Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ten years on

I wasn't sure if I'd write about this, and very nearly didn't. Until, that is, today when a turn of events convinced me to do it. The subject? Gary Speed MBE.

Now the dust has settled a little and everyone has had their say, i thought I'd have mine.
Firstly, my condolences to Louise and the family, their loss is everybody's loss. A true gentleman of the game gone forever.
I mentioned in my last post how the minutes applause before Monday nights game was the most important part of the evening on every scale and, to be truthful, i was going to leave it there.

Today at work in the staff canteen i overheard a conversation that really prompted me to say a little more though. Two 'colleagues' (the politest term i can think of) were having a right old moan about the former Welsh manager and all others who take their lives, not to mention those that battle with depression. Selfish, stupid, and pathetic were just some of the terms I'm prepared to type, believe me, there were far worse!
Everybody is entitled to their opinion granted, but sometimes keep it to yourself.

I heard a preach once at church about idol gossip and how someone is always on the receiving end of it, you just never know who's going to get hurt. These two may well have thought it was their private conversation, yet refused to keep their voices low and i was sat at the same table.
Now i know they would never have personally verbally abused me, but that's what they did without realizing. My first wife died in exactly the same way as Gary Speed, it will be ten years ago in January, and these two clowns inadvertently disrespected my late wife within my earshot.
If you've nothing good to say, say nothing. You can't insult or upset anyone then!

Yes time is a good healer, more so for the partner than the children. I have a new wonderful wife whom i love dearly, the memory and love of the first hasn't gone of course, she's not a replacement! It has helped make it a lot easier though, whereas children only have the one Mother and Father. I know the pain burns deep inside my late wife's children, they learn to live with it, that's as good as it gets.

At no time during our marriage would i ever have called her pathetic or selfish, if anything i was the selfish one in the relationship. I had bad days and felt down, don't we all? Hers were just a lot worse and she needed medication to keep going. Not really that much different to a diabetic really.

The Speed's do of course have the press to contend with and i pray they are left alone to mourn in private. We only had the local paper, although it did make the front page! That was our fifteen minutes of fame used up. I laugh now, i didn't when everyone at work had a copy.

Moan over, i remember my late wife for all the great things we shared, i hope these idiots come to remember Gary Speed for the great things he achieved on the football field and for the exemplary gentleman that he was.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Charlton who?

The national papers don't like us. The BBC don't like us, ITV even less. And as for Sky..................
Dare i say it, but i almost feel a Millwall chant coming on.

We had been playing second fiddle to Huddersfield Town wherever you looked in the build up to League One's 'clash of the titans', not to mention the obvious omission of a certain Chris Powell as the press have run with this racism story of late. Apparently the game is still rife with that narrow minded hatred, hence the reason why black men never succeed as managers. Apart from in SE7 of course!

Personally i like hiding in obscurity, and in fact feel a little nervous when the worlds eyes are upon us. A selfish thought perhaps, I'm sure the gaffer, the squad, and the board welcome their moments under the spotlights. I didn't support Charlton to see them on football focus every week, to be able to read about the players private lives in the Sunday tabloids, or to buy the latest 5th choice kit somewhere in Asia.
I support Charlton because they're our team. They belong, albeit not on any official documents, to me, my friends, and of course you. We have that intimacy, that involvement and an unconditional love.

As i said before, i have a selfish thought or two, I'm like that, and i don't always want to share my Charlton with every Tom Dick and Harry. That's why, when the eyes of the world are on us, I'm quite happy to let Huddersfield, Halifax, or whoever it happens to be that week play the leading role. We'll all still be there long after the cameras have gone.

So, last night the eyes of the world did descend upon The Valley. Well all except mine. Good old Sky wanted my ticket for this match and as it panned out, no one had it. A Saturday fixture would have had me making my jolly way to my favourite London venue, but a Monday night reschedule meant work. Not even a glimpse of the stupid TV, perpetrator of this evil. I still haven't seen the goals.
No, for me it was good old BBC London radio in the cab of my Tesco dot com van. I could listen whilst driving then deliver to someones door just as we were putting the ball in the net!
As things went, I'd have settled for that.

