26 Utrecht (Holland)?
Qualification for the Champions league promised by Rafa Benitez did not materialize. In the end Totenham Hotspur stole what we would believe should be ours from under the noses of Manchester City. In a lack lustre end of season which almost saw us fail to qualify for the Europa league I felt Benitez was not even trying he failed us and it was a relief when he left.
Gerald Houllier who was much maligned in some quarters left us fourth and qualifying for the Champions league Rafa who is still worshiped (wrongly in my humble opinion) in some quarters for Istanbul left us seventh in the league meaning we only just qualified for the Europa league. We also had to endure two qualifying rounds.
The away legs in Marcedonia nor the subsequent long and enduring trip to Turkey during Ramadam were missed by myself although thanks to a kind offer from Yvonne I enjoyed the home legs in the centenary stand. The first group match against the famous Romanian side Steau Bucharest was also offered and gratefully accepted by myself.
A credible Four one victory was a pleasing outcome despite a wet night heavy traffic resulting in a diversion and the half empty supporters club with no food on sale.
Pre match while looking for a favoured steward and eating our chips my old acquaintance Jo appeared walking towards us with her brother. I called out and she stopped exchanged greetings and spent most of the proceedings listening to Yvonne although she confirmed the date her baby was due (dec 23rd 2010) and Yvonne wished her well.
I commented to her brother "Are you Steve" as In the back of my mind that was his name I had been speaking to John in the club and that was the alternative. "No its John" Jo stated "you've met Steve" referring to her errant lesser half. She was wrong as she often is (she assumed I thought it was the Wigan wimp) as I genuinely thought her brother was called Steve and had not intended to insult him.
I did not make an issue out of it after all the "WW" is her problem just tapping her gently on the arm as we went our separate ways.
I was joyless driving down the motorway for an eight O'clock morning pickup pick up from Douggie. Utrecht was a long way from my mind as it happened they forgot their alarm and arrived late. Waiting under the circumstances was nervy. Locals passed me by refusing all eye contact and I was anxious. For once the trip ahead failed to excite despite the last one Madrid being voted a major success. Naturally the ever delightful Laura would be a welcome sight although I did not know who else would be present apart from my companion Tony. Mandy with Douglas had been friendly and pleasant but I did not realistically expect or want to spend our time in Amsterdam with two opposite failed love birds.
Ever polite the driver apologised for his lateness and soon we where hurtling up the M5 and on to the M6 at one hundred miles per hour. It was damp and rain but from my passenger position I failed to care sleep and relaxation was on my mine. The boulevard area into John Lennon was not as exciting or colourful as my memory served me especially how ever as that had been many years ago when I last enjoyed driving along the dimly lit busy road and turning down into the John Lennon airport.
With no plan and still a drizzle we hung about in the car before taking our chance and heading for the airport waiting to see who would arrive. It was to be John Shaw followed by Brian Stubbs and then as if on cue when John and me chattered about them the Warburton's appeared. A kiss with Jinny and soon we departed into the airport area with Wetherspoons
The venue of choice for the Moretons while an ever expanding group enjoyed a meal in Benny's. Conversation was flowing although I had been a little subdued the tall long hared but not sexy Liverpool waitress was pleasant and easy on the eye especially when I settled our bill by credit card. There was ten of us in the end John, Tony and Brian joined us with Jason carer for Andy hiding behind a pillar on an adjacent table There where three others on my table who's name I cannot recall silly but I forget so easily.
It was a bonus to be amongst them and retell tails some heard many times before. Andrew Edge who sits a few rows below me on the Spion Kop was smiling and excited the Amsterdam reputation and freedom he was looking forward to enjoy. It was second to none to the sex starved young lad.
I was neither anxious or uncaring about the wait for our departure to be called and eased on to the plane like the veteran I now am. A little pathetic with my case and tenderly lifting like a weight lifter placing my underwhelming case in the shelf storage above our seats.
To my left two lads and across the aisle a female then empty seat and un intrusive male by the window.
Politely for it would be wrong not to I watched the pre flight safety demonstration as a sacrifice to the care we where now under from our hosts "Easy jet" I settled down and for the whole flight despite energetic conversation to my left and ear drum constantly whistling I slept like a fatigued passenger. I was neither gleeful nor caring on arrival just different and disqualified although I would soon discover a new and enlightened world in the streets of the city.
