A Yorkshire Christmas

Christmas Eve was spent collecting Ammonites on a cold, blustery but magnificently beautiful day on the Yorkshire coast. We found lots of these whirly fossils in the lower Jurassic of Ravenscar and the walk down and then back up the cliffs was refreshing and invigorating. This experience was topped off with a delicious cream tea at Raven Hall Hotel. It couldn’t have been any better.

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As the three of us trooped down the muddy path, I reflected on the many trips around Yorkshire fossil hunting I had done with my late Father. Not only did we hunt fossils but we explored the area in depth. Roman roads, ancient burial sites, viking villages. You name it, we did it. We even found a whole bunch of iron age pottery that we donated to the Yorkshire museum – Staxtonware – from the valley just at the Scarborough side of Staxton hill. I was back in my element and enjoying that.

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We took a look at the Alum works and I tried to explain to my daughter that the rocks above us were brought down to this place and treated with gallons of human pee brought by ship from Hull to the south. I asked her the question my Father had once asked me, “Can you imagine how it would have smelled here?” By the wrinkled nose look she gave me, she probably could.

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After the cream tea, it was back to Beverley to finish the trifle we had left there that my Mother had made at my request. Delicious!

My daughter had never experienced Santa delivering presents. In the Czech republic, they are delivered by Jezisek and on Christmas Eve conveniently just after dinner. She enjoyed ripping open the presents that morning and she opened everyones just for good measure. She was also fascinated by the Christmas crackers and managed to go through a couple of boxes of them! Just the thing for her, little plastic novelty gifts and party hats in everyone!

Christmas dinner followed and she enjoyed traditional turkey and trimmings followed by Christmas pudding and rum sauce. Actually, she didn’t much care for the pudding which meant I got double helpings….

It was a brilliant experience for my daughter but it was also nice to be with my Mother and family back in the place I was born for Christmas for the first time in over 30-years. Hull City even managed an away win on Boxing Day……

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European Football Trip

I awoke yesterday morning with just a twinge of rising excitement. Later in the day, we would be off on a 200km road trip to watch Hull City in their European debut. Sometimes, you do get the feeling that events conspire against you though on days like this one and yesterday turned out to be challenging…..

At around noon, as we made final preparations to leave, the skies opened. It rained so hard, Brno streets flooded within 30 minutes. Really, I have never seen so much rain here in the 7-years I have lived in the Czech Republic. If it was raining like this in Zilina there would be no game at all we thought. A check of the internet held out hope. The rain was more or less north-south and the heaviest was in Brno. It seemed to extend only 20 – 30 km east and the forecast for Zilina was still OK.

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We were due to pick up 3 friends at 2pm just around the corner. On leaving in the continuing downpour, the first thing I noticed was the traffic jam. It turned out, the city center had some serious flooding and traffic was total chaos as a result. What should have taken a minute or two ended up taking 20 minutes as we crawled through the streets. Even worse, our friends had got soaked and needed to go home and pick up a change of clothing…..the rain continued falling in buckets.

Here are some photos and a video of the flooding

By 3pm, we had managed to reach the village just outside Brno and our friends had changed. Off we set. Through flooding and heavy rains we drove at 40km/hr. If the weather was going to be like this for much longer we may not make it for kick off! At one point, we hit another traffic jam on the road to the Slovak Republic as water rushing off the fields to the right of the road swirled in torrents across the road bringing mud and rocks with it and even eroding the highway. It was that bad!

After 60km, the rain began to ease. By the time we reached the border, there was a hint of sun. By the time we reached Trencin, it was partly sunny and warm. It was 5pm and we were going to make it after all.

Arriving in Zilina, we decided to go straight to the ground and have a beer. It was a small town and the ground was easy to find. People in black and amber seemed to be everywhere as the invasion of Zilina by the 600 or so Hull City fans took shape. Local fans looked on in amusement at full grown men dressed as Tigers! The ambience was good though.

The next challenge was to find our tickets. We were looking for one Alan Mabbutt of the Hull City ticket office at the away turnstiles. As you may guess, we walked around the entire stadium before arriving pretty much where we started to find the away turnstiles. There was Alan with our tickets. By now, I was like a small kid bubbling with excitement. We were body searched entering the stadium and I think I confused security by speaking Czech to them when they expected English.

Once inside, it was just amazing. Flags were strewn across the away end – Polish Tigers read one while another said Warsaw Tigers! The team were warming up and again, I was like a kid pointing out all the players to my partner. Livermore waved at me too – or maybe her…. who knows? Shortly the game began. It really wasn’t the greatest of games. Hull City are really still in training for the season and they looked a bit out of practice and out of synch. Huddlestone missed a penalty and the rebound. But it was fun with the City fans making a lot of noise and singing/chanting all game long. We got a look at new signings too as they came on as substitutes later in the game and they looked to hold a lot of promise.

