16 PSV EINDHOVEN
Birmingham had been arranged as the airport to fly from for this trip. Laura sorted it out weeks ago with Amsterdam the destination from where we would take the train to Eindhoven. I arranged to stay at Birmingham Maypole travelodge (free advert they are not paying me yet) the night before and booked my car in even though it was suggested and Douggie did offer me a lift a few days before the trip. In the few days prior I was in contact with Tony Audley and we exchanged Emails along with Laura although this time I had no reason to contact Jo.
I travelled up after work on the Friday night and after settling had something to eat a text from Laura I settled down for the night. Rising at four I walked to my solitary car parked in the open Sainsbury car park. The roads was damp but there was no drizzle which had spoilt the previous night. I headed off for Birmingham airport and my car park from where after noting my spot and nearest bus stop caught a bus to the terminal.
As I entered the Terminal building and turned right the first people I saw sat down where John Shaw and Tony. I shook hands and sat down it was not long before Douggie Moreton came over and took us to a waiting Jo who handed a few boarding passes and exchanged greetings.
I had problems going through the first check out as my boarding pass did not print clearly and returned to the check out to explain sending the other four on. I was soon back heading through this and security where I could see the other four who then headed for the breakfast area before I got through.
We ordered and eat various breakfast with Jo dominating proceedings in her sometimes aggressive tone insisting on moving my coat and case from an adjacent area as people where looking to sit down. No one did move to that table as there where other tables free. I joined Jo in heading to Smiths for a paper purchasing a Mail (the paper I wanted) and a drink. Jo got an alternative paper with which the drinks where £1 saving 49p probable to buy a paper she would not have normally bought. It gave her then chance to gloat about it to me and all around.
Boarding was not long and speedily we went through taking the bus and climbing the steps to enter the cabin and find our seats. The journey was short and I spent most of it asleep but descending was a bit bumpy as was landing and our first sight of Amsterdam.
As we headed out I chatted to various people including a fellow traveller who I thought was with our party although this was later shown to be incorrect. Jo took the chance to lead as she felt important and responsible although no one minded and as we headed for the station she went ahead found the platform where we all waited. There was now eight of us a couple from Shropshire who I recognised with a lad I did not but who was not there son.
I was surprised by the double Decker train although we did not go upstairs and found assorted places in the carriage. I chatted to the gentleman with the walking stick who sat opposite on various topics explaining I had told the gf I was going window shopping in Amsterdam. I did get a little sleep on the journey and there was various conversations going on including John in a hearty conversation with a local only concluding when we arrived at our Eindhoven destination.
We were guided from there to our hotel with Jo and myself either side of our guide who chatted and provided information as we strolled along. Every little distance we stopped for the party to recon verge and as we passed the special ice rink I jumped up to peer over the walls at the virtually empty scene.
We passed through the bar area and eventually arrived in our hotel and where able to go in our rooms. John and myself where in adjacent rooms and after knocking on the doors of Jo, Douggie and John returned to the bar area. Jo who did not answer the door was already down there drinking and with the couple. I said something to which see harshly replied she had come straight down in order to score her first points of the day.
Tony and myself enjoyed a drink shortly to be joined by Douggie and John on an adjacent table. I can't recall what we chatted about but I could hear Jo all the time in her high voice dominating the proceedings and telling various hard luck tales which I had heard numerous times before. I probable have less sympathy for her because of this.
It was soon lunch time and the eight split into two groups with our five heading along the road towards the bridge over the canal. As I was ahead I made a comment to Jo about the bar opening times and cost of drinks as on many occasions in the past she had recited them.
It was another opportunity for her to have a strop with me asking "what do you mean" "I don't know what time the bar opens" It amused me but was no surprise as Jo rarely accepts teasing and often argues with me even on things we agree on. I did not want to cause an atmosphere so did not pursue the matter although I had a smile on my face that would have riled Jo more had she been able to see it.
It was me who noticed Annie, Billie and Andrew first and stopped to Kiss Annie shake hands with Billie and touch thumbs with Andrew in his wheel chair. Jo led the others and as usual dominated the conversation. We were directed to somewhere to eat and on finding it I requested and we were found a table for five, We sat down and perused the menu myself opting for Lasagne which Jo independently also requested. We also purchased drinks although I later enjoyed a second coke my last for a while as it left me bloated.
Jo led many conversations recalling many trips which we both had been on but as she often did failed to mention my presence. I talked about a number of my interests and Laura's party on Saturday after being interrogated I said I was not staying at the Holiday inn but was in a local hotel to Jo. Later I also mentioned when discussing it further to a listening Jo that Laura had offered us a match ticket for the reds game that was played on the day of her meal but it was not worth our while. I later mentioned to Laura that Ang (who I was going to take) was not into football.
The Warburton's where also in the restaurant and later Laura entered to chat and hand out Xmas cards. In her glasses (she normally wore contacts) I was unsure it was her for a while.
After enjoying our meal we moved on to the hotel but stopped in a bar on route which was frequented by Laura and a number of our regulars who had travelled on the day trip. I spoke to all in passing and sat down. Jo as usual dominated although less so as I come more into the fore. One of the discussions was on the merits of being home or away first my view being it did not matter sighting Benfica and Inter as reasons. She felt that playing home first was better as "it gets the away goal problem out of the way" . No one was brave enough to point out the away goal matters whenever it is scored and playing away first according to general wisdom is most popular.
I took the opportunity to head over to Laura to thank her re Milan when she gave me a free bus ride even though as I pointed out to her I lost very little. It was very upsetting and she did bring her cheek close beckoning me I thought so I took the opportunity to give her a kiss. I indicated we were looking forward to Saturday night even though Ang did not like football. I cannot recall how the conversation concluded but it was short and sweet. So I returned to my seat and the group conversation.
