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X-sTatiC at The Dublin Castle

From Our Own Correspondent

"God, they can play for the rest of the night if they're up to it. Especially if they play that Nigel song again."

Here it is ladies and gentlemen. Another long, detailed account of why not to use public transport and why the four members of X-sTatiC deserve knighthoods. There'll be laughs, there'll be tears, there'll be action but most of all there'll be beer and music. So if you're all sitting comfortably, I will begin.

Saturday 22nd March 2003
This is of course the day after the Swindon gig. The day where I had gone without sleep for almost 48 hours and the day when Kettering lost to Nuneaton 1-0. First thing I did after staggering into work was to book the 21st of June off. Why? Well, the band who had caused all of my emotions to run riot the night before, were playing another gig. I was not going to miss them for anything! Plus the gig was in London. Much easier to get to than Swindon, surely? Ha ha ha...

Saturday 21st June 2003
...ha ha ha. Now Kettering and St Pancras station are on the same line. Kettering station is a 20 minute walk from my house. St Pancras station is probably less than that to the Dublin Castle pub. The journey in total would take no more than 2 hours. That sounded too easy to me plus, it would cost around 40 for a return ticket. No way am I going to pay that. Remember, I'm still a "student" (that sounds much nicer than unemployed!).

So instead, I took the bus (groan!). Once again massive amounts of time and effort were put into researching what buses to catch and when to catch them. It took me a good half hour to work out where Gloucester Square was in London! In short the idea was to catch a bus from Kettering to Milton Keynes, and then onto London. So armed with my notes, maps, cash, walkman, camera (with new batteries!) and my Kettering Town FC shirt, I headed for Kettering bus station.

It was now 1pm in the afternoon and the journey was to take 3 hours in total so I wasn't leaving myself much time for sight seeing. "Never mind", I thought, "I can walk around London later tonight whilst everyone else is in bed". I still hadn't worked out accommodation so it looked like another long night at a bus station.

I had been waiting at the bus station for over 20 minutes and I was getting a bit impatient. The bus to Milton Keynes was 15 minutes late. Eventually a bus drew to a stop where I was standing. I got onboard and asked the driver what time the X49 to Milton Keynes was arriving. "X49? That service was scrapped a few weeks ago". I could have throttled him. It probably had nothing to do with him that the service had been scrapped, but he was the closest person to me at the time.

Putting on a brave smile I stepped off the bus and started to wander aimlessly towards home. I then started pacing. Pacing towards the Stagecoach main offices. They can count their lucky stars that they don't open on a Saturday because I would have slaughtered each and every person inside the building at the time. I was fuming. Less than 7 hours till the gig started and I was still in Kettering.

I made it back home at 2pm. I was ready to give in and pay the 40 for the train. But despite the poor record Stagecoach had, I kept the faith and still favoured the bus. Some quick thinking on my behalf and a few web pages later, I found another way to London. This bus was direct to London, and it would have me there by 6:30pm. Definitely no time for sight seeing.

With renewed confidence I left the house at 2:50pm. Facing me was a three and a half hour journey. Thankfully I had hours of music at my disposal and plenty of wine gums. The price of the bus came as a bit as a surprise to me though, 11.60. I was expecting to just pay 5.99 for an all day pass. I was still in sunny Kettering and already the money situation was looking tight. The plan to, "drink as many pints as you can", had to be put on hold!

So there we have it. I'm going to London for the first time in 7 years. But I was not just going to the capital, I also got to visit these places: Orlingbury, Harrowden, Wellingborough, Olney, Newport Pagnell, Milton Keynes, Bletchley, Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable, Luton, Hemel Hampsted, Potters Bar and Brent Cross.

Eventually, after what seemed a lifetime, I arrived in Baker Street. I stepped off the bus. The thrill of being able to stand up and breathe "fresher" air was immense. London looked...well like everywhere else I've ever been to. Just with a lot more people milling around the place.