It finished as it started at 0 – 0. The return leg in Hull is next week and Hull should win it. But it was a great experience and very enjoyable.

The trip home was rapid and uneventful. The rain that had so nearly upset all of our plans was gone and there was little or no sign of any flooding….

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The Big Adventure

I haven’t managed to take in a live Hull City game for several years unfortunately. The last game was an away game versus Leicester City that I decided on the spur of the moment to go to. At the time, my son Liam and I were visiting family in Hull and we were heading back down to London and the airport at Gatwick for Liam to fly home. We set off on the Saturday morning and in the back of my mind, I had a half a mind to jump off the M1 and go grab the game in Leicester. Of course, the M62 was a packed with traffic due to an accident and so by the time we got to the M1 I wasn’t at all sure that we would make it. Nonetheless, I persevered and we were in Leicester with about 10 minutes to go before kick off. We had to buy tickets at the ground of course so by the time we took our seats the game was underway. It was the season for Hull City under the tanned one. The year that we had all been waiting for when via the Championship play offs at Wembley and the foot of Dean Windass, Hull City were finally promoted to the Premier League. Hull won that day 2-0 and we enjoyed a great time before continuing our journey to London. Thus ended a 100+ year wait and question masters had to revise their questions regarding which biggest city had never had top flight football representation.

It’s funny because I had chances to go to the FA Cup semi-final and final last season but in the end the chances came to late to act on and I couldn’t afford it. The few times I have been to Hull also have fallen on away game weekends too. But tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow, we will drive a couple of hundred kilometers into the Slovak Republic where I will watch Hull City’s maiden European appearance. History will be made and for once, I will be there to witness it in person. I can’t wait.

Many people who track English football decide to have it easy. They decide on Manchester Utd, City or Liverpool or Arsenal as ‘their’ team and support them. For me, the only team I have ever supported is my home town team Hull City. It’s been tough at times let me tell you and for years there was not much to cheer about. I haven’t lived in Hull since 1978. It would have been easy to shift allegiance but that isn’t me – I am a loyal person.

It all started back in around 1966 when I was taken to Boothferry Park by Bob French and enjoyed it so much, it became a regular Saturday trip. I recall watching Chris Chilton, Wagstaff, Ian Butler and the lads and I can name the entire team from back then.. Later, at college in Birmingham, I recall making trips to places like Walsall as a student hitch hiking to see the team. When in the US, I was only able to read reports on the Internet but I did avidly each and every game.

I think I am lucky. The club was founded more than a century ago. I often think about all the passionate and loyal Hull City supporters during all of that time that went to their graves without ever seeing the team in the Premier League or FA Cup Final – never mind the Stadion Pod Dubem in far away Zilina, Slovak Republic.

Of FA Cup Finals, Hull and Yorkshire

This last weekend, I and a good percentage of my fellow East Yorkshire compadres (not all as Rugby is still big in Hull and Hull KR played Hull FC that same day!) were either sat in the London sun at Wembley or, like me, huddled in front of the biggest TV we could find. Of course, none of us really entertained the idea that we could actually win the FA Cup but we all brimmed with pride and awe at the occasion none the less. But you also knew, as underdogs, we had nothing at all to lose and there is always the chance, no matter how slim, that on the day and for 90 minutes, Hull City could be the better team. Of course, 10 minutes after kick off and the score Hull City 2 Arsenal 0, we perhaps did allow ourselves a moment or two to dream that maybe it was going to be the underdog’s day and that Curtis Davies would lift that cup for the long suffering fans of Hull City. In the end, it wasn’t to be, but the overwhelming sense of pride at having made Arsenal and their fans suffer and work for their reward made it all worthwhile. In fact, now we have a taste for such occasions, we want more!

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Of course, when you play a team like Arsenal you are playing a global brand. People who have never been to Arsenal support that club all around the world and they expect success. Arsenal have a history and a pedigree. They have one player valued at two times our entire squad. It’s easy to support a team like Arsenal.

But, I have to say, I would have liked to see more media coverage of the underdog. Hull’s story is a much better one than Arsenals. Its easy to be an Arsenal fan with expectations of Premier League football, Europe and silverware year in and year out so it must be tough to go 9 years without a trophy. Arsenal fans everywhere have my sympathy. I full well understand how 9-years is an eternity to wait. You see, Hull City was founded 110-years ago and we have never won anything. After Saturday’s glorious defeat, we have still never won anything. There are loyal Hull City fans, born and bred in Hull, who have been born and died without ever seeing Hull City win anything. These are real fans.

To be honest, the media could have done a better job. A decade ago, Hull City were in the bottom tier of English football. Almost went out of business a couple of times. The club has gone from bottom to top in a short period of time and we all of course hope that over the next few years, it will stay there and that we will win something soon. But thats the difference between us and Arsenal fans. They get all weird over not winning a trophy in 9-years, we just support our team through thick and thin – mostly thin times. There are some truly great stories that they could have done a better job of picking up on.

