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THIS AND THAT(Continued)


A Childhood Saturday

It's Saturday morning, I awake early, it's winter, this afternoon there is a match I am sixpence short of the admission fee. Reluctantly I get up and consider my options. I can help my dad but he is unreliable, if we agree a price for my help he is likely to defer my payment or forget it altogether because he needs the money to impress his mates down the Red Lion. I can help my uncle with the horses, "riding out" this might get me the use of his Masters, Lord Belstead's, seasons tickets, there again it might not and I do really want to see this match. I can help my grandad a strict old bugger according to my mum but fair. He works as a gardener at the "Big House" and he has two allotments. One together with a bit of the land at the big house garden he cultivates to provide food for nanna and himself, the other allotment he uses to supply plants and cut flowers for the posh. Saturday morning he (we) sell his plants and flowers. grandad is my hero. Not only does he have these two related jobs he also mends clocks and watches and now, with hindsight, I realise how difficult this was with only oil lamps to light their terrace house. No wonder his eyes were always rummy and blood shot. But the clocks were for his beer and baccy and the odd treat for my nan. No clocks to mend meant no beer, no baccy and no odd treats but this didn?t happen very often.

I choose to help grandad and put up with dad's moaning. I daren't tell him if he was honest in his dealings I might help him but there again I probably wouldn't. No way could dad break off and make me a pop gun from a bit of Elder and a ramrod made of apple wood or a catapult or a spud gun. Nor would he ever dream of doing so.

I worked hard for grandad and earn the money I need plus a bit 'cos I worked really well.

Home to lunch. Saturday in winter it was steak and kidney pud or toad in the hole. Much to his annoyance we didn't wait for dad to get back from the pub and by two o'clock I was ready to set out.

Down the road passed the Red Lion looking toward the railway arch where Mick Burns the goalkeeper lives. Mr Burns is a local hero 'cos not only does he play for the "Town" he won an FA cup final medal with Preston North End and what is more his allotment is next but one along from my dad's. Dad calls it his allotment but as he is in the RAF mum looks after it most of the time but he goes down there when he is on leave. Grandad offered to get him an allotment where he has got his, not only is the soil better but grandad would help to tend it when dad was away. But dad turned it down, the way home would not go anywhere near the Red Lion so soil quality and help counted for nothing.

Along the road towards the town and then turn off down Riverside Road and along the river passed the tannery with its bright red ditch and then a decision to go along the road or under the bridge and continue along the river. Decision made under the bridge and along by the river. It is here I make a disturbing discovery I have not got a tennis ball in my pocket.

Too late to do anything about it I continue on my way, pay at the turnstile and enter the ground with the knowledge that if the game is boring I can't go to the practice pitch with my tennis ball 'cos it is at home in the bedroom.

My heroes Bill Jennings, Ray Warnes, Willies Jones and of course Mick Burns all to be worshipped on a Saturday afternoon. And come five o'clock either heavy hearted or elated it is the homeward path I tread. And this worshipped team? They were in the First Division? No, They were in the Second Division? No. They were actually in the Third Division (South) but in those days it was very much a local game played by full times professionals on 8 to 10 per week.

I used to walk along the river to the ground with a younger lad who later became very important and contributed much to the British Theatre but that is another story.


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