It's 0733 on Saturday morning and I'm on the second of three trains to Manchester Oxford Road. The service I'm currently on takes me as far as Manchester Piccadilly.
I got to training a little late yesterday, mainly because I was disorganised (as usual) after what had been a very active day up until then. I had a nine o'clock lecture, following that I went more and washed my hair so I could have it cut and then went into Selly Oak. The place I usually go to, Headman, was having a re-fit so I headed down to Adam's. I was seen straight away and got my usual cut - really short so it is quick and easy to wash and style. After that I went to Sainsbury's for a few fresh items that I had run out of, and headed back for some lunch. I had a bit of time to prepare for the evening before two consecutive lectures starting at 1500. We were lucky enough to be released a little early which meant I could get back and carry on sorting stuff out.
In the evening I had Korfball from 1830-2000 as usual, but after that I was going to Mason Hall Christmas Ball entertaining with Circus doing some juggling and table magic. In addition to this, my Mum and sister were coming up to stay the night because they would be going to the Clothes Show the next day at the NEC. So things were going to be hectic, as I had to get enough ready for them to be able to settle in. It just so happened that they would arrive in time to drive me to Korfball, which was nice because I had a lot to carry.
Got there a little late but that was OK. Did some warm-up exercises after a couple of jogs round the hall and some stretches. Soon after, my Mum and sister left to get some food - after all, they had been travelling for just over two hours. We carried on with the exercises and also played some games at the end. It was a good session: I got a few goals in during the exercises which was nice! At 2000, we had a quick meeting to discuss the Manchester tournament the next day. No-one put their hand up for going apart from me, and this I thought was a shame, it being the last tournament before Christmas. I still wanted to go though, because a full team wasn't required. Apparently, they just make the teams up depending on who is there.
Nick and I had quick showers before putting on our suits and walking up to Mason Hall. We arrived at 2040, which I thought was pretty good going. I felt better than I thought I would, because I hadn't eaten dinner, but then again I wasn't hungry. We dropped our stuff in the office and met up with Ali and Lucy who had been there since about 1900. Mike turned up soon after, and Tall Mike and Jason were also about doing stuff. Had a bit of a juggle and then went home about 2220. We had to wait for someone to get the key to a room where some of the stuff was being stored, and this took longer than expected. Headed back down Edgbaston Park Road for Selly Oak and Big John's for some dinner. The other hold up was waiting for Tall Mike at Tesco Express after he ventured in for some doughnuts. Upon investigating further, it turned out he wasn't in there. How he escaped is a mystery! Went to Big John's and got a veggie burger and chips, and went hope to eat it.
I got back a lot later than I had hoped at around 0000. Sneaked downstairs for a plate and glass and went back up to eat. When I had finished, I started to pack for Manchester. I knew where everything was, the only problem I could see was getting some more insulin cartridges and all my clothes off the dryer downstairs, as my Mum and sister were asleep in the lounge. As you might imagine, the inevitable happened and I woke them up after the clothes dryer I was trying to move spontaneously fell down on me. I made a bit of a racket. I collected all the clothes I needed and went back upstairs. Forgot to mention I had a proper shower and shave so I was ready for the morning. Soon after, everything was collected together, so I sorted it out and packed it up. There were a few things I wouldn't pack until the last minute, which remained on the desk, and soon after that I went to bed. Before doing so, I checked the web for directions from Fro and double-checked the details of the tournament, before swtiching out the light. It was 0220. I set the alarm for 0520.
I got up at 0547 which was a bit of a shock because I'd slept through half an hours worth of beeping alarm! I hope I didn't wake anyone up! There wasn't much to do apart from pack my towel and jumper and the stuff that was on my desk. I went downstairs for some cereal and filled up my water bottle. Woke my Mum up again. :-( While I was eating it I packed up the stuff.
