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The Return of the Gasheads

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 14/12/2005

‘What am I doing this for?’ I pondered as I scraped ice off the car outside my house at 6 o’clock in the morning. My tired children Merlin (13) and Revis (10) sat in the back, silently and stoically, probably thinking the same.

Home > Features > 2005 Features > The Return of the Gasheads

Even a 500 mile round trip to Grimsby didn’t seem so attractive as we parked the car at Basingstoke station and subjected ourselves to the vagaries of Britain’s railway system and the prospect of further disappointment at the hands of Bristol Rovers. Our last home expedition had been the inglorious FA Cup defeat to the Gasheads a month earlier.

‘What time do we get to Doncaster?’ enquired Revis some time later as we headed to the Frozen North. ‘Tomorrow at this rate’ I replied. The journey wasn’t going well. Purgatorial agony transcends train travel though, especially in the eyes of Revis whose record of 5 consecutive home defeats stretching over two seasons has brought on a tendency to be cynical and pessimistic, just like the rest of us. We discussed football or its equivalent which is dispensed at Blundell Park. I contended that Revis’s record this season - played 3, lost 3 - was countermanded by the fact that Town are second in the table and we won the last game 4 - 1 against Rochdale. ‘4 goal Town romp home’, proclaimed the Grimsby Telegraph advertising boards.

Revis was having none of this. ‘They must have been rubbish, then’, she announced, by way of explanation of this apparent dichotomy. Merlin carried on reading his book, hardened by his own embittered experiences of ghastly suffering at Blundell Park. The sun shone as we hit South Yorkshire but in a peculiarly grey and bleak Northern way. No warmth here. ‘Fresh air and poverty’ is what they say round these parts, usually to no-one in particular because everyone knows it already. I had no time to contemplate the meaning of the strange, menacing sign in the train toilet stating ‘Deurvergrendeling’ - try saying that when you’ve had a few - as we were now entering the industrial suburbs of Doncaster. Our connection missed, and half an hour to wait in this Temple of Bleakness, we headed to the Frenchgate Centre. On the way out I saw a leaflet about Doncaster station - surely they’re not marketing it as a tourist attraction now? I picked it up. ‘Doncaster Station ...Why?’, it said at the top of the page. Good question, but there seemed to be no answer.

We went to cross the road. The light didn’t go green. Should we stay there indefinitely and die in Doncaster? The group decision was to cross. This counts as excitement and dangerous living in Donny. The Frenchgate Centre was uninspiring as ever with its multitude of embattled shoppers and OAPs out for the day in their wheelchairs, having overdone the lipstick, having a natter and people-watching. ‘Why do they need two Christmas trees?’ asked Revis. The second one was forlorn, unadorned and desolate - a symbol of Doncaster. No sign of a Samaritan shop - even they must have given up on life here. Prohibition signs were everywhere telling everyone what we’re not allowed to do. There was no mention though of screaming insanely or wallowing in despair so at least our basic needs were catered for. The sign on the board told us of the Frenchgate project’s ‘seamless transition’ between the shops and Doncaster Railway Leisure Park as we walked through muddy puddles. I think they meant there was a pavement. Dismal and dejected people got off our train to indulge in the seamless suffering, to be replaced by the grateful survivors. Goodbye, Doncaster. People chatted on the train and the sun became warmer as we headed past the apocalyptic towers of the power station and on towards the rich fields of North East Lincolnshire. I fell asleep.

The report continues in Part Two.

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