Just when you expect everything to fall in to place, a spanner is thrown in to the works. It will come as no surprise to those readers who are frequent or semi-frequent users of National Rail services in this country that it was a delayed train that caused this mess. Though, to be quite fair, I'm no angel myself. More on that later. My tale begins in my home town.
I'd been out at work until just gone half five helping Martin (a good family friend) fit a new dishwasher for a customer, and had got back home. I had a moderately serious hypo just after getting in (2.6%, or thereabouts), and wasn't feeling great. Hypos always tend to happen when you least need them - not that you always need them or ever need them, but, more accurately, at the least convenient time. For example, earlier in the day, when I was working in the showroom would have been far more convenient, if not desirable, because at least it could then be dealt with without much fuss, or inconvenience to anyone else. But no, get me when I'm frantically packing at the last minute for a korfball tournament in Nottingham this weekend. It's not hard to see why my Mum often calls me Mr Lastminute.com, especially now. I'm running around trying to get clothes, towels, wash kit, pillow, and fifty other objects together in one place in order to pack it in to a bag for the weekend.
The journey isn't going to be so bad because I am going to be staying over with some friends in Birmingham and leaving with the University team very early Saturday morning for Nottingham, but none-the-less, things could have gone far better so far, and I'm not even half the way to Birmingham yet. I intended to catch the 2007 train from Northolt Park, and before that, the 1914, but I was too late, and anyway, only made the 2007 with a few minutes to spare. Well, that's what I initially thought. Martin and I left the house at 1949 by his watch, and arrived at Northolt Park some six minutes later. This was due to a number of key factors:
On arriving at the station a few minutes early, I bought a permit to travel (the ticket office being closed), and headed over to the platform the train would be leaving from. Two trains passed through before my one, which was three, then four minutes delayed, arrived. Martin saw me board the train and then left. Once on the train, I sat down and read my book, Bill Brysons 'A Short History of Nearly Everything', which is proving to be a worthwhile purchase. It is a shame that the last time I indulged in it I was heading out to Belgium - also with the korfball team, some two months ago.
The train was due in to Princes Risborough at 2036 but even though they had made a cock up already, Chiltern Railways were trying to fix it - by arriving in to Princes Risborough three or four minutes early. This was music to my ears, because the route I'd taken straight from National Rail: Plan My Journey gave me a mere one minute to make the necessary platform changes to catch the 2058 to Birmingham. This didn't worry me initially, as I thought it would be the same platform, but then I realised this might not be the case - like at High Wycombe when coming south. I was concerned that with all my baggage (and trust me - I haven't got *that* much this time), I might miss my connection through no fault of my own. Even with three extra minutes, nothing was guaranteed - seeing as I'd never got off at Princes Risborough before to change services. Perhaps it would have been easier to get off at High Wycombe, but then, what if my connection didn't stop there? I thought I'd play it safe and stay put.
On arrival at Princes Risborough, I had a look around and realised it was indeed possible that my connection left from a different platform to the one I'd just got off at. A glance around and seeing a notice confirmed this. So I headed over the footbridge. Surprise surprise, the train was delayed, this time by ten minutes, so I hung around. I mean, it wasn't the coldest of nights, and while I hadn't eaten, I wasn't exactly bothered by it. A few minutes later this got worse, though, by changing to 2127 - nineteen minutes further delay. Fantastic. I called 118500 and asked for numbers for any fast food shops or restaurants near Princes Risborough station, and was told a number would be texted to me, but my phone froze, and when I turned it back on, nothing had come through. I called again and then two number came through. Bit like buses! ;-) They weren't able to tell me how far this was from the station, but that Princes Fish & Chips was on Market Square or Market Place.
I phoned home and asked my Mum if it would be possible to have a look on MultiMap.com for me, which she did. In this time, I called the chip shop to see if they could direct me. The guy I first spoke to didn't know the area that well so handed me over to a colleague - who told me I wouldn't be able to get to them and back in ten minutes, it now being 2117. Nuts! All that for nothing. I texted my Mum and told her to abort. It was now 2126 and then the display said the train would be coming in at 2125 - one minute ago. Alas, it had not been. It eventually arrived at 2131 - thrity-three minutes late. Never mind, at least I was on. It is now 2218 and I have been writing for a while. I imagine I will get in to Moor Street around 2300 - which means I will get to the house around 2345 - as I shall be stopping at a fast food place on the way, though, I haven't decided which yet. I was hoping to have repacked my bag properly on the train, but it is too busy and frankly, I can't be bothered. More from me later.
