Until the early 60s there was a direct railway line from Darlington to Penrith, 64 more-or-less straight miles in two-and-a-half scenic hours via Broomielaw, Barnard Castle, and Belah Viaduct.
That option no longer being available, the alternatives for the much-anticipated annual visit to Frenchfield are to take a roundabout train ride via Newcastle and Carlisle or to cadge a lift on the opposition charabanc.
Guisborough Town, ever-obliging, pick me up at the Sedbury layby near Scotch Corner, a place with the semi-permanent aroma of bacon butties and the invariable attendance of some large and overfed crows.
In truth, the hour westward over Stainmore isn’t so much a journey as a pilgrimage, a search for the holy grail that is a Cranston’s meat and potato pie. It’s thus somewhat disconcerting to learn from Penrith secretary Ian White that the local shop had sold out.- “I got you a steak and kidney instead,” he says.
Perhaps disappointment could have been better camoflauged. At any rate, Ian abandons other duties and heads for the nearest Cranston’s food hall to get meat and potato at source.
What a guy, what a club, what a league.
The fixture appears well balanced. Penrith have won their last three, five goals in two games from ace striker Martyn Coleman meaning that he comfortably overtakes the previous Blues scoring record held by Stephen Rigg.
Guisborough, trying valiantly to escape the third relegation place – if, indeed, that trapdoor will be operational – have won their last four.
At half-time it’s wind-affected, uneventful, goalless. After the interval, Guisibrough twice hit the bar, twice are awarded penalties – just one converted – and win 4-0.
All present will long remember the third, 17-year-old Louis Goldsack lobbing the goalkeeper whilst almost on the touchline. The celebration might long be remembered, too.
Guisborough may still have plenty to do, however, their remaining games against arch-rivals Marske United and champions-elect South Shields.
They leave for East Cleveland about 5 45pm, a happy return augmented by that residual steak and kidney pie. If not quite the feeding of the five thousand, it gets divided among a canny few.
I’m dropped off at a layby on the opposite side of the A66. For some reason many of the other passengers are equally eager to alight. I hadn’t realised they lived so near.