Writing from 1997

B12 injections 29.9.97.

I haven’t managed to get up early for some few mornings.  Today the
lasting image is of a very large complaining woman and an injection
and a half-crown piece.  I woke in the night with something on my mind
and I had lost it by this morning – something about riches and

If dreams are about self and the unconscious the very large
complaining woman is me.  But the person giving the injection is also
me.  Something is passing between the two parts of myself, something
almost involuntary and something that can be refused.  Both of these
“gifts” are of benefit, one obviously so.  One has to be inserted as
it won’t work otherwise.

It is difficult to take the dream much further.  There are
intra-psychic processes taking place.  Perhaps there is a “rescuer”
and a “victim”.  I am now aware of feeling tired.  Whilst making
coffee it strikes me that big fat ladies and half-crowns are
reminiscent of my big fat auntie Gladys who was benevolent rather than
complaining.  We met cousin Gordon in the week.

After coffee I begin wondering about women and the female part of
myself.  Something seems to be getting out of hand – an excess of
something.  There is an imbalance.  This comes as no surprise,
particularly as a family which I increasingly
recognise as doing a lot, maybe too much sometimes.  I worry that I
have taken on more than is necessary.  There is certainly no need to
do more.

Banana milk factory 15.10.97.

Several large stone buildings, with one right at at one end, needing a
code to be punched in.  Also need to sign in.  Sense of being there
before and yet the worker who let me in was grumpy.  there was no milk
available so they set the machine off.  Added liquids to it and then
it inflated and it began to move around with a crane on one side.  A
woman who offered to help.  Had to wait when others came.  Walked
around the rooms where there other products.  There until after time.
Wondered if this was alright.  Something about sponsorship to write a
poem.  A rugby match, I suspect is a different dream.

Given that dreams are about the unconscious, the factory is me.  Me
seems to be complex and a certain bit has difficult access, within
which there is creativity.  With a mix of people and things this
creation sets off, takes along time and in fact runs over time.

I have arrived at a fairly stable place as far as my intra-psychic
processes are concerned.  The actors are still the same, but they now
seem to be around all the time, coexisting – both/and.  The resulting
behaviour seems very much context dependent, as if there is little
choice.  The results are archaic left-overs from childhood or quiet
mildy depressed adult.  Just occaisionally there is a bubbly
spontaneous something, usually away from the house and with someone
who is interested in what I am doing and has an understanding of that.

Drawing sometimes helps – the images of these different bits often
tells a secret or two.  Today the mildy depressed adult, sitting
wisely in a chair looks to be in a wheelchair.  Non of the images have
faces, though they do have bodies.  The only free spirit is a raging
black thing, which keeps a small child in prison.  There is a gentle
bubbly thing, but the image below is contrived and not spontaneous –
is it really a mix of the others?


1953 – Willow Lane         17/7/98 mod13/10/00

“A corner terrace, with communal backyard and washouse, close to the
main Bradford road.  Two double bedrooms, inside toilet and bathroom.
One reception room and a living kitchen.”
An estate agent’s ad’ for the house where I first lived.  It stood at
one end of Willow Lane, the Bradford Road end.  Sounds like the
popular stand at a football match.  The street was quiet really.  A
big white horse walked up odd times, with a man.  Got a ride once.
Boney and hard and warm and soft.  Just to the bridge.  Dad said we
lived in Birkby, but I don’t think we did.  It was either Hillhouse or
Newtown.  A railway bridge marked the other end, and I suspect that
Birkby started just the other side of it.  It had a wall that held it
up like a triangle, or it kept the soil back.  Me and Stuart Gibson
used to slide down it and get holes in our trousers.  A man took a
picture of us once.  People came to live here in the 1880’s when they
stopped living over their work in town.  Most of the streets were
named after trees or bushes, which sadly contained no trees or bushes.
Willow Lane only had one side.  One long uneven and interrupted
terrace, from “The Slubbers Arms” all the way to the bridge.  The
other side was a wall stopping us from straying onto the railway.
Before the first war, the Midland Railway Company were going to build
a station in town with a big hotel, but only ever was a coal siding
for the gas-works.  Mum had to rush me down Bradford Road to see the
gas-works, Beaumont Street “flyer”, a small tank engine pulling coal
trucks across the streets at the bottom of town, lead by a man with a
red flag.
The land between the wall and the railway track was a wilderness.  We
never strayed onto it, we went there on purpose.  It was our
playground.  Elderflowers.  My big brother flew his first balsa-wood,
paper and glue plane there. Or rather he crashed it several times,
until it dawned on us that it didn’t work. My dad had a special pass
to cross the railway to get to our chicken-run.  We lived in
Hillhouse, but we kept chickens in Birkby.
The backyard neighboured with “The Engine Tavern”.  My dad said men
got drunk there, but that didn’t stop him from hopping over the wall
and touching the Rugby League Challenge Cup one Sunday night in 1953.
They were ardent supporters of Huddersfield Rugby League on Mum’s
side.  Come to think of it they were ardent supporters of most things
local or northern, except for Lancashire.  Cumberland was accepted
because some of our best players came from there.
In 1895, when the Northern Union broke away from The Rugby Football
Union, Edward, my grandad, was twenty years old.  His family came from
Shepley, six miles or so south of Huddersfield.  He died at sixty-four
in 1939, so I never met him.  When I played with a ball, Mum would
say, “Your grandad Addy’ve followed you all over, given ‘alf a
chance”.  My wife says it to our lad, only its moved up a generation
since we lost mum some two years ago.  He delivered coal for “The
Co-op” with Douglas Clark, one of the best known Cumbrians to play at
that time.  He even watched them train.  Maybe he went with his
work-mate.  Anyway the team before and after the first World War won
everything, so he followed a decent side.             Huddersfield then had a
bit of a lean spell until my dad and big brother started going in the
early fifties and we’ve won precious little since.  We used to call
them “Fartown”, after their ground.  They are now the “Giants”, part
of a large company owned by a newspaper man.  If grandad Addy came
down from heaven today, he’d spend a lot of time scratching his head
under his flat cap.
We had a street party in our kitchen in 1953.  We were the only
family with a television.  Grown-ups kept popping in to glimpse bits
of the Coronation while we sat round a table, eating.  Our kitchen
range was big, black and occupied most of one wall.  Next to it was
the sink in a cupboard.  Directly opposite, a window and our back door
overlooked a grassy communal yard and outside toilets.  The front door
opened straight onto the road, but we needed a flight of steps with
railings to get in the back.
I played, ate and got washed in that kitchen.  Granny Addy soothed my
earache with a glove warmed on the range fire.  Dad cut my hair in the
middle of it.  A chair on a square of newspapers, a set of mail-order
mechanical shears and the monthly “short back and sides”.  I didn’t
mind then, but as soon as I was old enough to see what I looked like,
I was off down the barber’s.
Granny had a back-kitchen.  It was dark and damp with bear stonework
and a permanent smell of gas.  I didn’t go in there if I could avoid
it.  She lived alone, five minutes across Bradford Road, in another
end-terrace and shared courtyard.  Noisy railway coal sidings were
close by, lights on all night.  Her real kitchen was the one
downstairs room.  It only had one window, with blackout curtains.
But it had an upright piano and an amazingly ornate, floor-to-ceiling,
mirrored, pillared, theatrical wooden sideboard as well as a range and
the sink in a cupboard.  All the family gathered every Christmas Day
in this room.  Mum and dad threw most of granny’s things away when she
removed, especially when they discovered five hundred pounds in the
piano.  I don’t think mum ever forgave herself.
Granny wanted to be ninety before she died and she did so peacefully
in a local hospital in 1970.  Her mum eloped from Connemara with
Patrick Malone, my great grandad.  They lived with other Irish
immigrants, in the yards off Upperhead Row, at the bottom of the
social pile.  Mary, my granny, had five brothers and sisters, and was
a good catholic who rarely went to church.  Mum was mortified when she
saw Mary Jane on the coffin.  Her name was Mary Ann.  We couldn’t put
it right, because we only saw the mistake when the casket was being
lowered into the grave.
I had my tonsils out in 1953.  It was done by a Mr. Ironside.  Those
in the trade tell me he performed radical surgery.  In other words
there is very little left in the back of my mouth.  It all still seems
to work.  Anyway Dad moved the television out of the kitchen and into
the room.  Usually we only sat in there on Sundays, and then only if
people were coming.  We used it everyday, as a corridor between the
stairs and the kitchen, but we only ever sat in it on Sundays.  I was
more or less forced to eat loads of jelly and ice-cream, so all in all
my recovery was terrific.  And Denis Compton hit the runs that won
back “The Ashes” for England.
Unusual for Willow Lane, we had a bath and a toilet inside the house.
Granny Addy’s was down the yard, newspapers and a candle and a massive
key with a cotton bobbin on a piece of string.  I didn’t like sleeping
at granny’s because the bedroom always smelled of wee.
Mum and dad got married in 1939.  Big brother was born in1942.  Dad
then went to India  for five years as a corporal in “The Pay Corps”.
I arrived in 1947.      Dad was grumpy a lot.  I realise now that England
after the war must have been a disappointment to him.  Mum and big
brother were probably wrapped round each other.  He wasn’t qualified
to do anything.  But he wanted things to be better.
Dad, also known as Reg-o’-Frank’s, was born in Lindley in 1917.
Frank was a cloth-finisher at Pat Martin’s mill.  He died at sixty, a
year after big brother arrived, so I never had any grandads.  Dad’s
grandad, William, was an engine stoker at Syke’s and he died at
seventy-three when my dad was ten.  Going back further to  great
grandads,  there was Eneas Bailey who was a farmer at Cowrakes and Eli
Walker who was a weaver on Yew Tree lane.  Both must have been born
around 1820.
Granny Addy was thirty-nine when she had mum.  Granny Walker had dad
when she was was thirty-three.  Mum and Dad were the youngest in their
families and both had older sisters.  Mum was eighteen and dad was
twenty when they got married.
I don’t know what all this goes to show.  We were closer to the land
a few generations back, wars muck up having kids and mum and dad will
have been skifted around a bit when they were small.  No wonder they
married when they did.
Anyway Dad went to a technical school and left at fifteen.  He liked
adding up columns of figures and looking at maps.  Nothing out of
place in his paperwork when me an’ our kid sorted his stuff out after
he died.  But he was special with wood.  He could tell you which tree
a lump of wood would have come from, and where the tree was growing if
it still was.  And he made things.  Tables and wardrobes when we
couldn’t afford to buy them and coffee tables for gifts and carvings
when he retired.  He had prospects at Elliot’s, timber people, before
the second war.  He had a job, in accounts, at  the Electricity Board
after.  And so he was grumpy.
We moved house and district in 1953.  The house on Willow Lane was
rented from Mrs. Thirkill.  Dad went to her with the rent every week.
I never saw her but she must have been dressed in black with a black
hat and a broomstick.  Dad managed to convince a building society that
he earned enough to pay off a £4 per month mortgage.  So we left for
the suburbs.  I remember the day we moved.  Granny took me on the bus.
Two buses to be accurate.  I struggled back to my old school for a few
weeks, but then changed to the new local primary.  I was six years
old.  Big brother had passed his 11-plus and was at “the college”.
Forty-five years on and Willow Lane looks the same.  I often drive up
the lane to check it out.  Still an interrupted terrace on one side
and a wall on the other and a bridge at the end.  The coal trains
stopped a long time ago.  Number five, where we lived, was empty for a
while and then lived in and then empty again.  Once it was an American
designer clothes shop.  Afro-Carribeans, not dad’s words,  with
grandiose ideas.  The corner shop is a Bollywood video hire place.
The gas-works has been blown up.  People came from all over just to
watch.  Over the wall is a builders’ merchant and lots of square
buildings with businesses and shops inside.  Its called Newtown
Industrial estate so we might have lived in Newtown.  The 1932
corporation maps call it Shearing Cross, part of Hillhouse.  Of
course, some of the buildings are really in Birkby.


