Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Holiday camp football...part one

When your dad is the sort of dad who puts his hand up to volunteer for everything at your annual holiday camp holiday, when your dad is the sort of dad who is first on stage when they ask for volunteers to enter the talent contest on your annual holiday camp holiday, and when your dad is the sort of dad who speaks to anyone and everyone without being spoken to first, then you get used to being the family at the centre of everything that happens during your annual holiday camp holiday.

Even if you'd rather hide under a rock until it was all over.

In the first eleven years of my life we went to Cayton Bay Holiday Camp near Scarborough where our dad was nearly as well known as the compere who's job it was to organise everything that happened to us happy campers during the week, sometimes the compere just left it to our dad to organise everything, especially the afternoons playing cricket on the top field when 100 or more souls would turn up and we'd play fifty a side cricket for eight hours until it was dark, ending in scores like "all out for 2", it being impossible to score any runs when you have 50 fielders stood a few feet away from you.

But in 1970 we got adventurous, in 1970 no-one went abroad for their holidays, air travel was used by only 30 or so people in the whole of the UK and only the ones who's dads had been Monty of the Desert Rats would dare to take a car to France, when the British Amry left France in 1945 none of us Brits went back there until 1970, then we went and forged the way for millions of holidaymakers like us ever since.

Nine of us went in two cars to a small campsite near Dinard in Brittany, as an expedition it only went about 10 miles from the ferry port but it was deepest France to us and no-one spoke English so we shopped on what we could pick up from market stalls without having to ask questions, my mother became adept at buying ham, we ate ham for three weeks because she could point to that and make a convincing noise like a pig.

Also staying on the campsite were three families of scousers (for non-UK residents, the people of Liverpool are known as "scousers", think The Beatles before they talked posh, think The Beatles when they first appeared on the Johnny Carson Show and you couldn't understand them), and as everyone knows, if you come from Liverpool you are a football supporter, its the law.

So we played football, next door to the campsite was a football ground that belonged to a nearby school which was closed for the summer holidays, it had posts and nets and everything but it was enclosed by a chainlink fence, but scousers have never had problems with chain link fences and soon there was a hole large enough for several people to walk through and we played football on a professional quality pitch, all day long.

And of course you don't play football with scousers unless there is some element of reality to it, so every day when we played football we replayed the 1965 FA Cup Final between Liverpool and Leeds Utd, it was serious stuff, our dad had never forgiven the scousers for beating Leeds in the FA Cup final and he played to kill, as did the scousers.

I of course couldn't be arsed, never have been in the slightest bit interested in sporting competition as it all seems like a waste of energy to me, so I played in goals.

Liverpool won nearly every day mainly because I sat inside the goals and played in the dirt for most of the game, only stopping to pick the ball out of the back of the net and kick it back to my infuriated dad who would stride over to my goalmouth and crack me one around the back of the head every time I let a goal in, I finished most of the games with a headache.

The games were so serious that by the second week we were even re-enacting the whole of the Wembley FA Cup Final experience with both teams walking out through the hole in the chainlink fence side-by-side and lining up to be presented to "The Queen" (who just happened to be one of the scousers wives) prior to singing the national anthem and a rousing chorus of "Abide with Me".

"The Queen" would laugh when our dad (who was always Billy Bremner) introduced me as Gary Sprake the famous and most useless of Leeds Utd goalkeepers and she'd nod her head when my dad added "yes ma'am, this Gary Sprake is useless too" and the Queen would agree, having seen me play all week and then we'd kick off and I'd play in the dirt all afternoon and Liverpool would win 56-0 again.

And in the evening we'd all stroll up a lane to spend the night in a small bar by the name of "Bernards Bar", owned and run co-incidently by a man named Bernard, a frenchman who spoke approximately twelve words of English, most of which were to explain how much he hated the Germans.

He loved English people though and he welcomed our dad, Ralph and the scouser dads as if they were long lost pals, especially when they spent one long boozy session explaining what they all did during the war - Bernard himself had fled his native Brittany when "ze bosch" (spits on floor of his own bar then wipes it with his foot) invaded and had joined De Gaule's underground resistance in London where they spent three years sitting in other peoples bars and spitting on other peoples floor every time someone mentioned "ze bosch" - he was then parachuted back into France on D-Day before making his way back to run his bar, welcome Englishmen like long lost brothers, and spit on his own floor everytime someone mentioned "ze bosch".

And as every day was spent playing football then every night was spent in Bernards bar with our dad leading the singing of wartime songs, everyone linking arms and singing at the tops of their voices about how they'd all meet again don't know where dont know when, and all that jazz, until it was time for us to carry our drunken parents home to sleep on the floor of our tent and start the whole thing over again the next day...

...and then the Germans arrived.

To be continued.

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