Usually I'm great when navigating round "alien" places. But this is London we're talking about. As Cerys Matthews once sung, "My black cab rolls through the neon disease, endlessly". Start walking in the wrong direction and you'll reach Lambeth or Barking before you realise you're nowhere near the quiet town pub you're suppose to be at. So, I start walking to the venue. That's along Baker St, all the way along Park Rd and turn into Prince Albert Road, through Parkway and along Camden Rd. (I used a map for that...you don't think I remember all this pointless crap?)

Seeing the Dublin Castle came as a bit of a shock. It looked smaller than bloomin' Riffs! The idea is that when bands become better known, the venues tend to get larger!

Now I knew where the Castle was, I thought a little bit more walking was in order. But pubs kept flashing before me and a very nice "Young's" pub near the Dublin Castle took my fancy. I was just about step in when Ed (from X-sTatiC) spotted me. I was more surprised to see him than if I saw a heard of wildebeest pass by me.

"Yeah, yeah. I'll see you up there in a few minutes". It was as if I'd just met my best mate in the street. But I suppose that's what the collection of XTC fans are, mates.

Thinking that I had plenty of time to drink later on, I thought I'd go sample Camden life. God it was weird. Everyone over four years old was wearing black leather of some description. It was 7pm and shops were wide open and people were just everywhere. I looked at my watch to make sure it wasn't two in the afternoon or something. After a stroll along the canal, and just generally trying to keep out of people's way, I was beginning to worry: a) why am I the only person in some sort of football shirt? and, b) where are all the McDonalds/Burger Kings/Chippys?

The first worry was soon to be over because there, in the distance, was a very jolly chap walking out of an off licence, wearing a white Manchester Utd shirt. Very rarely do I smile when I see an Arsenal or Manchester Utd shirt. But this time I could help but grin. Right, enough walking, lets go and see what the Dublin Castle is really like!

First impressions...well it was a pub with a bit tacked on at the back. I looked around and was pleased to see several English Settlement t-shirts. I'd brought mine along just in case everyone else was wearing one (always in with the crowd, me).

I walked over to the bar and bought my first pint of Becks (Becks...yuk!). Tony, or 'my dad' as he was later to be accused of being, leant over and said something along the lines of, "You here for the band?" This was quickly followed up by, "You're too young to remember XTC". I sighed and began to tell him the now very old story of why I love XTC. And then I told him how I got from Kettering to London. We then told tales of about what we do and which albums get the thumbs up when suddenly...Chris from Winchester turned up. (Remember from my other review? The poor guy who fell backwards through a door. What do you mean you haven't read my other review?!)

So after more story telling between Tony, Chris and myself, I needed some grub before the evening kicked off. I left Tony with my coat and bag ("Thanks dad"), and continued my quest to find...the chippy. A burger King would have to do. This poor lad who served me must have been no older than 16 and he couldn't quite understand that I just wanted a large fries. No chicken royale burger, no regular coke, no extra sachets or ketchup, just the fries.

I returned to the Dublin Castle to find that the party had moved outside. All four band members were there. Dan instantly recognised me, Ed waved again, Adrian asked if my camera had any working batteries this time and Mick was too busy fending off fans. Jolly good. With all the formalities out the way, I went back to find Tony.

A large queue was beginning to form to get into the room where the band were playing so Tone and I quickly jumped in to make sure we got a good spot. We joined the queue right at the other end of the pub, about 20 metres from the door into the other room. There was still and hour to go and already the pub was packed with fans.

After this point, I'm afraid, of anyone else I met, your names all escape me now. So many people either remembered me from Swindon (well who wouldn't?!) or they had read my little piece on the website. I was overwhelmed.

Tone and I both met Youie, a very enthusiastic user of the XTC forum. I'm sure the now famous words, "You're too young to remember XTC", were used during our conversation. Next came Liam...he's a QPR fan you know. We'll hear more about him later but for now let's just says he's a bloody nice bloke.

