Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Two lives, fully lived.

Elizabeth Ellen Spencer was born in the 1930's in Ealing, West London, and was evacuated to North Devon, during the War. She had an older sister who worked at Bletchley Park, on the Enigma codebreaking machines, although Elizabeth never told anyone. After she left school she became a Children's Nurse and met a man from Northern Ireland, newly out of the Navy. They and their friends would meet up, on International Saturdays, at The Rugby Tavern before walking on to Twickenham to watch England play. She and the Irishman were married at the same time as Hillary & Tensing were scaling the summit of Everest, in 1953. Their first child, a boy, was born in '54, then more boys in '56, then '58, then 1960. Finally a girl came along in 1963, then the 5th boy, in '67. Betty, for that was how she was known, dedicated herself to bringing up her large family. The Irishman had moved her and the family out to Surrey where life was untroubled until the IRA blew up 2 pubs in the town where the family lived. For a while, being from Northern Ireland, and having a very Irish name, made life difficult in the schools in the town. A few years later, the Irishman became ill and then died, aged 55, in 1981. The 4 older children were grown and had left home but Betty brought the two younger ones up until they were ready to leave, too. She sold the family home and moved to a 'chocolate box' cottage with a beautiful garden. She did voluntary work, delivered Meals On Wheels, worked on Hospital Radio and then got her own show on local radio. She travelled extensively, spending 6 months with son number 3 at his home in Sydney, Australia, driving across Canada, New Zealand, hot-air ballooning in the Australian mountains and, in her late 60's, belly-boarding down a sand dune near Perth, Australia, to show a van-load of student backpackers how it was done. She died 6 years ago, today, in her bed in her chocolate - box cottage. Betty Spencer was my Mum. She told me about this song, knowing that I'd love it. She said it reminded her of The Irishman.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

22 years ago today,

I had one of the best days of my life. Today is F.A Cup 3rd round day. To the prawn sandwich brigade in the Prem, it's a day for stomping on the little people. For the rest of us, it's the best football day of the year. So, 22 years ago? I worked the Saturday morning, locked the warehouse up at 12.30, got my mate and the boy in the car and started off. Kick-off was 135 minutes away. We were in Woking. It was in West Bromwich. It was pelting it down. Got to the ground 10 minutes late, Got up into the main stand, asked a steward where our seats were and, while he checked the tickets, asked the bloke sitting on the back row what the score was. "You're losing one nil, bruv." said, Kevin, my brother. I had no idea he was going. If you're any kind of football fan, you'll know what happened next. Tiny Woking, from the Isthmian League, hammered West Brom, 4-2. It was no accident. We battered them. Their fans applauded our players off the park, then applauded us as we left. I had driven miles following this team. In the next few years, as success after non-league success came, I regularly drove the length of the country to watch them. I don't anymore. I realised that that passion was filling a gap that was missing from somewhere else in my life. When the gap was filled by something (someone, actually) else, the need to 'be there' went away. They are still the result I look for on a Saturday, still the name that will stir a thousand memories. I gave them my undying love, about 9 sets of tyres, thousands in fuel and tickets and hours and hours of precious time. They gave me one of the best days of my life. I got a bargain, I'd say. The video is the wonderful Saw Doctors with To Win Just Once.