Saturday 14th October 2017: Alvechurch FC v Chasetown FC
Stephen King seems to be everywhere at the moment, with two films on the big screen and a new novel – Sleeping Beauties – which has made its way onto my Kindle. King’s imagery is so powerful that I completely lose myself in his worlds. Now when I am on a long bus or train journey this isn’t so bad – for why would I want to be sitting amongst irritable commuters? However today I found it rather difficult to switch back from the book into reality…
I had spent the morning with a few of my Blackpool friends (ahead of their match at Walsall) in our favourite Birmingham haunt, The Wellington. No beer for me, of course, as I was on match duty today, but we always get a warm welcome here, even if the locals can be somewhat eccentric (keep reading, folks).
After an hour listening on with interest about recent events at Blackpool FC – whilst feeling strangely detached from proceedings, since for one thing I don’t know who any of the players are any more – I got up to take my leave.
“I hope you win today.”
“Yes, er, I hope you win too.”
“Oh, it’s ‘you’ not ‘we’ now, is it…?”
(cue hasty retreat towards the door)
Now this is where Stephen King comes into play. I boarded the train to Alvechurch and immersed myself in my book…
…and arrived in seemingly no time, Alvechurch station creeping up on me and taking me quite by surprise, meaning that I was not entirely back in the real world at this point (nor, I think, for the duration…).
I had studied the map of the route from the station to Lye Meadow, home of Alvechurch FC – and was confident that I could find my way there without further reference to the map. This meant that I could give my full attention to my surroundings and any landmarks that might come in useful for my return journey.
There were few footpaths along the route – and I soon found myself walking in the middle of a narrow, deserted road in complete silence. I couldn’t remember which side of the road was the ‘safe side’ to walk on – but it became apparent that it was not the left hand side, as I slowly became aware of a humming – becoming gradually but menacingly louder – emanating from the shrubbery. I envisioned nests of angry, dying, crazed, wasps preparing to burst forth and form a ferocious cloud around me. I quickened my pace and was pleased this part of the walk was downhill.
I finally emerged onto a main road. This walk was only meant to take 17 minutes but surely it was long than that already? Had I taken a wrong turning after all? A quick check confirmed I had not veered off course.
On the approach to the ground I observed an aged camper van and caravan and wondered what stories they could tell. Indeed, were there any people in this village at all? I certainly hadn’t encountered many (any?) people on my walk. Had the killer wasps devoured them all…?
I have mentioned previously that I am always on the lookout for Non League Dogs at matches. Alas the only one I happened across here was immortalised in a plaque ‘In Memory of Gentle Ben 1993-1996’.
The horror theme spilled onto the pitch. Alvechurch’s yellow shirts sported vertical blood-red lines, pooling into the club crest at the rear. As Chase were 1-0 up, the words ‘bloodied and beaten? bloodied and beaten?’ coursed around my head.
There could be no doubt that today I was lost in between two worlds – and it was going to take something drastic to bring me crashing back to reality.
And then I saw it. The sign over the door to the clubhouse:
‘Alvechurch football club’
No capital ‘F’, no capital ‘C’.
Snap! That was it. I was back in the real world and I was not happy. We went from 1-0 up to losing 2-1 with a last minute goal conceded. Snap! Bang! Back to reality.
On the walk back to the station, a woman asked:
“Can you see my underskirt?”
She was walking alongside me but on a slightly higher level. I was surprised, of course, but was just about to answer, when I heard a male voice from behind:
“No, I can’t see it.”
“It’s much smoother, isn’t it?”
“Not as smooth as you, my dear.”
Or, indeed, as you, Sir.
Back in the Welly, I figured I could now relax and enjoy an uneventful evening, accompanied by good friends and Titanic Chocolate & Vanilla Stout (mmm).
As if this was going to happen! As I climbed the stairs to make use of the excellent facilities, at the halfway point a man leapt onto the landing in front of me and ROARED in my face.
Was today really happening?
He dissolved into a fit of giggles and apologised: “Sorry, I’ve just always wanted to do that.” Bemused, I continued up the stairs, stopping to fuss the pubcat, Welly, who was perched at the top, seemingly perfectly ok with all of this.
As I relayed this story to a friend, I was described as ‘mad as a box of frogs’. At the time I felt this was perhaps a little harsh (the idea of leaping out and roaring at a random stranger has honestly never crossed my mind) but, having recounted the full details of my adventures above, I concede he may have had a point…