It was my elder brother who was the trailblazer for me as I grew up. He was the first to try everything, being four years older than me and so it was with the cubs. He attended Ladywood Methodist Church pack and he seemed to have a good time. It was always something that I assumed I would do when I was old enough, but as it turned out, it was not to be. I was quite envious as he wore a green jumper, neckerchief and woggle. I think they also had a cap in those days, but I am not sure.
Whilst the family attended Ladywood my parents got quite involved. My mother did keep fit there and somehow my father got roped in to running the soccer team for the cubs. The good news was my brother would always make the team and the bad news, it meant dad had to organise practices and attend matches. As my dad and brother were going I also had to attend, but couldn’t participate in any matches. I don’t remember minding and the practices used to take place on the Soldiers’ Field between Oakwood and Roundhay. Soccer boots in those days were a bit of a joke, and thinking back it was probably due to the cubs that my brother and I got boots and a soccer ball as a Christmas present. The boots were heavy leather with leather studs nailed into the soles and they had a big round toecap that made it difficult to control the ball. In the late 1950s even professional soccer players were handicapped by their equipment. Shorts were long heavy cotton, shirts similarly heavy-duty with long sleeves and collars and their boots very big and cumbersome. The soccer balls were terribly heavy leather with laces where the bladder fitted. They hurt when you kicked them and soaked up any water and became impossible to kick more than a few yards. But the worst thing was, if you foolishly headed a wet ball. The consequence of a header, if you remained conscious, was probable concussion and long term brain damage. It was a truly horrendous experience and a mistake I only ever made once or twice.
At the practices I was occasionally allowed to take part, but I can’t say that I was any kind of potential Stanley Matthews. I remember attending a few soccer matches and we would go along and support the team from the sidelines. I think pieces of oranges were provided for the players at half-time. I remember one particular Saturday morning when the match was away at Crossgates. My dad took my brother and me in the car and our pet poodle, Sabot, was taken along at the request of my mother. I suppose it gave her some time to herself with my younger brother, without the rest of us being there. We were living in Gipton Wood Crescent at this time and Crossgates was quite a distance away. The game was not particularly eventful for me, but my brother may have had a different take on it. I have no idea who won, but at the end my dad bundled the two of us back in the car and we set off for home. We arrived tired, but happy and it was only after a few minutes that mum asked where Sabot was. Now this was not a good question for my father as he had let the dog off for a while when the game was going and he had forgotten all about Sabot when organising for the team to be picked up by parents, and getting us into the car. We had left the dog behind. My mum went mad, as only she could, and the blame was directed at my father with passion. I believe that she would have preferred it if he had left one of us behind, rather than the dog.
We were immediately sent back with the mission of finding Sabot and the inference not to return without him. My poor dad was really in the dog house. His whole demeanour drooped and any support from my brother or me was met with a tirade from my mum. It was with some relief that we got back in the car, no seat belts in these days, and retraced our steps. The park was deserted when we returned and our hearts sank when there was no sight of Sabot. We called and wandered the area, but it was no use. Dad got us back in the car and we drove the streets of the area with the forlorn hope of finding Sabot. He did have a collar with our address on it and we hoped that if we didn’t find him, someone else would and they would contact us.
Eventually we had to head home sans dog. My mother’s mood had if anything darkened and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife, and if one had been lying around I wouldn’t have fancied my father’s chances. Saturday afternoon passed slowly and my mum took to wandering the streets searching and calling for the dog. My father tried again and set off to look for it. I don’t think he would have dared stay at home. But all to no avail. My mother was forlorn and desperate and her heart was truly broken. I had never seen her so upset. It was her dog and her husband and her sons had let her down. The evening was just setting in and all hope had been abandoned and probably divorce was on the cards, when there was a scratching on the door. We all leapt to our feet and mum was the fastest. She opened the door and there was a rather tired and wet looking Sabot. The not overly endowed with intelligence poodle had somehow managed to find its way home. This was truly amazing as it had been taken in the car and it wouldn’t have seen the route through the window as it sat on the back seat, but somehow, and we will never know how, it had found its way home.
My mother was in heaven. The thing was hugged to within an inch of its life. Fresh lamb’s heart was boiled on the stove and it was fed tasty morsels to build back its energy. I am sure it gave my father a look as if to say, ‘That’ll teach you to leave me behind! I hope you suffered!” As it was, family life returned to normal. My father got some colour back in his ashen face and he refrained from comment, content that there was some hope of a future for him. Anything he might have said would not have been well received, after he had left Sabot, mum’s most precious possession, behind.
In time things did settle down and dad continued to take the cub’s soccer for the rest of the season, but we never left Sabot behind again. In fact, I can’t remember Sabot attending another match. The miracle of his return became just another legend of the family, fading over time.
I never got to attend cubs as we stopped going to Ladywood before I was old enough, but I did go to Scouts. My older brother was friends with David Musgrove who lived on Easterley Road and we used to play Risk with his younger brother, Richard. There was a even younger brother known as Titch, but like my younger brother, he was too young to be included. Richard attended St. Stephen’s Church Scouts on Cramner Road in Moor Allerton and he asked if I would like to join. After discussion with my parents and an understanding that my father didn’t want to become involved, I was allowed to go. Richard and I went by bus and the first time I was a little nervous. Now from what I remember about St. Stephen’s Church it was quite modern, in those days (mid 1960s). The design was functional and the altar section of the church had a dividing wall that could be closed and the area where the congregation would sit became the hall when the chairs were stacked and moved back. I was introduced to the leaders and I was allocated a pack and I lined up with them. They were all in uniform, but I was in civvies. There was the usual Scout chant and procedures and then we split up to practise various skills towards badges. I think I was put in the knot tying group and we had diagrams that showed how to tie bowlines, sheep shanks, clover hitches, reef knots and granny knots and various others. The night passed quickly and ended with games and then we helped pack away and I was invited back the next week. We were told we would be playing ‘wide games’ so not to come in uniform. I had no idea what that meant, but Richard told me we would be in the woods and to come in clothes that wouldn’t get spoiled.
The next week came and we arrived at St. Stephen’s. After the initial rituals, we were led down to the woods and there we were told the rules. There were two teams. One team was defending the base and they would patrol and search for any intruders. If you saw someone and called out their name, they had to surrender and were held captive in the base. The attacking team could free the captives by sneaking into the base and announcing they had done so and then all the captives could escape. There wasn’t really a winner, but if you captured all the attackers then victory would be yours. I don’t think I ever played the game where any team won.
I was in the attacking team and we had to sneak up on the defenders. They were not allowed to stay near the base as that would make the attackers’ task impossible. Lying in the long grass and bushes was a dirty and scratchy affair. Grass cuts were common and irritating after the game, but you never noticed during it. I was in my element and any concerns I had about joining the Scouts disappeared that evening. I was ecstatic! It was all a boy could want. I went home that night, tired, filthy and euphoric. Scouting was for me!
Below is a very short film of a nest I found when pruning back an oleander bush. At first I though it was an old nest, but then I saw two little white and orange eggs. I was worried they would be abandoned so I put some pruned branches over to shelter it. I saw mum honeyeater sitting on the nest as I went past with the bins and today saw these two. Cheered me up anyway!