Whilst all this talk was going on, the queue was getting longer and longer, and people were still coming in from outside. When I eventually got to the door the woman taking all the cash gave me a long stare. I smiled politely when I handed over my 4.50 and quickly ran to the other side of the room. One day the world will understand that not every 18 year old listens to Busted, Eminem, Slipknot and Liberty-X. Only the other day me and few jolly 18 year olds went to see a Dr Feelgood tribute band. They were so good; one of my mates is booking them for his 19th. Times are changing! Enough ranting, time for a drink.

Well several in my case. The bar was this tiny little cubby hole to one side of the room. 80 people all trying to get a drink in one go wasn't an experience I wanted to share, so I bought my 4 pints all at once, only to make a 5th addition to my collection, once the band had started. Tone then bought me another bottle of Becks which was then followed by a bottle of Highland spring! (Lightweight!)

Finally, some music. People were still milling around and some people were still coming through the doors while the support band played.

Hints of Radiohead and early Pink Floyd echoed round the room, as these 5 lads were trying their best to have a good time. It can't be easy being a support act. The majority of the people in the room aren't here to see you. You're just the entertainment until a proper, more professional act comes on stage. "You'll do", as it were. But they won me over anyway. I love to hear a synth being hammered to death, but I also saw it as a chance to warm up! Usually my neck takes quite a hit during live music (it took a massive blow in Swindon). I wasn't going to take any chances this time.

The band, whose name escapes me, played their final song and within two minutes of finishing, everything was set up for X-sTatiC and I'd found my corner. It was two inches away from the stage, the potential camera angles were brilliant and it had a nice little shelf to put my pint glasses on!

Mick writes - the support band were an outfit called The Altogether. I caught about half their set and thought they were really rather good. They're South London-based. Go see them if you get the chance.

All four band members were rushing about the place when Ed spotted me and came over. "You know how to work a camera, don't you?" I nodded but chose not to boast and mention that I had an A level in both Media and Photography. "Great", he said. "Well can you change the tapes over halfway through our set. Just when we begin Yacht Dance". Simple enough, I thought and I was now the one responsible for getting the whole of the second half of the gig onto tape. And that was that. Five seconds later, Dan was calling the band's bass player onto the stage and a few more seconds later, Radios in Motion blares out of the amps, two feet from where I'm standing. Perhaps standing so close to the stage might not have been such a clever idea. But there was no chance of going elsewhere now. A hundred people were rocking about like madmen (and women). Unless you wanted a serious injury, it was a safe idea to stay put.

Unfortunately the entire set list escapes me...that's something perhaps the webmaster could sort out? Nope, the webmaster can't remember exactly either now ;~) But from the songs I do remember, they were great, as I'd come to expect. Well, apart from Little Lighthouse. The Dukes never really do it for me. Mole From The Ministry I'm okay with, but that's it really. I know the Dukes were REALLY XTC, but it's not what I came to see. Throughout the entire song some people looked a little mythed? But hearing both "The Disappointed" and "Funk Pop a Roll" was brilliant. Complicated Game too is another favourite and this was made even more enjoyable by the crowd joining in. The crowd's involvement will always make the experience more enjoyable. For a few moments, all you needed to do was close your eyes and you were watching the real XTC (although obviously you weren't cus it's X-sTatiC on the stage. Plus your eyes are closed so all you're really seeing is black).

The band had been on for 40 minutes and I was eagerly awaiting Yacht Dance. a) Because I like it and b) it was the cue to run (well scramble) over to Ed's camera and do my thang. I waited, and just as I was about to wait some more, it came. I made a little sign to Ed, which he completely ignored. There was no point in me telling Ed what I was about to do cus he already knew!