A good sign
The train got in at just gone quarter past eleven, some forty minutes late. By this time I was fuming. There weren't too many people left on the train. I had been reading every page of the latest edition of Balance - so time had passed quite quickly. I got my stuff together and began the walk to New Street, stopping at Nationwide on the way for cash. I popped in to McDonald's for something to eat as I hadn't eaten properly in hours. Music was playing while I was in there, and while I was waiting for my Quorn Premiere burger, *it* came on.
Now, I have heard this track plenty of times since I heard it on the night of the Lancaster tournament some thirteen months ago, but I had forgotten how good it made me feel and brought back memories of a really good night! I'm not a big Timberlake fan, but I do think 'Like I love you' is a great track. That night in Lancaster in the Sugar House, when I was absolutely plastered, was just fantastic. It was like making the connection with the track all over again. To those few that were there with me (Gareth; Helen; Jack; Nick), you may remember my antics that night - don't worry, none of that will be happening this weekend! But I was happy listening. I munched my food and headed to the ticket office.
There were no trains to University at this time so I had to get a taxi, and I must have ended up back at the house around 0005. I gave Andy a buzz to let him know I was close and soon enough I was there. Spoke to him for a bit; sorted my bags out; had a shave and shower; now writing this and going to bed. Set my alarm for 0530 - that's just over four hours in bed - let alone asleep, so for now, goodbye and goodnight! PS The Timberlake track was a sign that this weekend is going to be fantastic!
I'd set my alarm for 0530, but when it went off I thought I'd have another ten, and got up at just gone 0540. I felt reasonably refreshed, and considering I'd only been in bed for four hours, I'd slept OK. I grabbed some rice krispies and packed up my stuff and left. By this time it was 0625. Was a ten or fifteen minutes walk to the station with my bag, and I only saw one other person on the way. It was still dark. I'd already got my ticket for the journey so I checked the times - train was on time, so I headed to the platform and waited around for five or so minutes, and got in to New Street. No-one else from the team was on the train, so I guess they must have got earlier trains. There was a slight delay getting in to New Street - the train got in at 0703 and I pegged it up to meet the team up by the display boards. The team were there, apart from a couple of guys who had gone off to get a Subway sandwich, and when they came back we went to platform 12A to get the 0710, which would be terminating at Norwich.
We were going to get off at Beeston, though, one stop before Nottingham (I think), which was easier because we were being collected by Sally and a few others from the station by car. Weren't waiting long - train got in at 0830 and Nick had a quick juggle. Cars came, got in and soon enough we were there - five or ten minutes. Sally overshot the road to the Sports Centre, and the other two cars followed, which was rather funny! Got in to the Sports Centre - last time I was here was the Nationals. Got changed, whacked lenses in; adjusted belt; pinned on England flag. Joined the team and awaited our first game.
First one was against Sheffield Hallam 1 and I was marking Jam. Not so bad, actually, I thought I was going to get completely trampled on, but we came out only 1-0 down, and this was because of a shot by Jam from quite close in when I wasn't defending him for a split second. Harsh. But then, he plays at a much higher level and would therefore take an opportunity like that almost every time.
At some point in the morning, I was sitting watching one of the games with Claire. She asked me where I was from. What follows is (loosely) the conversation we had:
|Claire :||So whereabouts are you from?|
|Me :||North-west London, a place called X.|
|Claire :||Oh right, I live in Y.|
|Me :||No way, I went to school in Y!|
|Claire :||Do you know Road Z in Y?|
|Me :||Yes, I have a friend who lives at the bottom of that road. His name is Paul.|
|Claire :||You know Paul?|
|Me :||Yep, he's one of my good friends.|
James and I had "fun" at lunchtime trying to find a place nearby to buy some sandwiches from - in the end we followed some people who were also doing the same. The journey all around campus took forty minutes or so - Nottingham campus is really crap for services on a Saturday. Hey, they could have made a killing by having the café open, but never mind. When we got back, we'd missed a game but all was OK. Had a break for a bit, I think, I can't remember.
