What is going on? Boots that look like the sort of things snotty kids with verrucas used to have to wear when your class went swimming in the municipal baths. I give you Nike Mercurial Superfly FG
But the new kit for Euro 2016? Do me a favour! Looks like something a ping pong player would wear at training.
Warning – the punchline is not a typing error. Try reading out the dialog out loud in a Wurzel like stereotypical West Country accent, it might help.
Another home defeat for my football team and Dad and I are left to trudge back up the terracing to the exit from the stadium.
The ground is emptying pretty fast of fans, who had stayed to see the bitter end of another dismal performance by the team we called our own. The fans’ expectations are not high and pretty resigned in first place, but there are a lot of long faces to be seen amongst the people making their way home. Dad and I weave past the odd groups of supporters who were still stood around to boo the team off the pitch. We do not look back or say anything until we get to the top of the concrete terrace.
“Got to go for a quick leak” I tell my Dad as we passed the Gents. It is a 2 hour drive back home for me. Enough said.
The toilet is not as jammed as it can get before the match. This is particularly true when everyone piles in after a walk from the pub before the start of the match. It is quieter now. Nevertheless you can still hear the odd catcall from the enclosure below. Two old boys shuffle into spots either side of me at the metal trough that we all share.
It is a bit quirky in a way, but blokes as a rule do not look around when they use a public urinal. They just stare forward for some strange reason. This is why commercially minded pubs put advertising posters at eye level above their urinals. It is a crude form of subliminal messaging.
The two old boys are obeying the stare forward rule. Rather than look at each other they just look straight ahead and talk to the wall. Having me between them and in the way does not help, but they chat away as if I am not there.
“Well Bill, that was crap” says the bloke on my right whilst looking straight at the breeze blocks in front of his nose. He is a Bristolian you can tell by his local accent. Bill replies in an equally broad West Country drawl “Yeah, proper rubbish.” there is a pause whilst he thinks for a while, just stood there also gazing at a point ahead of him. He zips up and adds, “In fact I will go so far as to say, that is the worst side I have ever seen down here,”
Bills mate nods philosophically in agreement as he too turns to shuffle out.
They start to look at each other again as Bill finally concludes “and I can say that without any fear of contraception.” They both walk off into the night.
Newport County are back in the Football League and they play Bristol Rovers (my team) on Saturday. This brings back memories of when I went to the corresponding fixture way back on 7th September 1985. Now the date does not stick in my mind, in fact I looked it up, as I am not that much of an anorak. I see Rovers lost 3-0, but I do not remember the goals, instead I just have this blurred vision of watching the match from behind the goal in an enclosure that shaded us from bright sunshine.
The thing that I have not forgotten about that day was that I traveled from Bristol to the game on a “Soccer Special”. Older football fans will be familiar with this mode of transportation. Soccer Specials come from an era when football was blighted by hooliganism and one method used to control this and curb any trouble was by using a “special” British Rail train that was chartered to take all the away fans together to the match. The train was patrolled by British Transport Police officers, who even checked your ticket to travel at Temple Meads station before you got on the train, did everything bar mark it with a ticket inspector’s hole punch.
The rolling stock on this particular Soccer Special was ancient; the dusty and jaded slam door carriages were divided up with into six seater compartments and the whole train was pulled by a big old box shaped diesel unit that had seen better days too.
We were slowly pulling out of Bristol when all of a sudden three lads stumbled into my compartment. I had this section of the train to myself up to this point so there was plenty of space for them to come and join me. These boys were clearly up for a good day out and were in high spirits. We exchanged a nod of acknowledgement as we were now sat opposite each other. Pretty soon they settled down and chatted amongst themselves about their music scene which in turn led to a heated debate. This argument centred on whether they were Rockabilly or Psychobilly, a fact to them that appeared to be of vital importance. I just stared out at the passing countryside, silently praying that I would not get asked to adjudicate over the stand off. “Please do not ask me of my opinion on this one, I don’t want to get involved” is what I began thinking to myself as we trundled onwards.
Suddenly without warning everything went pitch black and the shouting stopped. We had hit The Severn Tunnel and the whole carriage was plunged into darkness as none of the internal lights seemed to be working. The silent pause in our compartment did not last long as it was brought to an end with a yell of “Pile on!”
This was an invitation that I refused to accept but the other lads sprang into action. The rough and tumble continued for a long time as we travelled through the darkness. At one point, just as we came out of the tunnel, a large heavy object about the size and shape of a brick flew from the noisy ruck just missing me. As my eyes got used to the light I saw what had flown my way. It was a crape soled creeper shoe that belonged to one of the boys, who were all by now well out of breath and a a little bit worn out after their play fight.