The landing had been smooth with the traditional view of houses, roads with cars hurrying along and the grim airport runway. We where to learn a bit more about Scipol airport which those of us who had visited Einhoven had landed at previously. "Last time we where her Joanne was with us" Tony commented Mmm I remembered it well her mood and as Tony stated before "Frosty" which led to a disagreement between her and myself. We swept through the airport the passport control lady was quicker than her counter part in the UK and regrouped firstly inside then outside waiting patiently for our great organiser Laura to arrive.
Ten minutes or so behind us we endured but we were to suffer an even longer wait for our coach allegedly stuck in traffic providing time to reflect take a picture of "Welcome to Amsterdam" with unfortunately the "Royal Bank of Scotland" name imposing itself in the picture. It is my second most detested bank!
The numerous Asian origin travellers where snapping away, possible with me in the back ground. Some sweet and attractive oriental's where joined by male counter parts (definitely not as attractive). I was standing gazing round not talking or seeking to speak to our group. My mood was getting better however my crumpled grey coat received some comments as it had in the uk by work colleagues. It annoyed me as a little for sight and it would have been prevented and the persons who say put it right have not considered the great idea of preventing future occurrence of this or other similarly related problems. I was not anxious during our long wait nor agitated by my predicament ignoring this thoughtless attitude till the coach arrived and we climbed aboard for our first look at the Dutch Capital.
Different to other European cities it was full of canals/water and inhabitants although it was not to be long before we arrived in our group hotel and following a quick change in my room left single by two late drop outs. Despite my panic over tickets going missing and being found my disorganised state did not upset me and I was soon heading down in the lift wishing I had my camera prepared as my friends through the open glass window lift looking down upon them would have made a smashing photo.
I was not last and after waiting and checking who was coming our leader lovely Laura took us to a canal side bar in the late evening night for a few drinks. The grasshopper pub looked amazing although better in the night when the green neon sign was lit up. We crossed a bridge and headed through some narrow streets our first enlightenment with the sex shops and coffee shops selling cakes with extra ingredients. We were later to learn that there was one for every six inhabitants of the Dutch capital. 750000 was the population of Amsterdam!
Sitting by the pleasant and calm waters watching boats sail by walkers and cyclist on the side road adjacent to a bridge crossing made famous by the "Van der Valk" series. John could hum the tune I am sure. Across the road another sex shop and in a window a real dog that would have made a great photo. The blonde waitress brought our drinks predominately beers and another photo opportunity of the whole group plus the bridge was succumbed too. Little did I know that later we would be back in the same place as on the corner unbeknown to me at the time was the first shop window.
Eight O'clock on a dark Amsterdam evening and outside the doors of our "Victoria" hotel we were lined up against the wall by our guide. Not named Randy nor with his darkened moustache did he look appealing to any of the girls. He requested through out the tour that we where to do this allowing pedestrians to pass behind us unobstructed while he explained and we gathered much new information. Two Americans had joined us one a stern looking women and her more communitive husband in a rimed hat. Laura was an interested party goer as was Andrew Edge looking for some tips. Jason pushed the inquisitive Andrew in his wheel chair while Jim myself Brian Stubbs John Shaw and Tony plus a couple of others who I cannot recall exactly completed the party.
Our first port of call was heading towards the bar where we came from, the dark nights and well lit streets were ideal for a few pictures and it was on a street corner near the bar we had been drinking in only thirty minutes earlier that we stopped to view our first prostitutes in windows.
They were gruesome so tacky and the area behind dirty that even if permissible I would not want to take a picture. Perversely a church stood opposite them and in between the corner window and next shop windows a school was housed. Its young pupils passed by daily having been told the girls where preparing to go to the beach.
I have not seen many girls at my local beach in skimpy underwear consisting of bra and knickers or Basque and to be honest would not want too.
Further on a statue called "Belle" donated by the prostitutes to the city. They have there own union and standard charges though negotiation was a good idea as we were informed there was a city lady to satisfy every ones taste size age or origin. Until last year (2009) appararently an 82 year old now presumable deceased or retired prostitute was plying her trade still (by popular demand allegedly.
