Tuesday, March 06, 2007


....writing his magnum opus, samples of which may be enjoyed just here. The products of his efforts will be hitting the book emporiums of Bloody Great Britain at some point in the summer. Watch this space for further details as and when the dead old fool gets around to gracing us with them....


Gladwin Lester-Harris
Literary Agent & Murderer of orphans (unproven)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Huntsman David provides the foreword

Just recieved the foreword to my autobiography, also titled "The Life & Times Of The Blind Winger Jones" from my publishers. It's written by a little know mercenary hack from the border country who shall be rewarded richly when I come into my kingdom. Not bad at all considering he's not read it and it's only half complete. My work in correcting the errors of the deeply foolish has been keeping me from my magnum opus somewhat. It's pretty much an accurate description of what's contained in my book which I'm sure will in time be taught on the national curriculum or indeed memorised as the Mohamedans do the Koran.
A Foreword By Huntsman David, Cumberland Sausage Manufacturer & Occasional Sports Writer

The great poet of the midlands, Billy Shakeshaft once famously wrote - “some are born great, others achieve greatness, whilst some have greatness hit them over the head with a shovel.” The Blind-Winger Jones by the standards of his time should not have become a great man. Let’s face it, he was hardly blessed with the best start in life. Shoeless, unable to walk or talk and as bald as a badger, he’d hardly been given first prize in the lottery of life. Add to that the fact that he was born without a functioning eye between him and you’re left with not so much as a legend in the making but a ready candidate for a Pennine Poor House. As I explored in my seminal text “Pennine Poor Houses : A good thing, or a shortcut to Salford ?”, this was a fate not to be readily wished on anyone. But I digress.
I have ghost-written any number of alleged footballers autobiographies over the years. I’m seen as a safe pair of hands for the overpaid, fancy Dans and carefree Norberts of the modern game. I’m the man who can turn their barely coherent words into something approaching legible for people who don’t read many books to buy from the supermarket. It’s a sinners errand if I’m being totally honest. I’d much rather be writing high-brow stuff for people who live in loft apartments and listen to Katie Melua. I’d like one of my books to be left on a hardwood coffee table for once and to be commented over at a dinner party, maybe to be discussed by Tom Paulin on the Late Review. Sadly, my name rarely gets a mention on the cover of the books I write. I get to attend the book launch as some random old boring bloke who knows loads about football. I have to clutch my shiraz and munch down hard on a vol-au-vent as some blinged up Neanderthal of a player shares his thoughts on the creative process with a reviewer from the Daily Star. It takes all my self-restraint not to erupt with a violent ejaculation over the linen suited assemblage.
My working life is full of frustrations, and only the huge advance and share of the profits when the hardback tops the Christmas best-selling charts go some way to compensating. That and the privilege of being asked by the spiritual body of the dead blind-winger to write the foreword to his story in his own words. This must be the first genuinely “ghost written” football book, as in penned by a genuine dead person rather than a unscrupulous mercenary hack from the border country like myself.
In another fifty years, this book will be included alongside the bible, and the complete works of the aforementioned Shakeshaft, when stuck on Radio Four’s interminable tropical island, so ubiquitous will it become in the canon of Western Literature. For this is not just a mere sports book. This is a manual for living from one of England’s greatest sons.
In the 1960s, after I graduated from academe, leaving the cloistered ivy-clad corridors of Barrow-In Furness Technical College behind me, I like many other crazy young idealists looked East in search of spiritual meaning. The comfortable strictures of the Anglican Church had little to hold a boy, when compared with likes of Usho Chadwal’s Love Caravan and the Transcendental Neophyte Sect. I packed my small canvas bag with necessities and hitched the magical Morris Minor to the land of free love and patchouli. Sadly the Morris failed me just south of Peterborough, without alternative transportation I ended up attempting to unravel the riddle of our existence in East Anglia. For a few years I lived the life of a raggle-taggle gypsy, smoked herbal Woodbines and learned to play the Zither . I attended the ashrams of all the great eastern teachers of the era - Maharishi Yoghurt, Gorbal Pants and Len Gatcombe the encyclopaedia salesman who had a vision of Krishna whilst dead-heading marigolds for an elderly neighbour in Lowestoft.
I learnt much about life during those years, not least how to rip off gullible young westerners who believe anything must spiritual if it’s spoken by a hairy bloke with an Indian accent. But I’m certain that had this book been published when I was coming of age, it would have provided all the answers I’d ever need. My search would have been over before it had even began. Those years of penury, sleeping rough in an allotment shed just outside Little Snoring , the bad backs, the treadmill of easy sex with eager village girls and fleeing a big brotherly beating would have all been unnecessary.