Standing behind the camera I waited for the end of the song before I changed the tape over. The song ended and I proceeded to press the "stop" button and then followed this by pressing the "eject" button (this is where you lot have been going wrong all these years!). I put in the new tape and focused back on the band...pressed record. No red light on the front of the camera. Pressed record again, still no signs of life. It was Swindon all over again. I don't think I should be allowed to operate a camera ever again! The band was producing amazing music and none of it was been captured on tape. I quickly put in the old tape and pressed record hoping there was a bit left at the end. The red light came on and started recording again on the old tape. Yet when I put the new tape in for the fifth time now, it still wouldn't record a pixel! I had by now missed the last two songs due to fiddling around with a plastic case and a bunch of LEDs. And how was I going to enjoy the rest of the gig when at the back of mind was the thought of having to tell Ed I'd let him down?

I went back to my original spot only to return to Ed's camera with my camera (which funnily enough was working!). From where I was standing, every beat, every bass line, every guitar riff, every note sounded pretty god damn terrific.

At the end of each song I kept trying to get Ed's camera working with the help of one of the guys' girlfriends (I assume...come on how am I supposed to know every last detail of all four band members!?)

The end was coming and it was only then I noticed the DJ beside me having a great time. He was playing about with the lights and just generally rocking his head back and forth. I almost asked him to have a go with the lights but with my track record with electrical products, I didn't want to cause a power failure for the whole of North London!

Dan announced the final song and I decided to take a walk round the room with my camera. People were dancing on the chairs and there was a massive huddle of 10-12 people dancing around to "Making Plans for Nigel". That song finished and the band were applauded for an eternity. When the mad clapping and shouting finally stopped, someone piped up the courage to shout, "One more". This was followed by the rest of the room going into another frenzy asking for an encore.

I went back to the DJ box and still tried hard to get Ed's camera working. It was now a lost cause but I still wanted to get some of this great music recorded. The DJ leaned over and said, "God, they can play for the rest of the night if they're up to it. Especially if they play that Nigel song again." Just what I wanted to hear.

The encore finished (I told you I can't remember the set list). I looked at the DJ and he pointed to the band. "One more he said".

"Great, he means two more surely", I thought. So taking the musical laws into my own hands I struggled up to the stage where both Mick and Ed had started to wind down, thinking the gig was over. "Two more", I shouted to Dan. Dan was looking fresh as a daisy unlike his three colleagues. Ed was dragged back onto the stage and Mick plugged his guitar back in and off we went again much to the surprise of a few of the punters. They had already headed off to the bar next door!

So there you have it. It's all thanks to me for giving you lot an extra song! I'll expect a pint off each and every one of you!

I know for sure that "Ball And Chain" was played because it says so in Dan's piece about the gig and I'm going to take an educated guess that "Are You Receiving Me" was the other song. Once they had both finished Ed was off the stage quicker than a McLaren F1; Dan followed in his Impreza and Mick slightly lagging being in the Robin Reliant! Adrian poor chap was stuck at the traffic lights/drum set.

Once the background hum hushed a little and the gentle sounds of Summer's Cauldron rang out round the room, I went over to Ed to give him the bad news. He was very understanding. I bet inside he was burning up with rage! Still, all was sorted and I could return to the party, which had been relit by the sounds of DJ Beatown.

I found both Tony and Liam in a little huddle chatting away saying how good the night was, etc. In Liam's hand was a large piece of paper. He unrolled it and it turned out to be one of the X-sTatiC posters, which had been advertising the band inside the pub. In my bestest spoilt brat accent I said, "Aawww I wanted that". About 15 minutes later, Liam (what a bloke!) handed it over to me. And now anyone lucky enough to enter my bedroom will see, taking pride of place (above my bed) is that very poster. It's little crumpled from the journey home though! This was not the only gift I was given that night. As well as a stern look from Dan when I said the gig was shite (more on that later), I got this English Settlement badge from a person I had never met in my life. Apologies again for not remembering names but please do get in touch! I was overwhelmed by the generosity and warmth of the people around me.

