Now as promised I am going to list a few things that Bernie used to do on a regular basis that made him the stand out character that he was as and ever will be. But before I start I do not want it to look like character assassination. We all love BC and he is a Legend in my book – hence the poll I have set up above. These anecdotes may make him out to be a bit of a “special” guy, yet BC is a top bloke and he never fails to touch those that he meets in some way.
Onwards and upwards then.
The interests that Bernie had were nearly all sports related, and before I go any further it was thanks to Bernie that my club cricket career took the path that it did. He was the man that introduced me to the two clubs (Guinness and Harlington) that I spent very happy times with. He even got me a game down at Northwood Football Club’s veterans side – but my career there did not last that long after my team mates worked out that I was no good. I mean to say that my first touch was so bad; my next one was a tackle!
So Bernie’s foibles?
Ablutions – his morning started with a gym exercise routine in the boys changing room. He often used a few free weights. The thing that I remember about this daily event was it finished with him having a wash of his face, a brush of his teeth and a good old spit in the tiny Belfast sink set at floor level that was there for cleaning boots!
In the same shower room was a huge plunge bath big enough for a whole team to fit in. We are talking swimming pool here. Bern had a small adjustable spanner in his office that he used to get out before our regular Friday night staff soccer fixtures. The spanner was used to set the bath tap running very slowly as we were getting changed. He used to leave the tap running as we trotted out for the fixture and on our return after the match there was BC’s bath waiting for him!
Practice makes perfect – Bernie loved to practise his sport. On cold and often wet winter evenings after work BC and I used to stand about 20 yards either side of a football goal that had no net in it. We used to strike a football and aim to hit the cross bar and if it did not then the ball would glide over the goal to the person opposite in a nice long pass. This was well before Sky did the “cross bar challenge” and it was amazing how many times we hit the bar flush. This routine certainly improved my game and I lost count of the number of corners I struck in matches to where BC pointed, as he jostled for a chance to run onto the ball in the penalty box and burst the net with a bullet header. I knocked over a few crosses in my time and can still hear him scream “BC’s!!!!” as he launched himself at another goal attempt. Bernie could head the ball all right.
Pock marked gym wall – Bernie used to love his cricket. His batting was like my bowling, erratic. Equally I could bat a bit and he was a really decent seam bowler. So we were pretty well matched as practice partners for the “net sessions” we used to have after school during summer terms. Bernie was a very much a rhythm bowler, he was metronomic at times which had its plus points and draw backs too. When he had conditions in his favour he could replicate unplayable deliveries and get a bunch of wickets in one spell. On the other hand his regularity would also be his down fall as once a batter got after him, Bernie would get an awful mauling.
During our practice sessions I could almost anticipate his next delivery at times and if I had my eye in I would walk down the indoor cricket net and drive the ball straight back over his head. Often I would catch the ball he had bowled “on the up” so it meant that my shot would go straight on up and onwards until it crashed against the metal cladding on the back wall of the gym about 10 metres up. This would make BC a bit peeved so he would jog back to fetch the ball and then tear in from the back of the gym on a long run up. He was often a full throttle, nostrils flared and knees pumping when he came in to bowl at me again. The trouble was he would bowl faster but at the same spot so often the ball would ping off my bat and go even faster past his head to make another dent in the cladding behind him. It used to really piss him off and was one of the rare times that he was actually quiet playing sport.
Gum shield; Times when I wish Bernie would be quiet were when I batted with him on Saturday league fixtures down at Guinness CC. Bernie and I used to open the batting for two reasons. Firstly Bernie was madder than a box of frogs and sending him in first used to pay off – he scored fairly freely and could stay in long enough to knock the shine off the new ball. This meant that the better batters that followed got a slight advantage. The other reason that I went in with him was because nobody else wanted to as it was psychologically damaging!
Bernie was a terrible runner between the wickets and was always looking for the “quick single”. He had the potential to drop his bat down on the ball and dab it gently in front of him. Whilst doing so he would bellow “YESSSSSSSSSSSS!” and start to run. I would back up his call and come scurrying down his end only to find he had changed his mind! He would start shouting “Noooooooooo!” or “Waaaaaaaaiit!” At this stage I was in no man’s land, half way down the batting track, slamming on the brakes. Meanwhile a fielder would be swooping in to gather the ball ready to fire a throw at the wicket down at my end. I had to turn tail and run back to the bowler’s end and dive back into the bowling crease before the throw hit the stumps. With me dashing back, Bernie yelling and the fielding team smelling blood and shouting too it was complete chaos. All it needed was to have Clive Dunn run past in a Homeguard uniform shouting “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!” and the scene would have been perfectly set.
The ball would fizz past me on its way from the fielder to miss the stumps as I dived back to safety. Having got up and dusted myself off, I would march down the wicket to have a word with my batting partner.
“What the f*ck do you think you are doing Bern?” I would enquire in an agitated state.
“Mwaah Fyysuayy sstumoppsut” came the reply.
You see Bernie was a tight so and so. He was paranoid about damaging some expensive bridge work in the front of his mouth, so not only would he bat with a helmet with a full face visor, but he also had a gum shield in as added protection! So it was near impossible to understand a word he said.