I had a hazy knowledge of the career of the Blind-Winger as I was growing up. His playing days had been cut short by the Great War some thirty years before I was born. He occasionally got a mention in “Balls : The Boys Big Soccer Paper - First With The Stories every Thursday week”, in their section on great disabled players from the Edwardian era. Granddad Liversedge an unrelated enemy of my father and skilled local octogenarian puppeteer would tell the tale of how once on a train ride from Barrow to Wigan he met a man who thought he’d seen Jones stealing a flick-knife from an urchin in an Oldham side street. We’d sit enraptured as he told us the story for the 87th time, wondering what kind of man this Blind-Winger fellow could have possibly been as dad attempted to strangle the very life from dear old Liversedge with his coarse welder’s hands.
Now I know more about the man I realise that the story is probably apocryphal. Not that his social conscience, proud, prominent and pronounced as it was would not have impelled him to remove a blade from the hands of a ne’er do well, just that his feelings towards the Red Rose County were not always charitable. He once famously refused to turn out for an international fixture due to it being played at Oswaldtwistle’s Barmpot Stadium during the Calder Valley ‘s annual “Stay Clear of Lancastrians Fortnight”.
Proud of his Yorkshire roots, he never strayed far from his beloved Pennine berth in the smog-ridden crusher of tender dreams, that is Sootfield.
Should you today take the train out of Halifax into the hill-country in which the Blind-Winger took his first and last breath, you will pass little mill villages, towns built on graft and catarrh. You’ll look at the beauty of the heather clad hills and the now gentrified cottages and wonder how such a place could ever gestate and suckle such a legend of the national game. But alight if you will at Sootfield Central. Admire the monuments to Victorian grandiosity, read the boards detailing connections to Todmorden, Mytholmroyd and similarly exotic sounding places such as Bacup. Visit the small kiosk offering canned refreshment, crisps and local sweet fayre such as Hardacre’s Hard-Boiled Gobblers. Step out into the battered, bruised and worn down old streets, now showing the first signs of rebirth with wine bars, and bookshops replacing the ironmongers and Kidney Fitters of yore. The detritus of dead industry is passing, being replaced by the information super-highway and the promise of a better tomorrow. Track-suited young waifs suck roll-ups and harass the elderly as mother’s push pushchairs in a hurry in case the Post Office should be shut down before they get chance to withdraw their state benefits. The streets, many of which remain cobbled retain names redolent of Jones’s period. It’s not hard to imagine the clatter of clogs up Bobbin’s Back Passage, or strolling love-locked with a toothy-grinned mill girl along the moonlit alleyways off Frottage Court. Before you leave this seemingly non-descript and unremarkable northern town be sure to turn right at the traffic lights in front of the town hall. Pass by the Progressive Rock Memorial Fountain and the gaudy blooms by the John Inman
Bandstand. Turn sharp left, then right, then left again. Turn around, spin like a tumbling dice and then look up. You will be standing slap bang in the middle of Forceps Square, in the shadow of the town’s only statue. It’s not a bronze cast of a Victorian philanthropist, dead general or even that of Alderman Flange, the most illustrious elected official and weekend cross-dresser in the mid-Pennine towns. It is a six-foot image of a humble blind-man. His hair neatly oiled and parted, his classic striped Strollers strip tidily presented. It’s tucked into his knee-length shorts and you get the impression that this gentleman doesn’t have to kiss his badge to prove his club loyalty. I doubt he ever rolled around clutching his liver whilst pleading for favours from the referee. No we’ll get no nonsense from this fellow. His left foot is rested on a lace-up football, his right arm pointing off into the middle-distance, his gaze, sightless as it is still somehow surveys the commercial heart of his beloved old town. This handsome, determined and forthright figure is the man to whom I have come to refer to increasingly over the years. Although he is long dead, his dispatches to us from beyond the grave have grown in frequency as the year’s have passed. Little did we know that he was polishing his mastery of the barely understood art of spiritual mentalism in advance of this, his magnum opus.
You hold in your hands the life and works of the greatest footballer this country has ever produced. A philosopher, a spiritual leader, a man amongst men in a world of manly men. His name is Jones, the Blind-Winger of Sootfield and this is how he came to be, what he clearly be.
Salut !
