The day the Weymouth match was rained off…

I was a bit unaware of where life was going back in late 2007, when having spent the year doing quite a bit of travelling, and changing jobs and houses twice, I found myself having to organise another WAGM. This is the Weymouth Annual Green Meeting where the South of England Northern Ireland Supporters Club visit Weymouth for the day, hold a meeting and day out there and have a bit of pre-Christmas cheer. It was always in December, and the 2007 one was the THIRD WAGM, it took place on Saturday 8th December 2007, starting at the usual time of 11.17 am in Finns Bar. The build up was unspectacular and I was struggling to find my feet again back in the UK. Having spent 3 months of the year without a house (and therefore travelling), I wasn’t enjoying English culture so much. That made it nice to go to Weymouth again and get away for the day. It all began the night before.

When I got back from travelling, the first job I had was working in the bars in Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre (I’m still doing that) and was working on Friday 7th December in the ball room for a Christmas party. I was really looking forward to the WAGM, and at work that night, my mate Owen Millar had called down from Manchester and was staying at mine. He left his bag in my work, and I texted to check where he was. I was driving that night and finished work around 12.30 am and met up with Owen and Carlo, plus a few others in Sixty Million Postcards, a bar which used to be called Edwards. We stayed in there for a bit, before heading round to Bliss. I was in full work uniform and in no mood for a party! They were all on it, and this included a Northern Irish girl called Melanie. In Bliss I also met, and spoke to my ex girlfriend Fee, she was surprisingly friendly to me, and then after this I gave everyone a lift home via Hamburgerology in Boscombe. Owen stayed at mine, and we were booked on an early train so must have got only about 3 hours sleep.

I got up and cooked Owen a full Ulster fry, except he was still in some state, newly single and rather enjoying life. Anyhow we had our green taps on, and in true 2005 era fashion we headed for the 5b bus from Ensbury Park to Bournemouth train station. There we were met by a few others, including two of my English mates, Neil Macey and Dan Darch and Gemma, who was making her first SOENISC appearance since June 2006. At Bournemouth station we hopped on to the usual party train and suddenly a 4th WAGM was upon us.

Surviving from the first WAGM (December 2005) was only myself, Owen Millar and Simon McCully. Already Rabster had failed to make an appearance at any further meetings, and Tim Beattie and Richard “Richboy” Ingram had gone travelling round the world to Brazil of all places. They went separetly with their girlfriends, so neither could make the WAGM this time, however Scott Gordon was in attendance and was by now a prominent figure within the club. The meeting was due to start in Finns bar on Westham Road at 11.17 am, however unfortunately Finns had new owners and was not now open until 12 noon, so the plan B was decided early on, that we should meet in the Duke of Albany pub instead. This brung quite a few surprises…

Firstly Graham Anderson turned up and immediately said “Jonny theres a Northern Ireland top up on the wall in here!” Of course I didn’t believe, or thought that maybe he had just put it up there, however a juke round the corner and there it was, a vintage 70s NI tap attached right to the ceiling (OK, not quite the wall) nestled beside a Sunderland tap. That was a nice surprise, as was getting mulled wine for £1 a glass. Total bargain. More and more SOENISC members came in, such as Shaun Schofield who brought his 7th Parnu NISC fleg with him and Jono Crute who was still only 17 at the time. A quick few photos in there were minced with the consumption of mulled wine and the joy on Millwall Neil’s face at seeing a Millwall FC scarf also up on the wall. We thanked the landlord for his hospitality and headed to the meeting venue at Finns, for the later time of 12 noon.

Once in Finns, we established ourselves in our usual table (2005, 2006, 2007…) which is the one to the right just after you walk in through the front door. A kitty was established and we ordered the beers in. By this stage nearly everyone that was meant to be there had turned up, including Squid, Scott Gordon, Simon McCully. It was a good crowd, and local club members El end Reeney were also there. We sat down and had an official meeting, where Owen Millar (then based in Manchester) handed over the secretary-ship to Scott Gordon, Shaun Schofield suggested we get George Bush in as President, as Zoe Salmon is just so busy. Scott Gordon also revealed the protocol for a new “gay disco” style SOENISC t-shirt (which were released in February 2008), and presented me with the first design. Graham Anderson and myself also presented “medals” to all those who scored a penalty at the previous month’s meeting at The Chronicles, Alphington AFC, Exeter. The meeting concluded by 1 pm and thoughts turned to the big match that day – we were attending Weymouth v. Farsley Celtic in the Conference.