Our last game was at the same time as the final. It was the second game I'd played in which had got down to penalties, and this is something which I was very much hoping would not happen. Mainly because, while I have very briefly learnt how to take them, and had done before at some point - they are very hard under pressure and even talented and experienced players miss them. They shouldn't be missed because they are, in effect, free goals there for the taking. Least, they are in my opinion. I'd taken three in total so far - two of them being either too long or two short, and the other one going in. So I knew it was possible. In the fourth instance, I was second to take my penalty, and went after Nick, who very surprisingly missed. This didn't give me any boost because it meant there was more pressure on me, but I took the penalty anyway and couldn't believe it when I sunk it. I think we won that shoot off by one goal - it didn't get as far as sudden death.
In the fifth and final case, I also took my penalty second, this time after Joeri. Now, I was certain that he wasn't going to miss and was absolutely shocked when he did (not intended in a nasty way mate, just how I saw it), and again there was more pressure on me to score. I can't remember if the first of our opponents scored or not. I knew it was possible to score if I just remained calm and focused. I stepped up to the penalty spot and set myself up. Could not believe my luck when the ball went through the basket, it was just fantastic. I can't remember who else scored for us after that, but I think we got two other goals, which meant it would go down to sudden death as both teams had scored an equal number of times. Joeri was first up again - you have to retain the order in sudden death, and scored, so we were through. Nail biting, but good korfball.
We found out that Hallam had won the tournament, so we headed upstairs ready for the presentation, which was made and then we went to shower. Once that was done, we walked back to Sally's house - she had gone ahead in her car with Libby and a few others. Wasn't too far, a ten or fifteen minute walk or thereabouts. From there, we ordered pizza and Libs went out to get cash and some lager. The whole thing, pizza and drinks came to 5 GBP each - not bad. We had ordered twelve pizzas between the lot of us, which arrived while Libby was in the shower. While she was up there, everyone had plotted against her and had hidden the pizza in the few remaining boxes and stacked all the empty ones in a pile, hehe! No-one gave it away but we did leave her without telling her there was still some left for quite some time!
I had all my stuff in the dining room with Joeri and James, which was convenient because it was right near the door (less distance to drunkenly stumble in!), and there was enough space for all of us. It took me a while to get everything together: smart clothes and shoes (needed a clean); diabetes blood testing meter and Novo Pen; two bars of chocolate (in case I have a hypo); camera; wallet. Only took a while because my stuff was scattered everywhere from during the day and it took longer than I had intended for it to be found.
After that, I started to get ready for the evening, and we caught a minibus to town at 2010. Soon we were there, and Paul and I went to get some cash, and then headed to the venue - Bar Risa this time, not Ropewalk as in previous visits. When we got there I spoke to Fro who said the group had headed down to Lloyd's for a cheeky pint, so we headed down there. Service was slow and they were out of cider, so we both had pints of Carlsberg or similar. Nice and cheap, though. After being served, Paul and I joined the rest of the group who were at the left end of the bar, and we chatted about all sorts of stuff, before heading back down to Bar Risa. As one of the guys pointed out, not a single person checked to see if we had tickets, which I thought a bit odd considering the unusually high price (4.00 GBP each). It's just, I don't remember a social being that expensive before. Never mind, at least it is going to the club and not in someone's pocket.
We went upstairs and got a table and some drinks - I had a couple of bottles of Stella and almost straight after I'd grabbed a stool from the other side of the room, we started the drinking fines. Fantastic. I was first up, with two drinking fines for missing two penalties. I'd scored three, but I got these mixed up, so instead ended up drinking three fines worth of Stella (six fingers), something which made me feel rather ill. Being out of a bottle, it was rather fizzy, and I didn't feel so good after that, so went to the toilet to breathe and check on my blood sugar levels. The levels were slightly high, but it was still manageable. When I came back five or ten minutes later, everyone had wondered where I'd got to, so I filled them in. After that, I was taking it easy the rest of the night. This wouldn't prove to be hard because it took ages to get served and anyway, I didn't want to get in to a state which meant that I'd be sick. I hasten to add, I didn't want to beat my record of chundering by 2150 like I did in Belgium in the summer. It was approximately 2140 when I went off to the loo, so I could have beaten it, but I was very much trying not to.
