Archive | June, 2015

Voices in the Hallway

21 Jun


I’m stood waiting by the front door in the hallway, waiting for my Dad. It’s the same routine every home game, I wait while he fidgets around upstairs getting ready to go to the match. “Dad are you ready yet?” I shout. A muffled reply from somewhere upstairs replies “Nearly, I’ll just be a minute”

Ah if only it was a minute. I know from past experience that he will be at least 10 times that long and that’s on a good day. It’s freezing in this hallway, spending winter in a council house in the early 70’s meant no central heating was to be found anywhere.

In fact I was married and 30yrs old before I discovered the delights of central heating. I would be awestruck by the fact that heating could be timed to come on before you got up in a morning, this was magical! Normally we all waited until my Dad had made up the fire in the front room before we ventured out of bed. If you needed hot water for a bath then the combustion heater in the kitchen had to be fired up. The kitchen heater was nothing more than a cast iron stove with a black pipe that disappeared through the kitchen ceiling.

The kitchen was more often than not the cosiest part of the house and mainly my Mam’s domain. She would spend hours in there and baking days were anticipated with glee. When she was in the mood she would produce enough pies to feed a small army. Fruit pies, meat pies, custards, jam roly poly, scones etc all laid out for her family of six.

But today it was cold and Dad was still up there… I could hear him mumbling to himself as he searched through drawers and cupboards for God knows what “Dad it’s nearly half past two” he stopped his scrambling about to reply “Oh there’s bags of time yet. Who they playing?” “Netherfield” I replied, “Netherfield? Oh there will be nobody on today, they’ll wait for us before they kick off”

I rolled my eyes; yes of course they will Dad, how daft of me to think otherwise. I glanced round my little piece of purgatory which was empty save for three inanimate objects. On the wall to my right was a clock in the shape of the sun. Plastic golden beams shone out from its mocking dial as it ticked its way towards kick off.


To the right of that hung a barometer that always pointed to “Fair” Be it the hottest day of the year or the coldest, the arrow never flinched from “Fair” My Dad would tap its glass encouragingly but it never moved.

The other item in the hallway was my Dad’s biggest extravagance, a bright red telephone. Why we had it nobody knows, we didn’t know one single person who had a telephone so we couldn’t call anyone. When we first got it we would excitingly call up the speaking clock, but even that got boring after a couple of months.

The highlight of the year was the time you got to hear Santa’s message care of BT and we each had our turn listening to good old Santa. Sad to say I think I was about 17 at the time.

A glass panelled door led to our front room. The room was dominated by a huge dark wood dresser complete with attached mirror. The old thing looked quite out of place in this trendy 70’s room. Huge orange sunflowers adorned the walls and they complimented the orange/yellow 3 piece leather look suite that we had.

Down the end of the hall another glass panelled door led to our “middle” room. This room was flanked by a larder and a gas cupboard and another glass door that led to the kitchen. The middle room was my bolt hole and I had an old black & white telly in there and my treasured music centre. The music centre was about 3 foot long and had a tape deck, turntable and radio. I loved the thing to bits!

Seating in the room was provided by a rock hard corner unit which had seats that lifted up so that you could store your LP’s in there. Dad’s Shirley Bassey and Max Bygraves stuff would mingle uncomfortably with my Steely Dan and Barclay James Harvest but it was a great place to tidy away all your records.

I glanced at the sun clock once again 2:35pm and we still had the dreaded Gant to traverse “Dad are you right?” I shouted “Yes I’m ready now. Will I need my big jacket?” Big Jacket? We would need a flying jacket to get there on time now! I wisely kept this thought to myself “Yes Dad, big jacket”

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Thankfully he started to come downstairs with his coat, hat, scarf and gloves “I think I’m reet now” he said “Oh hang on I need mi bacca” “No need Dad” I said handing him his tin of Old Holborn. “Oh right” he says “Well what we hanging about here for lad, were going to be late if we don’t get a move on” I smiled and sighed “Yes Dad”

We moved out through the front door, our voices tapered away up the street and the hallway was once again empty.