The highlight for me was the next bit although wheel chair bound Andrew missed out diverting down a wider passage way with less shop windows.
One by one we strolled down the alley way shop windows in which attractive girls where inches away on either side. The doors where shut and girls within touching distance inside beds wash basins chairs a definitely more clean appearance and the dancing girls where beautiful if not stunning.
To attract our attention although not so when a group of tourist including female members passed they would dance seductively, turn round or place a finger into skimpy knickers. I on more than one occasion was invited in finger curled and moving as invited even when I hurried past one window I heard the tap on a window to draw my attention. As I looked up a stunning long haired blonde drew my attention sat with long legs one stretched the other bent at the knee her black out fit revealing most of her body apart from the points of interest. A glimpse of her breast and I hurried along blowing a kiss. One girl did lower the top of her left bosom revealing her big knockers and red tit attempting to entice.
They where not always alluring and I noticed plenty of ordinary girls in the street on bikes and in the cafe's I could easily have taken to bed that night.
The tour ended along the river with some culture on the Swans who inhabited the canal and a sex venue showing live sex shows which the tour operator was eager to promote. We later received vouchers for free drinks in the venue as we enjoyed a free drink at the conclusion of our tour.
That evening a super burger meal and drink proved costly but was the conclusion to the evening followed by Laura and Tony enjoying one of the local cakes. John Shaw did not approve and retired for the night he stated quite categorically to me "I don't approve" although the "open and honest prostitution was ok" did he want me to walk back with him I asked "no" "I'm ok" he responded. With little hard cash I soon followed John leaving Tony to enjoy one last drink as I retired to bed for my usual early morning rise.
Thursday 30th September 2010 my first away Europa league game of this seasons competition and it was a grim day. Grey skies filled the sky and the streets where wet from the overnight drizzle. I decided not to venture outside prior to breakfast saving that till I had concluded my morning shower wash and eating. It was a fine choice though I failed to discover the cereal and can only state that the fruit and Yoghurt I enjoyed each morning was healthy prior to the cooked choice and washed down with orange juice tasty Cappuccino and traditional cakes.
With Tony no where to be seen I later enjoyed a visit to a local café with John and co who had opted for a cheaper breakfast. Either side I went for a stroll just to check out my conclusions from the night before. When in Rome do as the Romans do so in Amsterdam check out the shop windows and tease the display. That I did successfully with various thumbs up or down as they attempted to entice me or invite me in. A hand blown kiss wink or wave was another option as I passed by halting to admire the more attractive girls dancing and waving at me across the canal. The narrow alley contained by far what was the most attractive girls who I could easily s**g. I lacked the desire or money on this day.
The Brian Stubbs rule "what goes on tour stays on tour" has to be applied to other members of our group no names but one has the nickname Privet and the second was pushed around every where.
As I returned for a second time familiar girls ignored me although I received a good morning and one opened her door calling out at me. As I turned round "come in dear" I received her smile followed by an acceptance to negotiate!
That wet grim day we all opted to wait for the coach as a day in Utrecht with few attractions appealed to no one. A stroll round the city along the canals and included a bar visit. The flower market was incredible situated alongside one canal bank and the grim ness of the day was the only thing to spoil the walk and day.
Can you recall the last time we saw a decent European away match I asked of Tony as in our group we headed for a Thai meal at a booked restaurant. No was his answer prior to heading up the stairs for a meal and drink that despite a stroppy waitress was enjoyed by the party of 16. The view even in the middle of the night was fantastic the lit up square and adjacent buildings glowing. There was to be no bonus and the childish behaviour of our host was rewarded with no tip at the bewitching hour.
Our coach journey started with a full compliment although the 30 minute trip on a normal day turned into two hours with some worried looks of fans fearing a late arrival.
The stadium was tall and modern from the outside and we where fortunate enough to walk round mingle acquire a programme or two and even visit the shop. A few photos later and a more relaxed entrance plus stroll to our spot a corner of the ground and it was less than an hour to kick off.
More photo and picture opportunities followed by chats with Yvonne plus Jon Jenkins after the game I briefly conversed with Rob Thomas on politics and big Craig Findlay!
