5. A Visit To Halifax, like…

A welcome and anonymously contributed report from Halifax in Yorkshire where The Derelicts joined forces with the Western Vikings from the Isle Of Man for a Tour Somewhere Oop North.

Friday 5th May 2017

We learned several things when we toured the Isle of Man last year, and were determined to avoid most of them this year. Things such as airport breakfast beer is both decadent and delightful. Things such as the Isle of Man is made up entirely of former pubs. Things such as if you let Jerry score you’ll never hear the end of it.

This year we were determined not to make the same mistakes as last year, so although we took Wolfie (the) Senior – who probably by now should be called Grey Wolf – we promised not to almost kill him off in the process. We made sure that the coach driver did not have an obsession with former pubs. We made sure that we left Jerry at home. We were wiser. We were stronger. There was nothing we had left to chance.

“What could possibly go wrong?” said the confident Facebook post for the obligatory pre-tour photo, causing several tourists to make sure that they had comprehensive insurance policies arranged.

As it turned out, quite a few things could go wrong, most of which occurring before they had even had a proper chance to go wrong. Sam laid on an excellent breakfast having first forgotten the keys and finding that an essential part of a cooked breakfast is access to cooking facilities. “Mind you.” we thought, “if that’s our glitch for the tour then that’s not so bad.” Notwithstanding the minor delay of that a full-on cholesterol special was enjoyed along with various bubbly grape-based libations, which surely counted as one of the five-a-day. Skip restrained himself somewhat and only went back for seconds, although making sure that he did take away a mid-morning snack of six sausages, four rashers of bacon and whatever was left out of the mushrooms.

The journey northwards proved somewhat arduous, with traffic delays reducing us to a crawl, and wooden bladders reducing us to a stop. A longer stop was had at the Jolly Farmer for lunch which all agreed was so good that we immediately booked for Sunday lunch, even though this gave the landlord 48 hours in which to erect a suitable barrier, or sell up and move. Appropriately lubricated, the journey ploughed on, traffic easing the further north we came … but bladders just as fragile.

As we drove into Halifax many of the tourists enjoyed stunning views of the town and buildings, dappled in sunshine of an early May Spring day. Later than planned the coach disgorged a happy and only slightly organised group just outside the Premier Inn, in what can only be described as a bloody windy, bloody freezing Halifax. Having been cocooned in the warmth of the coach, the first words uttered by most as they stepped down from the coach were “Chuffin’ ‘eck”, whilst blazers and jackets were hurriedly pulled tighter. In many cases, “tighter” was probably a relative term. Determined not to let the sub-Arctic temperatures dampen spirits, the plan was to drop off everything at the hotel then head straight to the nearest bar, which fortunately was no more than a hundred yards away, and already had the Vikings touring party installed. As we quickly discovered, they had been “on it” since 8.30 that morning, only prevented from starting earlier by the unreasonable attitude of the ferry company not to open the bar before then.

First round was in, with chief sock carrier Skip staggering back from the bar with a glazed look on his face. Concerned tourists clustered round to find the cause of his consternation to be that the whole round had cost less than Ave’s last haircut – the concept of a pint of beer costing more than £2 joyfully appearing entirely alien to Halifax publicans.

Then the games started. Having established that neither Sat Nav nor Grey Wolf had secured a golf ball, Drinking to the Queen – in this case a shiny new penny that could probably have bought a moderately sized family home around the corner – was played as the penny was dropped into glasses with stealth, cunning, and in some cases outright malice. Roz sensibly developed a napkin/straw contraption that ensured restricted access to her white wine and soda. The next game appeared to be called How Quickly Can We Get Barred From The Wetherspoons and involved the practice of putting a sticker in the most inaccessible and high point in the pub, and then after a bollocking from the pub manager attempting to take it off again without a) breaking anything or b) causing too much embarrassment. Bloxham stepped up to the task of lineout lifting the smallest Viking we could find to reach and remove the sticker, then totally failed with item b) by demonstrating an entire lack of skill, coordination, or ability. Fortunately, and saving Derelict’s blushes, the Vikings stepped up and hauled Sat Nav into the air long enough for him to realise that peeling off stickers takes fingernails and that it was going to take longer than he thought. “Get on with it you twat!” shouted many, especially the Viking who had front lifting position and was going puce through the effort.

