Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Does anyone remember the classic 80's US sitcom 'Cheers'? It was a favourite of mine, and there is an exchange from one scene that I often quote that still makes me laugh two decades on. One of the characters was Norm Peterson, otherwise referred to as 'Big Norm', who was played by the actor George Wendt. In the show he was renowned for his one liners. On one occasion he enters the 'Cheers' bar preceded by a flurry of snow blown in off the wintry Boston streets. As he enters, one of the 'Cheers' regulars perched at the bar shouts over "Hey Norm! What's up?" to which Norm replies "My nipples, it's freezing outside!" I've lost count of the number of times I've rolled this one out. I'd like to apologise here and now to all my family and friends.

There is some relevance to this story. At last, the Banstead Athletic v Arundel tie is within sight, only a few days away now. I mentioned in an earlier post that Merland Rise, the venue for Saturday, has a reputation as being a very cold ground to stand in. I fear it could be very cold this coming weekend. It was only two rounds ago that we were standing in glorious sunshine at the FA Vase tie between Hassocks and Chertsey Town, with short sleeved shirts, basking in the last flickers of a fading summer. And in the blink of an eye, the weather turned, the clocks went back, the days got shorter and darker and all of a sudden it feels very cold. As Dean Martin sang, "Baby, It's Cold Outside".

At the weekend a friend accused me of having lived for far too long in the south and I had become a "southern wuss". I think she is right. I seem to feel the cold much more than I used to. I know, I know; it's probably an age thing. That week in Devon I spent with my family a few weeks back was bitterly cold, with a biting sea wind playing its part. When subsequently asked "how was your holiday" the words "cold", "chilly" or "freezing" invariably crept into the first sentence of any of my replies. I guess it serves us right for having our summer holiday in October.

In the seemingly mammoth gap between the First and Second Rounds of this FA Vase competition, I have satiated my thirst for football with a few other games. Last weekend I took my son to see the top-of-the-table Ryman League Premier Division clash between Staines Town and Dover Athletic. He had a free entry voucher, a commendable scheme run by Staines Town whereby vouchers are given away to local schools. An entertaining game, in which Dover grabbed a 90th minute winner to chalk up a 3-2 win and in doing so, cemented their position at the summit of the League. But it was cold. We are now at the stage of the season where several layers are loaded on; a t-shirt, a long sleeved shirt, a thick jumper, a fleece, a jacket. Hat. Gloves. Not quite the weather for thermal leggings, but that is not far off I'm sure. I was so bulked up at the game I occupied two seats in the small Wheatsheaf Park stand.

The following day, I headed off to Essex for the FA Cup tie between AFC Hornchurch and Peterborough United with Mackem and POSH Mate. The forecast was once again for low temperatures, so I went armed with layers of clothing. After a warming Full English breakfast in Upminster, we walked a couple of miles to the ground. By the time we reached 'The Stadium' I was feeling kind of toasted; the sun then came out and I began to regret being cocooned in so much cotton and wool. But the moment the sun retreated behind the clouds, that arctic cold snuck back in. The match itself was poor; played against a strong wind blowing the length of the pitch, it was never going to be a classic. In a game of little incident, Peterborough snatched victory at the death when the Hornchurch goalkeeper, Dale Brightly, spilled an innocuous looking long range shot to present Craig Mackail-Smith with a simple tap in. The Hornchurch players collapsed in disbelief at the mistake just when a deserved replay at London Road looked likely. One couldn't help feel for the young keeper; an inconsolable Brightly left out in the cold.

So welcome to British winter football; several months of cold and rain and frost and damp and snow await. My thermal leggings may just make the first appearance of the season for the trip to Banstead on Saturday. The danger being that I could end up sweating like a pig, which is another thing 'Big Norm' was known to do:

Norm: "I have, on several occasions, been known to perspire a bit."
Carla: "We could grow rice."

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