Huntsman David,
The Old Abattoir
Cumbria 2006

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Chapter 1 : My beginnings, Tightarse and pipe-smoking lesbians

You would never have guessed that early Autumn day as the 1880s were slowly giving way to the 1890s that love could have been in the ether for two humble roughshod mill-hands like my parents. She was a stunted young thing, barely seventeen, with lank hair and a mild facial disfigurement. He a semi-inebriate from the wrong side of the tracks, his ill-fitting suit bought on the never-never from a door to door tinker with an anger management problem, was not the stuff of romantic paperbacks. So it was probably just as well my mother was illiterate.
It is natural to feel warmth and affection to one’s parents. In the natural scheme of things, an infant dependence is displaced by adolescence rebellion , which as the flame eventually burns and you tire of late nights, solvent addictions and hapless sexual experimentation with the girl your ma refers to as the “village bike”, then a new understanding and friendship can begin to emerge.
That is of course if you have the first idea who your bloody parents are ! The opening paragraph is merely conjecture. My parent’s could have been wayward minor aristocrats or passing circus turns finding themselves with more offspring than the travelling cavalcade could realistically support. Maybe I was the son of an ageing romantic poet fanning his dying embers with a dalliance with an earthy Pennine maid harbouring thwarted dreams of social betterment. These, dear reader are nothing but stabs in the dark. During my living years I remained a rootless foundling.
My early years were spent in the iron bosom of the Mid-Pennine Orphan Penitentiary (disability optional). My care was provided by the largesse of the hapless Larkin Spendthrift, the profligate philanthropist son of famed Yorkshire industrialist Tightarse Spendthrift . Spendthrift senior had built a fortune selling glue to the Arabs. The dry desert climate he discovered made the melting down of horses to produce a coarse adhesive extremely difficult, if not impossible. The 19th century Arab peoples, with their love of flat-pack furniture were screaming to Mohammed for blooming glue. The shoeless Tightarse seized his opportunity. Stealing his Grandma’s small savings with the Northern Skivvies Friendly Fund, he purchased an old nag and horse furnace, setting it up on waste ground just outside Bradford. To cut a tedious bit of local heritage short before this becomes a tourist brochure, the young Tightarse expanded. The temperate climate of the West Riding was ideally suited to the science of solvent and Spendthrift became a self-taught master of adhesive alchemy.
Soon his hot furnace was a throbbing factory full of eager hands, manning his machinery and spewing out sticky stuff. Horses were shipped in from across Great Britain, but even this was soon insufficient, and cargo boats from the colonies brought shipload after shipload of tired old nags to be boiled down in the Yorkshire rain. As the Bedouin build your own coffee table craze continued unabated Spendthrift went from penniless chancer to one of the wealthiest men in the Northern Counties. One Tuesday in May after a bad dream where the devil took his soul and sold it to a Cockney, a rare fit of moral conscience prompted a capital ruse. He would create for his impoverished and brutalised work-force a model village. Decent housing, places of worship, parkland, debating halls, room to breath, space to grow, an environment geared towards civility and moral improvement. It would be a beacon for the poor huddled masses, a glimpse of the new world that was possible if only people had the courage to dream.
Then the architects, the groundbreaking Chuckle Brothers of Rotherham, showed him the bill and he changed his mind. Instead he jerry-built some substandard hovels and a massive gin palace to help his workers take their minds off the squalor of their surroundings and the pointlessness of their existence. Soon Spendthrift Model Village had the highest rate of liver failure in the kingdom, but few who lived there were capable of questioning the reasons as to why.
Spendthrift never married. He seemed incapable of holding a conversation with anyone, never mind a comely female anyone. His senior managers would often say that Tightarse appeared “more shrivel than shrove, and as shrewish as a shopgirl ”, which I’m sure must have been quite profound at the time. But they had a point. The industrialist never showed the faintest inclination toward thoughts of a romantic nature, so consumed with the business of business was he that the business of other business was largely ignored. So whilst he amassed a massive personal fortune he continued to live in two rented rooms just off Chutney Row, in the household of Mrs Roomie ,a never-married spinster of the unwed kind. Completing the household was Bertram, a queer young woman, fond of tight Georgian trousers and suggestive smoking jackets. She ate cigars and quaffed sherry like a magistrate. Keeping peculiar hours, she was frequently seen telling bawdy jokes and slapping her thigh whilst rowing bashful female factory hands across the Great Park boating lake. The phrase to “fall in with a Bertram” is still used locally to describe any young woman toying with the idea of cropped hair and country music. No friend of the church, Bertram became known throughout the district as the “biggest infidel north of Stafford”. This was of course before the scandal of Lord Catesby’s Handbag broke in 1878 and turned the whole world on it’s axle. This peculiar menage-a-trios was the subject of much gossip and conjecture. Some had it that the three of them were Bridge addicts, feeding their frenzy with hand after hand of the seemingly harmless card game. Others suggested that Tightarse was the leader of a neo-pagan coven, abusing the women with his mystical wand, whilst chanting incantations in his rough Bradford dialect. What kind of demonic pact had the seemingly talentless son of Old Man Spendthrift entered into to go from an open-handed pauper to millionaire in such a short space of time ? Few would accept that hard work and initiative could deliver such a transformation.