The clock ticked on, the phone remained silent and the barometer remained set for Fair…

December 2008 now and Sympathy cards outnumber the Christmas ones in my Mam’s front room up in Orrell.

We left that hallway for good many years back but on my Dad’s final trip the funeral car slowed down to almost stop outside our old house on Montrose Avenue.

I looked across at the new front door and thought about those long lost voices that once spoke in that cold but welcoming hallway…

Tony Topping


Ten Goal Joe Payne

18 Jun


Football supporters all over the world go to the games for one reason only, goals. Forget the pundits with their pompous tactical master classes discussing zonal marking and sweeper systems etc. We the fans want to see the ball hitting the back of the net on a regular basis.

On April 13th 1936 one man went into the history books by scoring 10 in one game! His name was Joe Payne. Joe was born on January 17th 1914 in Brimington Common nr Chesterfield. A promising footballer he played centre forward for Bolsover Colliery and it was while he was playing there that he got spotted by a Luton Town scout. He signed for Luton and was farmed out to Biggleswade Town to gain some experience. The coaches at Luton decided he would make a better defensive midfield player and so Joe settled back into his new role and must have thought that his goal scoring days were over. How wrong those coaches were proved to be…

He spent a season playing for the reserve side and only made the Luton Town first team three times, each time playing the defensive midfielder but all that was to change when on Easter Monday 1936 Luton found themselves with no centre forwards after their regular front men were injured. Joe was called in as a replacement and was no doubt encouraged to do his best, nobody expecting anything special from the emergency forward.   His name didn’t even appear in the club programme but Joe did something never seen before or since, he scored 10 goals in a 12 – 0 home win over Bristol Rovers!

Paynevbristolrovers Joe Payne was suddenly thrust into the limelight and his name was on the back pages of every paper “Ten goal Joe Payne” would stick with him for the rest of his life and his defensive duties were over. The game against Bristol Rovers had attracted a crowd of 13,962; the next home game against Coventry City attracted a gate of 23,142 all eager to see the goalscoring phenomenon. Payne scored again in a 1 – 1 draw.

At the end of the season he earned himself some extra money by touring Holiday Camps, holidaymakers keen to see the man in person.

The following season he broke the goal scoring record for the Division 3 (South) by netting an amazing 55 times as the Hatters won the Championship in style. His goalscoring brought him to the attention of the England selectors and in 1937 he played in a friendly scoring twice against Finland in an 8 – 0 win. Sadly it proved to be his only cap.

After 72 appearances and 83 goals for Luton he was snapped up by Chelsea for a large transfer fee but his career there like so many others was interrupted by the Second World War. He still managed 21 goals in 36 appearances though.

After the war he signed for West Ham but the war had taken away his prime years and after 10 appearances and 6 goals he retired at the age of 34 with ill health.

Joe Payne was also a fine cricketer; he played for Luton Town Cricket Club and represented Bedfordshire.

He died in April 1975 and a plaque was unveiled on the site of Joe’s birthplace, now the place of a pub “The Miners Arms” on April 13th 2006 exactly 70 years to the day that he scored those remarkable ten goals.

Joe “Ten goals” Payne.

Tony Topping

Dick, Kerr’s Ladies

6 Jun


The Women’s World Cup is about to take place in front of a television audience estimated to be a billion strong. I’m a keen observer of the women’s game and the last World Cup was a joy to watch. Women playing football is nothing new though and 100 years ago a team from the North West of England swept all before them, attracting massive crowds and raising thousands of pounds for charity in the process. The team was Dick, Kerr’s Ladies…

In 1917 the Preston firm of Dick, Kerr and Co Ltd was ordered by the government to cease making railway goods and to concentrate on providing munitions for the Great War. Women were recruited to work alongside the current work force and when the dinner break bell sounded all hell would break loose as the women joined in with the football games in the factory yard.

The factory owners were worried that all this gaiety would take the girls focus off their important work to aid the war effort so they decided to form a ladies football team. Other factories had done the same thing and the intention was to play against these women’s teams. In fact Dick, Kerr’s Ladies had already played a game, a charity match organised by fellow worker Grace Sibbert to raise funds for the prisoners of war after her husband had been captured by the enemy.

