A Spy In Bulgaria?
Date: Wednesday 14th September 2005Now that the grassy cat-flaps are firmly back down on the shaven, tattoo'd heads of the Blackpuddians of goonhilly downs, and the sour taste of their inferior "dragging down of our high standards" almost washed away by the passage of time, (well, how long does it take to forget Blackuuurn? ), whilst they chunner away below ground in Middlearth and feverishly stick pins in Jussi dolls, we must turn our sights onto our next noble quest of the flying sphere: The visit of some oily railway mechanics and engine drivers from the deep reaches of eastern Europe (or thereabouts) to our beloved Reeboknia. Plovdiv (can't help thinking of Gulliver somehow) of the Locomotivs from the lands of Bulgaria (wasn't he a Wimbledon womble?) looms ominously close.... Anyway...Since we have to return the favour of this goodwill visit by maybe getting murdered on the Orient Express and possibly arrested and interrogated by the KGB it seemed sensible to do some basic homework first. We are talking Bulgaria here, read treachery, rusty Ladas and mayhem: Turning up the collar of my leather trenchcoat and pulling my fedora rakishly over one eye, I set out to do a little spying on these greasy-fingered stokers, mechanics and football wanabees. They will, of course, no doubt turn out to be a Plovdivian equivalent of Horwich RMI but vastly inferior (let not a bad word be said about Horwich or they might put our rates up) . We shall see....(quick burst of the Cossak dance and a plonk or two on the balalaika and away we go!) I slid into a small dark cafe in a small dark street and ordered a small dark coffee that turned out to be made from Turkish camel droppings boiled in diesel oil. My contact was easily recognisable by his matching leather trenchcoat, rakish fedora, eye-patch, evil smelling four year old cheroot and Bolton Wanderers scarf. How to greet him? Raising a laconic eyebrow and a sinister, knowing smile, I leaned forward, almost choking on the cheroot's evil fumes and whispered..."Locomotiv Plovdiv footybolski" My contact glanced furtively around and took a nervous swallow of the glass of local snake oil he was carrying. He then gave me the inside track on "Jeleznicharski Sporten Club": "Foul ref" you may howl, but that was indeed their name when they started life in 1936, no, not BC but recent. Shirts and balls provided coutesy of the local railway workers they began life as a small club and, due to wearing black and white strip, became laughingly known as Locomotiv Juventus, or maybe Plovdiv Juventus or, oh what the hell. Their official name became Locomotiv Plovdiv. Gee, some people have all the luck. Has a lovely ring to it reminiscent of "Bill and Ben the flowerpot men. "Is Plovdiv a modern place then?" My guide laughed and nodded. (Now get this; nodding means "no", "Yes" is indicated by throwing the head back and shaking it. Don't laugh; when my informer asked me if I was getting them in and I nodded, he raised a middle finger and got up to leave. I rectified the error and hurriedly bought two glasses of the diarohea juice that was supposed to be beer...) Plovdiv is older than Rome, Athens and Constantinople (hope that doesn't mean the stadium). As a football team they beat CSKA to be champions of Bulgaria, won the "Soviet Army Cup" (bet that was a laugh as the winners all get shot unless it's the Soviet Army) and in 1999 the city was European Capital of Culture (well, since ours is Liverpool I wouldnt get too exited there. Place is probably full of statues of past engine drivers, Gypst violinists and gold-sprayed Skodas). The names of the population are totally unpronouncable or spellable so I won't bother and, since it's a furkin long way to go to lose, I later slid into a small street dive to consult "Madame Zibrovski , fortune teller to the stars" (she once read the palm of Rasputin...yeah, she's that old!) as to what the outcome of our visit will be. After crossing her palm with silver (actually the silver strip on a twenty pound note) she glanced fearfully at me, mumbled a mouthful of Plovdov and legged it faster than a Blackburnian on Bradshawgate. Take that to mean what you will! I took it as a good omen, all except the twenty quid of course. Maybe Mr Gartside will recompense me...er, well, possibly not. With thanks to my "informer" internetski searchenginski" and a wild imagination I will now take of this irritating leather outfit, fedora and eye-patch and put the kettle on. I have somewhere a vinyl record of Hungarian Gypsy violins which, together with the Houghton Weavers "Sit thi down" and Lonnie Donnegan's "Wabash Cannonball" I'll play to get the right blend of atmosphere 'til thursday. I bid you adieu my faithful Wanderers fans until the great event...but I'll possibly be back. Happy Plovdiving. MEATPIEANDCHIPSSKI.