When Mrs Roomie and Bertram were seen striding arm in arm through the market, perusing the linament and laughing at starlings, the tongues of the town once again began to wag in a scurrilous fashion. Not because their partnered sojourns were enacted in a louche or suggestive fashion, but because they pushed an elaborate steel and satin perambulator. Within the vehicle, dressed in babe-suit and booties was a small boy child, red of collar and gobby of gob. This the townsfolk were later to learn was “Mr Spendthrift’s little ‘un”. How could this be ? He had no wife and as far as anyone knew he’d never yet even known a woman carnally. Questions, questions, but ones which were never likely to be posed directly to the conductor of this intrigue. Spendthrift’s fearsome reputation, rebuking tongue and willingness to wield the commercial axe held people in steady check. Cross the ogre Tightarse and expect a rude, possibly costly riposte. So the question hung and as the months and years passed the questions, still unanswered began to fade from the collective memory of the West Riding. Young Larkin Spendthrift was simply accepted as the glue heir, and his growing presence around the place taken as conventional. In fact he was growing up to be of quite a different order of humanity to his father. Tightarse had wanted to give young Larkin everything he himself had missed out on. His son wouldn’t face the giggles behind the hand when introduced to polite company. He would move freely with gentry and commoner alike, he would possess a noble bearing and would make the name Spendthrift, seem as intrinsic to the fabric of the British establishment as Winton and Carolgees. Shipped off to Shipley to be educated at the famed West Riding Academy for Gentlemen, young Larkin took to his studies like a chicken to chasseur. He topped his year at Latin and Greek grammar, became a fluent speaker of common Cornish, and wrote strictly metered poetry for a London literary magazine. Lest you be led by this into thinking that he was developing into something of an effete, bookish layabout let me redress your growing perceptions, by telling you of his sporting prowess. Winning the school wrestling cup three years running, young Larkin could often be seen grappling with the trunks of a burly young fellow in the school gym. He also became an expert at the Academy’s peculiar local pastime of Gobble Hockle, in which a junior would be tied to a post and spat at for half an hour by the seniors. To be “gobbled” by the seniors was a rite of passage for any young academician, and as an adult Larkin would often regale dinner guests with stories of the time he was greedily gobbled by a seven hungry seniors. But soon it would be time to leave such boyish pleasures behind and enter into the life which the fates had ordained for him.
Tightarse was rightly proud of his mystery offspring and as the boy came of age, he felt it time to take the fellow into the family business. But Larkin was not about to play ball. He announced that instead of a life spent in glue, he intended to explore, to write books about natural history and the chalk lands of Sussex. He would collect fossils, invent the bicycle and transcribe invented folk-dances at coarse gatherings of ruralists. He would learn to play whimsy on the stocking-flute and entertain ladies with basic sleight of hand tricks. He desired to be able to see whom he wanted when he wanted, not to be under the thumb of a business timetable. In short, young Larkin Spendthrift wanted to be a gentleman.
It should have come as little surprise to Tightarse to discover that the education he acquired for his son and heir had led to different inclinations to his own. How could Larkin possibly sell vast quantities of glue to the dusky Mohammedans when he had learnt how to eat fish with a fish knife in the refectory of the Academy ? He should have listened to the advice of Mrs Roomie and Bertram who had suggested that Tightarse’s vanity would come back to haunt him.
“Listen Arsie old chap” blustered Bertram between puffs on her shag-filled pipe, “nothing good will come of turning him into a toffee nosed nancy. A boy bound for business needs horseplay, a regular beating and encouragement on the facial hair front.” And it was the remembrance of that final interjection which now disturbed Tightarse the most. Despite being of a respectable shaving age, Larkin remained smooth of face and had shown not the slightest inclination towards the cultivation of mutton-chops. A smooth-faced son in the rough and tumble world of Victorian industrialism was tantamount to donning a frock and asking to be called Miriam. No shame in itself, if you were a Victorian woman called Miriam but a massive disgrace to a man almost solely responsible for secure fittings on occasional tables across the middle-east.
