Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The day they arrested my dad


Last Saturday I attended a football (soccer) match with my 82-year-old father. I remain unsure as to the trigger – maybe a gesture or a comment –but while sitting together in the main stand, I relived an incident from almost half a century ago when my gentle, fair-minded dad evoked the wrath of the local police force.  






On a Saturday afternoon forty-seven years ago, the rain pummelled the window pane as I perched on the sill waiting for my dad’s return from work. The previous evening he had suggested we attend a football game and now, barely an hour prior to kick-off, he had yet to arrive.

My dad laboured all week in the engineering factory at the end of our road. To boost his take-home pay, he would often work Saturday mornings as well so as to benefit from the time-and-a-half hourly pay rate. When he clocked off at 12 noon he and his work mates would head for the Rose-and-Crown pub to imbibe a ‘bit of throat lubricant’. As I loitered at the window at 2.00 pm on this watery Saturday afternoon, I visualised him standing at the bar, tankard in hand, oblivious to his commitment to escort his 8-year-old son to the football.

His invite to attend a game together had startled me. Burnley, the team we (and several generations of Jones) supported were playing 250 miles away on the south coast, so we wouldn’t entertain travelling on such a pilgrimage. It would have to be a visit to our local (and bitterest) rival Blackburn Rovers. Nor did I usually go to the football with my dad, my companions being either my older brother or my uncle. Maybe my dad’s invitation had been fuelled by guilt at his perceived failure to fulfil his fatherly duties.

At 2.15 a car pulled up outside; my dad had persuaded a work mate to drop us at the ground. Climbing into the back seat of the Ford Corsair, I caught a whiff of alcohol, thereby confirming my earlier hunch of their pre-match stop at the Rose-and-Crown. As we queued to enter the ground of our loathed adversary, torrential rain lashed into our faces. My dad handed over his hard-earned cash at the turnstile and we found our seats in the stand. The pitch itself, clad in a collage of water-pools of various shapes and sizes, appeared unplayable. Yet at 3.00 pm the referee blew his whistle to start the proceedings. At 3.03 pm he blew it again to abandon the game due to the water-logged pitch.

My dad, with me clinging to his arm, strode immediately to the ticket office to seek a refund of his money only to be informed that, as the match had started, no reimbursement would be given. An agitated crowd gathered outside the ticket office, demanding that the directors of the club leave their plush boardroom and explain why they can’t have their money back.

My father is a peaceful man, but on that day he transformed. Maybe due to alcohol- powered disinhibition. Or the frustration of a premature abortion of a rare football trip with his son. Or the fact that heinous Blackburn was responsible for the gross injustice. Whatever the reason, maybe a combination of them all, my dad (together with his clinging 8-year-old son) gravitated to the front of the baying mob.

 A few minutes later the police arrived. ‘Move along now sir, you’re causing an obstruction’

‘I’m going nowhere until I get my money back’ said my dad.

The officer put a guiding arm on my dad’s shoulder. ‘Come, come now; you don’t want to set your lad a bad example, do you?’

Patronising comments now an additional factor in the already incendiary mix, dad shoved the policeman away. The crowd, some yards further back, cheered at his defiance, thereby providing further encouragement to continue with what was, by now, a one man protest.

The police superintendent appeared. ‘Move on or you will be arrested.’

My dad leaned in towards the superintendent, wagged a finger at the stripes on his uniform and said, ‘Just because you’ve got that bird crap on your shoulder doesn’t mean you can tell me what to do.’  

But it did. The police yanked my dad (together with me, his appendage) into the back of the police car. He avoided a night in the cells (probably due to the presence of a minor) but received a fine of £10 for ‘disturbing the peace’.

On the bus journey home, my father pleaded with me not to tell my mother (who would have, no doubt, castrated him for his hooliganism). A loyal son, I didn’t grass him up; well, at least not until a decade later!  And now, almost fifty years on, I’m announcing his aberration to the world.
  

  

20 comments:

  1. Too much drink can make one do strange things, I know, but it would have been frustrating not getting your money back. They probably played that three minutes of game just so they wouldn't have to refund the tickets.

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    1. Yes, we always suspected that to be the case. Typical Blackburn!

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  2. Throat lubricant – I would have thought a different profession required that product.

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    1. My father's a man of the world, but I don't think giving head has been one of them!

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  3. Holy cow! That's a helluva thing for an eight-year-old to experience! What does your dad have to say about this blog post? LOL!

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    1. My dad is not yet aware of the post, although we do, from time to time, talk (and laugh) about his skirmish with the long arm of the law.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  4. Sounds to me like the evil Blackburn Rovers started the game so that no tickets would have to be refunded- knowing all along that it would be called due to weather but a few minutes in. Your father had every right to demand a refund. I'm disappointed that one wasn't forthcoming. Shame on them- but your Dad rocks!

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  5. Yes, my old man is a character, well known (and respected) in the locality. As for Blackburn, it's the sort of behaviour I've come to expect!

    I appreciate your interest.

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  6. You didn't say how you were feeling as all of this was going on. Proud, embarrassed, afraid, excited?

    I can tell a few stories of my dad, too, resulting from booze. Regardless, I always loved him. He was Dad.

    Nice photo of your dad. I'm glad you have a lifelong bond with him.

    Happy New Year!

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    1. A mixture of all those emotions, as far as I can recall. Yes, it's good that we continue to have a close relationship. Thanks for your interest.

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  7. LMAO! He is a wonderful role model. The world could honestly use with a few more men like your pop!

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  8. ‘Just because you’ve got that bird crap on your shoulder doesn’t mean you can tell me what to do.’ - that's an awesome line. Police just don't appreciate a good burn, it seems.

    Did you ever get your money back? That sounds hardly fair, with only 3 minutes of the match played.

    Also, the media tells me all British football fans are reckless hooligans. Why was your dad the only one arguing, and why didn't the crowd attempt to burn down the stadium?!

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    1. Nope - never got money back. Wouldn't get away with it today. If it had been Burnley (i.e. a local derby) it would certainly have been a riot.

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  9. This is a fantastic story! I love to hear the more HUMAN side of Fatherhood. As a young child, seeing my dad lose his temper was scary, but as an adult these stories make me feel better for my own "human" side. It happens to all of us at some point. My father also used to frequent a bar to "lubricate his thirsty throat" and when I went to work with him for a week, in sweat-shop conditions, I came to understand the need! Thanks for sharing this lovely story.

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    1. Thanks for your generous comments, Joy. Yes, I think our fathers played hard and worked hard.

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  10. One of the marks of a well-written story is when a reader feels emotionally involved and is empathetic for all concerned. Well done!

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    1. Thanks Al - your comments are appreciated.

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  11. ‘Come, come now; you don’t want to set your lad a bad example, do you?’

    By, what precisely? Backing down? I say he taught you a fine lesson that day!

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    1. Yes, he is a man of principle; it takes a fair bit to rile him, but when he sees injustice he tends to intervene (even at 82 years old).

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