Mick writes - If I could just interrupt for a moment, the 'badge' incident is worth recanting. The fellah in question is a guy called Paul who was a mate of a guy called Andy who I met a few years back at some other xtc-related shindig. I'd been chatting to Paul earlier in the evening - he's about my age and was around during the late seventies when all this great music was going off. He was also wearing a couple of button badges, obviously of the right vintage, one of which was the xtc badge. So, fast forward to after the gig. Paul and Shorty are deep in conversation about something or other, I'm just watching on, when this guy Paul takes off his 20+ year old xtc button badge, something he's obviously looked after for quite a while, and pins it to the front of Shorty's shirt, saying something like, "Time to pass it on to the next generation", "Keep the spirit alive", or something like that. It was a real lump-in-the-throat kind of moment I can tell you.

Now, about 15 minutes after the gig, when everyone had a drink in their hand and was either dancing away to the DJ or just thinking about how late it was and, "Should I go home now?", I found Dan in a quiet corner. "Shorty my man, tell me what you thought of the gig". So I told him what I thought. Not once did the word "shite" pass my lips! I just jokingly nodded when Dan suggested that the gig went that bad. Despite missing a third of it because I was worrying about a stupid camera, I had a great time. It's just that Swindon was so amazing. It was such a special day and I was living off all that expectation. Camden wasn't a let down, I just expected that little bit more. Plus Holly Partridge could have turned up! And I so wanted to hear "Earn enough for us"!

And there we have it. About an hour after the gig had finished, the band were leaving through the back door. Whether it was allowed or not I followed them through the back of the building and out the door. I waved them a fond farewell and frowned when Mick said, "Next stop Swindon". And just like in Swindon, they all buggered off.

The after gig "disco" had now drawn to a close and people were leaving in a steady stream. I found Liam with his missus and I went to say bye bye. I had respect for this guy. Not just cus he supported QPR, but because he spoke to this teenager who he'd never met before in his life as if they were both great mates. Oh yeah and I think he likes XTC (the jury is still out on that one). And as a leaving present (as if that poster wasn't enough) he gave me a QPR ticket stub. Paid by MasterCard on the 07/03/03 11:23am. Kettering Town FC isn't a big enough club to need tickets. So if Liam comes to Swindon in September, I'll return the favour and give him one of my Northants CCC ticket stubs! If that's not a big enough reason to come to Swindon then what is?

Right...everyone has buggered off. Tone and I are sitting at the bar as if we're auditioning for a new series of Cheers! I'm checking my bag when I realise my diary is missing. This is like the most important thing in the world at this particular time. It was hopefully going to get me home!

I asked around the pub. I looked around the entire building. I asked the bar staff several times. Defeated, I was about to leave the pub when I had one final desperate search for it. Every bar staff member had said they had definitely not seen an A5 green leather diary, with the name Peter Short written on it. So you can understand my surprise when I look towards the money counter at the bar, and I see an A5 green leather diary with Peter Short on it. I thanked the bar staff for their fantastic help, without which I wouldn't have retrieved my diary, and Tone and I headed off into the night. We walked, and walked and walked some more. Somewhere along the line I acquired some chips. My quest to find a chippy was now well and truly over. Actually it wasn't a chippy, more a kebab house.

One thing I must say about London though is how good the public transport is at 2am. An information board in every bus shelter, buses every 10 minutes. The metropolis of Kettering could do with some of that! I'm sure you can imagine the overriding joy that come over me when I stepped onto another bus! And so Tone and I headed off to Charring Cross. I couldn't help but notice I was on the bus for a long time, suggesting I was moving further and further away from Baker St, the place where I had to be to get the bus home! Never mind, I had 9 hours to walk there!