It was as dull as a nil nil draw can be uninspiring as Jo Snow confirmed in response to my text the next morning. We probable had two good opportunities including an early Torres miss but are home opponents who dominated much possession had more so it could easily be victory for either party. The stadium was packed but not completely full however our contingent was less joyful and noisy than on many a trip. From our high up advantage point the game sped by to a satisfactory result although expectations remain higher and only Dirk Kuyt and Jamie Carragher really appreciated the followers. The four four two formation appeased me as was the new idea of leaving a player up field at corners thus providing a target man to clear the ball to. The vein hope is he keeps it until the reds players swarm forward in support!
Fellow fans where not so enlightened as me or will they ever be forgiving. To be frank it was a disappointing and negative performance with the desired result achieved.
A group photo while entrapped inside a cordon was followed by our release and the 30 kilometer bus journey home taking much less time thankfully than our arrival.
After the meal I walked back with half the group while the remainder wished to enjoy a final (unfulfilled) drink and to sample more city delights. I cannot reveal what they where yet!
Laura who was leaving early in the morning chatted as we strolled back infact it is due to her alertness that I came back in one piece stopping me as she did from crossing in front of a speeding cyclist. It was not the first nor the last time a car or cyclist (usually female) was to whiz by as I failed to look. Laura was to get her reward in the form of a good night kiss as I wished her well before I retired for the night.
Friday and homewards
Friday morning and I rose to look outside at a grey early morning sky. When I ventured out after a shave and shower it was dry and thought of a pleasant day arose. Laura was on her way home to Blightly as I strolled round the red light district viewing a few tasty sights and continuing to tease as and when. The girls were gallant if not up for it business is business and that is what they sought. Who can blame them they where not joyless or pathetic but girls of varying beauty ploughing their trade in search of an honest living. They may never be truly respected only tolerated but many a man (and indirectly woman) is grateful to the Worlds oldest profession. It was to be the last time as Tony was fed up and I did not have any intentions of pushing further satisfied with my adventures for now.
Our stroll took us over canal and eventually to the Anne Frank House made famous in her war time diary. A long queue included the programme seller in Liverpool supporters club was followed by pictures but no visit. As we headed along the canal walking back to our hotel and taking frequent detours to unvisited parts. Tony attempted and failed to take a long distant picture of a girl in the window while others like Big Bertha and Big Mamma" failed to attract our attention. Of course there are some reminders of home and female colleagues including "Angels sister" who was grotesque.
An hour long canal cruise that was enjoyed by others in our party plus five attractive foreign girls. I believed they where German though Tony who clearly fancied one of them (and I agreed on her features) disagreed.
The cruise was pleasant though I was nervy and in the end took few photos settling for each other and one of Tone and me shot by one of our fellow female passenger. I had bravely asked for her assistance of course.
Less educational than our Randy Roy walk the Cycles being dredged from the canal the Worlds smallest whare house (nothing to do with prostitution) and trip in the port (choppy waters I felt) where among highlights. It is incredible how still one car a week ends up in a canal in Amsterdam why!?
After a chocolate Brownie which later made me feel weak and unsteady followed by food and Cappuccino with a smile from the attractive waitress who despite the stud in her mouth was gorgeous we finally arrived back at the hotel for the beginning of the end. Despite a late bus we arrived in comfortable time at the airport where I remembered the square seats, during our last visit a sniffer dog practised drug finding, Jo had enjoyed Ice cream before making one of her cold remarks to me.
Security was a pain as usual but endured and the short flight home was a relief when it ended.
It was only on arrival at John Lennon airport I realised a joyless maybe agitated Douglas Moreton was my driver home. He was not about something possible down to me but maybe his confident girl friend who exploits him and is not well liked for her hen pecked attitude and bullying pose.
The drive home was made worse for him and led to a few choice words. The reason has to remain confidential however it was a different Chauffer at a lesser speed for the majority of the journey. The Cheltenham drop off point right next to my car and a good bye hug with Mandy and I was soon following them down the motorway arriving in the dark as quietly as I could in a relaxed and relieved state. What would I discover how would the Sunday match go and what should I reveal to my work colleagues.
26 Utrecht (Holland)?