In the interests of science

Do you own a TLF?

Do you find that match days when they are technically ‘in your company’ but are really keeping up with their teams via the twitter, the what’s app, the telly or the wireless, aren’t really that much fun?
Does the afternoon or evening prove tense and fraught?
Does logic and reason vacate the building?

Does your TLF ever look like this?
IMG_0103

Fear not. Emerging evidence from closely controlled trials in Hertfordshire indicate that help may be at hand. It appears that the impact of bad footballing news is significantly reduced when your average TLF is allowed access to a help yourself lunch buffet at a 4 star hotel. Distracted by the smorgasbord of unlimited savoury delights, the news that her team has gone behind AGAIN is greeted with no more than a brief shrug before a return to the cold table for a small smoked salmon top up.

And the ignominy and (subsequent stroppy swearing) of conceding from a set piece again, having got it back to level pegging, is easily avoided by shoving a TLF in the direction of the pudding buffet. Several times. Unlimited crime brûlée access seemed to have a particularly successful effect on last week’s trial participant.

Prepare for a sugar rush

Prepare for a sugar rush

Interestingly the early results do also suggest that the impact can go too far, with a late equaliser for the Mighty Saints, generating not even a smidgen of celebration when the experimental TLF is sitting in its own hot tub.

Clearly this is ground breaking therapy, with significant benefits for TLF stress levels and those sharing their environment, but further more comprehensive testing is required to ensure that these results weren’t a one off. Obviously such intellectual research doesn’t come cheap so all donations to this worthwhile cause are welcome.

Dr Fox

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Her light materials

Conspicuous by blogging absence after various unreasonable work and life demands, and inspired by current Philip Pullman mania, TLF presents a trilogy of blogs and a prequel. Well ‘prequel’ really means the blog IOU the most. I’m trying to imply that I am topical as opposed to just plain old late…..

La Belle Matchday Magazine

So where were we? Ah yes. The FA Cup, with TLF making her official debut as a programme seller. There had been a previous appearance for last year’s game against Carlisle, but that was from the sub’s bench and involved a small transgression with regard to stock control. Clearly JJ had recognised that every penitent TLF deserves another chance. Or more likely no one else was agreeing to take on the prestigious gig that is ‘Official Match Day Magazine Seller to the Away Fans”. Largely because it isn’t. A prestigious gig, that it is.

Because apparently away fans never buy programmes and we were playing Boreham Wood, whose fans, according to some crueller Saints fans than I, can’t read anyway. And yes their daemons are all probably stoats, weasels and hyenas too. Still TLF likes a challenge, plus Julie was working the away turnstile so there would be topnotch company to ward off the boredom when my programmes didn’t sell like hot cakes. Although if i am honest I generally prefer a cake that is cold.

Important pre-match turnstile operator's briefing

Important pre-match turnstile operator’s briefing

Early signs were promising as three programmes flew off the shelves before the turnstiles were even open. Admittedly the purchasers were me, Julie and the bloke from the BBC. “Sorry mate I know you are media but it’s more than my job’s worth to be handing out freebies…”, but a sale is a sale. And once the turnstiles were open it seems that TLF can sell ice the Eskimos. The secret really is to make it up – imply the programme will be worth a small fortune once they are at Wemberlee (disloyal but hey this is the cutting edge of retail), tell them Julie and I wrote most of it under various nom de plumes and if someone mishears TLF’s claim of “it contains a right good read”, thinking TLF has said, “it contains some right good weed”, don’t disabuse them of the notion. And before you know it, BOSH 50 programmes are all gone and TLF followed the ‘Official Match Day Magazine Seller to the Away Fans’ protocol to the letter.

Sadly successful programme sales were as good as it got that day. Well that and being able to finish your beer in the bar and watch the game because the game was on the TELLY. Red button admittedly, but telly is telly. I don’t think The ‘Wood needed a dodgy penalty to beat St Albans but that is what they got and before you knew it the magic of the cup had disappeared like the proverbial rabbit in the hat for another year.

