Better Late Than Never

BTW – Andre Wandbec is our collective name, if you’re wondering.

So we’ve been here for a week. No posts so far, and no blog. But we’ve settled in to London in a great house, with great people, we’ve been to two football games, and I’ve found some great places to write. It feels like we’re here, and we’ve been here forever – you know that feeling you get when you can’t remember what you were doing before, and why? That’s where we’re at. Butters has even started to relax, and occasionally smile. Come to think of it, so have I.

So the most important things first – the football. We’re staying in Finsbury Park, or thereabouts (it’s difficult to say when they describe suburbs so precisely, but with numbers rather than names), which is not ten minutes’ walk from Emirates Stadium. We basically stroll down the road to the games. It’s amazing. We go to a match about 45 minutes before the whistle. There’s a big red pub, The King’s Head, on the corner, and we start to walk from there. Three people in five are wearing Arsenal jumpers. As we get further down the road, it’s five in five. Then there are more of us, all walking in the same direction. Then more. By the time we turn the corner and the Stadium comes into view, we’re shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of Arsenal fans. We’re all just walking and discussing the game. Then there are thousands of us. Every ten meters or so there’s an Arsenal ‘official merchandise’ stand, all with the same red and pink hats with cannons. People who live on this street have made their houses, in some cases, into miniature Arsenal shops, or pie shops. One is an Arsenal shrine with bright red painted wrought iron gates, the interior wallpapered with pictures and photos of past greats and selling beer (every shop around here is an off-license, selling fruit and veggies and rice and papers and alcohol – it’s like the opposite of having a duopoly, and it’s pretty convenient). Then you smell the horse manure. The police are mostly on horseback at the matches, standing outside and chatting with the punters. Their horses are huge – the first one I saw was about eighteen hands, with fetlocks and hooves the size of small dinner plates. There’s always some little girl getting her picture taken by her dad, before they go into the Stadium.

The atmosphere is friendly, and it not only feels safe, but there’s a major sense of comradeship. People just want to see the game, and with football only being two halves of 45 mins, the games don’t last that long. You go up the stairs, maybe get a beer and watch the sides warming up on the screens, then go to your seat. It’s not too busy, and it’s easy. There are hundreds of flouro-vested guys who will tell you where you’re sitting.

This sounds like some sort of advertisement for the Arsenal Football Club, but it’s great.

As long as you can chant, ‘Oh, Santi Cazooooorlaaaa’ (to the guitar riff from Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes), or ‘Red Aaarmaaaayyy!’ or ‘Arsenaaal, Arsenaaal, Arsenaaal,’ to the tune that I remember from the Bearenstien Bears, or ‘Naaaah, naaah, nah, na-na-na-na… na-na-na-na, hey Giroud,’ (to the tune of Hey Jude), you’re fine. The more complicated chants I have trouble with, because the accents are thick, but a good ‘Come on, Arsenal’ does fine. It’s SO much better watching the game live.

Arsenal v Norwich 3-1, Arseanl v Everton 0-0. Everton was the better game.

I lie – we’ve seen three games. Butters took us to see the Arsenal Ladies’, out in the back end of nowhere. It was surprising, to say, the least, to see the women playing in a ground extremely similar to the one I used to play on with the VWFL. I mean, Arsenal Ladies have won more matches than the men, in the last 20 years, by far. They’ve absolutely dominated since the ’90s. The match we went to see was the CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI FINAL, versus Wolfsberg from Germany. This is a big deal. Arsenal men’s got knocked out of their Champions’ League by Bayern Munich in the quarter finals. But the Ladies share their ground with Borehamwood Football Club, half an hour’s train ride to Elstree on the overground – or out near Jupiter, just past the moon. But more on the plight of women’s sport later. 😀

We’re staying with Bert, who is a dancer and a model, and an extremely good looking man. He has cheek bones that look like they’ve been chiseled from platinum, and he treats us like he’s known us forever. He is intelligent and interested, and he is by far my favourite person in London so far. It’ll take a lot to overtake him, so bring it on, Europe!

Oh, I think I got my rain jacket stolen this morning while I was running. Oh well! We inherited it as a leftover from a Clube match, anyway, so no harm done. I was doing 100m sprints up a hill and walking back. Guy probably saw that I couldn’t make chase if he nabbed my dorky rain jacket. :p

But we’re here, and it’s great. and I’ll write some more later.

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