May 2013 Report
Met on Thursday with Hoc at the Athens airport round 6:30pm, few fags outside and waited in a very long queue. Plane was surprisingly not full, another sign of the crisis I guess, so at one point I moved next to Hoc for a chat about club matters and the trip’s schedule. Back to my seat I had to listen one more to the ungrateful Greek slag moaning about the destination – her only excuse, I suppose, was that her final destination was Cardiff… Had to contain myself from laughter by listening to the wanker next to her trying to chat her up by relating stories about the Greek Special Forces…
Landed on time at 10:35pm and the rush was on for getting to the hotel in time: now, the place was suppose to close the check in desk at midnight and it would be very touch and go for us as the last thing we needed was to be stranded out in the cold, and it was fuckin’ cold those days for that time of year, in the deepest of the East End. After passing all them checks we finally made it to the airport’s train ticket office round 11. It was at that time when I made the call to the hotel to tell them we were on our way and ask if they could wait for us. Problem was nobody was answering the phone. As very precious minutes were going by I made another attempt with the same outcome. By that time, round 11:15pm, I realised we’d never made it remotely close to midnight, and I certainly couldn’t ask them to wait for us past 12:30am.
That in a way was a relief as we could relax and move to the by now familiar airport seats on the upper level of the airport, along with the other unfortunate souls waiting for the crack of dawn. After settling in I made another call to the hotel on which I told them our flight was late and we’d stay in the airport and check in Friday morning. The airport had changed the setting of those seats, they can’t be moved anymore, as people moved them to make makeswift beds and they had also put armrests between each seat so again people could not lie on three chairs to sleep. Obviously there was some tension at one point about some people’s attitude that made the airport change their policy in the particular area.
It was an eventful night really, we dozed off in swifts me and Hoc, starting just before midnight with a black tramp looking man starting shouting preachings which resulted in one of the security men to turn up. He just had a look, and thankfully the black man went down the stairs and moved away as in a few minutes two heavily armed airport guards turned up. Their fuckin’ huge guns were pointing to the floor but their presence certainly made the pulse run a little faster.
Round 3am another [CENSORED] started shouting, which resulted in a mature gentleman from our section to inform him that he’d kick his fuckin’ head in! That worked a treat, got to say as silence came back. I’m referring to these two little incidents to show that somehow aggression’s coming back in England and it’ll be very interesting to see what the effect will be on the football next season…
Round 6 in the morning we started getting our act together, ate Marks & Spencer sandwiches and moved to the train ticket office again. There we were told that the particular tickets we wanted were only issued at 9:30, so it was back to the Costa Coffee joint for some French and then a bit outside for some fags and the first pics. The texts to our lot in Essex started going, as some of the younger element don’t go every game anymore and we just wanted to make sure we’d catch up with them in the pubs at least.
Finally got one of the southern trains to Victoria and then to Oxford Circus for the first bit of shopping and in order to spend the time up till 12 when the hotel check in opened. As I was travelling suited and booted for an event I had to attend I got the opportunity to buy some great Reebok trainers from the Oxford Street Sports World, as I wouldn’t fancy walking all days with the London Base formal shoes I travelled with. Back to the Oxford Circus station, where I’d left Hoc to smoke some more and finally off to Upton Park.
Got to the station round 11:30 and turned left for the Tesco Express store for some much needed provisions. Then went towards the ground, passed it and after a bit arrived in the hotel. Very friendly landlady and quite impressed with both the room and the facilities. Proper old school….
Left round 1, train to Upton Park and then changed to the Jubilee line to Southwark. Walked towards the Globe theatre eating some Cornish Pasties and ended up in the famous Anchor pub by the river where I left Hoc to do his drinking while I slipped in the Globe for an absolutely amazing afternoon performance of King Lear. Went back to the pub by 5 where Hoc was and minutes later our great friend The Collector turned up to meet us. Had one round there, fuckin’ expensive at £4.20 a pint, but I was in [CENSORED] a great mood after the play so it was cool.
Our friend was a bit pissed off with the prices though so we moved to another pub just after Borough market. Now this is Millwall land and I got to say the sight of the market, hadn’t been there for fuckin’ ages, got me having second thoughts about the pub as Hoc had a West Ham jacket on. We went in regardless and the pub was almost full but with after work drinkers mainly. Great chat about many subjects as usual, and round 7 we parted with our mate arranging to meet again after the game on Sunday.
