Champagneless And Alone

The Pirelli Stadium in Burton On Trent.

It’s over, I’ve done it, I’ve photographed every stadium in the country and ended it with one last monumental journey. I set off from Nottingham at 6 am on Wednesday morning on my new 535cc bike and hit Torquay at 10 am. From there I went to Exeter then up to Bristol City and Rovers before heading across the Severn Bridge and into Wales. Between Cardiff and Swansea the heavens opened up. When I got to Swansea stadium the rain was so heavy I wasn’t so much in fear of getting my camera wet as I was in fear of it disintegrating. I had to stand with the rain lashing against my back to stop the lens from getting rain spots on it and barely managed to squeeze off 10 shots before heading out of there. The journey thereafter was a nightmare, I was scared of aqua planing as there were massive puddles on the road and rivers running down the sides. I couldn’t see a thing through the visor and my arms had started to shake from being in the same position all day. I stopped at the services to empty the water out of my boots and dry my socks and gloves with the handdrier.

I got to Monmouth and had to concede defeat by checking into a travelodge. I headed to the off licence 5 miles away and got back on the dual carrigeway towards the travelodge. I pulled into a garage to find the slip road but there wasn’t one so I asked the way in the garage. Having been told how to get back to the hotel I got back on the bike but it wouldn’t start. There’s something wrong with it when you use the lights, it drains the battery and this is the 3rd time I’ve come unstuck and the garage still haven’t sorted the problem although now at least we know what’s causing it. The kind folk from the garage gave me a jump start and I had to ride up the dual carriageway and back down it again with the lights off, which was interesting. I was lucky that I had stopped when I did and even luckier that I had beer! I slept like a dead man.

The bike started first thing at 7am the next morning and I pulled into Hereford as everyone was going to work. The ride between Hereford and Worcester was amazing but I’m still trying to work out why there was a Russian T-34 Tank along the way on the side of the road. I headed up to Burton on Trent for the final stadium and felt a real sense of joy as this was gonna be it. I got to the stadium and took my shots and then just stood there, champagneless and alone. I wanted to ask someone to take a picture of me but couldn’t bring myself to hand over my camera to a stranger with all those pictures on it. A load of people in suits with name tags on them were filtering out of the glass fronted stadium doors. The rain started again and all of a sudden it tipped it down to the extent that I had to grab all my stuff and run inside the stadium where about ten of these conference goers were all sheltering (the rain was too heavy for them to risk the 10 metres to their cars). I burst in amongst them and threw my stuff down and pulled my helmet off and shouted, “I’ve just spent 2 years photographing every stadium in the country, this is the last one and this is how it ends?!!” Needless to say they all looked at me like I was from a different world, which I’m glad to say I am.

So that was it, what an anti climax and what a wierd feeling, every name in my little black book had a tick next to it. I rode back to Nottingham and took the bike into the garage. I got back home to an empty house and ate some left over curry while watching the last ten minutes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on ITV 4. Then I emptied the water out of my boots, answered some e mails and did the washing up. I never felt more lonely in my life.

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