3 May 2010

Darkness

The border guard shuffled over from his corrugated sentry box. Evidence of recent meals was spattered on his collarless granddad shirt. From his box, ukulele sounds merged with the unmistakeable and whiningly comedic singing of George Formby. "When I'm Cleanin' Winders..."I wound down the car window and the guard seemed to be speaking to me but it was as if his mouth was filled with marbles. At first, I couldn't understand a word.

"Excuse me."

He tried again and from the morass of curiously rounded syllables emerged a question - "Why are ye visiting Lancashire?"

"We're - going - to - see - a - football - match - at - Wigan," I replied in a deliberate manner with pauses between each word.

He shuffled back to his box, stamped our passports with the red rose of Lancashire and manually lifted the rusting barrier to let us through.

Here we were motoring through "The Dark Side". Some people live in light while others live in darkness and so it is in this unending War of the Roses. Here in Yorkshire we raise statesmen, musicians, inventors, poets and artists but on The Dark Side, sometimes known as Lancashire, there is nothing. Just Lowry-like figures bending into the rain and millgirls clutching their shawls as they clog their way through ink-black puddles.

Racing through Gorton and Audenshaw towards Eccles and Salford, we bravely traversed the sprawling Lancastrian metropolis of Manchester. "Just keep going," I kept saying to myself as we overtook vans carrying pigs' trotters to Ramsbottom and black puddings to Blackrod. Not a moment too soon we reached Junction 5 of the M61 and followed the grimy signs to Wigan via Westhoughton and Hindley.

This was the heart of darkness. Men in flat caps leant against crumbling cotton mill walls while small girls skipped or hopscotched towards lunchtime - when no doubt they'd be tucking into bowls of tripe and onions while watching re-runs of "Coronation Street". There was a sophisticated restaurant called "Summat To Ate" and three pubs - all with the same name - "Last Orders". Pedestrians passed in their clogs and I thought of that song about Lowry - "He Painted Matchstalk Men and Match stalk cats and dogs..."
Wigan Athletic supporters before Monday's match with Hull City
Finally we arrived at the DW Stadium - home to Wigan Athletic. It was to be Hull City's last away game in The Premiership following our recent and very sad relegation to the darkness of The Championship. But from the "Road to Wigan Pier" gloom emerged three new bright talents - all home-grown - Mark Cullen, Will Atkinson and Tom Cairney. Cullen and Atkinson even scored on their full debuts as we achieved a creditable 2-2 draw.

The Premiership "ride" has been fantastic. It took my team 104 years to get there and with wiser governance we could have stayed for another couple of seasons at least. We have seen some brilliant games and witnessed some great results amidst more defeats than we'd like the record books to show but I wouldn't have missed it for the world - genuinely a dream come true.

In Hindley, on our way back from The Dark Side, we stopped at a random public house - "The Lord Nelson" and ordered half pints of beer. Several Lankies stared at us - they'd probably never seen or heard real life Yorkshire people before. There were four or five little rooms in that pub but in every one was there was a big 40inch TV screen blasting out deathly rays. No wonder the locals seemed utterly stupefied. We had to get back to Yorkshire... as a matter of some urgency.

9 comments:

  1. At least tha's not gooin back t't third division.

    Aaaaaarrrgggghhhhhh!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Elizabeth7:45 pm

    When City were promoted there was a real 'feel-good' feeling around the whole area; everywhere you went in Hull people were grinning, whether they were ardent supporters or not. It was great to see. For those first few weeks when the other teams didn't know their tactics, it was magical. Then came the slow deflation as management strategies floundered. So sad it couldn't have been for longer... x

    ReplyDelete
  3. Elizabeth7:47 pm

    Der...just noticed the tautology in that as I've read it back - but you know what I mean!!!x

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lol!! Hilarious, YP. I just read it out loud to Keith - he grunted, but being a Welshman, he probably doesn't understand the finer points of the Yorkshire/Lancashire divide. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  5. For another War of the Roses, did you ever see the movie with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas?

    ReplyDelete
  6. No musicians on the dark side? Well there's me for a start and a few others like errrr...Lennon and McCartney.

    Just sayin' like.

    Shame about Hull going down. What's the immediate future going to hold? Will the likes of Bullard stay or will there be an exodus? Can you get back up? Hope so. I hope Blackpool make it up this time. The first ever match I went to was City v Blackpool. Jimmy Armfield was near the end of his career and a very young Emlyn Hughes was just beginning his.

    My club wants to 'grow the brand globally' and open up the untapped markets of the middle and far east. The futures blue they keep telling us.

    It will be if that Etonian acquires the keys to the door on Friday.

    Chin up fellow Northerner.

    ReplyDelete
  7. RHYMES Sorry Rhymes. There are numerous peculiar English references in this post.
    DAVID HIRST-BOOTH I am also sick that Wednesday went down as that's always a home game for me.
    ELIZABETH I know what you mean. Hull has had many kicks in recent years. Having a Premiership team was special and brought some positive publicity from around the world.
    JENNY Phew! Thanks. It WAS meant to be funny and I'm glad that you got it. Don't worry about Keith. If I were Welsh I would also find it hard to laugh at silly stories.
    STEVE Oh! I forgot that you live on The Dark Side. Hope you weren't too offended. Regarding the real City, I am afraid that incompetent moneymen have screwed us and we may never make it back but as some of our fans were singing at Wigan - "You can stick your Premier League up your arse! Stick your Premier League up your arse!" etc.. Regarding Bullard.It would be great to see him go but on £45,000 a week I think he's likely to hang on and suffer yet more injuries. In moments he showed true brilliance but quite simply he didn't play enough matches for us. An unwise buy. But I'd rather have him as prime minister than Toryboy Cameron.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for clearing that up for us. It was even headline news in international press, "Hombre triste viendo como bajan el Wednesday" - Man Sick to See Wednesday Go Down.

    I knew there'd be a logical explanation somewhere ...

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.