We finally got to our destination and people were flocking about as if it was midday. Tone and I said our final farewell and I was left to fend for myself. My new dad had deserted me! Instead of offering me the floor of his hotel room, he left me to fight my own battles in the streets of London. Still, he'd had put up with me for 7 hours straight, which is more than my real dad has ever done in 18 years!

According to two police officers who seemed to take offence to my Kettering Town shirt, the best way to Victoria coach station was to go along the Mall and take my chances along Buckingham Palace Street, which believe it or not is where Buckingham Palace is situated. Which is good if you've never seen the palace up close before!

The plan to get home went something like this. I was going to Victoria Coach station to catch one of the 24-hour coaches to Oxford. And then from Oxford I would follow my footsteps from the Swindon gig and redo the Oxford to Kettering journey via Northampton, where a certain South African cricket team were playing in a Tourist Match right before they were to meet England in the One Day final at Lords!

Now I don't know if you've ever walked down Pall Mall, but it's long! Very long. You can fit more than just four houses or a hotel on it that's for sure. On this particular occasion there were both Union and Russian flags draped along the entire length of the road, ready for the visit of the Russian president for the first time in over 30 years. I was in total awe. If the government spent as much money on transport as it did on flags, this country would be in a better state and I could probably go straight home after the gig instead of faffing about in London all night!

Anyway I eventually found Victoria Coach Station and it was (as I had now come to expect of London landmarks) BIG. I did send Mick a photo of it, whether he puts it on the site is up to him. (Yeah, yeah, it's over on the left somewhere.) It's a great photo though! People were all over the place. I wasn't alone like I was at Swindon bus station at 4am. There were at least another 50 people there. Most with suitcases getting ready to board a bus to Heathrow. I wandered up to a bus that looked like it was heading to Oxford (it said X90 - Oxford on it!). "Yep sure thing", the driver said, "but I ain't leaving for another 30 minutes".

I returned to the group of suitcase people and sat down on the frozen concrete floor. The ringing ears and pounding headache were slowly kicking in and all I wanted to do was sleep. I reflected on the night and I kept looking at the badge, which was proudly pinned above the Kettering badge on my shirt. The poster was also unrolled a couple of times. It was Swindon all over again but Swindon was a lot more personal. At Camden, it seemed as if I was among friends.

The suitcase people boarded their bus and mine drew up next to where I was sitting. Right, remember when Sir Steve Redgrave said, "If anyone sees me near a boat you have my permission to shoot me"? The feeling was pretty much the same with me and buses. Thankfully he got back into a boat and he's still alive. So when I boarded the bus, I was pleased and relieved that I was still standing upright.

The driver was a happy kind of guy, so I thought I should make his night and make a bit of conversation instead of just sitting at the back of the bus. I asked him nicely if he could wake me up when we reached Oxford because I was bound to fall asleep.

"Sure thing", he said. "Had a busy night?" So I started to tell him why I was in London and that I was here to see an XTC tribute ba...."XTC! I love XTC." (This is genuine dog poo people. He really did love XTC). Out the window went the idea of sleep. For the entire hour's journey we talked about XTC and other 70s and 80s music.

He told me why every person on the planet should have a copy of Apple Venus and I told him how Drums and Wires came into existence (I had my copy of "Chalkhills and Children" with me). In the most unlikely of cases I had made yet another friend because of XTC.

I wrote down all the web sites and e-mail addresses I could think of that involved XTC and told him about X-sTatiC. He said that he lives in Gloucestershire and that he'd try his best to get down to Swindon. There you go lads...that's two people coming to Swindon. Me and a bus driver!

It was now 5am and below the early morning sky lay the Oxford skyline. I'd only been there once before and yet I recognised quite a large part of it. We finally drew to a halt at Gloucester Green Street. It hadn't changed a bit in 3 months! I said another fond farewell to the driver and got off the bus. Steve Redgrave may have won a gold medal when he boarded a boat again, but I had made a new friend when I boarded a bus again, funny how life works.