I caught the beginning, and what in all fairness was probably the most important part of the whole broadcast, a minutes applause for the late Gary Speed. A win and seven points clear at the top of the table are great but pale into very little in comparison.

I heard the opening ten minutes and the Terriers early pressure then, as i was driving down the narrowest of roads in deepest darkest Dorking, BANG!
The back of the van clipped a parked car. Marvelous. In six years of evening deliveries for the supermarket I'd never hit anything and i was, i admit, quite proud of this.
The football commentary was still on but i wasn't hearing a word of it. For only the briefest of moments i thought about just driving on, but common decency prevailed and i pulled over. Good job too as the resident was already out of his house and looking at his damaged wing mirror as i approached him. Very little damage considering the noise of the impact but a knock is, at the end of the day, a knock and procedures have to be followed. And what procedures they are.
It was a good half hour before I'd finished filling out the paperwork in the van log book, logged the accident on Tesco's own incident line, apologized to the owner of the car and climbed (in by now, very damp clothes) back into the cab.
I will admit to being very tempted to asking whether we could go into his house to dot the i's and cross the t's and possibly drop into conversation whether he had Sky sports or not!

When the radio came back on it was half time, Charlton were two goals to the good courtesy of Yann Kermorgant and Hogan Ephraim, and i was very late for the rest of my round.
Even though i didn't have the distraction of the second half as i drifted further into the outback and lost all radio signal, i failed to make up time and returned to the store, and in turn, home at a stupidly late hour.

A bad night for me, a fantastic night for seventeen thousand Addicks at the game. What do i know of the actual match itself?  The two loanees, Ephraim and Darel Russell, came in for Andy Hughes and the injured Johnnie Jackson. I know Charlton got better as the game progressed and with each goal put a firmer stamp on the match. Not much else really. This certainly isn't the place to read a match report!

To sum up then, the media don't recognize us, i quite like that. I crashed the van and Charlton won a top of the table clash with a great performance that, if it hadn't been for Sky, I'd have witnessed first hand.
Gripping stuff eh readers?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

April 16th

After reading Marco's account of Saturday's game, i found myself reminiscing of times past and in particular some live music i used to enjoy as a teenager.
The reason for this was a picture of Humphrey Bogart on the blog, which i remember seeing in a wonderful little rock club in the centre of Cardiff twenty years ago. That club was named after our 'Umfrey, Bogiez. It's been knocked down since, but i'm glad to hear it's reopened in a new venue.

At the time we were still all enjoying that new wave of British heavy metal that so many of my friends grew up on. Remember bands like Tygers of Pan Tang, Saxon and of course Iron Maiden with the wonderful Paul Di'Anno?
April 16th were our local answer to this. A good traditional metal/rock band. Guitars, gruff vocals and plenty of denim and leather. As a young biker their music was heaven.

I knew two of the members really well. Chris Harris, guitarist, used to drink in our local, The Greyhound in Carshalton, whilst drummer John Fisher was also a biker and a member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association.

I always remember of their live sets, a big backdrop of the bands logo which looked like something done in a technical drawing lesson and at one concert at The Cartoon in Croydon, which used to be one the greatest music and biker bars in South London, a smoke machine which i accidently lent on during the lunchtime setting up. This resulted in us having to evacuate the pub for a short while waiting for the place to clear.

Other great venue's they regularly played were The Royal Standard at Walthmanstow and of course Bogiez in Wales.

