With the world on the brink of financial collapse, riots in the streets, bombs and dip-shit politicians defending the same corrupt markets that have betrayed their own people, living in New Zealand feels a bit like hiding under the bed. We feel like we are far enough out of the way of any Armageddon down here, in fact we sometimes feel like we are at the end of the earth. Once in a while we peek out, shake our heads and wonder if we should ever go back to the UK. Yesterday for example the news here reported that David Cameron was doubling the budget for the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games from 40 to 81 million pounds. The news reader pulled a splendid – “are they f****ing mental?” face at the end of the report. £81 million on what amounts to little more than a parade. Surely if we are serious about this belt-tightening lark, that is putting so many people out of work and stealing folk’s pensions, we could have just not bothered with an opening ceremony at all? Then you see the budget for security, realise the whole Olympics thing is nothing but a grotesque carnival of freaks anyway and wonder who is getting rich out of this unwelcome obscenity?
We had a parade here in Auckland last week; the Farmer’s Christmas Parade to be precise. Farmer’s being a department store not a collection of agricultural workers we were surprised to learn. This parade began at the top of Queen Street and a brass band led the way with drums rattling. The peculiarity of watching a Christmas parade in baking sunshine was added to when the band struck up with their first tune of the day, which was “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” A traditional kiwi festive song? Who knows but by the time we had marveled at a giant inflatable Mr. Potato Head, been waved at by three floats full of people in fancy dress and been disturbed by a shabby and asthmatic Kung Fu Panda we decided to go to the pub.
The Munster Arms is named after the rugby team and not, disappointingly, after the television programme and it is next door to and downstairs from an Irish Bar called Father Ted’s which presumably can’t say the same thing. They specialise in showing The English Premier League which means they also have to specialise in staying open really bloody late because we are 13 hours ahead of the UK here. We were surprised to discover we could have watched Newcastle United playing in Salford between 4 and 6am. We settled down to watch a recording knowing the score.
If we had seen the game live we would have been drinking beer at 5.30 on a Sunday morning in a state of blind panic. The heroic, 10 man defence of the 1-1 scoreline which included the disallowing of the sort of late winner Manchester United feel entitled to (in injury time and offside) might have been too much us. A Newcastle United penalty at The Stretford End as well; perhaps the people holding the absence of Wifey and I responsible for a welcome upturn of good fortune have a point.
Then again perhaps they don’t. The problem with being a veteran Newcastle fan is that you don’t just expect the wheels to fall off during a good run, you can also see which wheels are loose. And we know the wheels don’t just come off, the wheels burst into flames, explode, cause countless casualties and can be responsible for third degree burns on the other side of the planet. Or at least that’s how it seemed after the catastrophic misfortune against hateful bloody Chelsea. All season it has been glaringly obvious that we would be in trouble if we lost Steven Taylor or Coloccini so it was only a matter of time before we lost both. And not to a niggle or a suspension either, Steven Taylor out for the entire season when he was in the form of his life.
Anyway thanks to the omnipresent nufc.com we got something like16 emails from New Zealand Newcastle fans last week. Organising Newcastle fans is like herding tipsy kittens at the best of times, getting them in the same bar for 1.30 in the morning is something else. Fortunately Hosam said he was going to be in The Fox down at the harbour with a couple of Chelsea fans, so I invited everybody else in the hope that they could stand between Wifey , I and the Chelsea fans, who are invariably annoying. A lot of the New Zealand Mags live outside Auckland, some said they couldn’t make it and it was half one in the bloody morning for Christ’s sake. We didn’t expect to see anyone.
Worse to follow as The Fox turned out to be a disco pumping out hi-energy beats to people who may have been dancing or may have been bumping into me on purpose. They were so drunk it was impossible to tell. We met Vint and Gill who left Gatesheed 7 years ago who were as impressed with the place as we were. The rock and roll disco medley blasting out as our players bowed their heads in respect to Gary Speed was especially moving. Hosam didn’t make himself known to us but a load of people suddenly jumped up when Tim Krul saved Frank Lampard’s penalty. Turned out they were just people who hate Chelsea. Fair enough.
At halftime we made a break for The Munster by which point Vint, Wifey, Gill and I were chatting like long lost mates. I had forgotten how much I love the way Geordie lasses say something is “fukinstupit”. In The Munster we met Natasha from Whitley Bay who has been working in Australia for a couple of years but who hopes to be back in her seat behind the dugouts at SJP for the WBA game. Her fella JJ took a picture of us all that he still hasn’t sent me, if you see them at the match, give him a nudge.
So our luck ran out with a cruel 0-3 and a mounting injury list with Wifey and I still half a world away. Which I imagine means we are free to come home – except it has started snowing in the UK and Gill is cooking us Yorkshire puddings on Sunday so we don’t want to.
Above is the new book “Spitting In The Wind” which is out now!
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