“What’s with tha’ son !?” boomed his peers at gatherings of the moneyed men of the district. “ ’as he turned peculiar ,or is he just a lass in man’s clothing like yon Bertram.”
This was too much. Tightarse was losing his aura of fearsome invincibility and was slowly being revealed to be an all too mortal, and vulnerable man. He carried a hang-dog expression, and as his grip on sanity became increasingly tentative he even carried a dead poodle in a noose to hammer home the point. Even employees now openly mocked him in the street.
“What’s wi tha’ pooch tha’ doolally bastard !” the young and coarse would holler, flicking peanuts at him as he passed by. But Tightarse was too broken to respond with anything other than a self-pitying look. Local sages suggested that Tightarse Spendthrift was “returning to his root self”, and other members of the miraculous talking herb family of Baildon were inclined to concur. The rain fell, his clothing became increasingly unkempt and his previously well maintained handlebar moustache grew shaggy. The rotting poodle was denied a decent burial, it’s fly ridden head lobbing off on the Manningham Road. A group of local children gathered the remains, their childish imaginations imbuing it with a ghoulish power of malevolence over the locale. It’s demise appeared to mirror the descent of Tightarse into the gathering storm of personal destruction.
Life for some poor souls at certain points in their individual trajectory ceases to be a pleasure and instead takes on the characteristics of a burdensome burden. Now was just such a time in the illustrious life of the founder of the Spendthrift Adhesive Assistance empire. His heavy heart weighed him down like an anchor on a tall ship at harbour in some colonial seaport, and his desire to continue the very act of breathing itself began to wane dangerously.
Broken he sat at his writing desk and in his clumsy hand he began to pen a final letter to his beloved son and heir.
my dearest Larkin,
You know that words are not my forte. I am not, like you, an educated man. I was raised in the gutter of a Bradford back-street, my poor old father raising me alone as I in turn have raised you in the solitary fashion. Unlike my own current material state of life, father was penniless and what we had we had acquired through graft, guile and occasional beggary. Pride is one of the first victims of real biting hunger.
Those were dark and distant times, we cried ourselves to sleep at night for want of a kipper or a small hunk of bread to dip in our stewed weekly tea. Ceaseless poverty ate at our moral selves. I grew desperate and as I nursed my poor sickly father through his final hours of painful flatulence I resolved that I would crawl my way out of these pitiful circumstances. And so I did. The story of my rise is already subject matter for local historians so I will not bore you with it again here, but I simply want you to know why it is I act how I act.
As my life passes from the present into the past tense, I feel it is only correct that I should now broach with you the vexed subject of your lineage. I know it is a fear of my likely response that has held your tongue on mysteries of your maternal line. It must have plagued you that the identity of your mother, whose womb bore you, whose paps you hungrily suckled as a babe in arms remains a mystery to you. You took at word that I, your father, could not reveal her name or give details of her countenance, broken was I by her premature demise. I am not proud about the dastardly undertaking I now have to share with you.
Twenty-four years ago almost to the day, standing in my office was a young female employee. Her name was Tibby Gizzard, the only half-respectable member of the notorious Gizzard clan of Clayton. She’d come to me six months previously almost begging for employment. Sensing an exploitative opportunity, I did what any decent honest capitalist would have done, I offered her labour on lower pay and longer hours than usual and told her to be grateful. To her undying credit she was almost obsequiously thankful for my generosity, so I docked her a half-day’s Christmas holiday and told her to get to work.
Now once again she stood before me. Again the tears were flowing, and her pleading bordered on the hysterical. I was half-minded to slap her, but knowing the standards of hygiene that prevailed in the Gizzard household I held back for fear of contagion.
“ I’sa been a bad gal….” she blubbered.
No surprise there I thought.
“No sir, I’sa been a ver’ bad gal !” She stamped a clog and marked my floorboards. It took all my self-restraint not to sack her on the spot.
Eventually with some gentle encouragement and the threat of violence, young Tibby told me her whole, sorry and sordid tale. Five weeks earlier I had generously gifted my employees a four hour holiday which had been greeted with much merry-making. Songs had been written by the more literate of their number extolling my virtues, and calling for my canonisation. The workers filled the streets, carousing and cavorting as if the end of the world was imminent. As I looked out of my office window at the merriment I remember a small stab of guilt piercing my heart. These people are nothing more than children I thought, left to their own devices they could easily seriously harm their moral well-being. Deciding not to be so hard on myself, I put such thoughts out of my mind and got on with my own labours. Now standing before me was a sorry confirmation of my own worst fears.
