Monday, 18 August 2008

Away We Go

Oh bloody hell, not again! A quick pre-dawn check of Ceefax shows the tube's up the spout - faulty communication equipment or some such dodgy excuse - and the District Line is only going as far as Bow Road!

Being the sort of cautious person I am, I leave the house at 5:50am in order to give me plenty of time to get to King's Cross just after 7am. I share this habit with Freud apparently - always had to be at the station hours in advance.

My reasoning is also quite self-centred since bacon sandwiches have to be be procured for the journey and that's my job. Once these are sorted, I can relax and meet John (Wilson) on the lovely new concourse at St Pancras before we set off at 7:55am for Robin Hood country.

(right) John Betjeman at St Pancras station - presumably scanning the skies for that Barry Conlon penalty

Early departure equates to early arrival into Nottingham and plenty of time for our usual meander to Selectadisc for some CD shopping. Unfortunately it seems it is only half the shop it was - the second-hand portion of the shop was shut down but we still managed to find a few bargains, including £3.99 for Ted Nugent's Scream Dream. He may be a gun-toting red-neck git but boy can be play guitar.

And then before we can spend any more money on re-issues of stuff we already have festering in the loft, local DAFTS Colin Fletcher intervenes and whisks us away for some beer.

John and Colin outside the King Billy

Today Colin was taking us to one of his new finds - the King William IV. The King Billy, as it is know to locals, is in the Sneinton part of town but to me it's still Nottingham - it's just a couple of hundred yards from the Ice Arena-thingy.

Worryingly though, it was looking like the type of pub that doesn't open until noon - the bane of our lives since the advent of so-called 24-hr opening - there were no signs of activity through the frosted panes. Salvation though as the landlord arrived just before 11am and opened up.

There was a wonderful mix of beers on tap awaiting us with offerings from Thornbridge, Kelham Island, Oakham and Oldershaws.

The Thornbridge Kipling - described as a South Pacific Pale Ale - caught my eye and at 5.2% may have proven to be the wrong beer to start the day but it's clear, hoppy taste belied it's strength - a smashing pint, definitely the younger sibling to their Jaipur IPA.

Colin inside the King Billy
Colin, being a dark man, had a half of Kelham Island's Mieszko - a Polish-style porter being offered as part of their World Series of Beer. A beautiful dark brew which makes me wonder if I opted for the right pint. Hopefully our trip to Rotherham in October should allow a visit to the Fat Cat and a chance to try more of their wonderful brews.

John opted for a pint of Oldershaw's Mowbray's Mash - I tried it and it tasted fine but after drinking the IPA and then the porter, it was probably a bit light for me to really appreciate.

And then a text from Lance - "I'm in the VAT" - meant our trip to the King Billy was cut short and sweet but I do hope I get a chance to visit again - it has the feel of a real, cared for local.

The VAT & Fiddle is where we've habitually congregated before and after games at County and Mansfield for many seasons - with the latter's relegation to the Conference, it seems that this will be our sole visit for the season.

As we settle in, we're quickly joined by Steve, John (Bell) and Brian - Doug and Pete arrive a little later after driving down from Darlo.

There are the usual Castle Rock beers on offer - their seasonal beer is Bumblebee and it's a nice, smooth golden ale with a decent body - the name suggests it may have honey in it but I can't detect any. Unfortunately it soon runs out, bloody typical! The good news is that it is replaced by White Horse Village Idiot which is a more than adequate substitute.

The game itself was quite entertaining despite being a nil-nil draw - we took the game to County and went close on several occasions, hitting the woodwork twice. Alan White was substituted in the first-half as he was suffering from a virus - Miller proved to be a more than capable replacement and is, with Foster, my preferred central defensive pairing.

The Notts fans were certainly sorry to see White depart - I think they'd been looking forward to venting their spleen on the former County player. He was not well liked apparently...

In the end I think County will feel most pleased with a point - we more than matched them. My only worry is Brown, our new keeper - he doesn't seem to have the confidence of his defence yet and seems too keen to go walkabout - thank heavens Delroy Facey left his shooting boots in the dressing room.

Back to the VAT after the final whistle for a couple of hours - we meet Tammy VIP, an occasional inhabitant of Bottom of the Barrel (vaguely football-related messageboard for the uninitiated) who Brian has met before. We have a good chat with her and her other half before they wander off to see some live footy in another pub.

VAT & Fiddle cat in traditional club colours

John and I have the luxury of first-class travel back to London - not bad value at £14 - and all the complimentary tea we can drink. For once we have the pleasure of an uneventful trip and predictably it's not long before we nod off and the first away day of the season is over.

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