Watching the local football team, Weymouth FC (The Terras) had been our intention at one of the WAGMs, obviously. However, in 2005 the very first year we held the WAGM, on the day we hadn’t planned anything other than forming the club and we learnt that Weymouth played away that day (they had also recently drawn away to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup) so we couldn’t watch them. Similarly in 2006, Weymouth were also playing away, but now in 2007, we finally held the WAGM so we were destined to watch Weymouth FC before heading back into town to continue the WAGM. Or were we? It seems our destiny to watch Weymouth isn’t to be. For that day, it was bucketin out of the heavens, and jokingly Shaun Schofield said the match could be called off. I didn’t believe it, not even when I spoke to a Weymouth fan in Finns. He didn’t even know if the match was on or off. The previous week we had appeared on the front page of the Weymouth FC website, and I had posted up on the fans forum (“terras talk”) ahead of our visit. I had also spoken to the club and arranged for us to be featured in the match programme (which we were…) and to meet the Weymouth fans in their bar before the match (which we didn’t). However by 2pm, news had filtered through to us via Sky Sports News and local people that the match was rained off. It wasn’t to be. For a third consecutive year we were having a WAGM in Weymouth and wouldn’t get to support the local team. This meant to the pub and yet more drinking. El, being the local man took us to a wee pub, which was basically a room with some seats and a bar. I’ll never remember the name of it, but it was on a pokey street on a corner near Dorothy’s Inn, and The Dorset Echo offices.

In there we drank more beer, sang more songs and enjoyed watching the football scores coming in on the TV. It wasn’t the plan, but we were there so had to settle for it. Shortly after this, as is tradition we headed to the beach for the usual photo and this year it was a bit different, it was the biggest turnout yet, and we opened another bottle of cheap CAVA on the beach as we posed for photos in a strong wind, around 4 pm. By now the rain had all but gone and we couldn’t believe the match had been postponed. While at the beach the chance came up for some of us to go into the sea for a dip, either fully clothed or in togs. it was a tad cold, but I felt, as chairman for a third year in a row that I should do something wacky as with the culture of the club. In this spur of the moment instant I decided to dive into the water, and have a dip in the cold cold sea. I did expect others to join me, but nobody did, so I dived in alone, videod by 3 different people and also photographed, a video of it is here:

I soon realised my jeans and t-shirt were soaked and I had no change of clothes. Anyhow by this stage we all wanted some food and drink, so we headed to The Dorothy Inn, where we had already booked a large room to stay in. We mingled in the bar in there, and checked our bags in. I also used this opportunity to have a shower in the room and washed out the sand and the cold, before heading back to the bar, where everyone was singing.

At the WAGM it was mandatory to visit the legendary “Black Dog” pub in one of the pedestrian streets in Weymouth. This pub in the first year had 6 pints for less than a tenner, a guy from Belfast and we just turned up and started singing and having a laugh. The same thing happened in 2006 and just for good measure we popped in there again. This time we occupied the front section of the bar, on the right as you go in. Some of us ordered food and just relaxed for a bit. By this stage, El and Reeney had gone elsewhere, and Shaun Schofield had also headed home, yet us remaining were still wanting to drink for longer and longer. I don’t know how I kept up in those days…

Scott had brung his guitar, which was a prominent feature at some of the previous meetings, and I had also gone to watch Scott’s band rehearse and play live in various venues in and around Bournemouth and Poole. Scott whacked his guitar out and soon we were singing “Is This The Way To Amarillo?” to a bar full of locals. Remember, folks, these things really did happen in your life. These were exciting, inspiring events, and as Scott Gordon strummed his way to glory, i often wondered if that was as good as life could ever get. I’ve often come to the conclusion that the best is always in the past, which it is, as the future hasn’t yet happened, and you cannot look retrospectively at the present, because it is still happening, therefore all the best things that have happened are in the past. This moment if key idocacy in The Black Dog pub was over, except soon Owen Millar had grabbed the guitar and was strumming his way through Oasis Wonderwall, while Dorset country folk in the table opposite started to compete with our singing. And it was great craic. And it was over in a second.

I checked with my good mates Dan Darch and Neil Macey if they were enjoying the day out, which they were. Then very soon, and in a fairly drunken state we started on another pub crawl, we moved from The Black Dog (our fifth drinking place of the day after The Duke of Albany, Finns, Corner Pub, The Dorothy Inn) to The Duke of Edinburgh, on the main street further down a bit. In there we relaxed at the back, still with guitar and Scott and I both enjoyed renditions of drunken songs, while the bar staff told us we couldn’t put the fleg up. We only stayed in there for one drink, before deciding to go to the Old Rectory, now named Barracuda for a few. This bar is the only bar we have visited in all FOUR WAGMs to date. In there we got our own table, and by this stage i remember the group being me, Scott, Simon, Owen, Dan, Gemma, Squid, Neil and Alex. I’m pretty sure everyone else had gone home by this stage. I could be wrong…