Three beautiful ladies and a TLF*
*(Hatboy you are toast)

Hungerford were in town and the girlz were in the hood. Well it was cold and they had all chosen their coats wisely……
Somehow TLF had convinced work colleagues Sarah and Jess and Jess’s mate Megan to make escape the Big Smoke and experience the myriad of delights that Clarence Park has to offer. The one delight TLF wasn’t totally sure was an essential match day experience was lunch Chez Burger Van. Not that their offerings aren’t top dollar – their chips are particularly fine – but if you don’t like bacon, beef burger or sausage then it’s all a bit limited. Pub lunch then. Admittedly a pub that was having a minor kitchen meltdown but when the food did arrive, sort of in shifts, it was very good. Time was ticking on and so a taxi was next on the menu. TLF was shocked that the driver asked us for money when we arrived at the Ground as I would have thought our non-stop tales of excess inebriation and vomiting were payment in themselves.

Any fule kno that there was only ever one kind of welcome that the new posse were going to experience at Clarence Park and that was of course a warm, witty and friendly one. Sadly no goals, but each visitor took away a special memory – Jess won the wine in the raffle, Megan took a bruise home having taken a stray football to the thigh (TLF has never managed that!) and Sarah achieved legendary status as she managed to send flying across the clubhouse not only a post-match bag of crisps but also a whole pint of Stella. #Quality.

First game and she wins in the rafflle. It's an outrage.

First game and she wins in the rafflle. It’s an outrage.

Hatboy, 3 lovely ladies and TLF.....

Hatboy, 3 lovely ladies and TLF…..


TLF meanwhile, armed with the insight that only six pints of lager can bring, decided to impart some wisdom to manager, Ian Allison, explaining that if he only abandons the matchday tracksuit and returns to the proper suit and brown brogues, results will dramatically improve. He’s a patient and decent man that Ian Allison.

Farewell to a Fox

When TLF wasn’t busy advising our manager on matters sartorial or finding a cloth for the small Stella lake that Sarah had created, she was busy meeting yet another member of the Norwegian branch of the SACFC supporters club. But this was one was special. Mind you they are all special. And I mean the good kind of special. Anyway the point is that back in the 70s this Norwegian had played against the Lesta City legends that were Keith Weller and Frank Worthington during a pre-season Lesta tour to Norway. There he was, a man who shared a pitch with my childhood heroes, in the Mighty Saints club house, and I was saying ‘hello’. That might not mean much to those who weren’t in love with Jimmy Bloomfield’s wonderful Lesta team of that era but it would have meant a lot to Mike Brennan, close friend of Mr TLF, and proper Lesta fan who sadly left us during October. Mike, wish I could have told you that story and wish I could be lending you my season ticket and receiving your always witty post-match analysis via text. Much missed x

This man once graced the same field as Lesta legends, but without the Guinness

This man once graced the same field as Lesta legends, but without the Guinness


Mike and Mr TLF on our grand day out at Wemberlee, August 2015

Mike and Mr TLF on our grand day out at Wemberlee, August 2015

Ready, Welling and not Able

A few weeks ago an unwise man said to me that with the Mighty Saints sitting joint top of the league, ‘there was no way we wouldn’t make the play-offs.’ Since Satday’s defeat to Welling and with St Albans sitting in the last play-off place, with three teams breathing down our necks, he might want to revisit that statement. The performance was off, but worse than that, TLF was i/c a vehicle and therefore off the Stella. At the start of the second half, apart from being one nil down, TLF was nursing a cup of tea while standing with Hat Boy who was festooned with a pint. Just plain wrong.

On current Saints form there is no such thing as a lucky TLF pint but I feel it is my duty to never be teetotal at Clarence Park again.

Pullman Fox

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Polysemy…

….the capacity for a word or phrase to have many meanings.

Like, ‘woman up’.

That’s what Mr TLF said when I responded in a less than confident manner to our erstwhile programme editor’s invitation to join his team for the SBYS non-league football quiz. Something to do with what TLF knows about non-league football being able to fit on, not the back of a packet of bacon fries, but on the back of a single bacon fry. Actually I’m not sure if a bacon fry has a back and a front?

Anyway. The point is when Mr TLF said that phrase, he meant, “I think you should attend a quiz during daylight hours, that doesn’t intrude too much on our weekend and you will be home relatively sober and at a reasonable hour.”

