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By: Steve Ansocmbe

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Because, there's nowhere else to put them...


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Steve has a moan!!!!



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Nick's Mum. No. I don't know why either.
Loy and Mark. Add your own caption.
The tour in all its glory!
View all 4 photos...
Up To Gateshead. You may choose to read this, or just look at the pictures!!
There arenâ??t many pictures and thereâ??s quite a few words. Others have provided their own views and reviews, but these are my memories of one of the finest weekends I can remember for many a year. Remember. These are my thoughts, not yours. I am a senile old fool in my dotage, though quite clearly not as far gone as Bonehead in the dotage stakes. My memory is, therefore, not precise. Especially after this much beer. I even drank Bud!

Thursday
The Hebburn Four met at Basingstoke railway station, not an auspicious start you may think, I mean. Basingstoke! After waiting for Mark and Sal to have their pre-drive puff, we escaped to����������������.Nowhere fast!

7 and a half hours later, we finally arrived in Hebburn. I know that the Easter weekend starts before Easter these days, but successive hold ups on the M1 / A1M meant that the journey took forever. We were sustained by Pic â??n Mix, Markâ??s in-car CD player, the Weston Super Mare game and the car registration game!! (one involves substituting regular song lyrics with the names of Conf. South footy teams, the other involves taking the letters at the end of a car registration and incorporating these into a word or phrase). Not surprisingly, seeing as these are Sutton games, Nick & Sal are pretty damn good at them. We also amuse ourselves by substituting the word Heddon for the word Heaven in song titles. Be fair! It was a long journeyâ?¦

Eventually, around 9:30, we made contact with Loy. Loy is in a pub. We would like to be. Time for a wild goose chase! We were due to meet our hosts in this same pub in Low Fell. Thing is, we did not know that the pub was in Low Fell â?? or even that there was a Low Fell. What is a Low Fell? Get the Metro into Toon; get off at Monument says Loy. We do this. Monument is central Newcastle. Low Fell isnâ??t. For an hour, The Aletasters public house becomes our Xanadu â?? Itâ??s out there somewhere! Probably. Tantalisingly out of reach & Mark is getting thirsty. Snag is, nobody, not even the massed ranks of taxi drivers know where it is, or even whether it is! Nick loses his cool a bit â?? and gets told to have a haircut into the bargain by the only drunken tw*t we met during our stay. There were lots of drunken folk â?? but only one tw*t. This one; and he decided to have a go at Nick. Like I said. Tw*t. Mark grabs a sneaky Bud. Mark can do this as his drink of choice comes in a relatively small vessel. Finally, after much discussion; Loy sends a taxi to find us. Quite possibly the only taxi driver on Tyneside who knows where the pub is. We discover that Low Fell is Feckin MILES from Toon and reach Xanadu just in time to sup a pint or twoâ?¦three?

The confusion we caused by ordering two rounds from two different sources at the same time resulted in beer of stick-shaking proportions arriving on our table. Fuzzy-headed inside of 40 minutes! A personal record! Across the road for chips & kebabs. A half mile walk to a taxi rank for most of us, Loy manages to double this thanks to the Guiness, cider and Hobgoblin crashing his built in sat-nav system, straight lines were just things that happened to someone else. Nice way to end the day.

Friday.
Breakfast. Mark does not do mornings. Mark does Bud, smoking & cat-napping. And football. Oh, and driving! Mark does driving rather well. Sometimes, Mark does not do afternoons either. Not doing mornings means that he does not seem to do breakfast. Not in the conventional sense anyway. The Hebburn Four become the Breakfast Three.

We have arranged to meet Loy for 1pm, then get word from Jase that he will be joining us at 12, so, keen to see the sights or sight, as it turns out, of Gateshead and start drinking an hour earlier than originally planned, we get the Metro again. Nickâ??s Mum turns out to be the sight of Gateshead. (Ask Sal; not me. And don't tell Nick's mum, who is reputedly totally fit - in or out of her nurses uniform). That and a car park & shopping centre designed by the same bloke who was responsible; and I use that word in its most accusatory sense, for the Tricorn In Portsmouth. That was pulled down last year! Loy is to guide us to our lunchtime drinking hole in time to meet Yoooth! We kill time waiting for him by wandering in circles and failing to get served in The Trafalgar â?? thereby being unable to confirm its claim to be the best pub in Gateshead. From our vantage point at that time, it was the ONLY pub in Gatesheadâ?¦ This was the first, but not the last occasion that photographic ID was to be an issue during our trip. Lack of such prevented Nick from being able to get a drinkipoos in The Trafalgar; I mean. He could hardly use his passport, could he!