Once it was ready I left at 0625 heading for University station. It was only when I realised it was too late to turn back that I was on the way to Selly Oak and not University, whcih was a pain because University is a lot nearer. It is because I am used to power-walking pulling my bag to Selly Oak early in the morning for Korfball tournaments, so it has become routine now. I got there at just gone 0645 and bought an Open return from Selly Oak to Manchester Oxford Road, which came to £16.35 with a Young Persons Rail Card. The train was seven or eight minutes or so. When it arrived, the doors didn't open and I wasn't give the option of opening them. Great, just what I needed! There were fifteen minutes between the train arriving in New Street and the connection leaving, and I have to say, I was getting a bit edgy. Then a guard walked down the carriage and opened them from inside. He told me that he had problems with one of the carriage doors. We had to wait for what felt like an eternity between Five Ways and New Street. I assume for a signal change, but then, could there be that many trains before 0700 in the morning on a Saturday?! Train moved off and at New Street I legged it up the stairs to find where the train to Manchester Piccadilly would be leaving from: platform 7B, then headed there.
The train was already on the platform, so I moved down past the "Quiet zone" carriages and boarded. Carriage D again! Soom after it left, (at 0718) I did a blood test and jab, because I hadn't done one before I left (blood sugar was 2.7%). I'm now sitting writing having just left Macclesfield. The train gets in to Manchester Piccadilly at 0858.
The journey so far had been quite good, I have two seats to myself and it appears to be running on time. The only minor bad thing is a group of four or so guys who have been laughing and joking since we left New Street. They are quite annoying! I do not know what they are laughing at because nothing I've heard is funny. They are also drinking Foster's, which I thought quite brave for the early morning.
Not long after, the train arrived in Manchester Piccadilly after a short delay waiting for a platform. I had about ten minutes to find the new platform. It was cool, it all seemed so familiar since I did the journey identically to weeks ago to the day. It was like I was home again. :-| I couldn't find Oxford Road on the destination board, so I hung about for a bit contemplating what to do. Seeing the information desk I wandered over and asked where I'd get the train to Oxford Road. The gentlemen behind the desk told me platform 14, which I went to as quickly as possible. It meant getting a moving walkway, what are they called ... erm ... well, anyway, it came in two parts and second went up a slight incline. Cool! :-D When I got to the top, I had my ticket checked and saw the next train was in two minutes. I got on and confirmed with the guard whether the train would be going to Oxford Road or not. It was. I was a little confused because on the destination board it was called "Manchester O Road" which took me a little time to work out. Bear in mind, I'd had had an early start! The train was no more than three minutes and along way I saw some things that I recognised, but I can't remember any of them.
Upon getting in to Oxford Road and lugging my bag up the stairs, I was again ticket checked (good) and asked around to see if anyone knew the way to the Armitage Centre. The people I asked weren't too sure, but when I said Fallowfield they said to go out and down to the road and head right, which I did, towards the Palace Hotel. Waited no more than two or three minutes and asked if I was going in the right direction for Fallowfield. Blow me, I wasn't! Fro's directions (!) Nah, only joking mate. The driver pointed me towards a bus stop on the other side and told me to run to catch the 42 that was just leaving, but it was gone before I could even get across the road. But again I was impressed as to how frequent the buses were as I wasn't waiting long. I asked the driver if he could let me know when we got closest to the Armitage Centre, but he didn't know where it was, so I asked him for Fallowfield, which he did know.
While travelling I realised just where I was - near the University of Manchester (or a bit of!), because I recognised the bridges along that particular road. A woman got on asking for Owen's Park, and having got off exactly there two weeks ago, I knew where to tell her to get off. She got off and I got off at Sainsbury's and asked a woman at the bus stop where the Armitage Centre was: first right, to the end of the road, left, to the end of the road, and I'd see it on the right. I followed her directions and in less than five minutes was opposite.
