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The View From The Friend In Hand. Look at those crabbies go, including Aldershot v United

It’s 5.15am when I’m woken by a lad in the dorm on his way to work. My alarm has been set for 5.30 but the extra time leaves me to ponder whether to bother getting out of bed. With a lack of sleep and the prospect of heading to a bar at this ungodly hour I’m left with little option but to watch the match at the hostel. I’m still at Glebe YHA as faces are becoming familiar and they have Foxtel Sports giving me little reason to relocate.

After the horrorshow on Sunday watching the match against Aldershot can be likened to allowing someone to apologise after a huge argument. I’m sure most United fans are still reeling from the weekend yet to appreciate the highs you must experience the lows. In any case, I’m still on Auckland time so this feels like 7.30am and I’m not exactly drowsy.

Of course I head downstairs through the darkness yet I’m surprised the same line-up has not been named simply as a lesson. Instead it’s a predictable line-up of fringe and youth players. They should all have redemption in mind and it is heartening to see the likes of Ji-Sung Park, Antonio Valencia and even Dimitar Berbatov chasing and harrying the Aldershot backline. Alas, the wonky television setup means there is no sound and I’m forced to watch in silence.

Any celebration would have been muted anyway, even for Berbatov’s well worked opener involving quick passing from Cleverley and Park. Whilst United dominate possession and territory that final, incisive pass is largely absent leaving Berbatov to shrug his shoulders in disappointment. The Bulgarian clearly feels the need to impress as he darts down the right wing before an intelligent quick pass inside for Michael Owen to double United’s lead at half-time.

Thankfully the League Cup coverage is exactly the same as back home so I’m left to enjoy the sight of Ben Shepherd’s giddy face as well as Jamie Redknapp’s tight trousers. At least I get to see some analysis even if I cannot hear it. Back in Sydney the cleaner arrives right on cue so I make my escape and head to the kitchen for breakfast.

The second half starts with United wanting to get the job done quickly. Within four minutes Valencia has smashed in a third. By this point the hostel is beginning to get out of its slumber and I’m joined by Laura as she’s got to get to work early. We both agree that it’s still a bit weird watching evening matches at the break of dawn.

With the game all but won, Berbatov seems to relax and tricky footwork is almost rewarded until he drags his shot wide. It’s also promising to see the return of Cleverley and the introduction of the much heralded Paul Pogba after his debut against Leeds. Ezekiel Fryers also continues to impress at left-back, it’s almost as if he’s been there for years. Finally, Ravel Morrisson is given his debut and does not disappoint with his flowing, shimmying runs. It’s a glimpse into the future and after Sunday it’s a welcome distraction.

Now it’s high time I started my day and knowing I’m going to struggle to return to sleep I get my washing in. Once that’s dry it feels a relief to have clean clothes again. The hair is giving me a dishevelled look so I walk to George St and the hairdresser Ryan recommended. For $14 it’s a decent cut and I feel a new man, albeit with more grey hairs on show. Next up is the post holiday food shop and I grab essentials as well as ingredients for a big dinner, namely for pasta sauce. After a quick job search on the library’s wifi I return to the hostel where Jamie gives me some mince. She’s off to New Zealand for the weekend and I gratefully accept her leftovers.

It’s also Wednesday which means crab racing at a nearby pub, The Friend In Hand. It’s the sort of pub where anything goes. A toy train chugs along overhead and the toilet walls are covered by toilet humour jokes you’d find in an email chain. By 9 the place is rammed with travellers and locals. We’re already a few jugs down when our group, augmented by Jamie’s friends including Tom and Shannon, is joined by Jillian and her Canadian roommate. Happy hour is over and jugs are now double the price which still doesn’t put us off.

The first contest involves balloons that are given out and the first three to blow them up to the point they burst are given a prize. The first two go head to head and one of the hostel’s receptionist’s wins, we’re all very proud. Then onto the main event, the bets have been placed and the tiny hermit crabs have been named. They’re mainly puerile names like Captain Clung and Jizz and as their names are read out the owner puts his hand up then gets soaked by the bar’s water gun. If no-one puts their hand up then random victims are selected. In effect, everyone gets soggy.

The crabs are put in a bowl and unleashed from the middle of a circle table. The first five that scamper to the edge are declared winners and through to the grand final. There’s then a hula competition with girls selected from the crowd to gyrate onstage. Some are clearly naturals and it’s not even that smutty when the crowd woops its approval. The next event is more debauched as the five winning crab owners are each presented with gooey chocolate balls doused in salt. They have to clear and lick the plate with their hands behind their back and then clean their faces on someone’s shirt. Lovely. Then the main event, the final crab race where the winner gets a t-shirt and other assorted gifts.

By this point I’m beginning to flag but decide to stay, namely for watching Neil prove that he’s far more like Will from The Inbetweeners than myself. There’s also ample discussion of the match on Sunday that I refuse to admit happened. Thankfully the chat is with a United fan yet we both end up feeling sorry for ourselves. As Jamie is off tomorrow she picks me to join her for shots, one is green and based on a dribbling frog (or something). The second is picked by myself and involves malt whisky, Baileys and chocolate sprinkles. I will no doubt regret both in the morning.

#14 in our series of Half Day Ahead Treats are Coconut M and M’s. Essentially coconut chocolate flavoured M and M’s. An odd combination and disappointing that real coconut isn’t used.

The BEST holidays

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