Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

About Me

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Caught on Kamara

I don’t want to tempt fate but if Fulham do manage to escape relegation this season then this small plot of land in South East England will forever remain in my heart.


Fulham went up to Manchester City five points off safety with three games to go. You don’t need to be Rain Man to work out that things looked bleak. With just one win away from home in eighteen months, and that being the last time we played away, the family Norman had long since resigned themselves to resignation.

I’ve been working almost non-stop since getting back from New Zealand. But I had Saturday off and had agreed to take Fe to Guildford for an audition for a musical theatre course. And I was pleasantly surprised when I got there to find the nice canal above to relax next to.

I was expecting to have to wait around for a couple of hours at least and so armed with a newspaper, a bottle of water and a transistor radio I waited for Fe to finish her audition by sun bathing next to the water.

An hour into my wait and the game and Fulham were relegated. Two-nil down and with other results going against us I spoke to my dad on the phone. ‘Chat later when we’re in the Championship’ I said as I hung up, before turning the radio back on.

Of my family I was the only one listening. My parents were tootling around the house ignoring the updates. My brother was regressing back to his youth by spending a sunny afternoon locked away in a room role-playing with Calum while Lucy was entertaining my cousin.

Which left me, sitting peacefully, listening to talkSPORT’s coverage of the match on my own. All around me families were picnicking, women pushing buggies, dogs swimming in the water and pensioners enjoying the sun. And then with twenty minutes to go Fulham scored.

At that point there was still nothing to suggest the goal was anything but a consolation. Fulham had been on the back foot for much of the game and sure enough Man City had a couple of chances to score before *PENALTY!*

At the time the commentators had crossed to the game at Birmingham where our relegation rivals had previously been 2-0 up against Liverpool. But seconds after hearing news that Liverpool had pulled level it now appeared Fulham had a penalty kick and a chance to do the same thing.

And after having his first kick saved Danny Murphy converted to send those present wild and leading me to jump up off the bench I was sitting on sending my radio flying and crashing onto the ground in the process.

Throughout the game I’d been receiving texts from Tom in Australia who’d got back from a party to watch the match. But I hadn’t heard anything since our first goal and nothing again here. So I called him and woke him from his whiskey induced sleep before tuning back into the commentary.

A draw was still not good enough for Fulham or Man City who needed a win to keep in touch with hopes of a European place. And this led to both teams forsaking defence in favour of wanton attack.

The last five minutes were ridiculous. I was far too tense to remain seated and so found myself pacing up and down by the banks of the canal (again see above). The commentary team were in hysterics as time after time Man City failed to take the chances their forwards and our defenders presented them. It truly was a game for the neutrals I thought as I heard the howls of frustration from the home fans in the background.

Part of me was happy that we’d pulled it back to 2-2 but I knew it wasn’t going to be enough. And I felt like I was going to have a heart attack every time Man City went forward. We hadn’t come back from two goals down away from home in years. It couldn’t happen.

But then it did.

If this is how Paul Merson reacted I would love to know what I looked like. If I could buy the CCTV footage from Guildford Council I would. Because I went absolutely mental. Fists pumping in the air, yelling out, jumping around. I must have looked like one crazy fucker. I could see people looking at me and I didn’t care. ‘Fuham are still alive’ I shouted at one bloke who turned to his wife and said ‘I think something must have happened in the football’. He was right. Oh yeah!!!!!

Several wild and wide-eyed phonecalls to various members of the family ensued. I’ve never sworn more to my mum in my life. She in turn has never sworn so much in her life as she recounted the story to my sister.

I also tried to call Tom back but his phone wasn’t working. I later found out that his screaming had woken up his whole apartment block and he’d managed to smash his phone in the process of celebrating. But he did manage to leave this message on my phone which pretty much sums up all the above in four words. (Press download and turn the volume on your computer UP!)

All of which means Fulham go into our game on Saturday with Birmingham still in with a chance of a ridiculously great escape. A win there and we really could be within touching distance of safety.

So only time will tell whether Guildford will remain close to mine and Fe’s hearts (she’s still waiting to hear whether she got a recall). But I doubt whether those who walked past my one man goal celebration antics will ever forget where they were that day.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Location, Location, Location

There are three things that make long trips abroad worthwhile. There’s the planning. There’s the going. And there are the great memories that make you want to do it all over again. Coming back does suck though.

The planning

What I love most about going away is all the excitement I get from the build up. The delirious sense of the unknown that comes with planning a big journey is enough to keep anyone daydreaming through the most mundane tube journey. You’re not just paying for a holiday you’re affording unlimited feel good moments as at any point you can cast your mind forward to adventures ahead and transport yourself to wherever you want to be.