The new house was one of George Haigh’s.  A semi with two bedrooms,
bathroom, a large through lounge, a very small kitchen and a garden,
front and back.  It was similar to 5, Willow Lane.  Only we never
opened the front door and the back door was at the side.  A gate and a
front path out onto Beadon Avenue and steps up from the back garden.
There was a cellar too, at the bottom of the steps.  It was different.
The kitchen was minute.  We ate and sat and played in the room.
Except for breakfast.  Cornflakes and treacle butties on a put-up
drop-leaf something-or-other table.  Mum coughing, breathing her last.
The weekly wash overtook the kitchen every Sunday morning.  Floods, a
boiler and a mangle and then a twin-tub.  Shirts and pants and
knickers anywhere they would dry.  And then two-way family favourites,
Sunday dinner and Billy Cotton.  BFPO’s and bumper-bundles, a joint
with veg’ and a fight over the rice-pudding skin.  A joint was meat
with a bone in it.  Where was the join?  Mum never doled out all the
rice-pudding.  There was always some left over.  Then mum and dad
turned the Sunday express inside out and fell asleep.  They did the
same to the Examiner every night, except Sunday.
Aunties and Uncles came for tea on Sundays or we went there.  So the
room had to be clean.  Dad always did the “vaccing”.  Saturday or
Sunday morning, either way best be scarce.  Sunday tea was cold, a bit
of ham and bread and salad, tinned peaches and carnation milk for
afters.  Cups of tea and cakes and buns.  Mum and auntie would do the
washing-up.  Dad and uncle would sit in front of the fire and talk.
It depended who it was.  Uncle Bill smoked a pipe and talked about the
war and India.  Uncle George chain-smoked Senior Service talked about
everything.  He was a know-all.  Uncle Ray just talked about
Huddersfield Town and cricket.  Then we might watch something.  Sunday
night at the London Palladium.
Going out for Sunday tea needed planning.  Two trolley buses, the 73
into town and change for Crosland Moor, Sheepridge or Almondbury and
get home for my bed-time.  Uncle George had a dormobile.  I asked him
for a lift once about tea-time.  He said yes.  He wasn’t offering when
it was time to go so I asked again.  We got a lift and I got mum’s
dirty look and an “Oh! David”.   Well he had promised.
Sunday was a play day, as long as it was inside.  I could read an
Enid Blyton in a day, borrowed from Boots’ Library at the end of
Victoria Lane.  Auntie Gladys had a camera shop on Victoria Lane and
bought me the library card for a birthday.  You could take a book back
the same day.  You couldn’t do that at the public library.
The only way to get out on Sundays was to go to church.  Sunday
school at St. Michael and St. Helen’s.  One of those modern places
which had dances in them when god was hidden behind a folding door.  I
eventually joined the choir.  I hadn’t a clue but big brother was in
it.  I got to ring the church bell, wear funny clothes and get given
apples and bananas after harvest festival.  I also got to get up very
early.  Mum was in the Mothers’ Union.  Dad wasn’t in anything.  He
said he was an atheist until mum shut him up.  We had Whit walks and
new clothes and teas on tables in a field and sack races.  Big brother
had his pals from college and a girlfriend.  I was part of the little
brothers’ set.  He wangled his way into playing football on Sunday
afternoons and then so did I.  Coats for goalposts and twenty-five a
side.  That field next to the church was the cricket pitch, the
football pitch and ideal for spot of courting.  It had a hill and
hedges.  A sledging track, cold achy hands and stiff wet jeans
steaming in the kitchen.  You had to go through it  for a decent walk
or meet your pals.  George Haigh got hold of it eventually.  Its all
houses now.  The church is still there.  I heard the vicar killed
himself after his mother died.  He’d never married.
Sundays got boring.  I’d got into the college in 1958.  I got fed up
of aunties and uncles, grown-ups who talked and watched Sunday night
TV.  There was usually a good serial about five o’clock and that was
it.  When it was cold and nobody was coming, we’d pull the settee up
to the fire and have our tea on our knees.  Anyway this wore off and I
got bored.  I complained one Sunday night when mum and auntie Mary was
washing up.  They smiled, laughed.  “Haven’t you got anything to do?”.
It didn’t help to say things.
Or it did.  Gordon took me sailing at Redbrook reservoir with his
girlfriend, Adrienne.  She came from a posh family.  Her mother had
been a famous singer in the town and they had a swimming-pool in their
back garden.  Her father was called Redvers.  Was that a name?  Gordon
and Adrienne smoked Kensitas and collected coupons.  She had ginger
hair, only they called it auburn.  I thought she was great.
I went sailing a season or two.  Spare pair of hands for crewing.
Sore shins and bum from changing sides.  Who did these pillocks
steering think they were?  Issue orders and then a bit more or out a
bit with my piece of rope.  I got to steer a few times.  I came last.
It was best on a windy day.  There were two heavy club boats and I
crewed for Horace when there was a bit of a blow.  Excitement.
Hanging out, way  over the side, soaking and bailing.  We grounded on
a rocky beachy bit.  Terrific.  I never knew who Horace was.  An
odd-job guy who kept turning up.
Then I was old enough to find something to do on Sundays for myself.
Another Church and Dalton St. Paul’s Methodist this time.  The youth
club was the attraction, but we had to go to chapel as well.  A stone
box with wooden seats and a wooden stage.  Sit on the back row and
pass notes to each other.  Make too much noise.  Dirty looks from the
old farts at the front and from the vicar.  He was different every
week.  No women.  They must have been on a rota.  One or two ranted
and raved.  At least they were loud.  Most were totally boring.  We
had a scripture teacher at school.  We had more than one but he stood
out.  His teeth crossed over somehow.  I never could work out what he
wanted.  He came to the chapel one week as a lay-preacher.  Tall and
stiff in a grey suit, using words I couldn’t understand.  And he told
us off in the middle of his sermon.  It wasn’t long after that I
walked out a couple of times.  I never went again.
What you wore was crucial on Sundays.  Different but the same as
others.  It was a mark of how much your parents could afford.  I had
green cavalry twills and a black blazer for a while.  We all wore fawn
slacks one summer.  Then there was sports coats and sun-glasses.  But
the suit was the key.  Three-piece, 17 inch bottoms, dark blue with a
pattern.  Me and dad fought over the trouser bottom size.  He wore 21
inch things, imagine?  Ballooning out in the wind and urrgh!  Tight
trousers showed the shape of your leg and only teddy boys wore them.
I wanted 16’s and got 17.  We are in the tailor’s shop.  Stomach in a
knot, waiting.  “What width do you want your trousers bottoms?”  “17
inch.”  Before dad could say anything.  “They always know that, don’t
they?” says the measuring man.  Smug bastard.
We used to parade up and down parks on summer Sunday evenings.  Walk
or get the bus.  Trying out smoking cigarettes and pipes.  Play a bit
of football, in waist-coats, suit jackets carefully stacked.  Eye up
the talent.  One or two had long-term girlfriends, but we liked each
other’s company.  Short term girlfriends between long periods of
thinking about girls and what was underneath blouses and bras.  I used
to ache about big brother’s girlfriend, Pat.  My first girlfriend was
Leslie Newton.  She’d fallen out with a pansy called Massie who’s dad
was a policeman.  Massie acted like a pansy but he didn’t play
football like one, for King James’.  “Will you go out with us?”
“Who’s us?”.  Me was always us and to go with someone was to fancy
them.  If they went though, that was different.  That was finding out
about for real about blouses and bras.  Soft cuddly bits, aching and
stiff other places.  Leslie Newton’s dad was in the same mess as my
dad.  “Your lad ‘s got his hands on my daughter.”  Treacle buttie
time, following morning.  “How’s Leslie?”  Muddled and guilty.  Six
weeks walking out and going to the Waterloo pictures on Saturday
nights.  God, it was hard, learning what you’re supposed to do.  I
know what I wanted to do.  It was a while before I did that.  Six
weeks was my record.  I think she’d’ave gone, but I didn’t dare.  If
you tried owt you were dirty-minded.  Well I was, but I didn’t.  We
all were, but we didn’t let on to them.  I actually believed for a
long time thet they didn’t want to do it.  What a waste of time.  I
could’ve got on with it years sooner.  Pamela Bradbury let me into her
top half – wonderful, at parties and behind the air-raid shelter at
the bottom of her road.  Her big sister fancied me.  She said so.  We
went on a camping holiday in Jugoslavia.  She saw me changing in a
tent by the shadow of a torch on the tent wall.  She told me the
shape.  God, what was I doing, or not doing.  I could’ve had the whole
family.  But you just didn’t go out with older girls.  After Chapel,
“Come back to us, mum and dad’s out.”  More lost opportunities.
Anyway Sundays.  I finished at chapel when I managed to make the
sixth form.  I nearly didn’t.  Five remove for a week.  Only got six
o-levels with average marks.  Dad wrote a letter to “slimy” the
headmaster, and I’m in lower sixth science. Sundays was a work day.
Measured in hours and compared, lied about, frightened and frightening
them.  I worked in a fitted wardrobe, followed big brother.  Dad made
a table and a lamp.  Big brother went away to university when I was
twelve.  So I had plenty of time in the wardrobe, but it only became
serious in the sixth form.  We were a group of five or six pals, doing
sciences.  We’d visit each other’s houses on Sunday nights, whether
mums and dads were away or not.  Talk and play bridge.  We made my
bedroom into a bedsit, big brother’s bed a settee
with cushions, expensive wallpaper and an Elizabethan tape-recorder.
Record the new releases from “Pick-of-the-Pops” every Sunday.
Head-phones so as not to make too much noise.  It was the only way to
hear what you were recording.
And then Sundays was for serious courting when mum and dad was out or
going for tea when her mum and dad were in.  But that’s another story.

Life and Death

If you looked out of Uncle Bill’s back window you could see the
railway to Manchester and a quarry.  You could see lots more.  They
lived on cliff edge, but I remember the trains best.  The house
smelled of pipe-smoke.  One person could just about turn round in the
kitchen.  We used to walk out past the quarry after tea with cousin
Jeffrey.  Dad said Uncle Bill came into a lot of money when an
undertaker uncle of his from Oldham died.  Didn’t seem to have changed
him much.  He wore a trilby though and had a pipe-smoker’s bottom lip.
Uncle Bill and auntie May were not my real auntie and uncle.  Dad and
uncle Bill were pals from the war in India.  Dad said they would have
been the next lot into the proper fighting.  As it was he killed a
snake.  Auntie May’s still there and Jeffrey in Newsome and the
Uncle George and auntie Gladys lived with Grannie Walker.  And there
was  Gordon.  I never could work out who was related to who but these
were particularly hard.  Gordon had some connection with Leicester and
he had a brother who was a merchant seaman.  Uncle George’s mother
lived in Wakefield.  She was called Fortis or that’s what it sounded
like and he was called Major.  He was cook in the war, not an officer
and never cooked anything at home.  He could smoke cigarettes though.
Forty Senior Service a day.  And he had fads.  Tropical fish was the
best one.   After Grannie Walker died they moved to Moorlands Road at
Mount.  He bought a massive water tank with all the extras.  Weeds,
gravel, stones and the bubbly thing in the corner.  I went with him
once to buy the fish just up from the “Slubbers”.  We brought them
home in a thermos.  The fish kept dying.  He had a pond with goldfish
in the front garden.  They kept dying too.  He didn’t do it on
purpose.  He’d be reported to the RSPCA today.
Auntie Gladys had Whitehead’s camera shop.  Dad said she sent uncle
George on a course to learn photography.  He was so airy-fairy he’d
never’ave done it on his own.  Anyway he had the developing and
printing side of the business way up in an attic in the top floor of
the market.  They did well enough to give us a few extras that mum and
dad couldn’t afford and keep his fads and his cigarettes going.  I
worked there for one or two summer holidays, putting prints on the
dryer and doing a bit of printing with Gordon.  George looked odd.
Bits seemed to stick out.  Dad said he’d had his bottom shot off in
the war and needed a leather strap to hold him together.  I never
believed that one.  But he did wear something hard under his shirt and
jacket.  He walked stiffly.  One Christmas he could hardly breathe,
and just sat in the armchair looking miserable and well, ill, and
smoking.  Auntie Gladys said he wouldn’t have the doctor.  I’d’ve been
in bed at least.  He started with a pipe after that and put on a lot
of weight.
Granny Walker died when I was six or seven, 1954 or so.  She was not
my favourite, but dad was upset.  Mum said so.  I knew she was ill and
one Sunday dad was called urgently to the hospital.  Someone must have
come to the door because we didn’t have a phone.  He left
straightaway.  I reckoned she’d died.  I had to remember to use my bus
ticket to go to town the following Tuesday rather than come home after
school.  Of course I forgot and blubbered at the bus-stop until some
grown-up forked out the penny-halfpenny fare.  I managed to get to the
pub opposite the Parish church in time. The funeral tea was roast beef
and Yorkshire pudding and granny had left me a rubber.  Not bad.
Apparently when dad got to the hospital there was just an empty bed.
He never cried or anything.
Uncle Ray died a year or so before Granny Addy, 1969 or so.  Mum said
she only met some people at weddings and funerals.  She always had to
be nice to everybody, but she probably never saw them again.  Ray was
large and red-faced.  I got his overcoat so I know how big he was.  I
got some of his shirts as well.  The sleeves were all too short.
Auntie Mary had done something to them.  She’d been a seamstress.  Ray
must have been an odd shape too.  His red face came from the desert.
During the war he’d served with the “desert rats”.  He went to
Huddersfield Town matches every week.  He and Mary tripped off to the
cricket a lot in summer.  They went on a bus with a shopping bag full
of food.  He drank Long Life beer out of a can and there was always
pop in the pantry.  Auntie Mary was good at meringues.  She held her
right arm awkwardly, like it was too heavy.  And they had a massive
cupboard with a sliding glass front.  There was everything in there.
Snowstorms and spoons, little Blackpool Towers.  Next to the fire was
the place where Ray kept his policies.  Mary said he was forever
dusting them.  It was meant to be funny.
I kept spraining my ankle at school.  Mostly playing basketball.  I
knew the accident department at the infirmary well.  Portland Street,
smells that made you feel slightly sick, waits in corridors and black
doctors.  Mary and Ray arrived at the same time as me once.  He’d
fallen over on the main street in town.  There’d been a freak
snowshower.  Casualty was buzzing, much better than normal.  He’d a
sling on his right arm and I’d an elastic bandage on my leg.
I was at Alder Hay in Liverpool when he died.  He was the first of
the aunts and uncles to go.  He just fell asleep on the trolley bus,
but he went a funny colour too so auntie Mary said.  The ambulance was
quick.  The driver must have had a walkie-talkie.  Anyway big brother
and I made the trip back together.  Colin is Ray’s son.
George died when I was in Cardiff, about 1973.  I went home on the
train.  Change at Stockport and Staleybridge.  Big brother and me had
a pint before the cremation and we walked in Greenhead Park.  The
funeral tea was at the same place as we’d set off from.  A full
package.  Auntie Gladys asked what it must’ve been like, for him, when
he died.  It was sudden and catastrophic, on a trolley, in casualty,
in the new infirmary at Lindley.
Auntie Gladys and auntie Mary then made up a bit of a pairing after
that.  Dad fetched them both for Saturday tea regularly and took them
home.  Mary walked out with a gentleman friend, until he died.  Anyway
they all died, as they do,  mum and dad too.  Suddenly or from
something you couldn’t do anything about.  Strange really, doctors and
hospitals weren’t much use.


