FROM NOODLES TO ROAST BEEF & YORKSHIRE PUDDING As one of the founding members of the FATBOYZ Gathering 5 a side team I have found this year that my MP related travels around the globe from my current base in Singapore have tended to revolve around the culinary delights of my destinations. NY Pizza now awesome roast beef….. After leaving England, to a new role working in Singapore almost immediately after Gathering 6, I had not seen Mike perform live again until I managed to time a trip to New York perfectly in November to catch ColourSound at LIFE. Hopefully therefore you will understand if I was a little excited at the prospect of Gathering 7, my fifth and only second time of seeing MP in a year. My trip kicked off with a nice early start. 5am taxi from our apartment to Changi airport for a 7:30am flight to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. A couple of hours of aimlessly wandering around this brand spanking new cattle shed with no money and no foreign exchange personnel on duty finally drew to a close as I boarded the long haul flight to London Heathrow. Amazingly nearly 14 hours later we landed early and with only hand luggage to contend with I was soon hopping on the new Heathrow/Paddington express train. A snip at 20 pounds return!! Next stop on this leg of the journey was Liverpool Street train station to catch a commuter's special (like the old days) back to my hometown Chelmsford with my little Sis herself en route home from work. Time for the first "real" food of the trip as my Mum laid on good old fashioned beef stew complete with dumplings to herald my homecoming. Then it was off to what was a hippy, druggy hangout before I left the country for a beer with several mates and their better halves. When I arrived I realised why they had chosen this venue as it now had been transformed into a(nother) Irish themed pub ! Good beer though as you would expect. Back 'home' to call my own family first thing in the morning Singapore time before being able to drift off to sleep myself in my parents house after being on the road for the best part of 24 hours. Early start, bacon sandwich and then back on the train, retracing my footsteps from barely 12 hours earlier to get back to Heathrow for my flight north to Manchester. After experiencing several nightmare train journeys (and results too) over the years following West Ham to the North West of the country I decided to fly though that was not much better with my flight being delayed over an hour. Not to let this get me down my G7 weekend was kickstarted by a couple of John Smiths waiting in the bar (as you do !!) Arriving at Manchester I came to realise I was expected to walk half way across town to the train station. Weighed down with an additional rucksack after my mother had finished giving me presents for my son Ryan it took me over 15 mins and believe me I'm no slouch. The train times I had planned around were out of the window thanks to British Midland so I glanced up at the board to see a train was leaving for Crewe in 3 minutes, which I knew I must get on. Only there was a problem. There were two "tourists" at the kiosk giving the rail employee a hard time i.e.; asking him a question J. Getting impatient I walked to the front of the line to see exactly what the problem was to find a little black hatted Hoochie Mama AKA Jonna from Pittsburgh who was the problem. After frightening the life out of her cousin who never knew me from Adam I eventually sorted out tickets for all three of us and we made the train with seconds to spare. Next the beer cart came rolling by, now we were really on a roll. Changing at Crewe we were in Llandudno Junction much quicker than it seemed as we were having such a good chat en route. The weather was typical January stuff - pissing down so we jumped into a cab and raced into the Chatsworth to get our lives sorted out. Coming straight back down to the bar I bumped straight into one of my long time amigos George Dawes AKA Paul Hart and FatBoyz supremo, his big Bro Phil. Soon there suit their bags were dumped and we are off to find beer animal Dougieieie and Digest Guru Steve Varty. Somehow they manage to stay one pub ahead of us until finally, 2 pubs and a chip supper later we all are reunited at The George (the hotel not the mate !) Many hugs, handshakes and kisses are exchanged with the aforementioned plus Mrs. Varty, Lyn, Becky, Carol, Big Dog, Josh, Leah, Barney and the shockingly casually dressed Galaxy Girl Michelle G among others. George had obviously decided to give himself a good hangover for Saturday at this point as he was sinking the beers at a steady pace so I sneaked off for some more introductions and to say hello to some old faces. Caught up with Caroline and her famous leather keks, John O'Donnell at the bar (no change there then). Also hanging around was my fave Partick Thistle fan Mad Willie (who although he had a beer was nowhere near the bar ) Newly crowned 'Detroit Slimmer of the year' Terry along with Hernan and pal all the way from Peru! Lewis, Katrina (who amazingly recognised me from about 10 years ago) together with her partner in crime on "Strength" Ian. So a pretty good turn out so far but yet still no sign of Jimmy Saville wannabe Deano who apparently got lost on the way out of the Forest (should have let the wife map read Dean!) Sadly no sign (again - 3rd year running) of the mythical digest lurker Mark Stevens (where the bloody hell were you boy ? just cos Villa have gone down the pan there was no need to hide away ALL weekend). So a few more beers and the obligatory trip back to my room to change shirts, throw some deodorant around and grab my camera it was off the conference centre. Should have bought an Ark after fighting through that rainstorm and freezing (well to me at least) wind though. Getting inside first thing we noticed was at last some common sense had prevailed and the merchandise stall had been moved downstairs making more room for people to hang around outside