Bogiez was an annual event and a proper 'jolly' in the true sense of the word. A coach would pick us up from a pub in Hackbridge, just round the corner from Chris Harris' house. By lunchtime we would be halfway to Wales and therefore pull off the M4 and find a pub. A midday skinful would then keep us going all the way to Cardiff where we would find a local pub or two.
I remember one year Wales had lost to England in the rugby that year and drunk Welshmen were everywhere, we even had to step over them on the pavements. Ordering beer in our cockney accents was a little unnerving!

Back at Bogiez, i recall a rather large chap in a white coat serving all kinds of greasy delicacies to a very hungry mob. This was downstairs along with plenty of pool tables. The bands played upstairs and never came on till late.

One year we took an old local gent from The Greyhound with us. Brian was a biker from old and allegedly brought the back patch club, Road Rats, into England from the USA. Rarely sober, we all kept an eye on him and late on in the evening we thought he'd wandered off. We needn't of panicked though. He was sitting at a table in a dark corner surrounded by young girls hanging on every word of his tales of biking and his time as a merchant seaman.

We would arrive back in Hackbridge around six on the Sunday morning and get on our bikes, which we left at the pub, and attempt to ride home in a straight line. Obviously i was young and stupid in those days and do not condone that kind of behaviour!

The band went on to record one album entitled Sleepwalking released on an independent label which, if memory serves, was French. I doubt i could ever replace that piece of vinyl these days, but have managed to find on line some mp3's of their songs.

They are of course, like many bands, long forgotten now but they will always remain special to me. I've lost touch with Chris and John, not to mention the friends i used to go with but this week listening to tracks like 'She's Mean' and 'Rattlesnake Shakedown', it's all come flooding back.

Those were the days............

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Don't worry, Bee happy.

I'm in a small minority. No, not for the reason you're thinking of but for my 100% record at Griffin Park. Yes, yesterday was my first ever visit to the home of the Bees and I've proven to be a lucky charm.
It's a ground and a fixture I'd always meant to get to but it had never quite happened, so this season it was a high priority match when the fixtures were announced.

Normally with away matches i like to find a public house a little further from the ground than most, as waiting four deep at a bar doesn't really appeal. Although saying that, with a boozer on each corner of the ground, i doubt the crowds in TW8 are large enough for it to be four deep at every bar!

After telling a few younger Addicks off on the train for their language in front of non football going ladies, i jumped ship (more about ships later) at Kew Bridge. My drinking companions for the day were just south of the river at The Coach and Horses in Kew green. A lovely little Youngs pub, it guaranteed a wonderful couple of pints of 'ordinary bitter' in a comfortable surrounding (in stark contrast to a little later) prior to kick off.

It was only a short walk really to the ground from there and we dutifully lined up to get in with all the other last minute arrivals. I did feel sorry for the residents of number 79 Brook Road South, next door to the away entrance. Every matchday they must have a mighty fine collection of beer glasses, bottles and cans lined up on the garden wall as the stewards stop supporters entering with them.
I'm guessing their binmen must think of them as raging alcoholics!

Once inside, and i had parted with £2.60's worth (i don't hold grudges, but i hadn't realised we were playing at the motorway services) of sausage roll, we tried to find somewhere to stand to get a view of the game.
The terracing was packed and, as always, people congregated at the entrance making it feel a lot more uncomfortable inside than it actually is. I lost my companions almost immediately so found a hole suitable for one which, with my height, gave me as best a view as you're going to get in there.

The first half was pretty dire from a Charlton perspective. Brentford had more than enough opportunity to not only take the lead, but also to put the game out of reach. Rattling an upright was, however, as close as they came.
If a goal had materialised for them though, i have a feeling it may have fallen to ex Addick, big Miguel Llera. Especially with the amount of stick he was getting from a group of Charlton supporters around me. I like big Mig and wish him all the best for the future, i think Brentford is a club well suited to his ability and i think it helps show how far we have come that he wouldn't have a chance of dislodging Taylor or Morrison nowadays.

