Where's my bed?
Where's my f**king bed?
We were out, in fact we'd been out since we'd lost in Croatia the previous October - Now that was a trip!!!. But it was nothing new, Wales were nearly always out, come the last game of the group. Belgium on the other hand had won away in Zagreb three days before therefore qualifying for the finals in Brazil. So we knew that there would be a party in Brussels, little did we know it would be us celebrating at the full time whistle.
We'd booked the trip months in advance and the planning committee had done some sterling work. A Sunday morning departure from The Pearl on the 11.38 from Platform one, would be a great start to my £96 all in four day beano to Flanders field. On the train I was the elder statesman, being joined by the junior Dial M posse of The Flipper, Lager and Terret. Moppy was already up in Landan and Richie Will had to join us the next morning as he had an afternoon shift to skilfully negotiate pre-trip.
Talk on the train was of Merthyr's 3-2 victory away at Guildford City on the previous day. None of us had gone as we'd all been keeping our powder dry for four days of mayhem, but stories of how Rewbs had snatched a late winner (one of many late winners we'd get during the season) were interspaced by tales of the previous trips this qualifying group had brought us.
Getting off at Queen's Street, Sainbury's for cans, then Lloyds for a couple of liveners. This was like old times, the feeling was there again. I'd done Croatia and Scotland away in this campaign, so I was very much in the groove of what was ahead for the next few days. Beer filled chats with a load of piss taking - you can't beat it.
On the Mega Bus or "Bws-Swper", we got to the smoke in double fast time and meeting up with Moppy in Kings Cross, the conversation turned to Merthyr's 3G debut the following weekend, Cockneys, Uncle Colin and the NFL.
The following morning and we all met up at Victoria Station. The Mega Bus is a fantastic invention. How I can travel from London to Brussels for just a pound is mental. Alright it took us 7 hours, but the elicit booze was flowing, we had plenty to amuse ourselves with - so the time just flew by. The driver couldn't get the chargers, air con or the wireless on the bus working, so when he got off in Ghent and was replaced by a new driver the abuse started to fly in his direction. Entering the Belgian capital and we were finally busted. Terret got a bit careless with a can of Carlsberg and the driver spotted him on the CCTV.
A tube ride later and a short 50 yard walk from Midi Station and we were at our hotel. Moppy booked this one and if you know Moppy you know that he's...... well let say "Careful". This was to be an ALL EXPENSES SPARED stay. The hotel was Indian owned and the smell of Nag Champer that met us on the way in would have choked a donkey. We were meeting Moppy's mate from work at the hotel and he came down to report that he was in a room that already had two guys luggage in and there was only one double bed for the three of us. Mr Rees went to reception to sort out things and shortly we were in the attic. No offence, but I'm sure Anne Frank had more a more spacious bathroom. We had a shower over the bath, but with the sloping roof, the only way you could stand in the bath was to open the skylight. I had to have a go. We now had four beds between the three of us - Two singles, a double and a bed which at some point was home for one Norman Stanley Fletcher. All wrought iron frame, itchy green blanket and a wafer thin pillow. As I said we had four beds - at least for now. The landings of Balti Towers was littered with mattresses, you'd have thought it was a branch of George Street Furnishers - a right tip. We were in high spirits, so hadn't really noticed the most obvious problem with the room. That was to be our little surprise come the following morning.
Within the hour we headed for the Grand Place. Just think Red square crossed with a chocolate box. Normally big European cities are well expensive, but it's a Monday night and the only people in town are Welsh. The pubs knew the score and all had promotions on in an attempt to lure the men of Harlech. Two Euros a pint in the Celta Bar saw the pub rammed with Taffs. I saw the Junior posse already at the bar and they looked wasted. On joining them, they were. Lager and Terret were dribbling at this point, so we kicked on and shots were ordered, tweets and texts were sent home and a couple of hours later we hit the hay. There was a big day ahead of us, so we'd need a good night's sleep.
Match-day and it's 6am. The hotel starts shaking. You see, Midi station is pretty much the main rail hub for the Benelux area. Every train making its way from France, Germany, Britain, Holland makes its way through Midi Station. Moppy's window was no more than 10 foot from a highway of 10 rail tracks. None of which were laid straight, so every train that passed - oh and one passed at least every 30 seconds, made a clanking sound as each wheel hit the next rail. I swear it was like trying to sleep next to Keith Moon. Then just to top this off, every train had to test their horn as they got in line with the hotel. I couldn't get another wink of sleep and couldn't imagine how it could get any worse. Little did I know how special this Hotel was.