The new school at Dalton was in a shed in the playground.  I cried
the first day.  Ann Bailes had to look after me.  The teacher was Miss
Jewson and I don’t think we got on.  I was the last that got to do
anything.  I had the smallest number of stars.  Work returned, in
pencil, untidy, red remarks.  I read well.  She made some sort of
surprised noise when I picked out a book.  I was door monitor once.
Had to open the door for big brother’s girlfriend.  She’d been in Miss
Jewson’s class too.  Came back to visit when she’d gone to the High
school.  Ridiculous smile across my face.  At last I got to to write
in ink.  She sighed a lot though.  Peter Sutton used to kiss girls.
We moved to a bigger building.  Miss Jewson became Mrs. Eliff.  I
never saw her again.  The new teacher was Miss Boast.  She was old.
School assemblies.  Teachers at the end of the row and Miss Pattinson
on the stage.  I thought I’d never find the hymn the first time.  It
was the first book Miss handed out.  It was easy.  The first numbers
lesson was good.  Everything added up to ten.  Used to walk from home.
Mum took us the first few times.  There were lolly-pop men on the big
roads.  One got knocked over by a car.  He died.  Could get the bus
too.  You got to know the bus conductress.  Until the West Indians
started coming.  I must have been naughty or something.  Mum said
she’d been to see Miss.  “He does things before they are naughty.”  We
had to make a lighthouse.  Dad made it out of a roll of something.
Pushed the middle up, stuck it and put some stuff on to make it shine.
Too good for me.  It got on the sand box for a while.  I threw a stone
in the playground.  It hit a boy in the eye.  An ambulance came.  I
never saw the boy again.  I was frightened for ages.  I’d been bad.  I
was waiting.  Nobody told me off.
Then Mr. Wiseman.  In the class-room next door.  First man for a
teacher.  He went away for a while.  A woman came for a while.  Used a
ruler on hands.  I never got my pictures on the wall.  Then I did
after he came back.  A crap one of a shark.  We made things that never
got finished.  Cardboard and paste.  Railway stations and goods yards.
We did exercises in the big hall.  Changing.  Some how squirming your
stuff off sitting behind a desk.  Hiding your skidmarks.  Catching
sight of other things possibly.  Stand like a tree.  “That’s not a
tree, David Walker.”  Then you do something.  “Look at David Walker.
Do it again David.”  At break and dinner times, playing allys, making
the rules up as you go along.  Pretend games, “Anyone want to play
cowboys and indians.”  My gun was a straight finger.  What was that?
A curled finger.  “Oh, that’s the trigger is it.”  Football and
cricket.  Dawsey and Briscoe were best, and Parkin.  Parkin went
dancing though.  And he could play the piano.  And fighting.  You had
to.  Didn’t the teachers realise?  We had our rules.  I cracked one
lad’s head on the playground concrete.  Crying, fight over.  But I
hadn’t won.  Broken the rules somehow.  Until Dawsey said well done.
He’d not taken my side before.  A white line appeared around the
boiler-house.  Couldn’t go over it.  Pushed Cootey and told on him.
Got told off by Mr. Meal for sneaking.  Cootey’s pleased.  He was
short with a hair lip.  Lived next to Handy on the main road.  He was
brainy, and cocky.  You watched him, never pally with him.  He wasn’t
frightened.  We arranged a fight after school.  Two or three hung
around.  We starts and he’s no softy, awkward, inside me, pulling and
tugging, can’t get a hit.  Some grown-up stops us just as I get in a
punch to the side of the head.  Was it late?  We didn’t fight after
that.  Mr. Meal was odd.  He was nice, but still told you off.  Made
you cry, by talking to you.  He moved in with a woman down the road
from us.  Mum said he wasn’t nice because he was divorced.
We were in gangs.  Our gang came from Fernside.  We walked to school
and dawdled back and we called for each other.  And we ran away.
Whispers.  Secret signals.
Mr. Meal had 4B.  I was in 4A with Miss Town.  She was friendly with
big brother’s girlfriend’s mum.  She read to us on Friday afternoons.
Treasure Island. Every morning there were sums on the board.  Then
she’d come and tick them, with a red pen, from answers in her book.
She never did them.  “We always have to do seven or eight wrong before
we get one right, don’t we David Walker?” so the whole class hears.
Forty-two in the class and we change places every week.  Marks are
added up and you come where you come.  David Woods and Brenda Butcher
are always top.  They get to sit at the back, furthest away from Miss.
Pleased with themselves.  I’m near the front.  We have to write stuff.
Vicky Flek does it as a poem all the time.  She reads them out at the
front.  Miss clucks and says nice things.  “You don’t start sentences
with and, David Walker.”  I’m at Miss’s desk.  Red pen everywhere.  I
told dad.  He was going to come in and sort her out.  But he didn’t.
Anyway we got to play football.  We joined the Red Triangle league on
Saturday mornings.  We’d played the year before, but I didn’t make the
team, so I was linesman.  Dawsey, Briscoe and Parkin did.  Picked a
stick up on a walk and got mum to put some red cloth on it.  Went to
away matches as well.  Stuck the flag up when the ball went out.  A
referee asked me, shouting, “Who’s ball is it linesman?”  I didn’t
know.  Something to do with which way my flag was pointing.  He didn’t
speak to me after.  Dad bought me some football boots with cork studs.
“Lost them in five minutes,” my dad said.  I didn’t do it on purpose.
When I didn’t play, “I spent all that money on boots and you’re not
playing.”  We were on the terrace side at Fartown.  I don’t think we
had a lot of money.  I’ve nothing to say.  I won’t bother telling him.
Would I get picked?  Mr. Witter with a ball, bouncing it on the
classroom floor.  We couldn’t do that.  Throws it over for me to feel.
“Good enough for you, David?”
So I played at last.  Right back, a clogger.  An old Town shirt, god
knows where from, laces at the collar.  Shorts to my knees, shin pads,
short back and sides.  Gordon Littlewood played at left back.  We got
mixed up once on a sloping pitch Lindley way.  Why wasn’t the ball
comingto me?  Teacher told us after the game.  “What did you swap
for?”  We hadn’t.  I took the goal kicks.  Couldn’t get it out of the
area that game.  We had to have somebody waiting on the edge to kick
it on.  At home I kicked into their half.  Dad watched once.  I kept
kicking it out.  My dad goes up to the teacher after, “He was put off
with me on the line.”  We won every game except two.  We lost to Stile
common in the semi-final of the cup.  Played at Leeds Road.  Neither
of us normally played there.  “A neutral venue.”  Mum said smiling.
Just like real footballers.  We lose one-nil.  Thin snow, lines
cleared, cold.  I kick their centre forward’s legs from under him.  He
was going to score.  Gets the penalty.  Lads tell me off, but it
doesn’t matter.  I head a ball in defence in the second half.  Nearly
goes in our goal.  Sir says ,”Well played.”  We lost away to Netherton
too.  Angry this time, “We’ll murder you at our place.”  We beat’em
after school in the week.  Must’ve arranged it special.  We didn’t
murder them.  We went away on the bus.  We came home dirty knees and
foreheads and kit and all.  Played at Paddock once.  Sunny.  Pitch was
grey, bits of grass.  A man from the Examiner took a photo.
Peter Sutton was our goalie.  He said one week that he wanted to go
train-spotting.  He got some stick.  Then we didn’t really talk to him
for a while.  Alec Eales played instead.  Massive and fat and slow.
Not as good as Sutton, but all we had.  He could throw a cricket-ball.
So could Gordon Sibald.  I came third on sports’ day, for 2A or 3A.
“That were rubbish, Walker,” in the classroom day after.  I knew it
was and so was I, crying.  Miss shooed a bit, but I’m mostly left to
it.  The men teachers tried to show us how to pass a baton on in a
relay.  Put sticks in the ground specially to give room.  Still stood
still on the day and waited.  We’d’ve won easy if ours had set off.
“Why didn’t you?” teacher asks.  Heads down, silence.
We won trophies at football.  We had to go back to school at night,
after we’d been home.  Take a cup with us.  Pie and peas, loads of
jelly, cartoons and a Hopalong Cassidy picture, just for us.
“Dawsey wants us to go to watch Town, dad.”  Mutters, “How much is
it?  How are you going?”  “I’m calling for him, and we’re going over
Kilner bank.  He’s been before, with his dad.”  We went in the lads
and pensioners, a turnstile.  You went up a back lane at Fartown and a
man let you in a red door.  “Stay the other side,” dad paying further
up the lane, near the smelly corrugated lavs.  First Town match was
brilliant.  Went regular after that, and Fartown, every other week.
Blue and white signs and claret and gold signs on trolley bus windows,
who they’re playing next.  73 Bus to the bottom of town and walk up
Bradford Road.  Or get off at Moldgreen and walk to Leeds Road.  We
did walk a lot.  I think dad got a bit fat and he needed to walk.  He
had an ulcer.  Stayed in bed for days at a time.  Burped a lot.
Horrible white powder in a big white tin, stirred in water, drink it
before it settles.  White fish in milk.  No onions.  “I like them, but
they don’t like me.”  I burp.  “David, that’s rude.”  “Dad does it.”
“Its his stomach.”  No answer to that.  “Dad’s in a bad mood.”  “Its
his stomach.”  Dad didn’t have bad moods.  Some of the time I went to
the match with dad.  Went with my pals when I started smoking.  Paper
round money went a long way.  Ten Nelson or Park Drive, get into the
match and the pictures and some left.  Possibly chips.  Names to
remember, Kenyon in goal, McHale, Metcalf  and then Massie, Stokes,
Wood in goal, and O’Grady.  Beat Wolves at home midweek, floodlights,
snow.  Wolves were a good side.  Drew away on the Saturday.  I’m going
on my own, to see if I can stand next to Sheila Sykes and her dad.
She’s there, behind the goal, Kilner Bank end.  O’Grady’s cross and
Stokes’ header, he jumps, soft contact, hardly changes direction, top
corner of the net.  You let go.  Put my arm round her and she me,
quickly.  Didn’t keep them there though.  And then they’re all over
us, passing and running and we hold out.  What a night.
Most of us did a bit of train-spotting, but not on Saturdays in the
football season anyway.  We’d try and catch the half-oner and the
half-fourer which usually had namers on front.  Half-oner was a
double-header.  Got to cab a few too.  But it was mostly tank engines
and big nine-twoers with trucks.  To see owt decent we had to set off.
Manchester Exchange and Piccadilly, Leeds City and the News Theatre,
Wakefield Westgate and Kirkgate, Penistone and Doncaster on the
race-course platform.  And York. Thames-Clyder, Elizabethan, South
Yorkshireman, Flying Scotsman.  Massive locos with names.  Patriot,
The Black Watch, Bittern, Gemsbock, Resolution, Trinidad and Tobago,
Leviathan, City of Stoke, Oliver Cromwell, Evening Star, The Princess
Royal.  York was curved.  When somat good was coming you knew from
boys’ shouts that came round the bend first, streak, streak, streak –
a bow wave of awe.  We put pennies on the line at Leeds and wondered
how far they went.  We visited the sheds too.  Longsight, Holbeck,
Doncaster plant.  Sometimes the drivers and firemen would shout and
see you off.  Sometimes they ignored us.  We got friendly with the
porters at Huddersfield.  A platform ticket got you on, waved in
without it clipped if the bloke in the box was friendly.  Miserable
ones, the big fat one specially, wouldn’t let you on at all or clipped
your ticket for an hour.  We helped with the luggage barrows and the
mail sacks.  Spent all day there sometimes, little rucksack with
sandwiches, apple, a notebook and a pencil.  Rain and snow.  Copied
all your numbers when you got home.  Underlined them until I got
bored, and then I only bothered with namers.
Cousin Pat got married in Coventry.  Me and Mum, auntie Mary and
Granny Addy set off on the train.  Got off at Stalybridge when we
shouldn’t’ave.  Changed at Crewe.  Well, what a spot.  Loads of cops.
Nearly missed the train to Coventry.  Mum calm, never knew how I
managed to remember things or tell the time.  Auntie Mary was having
kittens.  Sick as anything, flu and a man smoking.  A carriage where
you couldn’t go anywhere.  Full.  Raining, hot.  String bags for your
bags.  Mirrors and little pictures of people on beaches.  Leather
straps hanging on wooden doors.  Men could open the window, but it was
hard for women and awkward.  Dirt smells.  It was that Asian flu.
A man talked to me a lot on the platform.  Said he knew my dad from
Hopkinson’s.  Gave me a black note-book.  I told my dad.  He thought
about it a lot.  He did warn me off.  Then we came home on the train.
Into Platform one so we came from Leeds.  Perhaps a rail-rover day.
Anywhere in Yorkshire for seven bob.  Roast beef at the bottom of
Westborough for dinner and a cake at the Paragon in Hull for tea.  We
used to go to Old Trafford and watch the cricket.  Had to walk across
Manchester to get to Oxford Road.  Roses matches and Test matches.  I
saw Brian Close pull one round to leg and get caught.  He’d only been
in two minutes.  Me and Graham Cartwright went separate and it rained.
We came home early.  Dad stayed and saw Trueman get loads of wickets.
The rain stopped and they played extra time.  Bugger.  Dad laughed.
Anyway we came off the train and there’s this bloke.  I points him out
and Dad gives him a look.  I didn’t see him again.
I’m going somewhere on the train on my own.  Mum’s dressed me in my
new New College blazer and tie.  A porter I’ve known for ages has a
right good look.  “I didn’t know you went there.”  “I start next
term”.  Boasting a bit, but OK with it, and he was.  Train-spotting
dropped off a bit after that.
Three trips to Rawthorpe Secondary Modern on Saturday mornings with
tons of other kids.  All morning in a classroom doing sums and
writing.  Yawning early.  Mum said “You’ve had a busy day,” and I
remember and smile with butterflies in my tummy.  I’ve forgotten all
about it and we all have to go to the assembly hall, just the fourth
yearers, before home time.  Teachers are handing out brown envelopes.
I don’t know why.  Miss Pattinson gives me mine.  She gives her pile
out mostly to 4A.  I get home before mum.  Its light.  She works at my
auntie Gladys’s shop in town.  Kick some stones about for a bit.  The
road has a pavement but no road.  Its dusty and stony.  Mum gets home
and I give her the brown envelope.  Well, she opens it and well.  She
clutches it to her chest and reads it again and grabs hold of me and
cries.  What’s all the fuss?  I’ve passed the 11 plus to go to the
college.  I’m up to Fernside and I find out who hasn’t.  Angry tears.
Briscoe was going to go to the college with Lloyd Beaumont.  He
wasn’t.  He was going to Royds Hall.  So was Chris Burns who went to
school just behind the brickworks.  Most of 4A and 4B passed.  But
there was passing and passing.  Alec Eales and Gordon Sibald hadn’t
and went to Rawthorpe.

