Chick Peas in the Rain
Thursday 7th November 2018
We all know a vegan. Or a vegetarian. Not because any of us have asked. Just because they’ve told us anyway. 😉 Or a teenage relative has gone through a ‘phase’ because someone showed them something horrific on YouTube. But to go somewhere where those of us who choose not to go down that line don’t have a choice is a little bit odd.
Unlike the Ricoh and Waddon Road (or the Jonny Rocks Stadium to be accurate), I have seen an Arsenal team play at Forest Green before. A pre-season friendly against a reserves/youths/academy eleven saw a quite incredible game end with a 7-5 victory a couple of years or so back. And to be honest I genuinely didn’t think I would be returning, certainly so so soon.
But the return has been well worth it. And then some.
Actually making the game looked a little bit doubtful on a couple of occasions. With a strong westerly wind the Solent was proper choppy for a start. And with an extremely high tide to boot, actually getting on the mainland was the initial issue. Train and road delays are one thing but being stuck on an island is another!
Choosing to go by train certainly has its advantages. If you get a decent seat (ie; one away from screaming kids, people who choose to listen to music that everyone can hear or anyone eating onion based snacks!), it allows me to work if I need or want to and offers a far more relaxing way to travel than fighting your way through this country’s ever busier road network.
My journey from Portsmouth to Stroud however, included 3 trains, my first change in Southampton being a comfortable but fairly tight one should there be any delays. After my nauseating Solent crossing things were looking back on track (pardon the pun) departing dead on time for the short initial journey west but towards it’s conclusion it became slow going due to ‘a build up of trains in front of us’. Triffic.
Pulling in to Southampton on platform 4 10 minutes late I could see my train to Reading on platform 1 already running 4 minutes late. A run up the stairs and a sprint Usain Bolt would have been proud of and I dived through the first available door just as it was closing. Get in!
I booked my travel well in advance and being someone who finds travelling backwards quite nauseating I clicked the website option requesting a seat facing forwards. What did I get? A seat facing backwards, just over the coach from 2 kids playing a video game next to a lady munching away on a pack of cheese and onion crisps. Super relaxing this train travel lark!
Fortunately the short journey to my last change point soon came and went and I arrived in Stroud and checked into my overnight accommodation without any further stresses or hiccups. And a couple of beers in some considerably ‘local’ establishments started the evening’s fare in a fine manner. Me, 2 blokes half asleep, the 3 eyed lady behind the bar and a couple of dogs, you know the kind of places.
These slightly unusual destinations being thrown up are massively attractive to many Gooners and consequently some travel quite considerable distances to attend. And sharing my taxi up to the village of Nailsworth with a couple of the Swedish Gooners is a perfect example.
Like at Cheltenham a few of us had decided to go VIP for this one. Not to be all ‘lah-de-dah’ might I add. But just a few quid to enjoy Forest Green Rovers Football Club’s extremely warm and welcome hospitality, get a seat in the main stand, a drink and your programme, it seemed too good an opportunity to turn down. And when an absolute legend of an Arsenal captain strolls in for a chat, only because he lives locally these days, it put the icing on the cake.
And then there was the food.
Vegetable lasagne, pizza swirls and a variety of salads made up the buffet. Oh, and chips. All washed down by a fine pint of vegan real ale. And to be totally fair, it was all very nice. So definitely no complaints from me, very much a meat lover. But unless I was advised my health was seriously deteriorating due to my diet choices, it was alright as a ‘one off’. My choice is my own. I just don’t like to tell everyone about it 😉
Losing is irritating and worse. The majority of us think that I believe. Consequently our defeat at Cheltenham, despite the many circumstances I detailed in my blog that night, was still annoying.
It meant anything other than a win last night would see us exit the competition. And with a stronger side still missing the likes of Smile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah we were deservedly victorious. And It was quite a game too!
Highly competitive with some considerable needle at times only our hosts’ keeper kept us from going in at the break with considerably more than our two goal lead. But the half time coffee and vegan cake tasted all the sweeter with just that.
On a dirty horrible Wednesday night in Gloucestershire the impressive turn out of 400 odd Gooners got well involved as the tackles started flying in during the second period and when probably our first mistake of the night led to Rovers halving our lead there was a real edge to the game in the latter stages.
The lads kept their discipline and held their shape extremely well however, and always looked dangerous on the break. One goal either way would change the whole tie and our 3rd finished the contest. Thoroughly deserved you could tell want it meant to our young players and I can’t help but admit those of us who had attended shared their satisfaction.
Into the next round we go then and next week’s last game in our group will determine whether that will be home or away. The latter preferably!
A few post match beers with Gooners from Sweden to Kent to Gloucester and I turned in looking forward to tonight’s Europa League tie as we entertain Sporting Lisbon in a bid to secure qualification with 2 group games to spare.
I’m off for some sausage, bacon and black pudding. Coz I can.