So we were up at the crack of dawn, by noon we'd walked all the tourist attractions Brussels had in store for us. I'd been before, so by noon we hit the all you can eat Pizza Hut buffet and then made our way to the pub. Flags up on the balcony, we were soon joined by the lads from St Dogmaels. This lot were last seen in Glasgow and we got them in such a state they missed their flights home the next day. Fortunately they had spent the previous three days in The Dam, so they were just happy to take it easy and swap stories of their trip. Moppy was a bit cold - it's his age, so he returned to the hotel for a change of coat, so I asked him to fetch my jumper off my bed - yes it's my age too. Half hour later he returned and looking like the "Caedraw Cheshire Cat", he announced that he had good news and bad news. The good news was that he found my jumper, the bad news was that it was not on my bed. In fact there was nothing on my bed, in fact there was no fucking bed. Ahh well - that was something for me to deal with later on, I was now in party mood.
The wonders of free city travel were enjoyed on the way to Heysel, the stadium was decent to be fair and once we found our entrance, we found the Welsh fans were on the top tier on the open end. We swapped stories with Terry Cutlan (Gilo's dad), bagged as many beers as we could carry and took our seats in the front row. As the anthems played I realised I was surrounded by a unique blend of Belgians in the wrong end and naked Welshman. It was going to be a party whatever happened on the pitch, so we started the signing.
I thought the performance was decent. I'm not sure how switched on the home side was on the night but they had a pretty impressive line up and we matched them in all departments. I suppose the context of the performance could be seen just before the hour. Belgium brought on Chelsea's Eden Hazard we brought on Cheltenham's Harry Wilson for his debut. Within minutes Kevin De Bryne had the stadium on its feet, it looked like it would be glorious defeat. But Craig Douglas Bellamy had other ideas. It was his last game in the red of Wales - Ok we were wearing green and white, but let it ride for the sake of the story - and with only a minute left on the clock he found himself making another run down the left wing. His perfectly timed pass outside of the full back found Wales' form player in just enough room in the box. Aaron Ramsay carefully poked the ball through Courtois' legs and the ball nestled into the corner of the net, just in front of the Welsh fans. The scenes on the pitch were mental, players piled on top of each other, the bench invaded the pitch and Chairman Mao did a jig of delight up the touchline. His son was sat to my right and young Spit knocked what was left of the beers flying and we all collapsed under a mass of flying arms and legs. Ahhhhhh - memories of Hampden flashed by as we had a further chance to win the game a minute later.
The party was now in full swing and almost an hour later we were still in the away end singing and dancing to Brazilian samba music. The return to the city saw The Flipper lead the tube in the singing, his command of tune and undoubted enthusiasm got past his lack of speaking Flemish. A late finish in the Celta bar had me in great spirits.
By the time I'd got back to the room, I'd forgotten what Moppy had told me, only for it to be rammed back into my head when I saw the big space in the room where my bed once lived. Off to reception where a comical conversation ensued. A bollux'd Welshman speaking broad valleys meets a French speaking Indian.
"Where's my fucking bed butt?"
"Bed very good"
"No, I've not got a bed"
"No bed, then you get out"
"No I have a fuckingroom, but no bed"
"You go to room"
At this point i'm whinging like a five year old with the worst case of tourettes ever.
"FFS mun, there's no bed, you took it"
"You like bed?"
"Is that bastard Old Spice you're wearing"
"Where your friend"
"That's honking, fair play"
"I get your friend now"
"No problem Jarj - Do you like train's butt?"
"you know - Choo Choo!! Noisy fucking things"
"I'm off to bed now mate, I've no bed, but I'm off to bed anyway. Choo Choo"
I size up one of the mattresses on the landing, but I know I have little chance of getting it through the bedroom door on my own. It would be like having sex with no boner.
On getting back to the room, Moppy has a double bed, so I jump in. Moppy jumps out and gets into the small prison bed. Moppy is not comfortable with men 'cwtching up' - something I've always been pretty easy with. I saw nothing wrong with Morcambe and Wise sitting up in bed reading the paper and smoking a pipe. I'm warm and happy in my bed - for just under 4 hours, just until the 6.01 to Brussels enters the station. I could have cried. I certainly have Champagne desires when it comes to accommodation, but really have Coca -Cola pockets. By midday we were on the Eurostar, we waved at our hotel as we ran over the uneven clanky rail just outside Moppy's 5-star shithole. The driver gave a loud blast of the horn right on cue. I closed my eyes and relived the game from the night before. By 8pm I rocked up Dowlais High Street on the X4 with another successful Wales trip in the locker. Moppy wants to do the Holland game in the summer - he has a lovely hotel in mind for us.