I wouldn’t want to live in London, but I love to visit, so I was delighted when Heather got us tickets to see North Shields v Glossop North End in the final of the FA Vase on Saturday afternoon. It was Heather’s second trip to the new Wembley Stadium, but the first time for me, and we had organised a deal to stay in the Wembley Hilton which is immediately outside the ground. I love travelling by train, I can sit for ages looking out of the window at the swift but constantly changing vignettes of everyday life; people in their back yards drinking coffee, collies rounding up sheep, golfers in checked pants teeing off, children on their way to school. The three of us arrived at King’s Cross dead on time at 10am. When I say ‘three,’ I mean Heather, me, and Heather’s wardrobe. However brief our trip, however much walking we have to do between stations, and however little we need to take with us, Heather insists in taking that bloody wardrobe everywhere, and I mean, everywhere. I pointed out to her beforehand that at no time during our stay did we have to dress up, so we only needed to take what we were wearing, a change of top, and clean underwear, all of which would fit comfortably into my small pink holdall. But no, my protestations were all in vain, this damn great suitcase on wheels had to come too. One advantage, I suppose, is that when the crowds see Heather bearing down on them, they part like the waves to allow us through, a phenomena also to be witnessed when my mother self-propels her wheelchair. I acquiesce to its presence (the wardrobe) on the understanding that I have nothing to do with this cumbersome creation, which could have accommodated the football kit and dress suits of the North Shields and Glossop teams put together.
The Wembley Hilton was nice, and we were excited to be staying there, but the only advantage over the Premier Inn (where we normally stay) is that it has a pool. We were booked into a double room, bed and breakfast, paid for in advance. On Sunday morning we turned up for our full English to be told; “You only booked for one breakfast.” Er, no. A little bit of a ‘discussion’ ensued, as we pointed out their mistake, and when we were further challenged, we asked them to explain the logic of why two of us would book in for bed and breakfast for Friday/Saturday, but then for only one of us to have breakfast on Sunday morning. All of this took place in front of other guests, forks poised in mid-air over their bacon and eggs to see us trying to pull a fast one. We ordered Saturday papers, but we told the receptionist that we didn’t want any on Sunday, because we get them downloaded onto tablet devices. Nevertheless they were delivered, and they tried to charge us for them. Not massive gripes really, but I think I prefer the Premier Inn, and I certainly take an exception to my honesty being questioned. We were joined by nearly 10,000 other fans inside Wembley Stadium, for a glorious afternoon of Roy of the Rovers football, which went into extra time before the Robbins eventually lifted the cup. We aren’t strictly Robins fans, just a couple of Gateshead supporters who wanted to see a Geordie team do well and be there to support them. North Shields FC John Gibson, the Chronicle football correspondent checked out of the Hilton at the same time as us. We read his report on Monday. Possibly only Andy Gray and Richard Keys would fail to see anything wrong with this sentence.What a load of twaddle. Anyway, not realising we were supposed to behave strictly according to gender, or that we should be towing along behind a couple of men – we didn’t cry. I just stood and cheered while my own woman folk danced to Rockin’ All Over the World, as you do, when you’re happy and far away from home. You let your hair down, psychologically uninhibited because there’s no one there you know, apart from people you’ve only just met and whom you hope never to set sight upon again. That’s how we saw it anyway, as we perfected our moves and grooves and hugged perfect strangers, contentedly oblivious to the BT Sports camera trained upon our joyful souls.
I was at Wembley legitimately (as in legitimate time off work) but it reminds me of a few years ago when Newcastle United got to the FA Cup final. I think I’ve seen this anecdote done as a comedy sketch at some point, but this did actually happen. In fact I suspect it happens a lot. A chap on my shift asked for the Saturday off work because he had tickets for the game. Because the shift was already at minimum strength for that day, time off was refused, so he just called in sick. On his return, our supervisor said to this lad (I will call him Stephen) that he wanted to see him in the office on a disciplinary matter, i.e. the supervisor didn’t believe he had been genuinely ill. As was common practice in these circumstances, Stephen wanted a witness to sit in on the interview with him, so he asked me. Once inside the office, our superior suggested to Stephen that it was a remarkable coincidence that he had taken sick leave on cup final day, the very day he had asked to have off. Stephen puffed out his chest, denied it, and said that he would not be spoken to in such a manner, and he was taking it further. He followed this up with, “You’re always singling me out you t***, I’m going to the union.” And then a video cassette was produced …….. Look carefully, and you will see us at the end of the clip having a dance!!