By some lucky coincidence (thanks to NUFC.com), I’d found out that Alan Shearer (ex-captain of England and Newcastle United) was doing a promotional event at South Melbourne Football Club this morning. Having never actually met the guy, I had no choice but to get up early and make sure I got there for it. Annoyingly, I’d have loved to have got my flag signed but it went walkies in Vietnam somewhere and I’ve not replaced it yet. Instead, I had something else planned.
The event was really good. The kids who took part in the training session had all won a draw via Umbro and got some basic hints and tips and some demonstrations for almost an hour before they did a goal-kicking contest. The lad in goal almost saved a Shearer shot that went low and left – had he been wearing gloves I think he’d have stopped it! The poor kid came up for his photo later with an icepack on his arm.
All the children got to keep the football they’d been using, a t-shirt listing Shearer’s goalscoring achievements for clubs and country, a personally signed photosheet and a professional photograph of them with Alan. He then made his way along the crowd (around 200 people, at a guess) and signed at least one thing from every person who thrust stuff at him despite his agent telling him to hurry up as they were late for a TV commitment on Channel 10.
Lovely day, great guy and a good bunch of people who organised it. It was great to meet so many ex-pat Geordies and honorary ones who’d visited Newcastle some time ago and fallen in love with the place!
Mari is a fountain of knowledge as regards Melbourne or at least the area immediately surrounding where they live. When I texted her to ask if she knew any tattoo parlours, I didn’t expect a reply back within two minutes telling me the best two within walking distance of the flat. One said he could fit me in around 4pm as it was only going to be a quick job so I walked out of the Grand Final we were watching in the pub and got back again, avec new tattoo, to catch the last quarter.
Oh, yeah, there was some Aussie Rules game on as well. West Coast Eagles beat Sydney Swans (who used to be South Melbourne so had most of the local support) by a single point. I have to say, I left a very one-sided competition and returned to a very close finish in the last ten minutes!
Another “thank you” is called for here. Once more, people have shown themselves to be really welcoming and helpful. Mari would sit and go through maps and phone books to help me plan things out, and even got hold of information about the Japanese rail tickets from someone she knows for me! Jesse is just an amazing kid – I think about 12 years old. Great to talk to, really polite, wise beyond his years and when he gets older if he wants to travel to wherever I settle down I’d be more than happy to offer him a couch to sleep on.
I originally met Ben in Hanoi around early May, I think. He’d been to the final itself and looked like he’d been up all night. Which he had, more or less. His ticket just got him into the ground, but didn’t alot him a seat so he and some mates camped out and had a barbie outside so they’d get the pick of the seats when the gates opened.
We jumped on a train to Ben’s and when we arrived started on the booze. Ben’s basic rule is that he spent so long sponging off other people when he was travelling, that he refuses to let visitors pay for stuff while he’s at home and working. Very generous… again, like all the Aussies I’ve stayed with so far. We went through a few beers and wines then (just) caught a train to Richmond for some food and to meet some of Ben’s friends in a bar.
As is apparently quite common in Melbourne, we had to queue to get in though Ben’s friend inside was saying it wasn’t too busy so he didn’t see why we had to wait. Never mind, after a 10 minute wait we were allowed in and headed directly barwards.
We just had a good natter with a few people, some of whom I’m sure I’ll never see again but they were all good company. I got talking to one couple at the bar who saw my Newcastle shirt and helpfully told me that Shearer had been in Melbourne that morning. I showed them my new tattoo! Then when I went to sit back with Ben and Fiona, the same people walked over – they knew Ben!
Around 2am, we decided to call it a night as we were all pretty tired. Ben had been sleeping on concrete, Fiona was woken at silly o’clock by two drunken lads in her hostel banging on the doors and I’d simply not slept well as I’d not wanted to sleep in. We managed to flag a cab down after an age, dropped Fiona off and Ben and I returned to the house. Ben zonked out in front of the TV while I watched a couple of episodes of Friends with his brother and sister. Then I felt the need for sleep and retired to my comfy mattress and duvet/dooner.