the toilets as they seem to like to do ! This along with the lack of good food available in town, especially apres gig was ever my only complaint over the five gatherings I have been too. So one problem was addressed. Now Jules can you just get the kebab house sorted out for next year please ? J "To the Bar" cried George who already was acting like a spoilt baby demanding more alcohol and upstairs we trooped. The rumours and excitement was building as quickly as we were all knocking back the pints now aided by my longest time Alarm mate Tom newly arrived. Finally it was ShowTime but for a change no one really knew quite what to expect. Mike explained there would be three sets that night. All of them have been discussed and analysed previously here but just to add that last year I thought Friday (with the exception of Coloursound obviously) was a bit stale however this time round it collectively blew our socks off !! The semi acoustic and electric sessions seemed to take their toll on the 'new' band. It is no mean feat to learn what basically were new songs and play them in front of a crowd who know every chord change, symbol ride and word and to this end I have never seen Craig look so serious and concentrated. All passed of smoothly and with the crowd loved it. As someone said to me afterwards "I could not have chosen a better set list myself". Not sure who it was but it definitely wasn't George who by this time had fallen up steps, punched me in the kidneys, got obnoxious and demanded a kebab……… I said he's a good mate Highlights for me were "Breaking Point" and "Corridors Of Power" (how long before Mike finds time for a Second Generation Vol. II I wonder ?). "Spirit Of 76" even enticed me down the front but I had to remember the big game on Sunday and to conserve my energy so one song was all I could manage - literally by that point. So, back to The Chatsworth bar for beer, sandwiches and tales of SkyCops. The latter was being supplied by Terry and Dougieie's pal George from Texas. (not to be confused with afore mentioned George, who by this time really was whining like a big baby after he reckoned he had broke his foot falling up the stairs ) Rum tales (literally) from the always huggable Leah and a great drinking display from Josh who had obviously been in training since last year. He was ably assisted by 'the quiet ones are the worst ones' Boston Becky who was chugging them down like a sailor on shore leave. By 3am we were all slurring and probably talking crap but what did we care ? We had just completed the first night of G7 and it had been blinding !!! Next day George of The Dawes had a blinding hangover at breakfast and was apologising embarrassed for giving me a smack in the kidneys at the height of his drunken stupor!! So over toast and tea and a reasonable (but for me awesome) English breakfast we planned out our day. George, his bro Phil and Batts were going for a walk somewhere while Tom was going to kip. Me? I decided to enjoy the quiz for the first time. Every other Gathering I have either had the wife with me, hence a trip round the shops beckons. Or the year before, thanks to the MPO and the FA, I managed to have the best of both worlds with The Gathering and a trip to see West Ham at Anfield gain a creditable 0-0 draw. So armed with a large glass of coke and a packet of B&H I settled down with Mr. and Mrs. Varty (Steve having graciously stepped down at the peak of his career after winning the title last time round) to enjoy everyone going through their paces. We assisted a couple of teams with suggested answers here and there and in between rounds I stopped and caught up with Peter and Jules Jones plus I managed to drop a considerable sum of cash at the merchandise stall. But believe me I needed the MP fleece jacket I purchased as I was feeling the cold. T-shirt didn't fit so it went back with a promise (already fulfilled) to send me through the biggest size in the post. The "Live" CD safely stacked in my new MP "record bag" which I also required as I had picked up a few pieces of vinyl en route as well I was skint but set. After the quiz Mr. Varty and I ambled back to The Chatsworth for a sensible beer and then I decided for once to be sensible and take a rest, much to Steve's probable amusement. Three hours I lay on that bed most of the time watching bowling which should send anyone to sleep but no way was my body having it. Even after the west ham score came in and we had been hammered I just felt sick, not tired Lets get this night off to a flying start I thought as I wore my new super warm jacket on the way down to The George. Mmmm food!! Sitting down with the usual suspects, Mr. & Mrs. V, Carol, BigDog, Lyn, Becky and Josh we dug into some great dinner. A good chinwag ensued and Nancy showed off her bundle of CS pics plus several envious eyes were cast upon a copy of Mr. Duffy's first ever piece of recorded music. The Nosebleeds from memory I believe? Great hairdo and clothes though!! Enough of the food on with the drinking we decided. Started the regular route up towards the venue though personally I was attempting to keep things steady as I hoped it would indeed be a long and fun filled night. My passes had materialised on the hotel front desk after the receptionist found them 24 hours late in a draw so being in my own personal timezone I was up for an all night party. The gig came upon us and was as awesome as expected. The beers flowed and the laughter and fun continued amongst our little crew then all too soon the gig was over and we were sweaty, breathless and heading back to the hotel both for a dry clean shirt and some more refreshment. My shirt had stayed well laundered until a combination of "Spirit of 76", Mad Willie and Big Deano combined to ensure I was (briefly) 18 again down the front!! Back in the hotel bar in The Chatsworth Willie and I sat down for a proper natter and ended up sitting near some chaps from closer to my hometown than Willies who had had a few beers