It was a pleasant stroll back to the hotel in between the weaving cyclists who separated myself from John or Tony which ever one I conversed with. We all returned to our rooms to reconvene later for a drink which never happened and something to eat. My suggested time of six thirty was accepted despite Jo going for an earlier six fifteen.
On time the five of us met in the lounge forsaking a drink that no one wanted we headed for a bite to eat at the local Macdonalds. In two separate ques we ordered our meals and headed for a table. I met John who was looking were Jo had gone. Helpfully (not) she had told no one where she was going so I led us both upstairs and saw her in the centre. Tony soon joined us and we were only waiting for Douggie. Jo looked round intending to do nothing so it was left to me to find him at the bottom of the stairs and guide him. He decided to sit on an adjacent table even though an alternative place with us was offered. Christmas was a subject with Jo saying she loved it even though she hadn't put her Xmas decorations up yet. She had been at the Manchester Christmas market on Saturday which was funny as I thought she was going to Arsenal v Wigan. This was not mentioned even though she was boasting to me about going only months before.
I mentioned how I teased my nieces about Xmas being cancelled and chocolate being bad for them. John helpfully intervened saying "I bet they don't believe you"
With our burgers all devoured and the gates due to open soon we departed for the stadium. I played follow my leader as others had been before. Jo thought she knew where she was going while John intervened with a suggestion that was rejected. She got to a point where she said it was this way she thought but we had clearly not gone the most direct route and although I am not perfect I did not have much faith in her. With some help from locals we found the stadium and walked round to our appointed entrance herded by local stewards.
After the usual searches a quick drink in the café area we climbed the stairway to our section. It was a steep climb turning on at least 10 corners and on coming into the first bit of our section we could see down to the green pitch lit by the floodlights. Netting surrounded our area and the next to our left which was also occupied by reds although we could not access it direct. Of the five of us now sat down on the steep terrace possible worse than Barcelona without the views four had hats with me the odd one out.
I had seen Jo in hers before and now I felt and repeated my view on what she looked like in it as she sat down. The top line met together almost like a pointed join it was black. With her sullen face that struggled to smile and rectangle glasses that covered only half her eyes she only needed a fishing rod to be perfect. A gnome I thought to myself and as I had been looking for an affectionate nickname variations of Jo Gnome went through my head although I didn't use it. Later it was to become a less flattering one. Joanne Gnomes, Gnome Jo or Jo Snome are some of my thoughts.
Laura was in the adjacent section and I also saw some of our Bristol friends plus later in our bit Yvonne and co who I saw and spoke to at half time.
Jo as usual was moaning about the steepness and how she hoped fans didn't stand up as it was dangerous although funny enough she was no where to be seen when they were walking on seats or failed to mention it for some reason. Perhaps if it had been me she would have taken the opportunity to score additional points with a biting harsh comment.
A changed and not full strength Liverpool team took the field and the first half went quickly much as I predicted to Tony though not before two goals a sloppy goal from our opponents (resulting in me switching my mobile off) followed not long after by our equaliser.
At half time the mood was happy as I returned to my seat following my chat with Merv and Yvonne after a quick joke with Douggie I returned to my seat between Tony and Jo chatted mostly to Tony. Jo had said some things to me during the match some I didn't hear others I failed to pursue while often passing comment to Tony. In her adjuration she began to lean across me to speak to Tony and she began losing it. The teams came out for the second half and normal service was resumed and two goals for Liverpool resulted in a three-one win. Three substitutions were made one of whom I asked Jo about as he was a reserves player and she had boasted earlier how she had seen the reserves play and would do so again. She had not been following the changes and I had to point out who had come on and where they were playing position all this of course did not go down well.
At the games conclusion she was on the phone and with my back to her I was deep in conversation with Tony and John. We were sooner than normal let out with Jo quickly heading down I followed as it was the easiest thing to do as I said to John who thought she should take an alternative route. I passed another acquaintance and exchanged a few words with Rob Thomas. Soon we were on the move with Jo rushing off I let her too it thinking she would stop at the bottom. Tony commented on this and as I advised him she always did that and wouldn't change, she would do the same at Birmingham airport without saying goodbye to any one. (I was later proved right again)
I looked back and for a while could see John and Douggie before they disappeared from sight. At the bottom I arrived to a waiting and non smiling Jo followed by Tony John and after a shot minute Douggie.
We were directed out of the stadium via the station where a train for Amsterdam was waiting down and then back into the stadium where fans were taking pictures I got my mobile out and took a quick photo before catching up with the onwards marching group. Tim and Steve plus a third Bristol branch member were also there and exchanged greetings.
After going round the houses we soon arrived at the hotel where not to my surprise the bar was closed. Jo decided to retire while on my suggestion the four males went for a drink. After three rounds (the first bought by myself) much conversation and amusement we could drink no more and retired for the night.
I was soon joined by my roommate and fast asleep. When Tony and myself went down for Breakfast the next morning Jo was already there. Usually when we have late nights she decides she is going to have a lie in though I think that was always to annoy me (it didn't I had anticipated it) as she was well capable of rising early. She was quite amicable as I asked how she had slept and we enjoyed a convivial breakfast though I didn't try to get her to bring me back some orange juice. This meant she missed another opportunity! I didn't eat as heartily as I usually do nor did I find or take any fruit but breakfast was pleasant even when joined by John and Douggie on an adjacent table. I suggested and arranged for us to meet back there at eleven thirty to head for the station and some food. Jo repeated her often told tale of Istanbul 2005 when many fans had problems although hers was always worst. She said about having problems booking on line with Tony hers and Douggie (I think) done for the return flight. I went to reception where she watched as mine was completed following her attempt I joked "must have been you Jo letting the team down again" was annoying to her but again put a smile on my face.
She took the opportunity later to boast how she gave the receptionist 5 euros for her help looking for something back she got nothing. Anyone else would have given 10 euros and said nothing!