Anyway, so when I came back I had quite a lot of thinking to do. While I was walking over to the dance area, I saw Ailsa from Bristol, who had been out in Holland at the same time as us in the summer, and she recognised me but couldn't remember my name. Don't worry babe, I'll let you off - there are plenty of randoms who I know by face but not by name. After that, I went to join some of the Bristol lot, and got speaking to a girl whom I met at the Nottingham tournament last year (I think, it was very early on) who asked me if I wore contact lenses. Now, this somewhat surprised me. I couldn't believe she remembered me, fantastic! I think she is from Bristol - I say "she" because I am very sorry to say I have forgotten her name, oops! If you are the girl mentioned and are reading this, please get in touch here. I also spoke to another guy who remembers speaking to me at the social after the Nationals when we were wearing our "clown" costume. Yeah, thanks for that! It was OK - was good to speak to you (Andy?!) and it was all friendly banter.
We haven't got our kit sorted for this year, actually, we have, it is just on the way, though I am not sure of the colours yet. Craig was also about so I had a word with him about things that had happened since the summer, and he asked me why I hadn't emailed him after taking everyones address. Good question. I told him I would explain in my first email to him, but I'll repeat it here. Since then, I moved back from Birmingham to London, and in the mess of all my things I mislaid my korfball diaries. I have since found them, but I have been really busy and haven't got round to going through them and getting in touch with people. So I will do soon, though, just how soon "soon" is, I don't know! I also had a reasonably long conversation with Helen from Nottingham at the bar, and was introduced to her (almost) twin, also called Helen, and also from Nottingham University, as far as I am aware.
What followed after that was the ice cube game, the old classic, though I'd never played it before. I had seen it played at the Manchester social last year, but had somehow managed to get out of it. The idea being somebody starts with an ice cube and passes it to a member of the opposite sex using only their mouth and tongue. An interesting concept, especially when I didn't know half the people I was with! Note, you don't *have* to pass to someone of the opposite sex, but it is desirable. (Sorry about that Craig!) Actually, no, you passed it to me first, ;-).
At some point I also had a reasonably long conversation with The Chief, and Lizzie from Trent, whom I introduced to our players who were sitting on the sofas around a table. Please note, the order of these events is somewhat hazy in my mind, even though it is only three days on. Hey, a lot happened! I started by introducing the person to her left, Joeri, telling he that he was Dutch. She then commenced to speak a little Dutch to him, which made it much harder for me to continue! ;-) After that I went round the rest of the people who were round the table, and shortly after that she went off. I also had a long conversation with Boat Race (Mark) from Oxford about how he'd been since I'd last properly been in touch with him in January. He told me he'd been working hard on his PhD and had very recently made a breakthrough, which was good news. He also told me of the fun that would be happening the next day - two games of korfball and then refereeing another one straight after (I think), a total of three hours on the go. Harsh.
It is at this point I think it is probably for the best that we aren't involved in a league - we have been in the CEKL before, but currently I don't think it would be worthwhile for us and would involve a lot of travelling, this not being the easiest thing in the world to organise. Soon after that, I went to speak to Ailsa again, and the next thing I know we were going home, though I don't know what time this was. Considering the korfball socials I'd been on last year, I didn't drink that much (a good thing) - something which Nick also commented on earlier. He said he felt quite bloated. I put this down to having pizza for dinner. Previously, we'd had chinese at most of the other tournaments (curry at the Manchester one), and this had meant I wasn't bloated.
It is unfortunate that we couldn't go to Ropewalk again, though it ws good to do something different, even if it was more expensive and too loud at Bar Risa. Oh, and take a while to get served. I also lost my pen which was a pain. Does anyone know if the drinking fines were all done by everyone? If not, I'll send the list of fines up to Nick who can dish them out at the next social! ;-)
We got a couple of taxis home and sat in the lounge looking at the pictures that had been taken. I was surprised - a lot had happened that I hadn't seen (I'd been with Bristol for a lot of the night). Which reminds me, a girl who I think is from Bristol (who was there when we were playing the ice cube game) kissed me *very* passionately when she passed me the ice cube, what was going on there? Was very nice! For some reason I didn't speak to her. I was getting sleepy but I can't remember what the time was, must have been getting on to 0300 if not that late already. Some people had already gone to bed and soon after I went myself. I had a snack before going to bed, as always. Also had a good blood sugar level reading. Night night all!
