“Lisa, we’re going to the canal, are you ready?”
“Erm no Mom, actually I’m going somewhere with Louise.”
“Lisa, we’re going to the canal, are you ready?”
“Yes, Mommy. Can you put my wellies and on and Katy ragdolls coat and have you got some bread for the ducks?”
“What on earth could have happened, I thought she loved going walking along the canal?” I found myself asking my father the following weekend and interrupting his favourite fishing programme.
“Well” he answered without taking his eyes off a freshly caught trout, “That will be the Chickweed Syndrome”
“Don’t you remember?” he asked, eyes stilled glued to the TV. “You and me would walk for miles in the summer looking for chickweed for the canaries.”
I did remember. I closed my eyes. The years fall away and we’re walking toward the canal, me and him. One small hand held tightly in his big safe hand, the other clutching a carrier bag.
Walking down the slope to the canal is surreal. It’s like escaping from one world and slipping into an underworld. Fading away is the roar of the traffic, blaring speakers, bouncing balls and chattery laughter replaced by the put-put chugging sounds of the long sleek barges, and the low buzz and hum of insects as they swoop down to inspect our brightly coloured summer clothes. Trees are alive with birdsong and there’s a lazy drone overhead as a plane dribbles over the sky. A kind of peace descends on us and we are free. We are chatting, or rather I am chatting and he is listening (I think).
Up ahead I can make out the long black and white arm of the loch and for a moment I want to turn back. I have both a dread and a fascination of lochs, I think it’s the deep drop and gushing water that makes it feel so dangerous and exciting. We speed up as we pass by, he knows how I feel and squeezes my hand. Within minutes the loch is a distant memory and I’m skipping into clouds of midges, watching them disperse only to regroup the moment I’m through. A soft put-put chug-chug sound fills the air and the front of a barge appears through the arch of a bridge. My dad nods to a portly old man who is balancing a drink and some sandwiches in his hands. He nods back at us and we see a small panicky woman at the helm looking more like she is navigating the rapids. We collapse into giggles and he tells me that they are Mr and Mrs Jollybody. I think my dad knows everyone. We have reached the part of the canal where we would normally fish for stickle-backs but we haven’t bought our nets today.
“I can smell chickweed,” he announces and I believe that he can. I sniff hard and I’m rewarded with the sweet smells from the surrounding fields, elderberries, clover, honeysuckle and blackberries all squashed together in an outdoor pot-pourri. He guides me to the bounty and let me believe that I discovered it and soon my bag is bursting with juicy green chickweed. We’re exactly level with the bulrushes when I let out a squeal, “Do you remember when we bought Daisy?”
“I’m hardly likely to forget” he smiles. Daisy was a rubber duck and although I had quite a few ducks, Daisy was my favourite and because she had a wider flatter bottom she was deemed to be more suitable for canal swimming. And so, equipped with a length of string around her neck, Daisy made the big jump from bath tub to canal. We managed just fine for most of the trek with me pulling the string and Daisy paddling furiously to keep up but the bulrushes proved too tricky so dad had to take over the reins (a little reluctantly I thought) It turned out that we had been spotted by one of dads friends who was watching from the bridge. That night in his local dad had to endure joke after joke about his pet duck. I however was over the moon as someone apart from us had witnessed Daisy’s maiden voyage.
A loud commercial jingle drags me back to my living room and I prompt him to continue,
“Well,” he says picking up where he left off, “One day your children start to grow up and they begin to need you less and although it comes as a shock at first, it is a sign that you are doing your job properly and their independence is growing. And that my dear is what is called the chickweed syndrome.
An image pops into my head of my dad on his first solo chickweed hunt and I almost cry. I’m sorry, dad. How could I have ever thought that there were better things to do than that?
I suddenly had an urge for smoky bacon crisps and after scouring the shelves, I only found a choice between mega bags filled with a zillion small packs of O.O.D. Chipsticks or I could buy a single pack of Walkers cheese and onion. ‘Where could they be hiding all the other flavours?’ I thought. So I asked.
