Getting up at sparrows and dashing from one door to another with cold bottles of milk, cartons of orange juice and trays of eggs? In fact it must get a little tiresome and boring for some? Especially those that would rather be playing football…
During the school summer holidays, back in my happier times football took up a large percentage of my time. What schoolboy didn’t want footy? Well, maybe those that preferred other sports, however nearly everyone had at some point stuck two jumpers or jackets down as a makeshift goal – I lived not far from a couple of Sunday league football pitches, however, the goals were far too big for us little ones, with hardly an ounce of growth in us… And besides, there were no nets. And as I recall, it was the nets that we’d loved to have had – they made all the difference.
For my birthday, my Grandad, mum’s dad, had bought me a proper football! A really, albeit a leather-effect, fantastic full size casey! In other words, a football with an inner bladder – just like the real ones the pros used! No penny-floaters this summer!
Waking one humid summer morning, eyes still sticky with sleep, sun peeping in through the net curtains, it’s warm and bright rays softly stroking at my unwilling eyelids. Who am I kidding? There was no romance in waking I can tell you that! I never wanted to get out of bed! So, in reality, the sun intruded through those net curtains, prodding me, making me squint, poking my eyes! And the sweet little birds outside, chipping and chirping their merry protestations of territory, were more like cackling old bags, squeaking their disapproval of my need to remain dormant! Anyway, I got up…
As most folk would, I headed for the window to take stock of the wondrous beauty of the early morning sun, not quite bright but a warm, soft orange, surrounded by a slightly brighter vignette of itself… A slight breeze softly stroked the heads of wheat in the field opposite the house, and through squinting eyes could be mistaken for a smooth, golden lake, the surface movement changing direction with every whispered brush of that breeze… Who am I kidding? There was no romance in poking my nose against the window and looking out at the day, when my heart was truly with my mattress!
Poking my nose to the window just in time to notice a read-headed, keen young man, carrying two bottles of full fat and heading for the back door! Our yards had high walls and tall gates so you’d imagine anything we’d left in the yard might well stay there, especially if it wasn’t worth the trouble of pinching… However, this skinny, red-headed brigand made off with my ball! Grandad’s ball! Running up the yard, dribbling and punting my precious casey toward the gate, there he went! In full possession of my ball (alongside another penny floater which I wasn’t quite so bothered to lose)! I don’t think I’d ever moved so fast while still half asleep but I flew from the bedroom, resplendent in tatty jammies, raced along the landing and down the stairs, hand burning from friction on the bannister, feet only just making contact with the stair carpet! The patter of my feet hitting each stair almost faster than the quick, sharp rattle of a pneumatic drill!
I burst into the living room, where dad was on his knees performing his early morning, ritualistic practice of setting balls of newspaper, thin sticks and a pile of coal into the fire grate, and mum scuttling around in the kitchen, balancing three or four tasks of breakfast-making! This was of little importance to me! Pah! Nothing was so important as my ball! I shrieked a cry of, “thief!!”. Well actually, it was more like, “Dad! That skinny, ginger milkman’s buggered off with me ball!”
Life in our house was far too full of domestic and familial demands for the grown-ups to be concerned about a child’s football, so attracting attention wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be. Of course, at such a young age I wasn’t privy to all the real horrors that the World had to offer (or so you would have thought), so a trifling matter of a missing ball didn’t even rate. Dad continued deliriously sculpting his fire grate like an excitable pyromaniac, paying absolutely no attention to me whatsoever, instead, kneeling awkwardly with his head and upper torso almost in the foot of the chimney, top teeth firmly gripping his lower lip as if it would pop off and crawl over his sideburns and away if he didn’t! It was dull in this room. The sun made little impact through the window here except for one or two pitiful rays, that would illuminate passing streams of house dust for a second or two. On the radio, Billy Don’t Be A Hero by Paper Lace – a three-week number one of little significance, though I’m certain it’s a melody that many would remember…..if you know it, perhaps you can now hear it…?
After much nagging and cajoling, mum dropped what she was doing and popped out into the yard to see if the milkies were still around but they’d gone. She wasn’t about to dash out and comb the village and said that she’d catch the milkman when he came for his money on Friday afternoon. Fair enough but I was disgruntled. Unhappy. The fact that I’d lost my present from my grandad, let alone my proper casey and that I was bereft of a really good ball to kick didn’t cut it much for sympathy and I was told in no uncertain terms that I shouldn’t have left the ball out in the yard in the first place – fair enough. Though what I was expected to do I don’t know? Mother didn’t approve of mucky things lying around in the house – namely, grubby footballs, oily bikes, my brothers, etc… The options available to us for storage outside were a coal shed and an outdoor loo!
Friday came and despite the fact that I really thought mum didn’t give a hoot about my ball, she tore strips of the milkman when he called for his money! I thought she was about to strangle him! Compensation was willfully offered. I might not have had my balls but, my mother sure as heck did!
There’s no moral to this story other than, never underestimate the wrath of a mother who doesn’t at first seem to notice your feelings – but then comes up trumps!