violinPlatt taking passing 11-plus


The new house at Waterloo had a front and back garden.  They were
neat and you’d to watch out.  No short cuts across the borders, not
seen anyway.  And walls.  We couldn’t afford bricks, so George brought
this concrete brick-maker, like an ice-cream wafer maker.  We had
cornets and lollies, grown-ups had wafers.  he came most Sundays for
ages making concrete bricks and dad built walls.  The front’s was
curved.  Mum wanted it that way.  The back garden was long and narrow,
grass at the top, finishing at a wall, and allotment at the bottom.
We played lots of cricket, the ball and the bloody borders.  You can’t
have plants and play cricket.  It was the thing dad and me did
together.  It was better in the park and on the beach.  All the family
joined in once on Southport beach.  Where was the sea?  Big brother
was about to do important exams, he was brainy.  Mum said you didn’t
revise the day before.  Everybody else did.  Off we went in the
dormobile, changed into a bus.  I had a long innings.  Adrienne had to
change out of her swimming costume in the dormobile.  Accidentally on
purpose I missed anything worth looking at.  She laughed.  I went red,
looked at the sand.  God, what was she like underneath?
Another match on the Cayton Bay beach at Scarborough.  Every summer
we went to Filey or Scarborough.  Last week of the school holidays.
Dad was in Nalgo, a holiday camp owner.  Either there or in a caravan
at Wallis’s or Butlins.  Mum and dad were great dancers, but they
could never get out because of me.  Big brother babysat me at
Wallis’s.  They said they wouldn’t go but they did.  I learned to ride
a two-wheeler and on a rainy day Mum taught me the St. Bernard’s
waltz.  Big brother then stopped coming with us.  Mum and dad got his
results by telegram.  She’d cried when the bus left Huddersfield, big
brother walking away up Kirkgate.
Nalgo holiday camp was OK.  Plenty of pals all with nicknames.  I was
“Corky”.  Dad said one of the other campers might be a boss so you’d
not know if we all had nicknames.  We were either red or blue and we
had competitions like tug of war and cricket.  Dad was big by then and
was the anchor man.  Slipping and falling over.  We lost.  We sang
songs a lot, one for getting up and one for going to bed.  There was a
long walk down to the beach, but we went most days until I preferred
table-tennis.  There was a camp-fire in the woods one of the nights.
They had a bit for people who were in the war.  Or wars.   One year
two old men in berets and medals stood up straight and saluted when
the Boer war was announced.
The cricket match and twenty-five a side, all men, well lads and men.
Proper stumps and everything and a tennis-ball.  On the beach.  Some
grown-up caught me at square leg.  Didn’t he know to give us a chance?
Fielding and short of a bowler.  “Bring on Corky,” shouts dad to the
captain.  Batter misses and I get his shin.  “Ow’s that?”  “Out,” says
the umpire, lovely man.  You only had one over though.  The captain
wore a kilt, played the bagpipes and spoke funny.
The back garden wasn’t always for cricket.  Across the road were the
Sandersons.  He was a painter and decorator and he used to appear at
the back door, stand and talk in the kitchen, without being asked.
Big brother worked for him in the summer holidays when he was home
from university, became quite a dab hand at painting and plastering.
Mum and dad said they went to play cards on Saturday nights at the
Sanderson’s house, but it was a waste of time.  Dad was always coming
over to see if I was alright.  They had a daughter Barbara.  We used
to play in my tent in the back garden.  She used to let me take her
clothes off, what sights and smells.  She wanted to take my clothes
off, but I wouldn’t let her.  Dad found us at it one afternoon.  I
said we were playing doctors and nurses.  Barbara stopped coming over
after that.  She was thirteen, I was about nine or ten.
At the new college we played with a hard ball and pads in nets, still
in short trousers.  And then hand-me-down flannels from uncle Ray.
Colin had worn them. Somebody famous had them before him.  Ron Capper
with a woodbine and his trousers tucked into his socks.  Games
lessons.  The pitch right next to Longwood edge.  A double period to
fight it out with the “r” stream and John Beaumont.  I loved smacking
him over long on, cocky sod.  Picked for the school U14’s when I’m
twelve.  I’m big for my age. Playing with the likes of Frank Taylor.
Same for soccer with Rick Thom.  Thom had a detention off big brother
when I first got to the college.  Not good when you’re walking through
Almondbury on your own.  I was tall on the outside, but it ended
there.  I collapsed in the middle of the old army camp.  Even Thom
didn’t have the heart to put the boot in.  “Soft as shit!”  He was
right too.  I managed centre-half, Thom at right half and Taylor on
the left.  I stopped it and passed it to one of them.  Not so easy at
cricket though.  They don’t speak to me.  The third yearers.  Grunt if
I ask something.  A catch drops just in front of me.  Mutterings and
whisperings. I get a duck.  Desperate for something.  “That turned.”
Frank Taylor looks at me unsmiling, “It were a straight ball.”  I
didn’t play again.  Jimmy Dakers, who picked the team, fancied himself
that he understood boys.  He’d had time off to do psychology.
We went to Bradford to see Yorkshire and Australia on a bus paid for
by school.  Bobby Simpson got a lot of wickets, but our lads carted
him around a bit.  He got the best clap though.  It rained a bit.  I
kept score in the house score-book
House matches were great.  All ages, all in it together.  What a
slip-catch off Taylor to get rid of Berry.  Mr. Wilson umpired and
taught English.  Next lesson over he comes.  Head down, pretend you
haven’t done anything.  “Good catch,” he whispers, a bit loud.  I
didn’t know he’d seen it.  Just a bloke at one end to shout “over” and
sort out the leg befores.
We had some good players.  Currie, Hellawell, Roblin, Beaumont and
many others.  We were in different houses and played against each
other in night matches.  Ainsty got the junior cricket cup the year I
was captain.  We got Hellawell cheaply against Merton and batted
Currie out for a draw with Stratford.  John Currie had a super
windmill action as a swing bowler, but boy was he skinny.  He and
Hellawell lived at Netherton.  We’d played them at soccer when we were
at Dalton and lost away from home.  Currie lived in a square and his
dad ate Park Drive cigarettes.  Hellawell lived on the main road just
up from the Meltham railway.  We played cricket under the railway
bridge down the back.  Hellawell taught me how to tickle trout.  Mum
and dad couldn’t believe it when I brought trout home for tea.  Mum
cooked it though.  Netherton youth club was good.  It had a pool
table.  I biked up a few times to get to see Ann Shaw.  It didn’t do
any good.  She ignored me.  Michael Brook always had the women.  He
went on to be  policeman.  Currie left to join a bank.  Roblin sells
second-hand books.  John Currie and his dad were the only ones to sus
out why I was late for school when I had to go to juvenile court.  Got
caught chucking stones at George Haigh’s roof tiles.  We’d done more
damage than that to his houses over the years, god knows why.  Anyway
a policeman was sent to patrol the buiding site, probably to stop
thieving.  Instead he got us.  Booked us, me and Chris Burns.  Had to
go to court, but noone knew who the tiles belonged to.  Waste of time.
But I was late for school.  Dad rehearsed me in what to say to the
form master, Doc Harley.  “My dad says I don’t have to say where I’ve
been.”  And that was that, except Currie and his dad knew.  Read it in
the examiner and put two and two together.  George Haigh’s building
site was banned after that.  Not that I took any notice.  I would’ve
been the only one not to meet up there.  It took over from the fields
as the place to play and meet.  He was actually building on our’s.
That’s where we met the girls.  Sheila Sykes, Maureen Bailey and Ann
Shaw. Sheila Sykes’ dad told me dirty jokes on the bus.  They lived up
the road from us, on my paper round.  I delivered her paper, and Janet
Raby’s.  Her dad had the men’s hairdresser at Waterloo, across the
road from the pictures and Baraclough’s paper shop.  I went with Ann
Shaw, but I never did.  No courage, even in the big concrete pipe in
the quarry at Ellis’s brick works. They thought I might’ve though.  It
muddled me a bit.  What was right.  Mum and dad didn’t help much.  I
left out the bit about what I really wanted to do and couldn’t, touch
and things.  What was wrong with me?  None of us got off with the
girls.  We just walked and talked about it.  And sat on buses next to
each other, the closest you got.  Until Whitwham.  He took Sheila
Sykes to the pictures and held hands in public.  Didn’t last long, he
said he’d had an outside feel.  Things we dreamed about.  We drifted
away after that.  I asked Janet Raby out once but she was doing her
hair.  Tried to hold her hand too.  She must’ve thought I was daft.
I carried on playing cricket for Frank Taylor but not much else.  He
was house cricket captain.  Didn’t do much of anything else.  Not much
work.  More mooning about thinking about women.  Going to the youth
club and the Naldred sisters.  Their father was a policeman and they
live in a police house on the main road.  He asked me if I had a
license for my pipe.  He smoked one.  I said no I didn’t.  I didn’t
twig for a good bit.  I must’ve bragged about how I was doing with
Ann.  It got round.  “What was that about being dirty-minded with me?”
I’d no answer and no girl and no tits or whatever we called them.  We
had loads of names for them, and you know.  She went out with Kenyon
after that.  We went on a long club walk over the moors and we held
hands.  “What about Kenyon?”  “I’m not finishing with him, if that’s
what you mean.”  I couldn’t speak to her after that.  Her older sister
was called Elizabeth.  She was gorgeous, I thought so.  I ached, too
far too good looking for me.  We’d kissed and stuff when you play
sardines at parties.  I’d even kissed Sheila Sykes in sardines.  Soft
, nylony and sweet – marvellous.  Daren’t do anything else.  Something
inside stopped you, or them.  I wrote a letter to Liz.  If she wanted
to go with me, come to the Friday club.  She didn’t.  I spent the
night watching the door.
My end-of term reports were crap.  “You know the adverts better than
your lessons,” dad said.  Mum quiet.  I wasn’t doing well, at
anything.  Physics was OK.  Had to do better at school.  Had to buck
up generally.  Got ninth in the class the year before O-levels.  I
worked it out so’s I’d know where I was, and how it would be at home.
Had Harlock down as bottom and him in my face at break time.  He did
come last though.  He was six foot and had a moustache in the first
form.  Snappy dresser and  squint.  He could only see out of one eye.
Good runner and a bully at rugby.  He ran for Huddersfield.  His balls
dropped first and his knob was immense. I was second.  Fatty Hirst,
bully-boy from the third form.  “You’ve got big balls for second
yearer.  And then the Capstan full-strength took over.  Pink sick
packets.  I tried one on the top of the bus back from Halifax after
rugby on a Saturday morning.  In a cold sweat.  Did I need to get some
fresh air when I got off at the bottom of town?  Dad gave me a funny
look when I got in.  He carried on smoking them.  Breathless and last
to the line-out, stayed on the floor after I’d smacked him with a
hand-off.  Lost his way.
Six O-levels.  No English Language.  Surprise really with my best
grade in literature.  Mr. Wilson spotted the questions and I liked “A
Tale of Two Cities.”  Bernard Daly didn’t enter me for Latin.  Waste
of the fee.  That Vicar who stood in for a year was useless.  And
Henry Strachan, a joke, an idiot.  Butterflies, sinking feelings when
we got him for form master.  A paddy every Monday morning when the
dinner money didn’t add up.  Half-crowns chucked at us and
board-rubbers.  When he really got mad he’d push his desk forward into
ours.  Desks, tables and boys all over the place.  He supervised the
school mag.  Missed master-bating one year. In the scouts.  He looked
a right pillock in shorts.  Hours of boring scotch Ovid.
French was the same.  Two years of Gilbert Gowans after George
Redmonds.  We kept empty milk bottles in one of the desks.  “Its all
about washing, you know, gentlemen,” says Gowans.  Somebody opens the
desk-top.  He jumps up and down a fair bit for a French teacher.
Serve him right for being rubbish.  You needed French to go to
University.  Big brother got German and French and this and that in
four years instead of five.  I was disappointed when I was in the ‘A’
stream.  Mum said it would be for best.  He didn’t get into Oxford,
Brasenose.  Is that a college?  Weekends away taking exams and nothing
to show.  Mum supported Cambridge in the boat-race after that.  I
wasn’t glad.  I wasn’t sad either, but I think he was.
I volunteered to sort out the second eleven in upper sixth.  So I
picked it, captained it and so on.  Sports masters had an easy time of
it.  Had all my pals on the team.  Not bad cricketers.  And the odd
ringer that didn’t want to play in the first team.  Linsell, a child
prodigy of a spin bowler turned into medium pace with swing.
Crowther, the big rugby forward, a decent batter.  Huff and puff, left
arm over, Waddington.  A few wides and a few wickets.  Oates at
stumper.  Never caught anything.  Summer Saturday afternoons.  Caught
the train to Wheelwrights in Dewsbury.  I’m last in with Clark.  Five
to win and we’re batting OK, and he goes  and gives a soft
caught-and-bowled.  Smashing day out to King Ted’s in Sheffield with a
tree on the square.  I declare too early.  So Archenold says.  Big
German physics teacher who pronounced Descartes in English.  Poor
bloke didn’t half get the bird from the snooty arty lot.  And
Roundhay.  Their captain got shirty about Linsell just keeping them
outside off stump.  He couldn’t bat, that was his problem.  I hole out
at long on after their fast bowler gets me in the midriff.  Clarkson
umpires.  King James’, good win.  We’re all round the bat in their
last over.  Heady days.
Mum and dad and me went to Sheffield.  Sat behind one of those things
you lean on at football matches.  Yorkshire and the West Indians.
Richard Hutton and Sobers.  Sobers scored a hundred.  We saw it all.
Just got it in before the finish.  He lifted a ball for six right to
us.  We were at square leg.  He hardly moved.
I get picked for the master’s match.  Real honour.  All the school
watching.  They go home at ten past four and we’re still battling.
I’m last man again, but easier somehow.  Last ball and we run.  Good
throw and I just make the crease, grass stained trousers.  Mum’l
complain.  Horrible little Mr. Haigh makes yet another sarcastic
remark.  I laugh, walk away.  They hadn’t won had they?
I left school a few days later.  Just walked away.