“We only sell cheese and onion!”
“How come?” I asked.
“It’s the only flavour people want from us, there’s no call for any others”
It reminded me of the last time I was here which was a sad memory.
After forgetting to obtain a Fathers day card needed for the following weekend, I’d raced into the shop to buy one only to be faced with a solitary, crumpled lack lustre offering with a motorbike racer on the front. My dad is no biker so I asked for an alternative,
“Sorry love but we don’t really sell many Fathers day cards here”
Not much call for them I guess, which is why this was a sad memory.
On the estate where I live there is certainly no shortage of kids but it’s a tragic fact that there are an abundance of fatherless kids and this makes me sad.
Walking back crispless, I passed a young track suited man on his iphone growling at a supposed Baby Muvva to ‘buy her own bleedin’ nappies’.
On the corner stood 14 year old Triple H (she resembles the wrestler) she was messing with her mouth and appeared to be scraping chewing gum off a tongue piercing, so here’s another girl that can no longer say sausages thus hindering future career prospects (especially at Greggs- You need to be able to say sausages) maybe she might choose the more popular career choice of breeding some fatherless children or maybe she would still be standing on that corner for a few years to come, or maybe she may finish school, go to college and join the tax payers and so become an ambassador for her piers. Who knows? But as sure as eggs is eggs, fertilised or not- and I’m positive Jeremy Kyle will back me up on this, there is a fast growing number of girls in their mid teens excitedly choosing weird baby names such as Meadow or Wilkinson or shelter, or other places where they may conceive, when not too long before they were naming their dolls.
Can Cameron change this seemingly accepted mindset and convince these young girls to postpone their baby making skills for a few more years and develop other skills that will contribute to society, and ultimately a better life for themselves? Can a slightly cruder Mr Kyle scare young lads to ‘put summat on the end of it?’ I bloody hope so!
Before I reached my house and at different stages, I passed two cats. One was a one eared ginger tom cat that skulks about with a permanent scowl, whether this is the result of a scrap or a genetic fault passed down from a long scarpered parent I don’t know but if ever there was chav cat representative it would be him and although he has no collar I’m amazed he hasn’t mugged a more affluent cat of its bling. He struts towards me menacingly so I cross the road.
The next cat I see is a young pretty colourful kitten wearing a diamond encrusted thin pink collar. I’ve seen her before and she constantly mews for attention from anyone and judging by her swollen belly she appears to have got it. Next time I see her I half expect to see her wearing a tiny crop top to show it off to best effect. Thank god cats don’t have a benefit system.
There are lots more cats round here of course, some adorned with Purberry collars, some are even feral but they litter the area spraying on peoples property, scrounging food and drink, fighting over territory, making life hell for gentle co-existing wild life, mating with local females in the fields and producing many unwanted offspring that they don’t wish to support after the cutesy period has worn off……. Remind you of anyone?
I may go back down the shop and buy up all the cheese and onion crisps so that I can watch all the chavs that don’t live in close proximity to Greggs starve to death. Whos with me?>
Do you believe in fairies, or magic or any other kind of technical wizardry? I do!
As a child I used to shake my transistor radio with gusto in order to make the musical fairies inside drop their instruments, other times I would twiddle the knobs on my Etch A Sketch so very fast, in the hope of revealing the fairy behind the screen who would be wearing herself out trying to match my squiggly movements. What’s far more worrying than that however, is my inability to differentiate between Technology and Fairy Dust in my adult years. It just seems so much easier and plausible to thank the fairies than understand the ‘Oh so confusing’ technical explanation that a pale faced nerd can spend hours giving me.
I mean, I understand that the wind can spin the sails on a windmill but how the hell can it go on to make, harness and store electricity?
Easy, the fairies inside the windmill are knitting together lots of wires which they then cover in Fairy dust and leave to soak. They don’t really even need the wind, it’s just a diversion.