Alfred Frankland an office worker at the firm, heard of this charity event and decided to take it a stage further. He hired Preston North End’s ground Deepdale for £20, around £4000 in today’s money, and hoped his gamble would pay off. It did and handsomely, over 10,000 spectators paid to see Dick, Kerr’s Ladies beat another factory team Arundel Coulthard Foundry 4-0. The princely sum of £200 (£40,000 today) was raised with all the monies going to a local hospital for wounded soldiers. Enthused with this success Frankland began to organise more games for the ladies.

All the games were well attended and when the war ended Franklin decided to continue with organising fixtures for the team. They had first class coaching from the staff at Preston North End and other players were coaxed to join them from other teams if they showed any promise. The offer of a job at the factory plus ten shillings for turning out for the team was an offer difficult to refuse.

One 14yr old from St Helens was attracted by the offer and she would write her name into the annals of women’s football folklore, scoring over 900 goals, her name was Lily Parr…

Lily was a tall headstrong girl with a shot comparable to the kick of a mule and she would use that power to devastating effect, scoring goals by the bucket full. Her nephew remembers “A shy Aunt who was always giving presents, footballs and the like which were very rare back in those days” Barbara Jacobs author of the book “The Dick, Kerr’s Ladies” tells a different story though “Lily was exceptional and could also play rugby. She would play football with her brothers and also played in games against men when they came out of the pub. She could also be foul mouthed, swearing like a trooper and was also light fingered, always nicking stuff, she would nick anything. She always had a Woodbine sticking out of her mouth, except when she played of course”

Lily was very hard to get close to, her behaviour put a distance between her and the people around her. Often left on her own she was a rebel and she took her anger out on the football. The crowds continued to flock to the games and 35,000 watched them play at Newcastle United. At first the men were curious to see the novelty of women playing a “Mon’s” game. They went for a laugh or for the chance to see the female form in a pair of shorts. The fashions of the day ensured that the sight of a females legs were a rare sight to be feasted on. One of players recalled that the men would be shouting things like “Come on blondie” and “Gerrum Off!”

Some of the smaller grounds they played on had other surprises in store with one player saying “In one of the games I had to take a corner and all the crowd were cheering when I went over to take it. When I got to the corner I could see why, there was an enormous cowpat by the flag! I took the corner and slipped in the muck. I was covered from head to foot in it. The crowd loved it, it was brilliant” Another player remembers that some wags called them “The Dick Less Kerr’s”

In 1920 they played in one of the first floodlit games when special permission by Winston Churchill enabled the team to play under the glare of two anti-aircraft spotlights with a whitewashed ball. Earlier that same year the team had been in the spotlight again when they played four exhibition games against a French ladies team. The contrast between the two teams was immediate. The girls from France were all petite, athletic girls, uniform in size. The Lancashire lasses were all shapes and sizes but they were deceivingly fit as well.

The first game was played at Deepdale and the English ran out comfortable 2-0 winners in front of 25,000 spectators. The following day they played one another at Stockport County and once again the French were defeated 5-2. The third game was a much more close fought game and ended 1-1 at Hyde Road. The final game was played in London at Stamford Bridge and away from their northern heartland the English side were finally beaten 2-1 in front of the Pathe News cameras.

The tour caught the imagination of the public and a few weeks later Dick, Kerr’s Ladies beat St Helens Ladies 4-0 in front of 53,000 spectators crammed into Goodison Park Everton. At Old Trafford Manchester 35,000 saw them play Bath, Anfield Liverpool had 25,000 on to see the girls thrash a Rest of Britain team 9-1. The team travelled over to France to take on their counterparts once again. 22,000 watched the first game on this successful tour, a 1-1 draw. The English team won the rest of the matches 2-0, 6-0 and 2-0 respectively.


Sadly the roar of the crowd hastened the death of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies. Over at the F.A. envious eyes looked at the attendances these women were attracting and they saw them as a threat to their professional game. Their response was swift: football played by women was banned on all grounds who were member clubs of the Football League. Despite this crushing blow women’s football continued but the momentum was lost. Crowds were never the same again and the ladies team led a nomadic existence often reduced to playing on Rugby League grounds.