In Barracuda, we met some very attractive English female Santas and I enjoyed dancing with them up on stage. I was single, as usual at that particular time and didn’t really flirt. I dont know what had come over me, as looking back those girls looked really really nice. This is where everyone got rather drunk, ideas got confused and different groups of people split and went different ways. I stayed with Dan, Neil and Gemma and seem to remember we had a quick pint in the Wetherspoons near the water’s edge, though I could be totally wrong on this one! Simon, Alex, Owen, Squid and Scott plus whoever else was left of the SOENISC that night I think ended up in The Lazy Lizard or The Lizard Lounge after that. Apparently they were calling and texting me, but when I get that drunk I never check my mobile phone, and could have any number of messages or missed calls on it the next time I check it…

So our little group ended up splitting and nestling ourselves nicely onto comfortable sofas in the extravagant “Rendezvous” night club by Weymouth Docks. We were all still in football shirts and fairly badly dressed, never mind being drunk. But yet £3 and we all got into Rendezvous no problem. It was just me, Neil, Dan and Gemma. By this stage my mates Dan and Gemma were going out with each other, and I was on the top floor of a Weymouth night club sipping Blue Curacao and lemonade cocktails. Extravagant or what for a club chairman, however energy was to wane very very soon, as Neil headed back to the hotel to stay up and watch the Ricky Hatton fight with Simon, this was on live at 4 am. By that stage I was comatose, totally out of it, without energy and possibly in the worst state I’ve ever been in. Life was to get worse too…

I don’t remember anyone else getting home that night, I just passed out in the top bunk. The next morning, my mate Neil saved me with cups of tea, 7UP and Lucozade. Without that, I could have been seriously ill. Perhaps it was a defining moment in life – why did I used to drink so much alcohol? We all had a £20 deposit to get back from the hotel, as long as we were out by 11 am. However I was lying on the floor half naked when the receptionist came in “just give me an hour to recover please” I said, skipping breakfast, lying around, before finally surfacing on my own, walking down the stairs for my £20 deposit and buying a pineapple juice. I wasn’t well, and phoned in sick to work at the BIC that night, for what would have been a Manic Street Preachers concert. To date it is the only time I have been off sick to a shift in the BIC. I wasn’t well, I came home somehow, made my way into bed with a cup of Earl Grey and rested my shocked, over worked, over indulged Northern Irish head away from the horrors of alcohol. And why did life get worse?

It all came to a sad pinnacle a few days later, when on a normal night out in my final days of being a student, I jumped off stage in a Bournemouth nightclub, and with already weak bones and weary eyes, I managed to break 3 metatarsal bones in my right foot. That was me out of action for 3 months, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t drive and I chilled the fuck out from the world. Weymouth had been good again, but this Jonny Blair had over indulged and tried to enjoy everything, only to be taught the lesson “slow down.” And I did, and I’ve not been as drunk since, and don’t plan on being that bad ever again. It was pure carnage, still at least I had proved myself as club chairman again, and had another new year to be proudly in charge of the South of England Northern Ireland Supporters Club. That felt good, as did the giving up of alcohol for 6 weeks, even right through Christmas without a beer or wine.

So the story of Weymouth almost ended there, but fast forward to April 2008, and suddenly I was in Weymouth again, with Patrick, Dan and Vicky, as we went to watch a Weymouth FC match for a laugh. i felt I owed it to the club, after the Farsley Celtic match was postponed. In the end, I ended up at the Weymouth v. Droylsden relegation battle (written about on another post…), where The Terras of Weymouth came back from 1-0 down to win 2-1, and stayed up. I picked up a match programme for the Farsley Celtic match that night, and low and behold our supporters club were featured in it. That was nice. By April 2008 I was fully recovered and we still hold our WAGM in December every year in Weymouth. Nothing ever changes, and when it does, maybe you’ll see a new Jonny Blair roaming the streets. Hey guys and girls, thanks for the memories of Weymouth 2007. “Thankyou, It was sheer bliss!”

What was it – South of England Northern Ireland Supporters Club Weymouth Annual Green Meeting number 3

When was it – Saturday 8th December 2007

What happened – SOENISC did a pub and beach crawl of Weymouth, yet missed out on watching the Weymouth v. Farsley Celtic match as it was rained off, and had their annual meeting.

Who went – Jonny Blair, Owen Millar, El Craig, Reeny Craig, Shaun Schofield, Dan Darch, Alex IOW Army Higgins, Gemma Mornin, Millwall Neil, Squid Armstrong, Jono Crute, Simon McCully, Graham Anderson, Scott Gordon.

Bars visited – Party train carryout bar, The Duke of Albany, Finns, Corner Bar, The Dorothy Inn, The Black Dog, The Duke of Edinburgh, Barracuda, Wetherspoons, Rendezvous, Lazy Lizard (not all of the attendees were in every bar, myself included)

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