Whereas TLF thought he meant, “Feel free to attend a quiz that starts at 7.30pm on Satday night, do not hold back on the booze, make sure you attend post quiz drinks in The Crown and then roll home about half past midnight. Oh and if you can do a comedy walk where you grab the door handle of your taxi but your legs keep going then even better.”

And it’s not even like we won. There was no magnificent quiz victory to celebrate, just a mild hangover to nurse from the slightly chilly environs of what the French probably don’t call ‘la maison de la chien’, which is where TLF spent a good part of Sunday, accompanied by the bitter sting of defeat and a recognition that I had let my team captain down.

His team, Lenny Piper’s Magic Underpants, was of course up against it from the start. A debut from a less than confident and less than knowledgeable TLF, an untested formation, and no pre-match team talk. Even with star performer Barry Hilliard on side, he was always going to have a problem.

But perhaps not quite as much of a problem as our Quiz Meister, who had foolishly implied in some pre-quiz bantz that the SBYS meeting minutes might be of questionable accuracy. These are of course penned by my own paw and the phrase, “IF, you can trust the minutes…” is one you say at your peril and TLF did of course not let such a slight go, raining much abuse in the direction of the man with the question sheets. But of course he who wrote the questions, has the last laugh…well until the music round.

Our very own Jeremy Paxman in action

Our very own Jeremy Paxman in action

Apart from an unhealthy obsession with Kidderminster Harriers, it was a brilliantly researched (if impossible for us ignorant TLFs) and brilliantly delivered quiz and hats off to Mr Michael Hill for an excellent evening. Mind you if he questions my minutes again, there’ll be trouble.

Not letting it go Fox

Quiz stats
Attendance: Six happy teams, of varying numbers
Final score: I think we finished fourth but to be honest it was a blur by then.
Questions answered correctly by TLF: About six and five of those were celebrity photos.
Questions where TLF is embarrassed to have got it wrong: Two. I didn’t recognise Ken Loach and then the one where I really thought the answer was Coalville Town but I didn’t like to overrule anyone. Yes, that Coalville Town, the one I lived in for the first 18 years of my life.
Re-fuelling: several packets crisp and bacon fries
Liquid nutrition: hmm Quite a lot of Stella and then quite a lot of Amstel. Wouldn’t like to put a number on it but the sum of TLF pints consumed definitely exceeded the sum of TLF correct answers

Championes!

Championes!

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28 days later

Well that’s accurate on the numerical front.
It was 28 days since TLF had last set paw in a football ground. But there ended the similarity to the film. TLF didn’t wake up on an operating table, although illness was in the air, as TLF had caught Mr TLF’s bout of man flu, which he had ‘wittily’ renamed lady sniffles.
Nor were there any zombies, although in the second half of the game it did feel like some of the Saints players were trying to channel their inner Zombie.

In addition to the lady sniffles, there was a touch of cup fever. Third Qualifying round of the FA Cup fever to be precise, with the first round PROPER within sniffing distance (well I did have a cold). And as mentioned in previous weeks, Bridport, 2 whole leagues below the mighty Saints were in town.

Bridport and its surrounding areas (west Bexington, West Bay), apart from being where our Dorset friends live, is also home to the ITV drama Broadchurch. And while no one died in a mysterious fashion during the game, we did almost die of embarrassment as a steady first half Saints performance gave way to second half where the Saints seemed to be almost as generous as Mr TLF was with his man flu. If David Tenant had been stomping around the terraces in a moody fashion, then that would have been a welcome distraction, particularly when Bridport scored, but Saints held on.

Not the prettiest performance but the reality is that the Mighty Saints are in the fourth qualifying round. Not sure we were all together grateful to the draw which handed us a local derby against Boreham Wood, a league above us and the club where our current gaffer spent over seven years in charge.
The plot thickens.

Feverish Fox

Math stats
St Albans 2 Bridport 1
Attendance: 683
Gambling: 10 losing raffle tickets. I think it is a fix
Liquid refreshment: Pint Amstel. No sadly the club bar isn’t stocking TLF’s favourite tipple, this was courtesy of the Mermaid. One pint Stella.
Snackage: minority share in a tray of chips.