So then, 4 and a bit hours to kill in Oxford. Just recap the plan. X5 - Oxford to Bedford, X2 - Oxford to Northampton, cricket, then X4 - Northampton to Kettering. This plan would mean I wouldn't get home till 8pm Sunday evening. Thus resulting in a 40 hour gap between sleeps. And I wasn't exactly going to get much kip on the seats at Oxford bus station! Much wandering was done that morning. Eventually 7am came and I could get a small bite to eat in a cafe. More wandering was done making me hungry again. 8am drew nearer, only another 2 hours until my bus came. Then came my mistake. I wandered too far. I wandered into a corner shop to get a paper. I reached into my pockets and found only a few coppers. I delved deeper and found a pound coin. I paid for my copy of "The Times" (what? it's got a good sports section!). I then came back out and searched for the rest of my cash! Oh my God, where's that fiver that's going to get me home? I searched very, very hard. Had I just spent the pound coin that meant either getting home or being able to read about Michael Schumacher getting pole again? I emptied my entire bag and I was very close to taking off my jeans and turning them inside out! As a final resort I searched my diary and there, inside the envelope saying "Do not lose me" was my ticket for South Africa Vs Northants, my birth certificate and a crumpled up blue/green piece of paper with the queen's head on. Once again life had dealt me a tricky set of cards and I'd ended up with a royal flush, or should I say a "fiver" of a kind? Ha ha ha. I just laugh myself to sleep sometimes!

After several attempts at sleeping I just decided to be a "good ol' Brit" and stand with my arms folded and wait out the last half hour. The bus was late. And here is something I don't understand. I had been waiting for this bus for almost five hours, and yet I was near the back of the queue to get on the bus! I handed over the fiver, which was now pretty warm from being clasped in my hand for an hour and the driver handed me my ticket, which was to get me home. God, I love the £4.99 all day travel ticket!

We're in the final three paragraphs now. After another hideous bus journey with a busload of sweaty passengers, I was in Bedford. It was now 1pm and I had already missed the first 2 hours of play at Northampton. Not to worry, I'd be at the ground in an hour and half. Typically, the X2 was late. I mean very late. I overheard a conversation with a staff member and a concerned commuter. "The X2, when will it be here?", said the lady traveller. "The X2, that won't be here for a long time. There's been a crash on the M1 and it's been caught up in the traffic", said the less concerned bus driver who was just leaving for his Sunday lunch.

The woman sighed. I sighed with her. The whole station sighed. Everyone was waiting for the X2! Thankfully it wasn't quite as long as we'd been led to believe by the member of staff, but it was still long enough to really piss me off and make me want to go straight home.

The driver was very apologetic and kept muttering words to himself. We left Bedford station 20 minutes after we were supposed to be in Northampton!

Northampton neared and the overwhelming heat was now getting to me. Sod the cricket, I want a pint and then I want to go to bed! Just as we entered Northampton coach station the loudest rumble of thunder I had ever heard rolled out across the town followed by massive drops of rain. Ah well, the weather had the final say in whether I went to the cricket or not. The game was finally abandoned after South Africa has put 250 runs on the board. Instead of sitting under the only covered stand at the County Ground wondering if the rain will ever stop, I was sitting on a dry, cosy bus, and on the final leg of my journey.

And so there we have it. I left Pytchley Road bus stop at 3:15pm Saturday the 21st of July, and I was back there at 4:25pm Sunday the 22nd of July. I was a few items heavier than when I left (about 50 grams to be precise. A badge and a sheet of A2 paper don't exactly break your back!). I was however £55 lighter. Was it worth it? Course it bloody was!

Bus tickets to London and back - £26
Beer, beer and more beer - £17
2 Sausage Rolls and a cup of coffee in Oxford - £4
A tiny XTC badge, a piece of paper and tonnes of new friends who you never knew existed - PRICELESS

Peter Short, 27 August 2003. pierredupetit@hotmail.com

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