It turns out I had quite a serious hypo in the night which had prevented me from sleeping, so I was very tired. The clocks had gone back an hour in the night, which meant I got an extra hour in bed, but I didn't notice. Typical to have a hypo and not notice that extra hour the only night of the year I'd get it. I got up and had some tea, and half a slice of toast, followed later by some more tea and toast.
We left in time to catch a train from Beetson to London St. Pancras - three cars going to the station: Joe, who was driving back to Birmingham; Sally's Mum; Sally's Dad. Thanks for that favour. Train was on time. I was going to go all the way back to London on it - I could have got off at Leicester and got a connection to Birmingham like the team were doing, but I wasn't really in the mood for making lots of changes because I was somewhat sleep deprived and had a reasonably large bag. The team got off at Leicester where I said bye to them.
The rest of the journey was spent listening to music and reading the magazine provided by the rail operator. It wasn't the most fun ever, but still. I would have written my diary, but I'd lost my pen so couldn't do that. All things considered, the journey wasn't boring. I also sent some text messages - long ones, because I had nothing better to do. Only problem being, my battery was on its last legs, and while I did remember to bring my charger, I'd not remembered to charge it while I was at Sally's house, nor could I see a power socket on the train. This meant I'd have to stay in touch with my parents via text to let them know when I'd be back.
When I got back to St Pancras, at 1435 (two minutes early), I got the Tube from Kings Cross to Baker Street, via the Hammersmith & City line. This was because the Metropolitan line wasn't running from Aldgate to Harrow-on-the-Hill, and the Circle line also had disruptions. Bit of a pain really, because if the Metropolitan line had been running, it would have been one simple Tube ride home without any changes. When I got to Baker Street, I got a Bakerloo train to Marylebone, where I got a Chiltern Service most of the rest of the way home.
My Dad picked me up at the station. I was rather tired. The rest of the afternoon I spent recovering, waking up, and later eating, though I wasn't that hungry. I also started typing this up, but didn't get that far.
All in all, it was good tournament and I was glad to see so many keen new Birmingham players, as well as many familiar faces from other teams from tournaments last year. It was good to catch up with a small number of you. I am very happy indeed that the Korfball Club is continuing this year, especially with such a vibrant and enthusiastic group of people - well done guys. As you were getting of the train at Leicester I said "well played", and I meant that. For a bunch of (largely) beginners, you played really well. I know we were unlucky in some of the games, but stick with it. I can see in the future Birmingham being a very strong team - and hope to be there to see you whip some of our opponents!
I very much enjoyed the dressing up aspect of this tournament - just a shame I didn't have more time to make it better. Work does that to you, I guess. Was great to see everyone having a laugh and enjoying student korfball, which at the end of the day is what it's all about. The guy who won the best fancy dress did also deserve it - dressed as a parrot, including nice green Y fronts!
It was good to be involved again - I haven't played in two months and think I still know how to play (just about). For one reason or another, Birmingham aren't going to Sheffield on the 13th, which is a shame because it was well worth going to last year. In the meantime, keep up the good work folks. Glad to have you around this year, Nick - nice one! Oh, and don't forget those drinking fines - I might put them on the web actually, will make things easier for you!
|Start time||'Home' team||'Away' team||Court||Score|
|0915||Birmingham 1||Sheffield Hallam 1||2||0-1|
|1115||Birmingham 1||Edinburgh 2||3||1-2|
|1215||Birmingham 1||Sheffield 1||3||0-1|
|1315||Leeds 1||Birmingham 1||2||0-0|
|????||Nottingham 2||Birmingham 1||?||2-2|
|Start time||'Home' team||'Away' team||Court||Score|
|1030||Birmingham 2||Bristol 1||3||1-1|
|1130||Birmingham 2||Cardiff 2||2||4-2|
|1230||Birmingham 2||Lancaster 2||3||0-1|
|1330||Birmingham 2||Nottingham Trent 1 (?)||2||1-1|
|????||Nottingham 1||Birmingham 2||?||0-1|
|1||Sheffield Hallam 1|