchinhampton Common - Cows in t' field


Best Bacon & Egg Sandwich ever

Lovely English Countryside

Haddenham, this is Haddenham

Through High Wycombe

Once I got to Marylebone I worked out it was as easy to walk to the hotel than get a bus or go on the train. Outside I was approached by a scouser on a racket. He asked me to take a voucher from a newspaper into the bookies to place a bet on the England game, worth a pound.

I did as he asked. It was on England winning 2-0.

Walk to the hotel

Tavistock Hotel
Once checked in I set off to do a bit of shopping (needed a new mobile phone recharger) get a bite to eat and suss out the pubs for the match.

The Tavistock is situated close to UCL which brought back fond memories of my time there doing a masters degree in 1999/2000 when I first tested the wading hypothesis. It was also where I went with Elaine Morgan in 2012 when I gave a talk on the waterside hypothesis there with her and Moira Mann in attendance.

Elaine had a snooze in the van at a square near there which I have named "Elaine Morgan Square".

Proper Fish & Chips from Gigs

UCL memories including where Elaine slept in a van before I gave a talk

Tavistock is near UCL. This was where I did my masters

You're not anthropology any more

Then it was time. At about 3pm with mobile recharged I set off for the pub we'd selected, the Euston Flyer.

I got there nice and early. Early enough to "bag" a small table - one which I could feasibly protect by buying two "mock" drinks for two seats next to me so no-one would even ask...

"Are those places free, mate?"

Euston Flyer - opposite the British Library and St Pancras

As it was at 3:30 pm

Nearby memorial to the London bus bombing

Big screen ready

Jakey arrives

Anne Moore arrives

Anne Stojic was first to arrive

Atmosphere building up for the big maych

As 7 pm approached it was getting really full and there was still no sign of Leb, Gerry & Lorraine.

I notices the bouncers were starting to turn people away so I went down to speak to them to tell them we had three spaces reserved for them. By a pure fluke, at that very moment, they arrived so I was able to persuade the guy on the door to let them in.

What a relief!! The only shame is that Victoria Dobbs, who had traveled all the way from Cornwall to be there, had already left to see her brother, so didn't get to meet Leb and I didn't even get a photo of her.

Thanks for coming, Victoria!

Leb, Gerry and Lorraine arrive

Many came too late

What a great night ....

The game couldn't have started better for England and soon they were in front.

For well over an hour, England led and the prospect of a first World Cup final since 1966 seemed very real. But then in the 68th minute Ivan Perisic burst the bubble and made us wake up to the reality that the hurt must go on.

And so, into injury time and the goal to break 30 million hearts, when Mario Mandukic got a lucky winner.

I must have been too upset to record that moment but here is it from a Croatia a few days later...

And here is the very last action before England were out.

Sadly, Football wasn't coming home that night


T'was a good night, nevertheless

Day 45 - Shopping in Oxford Street and a bit of Horror in the West End

The next day we had a bit of a lie in before getting up to spend a whole day in London. How lovely to stroll along Oxford Street to do a day's shopping, followed by some great fish & chips and then end the day with a West End show.

In Selfriges


The nearest I got to spending 270 quid on a Michael Portillo jacket

Fish & Chips at Gigs

Shopping route

We had planned to go to see a show in the West End but timed it really badly. When we got to Leicester Square we were too late for all the shows, bar one...

Excellent performance - but not really our genre of choice

At the Fortune Theater

Trip to the West End a bit too late to have a choice 

Bye bye Blighty!

So that was it. England's World Cup dream of 2018 was over. Football wasn't coming home, not yet anyway.

Luckily for us though, we really couldn't lose. Either England would reach the World Cup final, or else we'd get to see it in the country that had got there for the first time in their history... Croatia.

Next morning, we were off to Split!

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