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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
Editorials:
Hot Ticket Blue Moves
By Anthony Clarke
 
Satisfied with my choice of seats for the main event, I turned back to work. Another seamless internet transaction executed. I looked forward to sharing the Upper Rous experience with the usual endearing bunch, the likes of: Clive Getimoff; Smutty Chris and his lovely daughter; and Joan of the half-time chocolate bars, with chunky husband John behind. We were all going to be back for our future.

In the Carling Cup. Oh yes, Watford against Portsmouth was all set to be another of Vicarage Road's special nights.

I thought back to the previous Friday. It could not have been more different: internet melt down and a comet's tail of a phone queue. Watford FC's entire corpus of baggy rumped season ticket holders had sat on the club's spanking new ticketing site and 0870 number with predictable consequences.

Odd. Apparently Sir Elton John is a bigger draw than 'Arry Redknapp's Premiership flotsam.

I'd received my application pack, complete with personal message from Graham Simpson a few days earlier and, initially, had decided to pass up the opportunity. I had been a fan during Sir Elt's early years, when he had much of his own hair and a pure voice with consonant rich delivery. But three decades of well chronicled addictions, predilictions and illnesses have taken their toll so that, in 2004, he sounds much like his old mucker Rod Stewart; with Rod the Mod in desperate need of some prune juice: all vowel and no movement. 'Peach Tree Road', Elt's latest offering, might as well be called 'Parched Old Crow.'

My views, however, were irrelevant, and any resistance futile; the old girl wanted to go.

7.55am Friday
So here I am, fingers poised and Earl Grey steaming by my side. I had logged onto the ticket office site the night before (neat and clean design by the way, Watford colours and a minimalist pleasure after the main site's clutter). I fine tuned one or two details while I was there: username SupremeBeing; password EasyPeasy.

7.59am
Log in, casually and with a knowing nod from the virtual doorman.
Select match (match?): Elton John. A dainty click of the mouse.
Choose seats. A blocked map of the ground. Simple.
8.15am
Casual. Hah! Dainty? Simple? All are now alien concepts as I am minded to change my password to something like GrrrrmSimpson. Not that I'm able to, the "by far the most efficient and effective way to book tickets" (Simpson) says that there are no seats available in any part of the ground. A phone is blu-tacked to my ear as I fall back on the equally useless plan B.

8.20am
The emails, and the rumours, are sidling in. The brotherhood of the net stops bickering and bathes in mutual frustration. Though two fellow travellers have managed to get tickets in front of the stage. This is no comfort at all. As John Cleese once said: "It's not the despair, it's the hope I can't stand."

8.35am
I have established a pleasing rhythm of quick-dial/quickkey/ quick-brew but any admiration for the elegance of my operation is tempered by a complete absence of tickets.

8.36am
The old girl is leaving for the laissez-faire comforts of her office. I summon up a tender parting in my considered yet witty manner: "This is all your fault. Cow."

9.00am
My pleasing rhythm of engaged tones (I'm not even the bag trolley on the end of the comet's tail) and the internet equivalent of a dead salmon leaping upstream to breed has gone on long enough. I decide to get some work done instead.

9.31am
Working (kind of). An email comes through, someone has managed to get two more tickets the same b*****d that got two earlier suggests trying again. Helpful, this chap. Hateful too.

11.00am
Why did I succumb to the temptation? Another hour and a half of my cursed rhythm method has allowed me to book the same pair of tickets many, many times over; but not actually pay for them. When I am not being bumped off the site, the credit card company seems to have far better things to do than take my money.

11.10am
Success. Casual, dainty, simple success. Two tickets in the front row of the Upper Rous. I'm your boy now Elt.

And so I settled down to work again, well what passes for work on a Friday morning. Stories were still coming in; one chap had strolled down the Occupation Road and booked his tickets in person (plan C). Another reminisced on the great ticket queues of yesteryear, the ones where lines of the thermos-sharing unwashed stretched from the top of the allotments to a service station near Oxford.

Others told of calls from senior personnel at the Club. They were clearly all hands to the pump trying to sort out the problems. That's my very own peachy Watford, I thought. Changed password to RosyGlow.

Yet another correspondent outlined the heirarchy of Elt's ticket distribution (his fan club, Watford FC staff, Sponsors' staff and so on). Password set to Trotsky04; ice pick poised menacingly over keyboard.

Later in the day I had a thought.

4.50pm
I check my credit card web site. There are 2,605.49 in pending transactions. I know about the 5.49 (a tendency to the impulse purchase when in the vicinity of American Hard Gums) but what of the 2,600? That's a lot of money for two tickets or very reasonable for 26 tickets, even if they do all bear the same seat numbers. The tout in me rears up, I'll sell the lot of them and let the stewards clear up the mess while I'm in the Maldives.

I should have been worried but I felt pleasantly numb. I knew it would all be sorted out, even if my capacity to buy Hard Gums would be curtailed in the meantime. I had entered a serene state, one where I was smelling of 2,600 worth of roses. Barely a bed for Sir Elt, but an enchanted garden of dreams for the old girl.

5.50pm
The official web site has an unfortunately-timed photograph of staff milling around in a blaze of displacement activity; not a pump to be seen, still less any hands on it. I call the ticket office.

The phone is answered immediately. I speak to a helpful chap who says someone will call me back.

The Club did call later in the evening with a full apology and details about the cancellation of the pending transactions. It wasn't Graham Simpson on the line, but I was content. The club and my money were in good hands.

7.15am Tuesday
I have been called by the credit card company. They confirm that the bad transactions have gone. Meanwhile, the Portsmouth and Elt tickets are in the post. Dear Earl Grey is still by my side and has just offered me a Hard Gum. Bliss.

Footnote
Over the weekend the old girl indulged in a rare bout of preening in front of her family. Sadly she was crushed.
Old Girl: "We've got really good seats for the Elton John concert at Watford, which only we can get cos Anthony's a season ticket holder and a man to be reckoned with down the Occupation Road."
Sister: "Oh we're going to that, got our tickets last week." (Horrid daughter is bestest friend of a player's little darling).
Brother: "Oh we're going to that, got our tickets last year." (Next door neighbour is a floodlight or something).
Brother in Law: "Oh we're going with Elton." (Exceedingly Senior big nob for the event sponsors).

We soon recovered our equilibrium, however. None of these freeloaders would be around to get Joan's half time chocolates at the Portsmouth match. It pays to know your priorities in this world.

(19/11/04)