Speaking of Michael Morrison, one of my favourite moments came when he (and remember he's a centre half) dribbled through a handful of Brentford players as if he was Ricky Villa! It was at that moment that all resemblances with Eddie Youds stopped for me. i love Eddie but he could never have done that. Punch them yes, dribble a football around them, I'm afraid not.

I moved a little closer for the second half and found a group of slightly (read very) inebriated friends who had travelled to the game on the 'HMS Rose of Denmark disco boat'.

I caught glimpse of them crossing Kew bridge as they were getting ready to dock. The noise from the boat could be heard for some distance, the smell of the alcohol a lot further.

Again we seemed to make hard work of it again in the second half. Brentford continued to do what a home side should and have the more possession. Charlton did however look dangerous on the attack and twenty minutes into the second half took the lead. Danny Greens cross was met by Wright-Phillips and the prolific striker slotted home.
The away end erupted and we all thought that maybe this really was the the time the elusive win was going to come.

Charlton being Charlton made us sweat though. A nasty Brentford injury prior to the goal when the Brentford keeper collided with his own defender, resulted not only in the stretcher being used but a lengthy period of stoppage time. This incident combined with our skipper, Johnnie Jackson, going off with a hamstring injury (giving loanee Hogan Ephraim his first piece of Addicks action) meant 10 minutes were shown on the board by the fourth official!
I don't think i can ever recall ten minutes stoppage time, and with most of that occurring at the end we were defending, we were begging for the whistle. It was still a long time in coming as a kerfuffle in our penalty area that i could not see clearly enough to know what had happened, left us with what felt like an extra fifteen minutes being played. We were singing 'we want to go home' to the ref in desperation!

The whistle did finally get blown and the relief was there for all to see. A lovely moment came as Chris Powell held the Charlton players back to applaud the travelling support and all leave the field together.
Last season we never would have got that win, this team really is up for the challenge. I hope Jackson isn't out for too long. Last season he got injured and we fell apart. That won't happen this time as the strength in depth and the morale and the team spirit is too high, but a leader does have to be on the pitch. Being a hamstring though, you know full well he's obviously not going to be back next week.

After the match i headed back to Kew with a couple of great friends and we found another wonderful pub, The Greyhound. A few more pints of Youngs finest rounded off my stay in west London a treat.
From there i headed up west to meet my wife who had been on a girls day out in town with her sister. We met in Soho and then wandered into China town for dinner. An all you can eat buffet at The Hong Kong buffet was a delight as i scoffed my first solids since that sausage roll. Great food, well priced and very friendly staff. If only i had realised it was cash only i could have saved myself a dash around Leicester Square looking for a cash machine before they released the girls! They obviously didn't really hold them hostage...........

That is what great football away days are all about. It really doesn't get any better than that. I am however left with just one question. Back page of the Brentford programme has the squad listings for the teams as you would expect. Brentfords number 15 simply says Topcat?...........

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Hiding Place

Yesterday i watched a film that i doubt many people have even heard of, yet alone watched. The Hiding Place is a film of the book by the same name written by Corrie ten Boom made in 1973, two years after the book.

For those who don't know, Corrie ten Boom was a daughter of a Dutch watchmaker in Haarlem. She along with her whole family were Christians and during the nazi occupation of their country, not only helped Jews escape the Netherlands but also took them into their home hiding them behind a false wall in her bedroom.

The family home was above the shop which is still exists, exactly the same today as it was seventy years ago and is now a museum, you really can go there and hide behind the wall!  For two years they harboured Jews, believing them to be God's chosen people.  "In this household, God's people are always welcome." Corrie once stated.
In February 1944 they were arrested by the nazi's with the help of a Dutch informant. The family were sent to a prison at Scheveningen, (where Corrie's father would die after only ten days) before being separated and sent to camps all over Germany.

Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were sent to a female nazi concentration camp in northern Germany, Ravensbruck. On entrance to the camp they managed to smuggle in a small bible and gave bible studies and readings in their flea ridden bunks to some of the other women.