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Back to work? Time for a to do list

Unlike back to skool to do lists, this didn’t involve sewing name tapes into gym kit, buffing up the old protractor and sharpening pencils (do they even use pencils any more the yoof?). This list was all about eking out max value for the last few days of the holiday before as it was charmingly put, yours truly ‘stopped getting under [Mr TLF’s] feet’:

1. Clay pigeon shooting lesson with the most excellent Julian. Look out Mr TLF I am getting better!
2. Two final late and boozy lunches (these did not happen before items 1 or 4 I promise)
3. Sit through worst film ever seen. Critics, award winners and the box office might have loved The Revenant, the TLFs do not. But being stubborn once a film starts we see it through to the bitter end.
4. Test drive a second hand shotgun
5. Sulk at thought of impending return to work
6. Play hunt the work pass. I don’t get it. During any holiday, the work clothes don’t stray from the wardrobe and the work bag knows it’s place. But the work pass; always AWOL (yes I know putting it with my work bag should be the solution but let me tell you it doesn’t stay there)
7. Studiously ignore any Lesta game on telly in belief that this is lucky and then sulk at Mr TLF when he insists on switching the telly on because the game is exciting. I don’t WANT exciting. I want 3 points!
8. In the case of a certain Mr TLF be a disloyal git and have a cheeky double on West Ham and Lesta to lose
9. Commit to a healthier lifestyle after two weeks of excess, because as we all know going back to work doesn’t mean wine and chocolate become even more essential
10. Buy a second hand shot gun

Please note items 8 and 10 are in no way related.

Employee Fox

The beer for the City Fox

The beer for the City Fox

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Los vacaciones parte dos

Week two of TLF’s epic holiday and it’s a trip to Dorset. Not quite Seville but just as chilled (about 20 degrees chillier in fact) and with continuing good food, company and excess of booze. Sadly this bit of the world does make a significant contribution to the FFZ quality (a contradiction in terms if ever I heard one) of the holiday. These guys wouldn’t hold any truck with an outdoor big screen, whether it was showing football nor is there any chance of a cheeky bit of Five Live. Instead TLF is 100% reliant on very dodgy wifi which means utter silenzi until full time, when the Mighty Saints whatsapp updates, from three different sources, all come through in one spectacular social media car crash. Which it turns out is a not inaccurate description of the Mighty Saints FA Cup game that sees a 2-0 lead against a Cambridge side, several leagues below us, thrown away, with the game finishing 3-3.

The replay impinged on the football free holiday season and although Mr TLF indicated that permission to attend might be granted it was said in a way which even a football hungry TLF could work out meant,”but if you do choose to interrupt our holiday together with an away trip to an FA Cup qualifying round replay, you’ll never hear the end of it.”

Sans TLF, the Mighty Saints successfully negotiated the replay and in an almost twist of fate will face Bridport Town in the next round. ‘Fate’ because that’s the home town of our Dorset friends and ‘almost’ because as any fule kno, they really won’t care and probably don’t know that Bridport has a football team. Still I’ve got a a week to try and spark a bit of friendly rivalry and bantz (as I believe the young people call it).

Meanwhile back in Dorset TLF was getting to grips with some craft lager. It tastes really good and I am sure that it is so special that angel’s wings were involved in its brewing but TLF doesn’t ever want to read again a label on a bottle that suggests the lager in question complements “pork chops, crab asparagus and a vinaigrette green salad.” I know I’m on holiday but I’ve not gone soft.

South West TLF

The sun goes down on a football free Dorset

The sun goes down on a football free Dorset

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The road not taken

The last time TLF took two consecutive weeks holiday from work (more commonly known as a fortnight off so I am reliably told) John Major was Prime Minister, there was no such thing as Facebook (more of THAT anon) and the Spice Girls were the next big thing. How the last two decades have swung by without this phenomenon occurring TLF is not entirely sure. Workaholic? (hardly). Irreplaceable? (only in my dreams). Control freak? (definitely possible). OR just not very organised.

