The journey to the Garden of Eden (h/t: Fzk) began in a snowstorm. A heavy, wet, unfluffily dreary one - if ever snow could fall in stereotypical English fashion, this was it. We had gotten soaked the day before when an unmarked waterfall straight above Oxford was opened (twice!), but the presence of the extra slippy stuff gave fresh cause for concern. Flashing on potential scenes of an M40 Donner Party, we slowly made our way to the coach station.
Of course my pilgrimage to Stamford Bridge began long before that white and wet Sunday morning; in fact, it all started with a move to America, the land of plenty. Plenty of TV, computers, and Internet that is - all of which eventually came to be filled with Marcel Desailly, Gianfranco Zola, Dennis Wise, Roberto Di Matteo, and Chelsea Football Club at ever greater saturation rates. It's a bit of a shame that it's taken me the better part of the next two decades to finally be able to properly time, finance, and appreciate in person a Chelsea match at The Bridge, but it was well worth the wait.
Halfway to London, the snow turned to rain, although my slight unease at the seemingly too tall and unsteady double-decker screaming down the motorway did not let up until we slowed to a crawl around Hyde Park. Since I had a flight out the very next morning, early, I had a booked a hotel in Gatwick rather than London and thus had to wait out the entire crawl to the coach's terminus at Victoria where I could leave my bag for the day.
Finally unburdened, I speed-walked - five layers under my jacket to combat the elements - to the nearest Tube station and hopped on the District Line to Fulham Broadway. Blue shirts, hats, and scarves were multiplying as we got closer to the stop: complaints were heard, David Luiz was discussed, somebody stepped on my toe, an older gentleman showed off the flask that he was planning on sneaking in.
Thanks to a schoolboy error about time zones and such, kick-off was actually an hour earlier than I had it mentally calendared yet there was still time for a few pints of London Pride and a chicken & mushroom pie. Compared to how expensive the rest of London is, the concessions in the bowels of the stadium were almost reasonable even.
Block 13 in the Matthew Harding Lower has a great view of one goal and a not so great view of the other. But it has a great atmosphere - although something not unique on this day, as I gather - and is home to many regulars and season ticket holders, two of whom were seated* on either side of me. After enduring a few sideways glances, we introduced ourselves via mutual song and it was good.
* my rough guess is that we were seated for a total of about two of the 90 minutes - so technically not persistently standing!
Guy-on-my-left, let's call him Guy, had the distinct honor of missing both goals on the day, the first one on account of traffic/delays, the second one on account of half-time drinks with Guy-on-my-right, let's call him Dude, taking too long. With Chelsea winning, Guy was not too disheartened - a clear case, if I've ever seen one, of not knowing what he's missed, for that bit of Eden Hazard magic happened RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR FACES. The Belgian was of course magnificent the whole day, and prompted many an Eden chant, including my favorite that's referenced at the top (let me hear you say YEAH) - easy, fun, and beyond fitting (no limit, you say?).
Guy was also accompanied by his Dad, a veteran of many matches, who was repeatedly impressed and enthralled by the wizardry and good football on display. His (relatively) quiet joy and often giddy smile that he tried to hide unsuccessfully would've melted your heart.
Dude, on my right, was a more boisterous negative type, especially after his half-time refreshments. His rather random rage at Kiwis and Winston Reid in particular was odd at best, while his frequent descent into "banter" at the West Ham fans got a bit old after a while. Dude was also not keen on Victor Moses, who, in all fairness, was a pale shadow in comparison to his attacking teammates.
A few rows down, there was Bald Man. Bald Man was a big fan of the Zigger Zagger, which he started three or four times along with a couple Carefrees. Other memorable bits included the catchy John Terry's won the Double (the Chelsea captain spent most of the match warming up, lapping up applause and abuse depending on which end he was "facing" and with which end he was facing it), the old faithful SUPERFrank, a few Demba Ba songs (later replaced by ironic calls for Fernando Torres), and the rather funny "Go on, DAVE!" shouts every time Cesar Azpilicueta touched the ball.
With all the songs and wonderful football action taking center stage, we had almost forgotten about The Interim One - quite literally not a single [fun] was given about him. Or perhaps he should thank Jussi Jaaskelainen. The West Ham goalkeeper had already drawn some of our ire with his constant shouting and gesturing (at teammates and officials), but that was before he snubbed Oscar. The torrent of jeers that was poured upon his sorry head would've made all the dots from his A's fall down, had they been there in the first place.
As Chelsea ran out the clock on what looked like a supremely comfortable, easy, and memorable victory from my end, we reflected that Blue is indeed the color and gave Frank Lampard one more round of applause (excellent timing on #200, I must selfishly say). On the way out there was still time for a peek at Peter Osgood's statue as well as a quick stop at the Megastore to fortify myself with an Official-Spend-Your-Moneys-Here-Blue-White-Bar-Scarf for my leisurely two-hour stroll down the Lamborghini- and Ferrari-lined Fulham and Brompton Roads, which led me back towards my train out to Gatwick.
What a day, what a day... Until next time!