Loy arrives and we wander up to the Borough Arms. Described as â??Roughâ??, â??Bloody roughâ?? and â??Rougher than thatâ?? to us the might before, but it does decent beer, so thatâ??s alright then! Turns out to be not rough â??we are joined by Jase and,shortly after, by a seriously hermity looking Bonehead, both of whom have discovered HAIR. Bonehead has also discovered the joy that banishing a razor from the house can bring. Stuf like not having a sink full of unwanted facial hair. Bonehead clearly wants all of his - and that belonging to others too! His cunning plan to ensure that he found us in the right pub was this: Find the stadium (large, stands out from the road, big car park, also shown on a map). Get a taxi to the pub! With our prior knowledge of Tyneside cabbies & their knowledge of pubs, this could have backfired, but here he is safe & sound. As time passes, what is now officially the largest Portal gathering ever (six; seven if you include Loy) is swelled further by Gateshead faithful. Beer and conversation flow until it is time to head for the stadium. The Portallers collect cash for the football â?? Hawky stashes cash for the football. Hawky does not do a runner! A standard taxi is now not enough for the Portallers; a mini bus is needed! Cool.

What followed will stay with me as a footy based memory for ever. Here we are, a bunch of stray fans up for a football match, because, well because football means something to us. Our own teams mean a great deal to us, so supporting the supporters of a team in their hour of need seems the natural thing to do. I was fortunate enough to spend time after the game chatting with Heed Boy. Gateshead, acknowledged as being a bastion of the National game was extremely close to going out of business. Grown men sat in the bar at the stadium in tears while their club lay in bits! Through the emotional equivalent of string & sticky tape, the club survived and, thanks to the dedication and sheer bloody-mindedness of the supporters, survives still.

In we go, buy a programme, and wander off in search of someone to give the sponsorship money to. Rarely have I wandered anywhere seeking someone to whom I might unload £100 on in a hurry! (Must be the Celtic blood in me ) There we all were, in our respective kits, with scarves and hats in evidence, the phrase â??motley crewâ?? does not begin to describe us, being ushered into the sponsors lounge, a mix of suits & ties and fans. Lets face it. Sartorial elegance we were not. Not even slightly. Trinny and Wotsit would have died on the spot. Amid the compost heap of crumpledness, sat Sal, who radiated charm and elegance, if not entirely shiny health, for the duration. Sal was not wearing her Sutton shirt. YOU work it out.

We are instructed to make the most of the free (free?) bar, told that this, plus food would be available throughout, and generally made to feel welcome and â?? hereâ??s the special bit â?? rather important. Eventually Heed Boy takes the dosh â?? we hand over twice the amount originally agreed â?? Jase takes the first of many pictures recording this and other activity during the day, and we mill around rather sheepishly taking advantage of the freebies.

The game. Spennymoor are a club in turmoil, poor things can barely raise a team. Therefore, it is decreed that they shall score first; just to make things interesting. Sitting watching a game as guests of another side is a rather odd experience â?? I know, I have experienced it as a neutral at the Trophy final, and with Nick & Sal at Bognor, when Sutton played there earlier this season. How do you respond to goals? Being a lover of football, watching someone elseâ??s team, how loud do you go? Watching Gateshead respond to the shock of conceding first was made easier thanks to the quality of their goals from open play that followed. This was a good game to watch â?? even if being a neutral left room for a bit of sympathy for Spenny at the final whistle! Given the expanse of the stadium, the Gateshead faithful made a fair racket too. Someone did explain why it is that the Trail Of The Lonesome Pine has been adopted as an anthem â?? but it did sound, well, curious! Mind you. We have the Moon Of Love â?? for no reason whatsoever, so who am I to talk!

After the final whistle, more free drinks for the drunks! And the ball. Loy managed to collect signatures from players and officials. We were photographed with it by a number of people. What to do with it? A ball covered in autographs. Mark had expressed a view earlier, we had agreed in principle to leave it behind in the hope that more money could be raised. As a trophy, it would probably lose intrinsic value the further south it went, so we eventually found someone to take it off of our hands. (It has since raised a further £100 ).

Eventually it is time to go. Everyone (except Jase) leaves the club. We have acquired a rather large Easter egg. Everyone (except Jase) wants to pause and re-group before further festivities commence. Nobody (except Jase) has been crashing full-time into the free whisky. Jase has started doing things properly. He leaves when the lights go out.

Bonehead drives us back to Heddon. Bonehead considers staying overnight. A rather poorly Sal takes her leave at this point. All Garboesque, we leave her to get some rest. No; she didn't actually say "I vant to be alone" but the The boys will seek to include her later, by making shed-loads of noise upon returning from what WAS going to be a brief tour of Low Fell, just to make her feel wanted.