Tony and myself enjoyed a pleasant stroll in a calm morning. The snow that had greeted us the previous morning was no where to be seen as we headed first over the can bridge then through the street of bars pass the ice rink and finally towards the church. After circling it once Tony noticed the door open and then as we walked up the steps and towards the open entrance he noticed in the ground glass revealing skeletons beneath the concrete. I found it a disturbing and gruesome sight almost making me feel sick and was glad to enter and walk round the inside of the church.
After concluding our free tour we headed for the Stadium and discussed Jo. I said my comment in the Email about her sister was a reference to the snow queen included in part of the Xmas celebration. I said how I had got to know her and was distancing myself a certain bit as she was taking advantage of my fondness for her in fact some times due to tired ness but as was becoming clearer to me other reasons she was being spiteful although she could be cutting about many things. I was trying to tease her although she did not take that well from anyone and how I had done (or not done things) on this trip which previously were different. She didn't normally get up for breakfast early in the morning after a match and although was going to stay in her room I wouldn't be surprised if she was with John and Douggie. I was later proved wrong. I gave Tony an example of when she had shut the door on me and he agreed it was rude not done by most people although as I pointed out it was how she was especially when tired and was not to be taken personally.
After walking round the stadium and helping Tony purchase a woollen hat we slowly returned checked out and joined John plus Douggie for a drink. Jo later completed the group and still in a good mood probable due to a further rest she surprisingly joined us at my suggestion on the end seat. Failing to take an opportunity to snub me something that wouldn't last. She insisted on buying me a coke without asking although that was fine before we departed once again on my suggestion to the station to check rail times and then return for something to eat. I only wanted a light snack and a burger would have suited me but the majority wanted to return to the same restaurant as before. This was full and I suggested and led as we went down a street not visited before where we found somewhere to eat converse before heading to the station and our train.
For this journey I actually sat by Jo knowing she would spend it listening to her eye pod, I slept enjoyed part of the surrounding views and conversed with John in the seat across the aisle. Jo could hear our conversation despite the music and fighting talk recording she listened too and chuckled at. I made the comment and again she was congenial.
We were now hours away from the final leg of our journey. I want for a wander we met Annie, Billie etc I exchanged a kiss and when we preceded into the lounge where we found seats eat and drank wondered but with little enthusiasm. We all wanted to get home. I and many of the group got up to wander visit the toilets on one occasion a miserable looking Jo and myself passed like strangers in the night with no hint of pleasantries.
Before six I decided to go ahead as I always found security a struggle. I rose and stated what I was going to do with no expectations of any one joining me. One lone voice "see you" a cutting comment that showed contempt and lack of feeling for a compatriot who was if the truth known directly or indirectly responsible for enjoyable trips both past and present. Tiredness was a contributory factor and I expect revenge although I think Jo has a compassionate side this is mirrored by a mean streak.
I slowly got through security and the boarding area where Tony joined me while the rest of the group managed to take a short cut John and myself exchanged some banter while Jo was moving towards her next strop.
As I was one of the last to board I struggled to find a place in the locker for coat and bag. As I passed our Jo I noticed an anxious tired look in my direction, sadness and unhappiness that I would not have wish to show her.
I should have been assertive and gone to my seat there was no one further to board and virtually every seat was taken. Apart from my own two seats in the row behind Jo and wanting to say goodbye knowing she would rush off I took what I believe was a final but not inconvenient opportunity to say goodbye. A gentlemen kindly let me pass and from behind I said goodbye see you Saturday although clearly by not looking up she was snubbing me in a nasty spiteful manner. Had I any good sense I would have stopped then instead of given her further opportunity her seatbelt was an ace[table excuse for not getting up however she decided to state that I was getting in the way of passengers looking in the opposite direction I guess she had eyes in her head that could see imaginary passengers trying to get to the seat I was standing in.
Kindly the gentleman was not too disturbed and later he move in to the window seat behind Jo.
I was annoyed with myself as much as Jo for although I knew tiredness was a factor I new I should avoid that situation but like the fool I am I didn't. Being a fool though is not a worse personality trait than being nasty. Both can take years of practice or be natural as was the case in Jo being unpleasant but where I can be stupid and occasionally spiteful unintentionally to do it on demand and towards a fellow human being would be impossible for me. I sat down first thinking of revenge then ignoring it knowing I am better than that Jo cannot help it and I should be assertive above that kind of behaviour as by the right approach I could get her on the right track. Directly or indirectly I was and will remain the first person to approach her with kindness and genuine affection from the trips and if I am assertive and tackle this bad behaviour correctly may succeed as I have with other people. If I was not so fond of her though now less than I was I would walk away completely and easily plus she would not find it so easy to be that way. She is not as bad towards others.
Jo departed the Plane on arrival very quickly without a glance in my direction although I was not returning anything either, I spoke to fellow passengers as they left found my case and coat before waiting for Tony at the back of the plane. We eventually got to passport control where Jo was long gone probable in her car without saying anything to anyone. As I write this she has probable told numerous people about me overlooking or failing to mention that she was nasty in response people who know her probable realise this. John and Douggie in front of us headed off quickly and not long later Tony and myself where saying our goodbyes wishing happy Xmas defrosting our cars and heading home.
Jo I'm sure will get her comeuppance although I love it when she gets upset or has a strop.
Joanne may not have meant her "see you then" remark in a nasty way perhaps it just came out that way. I was tired eager to get through security check before saying goodbye and that made me feel more upset. Joanne always gets tired and is itchy scratchy at the end of a trip I know from experience she had got into the habit of being abrupt it is part of the person she is.
17 Real Madrid Feb 2009
Friday December 19th the day of the draw and we knew we have 5 possible opponents. An early morning text asks if we get Real Madrid what is the chance of tickets. It turns out to be Craig from Cheltenham and fellow traveller seeking tickets for a possible away fixture no chance is my response.