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In fact, having travelled a lot in my life I can say that there is something about being from Yorkshire and Hull – in that order. Hull has always been somehow cut off from everything by virtue of its geographic position. The huge muddy estuary of the Humber to the south, the boulder clay cliffs of the east coast leave only the north and west accessible. Hull has always been a sort of maverick place willing to assert itself whether that was the Icelandic cod war or the English civil war! Hull has historically been a backwater cut off from the south albeit an important backwater as a result of its port and access to the ocean. Being essentially cut off and isolated is in the psyche of its inhabitants too. We are unafraid, down to earth and unimpressed with attitudes. We get on with it, make the best of it and know how to enjoy ourselves. There is an element of Yorkshire spirit too in there but with a definite Hull edge. We are like our team – resolute, spirited and uncomplaining taking little or no notice of what others might think or say – after all, the vast majority of them have never been to Hull!

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So, quite honestly I feel sorry for Arsenal fans having to wait 9-years to win something. They plainly don’t have the stomach for the long haul or for adversity that comes with being born north of Watford and especially in a little City called Kingston upon the River Hull.

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Hull City Honours – from Wikipedia.

Football League Championship and predecessors (level 2 of the English football league system)
Runners-up: 2012–13
Play-off winners: 2007–08

Football League One and predecessors (level 3 of the English football league system)
Champions: 1965–66
Runners-up: 1958–59, 2004–05
Promoted: 1984–85

Football League Two and predecessors (level 4 of the English football league system)
Runners-up: 1982–83, 2003–04

Football League Third Division North
Champions: 1932–33, 1948–49

FA Cup
Runners-up: 2014
Semi-finalists: 1930

Football League Trophy
Runners-up: 1984

Watney Cup
Runners-up: 1974

We Dared to Dream

Yesterday, we dared to dream
Hoped to mark our spot in history
Engraved our name in time
Yesterday, we came out strong
A shock really did look on

It’s been more than a century
Players have come and gone
I even went to school with one
Yesterday, we dared to dream
And what a long wait it’s been

The Tigers’ shone yesterday
Just like that other rhyme
Burning brightly under London skies
And 10 minutes after kick off
It looked as if we may pull it off

In the end it wasn’t to be
But the Tigers marked
Their place in history
Written indelibly
We dared to dream!

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Once a Century or so

It was a very big day yesterday. After 110 years, Hull City played in the FA Cup final for the first time. Its still incredible to me that The Tigers are in the Premier League and an FA Cup was simply the icing on an already desirable cake.

I was pretty nervous. Arsenal are a team whose squad is worth many many more times that of Hull City. They are a big club and they play good football. Classy even. I had in the back of my mind a 3-0 or 4-0 drubbing to be honest particularly since Hull City hadn’t played so well the last few weeks. In the two games against Arsenal, we lost 5-0 on aggregate in the league. Imagine my surprise when within 8 minutes of kick off Hull City were winning 2-0! I was shaking so much I had to go and get a whiskey….. more of that later.

I knew if we could score 1 more goal it was probably our game. Two is not enough. Within 15 minutes, we almost did score that third as Alex Bruce had his header cleared off the goal line. I think it was at that moment that I knew how the game would turn out and sure enough, Arsenal scored shortly after. It was then only a matter of time and to hold on until penalties was probably the best we could hope for. In the end, you could see how tired the players were and you just knew arsenal would score before the end of OT.

I guess the best way to look at it is we drew 2-2 and lost in OT. I am proud of the team and proud to be from Hull.

By the time the game was over though I had polished off a half bottle of whiskey! I had no idea as the game went on I suppose I was drinking without thinking…..

I have a very sore head today.

My only issue with the whole thing is that Arsenal have some truly obnoxious followers. I don’t know why. Big club, successful, history, money – they have everything Arsenal. But some of their fans are ungracious and I put it mildly. Rabid people, ungracious in victory and defeat. Not all of them I will say but I can think of no other team whose supporters are so bad and I hope Hull City fans never get that way.

However, I’m not going to let some silly Arsenal fans spoil my day – the whiskey did that for me already…..

TGIF

It is Friday.

It is the end of the working week and time to spend a couple of days engaged in activities other than work. For me and many of my home town peeps, this is a big weekend as Hull City play their first FA cup semi-final since 1930 with a real chance to get to a first ever FA Cup final. On Sunday at 5.07pm local time, I’ll be sat in the local sports bar, half liter in hand to watch that game.

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To be honest though, the weekend doesn’t mean an end to work. Nope – just a change in format. I finally have some time to get around to doing some household chores. The work never stops nor ends but the variety makes things interesting….

I hope you all have a happy weekend… and not too much work!

Meanwhile, here are some scenes from our last FA Cup semi final…..

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