Filed: Sunday, 25th July 1999
By: Alison Leahy
I catch the morning surf and ride the crest of a wave. Claret and blue bikini sitting on my hips, the sun on my back and the tide is high. The other teams paddle to try and catch the claret and blue waves but it aint happening.
Spurs home; Metz home and away, Villa away, Leicester home, Bradford away.
Totts at home and buzz on Green Street is palpable. The B movie lives up to expectations. Hammer families with matching replica tops criss-cross the road laden with assorted mags and foodstuffs. I wait to pick up tickets for Metz which gives me time to wonder, quite loudly, why professional footballers arrive dressed to kill carrying only a Prada toiletries bag and big grin. I glimpse Di Canio as he strolls downs the Piazza di Spagna in search of Armani. The Stevies - Potts, looking radiant in a Puiz Bin self bronzing after glow and Lomas with the pearly sheen of East Hebridean peat farmer. 'What?' the bloke in the queue next to me says 'What do ya mean, I wonder if Lomas is smiling so much because he and his wife (the one with the professionally huge hooters) subscribe to the healthy-portions-are-best-before-a-match theory?'
Racing back to the West Lower I've got two things on my mind. My own pre match warm up - an Upton Park cheese and onion pastie; and that of the squad. Evidence of the switch in catering contractors is immediately apparent. Prepubescent boys and girls wield trays of quick fix adrenaline-quenching saturated fat in a manner befitting the seventh innings of a Chicago baseball game. And my pastie? Well, a 15p price hike and a 25% cut in filling tells the story ... I hand over my £1.50 anyway - I'm addicted.
The squad's pre match warm up is well underway. I strain to make sense of the movements of the players at the Bobby Moore end of the ground. There's an easy mix of navy t shirts and the rather fetching white version with 'Hammers' on the back. Reassuringly, the latter is worn indiscriminately by the limbering players, the dug out twitchers and the half time sod-settlers. I notice that next door to my right I've got a new viewing buddy. During various nods and exclamations to those around I see he looks remarkably like Jerry Lewis...
I've watched the pre match warm up transform over the seasons along with the growing phenomenon that is the Hammerettes. I have a theory - that the two choreographed groups are cross-pollinating, using the Boleyn turf to swap spores. A gradual morph in both directions between professional footballer and teenage gym queen. The Hammerettes wear an increasing array of claret and blue Fila pret-a-porter separates and spend more and more time on the pitch at the same time as the team! The lads used to amble and meander in warm up, then they paired and made circles, then more complex crop circle-type formations while passing the ball and now ...and now just what are they up to?
Anyone who has watched a group of uniformed firemen at the supermarket, with their polite, jokey teamwork and 100-proof manliness while they shop together for the station will recognise these qualities as the team run out for the first half. The highlight of the line up today is Stuart Pearce along with his own personal Mini Me, Steve (you complete me) Potts; his 12 pack abs rippling in the light wind and his Japanimination professional buns flexing with every stride.
The whistle is blown and all is revealed. Paulo and Paolo link up before my eyes in the style of various world dances. Global fusion in E13. I reach for my maracas and all at once, Mr Benn-like I'm transported to the Notting Hill Carnival. Paulo resplendent is his 12-foot gold and silver butterfly wings and mother of pearl thorax; and Paolo searching out more Hammerette-spore in an onyx and gold-hooped leotard with more modest 4-foot wings. A mixture of routines from the Caribbean with African and Latin influence are constructed to the infectious calypso rhythm. Paulo and Paolo become more creative and adaptive until my maracas can take it no longer. Jerry and I are spent. Just imagine Rio's potential if only he can pick up some of Baby Spice's moves to add to his repertoire.
I notice an inflatable claret alien being wielded in the Booby Moore lower where a sex doll was flayed last season. It seems crop circle warm ups have a lot to answer for. I'm convinced there is something significant in this cultural shift from compliant dolly to wide-eyed alien but it evades me on the day.
At the Metz home game I eye the ever-present claret alien with suspicion as the magnetic goal phenomenon is on full display. After the game I drive through the night to a South Devon beach to chase the sunrise and the eclipse. I slip back into my claret and blue bikini to catch some surf before the main event - the astronomical Floodlight Fixers are scheduled to play a set on the Devon Riviera. All hail those Malaysians, their oriental resourcefulness and the darkness.
On an Orbital round trip between Metz at home and Leicester at home the plastic and West Ham shirt count is high. More shirts and more claret and blue - lapel pins, baseball caps, away shirts and gym bags. I'm sure this perception is not just based on my superb ability to pick out claret and blue at 100 paces. I can even spot a lady of a certain age in a claret and blue BHS dress sitting on a bus travelling at 50 mph behind me. At the Edinburgh Fringe the Orbital chasers are rewarded with a stunning outdoors gig in the shadow of the castle. At V99, we're in a tent but still surrounded by an impressive display of polymer-enriched dudes. They are grooving to Otono and Orbital surpasses the high of the Chemical Brothers' set in the same slot two years earlier.
Jerry looks understandably nervous by the time he takes his seat after the kick off. We're 1-0 down. I look to see if he's brought Dean Martin. Perhaps Deano can entertain us with a rat pack-style croon, filling in the time until the Irons sort themselves out. Deano sets Andy Cole in the audio shade, not a challenge I hear you heckle. The game ebbed and flowed. One for the butterfly and one for the bee. Sincs performs an inspirational Texan line dance but Rio prefers the clogs. Unbeaten is unbeaten. I can see another great wave on the horizon, I'm off. Bring on Osijek and let the UEFA flags fly of Upton Park.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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