About 11.30 I learn from my colleague Ryan its Real Madrid a return to Madrid and a chance to seek out the Thieving Spanish pickpocket maybe!?
Later that afternoon Laura phones and we agree a two day trip from Bristol Airport for me probable the only member of our party going that way but may be Yvonne and co will be on the same flight. Later I receive an Email from Tony he will fly from Liverpool no doubt Jo will be on the same flight.
January 2009 comes and an Email from Laura updating on details and later about tickets still no request for money. Suddenly she Emails have I sent the deposit what deposit I reply I've missed an Email probable inadvertently not sent any the deposit is soon sent. Early Feb the flight tickets arrive and I can arrange for a lift to the airport and a pickup from Bristol on Thursday of my return. Full money sent.
At last Jo sends me the photo's she took and I send a reply a couple of pictures in return one from Rangers and the other Kegon Waterfall Japan which I believe she is in. Will she spot it or even bother to look at the picture? February 5th Snow followed by more on Friday the 6th I don't go into work struggle to get off my driveway and the roads untreated I don't want to skid again!
Snowmen are built and I take photo's to send to my fellow reds with banner Scarf and hat. Much to the disgust of my neighbour a goner (Arsenal fan) I leave my LFC hat on one of the pictures bring an enthusiastic response and the kopite snowman is stared at by passers by.
Tony has replied to my Email with good suggestions on where to visit (weather permitting) I reply back with a week to go the nerves are coming to the front I'm tingling with excitement this is the last of the big three European grounds I have yet to see Liverpool play on. For me it is better than the Nou Camp and the San Siro!
Tony likes the idea of the Bull Fighting museum and I suggest that we invite Jo along as a volunteer matador! I doubt that Jo approves of bull fighting I think I will go along with its part of Spanish culture and harmless!? Fun. In reality I wouldn't agree with it in the UK but probably wouldn't join the numerous protestors. I have sent her my Snowman pictures to which she wittingly retorts "very humorous you must have too much spare time"
Despite being busy I have arranged a lift in from my neighbour and to be collected from Bristol airport by my brother. Craig who will be out there on the morning of the match has said he may text me while Steve (from Swindon) going with Tim has exchanged mobile numbers. I aim to travel from airport to hotel by Metro and on the return journey/flight hope to meet Steve & Theresa two friends of Yvonne who will be on my return flight. I don't know if anyone else from Laura's party will be accompanying me I expect not watch this space.
The Tuesday morning I rose from my pit later than I normally would but then I wasn't going to work on this special date. Even then I was feeling the nerves as I washed dressed eat breakfast and sat down in preparation. A visit from a local black cat "blackie" I call him and although I know the owner I have not enquired his real title. His timely visit was as if to wish me luck so I ensured he was stroked and from the purring constant and continues he was happy. As I always do I provided a few munchies a couple of which were savoured before I was able to wave goodbye as he decided to visit back home.
I noticed at this point my shirt arm sleeve was dirty probable from picking up the feline and after much deliberation decided to change it. This fortunate as It reminded me to put my wash bag in my case hurriedly without thought this was achieved.
My neighbour who was to drive me to the airport went out prior to this with his wife. His ancient "pale blue Stilitto Sunbeam" sounding noisy slow and uncertain as the engine was revved. It was a few attempts before he started and the kangaroo petrol caused it to stutter at first until to my relief a spurt took it on its way.
10.45 and suitcase in the car I was on my way, the trusty "sat nav" our guide though I have little faith in them myself. The road was busy but not over crowded as we joined the M5 and later was directed via the city centre and Bedminster to our destination Bristol airport. Arriving safely I said goodbye and watched my "Chauffer" head back out of the car park and along the side road home while I proceeded to security and my first port of call in the airport lounge.
With flights to Milan where the swear word M***hester U****d where playing leaving soon it was no surprise to see the red and black scarves in sight although the bar area which I visited was inhabited by the glorious red shirted (and some green) Liverpool supporters.
The wait for my flight departure was long although a paper purchased, food consumed plus a few Worthington originals slowly sucked to savour passed the time along with conversations with other passengers. Eventually not a moment too soon I was walking through the gate onto the bus and eventually following a short and pleasant young lady onto the plane taking us to Madrid. It was no coincidence despite my clumsiness that I found a seat next to the same young lady who was delightful company. Despite her pleasant nature she spent most of the flight reading a magazine while I slept though when we arrived in appreciation I was able to remove her case from the rack in addition to my own.
Madrid airport was much the same as I recall from my previous visit same taxi ranks same signs directing me to the Metro where I purchased a ten trip tick and obtained directions on the best way to get to Grand Villa. This was to be my first Metro or tube journey since I last visited Madrid and was robbed. Fellow passengers where viewed with suspicion especially any older male ones who in some ways reminded me of the villainous trickster who stole my wallett.
After a few changes and a journey of about an hour and fifteen minutes I was walking out of the Metro into the daylight on the Grand Via. I first headed the incorrect way missing the hotel which was directly adjacent to the tube but after calling into the police station for directions,
Heading back I noticed opposite a "sex shop" two girls dressed in all white fishnet stockings one wearing shorts the other a mini skirt. As I progressed further up the street I noticed some more similar in shop doorways or on the street looking round and not moving from there spot. It didn't take me long to work out that although it was early evening about five thirty local time these were the local working girls. I was later to send a text to my friend Andrew Daniels a red devil stating where I was and how I was watching the local "ladies of the night".