Combined tourists headed off to Ziggy’s, an all you can eat Indian buffet that could take a party of 40. Vikings tour virgins were sent out for beers from the local off licence and the mixed seating arrangement of ‘boy-Viking-boy-Viking’ worked well, allowing a new game to be developed called Palming Webby Off On An Unsuspecting Derelict. Simon and Bloxham suffered a heavy defeat in this new game, getting to sit with the insufferable prat for the whole meal.

“I’m taking it easy tonight,” said Skip as he declined to go for fourths, complaining that the subtlety of the cardamom had been lost under a slight excess of chilli spice. Everyone else was too busy sweating profusely and reaching for the nearest drink to comment on the finesse of Skip’s palate. Heading out into the Halifax night the tourists found that the ambient air temperature in Halifax is inversely proportional to the amount of clothing teenage girls wear on a night out in Halifax. Eyes popping out of various skulls, for some incomprehensible reason we were all following Broomy to get to the next pub. The next pub, as it turned out, was only 50 yards further down the road but if Broomy’s navigation is to be believed it necessitated walking in the wrong direction and going all the way around the block to get there. Fortunately, a group of what can generously be referred to as ‘middle-aged men’ walking around slightly lost wearing flat caps and braces did not seem to cause the locals any concerns, and we sampled the atmosphere in a handful of establishments. We learned that the average height of anyone from Halifax appears to be several feet shorter that the average Derelict – any bar we were in you could spot any of the Derelicts as they were at least a head taller than the crowd. We also learned that somewhat inexplicably Sprecks is a babe-magnet. We put it down to the brightly coloured knee-length socks he was sporting causing some sort of hypnotic effect as he walked.

Saturday 6th May 2017

The rather modest target of making breakfast at 10am proved something of a challenge. As it turned out, we were not wiser. We were not stronger. Tales emerged over breakfast of derring-do from the previous night and as each story emerged everyone secretly thought “what a twat” – especially if the story was about themselves. Jonah has been sent to Coventry by Skip for snoring all night, and Ave had to sit between them to pass messages such as “Jonah says can you pass the salt?” and “Skip says you’re a noisy bastard”. Raymondo was on top form, however, and his incessant stream of Dad jokes – jokes so terrible that only your Dad would like them – did nothing at all to lighten the spirits. Some had repaired to the Wetherspoons for breakfast, fearing a disastrous drop in blood-alcohol level coming on. The Vikings had outshone us again, having been to breakfast at 6am and already back on the sauce. “The stamina of youth” grumbled everyone. The coach leaving at 12.30 gave everyone the chance to go back to bed for an hour or so, and in some cases the chance to go for a fourth crap of the day – Halifax curries not agreeing with a southern constitution.

The trip to Heath RFC was mercifully brief so a toilet stop was not necessary, it taking less than 10 minutes to make the journey. It was a close-run thing though. Players gathered, with the serious ones restricting themselves to just one pre-match pint. A new game evolved, this time a sort of strategic positioning around the end of the bar so that when the cry of “Huggy!” went up, whoever was nearest to the barmaid could run around the bar and give her a cuddle. Fast Eddie proved an expert at this game, his small size allowing him to dodge and weave past people in a manner never seen from him on a rugby pitch. As the barmaid started moving around the place to collect the empties, cries of “Huggy!” went up with greater frequency.

As the more observant of us had noted, Derelicts lacked a front row and at least three quarters of the back line, the squad consisting almost entirely of second row players. Vikings, with their youth and front row filled the gaps and Derelicts felt relieved that they could leave the actual running around to someone else, especially as against all sense of sportsmanship Heath RFC had actually been warming up whilst Derelicts stood and watched their efforts, smoking and drinking. It was quickly apparent that the injection of youth and pace brought by the Vikings was curtailed by the injection of beer over the last two days, several players having to be guided to the pitch by well-meaning spectators.

A starting 15 was established on the basis of who was capable of independent sight and had some knowledge of their position, but this had to be revised almost immediately as Jon Snow went off injured before the whistle had blown, apparently tearing a calf muscle during his warm up – which as far as anyone could tell had involved standing still and breathing heavily. Doc, in the way of good medical professionals everywhere, ignored him completely, but could not ignore it when Viking Kevin – making a dash and a sidestep – collapsed after an audible crack came from his right knee. Nor could he ignore when Broomy, undertaking duties as stretcher bearer for Kevin, lost his footing and sheared all the skin off above his right eye on the gravel car park, nor the injury to jaw and then later left thumb of another Viking. “I’ve had twenty minutes running around on the pitch,” moaned Doc, “and then 50 minutes running around after you lot”. He declared it his busiest working day in months.

