My day started at 4.00AM last Wednesday morning. Rolling out of the comfiest bed in the universe, it took me several attempts to switch off the alarm on my phone, as it always does, and I sat un-moving on the side of my bed, head in hands, overcome by that weird feeling you get when you know you have had WAY too little sleep. The feeling was all too familiar too me, having undertaken an identical journey a few weeks ago for United vs Leverkusen. The brain does a good job of helping you to forget pain it seems.
A shower did nothing to enhance my appetite, why would it I guess? I think it’s impossible for human beings to eat at that time unless they have filled themselves to the point of bursting with alcohol for the previous 8 hours or so. A couple of Nutri-Grains in my inside jacket pocket would provide sustenance for the first leg of my journey. They aren’t lembas bread but they would do. Incidentally, I Googled the spelling of “lembas bread” and the auto-fill thingy filled in “lembas bread recipe”…I mean, people actually search the internet on how to bake a fictional Elvish bread with magical properties? Sometimes I despair.
When my doorbell rang at 4.30AM, I opened the door to see a creature that looked as miserable as I must have. Andy’s eyes looked like they were inside out and the man I knew with the chirpy demeanour had been replaced by a mono-syllabic caveman who needed a “piss”.
When Andy finished emptying himself, with questionable accuracy I imagine given the condition of his eyes, we made the short journey to the bus stop and stood in silence. The world is an eerie place at that time of day, it’s just like someone has pressed pause on the reality remote control.
It wasn’t too long until our bus roared around the corner – completely empty, except for the drivers of course, who would do one leg of the return journey each. The door swung open and we shuffled on, introduced ourselves so that our names could be ticked off the list and settled into our seats. It is quite difficult to select seats on an empty bus you know. We decided to sit half way between the middle of the bus and the front – close enough to the toilet so it was handy but not smellable and far enough away from the back to avoid mixing with the all night boozers.
You might be surprised to see the number of people or more accurately smell the number of people who reek of alcohol at that early time on these kinds of trips. We arrived in Dublin at the port around 7.45AM and the bus was pretty much full by the time we were boarding. There was the usual mix of people, including one smoking hot Latina girl with what we hoped was her brother. They sat opposite myself and Andy and we unashamedly leered at her while making “phwoarrr” faces at each other. Three rough looking types got on last, exchanging the kind of pleasantries only drunk people find funny and sure enough there was a bang of cheap booze off them as they stumbled past us. Unfortunately they didn’t stumble far and they took up residence in the seats directly behind us. Joy.
“Where are yezzer from?…Wexford? Heorrr, any dooorty booords down there, wha?”
By 8.30AM the boat pulled away from the capital out into the “massive” expanse that is the Irish Sea. The ferry takes around 3 hours to travel 120km, which is break neck speed I’m sure you’ll agree. After devouring a suspect fry up which cost €12 and had those shiny sausages you get in hotel buffets, we made base camp in the bar area. Luckily I am an expert at sitting and zoning out. I need no entertainment as such, just a bottle of their lovely “Sourcy” water (yep that’s what it’s called) and I’m good to go. The boat was pretty packed with match goers and unfortunately it was packed with a tonne of pre-pubescent teens. What a strange demographic they are. They were happy to perform laps of the ship (each lap takes about 3 minutes) for the entire journey – you can do the math on how many laps they did.
Looking around at some of the other passengers, it was clear that the reality of the adventure they had undertaken was hitting them. Day trip virgins everywhere. It must be quite a shock to the system by the time you have woken up and realize what you are actually doing. A 29 hour round trip to watch a football match 90 minutes long – that’s dedication.
Myself and Andy passed the time by playing a game where one of us would start by saying a rude word out loud. For example, I would say “bumhole”, then Andy would have to say “bumhole” slightly louder than me, then I would try to say it louder again etc etc. This continued until one of us was too embarrassed to continue. Neither of us is overly bashful, so plenty of expletives were roared to the bemusement of the other passengers. Some of the words included “c*ntflaps”, “shitbag” and of course “bumhole”. One wonderful rendition by yours truly of “shitbag” made a large circle of card playing teenagers stop and stare. It sounds juvenile, but it passes the time.
By the time the boat arrived at Holyhead we felt refreshed, rested and ready to go. Plenty of people on board had been necking pints for the duration and the rush for the pisser was incredible. It’s fun watching half cut men navigate their way through the throngs of passengers on a swaying boat. They make terrific angles with their bodies in an attempt to stay upright.
We followed the Latina’s girls arse down the Ruby staircase and hopped on the bus. We passed the next hour and a half stint by singing along with the various cornball tunes played by the radio station the bus driver settled on. We thought we were hilarious, but I’m not so sure how everyone else felt. Jimmy Nail’s “Ain’t no doubt” was sung with particular gusto, I hadn’t heard that song in fucking ages – what a belter. Luckily Andy was sitting in the aisle seat, so most of the glares were directed at him, not that he cared as he tackled the song, gratingly changing key every second line and trying to fit “Chicharito” into the lyrics even though it never ever worked.
As per the norm, we made a 1PM stop at Cheshire Oaks shopping centre to kill a few hours. One passenger blew a gasket, saying “I paid for a trip to Old Trafford not a shopping trip” and subsequently paid for a taxi to OT along with 6 others who joined Spartacus’ rebellion. We had about two hours to kill there and did so by eating gourmet burgers and playing the celebrity game. The celebrity game involves sitting on a bench where there is lots of footfall (outside the public toilet on this occasion) and spotting people who look like celebrities. It helps to try to impersonate them too. We saw fake Judy Dench, fake Jim Bowen, fake Jackie Chan and fake Curly Watts among others. We also jokingly tried to charge an old man £2 for sitting beside us. He laughed but looked a little nervous and didn’t stay long – he was fake Jack Lemon.
We were back on the bus and heading towards Manchester by 3PM. The couple who were sitting directly in front of us, decided that they had enough of our singing and sat several rows back, were we that bad? We thought we were serenading the young lovers like those violin players in posh restaurants. Fuck em. The Latina hottie was now sitting in the window seat instead of the aisle seat this time too, but that only made our love grow stronger.
by Simon Winter