Mad for the Hatters

Last night we left you in a bit of a hurry, denying you pictures of Day Five in the process (now uploaded for your viewing pleasure). But for good reason, dearest readers… We decided last minute to rush back to see Luton Town’s pre-season friendly against Colchester United. It seemed strange being at Kenilworth Road on Monday and not watching a match (after all, I’d never been to the ground with my dad when nothing was happening!), so when Jess mentioned that the Town were playing we vowed to return if time allowed. Thanks to Bea and her functioning car and empathy gland, time did allow.

It was fantastic to – if not be back in Luton so soon – be back at the ground, and this time with other Hatters. Walking among a sea of orange shirts was exactly the ritual that Monday had lacked. The attendance was modest, but this didn’t matter much. The fact it was a pre-season friendly, however, didn’t stop one man wishing death upon the linesman and all his children, which was a great shame. (He clearly hadn’t done his research either, as the linesman is famously childless.)

The experience was made all the more special because it was Oscar’s first professional football game in the flesh. He had a nice time. In a minute you’ll see various pictures of his face, having a nice time. He has said that he already feels a greater affinity to Luton Town than to any other club (if his dad – a life-long Hammer – is reading this, he says sorry), which tells you way more about his previous indifference to football than it does about Luton. Or perhaps not. Also, we had a pukka pie, because if it ain’t broke…

Thankfully, we managed to escape Luton before we had to spend another night in its clutches, only to remember half way home that we were returning to a fresh hell, to spend the night in a different identical building, the Nowhere-Near Wembley Travelodge. Shudder. This morning marks Travelodge Saturation Point, having spent the maximum number of nights it is possible to spend in one before going absolutely and irretrievably insane.

It was 2-2, by the way, so that was nice for everyone.

Oscar's first football match
Oscar’s first football match
Oscar's first pie
Oscar’s first pie
Oscar's first selfie
Oscar’s first selfie
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Day Five: Que Sera Sera

Que Sera Sera. Whatever will be, will be. We’re going to Wembley. Que Sera Sera.

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And we’re going there really easily, without any problems whatsoever. We’d been standing next to a beautiful lake on the outskirts of Welwyn Normal City for about twenty minutes, enjoying the sun and the bemused looks on the faces of passing leisure cyclists, when Bea pulled over. She wasn’t going to Wembley, she said, but she could take us as far as the A1 (about a mile away). She then drove us all the way to Wembley. Because #yolo.

Bea is a professional tennis player, and an amateur lovely woman. She’d just finished morning training, and had five free hours until afternoon training began…what better way to fill that time than to chauffeur two possibly knife-weilding (very sweaty) maniacs to the spiritual home of global football? (She was admittedly very sweaty too, so that bit didn’t matter so much. We left the knives in our bags.) She’s on the long road back from a serious injury which culminated in her recently having a rib removed (so she’s now even more inferior to men, like Eve -1), and she and I talked a lot about the psychological repercussions of top class sport (I quit athletics after a series of immensely demoralising mystery knee injuries). Anyway…

We were there! We had done it! Nottingham to Wembley via Bedford, Langford, Hitchin, Breachwood Green, Luton, and Welwyn Garden City, all without setting foot (or bum) on any public transport! Well done us. Aren’t we great.

Feeling more like tourists than anywhere else on the trip, we took a lot of photos and had a look round the shop (an actual shop this time, not Luton’s portacabin, but equally depressing and equally overpriced – at least Luton’s had more windows and less Nike!). I stood next to Bobby Moore. As did a chinese man, each spoiling the other’s photo in a succinct demonstration of why there ought to be one Bobby Moore statue per Wembley visit0r. The ravaging effects of the 2006 Bobby Moore statue shortage are still being felt, eight years on.

Before heading to check our bags in to yet another Travelodge (we’re both too exhausted by the very idea of Travelodge to make any more jokes at this stage), we went to Brent River Park. River is a generous way of describing Brent River, which is more like a toxic trickle of rancid piss, which London generously allows to flow away rather than obliterating from the face of the planet. That said, the park around Brent “river” is quite nice. We’d come to try and find one of the flagpole towers from the old Wembley (the Wembley at which Luton beat Arsenal 3-2 in the 1988 Littlewoods Cup final), which was demolished in 2003. But when an initial circuit of the park proved fruitless, we gave up. We ate some lunch and – mid-olive-and-houmous-feast – realised that the tower was essentially right next to us. Like almost everything on this trip, it was so unimpressive as to be easily and instantly overlooked. Like almost everything on this trip, its sentimental value more than made up for this – the old Wembley playing host to many of my dad’s most cherished football memories, and some of hi biggest disappointments too. I stood near it, I stood on it, and photos were taken. It was weather-beaten, mouldy and crumbling, but the very fact it was still there was all that mattered.

After walking away from Wembley for several years, both estranging ourselves from our families and growing knee length facial hair, we arrived at Travelodge Wembley. And then we wrote this. And now we have to go. The hitchhike may be over (and thank you so much to everyone who has helped us!), but we still have lots to do in London. That’s for another time (specifically tomorrow).

Me and Bea. She plays pro tennis don't you know!
Me and Bea. She plays pro tennis don’t you know!
Wembley, where many triumphant journeys end
Wembley, where many triumphant journeys end
I met an old rival in the gift shop
I met an old rival in the gift shop
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Havoc in the gift shop as Dean meets other, rival, football bears…
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…and murders them all, smiling sweetly and innocently throughout
The top of one of 'Old' Wembley's twin towers... It really is that fragile!
The top of one of ‘Old’ Wembley’s twin towers… It really is that fragile!