Almost as a last hurrah the team embarked on their most daring tour yet, a trip to America. Even that tour was beset by with problems, not least being the fact that all the opposing teams were made up of men! Despite this the ladies were only defeated 3 times out of a 9 game tour.

The glory days were over though and in 1926 Dick, Kerr’s Ladies changed their name to Preston Ladies after the firm was taken over by English Electric and the new company refused to back the side. That team still exists today but the crowds have long since gone.

Dick, Kerr’s Ladies raised over £70,000 for hospitals and ex-servicemen. Today that equates to a staggering 14 million.

The team played 828 games winning 758, drawing 46 and losing 24.

Lily Parr died unmarried in Preston but her last request to be buried in her hometown of St Helens was carried out.

The path she blazed along with her brilliant colleagues should never be forgotten. The factory girls from Lancashire who laid the foundations for the World Cup we have today…

Tony Topping




Dark Side of the Sun

1 Jun


Well here it is, once more the holiday season is upon us and thoughts turn to sun, fun and frolics after cocktails. Before you get too excited though let me just run you through some of the traps to be aware of in the dark side of the sun…

Flying out

Now the outward journey is normally ok, excited about your hols you put up with the odd wailing kid, the miserable couples who are too cool to smile, the backpacking imbeciles who walk down the plane aisle and catch your head with their bag, the jousting for the upper baggage compartment space, the running commentary from the doting grandparent “Ooooooo are we going on our holidays?” just loud enough for the nearest 15 rows to hear, the knees in your back, the chair in front being pushed back within an inch of your nose, the tension in the terminal prior to boarding as you look round at your fellow passengers and pray you are not seated near them, invariably you are. Oh well several Gin & Tonics later and you float serenely like the clouds outside your aircraft window, looking forward to your long awaited break.

The Hotel hotel-california-neon-sign

We have now arrived and are sat on our air conditioned coach, the local coach driver decides we need some music and so we are “treated” to compilation tapes of Chris De Burgh. Bonnie Tyler and Phil Collins. You scan the coach looking for unsavoury characters and pray they don’t get off at your hotel. They do.

Finally you make your way to your room, first thing your wife does is check the amount of hangers in the wardrobe, you run to the balcony to check the view, a spontaneous “Yes!” confirms a) you can see the beauties round the pool, and b) she has found hangers heaven.

The following morning you are woken at 6:30am by the sunbed soldiers, a loyal band of sad men & women whose mission is to find the best spot round the pool. They save beds for their new found mates as well, each spot having at least a couple of fixed sun brollys, couple of moveable ones plus plastic tables and chairs. They may not occupy these beds till late afternoon or often not at all but still they persist with their dawn raids.

You manage to grab two beds that nobody else wants but there’s no brolly, you look round and spy one on the other side of the pool. After tiptoeing through the sunbed maze you arrive at your prize only to see that it is bent and rusty. Oh well beggars can’t be choosers and you attempt to lift the thing up, only you can’t because there is a large concrete base attached to it. Undeterred you put the brolly at an angle and start to roll it back from whence you came. By now you have a captive audience and people start to sit up to watch the show, embarrassed you roll it faster and get quite a bit of momentum going, so much so that you can’t stop. You plough through the sea of pink and brown bodies and slump triumphant at the side of your wife, she looks disdainfully at your twisted rusting trophy and says “There must be one better than that” Several swear words later and she is not speaking to you for the rest of the day.

Games without Frontiers

Lying on your sunbed you start to snooze off when suddenly a loud voice booms out from a nearby speaker “WATER FITNESS STARTS IN TEN MINUTES IN THE POOL!” the bane of my holiday life makes his/her first appearance, the Holiday Rep.

Frustrated Redcoats they cheerfully trot round the beds trying to entice people to join in their “madcap” games. I usually refuse all attempts to join in the fun because a) I am crap at games, and b) because I don’t want to become one of the Reps groupies.


The groupie’s main role on holiday is to kiss the Reps arse and to enter every event going. Think people who ask Big Brother contestants for their autograph and you get the picture. The blue ribbon event of the day takes place at 3pm, the testerone explosion that is WATER POLO. Look in awe as our mighty warrior makes his way from the bar to the pool, gasp as he enters the water with an unintentional belly flop, wince at his ear piercing yelps of joy as he smashes the ball past the 64yr old bloke in goal.