After checking in and saying hi to Annie, Billie and Andrew in the bar I went out for a wander and fresh air. I though about eating that night and being unsure when my friends would be arriving or how friendly they would be I decided to stick to the ever reliable MacDonald's across the square from the hotel. I strolled down the Grand Via dodging the skimpily dressed girls. Leaflet issuers and pedestrians. The girls smile at you if you stare or look in there direction for too long though the sturdy faced older women with no hint of a smile was not an attraction. I guess in some ways reminding me of another girl I know. At the bottom was a massive square with three or four roads leading to other parts of the city, I could feel the warm evening air on my back and although I was only sporting a red T shirt I carried a black jumper for when it got colder. The square was surrounded by bars on one side with the station entrance as its focal point and local shopping streets. On the road side was tall and proud buildings many probable government owned although the architecture was not impressive. Various statutes ordained the square including a bear plus bulls of differing colours. These were to become a common feature in the city another focal point was a water fountain spurting recycled water into the air onto the rim of the top bowl. It trickled over like a light shower into the large surrounding feature sprinkled with the odd coin..
I rarely saw any known faces as I returned up the Grand Via sitting in the outside cafes numerous red shirts predominately male enjoyed a hop under the warm sun. Varies ladies attempted to tempt them with smiles, fishnet stockings or seductively (but not appealing to me) smoking. A red is hard to prize away from his beer until kick off time and that was twenty four hours away the money was staying safely in his pocket until the next round.
I entered the busy MacDonald's where to my surprise outside both sides young and attractive ladies stood chatting and seeking out punters to part from there money. My suspicion was as well as providing a service good or otherwise they could be expert pick pockets, it was noticeable that not a single pimp was spotted during my brief stay.
After getting my order I acquired a window seat to watch the world go by as I texted a few friends some who were to be in the city that night. Two passed by and dropped in inviting for a drink later although that was later missed as we stood each other up. I noticed as they chatted to me outside a solitary "Tony" briskly strolling by much to my surprise as I would have expected Jo to be with him at which point I wondered had she travelled or perhaps she had remained in her room tired or unwell.
Soon after my fellow reds from Swindon left for a meal I exited the restaurant drink in hand in the hope of catching up with Tony amongst the busy pedestrians. It was an impossible task made harder by the distraction of a accident on the busy street. An injured party was being treated on the scene while numerous rubber neckers stood two or three deep watching proceedings. I didn't join them and ambled around back to the hotel through the ladies who were becoming braver. One boldly approached me realising I was English started chatting and asked me to stop and converse. No I firmly stated and walked away turning again as she made a further attempt to say no with palm of hand firmly risen facing her to reinforce my statement. She was to make a further attempt when I later went out as was one attractive sweet smiling girl standing against a wall temptation on my mind. I declined without a thought although she was attractive my concern was to meet up with Tim and Steve as I had given up on Tony.
As often happens when not looking for someone you see them and in this case as I strolled along a busy street thinking if I might meet Steve & Tim eating across the wide road amongst the numerous pedestrians waiting to cross over I notices Tony. His shiny bold head and short stature easily spotted by the trained aye I waived and again to no avail it was only as he got more than half way across that he spotted me waiting for him.
A chat and invite accepted but as we waited and exchanged text the hour became two and eventually Tony and myself headed for the hotel bar plus a city one to view the end of the match before returning for a last sup in the soon to be closed hotel bar. A text to Jo which she kindly responded too confirmed that she was among a party arriving late on the day of the match so my invite which I'm not sure she would have accepted was going to be only Tony and myself joined the next morning by John and Douglas. We made arrangement for breakfast before retiring to our rooms for a good nights rest.
Wednesday morning and I wake up to a bright sunny day my room mate Michael displaying his Liverpool top bleary eyed despite an early night sits up straight. I go for a wash while he dozes and return allowing him to shower and go for breakfast at his leisure.
The early morning is cold as the day is staring but still the street has early morning workers including to my surprise the working girls. On the street corner outside the MacDonald's and down the main street as I stroll downwards deliberately weaving away from them no matter the smile on the faces. Maybe they change shifts for the faces where different and not so attractive it was also noticeable that the predominantly white "Causian" faces of the night before had changed to black and as Tony was later to remark Mexican faces. The younger girls where perhaps local while maybe these had been imported. As I passed the shop windows I noticed a "liquidation" sign displayed in one and sale displays in at least two others. The recession was beginning to bite even in Spain's capital city. I wondered if the working girls had noticed a downturn in trade as they appeared to spend long periods waiting, smoking and chatting. The stare of the older hard faced and perhaps more experienced Prostitute outside the sex shop couldn't have been less appealing while one with leg bent so her foot was placed against the wall as she puffed away only achieved a higher status due to her younger looks.
The square at the bottom was busy with numerous trippers heading down into and upwards out of the Metro entrance. Hot coffee in one hand or newspaper under the arm of older gentlemen was a common appearance. A newspaper stand displayed daily newspapers and magazines under the cover of canvass. These would be easy pickings to the notorious Liverpool lads soon to visit the city.
Happy having relaxed and enjoyed the early morning air I returned upwards through the early morning street cleaners pass the police station and local hostel already outside a queue of fifty or more young and old stood in jagged line round the corner. They stared at me as I walked by not a smile amongst them just as plain as possible continuing upwards my next task again was to weave through the slalom course of local girls. Having practised through the Stroud Tesco store where I weave around and through the discarded trolleys around the building across the road and via the path in the centre of the car park I am much experienced. Perhaps this lot were too dozy or maybe there female intuition realised they were on a sticky wicket with no chance of luring me as I had no advances towards me.
As I headed towards the breakfast area I wondered if Tony would be down and hiding behind a food stand already on a table he was there. I started as is my tradition with an orange juice and cereal with Coffee to warm me up. A mixture of meet and cheese was followed by a final course of Toast and various cakes. The breakfast abroad is always strange Cereal is normal as is bread but the cakes and doughnuts I find strange.
Douggie and John where in an adjoining table with whom we discussed arrangements for the day inviting them to join our planned visit to the Bull Fighting museum. They agreed and a meeting point and time agreed.