The distractions of numerous injuries gave Heath the advantage over ‘Dorvikings’, ruthlessly scoring with another unsportsmanlike attitude of ‘playing the game’. Toward the end of the match Dorvikings attempted to redress the balance by sneaking the entire squad on, one or two players at a time, until it was Heath RFC XV versus Dorvikings

RFC XXI. Despite this they still kept scoring, failing to notice that the Dorviking scrum now seemed to have twelve players in it. The addition of Wolfie Junior to the field had improved tackling, running with the ball, and hooking at least 100%, but all to no avail as Heath ran out victorious. Final Score…..Well!

Then it was back to the Heath clubhouse for drinks and more drinking games, with Broomy banned from drinking for the rest of the night following his head injury (“I can have one, can’t I?” he opined. “No” said everyone in chorus). One particularly entertaining game called Firing the Cannon left Viking Pete almost comatose and then later sporting a new haircut having been repeatedly ‘loaded’ with beer in his role as cannon. Grey Wolf sportingly played Drink or Drown, many thinking that this would be his near-death experience for this year, but being as it involved drinking a lot he was just fine. Skip enthusiastically participated in the Lancaster Bomber when Precious stepped out, although the effect was somewhat lost when Viking Alf forgot how the story went.

We waved goodbye to Heath RFC (and Grey Wolf) and headed back into Halifax. Shockingly, TGI Friday couldn’t take a party of 40 with no notice on a Saturday night, but Nando’s was more accommodating, although for a chicken restaurant displaying a startling lack of anything but chicken on the menu, this somehow coming as a surprise to many of the tourists. Raymondo lost this round of Palming Webby Off On An Unsuspecting Derelict much to Simon’s and Bloxham’s amusement. A good meal was followed by attending the Gundog, a pub that had apparently promised the previous night to let us all in. Head-Bob demonstrated his ability to fall asleep, earning himself the title Snoozer in a Boozer and in all likelihood a feature spot in the next local publicans’ magazine. “Don’t worry”, said Jonah, “he’ll be awake in an hour”. The hour mark came and went, but in fairness to Head-Bob he might just have been pretending to avoid the South African we had met who, for a South African, was doing a pretty good impression of a boomerang as he repeatedly left and came back. Miraculously we did see Head-Bob again at about 2am, presumably having woken up in a closed-up Gundog with all the lights out and having broken himself out. The South African seemed to take a liking to Martin – although there could be some other reason for calling Martin ‘Ger-nome’ – but considering the state Martin was in by then what Martin’s thoughts on the subject were are anyone’s guess. Grey Wolf reappeared to demonstrate his dancing skills to an unsuspecting female population. Returning to the hotel the tourists remarked on the seating preferences for a number of young women in the hours between 3am and 4am, preferring in their scanty attire the pavement as opposed to, say, a wing backed armchair or a bed.

Sunday 7th May 2017

It was with a great deal of reluctance that the Derelicts started the process of leaving Halifax. Not because they were keen to stay in the wind-scoured cold, but because no one’s legs, stomachs or brains seemed up to the task – apart from Broomy, sporting a pair on sunglasses to conceal a swollen eye, who was up at the crack of dawn complaining that he had had the cheapest Saturday night for years.

Some of the Vikings came to see us off, including Viking Kevin who was now in a groin to ankle splint for his buggered knee.

Boarding the coach again we looked forward to the journey home, a somewhat subdued bunch, intermittently snoozing and in some cases half-heartedly boozing. Arriving at the Jolly Farmer for Sunday lunch everyone was both surprised and pleased to see that planks had not been nailed across the door, but that they were expecting us with a sumptuous roast on the go. One or two faces paled at the thought of solid food.

As we ate, or in some cases watched other people eat, we reminisced about the last couple of days and how the tour had been. As we reflected, we were not wiser. We were not stronger. But we did tell ourselves that we are going to do it all again next year, and next time make sure that Broomy isn’t in charge of anything at all.

Squad: Ave Maria, Jon “You-Know-Nuthin” Snow, Raymondo, Roz, Head-Bob, Fast Eddie, Sat Nav, Doc, Andy, Skip, Jonah, Simon, Bloxham, Grey Wolf, Wolfie Junior, Broomy, Precious, Cartahh the Larger, Sprecks, Ger-nome and Huggy – most definitely there in spirit.

By Anon