With a real interest in the second world war, and a relatively recent visitor to Auschwitz, this story really hit a nerve. There are so many sad stories from these horrific times, it was very encouraging to watch a story that gave so much hope, albeit done on a very small budget!

Although, Betsie died in the camp, Corrie was set free at the end of December 1944 just as her sister had predicted. It was a clerical error that resulted in her release and just one week later, women of her age in the camp were put to death as they were deemed too old to be productive workers.

For most of her years after the war, Corrie helped holocaust survivors. She returned to her native Holland and set up rehabilitation centres to help former prisoners get back on their feet and deal with the mental traumas the camps left them with. This help and these centres obviously kept Jesus at the centre.

Corrie went on to travel the world as a public speaker and wrote in the region of twenty five books on her experiences and her faith.
She died on April 15th 1983 aged 91. This was, coincidentally, her birthday and in Jewish tradition, it's only the very blessed who actually die on their birthday!

There are many films covering the nazi's and their death camps, many of which are sadly compelling viewing, but none which carry the good news of Jesus throughout.
It's relatively easy for me to have faith in God living in the modern western world where I'm in very little danger of persecution for sharing my thoughts. It is a very different story in many other parts of the world even today.

Corrie ten Boom, and her whole family, showed great faith during some very difficult times yet never once thought God wasn't with them or had forgotten them.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23, verse 4.

In my own bizarre way, i like to visit some of these historic places so as to get my own picture of how it may have been. Haarlem and a certain watchmakers shop has become high up on my list of places to go now!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shocks in all the right places

As is always the way with these earlier rounds, i hate the term 'proper', of the FA cup sponsored by that dreadful American (with German roots) lager, there were plenty of shocks and more than a headline or two to embarrass the professional players in today's papers.

I was fortunate enough to see two games from the first round, one in person and one on the TV, both of which had favourable results and both turned out to be good games of cup football.

Gander Green Lane, Sutton, was first on the agenda Saturday afternoon. The U's are enjoying a fantastic first season back in the conference south (or bet square or whatever) and although they went into the game against Kettering Town from the conference premier division as underdogs, there were in fact only a handful of league places between the two sides.

It was lovely to see the ground looking so busy again, a crowd of over 1500 turned up. That's about twice the size of a regular Saturday down the lane.
I say 'again' as it brought back many a happy memory for me. I've seen that ground both empty and crammed full over the years, not to mention everything in between, and yesterday we had a wonderful atmosphere reminiscent of some great days in the clubs history.

I did most my growing up in Sutton and during my teenage years spent a lot more time at GGL than i did at Selhurst Park to watch the Addicks. It was a lot cheaper than league football which, for a YTS lad, was much kinder on the pocket.
I saw their first conference game against Telford, i was there for the big ones against Middlesborough and Coventry plus getting the coach to Norwich and the Boro replay. These were great times but i was also there for the Surrey senior cup matches in the rain midweek. I hardly missed a match in the late eightees. I was a big Sutton fan and i do feel sometimes that i don't get there anywhere near as much as i should, and perhaps I've in some way let the club down as we've drifted away from each other. There are however different seasons in our lives and Sutton United were definitely at the centre of that one of mine.

So this cup match was far too good an opportunity to miss. I took Heidi, my wife, as she had never witnessed non league football before. I doubt very much she'll be witnessing it again though. What i would call a buzzing atmosphere she would call intimidating, what i think of as a vital part of Saturday entertainment she's finds a chore.
She was most definitely in the minority as Sutton held their own against a physically strong Kettering side. The first period may have been a little slow but the crowd had value for money in the second forty five. On more than one occasion the poppies (most apt nickname of the weekend award) threatened the Sutton goal forcing Kevin Scriven to make a couple of first class saves.
Sutton aways looked threatening on the break however and got the goal we were hoping for with a tidy finish from Craig Watkins just after the hour. There could have been more for the hosts had the finishing had been a little better, but the boys in yellow were going to make us all sweat right up to the final whistle as Kettering continued to put the pressure on.
There were wonderful scenes of delight once the ref had blown for full time. This was a football match that meant so much to the fans and one in which the players showed bags of character. There wasn't the slightest chance that a certain friendly international afterwards was going to have anywhere near as much heart and soul as was on display here.

