Despite reaching the grand old age of 34 before I stepped nervously onto a plane for my very first flight, I’ve soared into the sky on numerous occasions over the ensuing years, essentially considering it to be an enjoyable part of the whole holiday ‘experience’. What HAS become a pain, however, is the massively increased security which virtually strips you down to your y-fronts before they let you through to board.
We experienced some of that while travelling to and from Dublin last weekend, as the wife and I enjoyed a four-day ‘cultural’ break which involved some Christmas shopping, a John Bishop show, and many hours spent researching (yes, that’s the right word) the Irish craft – and cask – beer scene. I’m pleased to report that not one pint of Guinness passed my lips during the four days in which we sampled several brews from the Galway Bay Brewery range (primarily stouts and porters) and cask beers – yes, real ales – from J W Sweetman and Trouble Brewing.
Sadly – as the Irish football league plays during the Summer months – there was no football to be had, so back in blighty where should I end up watching my first game for two weeks? Virtually under the flight path for Heathrow Airport! All of a sudden planes and airports are providing a noisy backdrop to my social life.
I wasn’t planning to be at Bedfont. But after arriving at Victoria Station with my son – who’s off to Stamford Bridge with his mate – a scan of the Southern League website fixtures list reveals that my chosen game for the day – at North Greenford United – is off. As is the back-up choice at Barking. So it’s back on the tube heading for Hatton Cross, just one stop from Heathrow, and the familiar walk to Bedfont. I say familiar because I have been this way once before, to visit The Orchard, which was then home to Bedfont Town. That stadium is virtually adjacent to The Recreation Ground, which is where I’m heading today.
Airliners thunder barely a hundred feet overhead as I walk along Hatton Road, and I marvel once more at the many horses who calmly go about their grass-munching just below the roar of descending jet engines. More so the people who live in the house directly beneath the flight path! It’s a little calmer a few hundred yards down the road at the football ground, the entrance being just past the car park that serves the Orchard, which is now the home ground for Bedfont & Feltham FC.
Set back from the road, the first building I encounter is the rather grand clubhouse bar, with a plush interior including table booths each served by a flat screen TV. When I arrive they’re all playing Christmassy videos but by half time Sky Sports News holds sway. Although there is no hand pulled beer to be had, they stock a good range of bottled British ales – chilled or otherwise – from the usual suspects. A bottle of Fullers London Pride does for me. Outside there’s a snack hatch, with chips and tomato cuppa-soup the only veggie options.
The stadium itself consists of an area of cover backing onto the clubhouse, with several rows of seats, albeit set well back from the pitch with a low Winter sun adding to the inconvenience. It would have the same effect on the new block of seats directly behind the goal, had they been available for use. By all accounts a bike shed needs to be installed before the punters can gain access. Don’t ask me! On the opposite side of the pitch to the clubhouse is another area of seating, although somewhat in a state of decay. Elsewhere, flat standing.
It’s a tricky one for the home side today because, although visitors Guildford City are second-bottom of the Combined Counties Premier, they have had an infusion of new blood after a management change, and they arrive with several former members of the youth team in the ranks, who seem to know no fear.
They take the game to Bedfont from the off and are two-up inside ten minutes, before allowing the hosts to pull one back just before the break. But any thoughts of a home comeback are dashed on 55 minutes and although Bedfont do peg it back to one goal again, three further City strikes in a 12-minute flurry put the game beyond doubt, despite a last minute effort for Bedfont. It ends 3-6 and a well-deserved victory for the visitors, for whom 16-year old wide-man Nathaniel Williams catches the eye, with his two goals and two assists.
In fact so absorbing is the game that the thunder of aircraft engines has become an irrelevance, until I walk back down the road again towards the tube station, right beneath the infernal roar yet content in the knowledge that at least I don’t have to run the gauntlet of airport security. Not today, anyway.
Programme: Just 12 pages of basic information. The fact that it’s given away free makes it hard to criticise!
Floodlight pylons: 4
Birdlife: Parakeets! Not as many as I would have thought, given that the area south of Heathrow is a known roosting ground, but enough to tempt me to looking skyward during breaks in play
Club shop: No, but badges on sale at the snack bar
Toilets: You have to go back into the clubhouse, which means going outside the ground at least until half time
Music the teams run out to: Nothing noticeable
Kop choir: No
Away fans: A sizeable contingent from Guildford, buoyed by the performance!
What’s in a name: I wonder if City’s Harry Fake is the real deal!