Tony and myself where later joined at breakfast by a fan I had seen previously. Well built this supporter in his fifties clearly kept himself fit and I would want him on my side in a fight. He had strong views on many issues which he voiced with varmint intent. I am of the view that Robbie Keene was not given enough opportunities and we had our best result when we played four,four two with him joining Torres up front. I was shot down with "did I watch the Preston game" and "four chances he missed". My point that Benitez was stubborn not bring him on at home to Hull and away to Stoke was agreed on but I was not able to express the view that all good strikers miss golden opportunities aka Owen, Fowler and even Rush went through periods missing easy opportunities.
As we remained seating listening to him reciting how Benitez didn't give the academy players or reserves a second thought and the sooner he goes the better. The unanswered question was who do you replace him with. As he ranted on about certain players not being good enough "only he (Benitez) sees anything good in Lucas" was expressed "and as for Reira"! I remained silent neither Tony nor myself offered an opinion even if we wanted too. On one thong we were able to agree Alonso had a great season and keeping him (plus buying Reira in my opinion) was better than Barry. Juventus through luck had provided the reds with some good fortune.
The four of us set off as arranged strolling down the main street chatting as we passed each prostitute with jokes such as "don't like yours much". We teased the silent Douggie who just smiled hands clasped together down below his waste as if he was about to pray. At Sol metro which was more convenient than the local Grand Via the other three purchased 10 trip tickets while I removed mine from my shoe, Placed there as a security measure it was one of the items stolen in November and I didn't want to loose another till my return. I led us to our correct platform and through the one change till we arrived at Ventros and emerged up the stairway into the bright daylight.
The change from dark underground to day light although not sudden required adapting as I turned a full circle to survey the surroundings. A busy road to our right came to a two junction fork ahead separated by shops and offices. A quick look at my map confirmed the building to our left about fifty metres away across an open paved area where the crowd congregated outside on fight days was the Madrid Bull fighting arena!
Our intention was to visit the Museum which was free and seeing an arrow pointing we walked round in a clockwise direction admiring from the outside the tall red brick building. The bricks used were less than half the size of those used in a typical UK house and probable by the time we completed the circuit enough bricks to build a whole housing estate had passed us by. Behind the stadium was a small parking area with only a few vehicles in it. It stood out like a sore thumb as the most modern part of the arena.
No museum entrance was passed although later we were to discover it barely signposted and invisible from our first lap. For 7 Euros we were able to enjoy a tour starting within minutes, It was to be an event not to be missed as we walked through the gates into the main entrance among a party of thirty or more predominantly Spanish speaking visitors. The tour was first in the host language then repeated in English for our benefit and on display at this gateway was a series of posters. The guide related the tale of why and how the stadium came to be built taking a period of seven years to complete. In amongst the crowd it was difficult to follow sometimes but the explanation of the start and how the bull is wounded to make it more dangerous was new information.
The whole story of the rules of engagement the skill and bravery shown by the matador faced with a raging bull which is nearly always killed. I say nearly as the meat is always sold to local restaurant and understandable none of us ordered Veale that night but perhaps MacDonald's were supplied? Apparently one Bull many years prior was viewed as so brave by its human opponent that he requested that the bull's life was spared. This was granted we were later to learn that many Matadors had died as a result of wounds inflicted on them by the horns.
The arena where spectators sat on concrete steps was a fabulous monument from the inside. A large clock displayed the time while behind us box's of the finest type when built were pointed out to us. The important ones hosted TV crew, Royalty and club president and judges. The seats were divided into areas and those at the rear of the stands where more expensive due to the shade granted to them in the warm Spanish evenings. Even on this February day although it was mid morning we could tell on a full capacity hot evening it would be as warm as the Kop full to capacity for the home leg of a European tie.
The central arena a circle shaped sand covering the ground was being worked on during our visit. A digger was either attempting to remove a layer or smooth the ground over. It was not clear but the engine noise was a distraction drowning out the words of our Guide.
The track that separated the seating area from the fighting ring was barely wide enough for two persons to pass. With the walkway level two meters or more below the arena and in addition a two meter wall it was necessary to step up to peer over it. An area inside the ring was set aside for the matador to protect himself from a raging bull and medical assistants plus armed police would be close on hand. It was hard to imagine a full house roaring and screaming as the action enfolded below the crowd bawling for blood. Would they stand up as our fans would that night or remained seated but not silent? Many films show clips and scenes dominated by fiercely passionate onlookers.
Our tour soon concluded an hour that had passed by in less time we were directed to the small shop and later the museum. One more lesson learnt red does not attract the bull as legend would have us believe. The museum was dominated by portraits and statues of male matadors. I doubt that there has ever been a female version although the fearsome Jo could have been the first if my joke was fulfilled.
I doubt that she would appreciate the idea for brave and aggressive she could be without using her undoubted intelligence to good use.
The day was less than half over when we concluded our tour to take up Tony's idea of visiting the Pravda museum. I believe we all enjoyed our visit to the bull fighting arena though the museum on its own would have a disappointment. The sun was getting warmer on our backs but as we descended into the Metro this didn't matter. We emerged from the destination sunshine to be greeted by a five piece band playing delightfully at the stairway exit. We admired there skill and music brightening up even more what was a clean and attractive area. I could have stayed longer but we had a museum to visit. The surrounding area was full of clean white buildings the architecture in this part of Madrid was certainly to be admired even the Bank on the corner.
The wide road was full of traffic two or three lanes wide as we proceeded down a narrow path before crossing over to the wider pedestrian walk way. This side housed all the museums in massive purpose built homes easy on the eye. The shade of the trees either side of the walkway was comforting but had to come to an end. Before we crossed the road to a wide open space in front of the magnificent Pravda museum building there was some more coloured bulls to admire. The colours where strange blue, yellow even purple more appropriate on a snooker table.