I had a look around and couldn't see a single person. I followed the pedestrian entrance to the Centre along the side of some courts. Went in and had a look around. There were no minibuses outside and not a single person visible inside. I inspected the facilities and had a look round the hall. Then I thought I'd wait in the reception for someone to turn up. By now there was a man behind the information desk who had just opened up, and he told me there were no Korfballers about yet. I couldn't believe that after the mission I'd had and the three trains and bus and walk, that I would be the first person to arrive at the venue. But I was. Soon after, Fro turned up carrying some speakers, so I took one off him and went to the hall with it and my bags. Following this, some guys turned up and I got talking to them. They included Ian from Manchester, I think. I then saw Breesey ... what a legend! While we were milling about while they set up posts and music and stuff, I got talking to some people about Caridff and tournaments previous to it. Next, we registered and put our name on a piece of paper with the team and approximate length of time we'd been playing. I was in the Burnage Griffins. Captain: Alice from Sheffield Hallam.
Play started at 1100 after the music had been put on. It is strange to think of music playing thw whole time play is happening, but it worked really well. I got changed, met up with my team and warmed up ready for our first game against Zu's team. We got beaten 0-7 but I was marking Zu for a bit, and he is fast and lanky (!) - and this is OK for me to say because he agrees (!!) "[He is] too lanky for his own good!" We also had the problem of having one girl too few and one boy too many, so "[I']m-Andy" = "Mandy" offered to play as a girl and wear a bib. Nice one! So yeah we got mullered, but this was OK, we could see even before play commenced that they were going to win just by looking at them (i.e. they were a talented bunch).
Scores of games, in chronological order: 0-7, 1-6, 3-3, 2-8, 1-2. I felt that as the games went on we were getting better as a team, and considering I hadn't met most of these people before, let alone play with them, we did OK. Getting in to collect and feed a bit more, and making space and stuff. Chris is great to be in a division with because he' is tall, so the passes have more room as he can get higher balls, so to speak. I can't remember the exact details of the games, but our play has greatly improved. During one of the games, a guy I was defending played as though he was really tired, but then had some fast breaks. I think he was acting. He had a red t-shirt on. Was this you?
Had a break from 1430-1530, then played the team in position 5. We played probably our best game but only managed a 1-1 draw. The game seemed really short (it may have been shorter than the rest). I'm now taking a break in between that and our next (and final) game which will be against the same team. A kind of two-legged decider thing. If we lose we will be ranked sixth. If a draw, it will go down to golden goal (with funny Korfball rules). Unfortunately for us, we came sixth out of six, but we were "blatantly the best team there", so it didn't really matter (!)
Rankings were the same after the two-game playoffs as they were before. After the games, Fro did the presentation of ranks and sweets to the teams, and I went to get a shower. They were quite hot! Saw Breesey in there and had a bit of a joke with his lot, and then went out again to see what Fro was up to. He told me I could stay at his if I wanted, as well as that Alice (Hallam), and Laura & Lizzie (Trent) would be staying in the same house as well, including Rahul and Zu.
I packed up my stuff and collected the rubbish together. Fro gave me the rubbish bags to take out as he had a load of miscellaneous stuff from the judges table, including the claxen (which had broken) and some bottles, as well as some other stuff. Two people were driving us back to Fro's and Rahul was one of them. We went out to the cars and I got in the back. Fro passed me his stereo which I had on my lap and then he got in. There was loads of stuff that was on our laps in the end, and it was quite a complex operation to get it all in. There was little leg room for Fro and the person on his left (Zu?) I have a terrible memory, I should add! It was quite a funny! Five or ten minutes later we were back, the second car with the girls following.
Had a quick look around the house: lounge, kitchen, downstairs bedroom, Fro's room, bathroom and two upstairs bedrooms. The large room at the front (Brian's) was rather large: it had a double bed and there was still ample room for everything including quite a bit of floor space. Fro complained about having the smallest room and I told him I had the equivalent in the house I was in, except my room was smaller than his. We had a bit of a talk in the front room as a group before getting ready to go out. Some of the guys had showers including Rahul and Zu. We continued to talk while waiting for them. Fro had planned to leave around `1900 but we ended up leaving closer to 1940 although this is a little hazy in my mind. After I'd prepared my insulin and blood tester and grabbed some chocolate for emergencies, I was ready to go!