Nobody has successfully explained to me how a television works and if they did try, then they may have given me confusion overload but I do know that if you put your face up close to the screen and lick a small patch, you will see evidence of brightly coloured fairy dots which is an early manifestation of Fairy dust. Try it, its proof!
Also, how in earthly ways can a round vinyl disc with grooves on be capable of playing long ago recorded music just by throwing a needle into the equation and spinning it round? See what I mean? Mind blowing!
I’m certainly not the only woman to believe in the power of fairies and some girls are lucky enough to power their cars with fairy dust, although advertising the fact as a bumper sticker makes you look ridiculous!
An iPad is nothing more than a portable book of magic! If you don’t believe me then jump into a time machine taking one with you, go back a few centuries and see if you don’t get burned at the stake for witchery, although the Internet fairy dust might not work in a world without modems and routers, making you look like a fool with a shiny piece of slate but just for a moment imagine how you would show Google Earth or online Tesco shopping to a passing Victorian peasant and suddenly you see how amazingly crazy the whole concept is.
Don’t think that I don’t love technology because I do- I just wish I had the kind of mind like many of you that understand it, heck I’ve never even successfully followed an episode of Dr Who because I’m so easily confused.
My inability to digest actual facts and information about what really makes the world work is obviously at the very core of my fairy belief and I think I’m very ignorantly happy to stick with it because it makes more sense.
Anyway I have to go now ‘cos my doorbell just rang, and we all know what that means don’t we?………….yay another fairy has earned her wings!
‘And you James, you looked as useful as a chocolate chisel!’
Now I love my dad more then any other man I’ve ever met, but sometimes he could be a right idiot! He was still looking at me waiting for a response, but I had none, I had indeed been as useful as a chocolate chisel. I used to commentate in my head at games and I knew straight away I was at fault, and the reason we were 1-0 down at half time.
I sat in the corner of the tight, muddy changing room staring straight ahead, the fumes of deep heat spray my only distraction from reality, some of the other players was looking at me hiding their laughter. I put my head down and waited for them to get to another player along the line to shout at, abuse, give the hair dryer treatment. The thing was knew this game was important to him, it was a local derby against a Birmingham City development team, top of the league while we was chasing third place in ‘Midland Floodlit Youth League’, a real test and my dad had invited some family to come and witness our battle, expecting me to impress but instead I froze, under the pressure of the game, the spectators and my family I froze.
‘Moor green have it on the edge of the area, they are allowed to shoot and it is cleared by Taylor, straight back to their number nine, who has a clear shot now Taylor has not closed him down and it is now Alverchurch 0-1 Moor Green, Taylor at fault, and his Granddad has witnessed it all!
So I was sure I was going to get a talking to but I was also 100% sure I would be going to my grave having never being called a chocolate chisel by my dad. There was no malice in it, he just knew I needed a kick up the backside and a wake up call, and I had got that. Our defender Matthew Levi came over to me as we walked down the tunnel for the second half, put his arm around me and said ‘I didn’t think that was fair mate, id have much preferred a chocolate chisel out there tonight!’ Ha, he’s always known how to cheer me up!
The second half went better but we still lost 1-0 so I still felt guilty. We did go on to get third place that season after I netted two goals in our final game of the season so, swings and roundabouts!
But football had always been our world outside and away the family, Mom would have gone mental if she heard some of the stuff that went on. the only times ‘father and son’ would come into it was when he would need someone to demonstrate a exercise in training or if some of us had been talking during a warm up and discipline needed to be displayed. It was difficult but he needed to show no favouritism towards me and I myself wanted the lads to know I was in the team down to merit (if at all).
We have plenty of great memories from seasons gone by, plenty of times I’ve made him proud and plenty of times he has made me proud, I still vividly remember scoring one of my first goals as a youngster, I carried the ball out of my full back position, played a neat 1-2 with our midfield play maker, a few body feigns past their player, then I unleashed a 30 yard left foot screamer right into the postage stamp (at least that is how I want to remember it), and as I steer off to celebrate all I see is my dad go mental run onto the pitch jumping and cheering my goal, seeing that was probably better than the goal its self.