Laverock, Bretton Hall
In the photography business
Medical school
England win the world cup and I get the right ‘A’ levels.  Beaming
face of Uncle Leslie as a roll up to school for the results.  A pint
with Cardno in the local, opposite school.  Accepted by Liverpool
W’ed all been to the Norfolk Broads for our summer holidays, my group
of pals that had just left, and I caught pneumonia.  Or so Dr. Ballon
said.  We broke or rather I broke a dinghy moored at the riverside.
We went and offered some compensation to a lady who wasn’t impressed.
I had to stay at the Newton’s because mum and dad were away and he
visited there.  I was late for college and missed freshers week.  Dad
gave me a lift to Derby Hall in Liverpool and we simply said goodbye
at the door of my room.  I should have said something else I guess.     I
hadn’t a clue what to do.
As I was late I missed all the introduction and more or less started
work as soon as I got there.  I went to the rugby trials to watch and
met a couple of guys who we played against at school, but I finished
up at a club because it was medical school rugby on Wednesdays.  First
day in the university and we are introduced to the dissecting room.  A
bunch of lifeless grey things on slabs.  Not people, though we knew
what had killed them.  Met Thompson.  He used to walk out in the
middle of practical for a smoke.  You couldn’t do that, but you could.
It took your smell off the formulin.  He’d been to tec to improve his
grades and had met a different style from his public school.
I lived in Derby Hall and never got on with the way of life that was
on offer.  Boarding school really.  The third year students seemed
like prefects.  The bursar was a dragon.  There were smoking concerts
and so on, but we messed those up as well.  I met Ian Alexander, a
teddy boy from Stoke who was also a medical student, who was always at
risk of not making it.  He taught me how to climb on the hall roof.
We came down an overhang into somebody’s window – he had a fit, but
let us in thankfully.
So I didn’t join in many things – I went to the scouts, but they
thought they were in opposition to the walking club, they were
pathetic.  I also joined the humanist society, but that decayed for
some reason.  Apart from work play rugby and drink I didn’t do
anything, thought the guys I met I finally moved into flat with.
The house at Derby contained an architect, three lawyers and a medic
who was in the middle of a breakdown.  I spent some time with the
medic, after the bursar had told me off again.  I used to visit the
other guys rooms and drink down the pub.  There was a tutor but we
never saw him.  Nice place, wrong for me at the time.  CPK and
Thompson did better in their halls but we all decided to move into
flat for the second year.
There was a lot of anxiety about work, you needed endless cramming to
remember the anatomy embryology and histology, the anthropology and
any other ology that was on offer.  I promptly forgot the lot.  There
were several elderly lecturers, been there for years – daddymac, the
prof who looked like the mekon and another bloke whose interest was
monkey spines and their flexibility.  I even got him to Chester zoo
during the holidays with Ed and Backhouse – why? it was ludicrous.
So I kept in touch with the guys from school, during the holidays,
and went training at Waterloo.  Its a kind of transition before you
cut the ties and start a new life – or rather continue on something
with different people in a different place.  My holiday job was at the
local mental hospital as an auxiliary, which perversely I enjoyed.
Mostly on the acute ward.  But I relieved around the place, the
chronic guys who’d been there for years, nutters, head injuries, old
people, younger handicapped and the locked ward where one of them
would go off most days.
Cannabis was around, though I never tried it.  The staff were nuts
too, suicides in the doctors, abuse of the patients by gay charge
nurses, open violence to patients that disagreed.  I just assumed
that’s how it was.
I played for Waterloo at the end of school, end of season game
against Birmingham which we won – I was the first colt to get into the
first team.  I didn’t play then until the following Easter because of
the pneumonia.  Sheffield at home and then Halifax away in the
Yorkshire Cup, a night match which we lost  – they had Childs (now
married to a lady from Kirkby Lonsdale, some connection with the
choir) an anaemic Yorkshire scrum half and the Broughton brothers from
Heath grammar school.  We had some good players – Ross, my namesake,
but not enough.  I got poked in the eye, lost interest after that.  In
later years when Waterloo played Halifax I got my own back, much to
the chagrin of the crowd.  Childs was still playing and he stood on my
toe as I jumped.  Being a coward I gave the openside a thumping which
I thoroughly enjoyed, what a psycho.
I felt like an outsider at Waterloo, there was no coaching as such
and they were a load of public school pufters or so I thought at the
time – I had few social graces.  I even use to drink in the pub next
door with a bloke who proved to be a schoolmaster of Andy’s who we
visited in later life – when he’d moved over to Cheshire somewhere.
There was also a big fat bloke who’s daughter was a staff nurse at HRI
and a single mum – she was on the ward at the same time as Sheila.  I
had a hang-up about being able to join in and buy a round – some
people take you under their wing – the army guy at full back another
brylcreem boy from round the corner.  Others ignore you.  Its the way.
I gave off messages to certain tories and got the appropriate response
and the stereotyped behaviour I was expecting – so they are all pratts
after all.  And yet I joined Waterloo, a need to join and be something
I wasn’t, a legacy of my father’s ambiguous approach to social
mobility.  We weren’t one of them, they couldn’t be trusted, they had
all the power, but lets get some money anyway.
The first few years at Waterloo I played in their colts ‘The Waterloo
Schoolboys’.  Public schools Sandhurst ‘New’ college works teams
Weekend trips down south plane journeys to IoMan.  Mixing with
stockbrokers “The Hagan’s” and other plummy speakers. What did I think
I was doing.  This was not developing me as a rugby player, but it was
doing something, medical students in with the toffs – goodness me.
With Andy and CPK who were both public school.
The second year in college we moved to Princes Boulevard in Toxteth,
just up from Swainbanks where we bought our second hand furniture –  a
converted cinema.  Three of us had one bedroom so it only lasted a
year, but we still stayed together.  The carpets came from CPK’s dad.
We got a phone,  I recall phoning ed to saywe’d got one.  I went out
with a buyer from Littlewoods.  She was great we did it in the small
bathroom but I couldn’t do the social bit, still can’t sometimes.
Went to her sister’s and watched TV all afternoon, well it was on.
CPK had plenty of dates, he was into odd money makin schemes even then
– he was friendly in hall with a S. American and for some reason
bought a load of currency.  Bernard, his father, soon changed it back.
Andy and CPK always had more money than me, I had to buy my
toothpaste, they didn’t, I had a pathetic resentment really and it
showed.  CPK took me over to Rydal to the school and to meet his
family – Duncan was still there.  Bernard and Edina (Edna) would treat
us to lunch – CPK’s grandparents took us to the Adelphi once, amazing
that was, smoking between courses, high ceilings posh.
One of the lawyers was ex-Rydal and he came to Waterloo, so too the
schoolboys hooker, and a guy in third year who put up the hooker’s
sister who I was sweet on for a short while, I couldn’t cope.  The
Rydal connection with Waterloo was Chris Jennings, the current England
centre.  Its all so random and mixed up, no plan, what was I trying to
achieve?  There were good bits and not so good.
Trips to N. Wales, met Mick Roberts, welsh international who went to
school with Andy.  Met him years later –  he ran the company that took
us to S. Africa in 1997.  Drinking in bars in Rhos.
Sheila came over to Liverpool at the end of that year, stayed in the
nurses home at Broadgreen as she trained up in intensive care, with
John Cleary’s girlfriend to be wife – a snooty bitch who knew she
looked good.  We’d met again somehow, we clicked after a fashion.  Was
it a bit too easy for us?
I can’t remember the work that year, was it biochemistry pharmacology
psychology?  We passed through, did I get a distinction viva in
something, I doubt it.
Remembered something from school, good exam, lousy viva.
Editor of the mag that year.  Duffed out on speaking at the medical
soc because of poor preparation, didn’t go again for a while ashamed,
symptomatic of my overall difficulties of joining – doesn’t it take
years to get insight?  How many.  Sam Smith compiled a far better mag
but he went over budget.  He just did it, good for him.  I was in deep
water and didn’t realise, 34 years ago.  The dissecting room and the
lecture theatre were in the old university buildings, tiered wooden
seats that if you didn’t know you would imagine as an anatomy lecture