In some ways the planning is the best part. I absolutely love the feeling I get when I type a country or city name into Google and find out it’s absolutely nowhere near where I thought it was. I can’t think of many better ways to spend a day than working out the best route from Wellington to Napier, researching where to spend a five-day stop off in Kuala Lumpar, paying for internal Aussie flights six months before you leave England, keeping to yourself the fact that you thought Auckland was the capital of New Zealand, working out exchange rates are nearly always favourable to the pound, typing out an itinerary and spending weeks filling in the blanks, and it’s pure daydreaming heaven when you can lean back in your chair and let your mind boggle at the prospect of all those hilarious moments and laughs you’re going to experience along the way.

The going

Looking over my top ten photos from Australia I’m struck by how few of them feature examples of the numerous mind-jolting & wondrous landscapes on offer throughout the country. Instead of Uluru I’ve gone for a photo of Tom jumping into a swimming pool. Instead of a picture of the Opera House I’ve chosen one featuring three mates asleep at the cricket.

And the same is pretty much true of the photographs I’ve selected from my New Zealand/Australia trip. Of the ten, six were taken in New Zealand, four in Australia, and only one is taken in any of the stunning locations I visited whilst away.

And here it is. It’s a close up of the ‘Champagne Pools’ in Wai-O-Tapu, Rotorua.


I suppose the next photo could be classed as part character based part location. It was taken on rocks that separate Manly beach with Freshwater. Tom’s nephew Dave was forever scrambling up and over slippery rocks that the rest of us were gingerly trying to navigate. Giving me the opportunity to take this photo.


Posing with a ciggie, a beer and with my pasty bod on show is as close to the edge as I get. This photo was taken before I had met up with Billy Corgan, seen the Smashing Pumpkins and only moments after meeting up with Cara for the first time in twelve years. It was also taken on perhaps my favourite day of the holiday on Tamarama Beach for Fe’s welcome home party.


And on the subject of Billy Corgan


Most of the photographs I choose in these ‘Top Ten’ sections aren’t down to the aperture or clever use of filter. This one, like many others, just captures a moment in time that makes me smile. It was taken on the same day in Wellington as the one with Billy Corgan and is equally as memorable as I celebrated my first ever away day win with Mark and Nathan.


And the good times continued into the next few days as trout fishing replaced cricket as the competition of choice. Fe took this photo as I reeled in one of eight trout we caught that day.


Just call me ‘Hunter’.


Back to Wellington again for this snap. Wildlife photographs always seem like a good idea at the time but are so boring when you look back at them. But this one is just about worthwhile.


And to finish off the collection here’s two photographs taken in the Blue Mountains. But instead of capturing the majesty of the location I’ve picked these two. Because a view’s not worth seeing if you haven’t got people around to enjoy it with.



Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Not quite what the Italians intended when they invented it......

You might remember me talking about Mark's curious eating habits. Most notably the chicken and ham flavoured luncheon meat that he crammed between slices of white bread on fifteen of the fifteen days we were at the cricket.


Well he finally got round to posting up his photos from New Zealand today. And hidden amongst them was this particular gem. Behold! The roast lamb and potato pizza! (Without cheese)


Monday, 14 April 2008

How far would you go?

Being jet-lagged at work is fucking horrible. But you might already know this. Somewhat naively I just thought I’d go to work a bit tired, struggle through and go home. Just like when I’ve got a hangover. But it’s not like that at all. It’s like going to work inside out and back to front whilst suffering a crack comedown. Apparently.

I flew back into London on Saturday afternoon to be greeted by typical English ineptitude. Left shivering in the cold for an hour waiting for a cab I despaired at Fulham’s shocking 3-1 defeat at home to Sunderland. Welcome home Jon.

After a twelve-hour flight back from South Korea it was exactly what I didn’t need. But considering the fun and games Heathrow had been experiencing while we'd been away, I suppose we should count ourselves lucky. On another day we’d have had our luggage misplaced and caught MRSA.

As it was we got home around 9pm, ate some food, partially unpacked and collapsed into bed. The following morning we were both wide-awake at 5am and happily watching a DVD.

I felt pretty depressed to be back. So, god knows how Fe felt, having left her family and most of her friends on the other side of the world. But our early start enabled us to capture a glimpse of something that cheered us both up. For while we’d spent Thursday sunbathing on Shelley Beach in Sydney


Sunday morning in Clapham Junction saw this.


On a normal weekend we’d have been asleep when the heaviest was falling but because of jet-lag power we were wide awake.


For Fe it was her first experience of urban snow. It doesn’t feature much in day-to-day life in Sydney or Auckland. So she was pretty taken by it. And it didn’t take long before she was practising the art of hurling snowballs at a defenceless boyfriend who stupidly wasn’t wearing gloves and was holding a camera.




By midday most of the snow had disappeared in much the same way that our early morning energy had been sapped. An early night waited, and continues to, before we found ourselves watching ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ at 6.30am on Monday morning.

Sitting in a daze at work gave me plenty of time to feel thoroughly depressed that my holiday was once again over. It had been a typically frantic week in Sydney to cap off a largely relaxing month in New Zealand.