The lad missing his shoe came and collected his beetle crusher off the floor and as he bent over to reach for the shoe one of his mates gave him a quick shove from behind. This push helped the lad out of our compartment into the corridor outside, where he landed in a heap. He checked himself from charging back into the compartment and starting another bundle when he saw a patrolling officer from the Transport Police come past on his rounds. The policeman stopped. Why was I feeling guilty as he looked us up and down? He gave us a quick once over and walked on. We soon got to Newport.
All of us from the train were herded up and escorted by the local police to and from the ground. The Transport police waited in the station for us. They got the good deal and did not have to watch the match!
The journey back was quieter as I was sat somewhere else on the train. The only excitement came when the train slowed to a crawl and was lead by a series of points back to the entrance to the Severn Tunnel. At this moment a car came into view that had parked up at the side of a road which ran parallel to the track. The car could be seen clearly, as the railway was slightly higher than the level of the road. A couple of lads were stood there waiting for us in ambush. They had come prepared and had a few rocks and choice bits of masonry lined up on the car roof. We were sitting ducks!
I do not think that any windows were put through but I do remember the sound of those rocks hitting the train carriages as we finally got to the safety of the tunnel. Nice boys them.
Back Row – Opalka R, Roberts B, Denial R, Cosby P, Raitt C, Atkins G, Chadwick P Front Row – Soneji P, Simpson P, Springford M, Prosser D , Morgan S This photo was taken on the Saturday of the Leicester/Loughborough double header. We had the luxury of a sub. Good job too as Brian Roberts (aka Shergar) had to go off after about 10 mins when his hamstring popped like a piano wire as he gallopped after another lost cause. I cannot remember who came on to replace him, but I do recall Brian standing on the side of the pitch for the whole afternoon, all wrapped up in a couple of tracksuit tops and a big coat against the chill, barking out advice and the odd quip when someone tripped over the ball, or another shot sailed off target. We won that game with a late goal. It was a bit of a bad tempered match, but as a team we had a reputation for being a bit of a bunch of brawlers. The Sunday game was much more civilized. We played Loughborough Grammar on a beautiful pitch, a complete contrast to our own which doubled up as car boot fair venue at weekends. It was no surprise to find bits of coke can and shards of coat hanger dispersed over own playing surface as the debris from the previous weekend’s boot fair would get cut up and scattered by the gang mower before the game. Colin Raitt scored an absolute screamer on the Sunday in a 6-1 demolition. As a player Colin was more of a reducer than a producer, but when the ball bobbled out to him from a corner he just ran on to it outside the box and for once put his foot through the ball sweet as a nut. It was one of those time stood still moments – I can still picture in my mind the ball leaving his boot laces now. The ball went like a missile through a whole body of players and was still rising as it hit the back of the net! I know that our Colin is no Bobby Charlton, but the ball left his boot from about the same position as Sir Bobby and took a similar path and trajectory. You had to see it! Colin was a lovely bloke, who had an engine on him that was due to the fact that he used to cycle everywhere, including back home to Scotland in the holidays. He had this wonderful talent for kicking the ball with his knee; totally uncoordinated, I think that it is called dyspraxia these days. Without question this one and only career goal was a wonder strike and was certainly one for the scrap book. Needless to say he got mobbed after the ball zoomed into the onion bag. Good times Link to Facebook page worth checking out
Count out and count back in again.
At one time I taught a fantastic student who I will call Zed. Zed had been diagnosed with autism at an early age, this did not prevent him from doing well at school. To look at Zed was very small in stature and he had a soft voice that was almost a monotone. Zed liked telling jokes and riddles that were often homemade and told very slowly. He walked with hunched shoulders, almost in a scuttle and was a well-known character in the school. Typically of someone with autism, Zed was a talented mathematician and he also had a real interest in science.
Crustaceans were a source of fascination for Zed and he was a great authority on crabs – kids would often ask him questions about the trivia he knew on this subject.
Simply put he was a lovely lad, but you always had to look out for him. In most lessons Zed did receive in-class support, but due to his nature it was an absolute liability when doing practical work. This was a lad who was knocked over by traffic three times when walking to and from school over the years, once pretty seriously. I lost track of the times that Zed dropped something, burnt himself on hot equipment, or fail to carry out a task in the right sequence.
