Friday, 22 October 2010

Happiness envy

Mixed signals?
And so to Peterhead, in eager anticipation that dear Dumbarton might relieve themselves of their current, er, ‘foundational’ position in Irn Bru Scottish Football League Division Two. No such luck, but how were we possibly to know?

The journey to Balmoor (capacity 4,000 – 1,000 seated, it says optimistically in my ground guide) turned out to be a 330 mile round trip – my earlier  iPhone-fuelled calculation having proved exaggerated. It was not without incident. No, I didn’t say ‘excitement’, I said ‘incident’. When events on the field are as they are for Sons at the moment, even a throw-in is ‘one for the diary’. The very same principle applies to the preceding pilgrimage.

Thus the woman in the queue at the Strathcathro motorway café fixed me with her puzzled stare. “Is that a football team?” she asked, pointing to the black and gold crest on my fleece. Given our current plight, a number of possible answers crossed my mind. But as my mouth opened I thankfully found that I had swapped “allegedly” for a rather wan “yes”. She was a stranger, after all. Fitba grief is best kept private in such circumstances.

Road to nowhere
Coincidentally, the supporters’ coach from Dumbarton had arrived in Strathcathro at the same time as the Edinburgh crew. I say “coincidentally”, but given that our ever-focused driver, Graeme Robertson, gleefully announced that we were “only three minutes over-schedule” on the way back, I suspect it might have been carefully planned.

Anyway, having been diverted by an earlier accident and bridge closure, I conspired to eek a few more precious seconds from Robbo’s log by forgetting to use the word “takeaway” when ordering two coffees and a tea. Since “latte” hadn’t worked, I guess I figured that crockery wouldn’t come into the equation, either. But I was wrong. So Graeme, Cliffe Jones and I found ourselves socialising briefly with our DFC festooned fellow-sufferers. No-one mentioned the match directly. We kind of knew, I think. My official prediction remained 2-1 to Dumbarton. Well, I got one of those goals right. But not one of ours.

Mr Robertson was keen to be on his way after this accidentally lengthened pit stop. As he swung our vehicle round in the service area (while I was still wondering whether we should have made a bid for the café shop’s five foot stuffed black horse, just as a terrace talking point) some supporters were milling outside. You could see from the glint in his eye that he was wondering, “is that five or ten points for getting a Sons fan?” Not really. It’s just foot-of-the-table mental catharsis.

Meanwhile, the growing strangeness of “going north” manifested itself some minutes later, when a keen young driver decided that it would be a good idea to try and overtake us, starting from the slow lane, at about 50 miles an hour in the very small gap between our car and a rather large lorry. Sensible. It turned out to be an L-Plated local Stirling Moss on a comedy death-wish, I think. At times like this I feel glad to be a non-driver. Knowing what’s going on doesn’t really help.

The look says it all...
We made one more stop, at a gas station (my wife’s American, that’s how we say it in our household.) I rather wish I’d taken a picture of the big poster opposite the pumps. “You can’t be too careful!” it warned us – above a picture of a woman with a giant oil gauge and a rag. “Is that how family planning works around here?” I found myself asking. Only joking, dear Aberdonians. Your honoured birthright is not in peril.

And so to the Peterhead ground. A neat little affair, I must say, with a very friendly bar and social club. Dumbarton director Alan Jardine’s gesture of lunch for a number of us was much appreciated. The vegetarian option was duly negotiated: macaroni cheese, quiche and garlic bread. Delicious, and the Guinness was superbly poured and finished with the traditional shamrock nozzled onto the head. I texted a picture of the delicacy to my beloved’s mobile phone, since I knew she would be amused. “Look, not a veggie in sight!” I observed drolly.

It went wrong after the warm-up
As to the game itself, I’ll leave that to the match report below. It was fairly grim stuff, but I still believe we can dig ourselves out of this footballing grave. Always believe, Barrow. Mind you, there was what could well have been a 'signifier' (as old Jean Baudrillard might have put it) on the way. The ‘Coma’ guest house. Yes, really.

Curiously, given the disappointment of yet another defeat, the return journey went quickly. Sleep does that. And we were only three minutes off schedule, as I mentioned. Pity about the game.

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