We walked to get the bus to the curry house. It was in Rusholme and called Cinnamon. Zu told us that it was the finest curry house in town, and apparently it was near a bus stop, which was good because it wasn't the warmest night ever. I did have a jumper though.
We went in and upstairs to an area set aside for us. We were the last to arrive (Fro, Laura, Lizzie, Rahul (?), Zu and I). We sat down on a table separate from everyone else (separated by a wall) because we thought there was one too few seats with the main group, but after investigating a little there were enough seats so we went to join the main group. Initially I was opposite Lizzie, with Laura on her left, Caroline (Manchester) on her right, Ian (Manchester) on my left and Zu on my right. Earlier on in the night Gav (?) had got me some Carling, the first of which I'd had at the house so I had three remaining. The waiters brought round some pint glasses which was cool. As we were last to arrive, we had to order separately from the rest of the group, and their food came, but there was a bit of a wait because it may have been busy downstairs.
In that time I had a chat with Laura, Lizzie and Zu until Lizzie decided to switch with Fro, who was up until then sitting on the table behind me. Zu also helped me choose a dish because I was a little lost as to what to get. He recommended Saag aloo which I got as a main dish along with Pilau rice. It was also a bit of time coming. Ian had a lamb dish which looked quite nice even though I wouldn't have eaten it myself, hehe! He pointed out that it was quite red and he was wearing a white shirt, as was I, as was Zu. We had some starters earlier also, including some puree'd vegetables, a sweet sauce and some yoghurt (raita), as well as some sweet chopped onion, which had been coloured red. There was also a plate of popadoms between four of us, but I didn't eat too much.
The food came shortly afterwards and the saag was really nice. The portion was too much for me to eat but was a decent size. The rice was also a good size, and was just what I needed with some beer. I told Zu about being insulin-dependent and he asked me if that was why I had got potato, to which I said yes. I do like potato though! It was good that he knew because he wasn't drinking, so in an emergency he'd be best prepared for taking action. Being on my own at this tournament, it was a relief for someone else to know what the score was. He was very cool about it and came across as someone who knew a bit about the condition. While Fro was sitting opposite we had a few conversations about various things. I learnt he had been playing for three years, which surprised me. I thought it was longer because he is very good, although he does come from a basketball background, and his height doesn't hinder his performance! I also learnt why he has the nickname Fro... When his food came he went off again, or did he? I can't remember!
When the food was finished people started to move around a bit. I learnt the names of a few more people, including Caroline from Manchester. I asked for the bill, my food came to about seven pounds which was superb value! The meal was really nice, not salty like I expected it to be and had a little spice to give it a kick. I wasn't as hungry as I thought I'd be, but I ate about two thirds of the saag, and more than half the rice, which was quite a large portion.
The bulk of the group left but not before I had moved down to the table at the end that Alice, Kevin and Laura were sitting at. We had a chat about the previous tournaments of the year including Nottingham and the fancy dress. I had to of course mention the old "5-3" game we won against Hallam in the semi-finals! Also spoke about the social afterwards and the singing in the Ropewalk, and Hallam boys vs Hallam girls and Birmingham joining in. We also discussed the Lancaster social and why Hallam wore togas and not dress up as Moulin Rouge. I'm glad they told me because I thought I'd missed something! Shame we didn't really make an effort for it. I also learned that Alice was from Bromley.