The queue for the museum was log so long that the keen Tony estimated we would be waiting the best part of an hour and it was not worth the wait. I suggested we go for a walk in the Pravda gardens signposted behind us and then go for some lunch. On the way a coincidence or good fortune occurred when Mauricio Pellegrino- First Team Coach at Liverpool passed us by. He was wearing a tracksuit and accompanied by a second male headed speedily away from us probable unaware of the attention.
The entrance to the Gardens was marked clearly by another group of coloured bulls it had almost become boring now they were everywhere. We entered the clean and attractive gardens under the arched iron entrance the gates open to encourage us like a prostitute touting for business. It was full of green blooming trees in full glory enjoying the midday sun. Locals and tourist where sat or strolling round enjoying the clean fresh air and comforting surroundings. A fountain taller than two men standing on top of each other was a central attraction in path roundabout. The clean water could be seen as it rose in the air sprinkling down gentle over two saucers into the bottom pool of water. Recycled I was informed which impressed me. The observant John notice a defect the structure leant to one side which result in the water flowing only on the one side. The leaning water feature of Madrid.
To its left beyond an café/ice cream shop the large area of a created lake filled with clean water amongst the boats and rowers enjoying a leisurely activity was a solitary seagull unaware of the commotion around it. It dipped its beak into the sparkling water removing it to shake its head and disperse the wet stuff around.
With nothing more to see and four hungry male football fans I suggested we return to the Sol area of the city for some nourishment. Apart from a solitary ice cream shop there was nothing in the vicinity. Dually we marched back although on the opposite side to which we arrived under the tunnel of trees and dodging the occasional cyclist till eventually we crossed over and admired once more the orchestral still entertaining a small crowd. As the onlookers remained we descended into a dark dreary tunnel down to the metro station and headed for some food.
After some searching we eventually agreed on a restaurant Douugie tends to remain silent and go along with the crowd and the majority where happy to settle for a Pizza restaurant. The ambiance was pleasant despite the interior being similar to your typical Joe's café in the UK however for me Smoking in restaurants is a no no. Like many other things it is permitted in Spain and I found the smoking female on the adjacent table a disappointing downside. The service as always abroad is excellent speedy and with little addition touches in this case crisps while the previous night Tony and myself enjoyed a tasty snack in a bar. With perfect English which could not be matched by our combined Spanish the waitress took our orders I didn't even notice any American twang to it. The Pizza I receive was on a large plate but thinly sliced and bland in taste. Despite its lack of taste I devoured the whole Pizza piece by piece while deep in conversation although my fellow diners where advised of my view. As is often the case I regretted my decision when seeing the well presented and appetising Paella that John and Tony sat opposite me enjoyed. If I returned the Paella would be my choice next time although the coffee was tastefully presented with half water and half milk.
It was after two o'clock local time when the four men with full belly's paid our dues and departed in the direction of our hotel via the local Madrid shop. Tony couldn't acquire a woolly hat suitable for his receding hairline only child size pink was on sale. It was a big disappointment hence our visit was short and soon we where among the throng of shoppers and eventually outside our hotel standing in a circle discussing what we were to do next. In the street way groups of working girls where doing much the same cigarette in hand but with one eye looking out for the next client. I indicated and announced I was going to my room for a rest before we met up later at six to six thirty to depart for the evening match. I duly did and unsure what the remaining members did but it was just after six o'clock when I headed downstairs to the main waiting area.
There was one empty seat remaining among five which I stole next to Annie opposite her husband Billie. The short but dominant lady could talk for England and was the centre of attention, Full of enthusiasm she explained how she had gone to church that morning. This was no surprise as I felt she was probable as Catholic in appearance as ma Boswell although as often is the case her thin husband probable didn't share her devoted nature. I caught sight of Tony nearby and rose to go over and chat leaving my Jumper or coat like a German with his towel claiming a swimming pool deckchair.
As we collected our tickets from Laura and later on the bus our tradition badges a souvenir of the occasion we become more excited and even a solemn Jo who I almost bumped into as she entered the area. A quick Hello polite but with no feeling of warmth was exchanged before I returned my seat. As she stood in a doorway like a lady across the square outside MacDonald's the suggestion was quietly made (not by me) that she could join the ladies in the street but with her duck face trade would be hard to come by! I rose and had a brief chat with her mainly regarding her trip and the news of an air crash at Amsterdam schiphol airport.
A trip by coach to the Stadium was our transport mixed in with locals we stood or sat as we progressed through the busy Madrid traffic. On departing an invite to join us was responded somewhat disrespectfully with "I don't know" where are you in the ground" by Jo who was intelligent enough to guess we where in the same area but wanted to be abrupt. She did lead accompanied by Tony and Douggie while John and myself followed under the black sky with a crescent shaped moon and solitary twinkling star. Tony ahead as we crossed and later got a freebie programme with his shiny bald head except for a crescent shaped black strip of hair moved quickly through the fans.
Inside we purchased some food and drink consuming and engaging in conversation joined by the familiar face of Nigel bring a beaming smile to Douggie's face. At my suggestion the four companions went ahead to find their seats while I finished my hot dog visited the gents before conversing again with Nigel, Steve and later Yvonne and a rare sight of Craig Finlay. When I discovered my seat in the ground I noticed John and Douggie together behind me and Tony separated in the row behind. Jo was sat with a tall and pleasant guy separating us who mostly engaged in conversation with Jo. She got into an argument with another fan over a banner which she untied so her seated view of the pitch was uninterrupted. Insisting vermantly and bring a smile to the face of her neighbouring fan as if to say no need to be like that. The fan who's banner it was retreated realising he was not going to win the argument. It was clear from his face that the manner of treatment aggressive had annoyed him as no one sided with Jo. In fact it was as if she had been gunning for an argument a characteristic of Jo that is not endearing but accepted by me as part of her make up. During the match she spoke to me only once although drowned by the noise I failed to hear a word she said. Through the corner of my eye I noticed on more than one occasion her head turning and eyes in my direction looking to see if I was eyeing her. My concentration for the whole ninety minutes was on the green grass, 22 players running round within the area marked by white lines some distance below. Only a minor disturbance by a silly fan who walked into the arms of the local police to be marched away disturbed my concentration.
