Best of the West

GO West life is peaceful there, go West in the open air…

No, I’m not thinking of auditioning to be the traffic cop in a Village People tribute band, I’m mulling over the memories of Redcar Bears’ tour of that neck of the woods last weekend.
Being a dedicated sporting scribe with the interests of Teesside’s speedway-going public at heart, I considered it my solemn duty to head off to the West Country and report on the Ecco Finishing Bears’ matches at Somerset and Plymouth.
I know, I’m a slave to it.
Match number one at the Oaktree Arena ended in a not insignificant defeat but we expected that. Not because we thought the hosts were that much stronger but because we’d upset Jesus on the way.
It was definitely him. Long hair, beard, looked at least 2,000 years old. He was also pootling along at the wheel of an old Skoda in the outside lane of a three-lane motorway with a string of cars – ours included – impatiently following.
Maybe he was pondering his next miracle or marvelling at his dad’s creation because the South West is, after all, a very nice part of the world.
Either way, we had a speedway meeting to get to so we went past on the inside. Naughty I know, but exercised with caution and care. He didn’t look especially happy about such an act, however, which I guess sealed our fate.
We almost had a thunderstorm to contend with too – exactly what you don’t want on the exposed grass banks of the rural OTA – but despite the ominous presence of jet black clouds and bolts of lightning in worryingly close proximity, we somehow got away with it and arrived back at our nearby hotel without a pressing need to find some dry clothes.
But it was a different matter at Plymouth the following night when a superb 15-point maximum from Captain Marvel set the standard in a 52-40 victory.
Central Plymouth bears more than a passing resemblance to Soviet era Russia but seafront area is lovely, especially on such a beautiful summer’s day.
The sun shone on the Bears during the evening too and even Neville the Devil, the most energetic mascot in British speedway, gave a thumbs up to the hardy band of travelling Bears fans on the back straight of the tight, compact St Boniface Arena as they celebrated four big Premier League points.
A win like that was certainly worth celebrating so that’s exactly what we did.
The previous night at the Oaktree Arena we had horrendous problems connecting with the outside world (JC’s influence again?) which meant that despite being armed with two mobile phones and a laptop, the match report I’d written came perilously close to not ever seeing the light of day.
At one point I seriously considered writing it out by hand and tying it to the foot of a carrier pigeon although thanks to a sterling effort from the Gazette team back on Teesside we got there in the end.
There were no such problems in Plymouth, typical as we didn’t have a paper the next day which meant there was no pressing need to get writing, so our merry band of travellers – sponsor Keith Miller of Ecco Finishing and a jubilant Brian Havelock included – set off for some post-meeting food and drink.
Not being local is a distinct drawback in such a situation of course so I phoned a cab and said simply “take us to the best Chinese restaurant you know please”. If the taxi driver was surprised at such a request it was nothing compared to that of the staff at the Wah Tin.
The bored waiter forlornly cleaning tables in an empty restaurant at 10.15pm couldn’t have been happier when we walked in asking for a table for eight. Down went the Mr Muscle, out came the chopsticks and the place was rocking again.
Thinking his work for the night was done, even the chef had gone home and came sprinting past us into the kitchen after screeching to a halt on his motorbike outside.
So a day that included a boat trip round the harbour in glorious sunshine, freshly caught crab for lunch washed down with a pint of local ale, a big away win for the Bears and the company of some wonderful people was ended with a top class Chinese and a couple of bottles of Tsingtao.
Heck, I love this job sometimes…


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