We were on our own by this time in the upstairs of the restaurant. I went off to do my injection and when I got back we left for Scu-bar. By now, time was seriously getting on. Fro had informed the guys at Scu-bar that we would arrive around 2020, but by my estimation it was at least 2230, and we still weren't there. I think Zu was with us, but then again not. There were five of us, who was the fifth person? It was Lee Beach from Hallam, my apologies for not remembering! We got the bus down the road, it wasn't too far although the driver didn't know where Scu-bar was, which was fair enough, but it was near a swimming pool or something nearer to the uni. We got off and asked where to go, and it was a bit of a walk, but we had initially taken some wrong directions, d'oh! We approached a couple who happened to be clued up and cool to direct us, and they were walking in the same direction for most of the journey, which must have taken about ten minutes. It was along the road with the characteristic low bridges and stuff near the university. Out of nowhere, Scu-bar popped up, set back from the road. Who was the fifth person? Fro? Yeah maybe! Someone.
Asked the guys on the door about the Korfball social and they directed us upstairs. The girl who lives near me in Harrow asked me for my ticket to the social which I got out even though Chris was trying to get me in without having to show it. It was so funny! I bet he'd had a few by this time. I got a pint of Foster's from the bar and was quite pleased to only be charged £1.90! Fab, I might actually get home with some money this time. Either that, or very, very drunk.
What follows may not be in chronological order because it is a bit of a blur, but I'll summarise the highlights of my evening.
By half past one I was quite tired (I think that was the time) so Lizzie collected everyone together and we went home. Took quite a while to get everyone to come at the same time. We got a bus back along what I remember someone saying was the busiest bus route in the country and then someone else correcting them and saying it was the busiest in Europe. Quality! I sat next to Lizzie on the bus and we were sitting opposite a couple slightly older than us, and somehow we got talking about korfball, so we explained what the game was about. We hope we've maybe encouraged someone else to find out about it, hey, you never know!
When we got back, we had a gathering in the lounge, but I split off to check my blood sugar, which was worryingly low, so I had some energy and sustainance. Rejoined the group but was feeling quite tired by this point. Brian was having a go at Lizzie jokingly, and boxing was on the telly. I think. Or was it poker? Or neither? Mind is a bit of a haze. At some point I went out to the kitchen to meet Zu and Rahul and two others I didn't know. Heard a funny story of how one of them was so drunk on Scrumpy Jack that they ran out in front a bus one time, and some other funny stuff that I can't remember!
The gathering continued late into the night, until about half past three, when most people went to sleep. I sorted out my mattress and got my sleeping bag out. Ate some of my bread rolls and worked out where I could find a place to kip. The kitchen was quite cold (where all my stuff was), so I had a look around and figured it would make sense to go up by the door in the hall because it was quite wide and people could still get out if need be. So I put the mattress there, and went to sleep. Oh, and it was 0355 by the time I'd eaten, done my jab, and taken my contact lenses out. Long day.
It wasn't the earliest of starts, but Vicky went out to get some food from a local shop. I'm pretty sure she is the girlfriend of one of the guys who live in the house, but I don't know who. I think she went to get some eggs. It was cold when she opened the door, me being right next to it and all! This must have been about 1030 or 1100. I got up soon after, when Gav got me a cup of tea, which was very nice of him. Did a blood test and it was a little low, so again I had some energy. This surprised me a bit. Had tea in the lounge with most of the group, who were sleeping in there. Vicky cooked Zu an omelette which looked and smelt damned good, apart from the chili sauce he had with it, which had "Who dares, burns" on the side of the bottle. I think it was pretty spicy, to say the least! Also had a conversation about the events of the previous night, which was so funny I hurt from the laughter! While we were talking, Zu received two texts from Fro which caused some merriment amongst the troops! Then saw Sam and some others who were going to a league game in Stoke soon, but would probably be late because it was about an hour away, and they weren't all ready.
