The trials, travails and problems of a travelling Canary
Most fans have their own pre-match ritual, and I am no different.
Before the game I change into my lucky green Norwich shirt, drape my yellow and green scarf around my neck, and check my pockets several times to make sure that I have my season ticket, Gunn Club card, money to buy a programme and refreshments, and ticket to travel to Norwich for the game. Just like many other Canary fans I went through the same routine prior to the home game against Leeds United. Then at 9.30 am I jumped into the car and set out to begin my journey.
There I suspect my path began to diverge from that of most other City fans. First of all the car (from my hotel) deposited me at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. Pausing only to admire the breathtaking panorama of the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas which surround the city, I checked in for my flight to Delhi, the first leg of my pilgrimage to Carrow Road.
Once checked in at the airport, we were told that there was fog in Delhi. The man from Jet Airways could not have been more helpful. “Yes” he grinned, “there is fog in Delhi. But there is no problem”. Anyone who has visited the sub continent is well aware that when an official assures you that there is no problem, this means of course that there is indeed a problem, but that he is too timid, or too optimistic, to own up to this.
Eight hours later, the plane from Delhi landed at Tribhuvan Airport, the by now thoroughly disgruntled passengers shuffled on board, and after four separate, cursory, and totally unnecessary passenger security checks, the plane immediately took off again for Delhi.
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The flight is quite short, and by 7.30pm we were in the brand spanking new airport at Delhi. Everything there is modern, clean and works. The transit area really is most impressive. A host of immaculately uniformed officials surrounded us, smiled helpfully, and assured us that there was no problem. In order to move into the departure lounge for the next leg of the journey all that was necessary was to locate the Turkish Airlines Representative. No problem. Except that 18 million people live in Delhi, and locating this individual took a while.
I can seriously recommend sleeping on the floor in Delhi airport, especially if there is no alternative. Next morning at 9.30am he deigned to turn up, handed us our boarding passes, and this in turn allowed us into the departure lounge for the next leg of the journey, namely to catch the next flight to Istanbul. “Ah” he said gravely. “Now there is no problem”. Except that the airport was still fogbound. “No problem” announced the pilot. “We will take off anyway”.
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Clearly the pilot had an important date in Istanbul, or believed that there was no such thing as a problem, merely an opportunity. The plane took off despite the fog, and by midday we were in Istanbul airport gorging ourselves on Turkish Delight, and stocking up on duty free cognac. The flight to London took off on time (you see there was no problem) and by late afternoon (by now it was Friday night London time) I arrived at Heathrow and took a taxi to central London where I work.
Work was in crisis. Problems abounded. Credit crunch, falling demand, impending bankruptcy, tube strike on the horizons, plunging staff morale; everything that could go wrong was going wrong. My boss soon took charge of the situation. “Hamilton” he barked “break open the duty free cognac and pass round the Turkish Delight. We need to have a crisis meeting.” Funnily enough the crisis meeting lasted until the cognac ran out.
Saturday morning I woke early and stumbled out groggily and bleary eyed into London’s West End. I downed a coffee and a mince pie in Cafe Nero, wished myself an early Happy Christmas and somehow made my way through unfamiliar highways, byways, and underground stations to Stratford station in the Far East of London. There I met the rump of the Capital Canaries (not a pleasant sight, and most of them looked even more hung over and disreputable than I did). No one seemed to know what was going on. Apparently there were problems with the trains.
On Tim’s instructions we changed trains at Shenfield and sank gratefully into the 11.00 from Liverpool St to Norwich Thorpe which had magically metamorphosed into the 11.15 from Shenfield to Norwich Thorpe. The train was empty, I bought myself a much needed coffee and looked forward to a leisurely and well earned rest for the next one and three quarter hours. Alas it was not to be. My cousin and Tim plonked themselves down at my table. Those two can sniff out a bottle of cognac at 100 yards away. They forced me to open my second litre bottle of Hennessy and the two of them proceeded to demolish it on the journey to Norwich, while I sipped delicately at my coffee. Not a problem. That is what friends are for. Aren’t they?
Despite being tired, I managed to stay awake during the game, which was a good one to watch, and resulted in a 1-1 draw, which was a fair result. After the game I snatched a quick beer in the Gunn Club to sober up, and caught the 18.00 train to Liverpool St. In our carriage there were a host Of Leeds fans. Despite the shocking reputation of some Leeds fans, these guys were really friendly, really funny, and the salt of the earth. They were Irishmen from Dublin who lived in Boreham Wood in Herts. Quite why any Irishman, let alone one living in Boreham Wood, should support Leeds, is quite beyond me and would make quite a good subject for a PhD thesis. But as Tennyson said, ours is not to reason why.
They were certainly more interested in Stella Artois than in Tennyson, and were genuinely nice guys. So when we arrived at Liverpool St at 20.00 hours we remembered that it was the Capital Canaries 35th birthday bash at the Old Red Lion in Islington and that Gav had said it was a command performance. So we made our way there, and partook of a couple of beers. Tim was still under the influence of his lunchtime cognac (maybe he still is?), but everyone else enjoyed the occasion. I was the last to leave, around midnight. Well I had to stay and finish all the free sandwiches didn’t I?
And having begun my journey on Thursday morning Kathmandu time, I finally crawled into bed on Sunday morning at about 0200 London time. Just another normal few days in the life of a diehard Canary.