The M11 was closed due to an accident which threw our whole day out by about an hour. Once in the capital I couldn’t really understand London’s Sunday roads – it was just as busy as a weekday (nearly). In combination, these two factors meant that we abandoned the car outside the Ritz at 15.33. I was carrying three extra tickets for mates who were waiting on me outside the away end for the 16.00 kick-off which gave the whole thing an element of 007. We took the Piccadilly Line to Earls Court where we changed to the the District Line to Fulham Broadway and legged it to the ground. Seven stops and we were inside the Shed Upper just five minutes after kick-off which wasn’t too bad considering there was no helicopter involved.
On the return it was sardines at Fulham Broadway; the train was no place for claustrophobics or defeated Stoke fans, though I was in a fairly good mood (I never expected to win and there had been a lot of jolly singing to John Terry to keep us warm – Are you my dad, are you my dad, John Terry, Are you my dad? etc). I spoke to several Chelsea fans who were squeezed up against me closer than John Terry to a barmaid to ask where they were headed. The answers were Sevenoaks, Chelmsford and so on, as you’d expect – gloryhunters from no-team towns. On the change to the eastbound Piccadilly we were asked by a cheeky-faced kid what the score had been. Graham, who was travelling with me (and who, in a moment of Esprit de l’Escalier, later noted that he should have said ‘5-0 to Stoke’) started to explain. As he got to describing the second goal the kid unzipped his anorak to reveal a Chelsea top saying, ‘I know, I was there!’
‘Haha, cheeky-faced kid,’ we all said.
We were at Gloucester Road now. I asked the kid where he was going. ‘Bedford.’ he replied. ‘Where are you off to?’ he asked.
‘The Ritz,’ I said, ‘We’ve got a suite and some chilled champagne waiting for us back there.’ (I had had a few moments to think of this).
‘That’s where Michael Jackson dangled the baby from the window, isn’t it?’ he said.
‘I don’t think so.’ I said, ‘I think that was in Paris.’
But the kid was adamant that this had happened in London. I had nothing more to say on the matter. I looked at the boy – he was about twelve year’s old with tight-cut hair, very handsome; with an afro he might have done well in a ‘young Micheal Jackson look-a-like’ contest. I asked him if he liked Michael Jackson.
‘He was okay,’ he said. ‘But I think he was too close to children.’
‘Mm Hmm,’ I said.
We discussed Jackson’s earlier songs with the Jackson 5, of which we were both fans. The kid liked Rockin’ Robin best of all. I preferred Looking Through the Window.
‘He spoiled it all really,’ the kid said at last, ‘With the Podofolic stuff.’
‘Is that a word?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know,’ the kid said, ‘But you know what I mean.’
Indeed I did. And now we had come to Green Park, where we alighted. I had left the car unlocked, but nothing had been tampered with or taken.