Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Unlucky people, Part 1

Following on from yesterdays post about the lucky people of the Cafe of Friendship who avoided a massive lottery win by virtue of the fact that they put a feckless woman in charge of buying their tickets, I have been giving some thought to unlucky people that I have known, and today's nominee is...

Stuart Ackroyd.

When I was very young (7) we moved to Cookridge and Stuart Ackroyd became my first new friend and quickly established himself as "unlucky bas'tad" when the igloo that we were building during a snowy night in the first week of our friendship fell in on top of him and I had to run and get his dad to dig him out.

It was but a mere early indicator.

Shortly afterwards (still aged 7) he fell out of a tree and broke his collarbone and while it was still in a sling recovering he fell out of another tree and broke it again, thats just bad luck.

His problem was that he was not one to sit back and let others do the dares, if you mentioned a dare to him he'd do it, so of course when we, as a gang, were bored we'd dare him to do stupid dangerous things and watch and usually laugh as he hurt himself again.

He broke his weak collarbone with amazing regularity and was eventually banned from playing rugby when we went onto high school after the West Yorkshire Ambulance Service had to made a regular weekly booking during our games lessons.

Denied the pleasures of rugby he took up cricket and became a very good player in the local leagues, but a carefree life fielding on the boundary was not for Stuart Ackroyd, oh no, he took up the wicket keeper gloves and remember - this was in the day when helmets were for motorbike riders and not cricketers.

His junior cricket club banned him from diving for catches that should really have been taken in the slips after he broke his collarbone in one particularly spectacular catch but this still didn't prevent him from stopping many fours and byes with his face, which became flatter by the year.

But the funiest dares involved our hobby of collecting birds eggs (did I just admit to that, jail awaits me) and living in the countryside around the north of Leeds gave us many opportunities to put Stuart Ackroyd into dangerous positions in pursuit of rarer and rarer eggs.

Like the time that we spotted a magpies nest in an orchard right outside the High Farm in Cookridge (now a pub), we spent nearly half an hour sneaking into the orchard which was less than 20 yards away from the front door of the farmhouse, then devised an ingenious plan where Stuart Ackroyd would climb up to the top of the knarled old apple tree and throw down any eggs that he found where we, on the ground, would hold out his anorak and safely catch said magpies eggs, the deal as always was that he could pick the best one when he returned safely to terra firma.

As a plan it worked well, shouting in whispers so as not to disturb the farmer, he managed to chuck down four eggs before he slipped and fell out of the tree, landing in the anorak and brekaing all the eggs, and his collarbone again.

A few months later during our school summer holidays we noticed that the Grey Lag Geese had returned from their arctic homes to spend the summer in Leeds again, and had nested on a local lake that was owned by a fishing club. as we walked around the lake (which was man-made and reputed to be hundreds of feet deep) we noticed in one corner a huge swath of rubbish, stagnant water, dead leaves, slime, and dead fish - irrisistable to a gang of 10 year olds.

Prodding the dead fish with sticks filled in five minutes of entertaining fun, flicking the slime at each other was alright for a few more minutes, but then someone suggested that we fish one of the dead perch out of the gunge and cook it for dinner, it sounded like a fine idea to Stuart Ackroyd and as the surface of the lake was four foot below the wall on which we stood he lay down and asked that we hold onto his jumper as he reached out, further and further for the biggest dead fish.

Of course we let go just as he almost touched the biggest one, and down he went into the stagnant slime and gunge and dead perch, he was under the water for what seemed like a long time and eventually came up covered in black mud with, I swear, a dead fish on his head - we ran away and left him to walk home on his own.

The following week we were back at the lake still in pursuit of geese eggs, Stuart Ackroyd had noticed that the geese were nesting on a small island in the middle of the lake and had concocted an ingenious plan to get across there - he'd knicked the inflatable lilo out of his dads shed and was convinced that he'd be able to scoot across there and bring back mountains of rare eggs, and stake a claim to being the only person ever to set foot on the island.

His plan worked - almost.

He managed to get nearly halfway across to the island before the stopper came out of the lilo and the last we saw of him before we ran away and left him again he was desperately trying to turn the unstable floating plastic platform around to come back, paddling desperately with windmill arms whilst at the same time trying to find the stopper - the craft went down and so did he, oh how we laughed again.

Those were halcyon days in the sun, on summer holidays with your gang and an accident prone kid who couldn't resist a dare...

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