It was a fairly decent run on the tran to Preston - excellent value at £14.50 - and the journey passes quickly given I nod off for over half of the journey. I arrive on time where I find my chums Trevor and Margaret waiting to greet me.
They take me on a tour of a few pubs - first the Market which is next to the town's market - not a brilliant choice, Brains or Adnams. We don't linger.
The next stop is the Black Horse which is on CAMRA's inventory of historic pub interiors. Trev tells me it has recently been refurbished and they've done a great job. However it is a Robinson's pub, a brewery I'm not keen on, and even their hoppy beer Hoptimus has that tell-tale Robbies tang to it. One pint does it.
Next is the Greyfriar, a Wetherspoons, and one of the better examples of that chain. They have a nationwide beer festival on currently and a good choice is available so we get stuck in. They've also cordoned off a corner of the pub for a tasting of Hawkshead beers.
We then make our way towards the University of Central Lancashire and their union building, 53 Degrees, where Hawkwind are playing. Opposite the venue is a great little boozer called the Bitter Suite. It is full of elderly rock fans in denim and leather getting stuck into some local microbrewed beer.
The Polish support band, hipiersoniK, are just finishing their set as we walk in the venue and so we wander through the crowd to stand towards the front.
Hawkwind are currently touring one of their classic albums, Warriors At The Edge Of Time, and it has been getting some positive reviews including this one from the Gruniard. The first half hour is a mixture of some well known tracks plus some new numbers which leave me a bit cold. The WOTEOT set though is much better and goes down well. Trevor really enjoyed it - first time he has seen them since the 70s - though I'm not sure what Margaret makes of them!
|DAFTS supping in the Free Trade Inn|
Less relaxing is the trip from Carlisle to Newcastle - I'm next to a swarm of middle-aged Glaswegian women who all try to talk at the same time. I close my eyes and turn up my music.
The train pulls into Newcastle Central at 10am and I head to the Stateside Diner on Pink Lane - a venue DAFTS have used in the past and the breakfast was excellent. I headed back to the station - Tony and Pete Stockill had already arrived and soon afterwards Martin, Carl, Claude, Trevor and Brian joined us.
Tony, Trev and Brian joined me in a taxi as we headed straight off to the Free Trade Inn in Byker - we just had to after our last visit.
A good selection at the bar: Tyne Bank Peleton Pale Ale, Durham Magus, The Brew Company ABC, Alchemy Citra Burst, Loch Ness Wilderness, Fyne Muckle Flugga IPA all on cask and on keg there was
Summer Wine Citra Pacer, Marble Vuur & Vlam IPA and Hardknott Rheteric II. More than enough to keep me and everyone else happy!
The more I visit this pub the more I like it - landlord Mick always has time for a chat whilst he is scurrying ruond trying to ensure there are no pumps without beer. An excellent attitude that has seen them recently awarded Tyneside Pub Of The Year. It must be a strong contender for North East POTY.
|Hillheads Park, home to Whitley Bay|
As kick-off time nears, Tony declares he might give the game a miss and I'm tempted to join him but that would leave a lot of time for drinking, maybe too much. We eventually reach a compromise and just leave the pub late so that we don't get to the ground until 3:30pm.
On arrival we find the gates are locked but we attract the attention of a steward and they re-open them for us, even knocking a pound off the entrance fee even though we offer to pay full price. The turnstile steward informs us that we're one-nil up, "from a penalty" he adds.
We're not long stood on the terrace when Darlo attack and a Bay defender clips the heels of Thompson for a stonewall penalty - the ref agrees and there are no arguments from the home side.
I spend the rest of the half chatting to former neighbour Geoff Thompson and then as I head to the other side of the ground, I meet more former neighbours, Dave Lewis and his daughter Julie. It is good to see them again since we all started going to Feethams together in the early 1970s.
I must admit I don't pay a lot of attention to the second half - we're clearly in command but we're making harder work of it than we should. Whitley Bay don't really have a lot to offer other than cussedness.
We eventually score a third goal from a corner (or maybe a freekick) - the ball is whipped in and at first it appears Tait has headed home but there is a suspicion - correct as it later turns out - that a Bay defender made the all important touch and it was an own-goal. Thoroughly deserved nonetheless.
|Darlo go three-nil up|
I head off to the Town Wall to have a few more beers - first a Wylam Gold and then the (keg) Wylam Haxan which is a black wit. Both are OK but nothing special. Martin and Claude then join me for a quickie before we return to the station and catch out train home.
After Claude gets off at Darlington, we get chatting to a guy sat at our table. He turns out to be a Lincoln fan on his way back to London after he'd been playing at the jazz festival at the Sage. Phew - just as well Mr Wilson headed off earlier. You wouldn't like him when he's angry...