Left Hoc in the Anchor again and off I went in the Globe again for a much acclaimed production of the The Tempest. Certain aspects were definitely impressive but I thought it could be better, or it was maybe the tiredness that was bringing me down as the airport stay wasn’t any proper sleep that’s for sure. Met Hoc, got the 344 bus to Liverpool Street, Central Line to Mile End, jumping on the District Line there and off to Upton Park. Small walk to the hotel and one final pint, just making the last round, in the bar before some very much needed rest.
Saturday kicked off with an 8am breakfast in the hotel, really good. Walk to the tube station passing Upton Park. Stopped at the main gates fuckin’ disgusted and scratched some fuckin’ stickers modern fans have covered the pillars with. I know they want to pay their respect and all but one day they’ll get their heads kicked in if certain people spot them. Also interesting to note that I asked in half a dozen corner shop for a European Phone Card and none of the “new residents” had any…
Took the train to Holborn and from there to Covent Garden. First port of call the Fred Perry shop, then to the Transport Museum bit disappointing this as this year is the London Underground’s 150th birthday and they could have some decent memorabilia, maybe they save them for the autumn. Next stop was the famous open market on the south side of the square, then the middle bit with the Nauticallia shop and lastly the new Ben Sherman shop on the other side of the station.
Jumped on the tube again, back to Holborn and changed to the Central Line and off to Tottenham Court Road for the beginning of the Oxford Street shopping odyssey. Sports World, M&S, HMV, and the sadly closing down Soccer Scene. Turned left at the Oxford Circus station for Carnaby Street, classic visits to the Ben Sherman and Soccer Scene stores there. Cut left again to Regent Street and on the way up visited Clarke’s and left again for the west side of Oxford Circus for the usual visits to the big 3(John Lewis, House of Fraser and Debenhams). At Bond Street station we made another left for the Old Bond Street as I was after a particular John Smedley knitwear, the colour of which they unfortunately didn’t have. No great harm done, though, as I got it from their site when I came back in Athens.
Carried on down the old street towards Piccadilly we stopped to the ancient Charbonnel & Walker chocolate shop for some strawberry truffles and then to Fortnum & Mason. Last port of call another very very old place – the Benson & Clegg shop in the Piccadilly Arcade, from where some really nice cufflinks were acquired. Loved the receipt, got to say…
As by now Hoc was getting close to crossing the line with all this walking we went down the train station and got the Jubilee train to Stratford. When we stopped at Bermondsey, Millwall’s main stronghold, the platform of which 99% of the times I pass is totally empty. As I was saying exactly that to Hoc, though, we saw a mob of the Millwall firm who were in one of the carriages of our train to walk past us towards the stairs. Big fuckin’ 40 something cunts, who if they’d seen our West Ham jackets would probably made a move. I just couldn’t believe it: their fuckin’ season was over for at least a week and logically they should all be on their caravan holidays or something. Lucky escape anyway…
Got to our favourite place in the world, Stratford, visit to Sainsbury’s for some additional provisions, and the Blue Inc clothes store and walked east to the Maryland corner for some Fish & Chips. The place was unfortunately closed so it was a walk in the opposite direction and a Beckton bus from the Broadway towards Plaistow. We jumped off the bus at the old Greengate junction and in front of us was an old Pie & Mash shop on Barking Road, close to the naughty pubs. As we hadn’t been there, of course we entered and ordered the most classic East End dish. The owner, cockney West Ham supporter of course, started a chat when he saw our West Ham jackets but more so when he heard our non-English accents. Lovely fella, spoke about his holidays in Greece with his mum and his love affair with the feta cheese!!! Definetely gonna be a regular there, as we have made the area our permanent base after some [CENSORED] in the last decent Stratford hotel that took place this June (see next trip report, in a week or so). Of course our new friend said he’d probably move when the team moves in 2016 – WELL DONE WANKERS & SLAG!!!
Back to the hotel by 4 in the afternoon and some calls home and to the bird. Left the hotel round 6, all dressed and booted up, including a Ben Sherman thin tie, for the Geiguld Theatre. Changed from the District to the Central Line at Mile End and at Holborn to the Piccadilly Line and went out at Piccadilly Circus at 7. Was a bit anxious to get there with some time to spare, as I had to collect my ticket from the Ticket Office, but I still got time to briefly pop in the Barbour shop on the other side of the square. Got to say it’s a good place, but maybe they’d try to make it to look less than a mess inside, although I do concur it’s the clients who keep it in that state.
