"Hope you like trees," the bus driver said as he opened the door for po8crg
There was something so...well, I'd have called it Mancunian if we weren't in Salford, I'm not sure enough of the distinctions to know which I should be using, and I don't know if the two cities will allow the existence of an adjective that encompasses both... Anyway, there was something so this part of the world
in that -- the delivery, the understatement, the humor that always tends towards -- that it's come to represent the whole evening in my recollections of it over the past week.
This Friday is rubbish -- the work I've been too busy or too distractable or too tired to do all week now needs to be done -- so I'm going to tell you about last Friday instead because last Friday was awesome.
Have you ever sat in a pub with someone, after possibly a bit more to drink than you strictly needed, and talked enthusiastically about vague future plans? "Oh yeah, we should definitely do that
!" Yeah, me too, all the time. The difference is, this one actually happened, months later. po8crg
and I found ourselves talking about rugby league, which seemed to me like an intriguing combination of rugby union (which I know a little about and sometimes like) and American football (which I know a little about and sometimes like). He's from a rugby-league town, and proposed we find out when his team was playing the local one and go see it.
Which we did, last Friday.
After dinner in the sunshine, the weather warm enough that I was fine with drinking lager, we walked to Shudehill to get the bus to the other side of Salford, and only then realized that we'd left the tickets on the table at the restaurant. Finally on the bus we talked about, among other things, how difficult it is to navigate buses on unfamiliar routes: he said he ended up getting off a stop too early because he was never sure where the next one would be.
If that had happened to us this time, we wouldn't have had to like trees.
We watched what was, unbeknownst to us, the stop we wanted zoom by -- no one wanted it, of course, as it was already twenty minutes after the game had started, and in the way of new stadiums it was in the middle of nowhere so there was no other reason to go there -- and were convinced it was the next one we wanted. But the bus driver (who knew from us telling him when we got on the bus where we wanted tickets to, knew this and actually stopped before we got to the next stop, which was why we had to walk with overgrown foliage on one side of us and cars zooming about a foot from us on the other side because there was no shoulder.
I was already thinking This is the sort of thing that's going to be funny later
, but I was laughing already, in disbelief or possibly just due to the adrenaline.
Then we had a slapstick running-hither-and-thither scene in trying to be let in: first finding the door our tickets said we should go to for our seats (which of course was the one furthest away), finding it locked, going back the way we came to find a hostile G4S person who very reluctantly made a phone call to find out if he must deign to let us in, telling us we had to go to another door which was..the one nearest to where we'd started.
Finally, though, we were inside and felt we both deserved a pint. He, being coeliac, had an easy choice of Strongbow, but I faced John Smiths (extra cold, of course) or Fosters. "John Smiths, please," I said. A tiny bleach-blonde teenager appeared from nowhere to tap me on the shoulder telling me not to get the John Smiths. The woman behind the bar told me it was flat. "Fosters, then," I said. She said they were out. I really couldn't face the fizzy pop that is Strongbow. But then it turned out they had cans of Deuchars IPA hidden away in the fridge behind them, which was actually perfect for me.
So finally we get to our seats, right in the front row right in the middle (I was going to say "on the fifty-yard line, but that's handegg). We've got about ten minutes left before halftime, and St. Helens are winning. I cracked open my beer and was sure there could hardly be anybody as happy to be in that stadium as the two of us.
Anyway, it was the second half that was worth being there for: the score was pretty close at halftime, but St. Helens scored seven tries in the second half. Their fans had lots of reasons to sing (I didn't recognize it at first amidst all the frantic clapping, but of course they sang "When the Saints Go Marching In" -- rugby league teams all have weird arbitrary names, like American sports teams or IPL teams, and inevitably St. Helens are the Saints).
In a way, the front row was almost too
close for me. It was hard to follow the general sweep of the game from so close up, and once we couldn't tell whether something was a try or not because from such an angle we couldn't see the try line. I am very ill-suited to live sports, really (except baseball, which I know so
well), unless I've got a radio or something. But po8crg
did a lovely job of telling me what was going on, knowing that the game would be unfamiliar to me, so I was fine.
Of course all too quickly it was over and a bunch of us filed to the bus stop just in time to pack the bus full (no more Bus Adventures!). It was funny watching my stealthy St. Helens friend try to contain his glee while all around him were bitching; on the noisy bus he told me very quietly that Salford is bottom of the league right now, but the latter at least I could have deduced from listening to anyone else around us. In the resigned tones of someone who was both committed to going to see his team play in London (which will be tomorrow) but sure it'd be another miserable experience. That kind of grudging devotion to a poor team is something close to my heart.