Stark contrast to the clinical years I was about to enter – no
holidays now, up and down Liverpool in a bewildering series of
attachments to mostly pratts, but some gems.  Cosby-Ross at the
Southern who thought he was a urologist.  This is how you do a pr.
Put your finger in, count to ten, and take it out.  Dicky Doyle from
the same establishment, supposedly did his own appendicectomy in a
Japanese POW camp, and who reputedly lent his sports car to a final
year medic, only to overtake him doing 90 down the dock road in the
student’s Morris Minor.  Honey whose name rhymes with money – got
pendantic about his greek and latin – pain used to get worserer and
worserer.  Told me off – ‘you wretched boy’ –  for not passing a
message onto McConnell.  I was momentarily upset, everyone else
laughed.  There were two McConnell brothers – one a pinstripe with
slick back hair, just like a Chicago gangster.  Claimed to be a
gastroenterologist, flexible endoscopy was just coming in.  Prior to
that, the rigid job, which I used to use well into the 80’s.  ‘Just
like passing a turd’ said Buggsie McConnel, What did he say?  Well he
was a consultant.  A great bloke at the northern who used to tell us
where all the difficult words came from.  He was quite well known, so
much so I can’t remember his name.  We all used to sit in a
semi-circle in out-patients next to his desk and he’d take the
history.  We had one lady who wouldn’t shut up, no way anything wrong
but very hard to prove – ‘Fancy being left on a deserted island with
her,   pause,   without your discs’  Its a great moment.
Then a bloke who was knackered, arteries in disarray – surgery, bits
that obviously didn’t work.  Used to visit the prostitute, lady of the
night, downstairs.  It would be unkind of me to speculate why.  Killed
himself eventually, overdose, knew how to do it, he wasn’t coming back
however hard we tried – I was the SHO.  Cleary’s wife rung me up in
the middle of the night, Come and switch this off, and I did.  His
wife gave me a token for The House fo Fraser.  Met his son many years
later, in Bradford, a Balint freek who took all day over ward rounds.
What was their name?
And these were only the physicians.  What about puff puff Moroney who
got breathless doing a cholecystectomy and he delightful daughter
Cythia who . . .
There was a gynaecologist who played for Cheshire, when I spent most
of my time on the golf course – couldn’t be doing with women’s
complaints.  Only gynae exam I passed was finals – phew.  And the
hospitals, millions of them Northern Southern Royal, Mill Rd,
Children’s, Women’s  It reads like a history of the medical
segregation that evolved in the nineteenth centuries.  Did we do fever
I think so, a day or two.  8 days of psychiatry.  A few skin clinics
which I missed and I’ve never caught up since.  2 visits to an
institution for young handicapped, disabled whatever the pc term was
at the time.  Echoes of Strawberry fields.  When we arrived, they’d
just signed a death certificate for a resident, patient, who knows, he
was 70 and had been admitted as a child.  A boy with facial rash gazes
at us intelligently, then windmills his arms when asked a question.
There was a huge institution full of shocking stories on the Wirral,
babies with huge heads that couldn’t be raised.  You never turned a
hair.  Alder Hey of fame, resident there when uncle Ray died, desert
war veteran, keeled over on the Almondbury trolley  bus.  Funeral
which I don’t recall.  Mother says how she only meets people at
weddings and funerals.  I get a protracted URTI and have to extra
paediatrics at Alder Hey.  They use me as a locum HO – naughty boys.
I tend to be rude at parties don’t ask me why, I can’t behave in any
other way.  Its my own handicap, but not so fatal.  A few beers helps
but it tends to grow into too many.  Acceptable as a student and a
rugger bugger, but not elsewhere really.
Other glimpses.  The male only bar at Waterloo, wooden clubhouse with
public school shields, huge communal baths, excellent.  King William
School IOM, the whole of the school to watch, headmaster sending a
report to the president Dickie Guest, ex England winger, well played
or dirty lot depending on the year, the casino, secret Sunday drinking
escaping down the narrow gauge railway.  Ned Ashcroft, old warrior,
haaka on the bar, master at Liverpool College, annoyed and more with
me for smacking his outside half.  Stoneyhurst.  Vulcan sports.
Lancaster and Keele Universities, tapping off at the union, quick one
on the bus before coming home.  Lancashire Police, thugs, not so
thuggish when they played the second team.  Sandhurst was a special
trip, slept in a nissan hut.  Finish down the Taj where Gibson would
make us all feel sick with his Vindaloo.  Home Sunday.
And then later in the first team.  Missing the bus in Birmingham
because we’d nipped into the local hospital for a midnight meal.  Taxi
Moseley (big english prop, one of the million fly halves england had
then ?Finan), Northampton, Harlequins, Rugby, Headingley, Harrogate,
Northern (Mcsomebody irish prop), Coventry (Webb, Duckham, Dalton),
Leicester (Arneil), Sale (Stagg), Broughton Park (Neary), Liverpool
(winger or was he a bit later?)
New Brighton Birkenhead Park, Edinburgh Wanderers, I still have the
fixture list from the early 70’s.  Dublin Wanderers is an episode on
its own.

Caldy sevens,  Southport beach  “The Sands”, two brothers one at full
back a regular first teamer, ex local public school Merchant Taylors
of Greenwood fame.  Younger brother fit and keen but not talented, bit
wild, the buyer from Littlewoods came to the club to meet him in
reality – I won her over by singing Wichita lineman in her ear I don’t
think so.  Called himself the kid, wonderful stuff  Lascelles I

Dreams 16.9.97.

I woke up early as asked and realised I was in the middle of a dream.
A woman seemed to be repeating some aspects of her life.  It was
unpleasant for her as it involved suicide in some way.  There were
tears and a vague image of a high rocky outcrop.  Another woman joined
her, trying to help.  They knew each other and helping did take place.
There was no attempted suicide.  I think the second woman was me,
which is strange because I am male.  I appreciate the femaleness
within my make-up, but I would struggle actually being a woman.  All
that caring.  I do tend to leave people to look after themselves, even
my children.  Yet I have a habit of rescuing and taking over.  Once
again there is that elastic band.  Apparent opposites connected by a
thread of tension.  One mimute I am this, the next minute I can be the
completely different.

I believe that dreams represent a window that allows us to view the
unconscious.  In my adulthood this part of myself has become fairly
walled off, except for a vivid dream life.  I dream in colour and
sometimes in a cartoon-style.  I believe dreams are something about
the various bits of my complex character.  The little boy that hurts,
a stern man and a wise scholarly entity are three characters that
appear regularly in various guises.  My most vivid dream was about a
child who climbed some stairs to a room on the first floor of a city
block.  There I saw a snake in a hole.  The room was bare and the
snake was old and moth-eaten.  I went to fetch a pal who was misty and
faceless.  The room had changed.  An old carpet and some sticks of
furniture covered the hole.  We exposed the snake which had also
changed.  It was now a sleek slimy vivid orange and came for me.  I
turned into a faceless man wearing a black cloak, holding a defensive
garden hoe.  I was not bitten and the snake disappeared.  A simple
explanation might go as follows. I am no stranger to change, which
recently has been prolonged and powerful.  I have survived and
discovered things about myself which are unpleasant.  Last night’s
dream again involved survival, in the hands of a more gentle rescuer.

Dreams have become an important learning experience for me.  I tend to
make the same mistakes again and again.  If I have a strong feeling at
the time of a mistake, somehow that event come to life.  I might kick
myself, in which case I may make the same mistake again.
Alternatively a light might turn on and I see where I am.  I learn
something if I remain logical.  I learn and change when I am open to
all my experiences.

I recently took over the secretarial post in a local soccer club.  I
was not given much of a job description and I have spent the last few
months discovering what the post entails, usually when something
hasn’t been done.  Many of the club members are critical of the
smallest error, particularly if they percieve a personal slight.  I
have recently kicked myself often.  The last so-called mistake I made
produced some guilt, but I was also dimly aware of making a
difference.  I had achieved something, made an enemy or two and
survived.  Someone is reputed to have said that mediocrity is not
making enemies (overheard on car radio).  I don’t remember a dream
about it, but I do remember being open to more feelings than simple
guilt.  I am also aware of not being mediocre.

black hill
It was to be a long day, much longer and more painful than I had
planned.  I walked 17 miles in all, a figure of eight from Crowden to
Arnefield, Chew  Reservoir to Laddow Rocks and then back to Crowden
via a large loop over Black Hill.  I felt fit when I set out.  The sky
was clear and wintery blue whereas the sun was hazy and autumnal.
Whilst l always hope for one of these late easygoing September walking
days, I  rarely meet one.  It should have been perfect.

My knee became painful half way round, at a point where the only way
was forward.  I still had Black Hill to do.  Black Hill is an energy
drain.  An uninteresting lump of peat that literally sucks, it is
surrounded by hampering moorland heathers. Ordinarily my pace would
quicken to put such a difficult section behind me.  Today I simmered
in the wet tarry black stuff and bristled at the snagging woody

Whereas I was spurred on and over Black Hill by a kind of testy
strength, the  remaining downhill miles became an increasingly sore
and awkward ordeal.  Crowden, as it came gradually into view, was a
very, very agreeable sight.  I had succeeded, but there was also a
mild heaviness in the pit of my stomach.  It had not been as I

High-jumping 20.9.97.

I awoke with the image of a man with a squint doing a successful
“flop” over a high-jump bar.  The word that comes to me is exposure.
There is nowhere to hide.  Individual performers must feel pressure to
do well all the time.  It is obvious when they are having a bad game.
Can team players can take regular breaks from this stress?  I wonder
where the need to win, jump higher and run faster originates? I guess
the answer is in their survival value.  Getting food and not being
eaten by wild animals or enemies are well served by individual and
national athletic prowess.  Many may argue that  these influences no
longer apply to the first world.   However the evidence suggests we
are not as civilised as we think.  The fundamental needs of primitive
man remain with us as part of the human condition.
Food and self-defence have been replaced by ideas and beliefs.

A child must learn something of this at a very early age.  The
privations and rivalry of family life somehow reinforce the
“archetypal” collective messages inherited down the generations.  As a
friend said recently, “We may need to be thankful that anti-social
behaviour is not more prevalent than it is”.

Competition is a fact of life.  It is not gender specific, and applies
to virtually everything.  It has an uneasy tension within it.  On the
one hand, the Corinthian spirit suggests that taking part is
sufficient.  All abilities mix freely and nobody minds losing.  On the
other hand, there is winning at all costs with little concern for the
rest of the field.  The tension could also be that between not
achieving a task and the ruthless pursuit of results as typified by
the phrase “the end justifying the means”.

Three issues emerge for me.  First, an awareness of those who are
driven by  extreme needs for winning and to have others lose.  Is this
a version of personality disorder?  Does “burn-out” fit here?  Second,
some people may perceive a need to compete and yet they do not have
the basic ability.  How do they find joy in competition?  Striving
often and losing frequently can be very stressful?  Third, what of
those who deny their needs for combat.  How do they become aware of
this untapped source of energy?

Competing is exciting and thrilling, frustrating and fraught with
possibilities of failure.  It is risky and the consequences are
wonderful and dire.  It will always be with us.  We need to understand
it, use it and not ignore it.

Holiday camp 16.10.97.

A camp run by a ? religeous order, supposedly benign, yet containing a
compulsory bit of living in a cell.  Unknown whether this had to be
done – somehow expected to follow some rules which also weren’t clear.
When something gone wrong, vague feelings about it, expectations of
going to a cell and yet not really know.  Otherwise a holiday camp of
free enjoyment.  Lots of things to eat and things to do.  Many
children their.  One section going to a breakfast bar.  Before getting
something to eat there was a roll-call of offenders that came up on a
screen like a fast-food menu.  First four not relevant – fifth was my
son Chris for grievous bodily harm.  I was late then for my
appointment.  I met a priest who was filling in for someone.  The rest
of my group had gone to a community service.  What would become of me?
Rows and rows of back-to-back gardens with flourishing and beautiful
growth.  A room with no furniture, dark, someone in the corner.

Images of children and darkened rooms are common in my dreams as are
themes including being powerless and uncertain.  The holiday camp is
me – containing a number of actors, one of which is a child.  The
adult actor is the powerless one who feels like a child.  Other bits
of me had been good, but there still remains a bit which enjoys and
deserves punishment.

This has prompted me to dig out the dream work we did at Highfield.

Petrol strike 2000

Midday on a Wednesday, and very quiet as I cycled along the main
trunk road to New Mill, one of two main ways of travelling south from
town.  It resembled  meandering along the narrow lanes of North
Yorkshire, with just the odd tractor to negotiate, and I could choose,
either to look at the fields and passers by, or simply concentrate on
the rhythms of my exercising muscles.  I felt unusually relaxed,
encountering a handful of cars and one other cyclist and stopping only
briefly at junctions, if at all.

The day before, on the motorway, my car had strayed about the inside
lane as a succession of lorries thundered past, apparently oblivious
of the fuel crisis.  Driving at 40 mph., whilst conserving my half
tank of petrol, my mind kept wandering, much as it would if I ever
decided to watch paint dry.

Two contrasting personal effects of the current petrol problem,
caused by farmers and hauliers blockading oil refineries and closing
down the majority of roadside petrol stations.  Whatever the merits of
the action as a way of influencing government, and I think it cocks a
refreshing snoot at pompous politicians who develop an unhealthy sense
of invulnerability, it does provide us with a glimpse of a different

A life in which we would buy only the food we need and eat it before
it goes off.  A life in which we would drive only when we couldn’t
walk or bike.  A life in which we would live close to work.  A life
without motorway jams.  A life with sensible energy and transport
Radiology vision

Yesterday I glanced through the back pages of the “classifieds” of
the BMJ. and I noticed an advert with the following heading,

”WANTED:  a radiologist with a vision”.

I don’t mind whether the candidates for the job have a, b or c
vision, as long as they can see something.  I understand, these days,
there is little or no call for partially sighted radiologist

I have tried to recall some memories of the early times with the
children – a suggestion from Eric, but unless they go down on paper
they will become lost.

We had tried for children as soon as our days in Cardiff.  We visited
the local gp. to discuss our lack of success.  I always remember his
technique of telling us our time was up.  He got up from behind his
desk and walked to the window.  This was very powerful for some
reason.  He gave us the address of the local adoption agency.  We were
visited by a representative and it went no further.  I recall feeling
guilty about it, especially as no reason was given for not
progressing.  Sheila put it down to not being Welsh.  I think it was
more about unresolved issues between ourselves.  I quite enjoyed being
childless, and became somewhat frustrated at a lack of acceptance of
the inability to conceive.  I felt under pressure to join some club.
Another personal dilemma concerning joining something, taking risks
and ultimately leading to a rejection – I wouldn’t have formulated it
like that at the time.