We ventured to the Aletasters for a quick snifter! We had to stay on because another of the things that Mark does not do is clear out text messages from his mobile. This meant relying on Jase to keep him up to date with the mighty Tamworth & their efforts to bollox up an attempt to win at Halifax, while the England U21 team attempted in similar fashion to bollox up an attempt to beat Germany in a qualifier. Oh. Yeah, er Jase. We found him in the pub (having lost him at the stadium) smiling happily, mumbling about whisky while supping more ale. Is there no end to this manâ??s capacity? After Jase and Mark serenade the pub with a Tamworth choir standard, we leave before we are asked to.

I thought, having left the â??Tasters, that we were meandering back to the taxi rank, but not so! We tried briefly to get served in another pub up the road, which Nick objected to mainly because it sported fluorescent pink signage. We failed to get served. None of us know sign language & it was too noisy to speak! Anyway, the lads turned out to be elsewhere, so elsewhere we went. Our final watering hole (as things turned out) was almost as loud as the failed pink palace, though with an altogether better standard of music. I should point out here that my memory for names is complete crap. This is why I wear a badge with my name on it at work. It helps. At the final stop however, we did meet up again with our hosts. One final drink and it was time to say bye-bye; or â??Burble burble Yooothâ?? in Jaseâ??s case and get a cab. Our trip (apart from ensuring that everyone else in our B&B knew where we had been, by telling them so when we returned) was complete. Jaseâ??s trip - in every sense of the word - was to continue in to the small hours. All of them.

Before agreeing to this trip, Nick & Sal had stated their clear aim to return as far south as Eastbourne on the Saturday in order to make their 3pm KO with the Boro. This is important to remember, as is this quirky thing with pictorial proof of ID. This meant that Nick had been given permission to completely knacker any prospect of us getting any sleep by getting up around 5am to catch a plane to Stansted, and a train to Eastbourne. Ideally in that order. Sal doing likewise was no real issue â?? she had a room to herself and would only be waking herself up at some ungodly hour! Jase, bless â??im provided our early wake up call, well before 5. He had also been in touch earlier, itâ??s good to keep in touch, just after we got back to our lodgings, asking where we were! This despite our having said bye-bye properly before leaving the last pub. He had got lost. Mind you, he had some help getting there!

Saturday(ish)
Heedboy contrived to make an absolute rickets of telling Jase where to go for a bit of kip. He did pass on an address, just not the right one! Poor chap has been prostrate ever since, so no more said. We received a call or three from various interested parties wondering where Jase was (I think he knew, his call at this point was more to do with where he SHOULD be! Our early morning text was also from Jase. He informed us that life was good â?? life on a bench by the Tyne was good too, even in the small hours, and that life aboard the earliest train South(ish) out of Newcastle was just splendid, thanks for asking! The thing that baffles me somewhat, is that Jase, Heedboy and Tony (whose spare room Jase was supposed to be crashing in) were within 10 feet of each other when we left the last pub! The prosecution rests. Probably more soundly than Jase did that night.

Having woken us with this rather exciting news, Nick soon departed to enjoy by far the easiest trip South. Having been prepared to travel with him, Sal departed on the first leg of what was to become a race against time in her attempt to reach Eastbourne. If anyone is ever tempted to belittle the commitment of a non-league fan, then I can assure you that if you had witnessed the range of emotions our dear Sal displayed on the journey home, you would most certainly keep your own counsel! I am convinced that, having taken a call from Nick explaining that, while he was on the beach at Eastbourne, he was feeling totally guilty about being so, Sal would have cheerfully strangled any person who deemed it necessary at this point to offer tea and sympathy. Tea and sympathy were not needed. Unless it came with a free helicopter ride. Being blokes, and more so, being blokes who had some idea of what she was going through, we courageously left her to suffer in silence. Markâ??s excuse was that he was driving like Luke Duke, (though he did resist the temptation to jump any muppet daft enough to slow our progress) mine was instinctive self preservation.

Remember Photographic proof of ID? Sal has none. Nick does, but Sal does not. Seeing as the two are not exactly interchangeable, not even to a fevered imagination, one proof of ID between two was not going to satisfy a budget airline. Sal was not allowed on the plane. The alternative was to belt South as fast as our wheels could carry us and cadge a lift from Sutton. Easy? Nope. As an American defence attorney might put it to an expert witness for the prosecution â??Is it POSSIBLE?â?? Apparently. Sorry. Legalese appears to be the descriptor of choice today.. No idea why.