When they went, I sorted my bag out and then everyone went, some home, others to the local greasy spoon for some brunch. It was a short walk away, "just around the corner". Was probably about five minutes walk. It was a nice day, sun was out shining brightly. I ordered a veggie breakfast and tea which came to £3.50, and it wasn't long before it arrived, although I couldn't eat all of it because I wasn't hungry for some reason, and I really expected to be. Never mind. After that, we walked back to Fro's, which annoyed me just a little because I had pulled my main bag all the way to the cafe and all the way back! We went via the main road which meant Gav could get a paper. When we got back to the house, some went back in (the residents!), and some went to the car to go back to Nottingham. I went to the bus stop to catch a bus back to Piccadilly Gardens where I could then walk to Piccadilly station to get the train. It was a glorious day.
The walk from the bus stop to the station was an absolute pleasure, but mainly because I now knew where I was going! I got to the station around 1400 and had a look at when the next train to Birmingham was, It was at 1458, which left me ample time to buy some water because I had forgotten to fill my water bottle before leaving Fro's. I found a Sainsbury's in the station at the end, which I hadn't seen before. Got two bottles of water and went to the platform. I had forty minutes to spare before the train, so I wrote a bit of this until it was time to get on. For the first time in ages, I had complete choice of where to sit, which was nice, so I put my bag in the bag rack and sat at one of the tables so I could write my diary.
The journey was good, I did nothing but write my diary and drink water all the way back. I did plug my headphones in for a bit half way through the journey and had a listen to Red Hot on Channel 1, presented by Emma B from Radio 1. It had some good tracks and some interviews on. I couldn't work out how to change the channel or the volume, which was a bit of a shame, but never mind. At least it wasn't too loud.
The journey was probably the most relaxing I've ever had by rail, the sight of the sun going down over the horizon was really nice. Just wish I could have recorded it somehow. On arrival back at New Street I didn't hang about and got up to the main concourse to find the first train to University station, which was ten or fifteen minutes away. Went down to the platform (11B) but this was changed to 10B at the last minute. The train was quite busy. It wasn't too bad after stopping at Five Ways though because more people got off than got on. I eventually got back to the house at 1800.
I was so glad I'd made the effort to go to Manchester, and it's a shame I wasn't joined by some more Birmingham people. Met some really cool people, had agreat time at the social, and didn't seem to be bothered by the fact the journey was three hours from start to finish, approximately! Hopefully the turnout will be a lot better for the Oxford tournament on the 17th January. Hope to see a lot of the people I saw this weekend there! I hope this account of the weekend makes sense, but please bear in mind, I'm not great with names (is this a human characteristic?) and at times my mind is a bit hazy. But I hope the whole thing is coherent in the scheme of things. And if you think it is too long, or too detailed, tough!
|Cheadle Elves||Stockport Orcs||Hulme Nymphs||Didsbury Dwarfs||Burnage Griffins||Mossside Ogres|
|Mossside Ogres (1)||Chris (Man. City)|
|Louise (Man. City)|
|Didsbury Dwarfs (2)||Sarah (Connor)|
|Karen (binger of loc)|
|Rahul (Bulldog defence)|
|Rob (Captain) (Dwarf)|
|Zu (King Vlad)|
|Debby (Ozzy rules)|
|Steve (Mystic Meg)|
|Hulme Nymphs (3)||Donna Waitt|
|Stu Hall (Captain)|
|Stockport Orcs (4)||Lizzie Trent (Captain)|
|Craig Man. City|
|Cheadle Elves (5)||Karl|
|Burnage Griffins (6)||James Breese (Cardiff)|
|Andy B (Lancaster)|
|Chris Sidebottom (Manchester)|
|Matt Pulford (Birmingham)|
|John Schofield (Man. City)|
|Alice Fairhall (Hallam) (Captain)|
|My house||-||0635||Me (walking)|
|Selly Oak||0650||0653||Central Trains|
|Birmingham New Street||0703||0718||Virgin Trains|
|Manchester Piccadilly||0858||0913||First North Western Trains|
|Manchester Oxford Road||0916||0922||Bullocks Bus Services|
|Bus stop by Sainsbury's||0932||0934||Me (walking)|
|Armitage Sports Centre||0940||-||-|
|Total time: 3 hours, 5 minutes|