When Zed was in year 11, I had a free period when he had PE on his timetable and this was when I often used to come out and play football with the group for recreational purposes. This was something I did for years at both the schools I worked in. If I could wrangle it, I would come out and have a knock about once a week with a random Year 10 or Year 11 class – it was a great release and the kids loved it, as I often commentated during the games we played and generally took the piss.
The games we played in Zed’s class used to take place on the tennis courts which were concrete at that time, but just about all weather. Zed did not play football, but what he did do was run for the whole lesson around the entire perimeter of the sports field. This was something he loved to do at the same pace – he would speed up when our football went over the fence as he would always fetch it for us. At the end of the hour when bringing in the lads I would always shout to Zed to stop running. You had to time it right has he always insisted on completing the lap he was on.
Unfortunately after one tight match with an exciting finish I forgot to tell Zed to stop and come back in and this lesson was period three. I realised my mistake about 10 minutes into lunch. There was no PE lesson on the field period four, which meant that when I went out there Zed was still on his feet, but only just, still jogging around the field. Luckily he was just tired out and I had not killed him – we both shared a laugh at what a donut I had been as we walked back into school together. It was a lucky escape and so as with the scissors dished out in classrooms, the same goes for kids – count in and count back!
5 a- side was played at lunch in a sixth form/staff league, as well as after school on Fridays
There was an 11 a-side staff football team too that played other schools and the Year 12 & Year 13 teams. We used to play Year 11 at the end of the year only if they behaved themselves over the year. It was a good carrot to dangle in front of any meatheads that you taught that were in the Year 11 team – “behave yourself, or you won’t play in the Staff game”. The staff team had a bit of a reputation for being a bit ‘rough house’ and had difficulties at times in retaining fixtures against other staff teams in the Borough after some ding dongs with the opposition.
The team did about three weekend tours (in the school minibus) every year to play other schools around the country that we had contacts with – Bolton School for Boys/St Bedes Grammar Bradford was the big one. The nightclubs in both towns have to be seen to be believed. The team even had its own kit sponsored by Snickers. These shirts were supplied by the chocolate bar company after the school sold 50,000 units from its vending machines – the Healthy Schools programme was still to come!
The day before one tour away the bloke who normally played in nets on tour injured his hand. The only last minute replacement we could think of was the lad who played in goal for the sixth form team. He was in my Year 13 tutor group, so after an invite in Friday morning registration and the “what goes on tour…..” pledge he turned up next day with a note from his mum and was on the bus. He is in his 30’s now and still claims that was the best weekend of his life!
Another great sporting event was the renowned crazy golf tournament on the field which was organised by the PE department. You had to chip over benches, hack out of the long jump pit and lob the ball over hockey goals around an improvised course. Mr Old School himself, Matt Morse – a teacher that called girls by their Christian names and boys by their surnames, used to carry a 7 iron around along with a plastic carrier bag of 9 bottles of Beefeater G&T mixers. He would tee off and have a scoop on each hole. This was a man who had a set of optics bolted to his upright piano in his music practice room. He would regularly spike his tea with a shot of the good stuff from one of the bottles fixed in front of him whilst tinkling away on the piano as he accompanied a scratchy Year 7 violinist. A legend.
Form trips were all the rage then. I took some of my tutees ice skating, bowling and sailing, even down to Loftus Road to watch the football. I always had a form Christmas meal out when I had a sixth form tutor group. They were often more fun than the departmental meals out. Green forms had only just started to come in then and risk assessments were unheard of. One Year 13 tutor group night out bowling ended in Zenith’s nightclub in Park Royal and I only had two kids in registration the next day!
This stuff used to be banned. One reason in particular was that the organic solvent used to thin down the correction fluid was abused by kids. The situation got quite bad for a while where students would put a few drops of the solvent on their blazer sleeve and sit and sniff it during assemblies. It became the latest craze. One could argue that the assemblies were so bad that the kids got driven to solvent abuse in order to get through them. It is ironic that these days we bang on at kids to wear their blazers in assemblies, whilst then the students were told not to wear them for fear that they would be “on the sniff”.
Staff smoked in the staff room when I first started. When the smoking legislation came in and things tightened up my erstwhile mentor (Richard Michaels) would have a snout in my lab under the fume cupboard hood, whilst sat on a student stool. This saved the hassle of trapsing off to the smoking room.
Staff went to the pub at lunch. Some went every day – no joke! It was the norm for these teachers to have a liquid lunch. Mind you, lunch was an hour long break then, not these modern 40 minute “lunch hours”. In fact the local boozer used to take the TES on a Friday along with the regular order of tabloids for customers to read, as so many of us went down there on that day.
