Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I quite like the late Simon Gray's Smoking Diaries habit of picking up on words he jotted down several hours before for a subsequent diary entry. So, mates. Or, more specifically, my dad's mates. Who he left me on the barrier at Boothferry Park for during a few seasons of Hull City AFC games starting in 1969/70. The mates mentioned briefly in Sunday's entry. Mates is probably not the right word. Certainly not mates in the beery, blokey, cor blimey, eff and jeff, nudge nudge, wink wink, look at her, 21st century sense.

Dad wore a shirt and tie most of the time and I seem to remember that, even though he stood with the more leisurely attired massed ranks in the North Stand when we first went to matches together, his formal dress remained intact. And his 'mates' or, rather, his work colleagues, dressed similarly. They weren't mates. They were gents; gents that happened to work together. And go to the football together. They were all signwriters. All employed in the publicity department of Jacksons, then Hull's main supermarket chain. All adept at creating fluorescent posters for shop windows and avoiding making a mess of it all with their deft use of a stick with a ball on the end (it's called a mahl stick - art editor).

At some point, when I'd abandonded Saturday afternoons down at the place that would become Fer Ark in favour of Sundays watching rugby league, Jacksons became sponsors of something-or-other (probably pre-match, half-time and post-match bread) and dad and his shirt and tie moved to more appropriate surroundings - the so-called Best Stand (best only if you liked watching your football bending your neck around the steel that held the roof in situ). In his later years he headed back North, not to stand but to sit. Next to one of his mates, a man who had been his boss for around 30 years. Occasionally, I'd kop for dad's mate's season ticket and sit in the North Stand. Still wearing his shirt and tie, dad would never swear no matter how bad things got on the pitch. He would, however, hurl gentlemanly and polite abuse at the referee. Bizarrely, this sometimes took the form of merely shouting the word referee in a slightly psychotic manner and, very occasionally, jumping up, in silence, and wagging a finger in a sinister, pointed way. He'd often have to spit his Needler's Fruit Sensation into a handkerchief to facilitate this activity.

After a few years absence and at some point in the late 1970s and possibly, to be more accurate if not quite certain, season 1979/80, I became a regular, for a few heady seasons of pretend football hooliganism and smoking Players No 6, in the Kempton stand at Bothferry. Often, after dubious decisions, I would look over at the North Stand to see if I could see my dad jumping and pointing in his idiosyncratic manner. I could never look for too long though because I always feared that dad would spot me, cig in hand. I wonder what his mate made of it all. If anything.

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