The Bells Are Ringing


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Journeys to Villa Park

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Journeys to Villa Park

Post by De Kuip on Tue Feb 27, 2018 11:59 am

So I was reminiscing the other day about being a kid and getting to VP.

When I was a real little 'un my old man used to take me and it was pretty uneventful in the car, park up, tie silky scarf round wrist, bobble hat on and ready to rock and roll - ready to go and sit in the Witton Lane Stand.

As I got older - probably early to mid teens, the old fella had an Austin 1800 (so this would have been mid to late 70s) and there were me and about 5 of my mates all used to pile into the car - no seat belts in the back, 4 or 5 crammed across the seats and we'd get ferried to VP - it was chaos in the car (I think the record was 8 of us plus the old man driving) but my Dad used to just laugh about it - then when we got to the ground and parked he used to meet up with his mates and we'd clear off to be little pretend hooligans then pile into the back of the Holte singing "the Right Side" and other choice songs. I remember standing and looking out through the mist rising from the crowd, along the top of the Witton Stand ("Are you an Ansells Bitterman?", "M&B - for the men of the Midlands") and seeing the red glow of the IMI Kynoch sign flickering back from across Witton Circle, the sky bone-grey with winter chill and the smell of pies and cigars, beery breath and Bovril all around.

Sometimes if Dad was working we'd pile onto the 93 bus, then get the 11 (or the football special that just said "Villa Park" on the front) at the Fox & Goose down to Witton - Christ those buses used to be packed!

When I was a couple of years older I Used to get the 93 all the way down to Nechells then walk across Nechells Green, sticking 2 fingers up at the The Albion Vaults Pub as I went past - (I didn't realise in those days Albion was just an old name for England - I could never understand why there was a baggies pub in a Villa/Noses area).

I used to walk down Thimblemill lane - bloody freezing in winter, walking past the old green painted cast Iron Victorian open air urinals, down past the red bricked frontages of the factories, past the Radiation Ascot Social Club where I used to play snooker with my Grandad, eventually coming out onto Lichfield Rd - it was like crossing a divide from old Victorian Birmingham and the rows of old factories into the 20th century of new build houses on the Lichfield Rd.

Then I'd just walk down past Aston Station to VP and join the crowds all pouring towards the AV floodlights of Villa Park, excitement building like a gentle pressure in the chest, the smell of malt from the M&B brewery mixing with the pungent vinegary waft from the HP sauce factory - a combination of smells probably never to be repeated and which if they were, would instantly transport me back to that time and place.

As I turned 20 and got my own house in Olton, I used to get the number 11 from Acocks Green, and there wasn't a day returning home from VP in my Villa top (early to mid 80s) that I didn't expect to get into a fight on the top deck with a nose, but it never happened - probably lucky I guess (I mean me not them - I'm a lover not a fighter!).

It's amazing though isn't it, for all the memories I have of supporting the Villa (and I have a lot) that something as mundane as travelling to the ground would retain such strong - and very fond - memories.

I wonder if other folks have particular memories of the journey (or just the feeling of building excitement) of going to Villa Park?
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Re: Journeys to Villa Park

Post by FoxyAV on Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:38 pm

I get to drive up two of my most hated roads, the A34 and M40! I've always lived in the south so there's a whole chunk of supporting the Villa I've missed out on. My link is from my mother's side - my grandmother had an aunt who married the man in my avatar, so she got to watch matches from the director's box (the lucky girl!). She also remembered doing running competitions of some kind up and down the pitch. This would have been in the 1920s. She ended up working at Dunlop as secretary for whoever ran the place and was very put out having to also work for Murray Walker when his father fixed up a decent job for him there!

I digress. As usual. It's kind of odd for me in that Winchester is a very white area and we all sound like we work for the BBC, and it's a great feeling parking up at Chester Road and seeing other Villa shirts and scarves - there's no one down here I can talk to about it so it's great when I can get up and immerse myself in a match day. My father was born in one of the houses with the gardens backing onto the railway embankment between Gravelly Hill station and Spaghetti Junction (funnily enough he and my mother were born within a few miles of each other but met when they were working in Southampton) so there's a load of family history in the area but nothing relating to me. I've seen one Villa fan down here in the last year or so and it was on the bus the other night, he was just as surprised to find me in my Villa hat!

I came close to not being a Villa fan though - I grew up in Fleet in Hampshire and one day when I was about eight my father and I set off with his parents' season tickets for Southampton at the Dell (against Liverpool, when Keegan was in his prime). As we were driving up the road he asked if I'd rather go to London to the Science Museum instead. Sorry, you're stuck with me.
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Re: Journeys to Villa Park

Post by De Kuip on Tue Feb 27, 2018 5:05 pm

Great family links though mate looks like you were destined to be a chosen one.
Always wondered why you chose that avatar- is it George Russell?
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Re: Journeys to Villa Park

Post by FoxyAV on Tue Feb 27, 2018 6:03 pm

Jack Devey.
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Re: Journeys to Villa Park

Post by De Kuip on Tue Feb 27, 2018 7:03 pm

Ah, wasn't sure as they both had weapons grade moustaches!
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Re: Journeys to Villa Park

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