Strangely after twenty years it hasn’t proved that hard to get into the swing of not doing any work for a whole TEN days. More challenging is the absence of live football, with the Barca-Juve game on a big screen at a tapas bar with a big screen, that I might have engineered a visit to, not really counting. Although the cheap booze, fantastic food and 37 degree temperature helped ease TLF’s FFZ pain. (And of course Mr TLF’s company…just in case he reads this). Well that and the suitably entertaining Mighty Saints match updates from Julie and Davy Mac, made all the sweeter by the fact that it was clearly raining cats and dogs of ginormous proportions, for most of the games TLF missed.

Football on the big screen? Who'd have thought it....

Football on the big screen? Who’d have thought it….


Seville I hear you say? Indeed, the TLFs were back where the rain stays mainly on the plain, not on account of some weirdo pilgrimage back to the last place Claudio Ranieri managed Lesta City, but because we were pretty sure there was more to see.

And the largest city in the autonomous community of Andalusia (FACT!) did not let the TLFs down, with a whole smorgasbord of tapas bars, pretty streets and architecture, that were previously undiscovered; and all because they were a right turn out of February’s hotel not a left. I don’t like to mangle a poet but two roads make all the difference.

I could get used to this holiday lark.
EVF (En vacances Fox)

Who's that fine looking chap in the natty hat?

Who’s that fine looking chap in the natty hat?


Oh. It's him

Oh. It’s him

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In memoriam

For St Albans City FC the last week was about only one man; Clive Churchhouse, long-time, committed volunteer, who died in a tragic accident at the ground during the summer. The game against Gloucester City was dedicated to Clive and saw the home end being renamed the Clive Churchhouse Terrace with Clive’s family in attendance as guests of the club. And the following Tuesday those connected with the club were guests of Clive’s family at his funeral. I’m not sure if ‘good’ is the most apt word to describe a funeral, but if ‘good’ is shorthand for poignant, insightful, gently witty and touching, then Clive’s was most definitely a good one.

Clive was the man who, amongst the many things he did for the club, sold the golden goal tickets that always get mentioned in TLF’s match stats. Buying them now doesn’t feel quite the same.

Back in 2013/14, TLF’s first season as TLF, I wrote a blog describing the many volunteers I encountered between turnstile and bar, all of whom wanted to part TLF from her cash. Clive was one of them and at the time, I had this to say,

“At this point I think my moolah is safe. Trouble is that Clive, golden goal salesman supreme has an innate ability to not only hear a pound coin at 20 paces, but also spot a sucker with an open wallet and bear down on them with a serious turn of speed and focus. Unlike raffle ticket and programme sellers who tend to be a bit more static pre-match, Clive is on the move, so you can run but you can’t hide. And soon enough. BOSH! The two pound coin and the foolish fox are soon parted.”

It was a privilege to know Clive, albeit fleetingly, and it was a privilege to be able to attend his funeral and to hear so much about his life by those who knew him best.
Good night good sir.
TLF

There are no words

There are no words

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Brains

No not the bespectacled Thunderbird
Nor Wales’s biggest brewer and hospitality company.

Noooo, TLF is talking the little grey cells, the old cerebrum, or, in a nod to Mr TLF’s roots, the watch and chain.

That essential matter between the ears, which when used correctly can ensure both a sneaky bank holiday football trip AND domestic brownie points as you eschew (BOOM!) a home game for some quality time a deux. Technically all hope of football attendance had long been abandoned, as the TLFs were off to Dorset, but there was a late postponement by Mr TLF who had concluded that spending hours in traffic jams there and back would not constitute bank holiday ‘fun’.

“Agreed, “ said TLF. “We could do [insert relationship-affirming bank holiday activities of choice here] and then [sotto voce] I could go to football on Monday.” Mr TLF has of course come across these tactics before and queries whether this proposal represents a bank holiday infringement. TLF’s brainpower of course is now working overtime, and counters with the, “well if we had gone away we would have been just sitting in a traffic jam on the M25 on Monday afternoon so technically it would have been dead time anyway.” You can’t argue with TLF logic like that.

“Besides, it’s Braintree. It’s a no brainer.” It’s a low blow but a bad pun, in TLF’s experience, usually wins the day.

So an away day pass has been granted, now just to sort the travel. But possibly not on the train, the three and a half hour journey (each way), with four changes, not being the most attractive excursion that TLF has ever contemplated. Fortunately there is a knight in shining armour or rather Davy Mac, with his seven seater.