The last week of the holiday had started with my dash across the Tasman Sea. And possibly the only time I’d flown with my overriding anxiety concentrated on something other than a crashing plane.

As mentioned in the previous post the window of time wasn’t exactly in my favour. But I was suitably geed up and excited when I awoke on my final day in Auckland. Fe’s dad was throwing a farewell BBQ where I could meet more of Fe’s relations. And we got there around midday with my flight leaving at 5pm.

After saying my goodbyes I was driven to the airport by Fe’s sister Lizzie. While they parked up I went through to check-in. As I approached the Emirates section a senior official approached me and begun speaking to me. I’m not sure exactly what she said but I was aware that next to her was a book of vouchers and a pad that had several figures next to dollar signs. She then began speaking

Emirates official: blah blah because of earlier blah something happened in Melbourne blah we have put you on another flight with Qantas
Me: (interrupting) what time does it leave?
Emirates official: 6pm
Me: I have to get on this flight. I have to get on this flight. There is NO WAY I can miss this flight.

She just looked at me and something in her brain obviously took on board the glint of madness in my eyes because she didn’t even try and argue. She just edged out of my way and let me through to the queue for check-in.

As starts go it didn’t bode well. And the problems that led to passengers being moved to another plane were also affecting my flight. With a huge backlog of people still to check-in and take off only an hour away.

After saying goodbye to Fe and Lizzie I went through to departures. And sure enough it soon became apparent my flight was delayed. All of which meant the window I had to land, get through customs, store my baggage and get my cab to the gig inside an hour and a half. Phew.

I still wasn’t too concerned but that had more to do with the beers I had drunk at Fe’s dad’s house, and the vodka’s I’d consumed waiting for my flight. A couple more brews on the flight whilst watching ‘The Simpsons Movie’ and by the time I landed I was in a pretty good mood.

The pilot had obviously pressed the ‘turbo’ button on the dashboard of the cockpit as the plane landed only fifteen minutes behind schedule. And fortunately I was one row behind first class. So that meant I was in prime position to dash off the plane. Which I duly did, passing all the toffs on the way to customs where, amazingly, I found a queue of precisely nobody. Not one person. Result!

All of which meant that I was waiting for my luggage within ten minutes of landing. And even a discrepancy with my visa didn’t break me into a sweat as while I waited for the Customs woman I had a clear view of the baggage carousel.

The clock read 7.15pm by the time I’d collected my bags and located the storage facility and I had so much time I even managed to sneak a bit of food at the airport. I was laughing. I was reasonably confident that Centennial Park was just a 20 minute car ride away so that gave me an hour til gig time.

So I was slightly perturbed to get into my cab at the airport to find out it would take nearer to 40 minutes and the cabby didn’t know which entrance to the park to aim for. Several frantic telephone calls to Tom ensued and by the time I’d got dropped off I was sweating slightly.

And I was sweating protrusively by the time I’d ran all the way to the entrance gate. It was 8pm and the Pumpkins were due on in fifteen minutes. And it was dark. For some reason I hadn’t considered this. And that it was getting more and more difficult getting through to Tom. And I hadn’t really considered how many people would be there. So when I approached the stage from the entrance I realised it wasn’t going to be quite as easy as I thought to meet up with Tom. Him being, pretty much, the reason I was there in the first place.

I stopped off to get a beer and then started to get a bit frantic. All the adrenalin of the past four hours, the mad dash to the entrance, the backpack on my shoulders, the numbers of pissed up people milling around started to come together and get to me. The roadies were on the stage tuning up the guitars and I couldn’t get through to Tom. His last text being along the lines of ‘I’m behind a barrier, text when you get here and we’ll wave our arms.’ Brilliant. The texts were obviously not getting through to him, he didn’t know I was in the Park, every time I tried to call the phone network failed, it was dark, there were thousands of people there, I didn’t know what sodding barrier he was talking about and as for him waving his arms in the air to attract my attention, who was he kidding?

And then, just as I was starting to see the unfunny side to things, Billy Corgan strode onto the stage, the band kicked in and the oh-so familiar opening chords of ‘Today’ washed over me. And, suddenly, everything was all right with the world.

Ah, it was good to be back. Back in Australia, back with the Smashing Pumpkins, back in the day. Brilliant. In the lead up to the gig I’d texted Tom asking him for the three songs he’d like to hear above all others. A tough ask. But in the end we’d both agreed on ‘Stand inside your love’, ‘Cherub Rock’ and ‘Hummer’. And it was the latter that was playing as we finally got through to each other. And shortly after it was high fives all round and as Tom kept repeating throughout the gig. “I fucking made it, man!”


And so the night panned out as we’d hoped. They played some classics, including the other two songs we’d wanted to hear so much. They played some shite. They played some tunes we didn’t know but still enjoyed. They played for an hour and a half. And then it was over. And the $300 I’d spent on tickets, flights and cabs was done and dusted.