Sal had discarded plan A at the airport. Plans B & C required help from either one of two friends â?? neither of whom could! Various texts were being relayed on my phone, and the tension was building as we learned that her knights in shining armour were galloping off some 90 minutes before we could feasibly get to Sutton. This is another point at which someone could have died. I swear it. One false move, one careless wordâ?¦I tell you. I feared for me gonads.

One last hope. If we could get to J8 on the M25 for 1:00ish, a lift was possible. Out of respect for Markâ??s driving licence, Iâ??ll remain silent about how we managed to get from Heddon to the M25 in less than 4 hours, but we did. We got caught twice in traffic, we could not go over it, even in Luke Duke mode, so had to sit tight BUT, thanks to a 2.0 ltr engine, buckets of willpower and a jelly bean, having travelled non-stop, we got to the meeting place, Sal swapped cars & Mark & I could breathe easily again, once we had counted our legs to ensure that all was in working order. The remainder of the meander was uneventful. Truly, it was. The only excitement remaining revolved around our ability to find radio 5 Live in time for the England kick off.

As this was a football related trip, it seems only fair to rate the â??Playersâ?? performance. So; in no particular order:

Mark
Consistent performer, with a reliable, if not totally economical consumption of 2 Buds per pint! Top speed well in excess of 100 MPH, with some to spare. Refusal to put milk on his cornflakes caused early confusion among team-mates. Use of Glasgow Shower demonstrated ability to react quickly in a crisis, likewise, ability to sleep for extremely short periods at even shorter notice demonstrated remarkable control. Participated in All England snoring championship with The Colonel early on Friday morning, no clear winner indicated.

Nick
The youngster performed well, despite late scare in Aletasters. When asked whether he would be 18 by the next trip to Stamford, put in a solid tackle, completely compensating for earlier failed attempt to prove that someone elseâ??s birth certificate was in fact his own. Ability to use a mobile phone 24/7 ably demonstrated, though this merely justifies Salâ??s earlier reluctance to share quarters with him. Refusal to trust a pub with pink fluorescent signage initially baffling, yet ultimately justified. Ability to distinguish farmyard species at distance lets him down.

Jase
Clear winner in terms of consumption. Probably lucky not to contract typhoid and hypothermia too Demonstrated awesome staying power â?? being the last to leave premises where one is a guest is clearly top behaviour. Ability to distinguish a horse from totally unrelated bovine species also noteworthy. Performance even more noteworthy as I cannot recall seeing him eat anything during the entire performance, the least liquid thing I spotted being a pint of Guinness

Sal
Clearly not at her best. Made solid contributions on the verbal front, and was a clear winner of all games played on the outward journey, but disappointed when it came to downing the bevvys! Suggestions that she might be saving herself for a big night out proved unfounded and her injury forced a substitution late on. Out-performed Mark in the breakfast stakes. Remained predominantly calm in the face of a crisis on the return trip, but clearly, was not a Sal at her best!

Bonehead
Interesting cameo performance by the hairy one. Left us wondering whether he would turn out, then astounded with foolproof plan of action. Participated in raucous revelry as befits the veteran tourer that he is. Good all-round performance. Obviously the result of years of training at the top level.

Colonel
Performed adequately on first trip. Strange tendency to behave as father figure at the breakfast table explained by the fact that, away from the game, he is indeed a father. This is not necessarily an excuse. Demonstrated a hitherto unseen desire to have picture taken by anyone with a camera, despite clear danger to photographic equipment employed.

Loy
The baby of the team astounded with his ability to drink whatever was placed in front of him, then walk it off in most determined manner. Sadly, slow to control the show when on Radio Mike, but surely a sign of inexperience. This boy has far to go â?? starting with Stamford in July. Definitely one to watch.

Heedboy
Most versatile. Adjusting from pisshead to suited & booted with ease, then as if to prove a point, changing back again. The Case of Jase will surely haunt him for some time â?? as indeed a clanger of similar proportions haunted Gareth Southgate after his penalty miss! International career may not yet be over. Best not to mention leather jackets in his company. Or the Ramones and certainly not the two together in the same sentence. Could lead to tears.


Sunday, 23-Jan-2005 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark

Budweiser. Sponsored by Mark! It is true too...
Nick, suffering an identity crisis.
Sal. Not suffering, that is "Sultry" that is.
View all 6 photos...
This is NOT an alternative to the Portal.
This is a simple way of linking images that we all take TO the Portal.
I use Fotopages for my local Bar Billiards league, with growing success & participation. It's easy to use & free. Why not use it then??

This is, if you like, the Portal On Tour photo album.
Just to prove a point, I have put some pictures taken on Jan 22nd on here. If you register with tis page, you will be able to add comments of your own.
If you want to send me pictures and a write up of Portal type eventsl I will put them on here.

NIck said he will put a wordy review on the Portal.


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