In Manchester we agreed to offer ourselves as foster parents.  I
seemed to have changed, in this regard anyway.  Certainly Cardiff was
a very different experience than Manchester.  We hadn’t a care in the
world in Cardiff – apart from not having children.  Suddenly we were
up against it.  I landed a job which set the tone for my attitudes to
medicine and life generally for years to come, and Sheila was isolated
up in Delph and in retrospect quite unhappy.  The fostering option
developed into classes and training, and then one night we were awoken
just before midnight to say we had been selected for adoption – fetch
the child on Sunday from Bolton.  I guess we were very happy and in
shock.  Sheila had an immediate need to shop in mothercare, helped by
my mother.  Baby clothes and prams appeared.  Andy and Cheryl were
coming for the weekend.  I remember Andy being concerned as to how to
tell us that Cheryl was pregnant.  Whilst I was anxious about the fact
we couldn’t conceive, I didn’t often discuss it.  Other people around
me must have recognised something that I didn’t.  The second thing I
remember was going out for a pub meal, the last without a need for
babysitters, to “The Oak” , which was run by Peter Marner?  He was an
ex-Lancashire cricketer in the W. Indies following the English cricket
tour.  Andy had a huge bowl of black pudding.

The following day we went and fetched Louise – six weeks old.  Andy
and Cheryl went home and all my relatives arrived.  My mind is a
blank.  There is something of joy and the smell of baby things, but I
also feel stunned.  Quick learning.  Work is not involved – only 14
miles away and it could be the end of the earth.  Commuting did help
to sharpen the boundary between home and work.  Only in Huddersfield
did the relationship become blurred.  Was I a new man?  I doubt it,
though I did my share of feeding and nappy-changing.  Louise’s arrival
didn’t change what I did a great deal – I spent a lot of time at home
anyway.  I think I came home early for a while.  I used to feed Louise
whilst watching a programme about  a cruise ship or was it a ferry?
Sheila left her work (she has now just returned), and suddenly
appeared in the village pushing a pram.  We had become parents
overnight – 17 years ago.  We were 33 years old.  I was confused and
determined regarding my career.

Some 18 months later we were in Northumberland.  Had we been in
Edinburgh?  I seem to recall staying with Mary and Peter.  I also
dimly see Louise being incontinent all over the place.  This for some
reason used to make me angry – I must have been intolerant or
something.  The story of Andrew coming is told elsewhere.

Bits of memories.  Louise asking/demanding a lot of attention the day
Andrew came.  She’s jealous say my parents with an understanding
throat noise – ah.  It was probably right and yet now I worry about a
dismissive statement, that’s sorted, we know about this.

A Sunday afternoon in Cumberworth – a craft fair.  Pushing Andrew
around in a pram.

Louise literally fighting with a girlfriend from down the road in our
front room.

And then Snape.  Louise with the girls from the post-office. In the
small local school.
Andrew just keeping up with milestones and yet there is something
wrong with him.  We expected there would be.  Throwing himself on the
floor and having massive temper.  Going to paediatricians (another one
in Huddersfield).  Getting a place in a local special school.  They
understand.  I didn’t, I’m embarrassed.  Having children is awful.
Sheila telling me off.  The village green – my ideal scene, not my
ideal way of life.  Community is too quiet.  Subservient to the squire
who’s personal behaviour leaves much to be desired.  Rabbiting.
Cricket was brilliant.  Shiela used to do the teas.  The opposition
remarked on them.  Andrew consistently behaved badly – or so we
thought.  Tremendous tolerance from everyone.  A set of farm animals
in the front room.  A very bad dose of influenza from Kettering.
Andrew barely able to walk.  Andrew beginning to dominate our lives.
What was Louise doing?

It was grey and misty.  Two black horses pulled an ornate black
carriage.  They snorted.  They pawed the ground with effort, and
slowly climbed.  Four walkers, dressed in black, sweated behind.
Soon, they would arrive.  All in all, a good setting.
Death had occurred.  A life ended.  A useful life they’d said.  And
the village mourned.  People loosely fastened together, in servitude.
The carriage was at the gates, resting.
How to remember?  How do you remember?  Celebration maybe, perhaps
something more permanent.  Yes, something more permanent – a stone,
The carriage doors were open.  Six men toiled with a heavy box.  Nearly there.
What do you say?  What do you say about anything?  Its usually a lie.
Nothing bad anyway.  Do this, do that.  You paid.
An discarded open box lay near the summit.  Two men dug.  One was my father.

Soundings: an injury.

Over on my left ankle, rock-hopping, anxiously trying to get in
picture. Camera on delay and my ankle all agony, no simple twist this.
A vision of the river Swale with me in the foreground was history.
It was difficult to seek help there and then.  Ankle just bearing
enough weight to get home by automatic car.  Next day, ankle
grapefruit size, the subject of amusement or horror depending on which
family member was looking.  “You must go to the doctor,” was the
collective view.
The local accident and emergency department, about 11.30 am.  A man
behind a glass grille asking questions of a queue, typing the answers
into a computer keyboard.  My turn,
“They’re coming in now,” speaking to someone I couldn’t see.  And then to me,
“Yes”.  He took my details and I was already on record.  Thankfully
he didn’t need my religion this time.
“Take a seat.  You’ll be called soon”.
Rejoining my wife and studying the entrance together.  A moving neon
sign, an approximate two-hour wait.  Agreed, a phone-call when I was
Clutching an unread Sunday paper, swelling the twenty or so other
accidents.  Quietly sitting in plush orange sofas and chairs, watching
two soundless televisions, gazing at the calm pastel walls.  The
silence was broken now and then.  Intermittent protests from a bored
child, the steps of an occaisional passing member of staff, muffled
murmurings of conversations taking place in rooms with partially
closed doors. A voice from the sub-contintent over the tannoy.  Quick
uncertain glances between the accidents.  Who was next to see the
I was surprised by hearing my name in English.  A nurse in light blue
was inviting me to a windowless box with a glass grille.  A sign on
the wall said triage.  She concentrated on a piece of card and then an
X-ray form, writing quickly with a ball-point pen.  When had I done it
and how.
“Four o’clock on Saturday, walking.”
“Walking?” she repeated, loud and full of doubt.
“It was uneven ground”.
“In the evening?”
“Four o’clock on Saturday afternoon.”
“Follow the yellow diamonds to X-ray.  Do you need a wheel-chair?”
I’d managed back to the car, so I made it to X-ray.  Another glass
grille and computer keyboard.  A waiting area with comfortable utility
chairs, an older lady in a white gown on a trolley, wretching,
comforted by a fretful younger man.
“Could you come this way?”  A woman in white requesting my presence.
A windowless box of X-ray tricks, heavy sheet across my midriff,
mildly painful contortion to get my ankle in position.
“Could you wait outside until the films are ready?”  The older lady
had gone.      “Could you take them to see the doctor in casualty?”
A return trip along the yellow diamonds.
“Where do these X-rays go?”  A question to myself.  A scuffed
old-looking wooden tray screwed to the wall seemed to contain X-rays.
Leave it there and hope for the best.  Back to square one.  The Sunday
paper and the silent TV’s and the irritable child and the murmured
The doctor had changed though.  A youth, in shirtsleeves, with all
his life ahead of him, asked if I might step his way.  Another
windowless box.  Three chairs and a desk adorned with paper.  White
walls and white screen with an ankle X-ray.  We sat as one, my foot on
his knee.  I told him what happened and where it hurt.  He told me
what was wrong and what to do.  Then separation, he to his desk,
furiously writing and ticking boxes on a piece of card.
“Could you come this way for your treatment?”  Another smaller
waiting area.  A woman behind a desk in the corner reading a book.  A
woman in dark blue called out names.  They discussed who was first
over my shoulder.
“So-and-so was here first,” said the desk lady.  “Yes, but I haven’t
any rooms just now.  I can do something that doesn’t need a room.”  I
wasn’t destined to visit another box.  A tubigrip in public view, a
guide book to sprained ankles, a phone call.
There less than two hours, a not so serious accident.  Six people,
five windowless rooms, three waiting areas, two glass grilles.  There
was nothing else I could do, powerless maybe.  But I was also having
personal time, like being in a traffic jam.  An imposed priority
possibly but partly from choice.  After alI I wanted to make sure
nothing was broken.  We in our quiet waiting areas could read, reflect
or simply chill out.  What of the staff in their boxes, behind glass

That first exercise 23.9.97.

They sat opposite each other in one of the village pubs.  In former
times the space where they were would have been the snug, but in
today’s climate of practical pub designs it had been made more
accessible.  The private comfort had gone.  It was now an alcove, open
and exposed.  They sipped soft drinks and thought about ordering
meals.  At least they were sitting on wooden seats and looked out of
windows with lead in them.

They were former colleagues, early retirees from a large and
unforgiving local company.  Neither had let go their former lives, and
they met “to keep in touch”.  Michael also had unfinished business.
Whilst he had always fancied Joan, nothing had ever happened other
than some close encounters on the Christmas Dance floor.  He was in a
safe, if unspectacular childless marriage.  She lived with her mother.
They were left-overs from that more austere age when ”one didn’t”.
Yet Michael wished it were different.

“I met Annie yesterday”, opened Michael.
“Oh.  How is she?  was Joan’s standard reply.
“She’s well, a little bored perhaps”.  Annie, another of his
unrequited liaisons, used to be Michael’s secretary, and still worked
for the old firm.
“She met Pat recently”.  Michael was coming to the boil.  Pat was the
equivalent of the company newspaper.
Michael continued ,“Pat remarked that we were seeing a lot of each other”.
Joan laughed, “She was never too busy for a bit of gossip”.
Michael ploughed on, “I wonder if we might give them something that
they could really talk about?”
Everything went quiet.  Joan stopped smiling and stuttered the first
words that came into her mind, “No, No, I couldn’t, not with the way
things are.”

Michael breathed in, sharply wounded.  He breathed out, shoulders back
and lips pursed , to stop himself collapsing inside.


The man stayed in the shadows as he made his way down High Row.  Just
before the door he suddenly stepped into a beam of street light.  His
silk scarf and gold spectacle frames gleamed.  He knocked on the door.
“Ah, Dr. Cornelius, come in.”  The hidden doorman closed the door softly.
“I’ll just look and see who’s here.”  John Cornelius walked across
the foyer to the members’ signing-in book.  As he passed his coat and
scarf to the doorman,  he saw Michael’s signature.
“I’ll have a drink at the bar.”  He ordered a large whisky and water
and sat next to a small table.  He closed his eyes, unaware of other
members drifting in and out.  A telephone rang, deep in the building
somewhere, barely audible above quiet conversation.  John signed for
his scotch and picked up a message from the drinks tray – the
telephone call was for him.
“Dr. Cornelius, I have what you want.”  The caller had no need to
introduce himself.  John’s knees sagged slightly.  He couldn’t speak.
“Hello, are you still there?”
“Yes, thankyou.  Its just, well I’m finding all this very difficult.”
“Well its a tough world.  Can you come over tomorrow, after work,
about five o’clock?”
“Yes, see you then.”  He replaced the phone and stood still.  How
could he face Michael now?  But Michael had already signed in
Professor Gent and John  Cornelius,  psychiatrist and best-selling
author, was expected for dinner.

Tiredness 24.9.97.

I am conscious this morning of being tired.  I did have a cartoon
image of reservists being called up to quell an insurgence.  Many of
them had the faces of animals and birds.  There was a sense of hurry
and anxiety.  The “boys” are leaving. I wonder if they will be back.

It doesn’t surprise me that a dream containing images of fear is
associated with fatigue.  I have been prone to do to much for most of
my life and I’m aware, even in retirement, that this tendency has not
gone away.  There is a balance to be struck between idleness and

The early family context is not good in this regard.  Both my parents
worked full time in low-paid jobs, and my brother, five years older,
seemed to be studying all the time.  Mum even worked on Saturdays.
There were periods of rest and holidays.  I was a youngster when
Sundays was a dead day.  We had a roast dinner at midday and nothing
much happened until the early evening adventure serial on television.
I think my parents were asleep most of the time.  They had spent all
morning flooding the kitchen, otherwise known as the weekly wash.

The atmosphere of my early life was hurried, though there is a sense
of standing still.  My parents both came from working-class
backgrounds.  They were boiler-firers, shopkeepers and coalmen.  They
started work early, finished late and died young.  I think of the
Nottinghamshire images of D. H.  Lawrence and the anger of Trevor
Howard.  Life must have been hurried, simply in the pursuit of
survival, a legacy of industrialisation.

Understanding of stress would have been rudimentary.  We were still
shooting soldiers as cowards.  Some images of that time are happy, but
it feels a little tortured to me.  There were less people and few
motor cars.  There wasn’t much to dispose income on, if there was any
spare.  The informal religious and victorian rules of society held
sway.  Those values set a tone for our parents and hence our early
lives.  There is little wonder that we all caught  “hurry-up disease”
and carried it with us into the 1990’s.

The metaphor of infectious disease is misleading.  Busyness may be
learned at our parents feet, but it is not easily “cured” in a medical
sense.  I’m not sure medicine cures anything.  Leary may have
advocated drugs, but dropping out wasn’t such a bad idea.  The trade
in leisure is mushrooming.  Recreational use of drugs is common.
There is a tremendous need to “wind down”.  Only to wind up again.  As
a retired person I am busy.  The difference possibly is I choose my
activities and I can stop when I want.

