I had an email from a fan today regarding ASLNM. Most unusual. The person asked me would I put this bit up so someone they knew could see it. Even more unusual. Still, I am an obliging authorclient so here it is (it’s from the early part, though I guess that is self-explnatory…)
# 1. Thirty-eight Games from Safety: Bolton (a)
This is what I thought the Premiership would be like: like visiting Monaco. Monaco is fascinating for an hour, or maybe two, but it takes no longer than that before the (full) realisation dawns that it is money, and money alone, that matters here. Monaco is a nauseating place full of nauseating concepts: if you’re the owner of a cruiser with a helipad then you’re a somebody, otherwise, you’re not. Having said that, I was once part of a collective of five Stoke fans who ate an excellent, and reasonably priced, lunch at a panoramic restaurant on the Virage du Portier. At the end of the meal we were the last diners in the place and we killed time talking to the waiters about the Grand Prix which led on to conversations about les femmes, le football, and other important matters. At ground level, as it turns out, there are real people in the principality.
Bolton is nothing like Monaco. In Bolton there are real people everywhere. Some of the residents of Bolton go beyond the real into the realm of the hyper-real. It is the ban against smoking indoors that deposits these hyper-real residents into the unforgiving glare of daylight, and we will meet them shortly. Meanwhile, Jack, who has a business managing and promoting a grime (rap) artist called Tinchy Stryder (who is not widely-known as we head to the north-west, but who will have a Top 5 single by the time we are beating Manchester City) had spent a good part of the four-hour plus journey not answering his phone. He was not answering it to one specific caller who repeatedly re-dialled, number withheld. It would be a disgruntled client, one who hadn’t received their ‘Star in the Hood’ Tinchy t-shirt, Jack said. We were discussing how he might improve his organisation so that members of the general public received their merchandise more efficiently. This was how I managed to miss the slip road that would have taken us directly to the Reebok Stadium. This was how we found ourselves in the downtown area of Bolton. Bad traffic all the way from Norwich had meant that we were running late anyway, it was two-thirty now, and the sidewalks were littered with groups of derelict men. The sun was high in the sky and it threw the men into ghastly relief. It was here that the effects of the smoking ban could be observed in their full horror. The reason for Snug bars is to keep people like these off the streets. Jack let the window down at a red light and asked one of these groups the way to the ground. Close up they were as derelict as they were from a distance, if not more so, with an added touch of the music hall tramp as rendered by Toulouse-Lautrec.
‘What?’ one of the tramps said, leaning forward. The veins on his faces were like boot marks in ice.
‘The football,’ we shouted, a word that only provoked further puzzlement. ‘Bolton Wanderers,’ Jack called out, as an additional clue.
‘No, no, no!’ They all joined in now. ‘There’s no football played round here,’ they said, ‘Hasn’t been for years: Charlie. That’s where they wants to go. Charlie. They play football in Charlie.’
‘Where’s that?’ Jack shouted, an enquiry that provoked an un-rehearsed and un-coordinated choreography as the various arms of the various tramps wind-milled around. Based on this charade, Charlie could have been anywhere. The lights changed and we drove away from the side-effect of the smoking ban, a horror show which has thrown the entrails of the drinking man out onto the outside world, where he does not belong. A hundred yards on we cornered by a BMW garage, which I looked at. I was thinking about a new car; now I was a Premiership fan, I needed an upgrade to go with my elevated status, an upgrade perhaps equipped with Sat Nav (though Sat Nav is a concept I dislike, it would surely make life predictable, like Pulisball, and you would miss out on sideshows such as the inhabitants of Bolton on a Saturday afternoon).
‘What the hell were they saying?’ asked Jack. He might support Stoke City, but his ear is tuned into the patois of rap and grime, and to southern vowel sounds. I asked him look at the map to see if there was anywhere round there called Chorley…