Or: A day of Cricket by text message, Stewards 21 and 9. plus old boys going for a run in the park.
The team for today consisted of myself, Peter, Geoff, Andy, Phil the Lion, Denis Law and the Random Tim. Most of the others were in the earlier party headed to Lords. The train from Severn Beach was on time as was the 9.18 connection at B.T.M. We had the company of a fair number of very familiar faces from Tote End days of the 70s. There wasn’t a chance for long conversation as the talking space was occupied by the louder members of the hosting Good Old Boys. The Lion and I rattled off the Telegraph Crossword and the I newspaper quiz. Gloucestershire had lost the toss and were fielding and then shock and horror, news came through that Klinger was out third ball.
The first task was to sidle out the side of the station to avoid being a member of a corralled Good Old Boy crew. The target was to meet in Mutley Plain but in reality it was an easier evasion than anticipated and we arrived before 12 at the first pub.
There were eight Real Ales in this gloriously traditionally styled wood-clad bar. Between the now six of us we managed, somewhat unusually, to sample all of the beers over two pints. The Firebrand Cross Pacific Pale Ale set a high standard for the day.
The chaps wanted some food. You probably know my thoughts on that particular sin of pub crawling so I might as well do two evils in one and watch them eat in the nearby Wetherspoons. For the first, and hopefully only, time this year, we moved on to:
The Orkney Scapa Flow was in excellent condition and Wetherspoons cheap. Their happy meals were downed and we settled towards the rear of the pub for a culture break.
At the northern end of Mutley Plain, isolated within a mini road system is the grand Hyde Park microbrewery. That brewery sources two well named home brews and Dartmoor Ales push the selections up to six on the day. We acknowledged fellow Gashead beer searchers with knowing nods and retired to the outside area. The pub has curious breweriana. Watney’s Red Barrel and Double Diamond fittings plus multiple brass plates from many different London Breweries on the walls helped to create a cosy, dimly lit, carefully crafted old fashioned pub.
It is a 20 minute uphill walk to the ground. We operated the original thought of follow the man in the Green and White Jersey. Thank goodness he wasn’t going to a mate’s house to watch the Irish Rugby team
Plymouth 1 Bristol Rovers 1 Attendance 10,633 (1587 Gas)
The reunion theme of this game continue when a young, newly qualified teacher and her brother came up to me with the rather accusatory statement of “you were the loud man who used to sit behind us in the stand.” It had been a while but these young people had grown up from children enjoying first games to continue their Gashead connections. We chatted in the queue for a good ten minutes and I encouraged her to stick with her teaching career; not that she had any intention of giving up anyway.
My heckles were raised when I took my usual choice of food to the allocated seat. Two crimes had been committed in the “offences against the Stedders Code of Football service”. The promised curry pie turned out to be a meat and potato version. Then the pastie was of a “Cheese and Onion” variety. That should not be allowed to happen in any descriptive sense. I know we were in Devon and not Cornwall but please! Under the rule of first bite counts most, to expect a combination of meat and potato and get a shock of bland cheese and onion is not good. Marks will be very low as a consequence. (2 awarded)
My other bugbear is the punishment that the regular away fan receives when games are made all ticket. I will generally be one of the earliest to trek to the club and buy my ticket. Invariably this will guarantee me the worst seat in the away end, perhaps in the front row and behind the net and post. If seats were allocated as sit where you like, first come first served on the day, then people would naturally sort themselves into those who like to sit in the front, i.e. young families and people with health issues and those who want to be with their mates, shouting and singing at the back. In general I want to be as high as possible in the stand, to get some idea of what is going on at both ends of the ground. Today I was in row three, down among the Rovers ex director and his cronies and well away from my drinking chums… The policy of sitting in allocated seats could not work. This was especially true when the stewards decided to clear the back row and offer no advice as to where to sit when places were taken further back. Extra space was apparently opened up as dividing netting was pushed sideways but inevitably the frustration boiled over with some steward / fan baiting. I emphasise the fan baiting as a major factor. One or two yellow jackets from South West Security had no place in a group of employees charged with spectator safety. They are photographed here as stewards 21 and 9. The former was eventually moved to another section of the ground. That will have spoiled his afternoon of macho bear baiting.
It was a very good game. End to end stuff. One nil down with five minutes to go, an equalising penalty and two more chances to have nicked the win.
Gloucestershire 220 all out. Not enough, we thought, Surrey cruising to victory. 5 wickets down, 80 to get.
Entertainment Value 4
Man of the Match: Tom Lockyer again. I am starting to worry about my appreciation of this man’s talents.
Away Fans: Generally good humoured, loud and appreciative. A potential problem was averted by some sensible self-policing by the Good Old Boys.
Then came a comedy half hour. We were directed, along with the now happy ex Tote Enders, through the park. In most years this will involve a stroll, chatting to the police men who act as casual escorts. Often these police might be Welsh or from Hampshire, but today they appeared to be Devon and Cornwall’s own. Across the park stood a group of Plymouth youngsters giving it large. The Old Boys looked and laughed, looked again and nodded to each other. They asked of each other, “Shall we?” “Come on then”, they said, giggling at the thought. What followed was probably the slowest ever game of tag across a park in park chasing history. Fifty or so old boys, probably, to a man, disregarding their warfarin and statin induced medical conditions, waddled towards the now bemused group of youngsters. They in turn were chased, no pursued at walking pace, by the police reserves probably drafted from desk duty in a rural beat. Eventually the groups met. Old Boys took out inhalers and called for relief oxygen. The Plymouth chaps ran to the open arms of their local plod. (Never has that word been more appropriate) Two loose kettles were eventually formed as groups were diverted behind hedges as if to take them “off ground”. Along our saunter to town a running Janner was upended by a youngster in a wheelchair and apprehended by a gleeful chasing W.P.C. He won’t be telling his mates about that one in the pub later. Eventually we arrived at the station and observed the police dispersing the respective kettles with cheery, “see you next week” smiles to the Janners and “here is your train” to the Gasheads. We took a taxi to:-
Thistle Park Tavern
Rugby and Football on the TV. No Cricket, Grrr! No Wi-Fi connection and no 4G signal either. We had good beer but total frustration. Our only contact was by Geoff’s text alerts that rang out whenever a wicket fell at Lords. Less than 20 were needed, four wickets in hand, a run a ball stroll. We settled to good consolatory pints. The Thistle Park, in truth is not wearing well. The beer is good but the pub has a scruffy air of tiredness. Then Geoff’s phone started pinging, one, and then news. Eight runs needed 3 wickets standing. Ping, Ping, Ping and Gloucestershire had pulled off the impossible, AGAIN. This back street pub had its own chants of “Gloucestershire La. La. La.” and we moved on with smiles on our membership proud faces.
Along the road is this genuine local’s bar. It only has room only for 20 or so people. This corner street pub had an excellent pint of St Austell Cornish. We settled underneath the TV spilling out a Japanese shock result. I was accused of having an inappropriate South African accent. This was a bit rich as the complainant was a Yorkshireman playing a “this is my pub” card. It was so good and I was in belligerent happy mode so we tackled a second pint and then caught our now essential taxi back to the station.
The train home proved to be another chance to witness the Good Old Boys on tour. One carriage was claimed as their new found social club. A random Bristol Landlord joined us with a bottle of Gin but no tonic. We tried to get news from friends at Lords but no sense would be coming from them for hours. We were at the wrong party but that is how it goes when you commit to watching your team away from home.
Pub of the Day: Fortescue.
Beer of the Day: St Austell Cornish Ale in the Fareham Arms.
Next up Portsmouth at home