shall we say. Over in the corner near us was a piano with apparently a big sign hanging on it saying "PLAY ME". Two of these guys were egging their pal to tinkle the ivories and all sorts of demands and deals were being made with no results to show. Then I stepped in and suggested that their mate should play it if the main protagonist ran around the bar with his pants (UK version) and jeans around his ankles! Why, from a complete stranger this should make sense God only knows and within seconds he was jumping on the stool and knocking out Madness' 'Baggy Trousers' quickly joined by his half naked pal running around the bar!! Needless to say Becky, Lyn, Nancy, Jonna and Carol all nearly choked on their beers and Dougieie turned green with envy realising why American girls love an Englishman!! J Finally it was aftershow party time and we headed off full of Ham sandwiches again to The George armed with our cameras to record for posterity the worst kept secret of the weekend, the guest 'surprise' appearance by "The Children Of The Revolution". We tucked ourselves away in the back bar, away from the crowds where we could get a beer easily. I could rest my tired body on the guitar amps/cases being stacked in the corner and Steve Varty could fall down the stairs anytime he fancied it As the surprise gig drew closer imagine our pleasure when we realised we effectively were sitting next to the stage door!! Mike and the boys suddenly pranced in resplendent as their glammed up alter egos and there we were for the first and probably best set of pics from that night. They jumped on stage and rumbled though the mini set of Glam classics that had the crowd hopping, especially the older ones who even remembered all the words! Suddenly it had passed as quickly as it arrived and we were on the last leg of the alcoholic blur that contributes to making it such a great weekend. Me, Varty and Doug threw ourselves around on the dance-floor like demented, epileptic sixteen year olds to "Teenage Kicks", "Alternative Ulster" and "Anarchy" until my lungs, Steve's fly zipper and Doug's will to live gave out and we headed back to the bar. By this time it was past 3am. But there was still time for Mr. Peters to politely rip the piss out of me after his mighty Man U had smashed 4 past my beloved West Ham a few weeks previously. Then my surrogate brother George insisted at 4am that I had had enough and needed to be in bed as we were due up at 8am to play footie. "But I don't wanna go to bed George" I was heard whining as he dragged me off up the road!! The morning breakfast did not go down well though before we knew it we, the legendary and definitely best team EVER to enter The Gathering five a side tournament THE FATBOYZ were raring to go! Its amazing what bacon, eggs, tea and Lucozade will do for you. As a way of thanking us for raising the profile of the early games Jules and Danny again paired us with the still reigning Champions, The Message. We politely declined the chance of playing them again and eventually settled for a different game though we still had to be the first match. Well the hard training and hours of practice came off this time round as we actually managed to score our first ever goal!! Stuck away by our captain and resident alien spotter Phil Hart brother of George of the Dawes who, in goal promptly let two in to send us crashing out of the competition again in the first round. I enjoyed it as always however and I even got a couple of shots in on goal. Back to the viewing gallery to hang out, chat and start to say good-byes as people drifted in and out. I managed to spend some more time with Willie and Deano, have a chat with Mr. & Mrs. Greenly AKA The Hair Bears, abused George for his atrocious goalkeeping and even got to keep Karl AKA Dr K stationary long enough to have a chat. All too soon we had taken the official FatBoyz team photo complete with our honorary (and no where near fat enough) member Mike Peters and it was time for us too to head off homeward bound. Not before one last bit of good old English food though. After showering and changing the two Hart brothers and me headed into the aptly named George for a slap up Sunday roast beef and Yorkshire pud! Before we made it to the bar however we bumped into Steve Grantley who was a top man and happily stood and chatted for 20 minutes until our dinner was ready. What a drummer, what a good bloke but what a dinner !!! Next stop for me was Manchester airport to start the long haul back to Singapore. Said the very sad good-byes to Phil and George in the car park and then settled down with a few (more!) pints of Boddingtons and the Sunday papers. Three hours wait there for my flight to London Heathrow. Two more hours of waiting round until my flight to Kuala Lumpur took off then after 13 hours of flying my connection to Singapore was delayed by two hours so I had another 3 hours of hanging round! Books had been read, MPO purchases had been examined, fanzines had been scoured I just wanted to get home!! Finally I walked in the door at 11pm local time, 20 hours after I departed Llandudno. Now fingers are firmly crossed Y2K does not blow up in my face and you never know I may just be able to make it to G8, my sixth and I'm sure the best. Belated thank-you's to all at the MPO for your amazing patience and spirit. We don't mean to get that drunk honest! Special thanks to Jules' mum for sorting me out the last MP coat when I was freezing to death (hey my blood has thinned ok ?) and to Mike for making my weekend at the party on Saturday night ! Two morals of the story…… One. ALWAYS get a direct flight wherever possible - its worth the extra cash believe me. Two. Make sure YOU get to The Gathering at least once, as you will have the time of your life !!!

The FatBoyz 1999 from left to right : Back row Marco from Holland, Phil Hart, Andy Greenly Front row Me,honourary member Mike and Paul Hart aka George of The Dawes

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