As M&S would say, FA cup success, priceless. And of course, with a good cup run,  it is all money in the bank.

Today saw my first love, Charlton, play (unlike Sutton) their first game in this years competition.
The ITV cameras rolled into Halifax hoping to see the conference north side take a major scalp, in the same way as Northwich Victoria did a couple of years ago, and give the baying mob of armchair supporters what they want.

Chris Powell's Charlton are a different side to that which fell before them and they left that particular version of the script at home.
Yes it was a tough game of football, it was never going to be anything else, but the addicks were professional about it and at no point looked nervous.

Matt Taylor's first goal for the club was a peach of a header before the interval and should have settled things down a little. Halifax were however unlucky not to go in level when they hit the top of bar just afterwards. This meant they were still feeling upbeat and came out for the second half looking very bright.
A couple more chances plus the introduction of a young lad, St Juste, on the left hand side and it was most definitely still game on.

With Euell and Hayes starting up front and neither looking like having the greatest of afternoons, it fell to skipper Johnnie Jackson to seal things for the Londoners. A neat little piece of footwork teamed with a low shot resulted in a deflation in the voices of the commentators. From that point on, you felt that ITV hated us more and more, almost like we'd gone back on some kind of unwritten agreement.
As Hollands and then Pritchard (after great work on the right from debutant Michael Smith) put away numbers three and four, the independent terrestrial channel of the year must have felt we were rubbing their noses in it. Shame.

I have tremendous amounts of respect for the supporters who got up at the crack of dawn to be there for a half twelve kick off, and also for the club laying on free transport. I'm proud of the players for a quality performance in front of all and sundry including those I'll see at work tomorrow, so i don't have to undergo a tirade of ribbing from smug armchair fans.
Andy Townsend however, and how i so wish he read this blog, i am neither proud of you or do i have respect for you. I speak for all of us addicks there I'm sure.

As for the second round draw, well for a moment i was getting a little worried. Balls 25, Charlton, and 26, Sutton, were both still in the hat and most had already been called. I could not imagine the two coming out together, not so much who to support but I imagined being in the covered end hearing the ones i love signing things about the ones i love. I may well have stayed away.

I need not have worried though. Sutton entertain Notts County once again, just as they did three years ago. This will be the third meeting between the two, and God willing, perhaps third time lucky. This could of course give ITV the opportunity to use some of that old Coventry footage again and bring their outside broadcast team to Surrey. I could yet get the chance to tell Mr Townsend of my feelings towards him.

Charlton got a much less glamourous tie at home to Carlisle. This is in all honesty the perfect tie from the clubs point of view, and may well set us up with a windfall third round gem in January. We shall see.

Next weekend it's back to league action and my first ever trip to Griffin Park. Excited doesn't even begin to describe it.
Come on you reds!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Five and two

Charlton five, Preston North End two. I doubt anyone correctly predicted this score before kick off, despite the fact we had scored ten in the previous three outings.
As long suffering Charlton fans, we are still pinching ourselves that we've already hit that magic safety points target of forty. And in the first week of November as well. Goals and points galore make blogging that little bit harder as we're so used to finding new ways of expressing our disappointment and frustration, yet very out of practice at complimenting and celebrating. Rest assured though that we shall all rise to the challenge all the time Chrissy Powell's red and white army keep marching on.