To the winner goes the spoils and every event winner gets their moment of fame on the hotel stage, here they will receive a certificate and sometimes even a real leather luggage tag. Applause for our heroes ripples through the night air and if our champion is from Scotland or Wales then it is also accompanied by delirious shrieks that start dogs barking in the next resort. Milking the reception and clutching their prizes they do the “pimp roll” as they leave the spotlight, why the swagger? You’re not some Greek God stepping down from Olympus, your just fat bald Bob from Birmingham with a penchant for disturbing tattoos who got lucky at skittles.

I’m leaving on a Jet Plane

Whatever has gone on before is nothing compared to the descent into madness that takes place on your journey home. The coach picks you up and this time you have to endure Simply Red, Spandau Ballet & Duran Duran. As you wind through the streets you notice the little bar that got rave reviews on the internet but you couldn’t find 200yds from your hotel. The Rep at the front of the coach asks everyone to fill in the questionnaire on the plane and to tick the excellent box so that she gets sent to Barbados next year instead of Bognor; I make a mental note to make her a Bognor babe.

Finally you reach the airport, the Rep asks you to wait on the coach while she finds out which checking in desk you go to, several people jump off and follow her.

When she returns with your flight desk number all hell breaks loose, people clamber for their cases and charge into the airport, the great Gold Rush doesn’t come close.


Frantically you search for your queue in amongst several hundred doing the same, you spot it and gallop over as fast as you can, wife carrying her small makeup bag and you making like Ben Hur dragging two cases with squeaky wheels. There are two queues for your flight which one do you choose? The little devil in your head helps you out “The short one? No it’s a trap, go for the long one, trust me” Your inside info proves to be wrong as your queue moves slower than a tectonic plate. You shuffle forward an inch at a time, pick up case, put down case, pick up, put down.

The kids you met on your flight from Manchester are now twice as annoying on your return home. The little brats have now evolved into mad little munchkins, wearing their garish coloured headscarves, boys & girls. Most of the boys wearing fake Italy kits and the girls wearing enough plastic beads in their hair to constitute a fire hazard. Each of them has their own little pull along suitcase with whatever latest Disney creation printed on it. They swing these about bruising every ankle within range.

Finally you are seated on the plane and on your way home; everything that annoyed you on the incoming flight annoys you on the outgoing flight. You try to stay cool as the little TV screen shows a graphic of your planes position and your distance to travel. You watch it, willing it to speed up, the clock shows 4hrs 25mins to Manchester, you read your book to take your mind off it and risk another look later, 4hrs 23mins to Manchester.

I don’t like flying and I start to think dark thoughts, what if there’s a terrorist or a drug crazed loon on board? I comfort myself with the knowledge that the cabin crew are all well trained in the event of an emergency. I take a closer look at my guardians in the air. All the crew are women apart from two blokes who appear to be gay, they were more likely to use Feng Shui than Kung Fu.


And finally you land in Manchester and your almost home and dry but there is one more ordeal to undertake and they have saved the best till last, the horror that is the baggage carousal. Think of the word carousal and you bring to mind gaily painted horse rides on a fairground or maybe a pleasant musical film, whoever gave this name to the swirling snake that carries your cases obviously had a sick sense of humour.

Every vantage point is taken along the snake’s length, a poster reminds you to stand behind the yellow lines, every man, woman and child is in front of the line, some are even riding the snakes back.

Then through the curtains come the first items, the pushchairs, always the pushchairs with one in particular being unclaimed. Then we have a cardboard box bashed in at the corners, this also is unloved and for a while the box and the pushchair compete in their own version of F1. At last the cases come through and everyone moves forward jostling for space, “I think that’s ours George that brown one” people snatch at luggage dragging it off then throwing it back, complete bedlam.

Eventually the line thins out; you spot your cases and rumble squeakily through to meet your taxi. Into the cab and off we go and what’s the first thing the driver says is “It’s been lovely here”

Tony Topping.