“A day at the cricket is a day at the cricket,” Said Nicktor, “And not a day at the cricket and a beer festival!”
Our morning officially started with breakfast prepared with great gusto by Steve however, I need to rewind a bit in order to explain Sleesy’s Predator skills. According to Nicktor, Sleesy has the alien ability to blend in with any of his surroundings in order to beat him into the bathroom. It is this innate Yautja talent which saw Nicktor heading back to the bedroom when he was sure he had the bathroom following Frank.
According to Nicktor, he heard me have my shower but that was way too early for him then Frank eventually heaved his well rested self into the bathroom. At some point Nicktor looked towards the bathroom door and the corridor was completely empty. The water in the shower had turned off so he returned to his room to gather his various bits and bobs.
He heard Frank open the door and he headed out only to find that Sleesy had taken the room before him. He was somewhat miffed, particularly given there’d been absolutely no sign of Sleesy. This was because he had blended into the wall…or so Sleesy claimed.
As for me, I just went downstairs when I heard movement and had a coffee with Frances while she told Colin what to do. He really is quite useless in the kitchen (and possibly the garden) and it’s fun listening to his protestations around the dishwasher when Frances asks him why he hadn’t bothered turning it on last night even though it was full. And he’d filled it.
He managed to escape too much more instruction when he went to pick up Steve and Yorkshire Pete (that’s as opposed to Huddersfield Pete who I’ve known for years). It is Steve who cooks the breakfast for us all while Pete tells us funny stories about life in the north.
While I don’t normally have breakfast, I thought it wise to have something given the next thing I’d consume would probably be beer followed by a bit more beer. I had a plate of bacon and eggs while the others tucked into eggs, bacon, mushrooms, sausages, tomatoes, hash browns, baked beans, toast and orange juice. I was full just watching them. It also made me slightly ill. Watching, I mean.
It wasn’t long before we were up and in the car, heading for the station for the first leg of our long journey to the cricket. The journey was made even longer when Nicktor became the group’s official Pensions Adviser. Frank started complaining almost immediately because he’d heard it all in the car. I told him he had nothing to complain about because I’d been hearing about it for years.
As usual, we picked up more people on the journey as we switched trains at Huddersfield then Leeds until we were 17. We were eventually 18 but we’d accidentally lost Yorkshire Pete at Huddersfield station. The whole operation (apart from the loss of one of our party) went very smoothly and I thought Colin’s leadership skills were proving to be excellent. This opinion changed much later in the day when Nicktor christened him Napoleon for reasons which will become clear.
The group fractured a bit at this stage and we made for the bar then our seats. Having finally reached them we sat on them and took our first sips of beer while the first over was being bowled.
I guess I should get the cricket stuff out of the way before I go too much further. The game was surprisingly slow. England has been totally on top of the Windies since the tour began and today was expected to be yet another thrashing of that once great (and exciting) cricketing nation.
However, the Windies surprised us all by actually playing well and bowling England out over the day. (Root, surprisingly chose to bat first.) This was despite dropping a few catches. One in particular that even Frank could have caught and allowed Stokes to make his century.
While it was a fun day and test cricket is always good for a boys day out, the most exciting event of the day was when the sight screen failed to turn over at our end. A man appeared to try and turn it manually but it refused to budge. The players sat about, littering the field and chatting to the umpire while this man wandered around scratching his head. Eventually he was replaced by a man with a screwdriver.
This did the trick. A few confident turns, a reassuring pat and the handle turned easily. He received a resounding cheer from the crowd, particularly the oddly dressed inhabitants of the western stand.
Actually I thought the fancy dress was a bit lacking this year though this could be because Colin bought tickets in the Trueman Enclosure which is on the other side of the ground. While the Mexicans were there in force and quite a few cavemen, I only saw one Batman and Robin and the Trump impersonators were distinctly unimpressive.
Though the ‘woman’ at the pub after the match drew some amazed appreciation for remaining completely dressed up for the entire day. (Which reminds me; there seemed to be a lot of pregnant women at the cricket this year. Again, that could be because of the stand we were in, I suppose.)
The one thing that the Western Stand did achieve this year was a very impressive beer snake. There are signs everywhere telling people that they can’t make beer glass towers but there’s nothing about snakes and they outdid themselves. Up went the chant “Feed the snake! Feed the snake!” and so it grew.
That’s a lot of plastic pint glasses. At the end, having achieved the maximum length, they all threw them up in the air, along with explosion-like sounds, signifying the end of the snake. It was very entertaining for a short while. Though not as entertaining as the chanting in our stand.
Nicktor decided it would be great fun to get hundreds of people to chant ‘Oooo it’s a boundary!” when one was scored. The idea was to get them organised before I came back from getting a coffee. This way I’d be suitably astounded. While the chant did eventually reach double figures it didn’t quite reach the heights that would have successfully completed Nicktor’s life ambition. It also fell a bit short of ‘astounding’ me. I wasn’t even slightly surprised, I simply joined in.
One the best things about travelling up north every year is the wonderful opportunity to listen to the Yorkshire accent. The people are more than happy to talk about anything and a lot of their tales and anecdotes are nothing short of delightful.
