“Where yew from, Guv ?”
The cabbie glanced at me through his mirror.
“ I betchyer from up Norf, aintcha ? Yer not from Burnley by any chance ?”
Hearing a Cockney trying to roll the “R” in Burnley is a depressing experience.
“I am actually, why ?”
” You gotta death wish son !?
Sorry, Guv, bloody cyclists. You know what, that Lycra pisses me off, I mean , what’s all that about ? Tosser.
I thought I recognised your accent. I thought, that’s Burnley, that is. I betchyer a Burnley fan, aintcha ? Still, I suppose someone’s gotta be, yer know what I mean ?”
“Yeh, yeh. The old ones are the best ones.”
“I’ve got a story about Burnley. Funny, hearing your voice, took me back.
‘Aven’t thought of it for years.
D’you remember the Tottenham Burnley Cup Final ?”
“That’s right. You’ve got a good memory, you have. Spurs won 3-1. Blanchflower, Smithy and Greavesy scored for us and, who was it?…Robson, that’s it, got yours. You ‘ad a good side in them days. Me dad could name ‘em all. Blacklaw, Pointer, Jimmy McIlroy, he could reel ‘em off. Mind you, I wasn’t a football fan back then but me dad, god rest his soul, worked at Wembley, on catering.
Come ‘ome one night said, “I’ve got some good news fer you.”
I said, “What’s that, then ?”
He said, “ I gotcha a couple of tickets fer the Cup Final on Saturday. Thought yer’d like ‘em.”
Me mum said,” You know ‘e don’t like football, dad.”
He said,” ‘Course I know, I’m ‘is bleedin father, ain’t I ? Watchyer take me for ?”
Fing is, they’re prime seats, near the Royal Box. He could sell ‘em.”
I said, “Sell ‘em?”
He said, “ Look, I’ll be on duty. Come wi’ me. Whatcha do is, yer wait outside. There’ll be plenty o’ people wanting tickets. Yer listen out fer the touts, the real wide boys and find out what they’re selling theirs for. You keep schtum or they’ll wanna buy yours or tell yer to piss off. Anyway, ‘ang on to yer tickets as long as yer can, the prices’ll rise as it reaches kick-off and bob’s yer uncle,, yer’ll make a killing. Take yer ter Butlins wi’ yer mates that money will.”
So, I turn up on the day…
“No, go on love, take all the time in the world. Bloody zebra crossings… “
I turn up on the day an’ the old man was right, wasn’t he ? Blimey, you should ‘ave ‘eard the prices the touts were getting. So, I ‘ang on, I ‘ang on. Bleedin’ tickets are burnin’ an ‘ole in me pocket when I ‘ears this voice, just like yours.
“Gor any tickets, lad ?”
I turn round and there’s this Burnley fan wiv a Claret and Blue rosette on, an’ next to ‘im, is a little lad in short trousers, cryin’ ‘is eyes out.
I thought, right, this is it. Butlins ‘ere I come.
I said, “Yeh, I gotta pair but they’ll cost yer.”
He said,” Look, I’ll pay you whatever you want. Lad’s broken hearted. I lost me wallet with the tickets an’ everything. I’ve only got me chequebook.
I said, “Nah, I want cash, dad.”
Well, this set the little lad off again an’ people were startin’ ter look at us, like, an’ I saw this bobby glance across.
Geezer said, “ It’ll break ‘is ‘eart if we can’t get in. Me cheque won’t bounce, I promise. I’ll put my name and address on the back.”
No cards then, o’ course.
Well, I took one look at the kid and said, “Go on, then.” You ‘ad to, andn’t yer. Crying like Niagara Falls.
His dad said, “How much ?”
An’ do yer know what I said, silly bugger ?
I said,” Just give us the price o’ the tickets, dad. An’ ‘urry up, or yer’ll miss the bleedin’ kick off. I did. Soft bugger. Mind you, I were only young.
Even as I gave ‘im the tickets, I thought, “That’s Butlins out of the window, that is,” me dad’d kill me when I tell ‘im. Not that he ever laid hand on me but you know what I mean ?
Me mum were made up, she never wanted me to go, anyway.
The bloke said, “Look if you’re ever in Burnley, and you want to see a match, it’s on me. My address is on the back of the cheque.”
The nipper said, “ Thank you, mister,” an’ then, yer know what? “‘E gave me ‘is scarf. Claret ‘n’ Blue. He did. I didn’t even like football, yer know what I mean ?
Funny thing is, a few years later I did become a Spurs fan, an’ I remembered the geezers name an’ address, an’ just fer a laugh, I dropped ‘im a postcard, ‘cause me and me dad decided to go up an’ see Spurs play at Turf Moor.
Bloody ‘ell, we wuz behind the goals an’ the rain was grey, you could see ‘em coming atcha outa the mist.
Anyway, to cut a long story short…
“ Do get a move on, darlin’. Learner drivers, eh? They get on my wick…
anyway, we were met at the railway station wiv a bloke ‘oldin’ a card wiv our name on it and we wuz chauffered to the ground.
You’ll never believe it, bloke I ‘d sold the tickets to was now on the Board at Burnley. Treated us like royalty he did, couldn’t do enough for us Director’s box an’ all that.. The little lad ‘ad grown up. Long trousers, school blazer wiv a badge on it, three chess pieces, I remember that.
Said ‘e wanted ‘is scarf back. Yer’ve gotta laugh, aintcha ?
We were introduced to the Chairman. ‘E were a butcher, weren’t ‘ ? Wassis name? Lord. That’s it Mr Bob Lord. I remember that ‘cause I read somewhere that the Duke of Edinburgh ‘ad met ‘im an’ asked ‘im who he was an’ he’d said, “I’m Lord of Burnley.”
Close set eyes , ‘e ‘ad. Looked right though yer.
‘E said ter me, “ I’ve ‘eard a lot about you, young man.”
I thought I were in trouble. But he couldn’t ‘av been nicer, a gent.
We ‘ad a great day, we did. I fink we won, as well.
‘Aven’t thought abaht it fer years, ‘till I ‘eard your voice.
Burnley. Bleedin’ Dingles.
“ Oh, do move off yer silly old fart then I can pull over.”
“What’s the damage?” I said.
“Tell you what, guv., ‘av this one on me.
‘orrible place but lovely people, lovely people.”