There was also an elite drinking fraternity, which was an off-shoot of the tea-club (see previous posts). “The 335 club” was as the name suggested based on a time of day when members had to be in the Black Bull by. This was the only rule of the 335 club. The “Bull” suffered at least one suspicious fire and had its windows shot out by one disgruntled patron. It has now become run down, but is still being used as a film set!
Back to the booze……..We used to knock back a wine box at every Science Department meeting, regular. The booze and nibbles were supplied by our HOD, who would always bring a decent red and high end bar snacks. Wine was also served with a hot meal on all INSET days and some of the hard core drinkers would regard it as a personal challenge to make sure the wine was all consumed before going back to their work, even if it meant minesweeping the unfinished bottles from other tables.
When I first started teaching the smoking regulations had yet to be introduced and staff were allowed to smoke in the staff room. Members of the tea-club would not think twice about smoking in the workshop where the club members met. When smoking in the workplace became more restricted a smoking room was set up. This room changed location over the years. It eventually ended up being put in the office space between two mobile class rooms. This mobile hut sat in one of the school carparks detached from the rest of the school. The smokers were a tight bunch who always made the room as homely as possible. It had a TV, fridge and microwave and some comfy chairs to sit in.
One day a Year 11 class was waiting for a cover teacher to turn up for their lesson in one of the classrooms next to the smoking room. The teacher had not arrived and the hut was empty so the class let themselves in. After 10 minutes or so an impromptu game of football broke out amongst some of the lads who were clearly getting bored. Things got more organised, chairs and desks were cleared and the boys started playing “headers and volleys” using the whiteboard as the goal. One stray shot got belted too hard and it burst a hole in the flimsy plywood wall between the smoking room and the classroom. A head got poked in by a student to investigate, the hole was made bigger and a lad shoved through to open up. By the time a teacher eventually got there the tea had been brewed, the fridge had been raided and the fags had been smoked!
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.
Laaaaaads! – a stock phrase of Bernie’s, so much so that it was mimicked by a lot of the boys he taught. Could be compared with the Estuary English vernacular phrase of “innit!” and used in a similar way particularly at the end of a sentence.
Have a good ‘un! – Bernie says this in a lot of ways, just in terms of its altering its length and intonation Bernie can imply a different meaning. He can say it glibly, in a very curt manor as a response to something that he agrees with or a piece of news that comes as no surprise – a sort of “told you so”. Conversely a long drawn out and slow exclamation can be translated as “Oh, my, God….” in certain situations
All staff that he played football with were called by their surnames with an “o” at the end of it eg Paul Simpson was Simpo, I was Morgo, the head of Music Judith Bridges was Bridgo. The only exception to this golden rule was the Head of Sixth Form, Brian Roberts was not Robbo, but Shergar based on his first appearance for the staff football team!
Luv – most women in authority were treated with this term of address which poor old Bernie thought was his way of being respectful. I remember an INSET day session where we instructed by a power dressed expert on assessment or some such for about half an hour. When the Q&A session started good old Bernie put his hand up and said “Right then Luv, I have a question about ….” You could see her bristle at the way she was addressed but good old Bernie did not see the signals. He used this term of familiarity a few more times and each time it made everyone in the room wince.
Listen!……….. This was often a long drawn out exclamation as he used to get pissed off that you were not paying him much attention. Bernie spouts so much garbage though that nobody listens to him!
The following trio were used a lot during PE lessons when he used to join kids 5 a-side games, to which he used to provide a running commentary
Don’t Move! – This was shouted out to a kid on the other side of the pitch who he tried to spray a pass to. Something like David Beckham would do. He had about a 50% success rate at completing the pass!
Done him! – a shout of glee as he would gallop past a kid with the ball at his feet. Not quite Brian Glover, but you get the drift!
Next Goal wins! – always a kids favourite this one, especially when his team was 7-3 down at the time!
The Legend that is Bernie Cronin.
People who come into contact with Bernie are always struck by what a character he is. The good things about so called “characters” are they can brighten up your day and make you chuckle. The flip side is some of their actions and behaviour can cause irritation beyond belief, but that is what makes them unique.
There are three things that I want to get off my chest about Bernie. Firstly his stock phrases, second his weird and wonderful habits and finally his “one offs”
I will come back to these at a later date, but meanwhile people may want to click on this link to a Facebook discussion about Bernie to whet their appetite.