And so on a sunny day TLF joins her traveling companies (aforementioned driver, HatBoy, Knocky, Duncan and Colin) for a cross country trip to the Amlin Stadium, home to Braintree Town FC.
Before we are even at the end of TLF’s street the TLF brain has to engage in some serious activity. In a brief tussle the neocortex (employing a ‘it’s a skool nite you don’t drink on a skool nite formation) is rapidly overcome by the limbic brain (“the lager HatBoy is proffering is ice cold, it’s a holiday and refusal often offends” tactic is always superior). And that way the TLF Willpower Cup is won.

Braintree is not what you call a pretty ground, and their clubhouse is not one of the flashest TLF’s paws have ever stepped foot in (‘eh?) but the sun was out, there was draft Stella, bacon fries, the bar staff were plentiful and friendly and ¾ of the Saintettes in attendance, and. In fact the only snag was the slightly disappointing performance and the end of the Mighty Saints’ unbeaten record this season came to an inglorious end; although apt that the Braintree goal was from a header.

The final intellectual challenge of the day relates to the attendance figure, which we are told is 706, something that the sun kissed Saints fans are not buying. In the interests of accuracy, TLF employs the neo-cortex in some good old fashion counting. Looks like about 480 to TLF; unless there were 226 hiding in the clubhouse.

TLFs Good at counting. Pants at willpower.
Poirot Fox

Match Stats
Braintree Town Saints 0
Official attendance: 706 (HA!)
Refreshments: 1 Carling (can), 2.5 Stellas, bacon fries and a bacon cob.
Unsuccessful sporting investments: £1

TLF's head. Emotional brain not to scale.

TLF’s head. Emotional brain not to scale.

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Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

Throughout the centuries those who are are about to depart, do battle, go on an adventure or are saying a farewell forever, have been sent on their way with words of love and luck in speeches, poetry and song; I give you:
The meister that is Mr William Shakespeare
“Whether we shall meet again I know not
Therefore our everlasting farewell take”

CP Cavafy
“Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.”

Alfred Lord Tennyson (ALT)
“Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The surrounding furrows.”

Dame Vera Lyn
“We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when”

Foreigner
“If you leave me know
You’ll take away the biggest part of me
Oooooooooh No
Baby please don’t go”

Admittedly, last Satday TLF wasn’t off to battle or anything so dramatic, although East Midlands Trains’ insistence on a short carriage formation for the over subscribed services that take TLF to the Void results in a journey that isn’t for the faint hearted. TLF’s recommended battle formation is:
elbows out, an emphasis on the women element of ‘women and children first’, grab the seat in the vestibule and swig aggressively from a can of Stella to avoid conversation or any suggestion you should give your seat up for anyone less fortunate than yourself.

On this particular Satday, there was Mr TLF, waving a white hankie, and in true literary tradition, wishing those plucky Foxes the very best of British and hoping that TLF had a splendid journey. Or as he put it

“Effing go to football and stop tidying my kitchen.”

And off, TLF did eff.

Over the years the journey has become tedious; previous domestic arrangements had always left TLF spoilt with short journeys or at the very least fast and direct journeys with no changing at the uninspiring Luton Airport Parkway with ongoing trains limited to once an hour. And of course attendance at a Mighty Saints game is a mere 30 minute walk away. SPOILT ROTTEN.

But once TLF arrives the high dudgeon does lift, as it is hard not to be sentimental about walking a route you have done for over twenty years, having a beer with good folk you got to know on our European adventure and renewing friendships with the lovely family who sit in front of you (let’s gloss over the two dickheads in our row). And all of a sudden that journey doesn’t seem so bad.

And it seems a totally worthwhile journey when your team take the lead in the first minute and never look like losing.

The return journey is technically as tedious as the outward, but TLF is on this occasion oblivious.

TLF is back at the scene of the ‘kitchen-cleaning-crime’ by 7pm and is greeted by a Mr TLF who has cooked the bestest leg of lamb ever.

…..Perhaps TLF should eff off to football even more often.

Explorer Fox

Didn't quite see this bit of Leicestershire

Didn’t quite see this bit of Leicestershire

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