Got my ticket to this great old theatre, where I’ve been ten years ago to watch Judy Dench playing the Queen at Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. This time I watched another legendary Lady of the English stage, Helen Mirren, playing the present Queen for the play “The Audience”. This was the absolute highlight of the London Season and even the highest expectations were surpassed. Everything was just perfect, even the last minute drilling in our section which was followed by clapping of the audience!!
Left the theatre round 10 and texted Hoc to meet in the East End for some pints. Funnily enough he failed to text back to this one and to the next which I sent from Stratford. I began getting worried as he had the room keys, but I still went to Edward VII for a clam down pint. Got myself in a funny situation there as I was dressed completely different from the rest of the lot there. On my right was a funny looking geezer drinking who was approached at one point by a junkie looking long haired / bearded [CENSORED] who I’d seen sitting at some stairs outside. Now the one who just came in went straight for the one drinking shouting at him about stealing his bird from him and what he’d do to him and what he was. That was fuckin’ funny as these types usually are all mouth. Things got even more interesting when the slag in question appeared from the inside of the bar, telling them to stop!
Junky one fucked off from the other door towards the Saloon, but that wasn’t the end of it. Another bird, not too bad looking came to my right from another part of the pub, therefore oblivious to what had happened, and waited at the bar for her drinks. At this particular point the junky [CENSORED] come in again and goes once more for the geezer drinking saying he’s a [CENSORED] blah blah blah. So now, it’s me, the bird and the two cunts arguing all next to each other so I took the chance to chat her up and changed sides with her just in case it kicked off. Of course it never did, as the drinker wasn’t up to much either. After finishing the pint swiftly I went out and on the way to the next pub I rang Hoc, again no answer, but soon got a text he was at the hotel. Had a bit of a go at him but still went for another pint in the most classic East End pub of the square, The Princess of Wales. Top crowd as usual, Karaoke’s highlight the old local favourite “Sweet Caroline”. Even got chatted up by the landlady “been somewhere nice?”, cause of the dress choice.
Jumped on the bus to the hotel, where I had one last pint and another chat by the chubby barwoman. Also, as it was the eve of the game, I noticed five German hammer fans with a bird who apparently stayed over in the same place. The day ended in a hurtful way as in my drunken state I closed the door on one of my fingers which hurt like fuck, got the old inside the nail bleed, but thankfully it wasn’t broken or fractured. Something like that would definitely fucked the rest of the trip up.
Sunday, football day, began with early breakfast at 8 where we saw one of the Germans with his son and around 9 we set off for the ground and the club shop. Unfortunately it was to open a bit later so we popped in the Green Street Café for sandwiches, as the drinking day was expected long! Came across some Italians there, but didn’t speak to them either, unsociable [CENSORED] s that we are! By 10 we were getting bored as the club shop was opening at 11, so we took the short walk back to the hotel.
Left the hotel at 11 for the club shop and on the way we came across the German and his boy, who were going to the shop themselves. After a spot of shopping we went back to the hotel to leave the gear and get the football things, namely the club’s flag and some gifts for our mates.
So it was another pub crawl beginning, starting at the Boleyn’s Green Street bar for a couple of pints. Most of the regulars in there and next to us was a family who were Reading, although they weren’t wearing any insignia, maybe apart from dad’s blue tie. Fuckin’ corporate types, the mother was reading an article on the pillar next to us about an encounter one of our black players of the 80’s had with certain members of the I.C.F. in the 90s and the promise they made him “you took care of us back then – if you wanna a favour – you know – breaking somebody’s knee – just let us know”. Now, as I had read this article minutes before her I was greatly amused by the changing look on her face, which started from contentment (obviously thinking she was reading a politically correct article on racial integration) to complete horror!!! Needless to say she told them to finish their drinks and [CENSORED] off out of there!! Quality…
Also at the bar at the same time was one of our old players of the 1970s, Bobby Gould, suited & booted apparently for some corporate do. We also came across our Italian army friend who we’d met in December at the Chelsea game. Brief chat and a photo. Moved to the Billiard Room then, 2 sets of lads and the first chants didn’t take long to kick off.