And how many time have I seen him motivate a player who is down (I.e see first line), motivate a team that is beaten to a victory, or simply come in to training with a new exercise and run a great training session, it was great to be part of.
He is a great trainer, the best I’ve trained for over the years, all the lads agree and always the first thing out of their mouths when they see me is ‘hows your dad?’ but for every training session they did once, I’d done twice because id be the one out there on a Saturday morning trying out new techniques, new inventions (one that is now infamous in the area called ‘horsey horsey, which was basically rope, with a towel wrapped round the middle for the players belly, and handles on each end for the other player to hold back the others attempted sprint off, I believe they have them out now but they will never be as good as his home made stuff) and new methods that, in his own words were ‘to make players sick.’ The only exercise I didn’t have to try on my own beforehand, before health and safety, consisted of a team of four pushing the Gaffer’s Peurgeot 106 up a small hill without it rolling back onto us, these were the types of training sessions we all loved and the reason Dean and my dad had a number of successful, tight nit teams.
I wasn’t really a natural footballer, I had no real pace to speak of, not the most aggressive person ever and was a bit laid back, what I did have was a lot of dedication, a football brain, (so I was told by my junior school headmaster) endurance and a decent right foot, imagine 25% Gazza, 25%Beckham and 50% Carlton Palmer. So I did have to put a lot of work in and all the training outside of football helped me get to a similar level of players that I played alongside whom were a lot better then me, an having my old’ man coaching at half the teams I played for probably helped.
I’ve got to play alongside a lot of fantastic players over the years, some in a handful of games, some have gone on to be life long friends and some remain an inspiration even though they are no longer with us but all played a part and contributed in some way.
It was all worth it though, I started my career in the summer of 1995 with a failed trial at a decent local side, followed by captaining a team to, at the time a league record 25-0 defeat and only 11 goals scored all season. My slow start to football was to be followed with a number of successful teams, goal winning tournaments, league and cup doubles, penalty heroics, last minute heartache, trophy laden tours, a venture into the F.A youth cup and a name calling father. There have been highs, lows and plenty in the middle.
But as my dad used to say……….
‘make yourself useful kid!’
How lovely must it be to live somewhere where the bus stops aren’t made of Perspex and the road kill consists of something more interesting than just pigeons?
Where young people don’t insist on playing the slowest game of ‘Chicken’ possible and Facebook wasn’t the main reason that they get up in the morning. Bring back the 1970s!
The following story is absolutely true.
The woman a few doors down from me had a lot of children. I’m not sure how exactly how many but there were just lots of them running around. As they came with many different looks and shades I’m guessing each daddy wasn’t a constant presence in her life and she didn’t appear to have a particular ‘type’.
When she felt she deserved a little nap (probably because she had been up all night procreating) she would leave the many offspring alone and pop to a friend’s house across the road where she would put her head down for a much needed kip. It was during one of these naps that one child found a box of matches and in a house filled only with other small children, he proceeded to set fire to his bed. The fire then inevitably engulfed two of the bedrooms.
Luckily for these kids, they were all rescued and luckily for the mother she was not prosecuted- in fact she was temporarily re- housed whilst her newly built burned house, which was owned by a housing association and boasted four bedrooms was completely repaired at no cost to her whatsoever.
She continued to neglect these children and after a while they were removed from her care (?) The jungle type garden viewed easily through the broken and battered fence was littered to the hilt with old broken toys and before long these had been covered over with more vegetation, completely burying the remnants of a previous life.
She lived happily alone until she was arrested for drug dealing, with which proceeds she had used to buy herself a nice brand new car. She careered around the streets in it, although it was clear to all and sundry that she had never had a driving lesson in her life, so probably no licence, tax or insurance either.
The house was kept safe for when she returned from one of Her Majesty’s resorts, complete with buried toys, nub ends galore and a scorched wall.
I saw her recently walking down the road heavily pregnant and holding hands with her new lesbian partner. And they say there’s no justice in the world. HA!