Frank was brought up in Yorkshire though his accent has been watered down by the corrosive effect of spending too much time down south, however, it didn’t take long for it to get very broad. I had the pleasure to be sitting next to him and Yorkshire Pete while they were swapping stories of people they both knew from the small town that Frank grew up in when Frank told the following story.
Because it was on the seaside, Frank’s home town was the frequent destination for the more landlocked people. They would travel down for the weekend, queue up for the pub and invade the chippie. There was no mention of cloth caps but I reckon there were probably a few of them as well. Anyway, Frank and his mates called these visitors ‘Comforts and Twirlies.’
I’ll try to explain why but it works a lot better when the story is related in a thick Yorkshire accent (or thickened, in Frank’s case). The thing is, these people would come down on the weekend which, of course is ‘Come for t’weekend’ and they were frequently waiting for the doors to the pub to open because they’d ‘come too early.’ According to Frank, a very inventive friend of his then invented the term by declaring “Here comes the Comfort and Twirlies!”
It loses a lot when written down but I can hear it with Frank’s telling of the story. It’s up there with the Schumanian origin story if you ask me.
And so the day passed in such a delightful and entertaining manner with conversation, chanting and a bit of cricket. As usual a perfect way to spend a day. But, like all things, it was all too soon time to leave. Mind you, quite a few people thought the time to leave was a good 15 minutes before the rest of us, leaving gaping holes in the stands around the ground. I’ve never understood that but I guess it makes it slightly easier for the rest of us if some have already gone on ahead.
And this is where we discovered the dark side of Colin’s leadership style. While the premise of ‘Leave no man behind’ may be well known and highly laudable, the ‘Leave ALL men behind’ credo of Colin or Napoleon as we shall now call him, is perhaps not so well known.
As an example…we were stood at the entrance to the stand, gathering everyone together and Napoleon just took off. No-one knew the plan, except maybe a select few who happened to be standing near him. It put a few of us in something of a quandary. Do we follow our leader or do we wait for the stragglers, some of whom were in the loo. Nicktor chased after Napoleon while Frank and I waited.
Finally we’d gathered enough people together and started for the pub. There were times that a few random members of our merry troupe wandered down the wrong streets but, eventually we all ended up at the Skyrack.
The reason for going to the Skyrack was in order to have a pint while we waited for the crowds die down a bit. Unfortunately about 20,000 fellow cricket fans had the same idea and the Skyrack was a bit crowded.
Still, we managed to find a corner and Huddersfield Pete went in to buy beer. This is a good time to point out that rather than having an 18 man kitty, the group naturally formed into smaller kitty teams. Ours consisted of Nicktor, Frank, Huddersfield Pete and me. It’s a lot easier buying four pints and less chance of being held up by bushrangers with eyes only for the massive stash of cash bearing all the hallmarks of the miner’s weekly pay than beer money. Also, as Mirinda pointed out, my days of 18 pints are somewhere behind me these days.
So, Pete went off to the bar. A short while later, Sleesy came over and said he refused to queue at the bar and started marching off to the Original, the pub over the road. Napoleon, rather than organise everyone, just followed and was subsequently followed by a few others. Of course we were waiting for Pete to return with our beers.
And so, at this point, the group was splintered. And so it remained until we all met up on the same train at Leeds central station boarding the train back to Huddersfield. It was pure accident though Napoleon claimed it was all part of his leadership plan that we wound up together regardless of how many modes of transport were used. It all felt a bit haphazard if you ask me but, even so, it worked and we crowded onto the train.
We then heard an announcement that would send a chill down any traveller’s spine. It went a little something like this:
“A goods train has broken down ahead of us so we won’t be moving in the foreseeable future.”
A lot of people were asking if that meant ten minutes, an hour, three days, or what. ‘Not in the foreseeable future’, is a pretty scary estimation. Something else that was asked was what a goods train was doing travelling between Leeds and Huddersfield at around 8pm on a Friday night anyway.
Fortunately, ‘unforeseeable future’ turned out to be about 15 minutes and we were soon deposited on Huddersfield station and wandered into the Head of Steam for a beer…because we hadn’t had enough.
At this point, Nicktor and I had had just about enough beer and just wanted to go back to the house but Colin had other plans because it was his unofficial stag night and he wanted to go to the beer festival that was being held at the Nook in Holmfirth. He also wanted a curry. We were all obliged to follow except for the lucky ones who left us at Huddersfield because they had homes to go to.
And so we clambered into a couple of taxis and were left at the Nook, a lovely little pub hidden down a couple of tiny lanes and thrusting with crowds and kegs of craft ales. Normally this would have been delightful but, frankly, it was all a bit wasted on me and Nicktor.
It was then announced that we were going for a curry. What Colin had neglected to tell anyone was that it was the worst curry house in the world. According to Frank and Nicktor it was awful, they had nothing good to say about it. I wouldn’t know because I sat outside, taking the air and chatting with Carl, my new northern chum. Eventually I went inside when I realised they’d been gone too long to be waiting for a takeaway.
It all went a bit fractured when Colin, heading back to the Nook, handed us his house keys and Steve went off with a couple he claimed to know.
A little over ten minutes later, we were in bed and, for me at least, fast asleep. It was quite a day.
From end to end that was Huddersfield Pete, Simon, Colin, Nicktor, Yorkshire Pete, Sleesy, Colin’s son and step son and, finally, Steve. We were in the Head of Steam.