Berwick V Rangers – the Big Match
As told to Ricardo
LHC = Loyal Human Companion
mackem = someone from Sunderland
Asda = Aldi
The next morning we set off through the snow to Berwick and driving up the A1 we passed through some very picturesque scenery, including what his mackem pal said was a beautiful old monastery in the sea. I didn’t realise there had ever been any seafaring monks. I asked if they were from the order of Neptune, which I thought was quite witty, but he just glared at me. I have to say it looked nothing special to me: just a hut on a knoll surrounded by water. It could have been Alcatraz as far as I was concerned.
He then went on to say that 1,200 years ago the monks were forever being slaughtered and the monastery looted by Viking raiders. So, I should have known better, I asked why didn’t they fight back and invest in some decent 5 lever mortise locks from IKEA. Luckily he was driving so was limited in what he could physically do to me but he replied that, with his face getting redder than that of a Berserker, they were simple men of peace (the monks) who played the harp, meditated, wove tapestries and prayed all day. Death would have been a merciful release, I mused, thinking I would rather have been a Viking; they seemed like much more fun. So why didn’t they learn to defend themselves? They could have sent for a monk from China to teach them Kung Fu.
Fearing this banter was going beyond the pale, my LHC interjected and asked what we thought the score would be assuming the game had not been called off. They predicted scores of 0-7 and 0-8 to Rangers and then ‘…as a laugh let’s ask your stupid, smarta*** cat for his expert opinion…’
I chose to ignore this blunt-edged barb of sarcasm and suggested 3-1 to Rangers with Berwick taking a 6th minute lead compliments of an own goal, Rangers equalising with a penalty 3 minutes later before taking a 2-1 lead in the last minute of the first half and eventually winning 3-1 compliments of a 66th minute goal . There was a pause of silence for 2 minutes before my LHC desperately fumbled for a William Hill app on his new smart phone.
His hands were going like bees’ wings (something else the monks made for the Vikings) as he had only 15 minutes remaining to master his new toy and submit ‘his’ bet and he got odds of 45-1 for my exact prediction . ‘Hey, if we both put a £1 on and we win this it will pay for dinner and all our beer in Berwick!!’ he said bouncing up and down with excitement on his seat like a modern-day Viking about to disembark in choppy waters at Holy island.
Just as he was about to place the bet he lost the signal. This led to so many oaths and profanities being shouted at his phone, especially concerning Sony, that I am surprised it didn’t have Thor scurrying for cover behind Ericsson. Then 13 minutes later calm was restored along with the mobile signal.
‘Hey Nelson, I’ve got to re-input every detail. Right, give me your exact prediction again.’
To which I replied, still smarting from the insult of 16 minutes earlier and not being asked politely, ‘Being a stupid cat, with a memory akin to that of a goldfish, regretfully I cannot remember.’ then preceded to gaze admiringly out of the car’s rear window at the huge stone mansions on the outskirts of Berwick.
We checked into a quaint little B&B called the White Swan (alas not on the menu) before setting off to the Maracana of Northumbria as described by the mackem pal. By now I was in the bad books with both my human companions and was given a ‘Scarborough Warning’, even though I estimated that to be about 200 miles due south. In the circumstances I chose not to mention this geographical inaccuracy, and was told that if I made any more impudent, disrespectful or smarta*** quips then I would be locked in the room all day without a litter tray.
Berwick-upon-Tweed itself is a very nice, historical town but the humans were a bit strange. Everyone talks with a broad Scots accent e.g. wee gluvvies, all the pubs serve Scottish Beer, they eat porridge and haggis for breakfast and their team plays in the Scottish Third Division, so I not unreasonably assumed that all its residents were indeed Scottish.
On the way to the game we stopped in at the local Asda supermarket. My LHC and his pal had gone off to ‘stock up on provisions for the game’ so I was busy admiring the humans’ chocolate biscuits when a frail old lady, who must have been 85 if she was a day (I think that’s the expression), came to a sudden halt in her mobility scooter next to me. She looked distressed, forlorn and helpless as she had dropped her gloves on the floor and was unable to retrieve them. So she asked whether anyone would be kind enough to pick up her ‘wee gluvvies’ as she had terrible problems with arthritis, so could not bend down, and she was scared that her scooter would topple over.
So being the gallant gent that I am, I duly obliged, having decided that I would politely decline any reward that she may proffer. She gently stroked my fur as a way of expressing her gratitude, which made me feel for the plight of this lovely old lady even more but I managed to hold back my tears and purred how smitten I was with her lovely, soft, lilting Scottish accent.
Her reaction to this compliment was not quite what I expected…
She grabbed me by the throat in a vice-like grip and told me that her family had been fighting off the Scottish hordes since Flodden in 1513, the only good thing about Scotland was Laphraiog Whiskey and if I ever insulted her again by calling her Scottish she would ‘RIP MY ******* HEAD OFF (laddie)’.
I declined to ask, mainly on account of being unable to breathe, why she had two packets of Paterson’s Shortbread and 300 grams of Aberdeen Angus Steak in her shopping basket and decided not to engage in any other small talk viz. whether she wanted Berwick Rangers or Glasgow Rangers to win that afternoon. I was just grateful her mobility scooter didn’t have scythes attached to the wheels.
She then rode off into the bakery aisle like a geriatric Hell’s Angel in slow motion whilst I lay there on the floor by the McVities Biscuits sub-section, on my back with all four legs stretched out, gasping for breath. I felt like I was about to be spread-eagled by a Norse war party.
My unsympathetic LHC and his mackem mate, having loaded up on Topic Bars and Fruit Pastilles ‘Let’s get these as my cat doesn’t like them…’ I overheard him just before my unappreciated act of Walter Raleigheseque gallantry, strolled around the corner (here comes the Cavalry, I mused gaspingly , or more precisely Custer’s reinforcements) and berated me for choking on a McVitie’s Biscuit which he accused me of purloining from a packet which had come apart when I landed on it half-strangled. ‘Serves you bloody right for stealing. And if the checkout girl charges me for that damaged packet of McVities Biscuits then it’s coming out of your food allowance.’ Thank you.
I had now had enough of the North-East for one weekend. I didn’t come to Berwick to be throttled, run over by a mobility scooter, insulted and then starved. I am not William Wallace. Perhaps I could now just relax, forget about this unsavoury incident and enjoy the football match.
At that point the octogenarian cross between Boadicea and Lewis Hamilton went whizzing past shouting ‘Stick it tae ‘em at the game bonnie laddies. The Police will back yer up. We’ve spent 500 years keeping these Scotch booggas oot o’ Berwick and we dinna want see ‘em ‘ere agin.’
You don’t get this at rugby.