Boxing Day morning brings news that the Tube strike that had been all over the media over the last few days was officially on, meaning we need to take a bus to the football match in Fulham. We check London Bus, and over cereal study the maps and routes before gathering our coats (and Rick in the Father Christmas hat) and boots and heading out to Victoria Station.
We know this is traditionally London shops’ busiest day; the Tube strike is bound to make for slow travel everywhere.
We stand outside Victoria Station and wait for the 11 bus to Fulham Broadway; mostly because of the information the app gave us, but also because we see people in West Ham colours obviously dressed for the grounds. The streets are packed with people, but only slightly more than previous days. The buses are packed as they arrive and empty quickly at this busy station. We swipe our Oyster cards and go upstairs where we find a seat.
We hop off the bus at the last stop of its route, and a quick glance at the GPS Map app shows we still have a ways to go. Nothing we can’t walk and still be on time to meet the lads. As we step off the bus and look at the phone a pair of male Chinese students ask if we can help them find Craven Cottage. Heading that way, we say they are welcome to join us for the long walk. We make small talk before ducking into a Nero Cafe for coffee and hot chocolate to warm us up. While we wait for our drinks, we sit down at a table where we learn they are huge Premiere League football fans, and primarily Manchester United supporters. They tell us they are trying to see as many matches as they can while on break from their classes. The orders ready, we continue on our way with our new friends.
At Putney Bridge we send text messages to Sharp, Tait, and Spahr. We quite literally bump into Sharp as we are all looking at our phones typing messages to each other. Warm greetings and introductions of our new friends to our old friend and we make our way to find Tait, Spahr and Charlie. Doing so, we’re on our way! The long walk through the park on the way to the grounds is covered in ice and we mind our steps as we chat and laugh. One of the students says he will always picture me as Father Christmas. When we get to the gates we say goodbye to the Chinese students, wishing them luck, and make our way to our seats. The queues at the refreshment stands are long and undefined. They also are having trouble with the hot water. No tea or coffee, making many in the crowd groan and swear. The hot dog is only filling.
The match gets underway and the home side start well, and are rewarded in the 11th minute when Hughes scores on a header. However, despite out-playing West Ham, the Cottagers make a few mistakes and combined with a brace from Carlton Cole. The final score is 3-1 to the Hammers. The walk out is slow as fans soak in the loss. Sitting in the middle of the relegation zone at Christmas is not something that was expected.
Once the crowd thins, we make our way over the Thames to The Boathouse for beers and crisps. We find a small table in a back room, away from the bar, and tell stories, catch up, and laugh, and laugh. We all leave together, hug and say goodbye. We make our way across the river to a bus stop and wait. We overhear a pair of drunk men who wonder aloud “who won the West Ham match?” I tell them the result and they cheer and start singing songs. The bus arrives and the songs go on. The men sing West Ham chants from the top of the bus and we smile from below at what we started.
The traffic is horrible and our bladders fill faster since the drinks at The Boathouse, so we hop off the bus somewhere along the line with lots of posh shops and fairy lights in the trees, but not one single place available to us. We wander around the square as quickly as possible thinking of our limited options when we find one of the self-cleaning public toilets to save the day! We hop back on the next bus to Victoria Station, jumping off a few blocks early to avoid the crowds. From here we walk the quiet neighbourhood streets and eventually to the flat. We eye the closed Cask & Kitchen and lament that it is not open at this moment.
Not seeing much else open, and after consulting with Smith via Twitter, we decide to head over to the Queen’s Arms. The same one where the MetaFilter meetup is scheduled tomorrow. A trial run for us, and a much needed meal. The place is very cozy, and our server Mike was witty and friendly, taking time to chat with us. We finish with the amazing sticky toffee, and I knew we would enjoy a return trip.
For now it is time to sleep, and save energy for the meetup. Thankfully the flat, and the bed, is only a few blocks away.