Choice and self-determination.

walk musings

Today the weather was that super fresh September that reminds us of
Summer and yet is really Autumn.  Cherry was down in Magdale.  A
polite enquiry, “Are you lost?” was followed by “Is this the path?”
I mentioned how this question came up recently just outside Hope and
how we had a strange experience of three options, all signposted Hope.
I’m not sure she was impressed.  I wonder what her companion must have
thought ?

This was always the place to come for a little indulgent reflection,
especially when we were exiled in Liverpool and Cardiff.  It is still
a good viewpoint, but these days I cannot see Huddersfield as some
sort of nostalgic focus for lost ideals and values.  It is an anchor.
It is where many of our friends live and where our children are
growing and developing.  I have noticed that anchors are very often

The route then does a switchback across Lumb Lane, down through Royd
House Wood culminating in an “effort” up to Farnley.

Every year, as children,  we were subjected to an annual bowling
tournament in Farnley village.  Dad certainly played and I guess there
would have been a ladies match as well.  I seem to remember a
connection with “The Fellowship”.  This was a loose term, presumably
describing what took place on the nights dad went to to meet his
ex-army pals.  Dad was distribution secretary for the association’s
magazine – “The Uniform”.  Once a month we used to roll up hundreds of
magazines, binding them with gummed brown paper.  “The Mess”, as it
was also probably more appropriately called, threw a Christmas party
for all the children – potted meat sandwiches, jelly and “The Dandy”
annual from Father Christmas who was transparently one of dad’s mates.
Anyway, the annual bowling match was, needless to say, a bit on the
slow side for children, though there could be rich pickings in crisps
and soft drinks if the adults were worked in rotation with the right
mixture of innocence, boredom and irritation.  One year it rained half
way through, so everyone retired to the bar –  match abandoned.  Some
dope, who was probably incapable of conversation, piped up, “Let’s
have a kiddies talent contest”.  I could be mistaken about the motive.
Maybe the crisps had run out.  I used to fancy myself as Tommy Steele,
wielding an imaginary guitar whilst belting out “Singing the Blues”,
so up I gets.  The first verse went well but half way through the
second I froze, words forgotten.  That was the humiliating end to my
one and only talent contest.  Later, when the winners were receiving
their prizes, that same dope, who was now acting as compere, had
nothing for third place.  I don’t know what came over me. I must have
had a sudden rush of blood to the halo because a packet of my
hard-earned crisps found its way from my hands into the dope’s.  There
I was, prizeless and crispless.  This did not go unnoticed by my
Auntie Gladys.  She was 20 stone and lived with Uncle George.  I think
I was nearly twenty-one before mum told me they weren’t married.
Gosh, was that a skeleton in the family cupboard?  Well, big fat
benevolent Auntie Gladys popped a half-crown, which she couldn’t
afford, into my paw.  Wow,  I was rich.

I learned something about  impulsive action that day.  A split-second
later and there would have been no third prize and no half-crown.  Big
fat benevolent Auntie Gladys wouldn’t always there for me in later
years, when I gave something precious away.  But she was there on the
day of the talent contest and that half-crown lasted me ages.

We talked of the examiner for some reason.  I remembered those
evenings and Sundays when the papers were shared by mum and dad.
Sports and features ended up in different chairs.  I was forever cross
at the mess.  Steve remarked “You miss it “.  My initial reaction was
the opposite.  Had I checked, which I did later, the real intent was
general and not specific in which case it was true.

Misunderstanding is amazing.  The smallest thing can get lost without
checking.  I haven’t mastered telepathy yet.

On this trip and the one to Saddleworth there were memories of Blake
Lea.  I’m not sure of the spelling.  We used to catch the trolley-bus
to Marsden and walk up to tunnel-end and beyond.  Here we would dam
streams and go swimming and play ?Poo-sticks.  We always ate ham
sandwiches and drank orange juice.  We always had a great time?  I do
not recall the not-OK feelings and I’m wondering why.  I guess
judgement was suspended and anything went.  Sometimes I went with
friends and this was similar.  Conditional love didn’t apply when
others were there. We must have had a public and a private face,
something I have noticed with a number of clients.

Hey Green Hotel has now been renovated.  We used it for management
training – consultants and gp’s.  Its difficult for me now to express
how I feel about those sessions, including Yorkshire Health
Associates.  They coincided with major changes in my life and were not
helpful in a personal sense.  The situations, without exception,
reproduced in some way insecurity.  My style was becoming increasingly
tentative and uncertain.  Some of the material was unfamiliar.  It was
a group of people and an experience of value but not “family”.

Standedge and the view over Saddleworth where we lived.

Redbrook sailing club and my early efforts at sailing.  This was that
agonising early teenage years when I was bored at home, but had
nowhere to go.  I finished going with Adrienne and Gordon – sailing.
I never got the hang of it.  It was another example of the adults
having the secrets.  I broke the club boat, even before it had left
harbour.  I went by bus often, but sometimes got a lift home.  It
served a purpose.

Kate’s house at Pule Hill.  Converted cottages, buying and selling.
Darley was the previous owner.  A champion dog-breeder, he died of
liver metastases some days after a domiciliary I did one cold Saturday
morning.  The house was a tip but the dogs were OK.  Following the
conversion we often visited with Louise, but that is a fading memory
now.  They moved to Sewerby Bridge and split up.  Louise did what she

When we first moved to Honley, I started playing squash with
colleagues from work.  The ritual developed into squash and a drink or
two in t’coach.  David Woodhead had it then and served a decent pint
of draught Bass.  Since he moved on there have been a procession of
landlords, none too good.  We have moved on as well.  At the time,
Friday evenings were an antidote to our experiences in work.  There
was a sharing of concerns – newly appointed consultants trying to
chart their
courses through hospital politics.  There was also rivalry and envy.
These can and do unfortunately sour relationships between colleagues
who have to work closely together.  There were good times.  We used to
run together and occaisionally take part in races.  One year we
entered a half-marathon and trained really hard during the summer
months ( the event took place on the September bank-holiday ).  We all
took summer leave about the same time and returned in time to get in
one Friday evening before the race.  Over to t’coach we go and make up
for all those missed Fridays.  David Woodhead thought we were in a
speed drinking contest.  Needless to say we were wrecked for the race.
The group has now split, but it was once a light-hearted light at the
end of the weekly tunnel.

The route then goes through Magdale, via the newly made Honley Trust
paths and the angling club on the dam.  Then through Spring Wood,
climbing Netherton Bank to Netherton Village.  There is an alternative
over the disused Meltham railway line, but we no longer take it as it
seems to have become the local rubbish-tip.  The way now goes left on
the road, before taking the fields up to S. Crosland.  This trip up
from Honley was a favoured first section for The Holmfirth Harriers’
training runs.  The slow veterans, like myself, would turn left here
and head off to Meltam Mills.

I first began running in S. Wales as a training supplementary.  It was
a ritual on Thursday nights to do 5 miles after the formal coaching.
The last year I was there, we lost only to Llanharan in the cups and
leagues.  We needed a massive win up in Cwmavon to get into the
play-offs on points difference.  The fitness told and we ran them
ragged.  I thus got hooked on the “high” that follows severe exercise
and have done something along these lines ever since.  Once in Thirsk
I even joined a gym. Hill-walking, running and squash do this for me
now, although lately, running has produced too many injuries.

A chance aquaintance at a function to raise money for poor African
countries first introduced me to the “Harriers”.  I soon learned what
6-minute miles were all about and how they would always be beyond me.
I once managed the club 5 mile handicap in 7-minute miles, winning by
2 seconds, much to the chagrin of the runner who came first.  It will
come as no surprise, that my handicap then became unrealistically
small.  One club event locally is relay race, on road and over the
fell behind “The Cross Keys “ at Upper Mill in Saddleworth.  One year
I turned up for selection just before the race.  I got on the second
team as the last man because there was noone else.  As someone who was
used to selecting or being selected ahead of the rest, this came as a
very new experience.  It reminded me of Casper in the film “Kes”, and
the “slightly balding fair-haired Bobby Charlton”.  Brian Glover was
ever a favourite of mine.  Despite my lack of athletic prowess I
remember with fondness and regret those summer evenings chasing up
Spring Wood to Netherton perhaps nursing a dream of being a champion
cross-country runner.

From S. Crosland there is a fair bit of road to Blackmoorfoot
Reservoir.  The path then goes down the eastern edge of the reservoir
leading to a watercourse or drainage channel that supplies water to
the reservoir from the moorlands overlooking Meltham.  We normally
drop into Helme at this point, but this particular route continues on
the watercourse, across two roads, petering out  at the foot of West
Nab.  It is then rough walking over tussocks and quite a climb.  I’d
forgotten the bleakness and rawness of these pennine hills.  The
extent of the view is stunning and worth the buffeting.

Relief from the wind follows the descent to the “Isle of Skye” road.
The path here touches The Pennine Way.  “Snoopy’s” has gone.  Snoopy
dispensed ample cheap and cheerful sustenance to driver and walker
alike from a roadside caravan.

Cross the road and follow the footpath signs to Digley.  Just before
arriving at the quarry I came across Ashley Jackson and a group of
aspiring artists.  I was impressed by how everyone looked so
luxurious.  Ashley must command quite a fee.  From Digley the path
follows a time-honoured route back to Honley, via Upperthong and
Netherthong.  The total distance is around 15 miles.

“The Steampigs” was the name that James Walsh coined for our
collection middle-aged former somethings ( only Dave Hutchinson
admitted prior  serious athletic ability ).  We only often ran back to
Honley from Digley on Sunday morning.  Dave, Vince Cunningham and
myself stepped out one winter in sub-zero temperatures.  By the time
we arrived at the squash club we looked like three Father Christmas’s.
As I recall Dave, totally cream-crackered, spent the rest of day in
bed.  I don’t suppose it was anything to do with the previous night’s
bottle of red wine?  We started racing as a veterans’ running club one
new year’s Sunday morning, entering the “Marsh House 10K”.  This had a
gentle start followed by 3 miles of severe uphill.  There was tacit
agreement amongst the runners that we would restrict our beer intake
on the Saturday and under no circumstances was there to be any curries
or bonking.  As an innocent, just before the start, I asked how the
preparations had gone, “Right lads, two beers last night?”  Everyone
looked so sheepish, I hadn’t the heart to enquire further.  Two of
them developed whimsical smiles.  We ran some sort of a  race.  I’ve
never done less than 45 minutes for a 10k. and there wasn’t a personal
best that day.  Afterwards I cadged a lift home with a fellow
steampig.  His wife drove.  I couldn’t help but notice her occaisional

War 17.9.97.

The image with which I woke was of battle-hardened cynical troops on
exercise in the local Honley woods.  These men were not the
“corinthians” as portrayed on the cinema screen by Richard Todd or
Kenneth Moore.  They were fighting men with little concern for the
human condition and the so-called rules of war.

I recently introduced myself to the armouries of Leeds docklands.  It
is a splendid place.  I wrote on 28.8.97:-  “We visited the Armouries
for the first time this week.  An excellent museum.  In fact a
celebration of the history of weapons, what they were used for and
those who used them.  This celebration is everywhere neatly balanced
with the horrors that attend the use of weapons for mass destruction.
No awful image is missed.  “Those who forget their history are
condemned to repeat it”, is a quotation that made an impact on me.
However terrible the weapon, the problem is in men’s minds.”

When I look at the words “The Human Condition” I realise that war is a
part of it.  My assumption that it refers to something intrinsically
good is probably misguided.  We may all be mixtures of apparently
entrenched opposites, on the one hand benevolent and on the other
hostile.  It may be possible to simply accept this and study in an
abstract way the politicians and generals, their campaigns, weapons,
triumphs and defeats.  I admit to a fascination for some of these
things but I am also simultaneously horrified.  I see premature loss
of life.  I see waste.  I see pointlessness.

I recognise that the strengths of my own beliefs are colouring this
view.  Life is likely to have nothing preceding or following it.
Meanings of events lie within our minds.  There is no grand plan.  How
can politicians elevate their meanings to the level of truth and send
other people to war?  How can generals persist with notions that
clearly miss the point?  Haig and The First World War are always
quoted as an example.  I understand there is a trend in modern warfare
fo non-lethal weapons.  How does a non-lethal weapon influence someone
with a different meaning in their head?

I recall as a young man, wanting to join the army.  The image of an
infantry officer was attractive to me at the time and we were not at
war.  My family talked of The Second World War affectionately.  The
holocaust somehow didn’t belong.  I now know of a whole bunch of
atrocities committed by every side.  We are all aware of the
continuation of these sorts of events into the present day.  The IRA,
as we speak, are negotiating for peace in Northern Ireland with a gun
behind their backs.

How do we resolve conflict?  How do we get what we want, especially
when there are strongly associated beliefs which are held by the owner
to be true?  I guess the most vigorous response I have lies with the
conflict within myself.  I am uncertain what is real.  I am puzzled by
the concept of truth.  Yet there are times when I forge ahead, with
little thought for the consequences of my actions.  At my level, I can
correct a bad decision.  I am secure enough to know my initial good
faith and my willingness to change.  Does this apply to the
politicians and the generals?