With Torres and Gerard in our line up a well balanced and agreeable team lined up in red to face the famous Real Madrid (plain Madrid to locals) in the impressive Berneabau. Under the bright lights I failed to notice the heating system switched on and it was only mentioned by Tony later.
The home side acted as if they expected to win arrogant striding around looking comfortable waiting for the goals to come. An early opportunity was not taken by the host as was a later opportunity by the reds and after twenty minutes the match became stale and as many football experts would say "like a chess game". Half time came and went with nil nil the score while our number nine had to be withdrawn following a niggling injury. The dangerous looking nil nil score line looked like an inevitable till about ten minutes from the end when as often the case in these big games we nicked the game.
A sweetly taken free kick from the left foot of Aurelio flew straight and firmly into the home sides area under our noses. Rising to meet it Benyon our smallest player in open space rose into the air and headed it firmly like a bullet past the Madrid keeper into the back of the net. In unison we rose delighted and in my case in disbelief I have seen Liverpool lead in the three great stadiums in Europe and as full time was not long another great victory. It was one of those nights that make these trips worthwhile my neighbouring fan agreed.
"Yossi Benayoun scored the Reds' winner when he headed in a Fabio Aurelio free-kick from eight yards"
The final whistle was met by jeers from the departing home supporters while joyous singing by the majority of red supporters including myself. I guess some fans did not want to concur with my pleasure. I didn't bother to look in Jo's direction at all even through the corner my eye I had noticed earlier she was wearing a light blue coat the same type as the curly haired girl in front of the Kegon waterfall. I have sent her that picture. Song after song was enthusiastically renditioned although Mr Moreton standing behind me sang like a veteran in the church congregation. I thoroughly enjoyed the moment as one to saviour and my happiness continued as I hurriedly departed the stadium texting Tony & Laura to let them know I was heading back. Finding the Warburton's in the underground entrance I followed with there agreement them passing two Swindon mates who I stopped to shake hands with before catching up with Jim and Jinny. Under there guidance we arrived safely and early at the hotel although coming out the wrong side of the local grand via tube. I thanked them and headed for my room to drop off my programme collection returning to wait for Tony and the gang. He was not to be long and our regular gang joined a large group departing to a local bar to enjoy a few drinks. The tired Douggie almost falling asleep despite the pleasant company was glad to retire even though we had been joined briefly by the attractive Dawn Thwaites. A bubbly, bright and good natured lady always a pleasure to converse with plus she had a good figure. Before departing I made a point of sitting by her for a quick chat I wanted to pass comment on how stunningly attractive she was at Laura's birthday party and check my facts on Laura's mother. Of course some girls looked better than others the Everton girls were stunners that night while plain Jane who I firmly believe could doll her self up and look equally glamorous if she wanted too. She can either do nothing or one day prove me right.
The morning after the match and my room mate rose early to shower as he was on an early morning flight. I sent a text to Tony asking if I could join him on his visit to the Royal Palace to which he agreed. An early morning stroll in the cold morning air still the girls were everywhere plying there trade. Once again I got approached was asked the time answered politely and walked off as she attempted to chat further. "No thank" I said as she called me waving my hand behind my back I didn't bother to turn and stare her in the eye I guess she just gave up and walked off.
Tony was already down for breakfast on the exact same table and seat as the previous morning. I enjoyed a lighter meal Yoghurt instead of mixed cooked food. Maintaining my tradition of cereal bread this time with marmalade and a few cakes to provide energy. Although we arranged to meet downstairs Tony phoned to indicate he was unwell and could we postpone. It led me to the thought that one of the girls had sneaked in and that was his real motive (he he) Jo was no where to be seen and to be honest I didn't care her stropping is not an endearing feature although I am used to her moodiness. She is worse than most girls and it certainly has become unfortunately personal.
After another stroll Tony was better and we met outside the hotel trusty map in hand he led the way. The morning was beginning to warm up as we strolled amongst the shoppers and yes girls. We agreed the evening line up was better and perhaps these where desperate women. We took a few photos in the Sol area a statute of a great bid black bear impressed Tony. On four paws it looked a fearsome creature so much so that I had to stand under it with another elegant lady to have my photo took.
A female officer directed and halted the traffic as we drew closer to the palace. Without knowing we where yards away and it was only because I spotted a sign pointing us in the right direction preventing us from going astray. The female officer began chatting to us and we nodded in agreement or shrugged our shoulder not having a clue of her words.
We were fortunate for as we headed towards the palace a procession was heading our way. Dressed in royal gala brightly coloured outfits a group of six soldiers on horse back. After a gap another more demurely dressed on all white horses followed there lead while the main attraction appeared to be a horse drawn carriage inside it I do not know but behind dressed in red with black triangle shaped caps where three persons. It was I who first spotted and pointed out to Tony a surprise female amongst them it was only by looking closely at her face compared to the rugged males beside her.
They must have completed a loop for as we progressed towards the Palace more came by but the sweep following behind them was the main give away, "It's the same sweeper" he exclaimed in surprise and refused to take any more pictures. The open square in front of the gates was massive and the building in front of the palace was impressive. Not however as the front of the Royal Palace uninhabited protected by an Iron fence guarded at its only gate entrance by armed soldiers. I spoke to a female courtier dressed in finest gear who pointed us in the direction of the entrance adding "but it's closed today" well Tony had failed again!
He did request I take a picture of him holding the camera my hand began to shake I failed hopelessly and was severely rebuked for my inabilities. It was not only that I didn't understand how to focus but try as I might nerves got the better of me. I was to make a further attempt later of Tony with some horses in the background and