By 1:30 we got the text from our lot and walked down Green Street to the Duke of Edinburgh pub, stopping on the way of course to get a copy of Over Land & Sea fanzine and have a brief chat with the editor, Gary F. At the pub, all the usual faces, learned about the Essex main man’s new giant flag, currently making appearances in the Bobby lower / Chicken Run corner – good luck with that mate! Couple of rounds, some very interesting faces (and tattoos) the bar, overflowing pisser and a glimpse of the League 1 Play Off final (Brentford – Yeovil) on the telly. We were soaking the sun in the beer garden, lots of little mobs around of all ages and good atmosphere, although nowhere near the Boleyn Billiard Room’s.
Left round 2:30 for the ground, goodbyes outside the gates as all my lot left straight after the game. Got the flag up in the Bobby upper / West Stand corner, brought some personal memories as my seat was very close to my first season ticket seat back in 2001. Hoc had a seat in the same section but a bit further up. My seat next to me was vacant though, so I got him to sit together for the second half. Made some impression with the new Athens Hammers t-shirt as well. The Reading fans were pathetic in numbers, 500 and that’s pushing it, just one small block! Some Belgians behind us and I later learned lots of overseas fans in the stand.
First half, only the great Joe Cole seemed interested, second was better and I almost clamped Hoc when he said “this doesn’t look good” seconds before they scored!! No midfield in the second and Diame not really interested but somehow we did them 4-2. Great chant about Carroll singing, although I didn’t join in. After the game we stayed on over the flag as the team and the management did the customary round of applause – a rare happy West Ham moment!
Had to go back to the Duke of Edinburgh as I’ve forgotten to give the Essex main man something, which was a bit of a [CENSORED] , as I had a meet with Mr C at the Black Lion. In the end it was all for nothing as the man was still in the ground trying to retrieve his banner which ended up in the other side of the stand. Couldn’t wait so me & Hoc walked to Plaistow but not before getting stuck in some sidestreets the wrong side of the station, trying to be clever and cut way. Back to Green Street, a more-than-half price burger (1 quid!) to keep us going (i.e. drinking).
Went passed the crowds, Green Street and down Barking Road and Plaistow High Street. Moved in the Black Lion back bar, not too crowded thankfully, met our mate Mr C and introduced to his lot. Older than us, they had a story or two to say, that’s for sure! The lads were interested in quite a few things, including the situation in Greece and after a relaxed pint most made their excuses and lef, apart from one who got it as a mission to go with us to a pub with “lively atmosphere”. So we took the short walk towards Plaistow station and of course ended up in the pub I’d prefer to avoid, the infamous Victoria Tavern.
To say it was rough would be an understatement, and although I have the utmost respect for the lads in there I got to say I wasn’t at my most comfortable, one reason being we were dressed a bit different from the other punters, with the club’s t-shirt and all. Having mentioned the t-shirts, we were approached at the ar by a geezer (Steve Potts lookalike) who was asking, in a friendly way got to add, about the club and asked for a t-shirt that will be delivered at the next home game.
After this, our new friend from the Black Lion came back from the bogs, and from having greeted half the pub, and I moved us outside, as the mood was getting heavy and on the decks [CENSORED] West Ham and Loyalist songs were played. Bit better outside, saw some more faces that I knew from rough away days, finished the pint, said goodbye to our mate and carried on for our last port of call, the famous Britannia pub.
By now it was getting darker and a huge disappointment to find just a (very) small handful of drinkers in there…fuckin’ depressing, especially considering the end of the season occasion! Got our seats and pints and had a general chat about both the club (mainly the 10-year anniversary next year) and the trip. At one point things almost got out of hand cause of things being said, but thankfully the thing was saved by the pissed. A bunch of very intoxicated old boys came in and one of them, the worst of all, came over singing and blowing bubbles, while his mate was urging us to tell him to piss off. Laughed it off and made our move and the considerable walk back to the hotel in the London night.
Somehow the chat came back to the previous disagreement, some wrong things said but just, only fuckin’ just logic prevailed, although the circumstances surely helped. In the room, once more the wrong discussions arose but it was too late for [CENSORED] like that.
Monday was departure day, surprisingly good mood, early breakfast at 8 to keep us going and saw some more West Ham staying there. Got the 9:30 tube for Vitoria, the Brighton train to Gatwick and a nice flight if you take out the fuckin’ annoying chat of a bird and a poof closeby. Overall, another very good trip, almost perfect…
WE ARE THOSE [CENSORED] S IN CLARET & BLUE!!!