Twice recently we had seen the Addicks score four in a game but not in a single half, let alone the opening 38 minutes.
Captain Johnnie Jackson was first on the score sheet finding the back of the net latching on to the rebound after the Preston keeper had denied Danny Green following great work from the reds midfielder. This was a beautiful goal. Green took on all who came his way after picking the ball up in his own half before unleashing a powerful shot. Jackson's outstretched leg guided the ball around the last defender and the keeper with wonderful accuracy .

The second came from centre half (and fast becoming a firm favourite of mine) Michael Morrison. A corner came in high on the goal line which the keeper failed to claim. The ball fell to Bradley Wright-Phillips which he fired directly at a defender and Morrison was there to guide home the rebound for his first goal for the club.

Then we had a talking point. Jackson hit his second and Charlton's third from the spot after Yann Kermorgant was brought down by the keeper. A long ball was fired high up to him, his nearest defender slipped up and let the Frenchman through on goal. Out rushed the keeper who literally upended him!
Yes a sure fire penalty, and a booking at the very least. The ref however showed no card, only he knows why. Fortunately the way the result turned out, not too much should be made of this. I understand as a human, nobody's perfect. I love the fact we don't have goal line technology or whatever and we still allow room for human error. I'd be interested to hear the officials reasons for his decision for sure, but i do get wound up when the press and sometimes the clubs go on a witch hunt after these kind of events. I appreciate events can change games, seasons or even careers but it is sport at the end of the day and in my book that requires sporting gestures.

Wright-Phillips was next up to get his name on the score sheet. A floating free kick came in from the left which found a Charlton head, that in turn found the striker who had slipped behind two Preston defenders into loads of space to nod home.

Danny Hollands made it five halfway through the second half with a diving header from a  stunning run and cross from the impressive Rhoys Wiggins. 5-0 and this really is new territory, dreamland.

Preston did pull two back at the end, their second a very impressive goal that would, under different circumstances, have got a lot more plaudits.

With Huddersfield dropping two points at home to Walsall, it  meant the 17,000 Addicks at The Valley saw Charlton go five points clear at the top of the table as we go into the FA cup break. Not only are we now safe but we're looking good for promotion back to somewhere much nearer where we belong!

My choice evening of celebration was to join thousands of others at Brockham bonfire for their traditional fireworks spectacular. Myself and Heidi had promised to take friends children to the event by way of babysitting, these events are far more enjoyable with little people oohing and aahing whilst sat on your shoulders.

Remember the numbers five and two? Well, there were £50,000 worth of fireworks set off last night whilst the huge Guy (eight feet tall at a guess) was stuffed with £2000 worth of firecrackers.
Somewhere in the region of five hundred torch bearers light what is thought to be one of the biggest bonfires in the country, an amazing sight as they march up the road.
The heat off the fire was almost too much to bear at times and we hastily made a retreat. The fireworks were once again up to the standard you'd expect for that kind of layout, paid mainly by a list of sponsors.

With no entry fee, the village rely on donations and purchases at the official catering pitches to provide the money for the charity donations that the event is all about. Last year around £20,000 was raised and i doubt yesterday it would have been any less.

It's a wonderful traditional affair with most the residents of the village participating in the build up to the night over the previous weeks. Young men involved in the building of the bonfire are following in their fathers, and in some cases, grandfathers footsteps. It may be the countryside (a city boys little joke) but it's another little tradition and way of life that's ever so English. And that is worth saluting.

And as if i needed any further encouragement to go, one of the pubs on the green had a makeshift outside bar selling a lovely pint of London Pride and very hot mulled wine for the ladies!

So like i said before it's the FA cup first round next weekend. I'll be rushing out the door at church next Sunday to get home for the kick off at Halifax on ITV. I wish the travelling support the best of luck with the early start and praise the players and the board for putting their hands in their pockets to lay on some free coaches for the hardened away day traveller.

I also will get the chance to see some cup action first hand as I'll be at Gander Green Lane to see Sutton United host Kettering Town. Romantic football for sure! This is the FA cup and i love it.