Let’s start at the end shall we? It is 12.45am, there is no street-lighting and I am walking home through snow drifts in my nice shoes, laptop over my shoulder. I have had to leave my car some distance from home since I cannot travel further. Not only have I missed the divine Borgen – the last episodes as well – but I’ve missed Match Of The Day and that programme where they show the team coaches pulling up at Moss Rose and employ Steve Claridge.
It’s been a long night. Let’s go back 16 hours. I’m beavering my way up the M25, M1 and M6. Traffic is clear, life is good and at the end of the journey is Stoke City and Sunderland. What, ahem, could possibly go wrong?
The snow stars around 12.30. By the time I reach the car park, it’s settling. I wonder a) if the match is going to be on and b) how I’m going to get home. The match is on and I do get home. They’re serving sweet’n'sour chicken in the hackroom: not wholly my kind of thing, but, unlike me, despite my many layers, it’s warm and I meet one of my favourite people. Last time out, he called me a “Twitter-obsessed wanker” (aizlewood1 of course; join the, um, party) and today he shares his views on the issues of the day. They’re not views as such, more a series of ill-thought-out assumptions. Naturally we have a ball.
The snow falls and then it falls some more. The game is how you might imagine one involving Stoke in a blizzard might be, ie it’s awful. Robert Huth is sent off for seemingly clattering into David Meyler. It looks to be a good decision at the time, but it’s not.
After that, Sunderland take control, merely by accommodating the conditions. Stoke are so inflexible they try the same old tricks and when James McClean skates Sunderland into the league on the hour, there’s no way back for Stoke. My teeth chatter. Afterwards, Tony Pulis rants and raves about Huth’s dismissal, thus craftily obscuring how awful his team were. I ask him if he was satisfied with that. He fudges the answer.
Martin O’Neill is his usual faux-modest self. But he’s turned that team around in a short period. Honeymoons don’t last for ever, I hear, but I’ll wager they’re in Europe after next season.
As I’m turning words into gold (hang me now, go on, see if I care) there’s ominous talk of the car park being gridlocked. I leave at 5.45. Outside it’s still snowing those big settling flakes. The car park is indeed gridlocked and it’s as slippery as Nick Clegg. I edge forward and wait. An hour later, I slip-slide into the slip-sliding traffic. Let’s go home and watch the second episode of Borgen!
Let’s not. It’s about two miles to the M6. Two hours later, I’ve walked up and down the ungritted road to keep warm and save petrol. I’ve felt my stomach lurch every time there’s a minor incline and I’ve wondered how people with kids are coping. And, guess what, the M6 is closed and it’ either straight on to Shrewsbury or left down some minor road.
Except there’s hope. It comes with a London-bound National coach who goes round the roundabout once, talks to the police and then goes round again. Could it be… it could. They open the M6. Let’s go home and watch the end of Match Of The Day!
Let’s not. The M6 has one lane open, as will the M1 and M25. Broken down lorries – call me a bluff old traditionalist, but I wouldn’t send lorries out into snowstorms – litter the highway like the line in Born To Run. I can’t go above 30, if I wanted to. The snow never stops
There’s an accident on the M25, so I exit early. Big mistake, possibly. The roads haven’ been gritted here either. I slither through red lights, around stuck cars, rev up for inclines and descend at snail’s pace. Finally, I stop, get out and walk the rest of the way.