One advantage of travelling down to the ‘Smoke’ on a regular basis is that, on the rare occasions I have need to buy some London show tickets, I can do so without having to suffer those inexcusable online fees that can add more than a tenner to a booking. Hey, that’s valuable beer token money!
So when my teenage daughter suggests we get tickets for ‘We Will Rock You’ – she’s lyric-perfect after appearing in a school production of same – before it closes at the end of May, I’m ideally positioned to pick some up on this weekend’s footballing visit to London.
I can’t honestly profess to being a massive Queen fan. My favourite songs were amongst the early stuff – Liar, Seven Seas of Rye, Killer Queen – but I like a good sing-song as much as the next man so will probably enjoy it. More so than my octogenarian mother who, on an old biddies outing to a production of Mamma Mia, was admonishing anybody within range for daring to join in with the songs – “I’ve not paid good money to listen to the likes of you,” she quite reasonably pointed out!
Having breakfasted at the Wetherspoons pub on the Mall (the one with Tim Martin’s picture on the hanging sign) and washing it all down with a couple of cups of filter coffee and an enjoyable pint of Truman’s Runner (4%), I pick up the tickets from the Dominion Theatre then call into another Wetherspoons, the Montagu Pyke in the West End. I recall being in here once before, and being refused a pint because it was before 9.00am, despite all the pumps being bedecked with clips and Beer Festival bunting. Apparently a local bye-law or something draconian. Today I have timed it to perfection and can sample a pint of Clarence & Fredericks Oat Milk Stout, nice and fruity if a little thin in body for a five-percenter.
This is the precursor for my first-ever visit to the Harp on Chandos Place (near Trafalgar Square), an award-winning locals pub where space is at a premium. I’ve looked in a time or two but it’s always been rammed. Today it is busy but there are seats available so I have time for a quicky. Sadly the London brews on tap all appear to be of the ‘golden’ persuasion, so I go for a Crouch Vale Anchor Street Porter which is not a bad drop of the dark stuff at 4.9%. A gaggle of middle-aged women are cackling over a noisy video one of them is playing on her phone, presumably thinking we’d all like to hear it. Thankfully one of the bar staff has a quiet word and relative tranquility descends once more.
From here I’m ideally placed to walk across the Millennium Bridge to Waterloo Station and a 35-minute, £10 return trip to Egham in Surrey. This part of the world was underwater a few weeks back, particularly the area around the local football ground, where the available boating facilities were widely pictured in the sporting media. The railway station is a good mile and a half from the ground, and I have the choice of a handful of pubs within walking distance. With time creeping by, I decide to call into the Compasses, a free house just a hundred yards from the Runnymede Stadium. It’s a roomy pub bearing the 1970s legacy of horse brasses and fake beams, and of the three handpumps, two have their clips turned round. I identify them as being Youngs Bitter and Wadworth 6X. That just leaves another Waddies beer, St George & the Dragon, which is palatable enough, even if it is compromised by the Southern penchant for pulling it as flat as a pancake. Oh for a good local Surrey ale … with a head!
And so to the stadium, past rows of houses – some built with access at a higher level bearing the possibility of floods in mind – and mounds of discarded sandbags. The Runnymede shows its age a bit but nevertheless possesses a good calibre of spectator accommodation, with covered stepped terracing down one side and behind both goals, and a seated stand with room for a couple of hundred on the halfway line. A check of the bar area and the snack servery reveals nothing of interest to the ale-drinking vegetarian so I take up position in what seems like a virtually deserted ground as the players walk out. The only vocal encouragement comes from a trio of trainee cheerleaders, small girls who only have the one song but deliver it with plenty of gusto.
On paper mid-table Egham Town should have little trouble despatching struggling visitors North Greenford United but it’s never a walk in the park for them. United seem a plucky bunch, with the tall No10 putting in an honest but unrewarded shift up front. But it’s a poor game, with the home team dragged down to a certain level, the only bright spot coming on 30 minutes when individual skill takes Egham’s main striker in on goal to score what turns out to be the winner. The cheerleaders go wild and burst into a chorus of ‘Another One Bites the Dust’…. or rather they might have done if they hadn’t already deemed their work here done. So I sing it to myself instead, just getting into practise for a few week’s time, you understand….
Programme: £1, on the turnstile. Layout is uninspiring but there’s a lot of content, with just 2 pages of advertising, which is commendable. 7/10
Floodlight pylons: 8
Birdlife: Having witnessed flocks of parakeets at nearby Ashford Town a few years back I have great expectations of this trip and I am not to be disappointed, a flight of four of them swooping over the pitch early doors. Only a handful more appear during the game, but they’re my first ‘sqwarks’ of the season!
Toilets: Between the clubhouse and the turnstiles. Won’t win any awards!
Club Shop: No
Music the players walk out to: Deathly silence, apart from the three afore-mentioned ‘Go Egham’ mini-cheerleaders
Kop choir: half a dozen home fans erect an Egham flag behind the goal in the second half but don’t know any songs.
Away fans: Difficult to say
What’s In a Name? Curiously the Egham programme master, fearful that the visitors don’t have a big enough squad, lists some players twice. Unless of course they have two lads called Asen Agov, a common name after all. For some reason I play around with this and come up with Goan vase as an anagram. I told you it was a poor game! Presumably United’s Romaric Logon is a big internet buff….