Thinking of childhood days, I guess that most people have similar experiences to any that I can conjure up from my memory, but there are some that just really stand out. I know that I hated fishing, even had a rod bought for me on my tenth birthday (or close to it anyway) which was opened up early for a change so that I would be able to go fishing with my brother and stepdad the next day. I did not enjoy the experience of fishing one iota, even with two or three more attempts over the next few weeks!! Probably explains why my teenage years never included this utterly boring pastime, even when other lads asked me if I wanted to go. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being out and about just like any kid. I just was not picking up a fishing rod and taking part in what I considered such an inane activity, plus I felt sorry for the fish! Not even sure what actually happened to the rod in the end, that’s how much notice I took of anything to do with fishing.
Now football is a very different matter and remained a constant; me and my brother Stuart were always playing the National Sport it seemed, with one group of lads or another. Some really marathon games too, that on occasion would have twenty a side and go on for hours! We even used to have someone from each side as referees because we all wanted to play! Oh the endless energy of youth. If there was not one of these epic games being played, then three or four of us would engage in a game of SPOT (not sure who made it up). A bit like footie squash is the best way that I can think of to describe this game. Two players and upwards would play and the aim basically was to kick the ball in turn at a pre-determined wall with only one kick each. If you missed the wall then you would get an S, until you built up the word SPOT. When Spot was accumulated then that player was out. The eventual winner was the one that was left. We were always playing footie in those days, or some form of it anyway, and I think that tendons would probably tear if I tried to even toe-punt a ball now, no matter how much I might want to! We even made our own unofficial league between different roads, closes and streets and one lad, Butler, even kept a tally of the games, written as a league table, so we could have our own championship winners! My position was usually defence or in goal. Defender was my primary position, but we were often short of a goalie, as most lads saw themselves as strikers, so I was quite ready to step up and attempt to thwart these prima donnas!
Another pastime was taking the family Basset Hound, Pokey, out for walks. At least it got us out of the house and out from underneath the stepfather’s feet, he was a rather domineering type to say the least. It did not take much to upset him, even if you had done nothing wrong. Of course Stu and I being popular lads, would often bump into other kids that we knew and we would have the proverbial football with us. We always seemed able to find decent leather footballs from somewhere. Amazing what bargains can be had from jumble sales, hard pushed to find any these days, but we were brought up on them. Pokey was quite a talented footballer too in his own way, so with whatever football that happened to be in use at the time, these trips too would see Pokey getting involved. Short dumpy legs and flapping ears like wings, it looked as if he was going to take off sometimes when he rushed towards you for the ball! If you did not let him have the ball for too long a period though, he had his own professional foul which was to start nipping at your ankles! He obviously did not get the concept of yellow cards or fair play!
Our Stepfather was an immense TV addict. It wasn’t that he followed that much, although the family had to suffer all the soaps, it was just that he always had the telly on. There was not much democracy in this though as we all had to watch whatever it was that he had put on, so Football Focus was not often on unless he was out, or in bed. Stu and I did manage to win a small coup once though, when we expressed a desire to watch The Young Ones, there were some times when we didn’t play footie! I cannot remember what day it was on, except it was definitely a school night, but after just two or three weeks of watching, this became a regular programme with even our Stepdad viewing. Mum thought it was quite inane rubbish so would read a book. This programme even managed to take precedence over the news, which was usually one of the essential programmes he insisted on watching! I am sure that he secretly enjoyed it (as was Stu), but there was never any frank confession forthcoming, so we just thanked heaven for small mercies. He just conceded that we should be able to watch a few things of our choice as after all, we were becoming young adults (apparently). This coup still did not get that much football put on the telly though, that would have to be listened to on the radio in our room! Apart from cup final day that is, but everyone watched that every May when it was the end of the season, didn’t they?