Home alone … a case of bad timing
The emotional events at Wembley Stadium last Sunday inevitably stirred personal memories of a similar happening with a different outcome 55 years previously in the summer of 1966.
To put things into context Harold Wilson was UK prime minister, A Man For All Seasons and Alfie starring Michael Caine were the box office hits and the TV series Till Death Do Us Part had just been launched. The BBC announced bold plans for the introduction of colour television, the Beatles were top of the hit parade with Paperback Writer and Time magazine had officially declared London "The Swinging City".
But in northwest London there was an event of far more significance -- the World Cup final.
I was a student at the time and had a vacation job working nights at the Gillette factory in my home town, Reading. The Saturday afternoon of July 30, I was glued to the 12-inch black and white television in our living room. The curtains were closed to get a better picture. I was home alone as my parents were away on their first-ever trip abroad to Europe but were due back later in the day.
The match at Wembley between England and West Germany had gone to extra time and Geoff Hurst had just put England ahead 3-2 with that goal which is still disputed to this day. It was incredibly tense and I definitely didn't need any interruptions.
That's when the doorbell rang.
Talk about bad timing. I quietly groaned, not believing there could possibly be anyone south of the Scottish border who was not watching The Most Important Football Match Ever…
Cow bells after extra time
I opened the front door and standing there beaming were my parents back home from their holiday of a lifetime. Understandably my mum wanted to immediately tell me all about her first trip abroad. But all I was interested in right at that moment was the match on TV and fortunately so was my dad. So it was a case of "not now mum, tell me later" and my mother retired to the kitchen to make us all a cup of tea. Dad and I went on to witness the dramatic closing stages of the match, culminating in that iconic Kenneth Wolstenholme commentary "they think it's all over… it is now."
After the final whistle I dutifully listened intently as my mum related the delights of the Danube, the awesome Alps, cow bells, yodelling Swiss maids, strange continental smells, and how my dad hated French food. In all, it was a very satisfactory day.
Pickles saves the day
What is sometimes forgotten is that England also lost the World Cup a couple of months before the tournament in rather embarrassing circumstances when the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen while on display in London. The country was saved from further ignominy when a black and white collie called Pickles sniffed the trophy out from under a hedge near his house a week later. Indeed, Pickles got the English authorities out of a pickle. When the dog's owner took the trophy to the local police station the desk sergeant was initially not convinced and sniffed "It doesn't look very World Cuppy to me, son."
For his efforts Pickles was invited to the celebratory England team banquet after the tournament where he was allowed to lick the plates of famous footballers. The dog went on to star in the movie The Spy With The Cold Nose.
As we've slipped into a 1960s mode I might as well carry on, having lived in or around London from 1964-68. As Time noted, it was the days of what became known as the "Swinging Sixties" in London, not that I did much swinging. But the music was terrific and became more inventive through the 1960s. This was partly due to the emergence of pirate radio stations sitting in international waters off the British coast in the mid-1960s. Of these Radio Caroline, a former small ferry, and Radio London a minesweeper, were probably the most entertaining. The disc jockeys were inexperienced but creative and most importantly they played cracking music. It was also fun listening to the pirate DJs trying to sound jolly in the middle of a raging North Sea storm when all they wanted to do was throw up -- and frequently did.
After a fashion
Boutiques also became popular in England at that time. They were what we previously called a tailor's shop, masquerading as something more trendy and fancy with even fancier prices. The French origin of the word made them sound sophisticated and sexy to uncultured English ears.
I would sometimes stroll along Carnaby Street in the early days in an attempt to blend in with the scene and failing miserably. Of course Crutch "looking cool" was a non-starter and I couldn't afford the overpriced fashions anyway. But it was fun absorbing all the psychedelia amid the bell bottoms, flares, hipsters, love beads, Afghan coats and silly hats.
Bangkok Post columnist
A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.
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