Tibby Gizzard was with child. Under the influence of gin and Stern Hand Johnson the female workers favourite smooth-talking hoof-desiccator, she had agreed to join in a drunken game of Maiden’s Pork Cobbler. I don’t need to spell out to you the rules of this particular parlour game, but needless to say it involves semi-nudity and the generous application of floor polish. Tibby’s immature mind was incapable of grasping the rules of the tournament, becoming a mere whipping girl for the experienced hands, she lost her niblet, and administered a jack-off without passing whoopsy. In cobbler terms this is a losing position to be in. It takes three flip-colins and a tankard to even begin to recover.
So you can imagine the guilt that this news once again provoked in me. I have always been too big-hearted for my own good and I failed to respond in the appropriate manner. She is not the first and will doubtless be the last trollope urchin to fall for die kinder whilst outside of the marriage bed. But the knowledge that my laissez-faire attitude to the worker’s leisure had inadvertently brought about this sordid circumstance left me with an uncomfortable sense of responsibility.
Calming the now hysterical girl I told her that when the child was born it would be delivered by cover of darkness to the house of Mrs Roomie. I would raise the pitiful blighter as if it were my own and in return she would keep her silence until the end of her unnatural life. She fell on her knees and sobbed, attempting to kiss my feet. I felt compelled to deliver a sharp rebuke to her wart-ridden features with the point of my winkle-pickers which appeared to quieten her, despite the steady flow of blood which it encouraged from her nostrils.
The months passed. Tibby grew larger provoking questions from those members of the workforce that were not clinically stupid, which thankfully has never been many.
“Why’s yer so fat Gizzer ? As tha’ bin felchin’ chocolate holes from Rimmings !”
I must explain. Chocolate Holes were a local delicacy which have now sadly fallen from favour. With them went the fortunes of the bankrupt Rimmings factory. A close personal friend and confidante of the owner, I too was a Rimming addict and could often be found furtively snacking on a delicious brown hole.
Mr Rimming produced no heir and despite being a cheerful cove a subtle
strand of deep inner sadness was threaded through his daily life as a result. He once said to me over a glass of Malibu,
“Spendthrift old boy, don’t be like me and be facing death with no one to take a firm hold of the tiller when you finally shuffle off the stage.”
I pondered these words and took them to heart. Although women, with the exception of Mrs Roomie and the barely female Bertram, terrified me, I knew the dying cocoa magnate spoke the truth. It was these words and the fateful fear of being unremembered, my empire falling to dust, the Arabs being without glue and my workforce without alcohol that prompted my decision to take the child. I did it for the noblest and most selfless of motives.
The child was duly delivered to the house of my landlady on a stormy January night. Bertram took the babe, gave it it’s first cigar, and gently bottle fed it absinthe to calm it‘s fretful brow. She showed a tenderness that evening which belied her basic masculinity and love of horseplay, suggesting that beneath the stick-on mutton-chops and ceaseless whoring there beat the heart of a true mother. Mrs Roomie fussed and bothered, preparing a rude cot for the child whilst I sat helplessly in my leather reading chair, the full enormity of what I had just done finally dawning on my increasingly troubled brow. I would do my best for the boy, for male babe it was that Tibby Gizzard ejected from her womb a quarter of a century ago.
Larkin, my son, I will never think of you as other than my own, but surely now you understand the meaning of my tale. That helpless poor born babe that shivered and cried itself to sleep for weeks and months to come, was you, yourself, in the infant form. I am not your biological father, even if the bonds of compassion and affection that have built up over the years now engender within me the highest of paternal feelings.
If my tale were to end there I am sure that given time we could perhaps be re-united. The fountain of forgiveness could flow upon us and in the spirit of true familial compassion we could embrace as father and son. But I fear my narrative must now enter an even more troubled moral landscape.
The secret of our unnatural connections remained a danger to me. I knew that if the truth of your origins were ever to become public knowledge then I would be finished. People would surmise that my generosity towards you was the product not of guilt over the excesses of a half-day’s holiday, but the result of my having had unnatural natural relations of a carnal fleshy kind with the young Miss Gizzard. Such behaviour would be scandalous in these morally censorious times and would not go down at all well with the Arabs, sticklers as they are for good hygiene. The thought of a tainted man’s adhesive securing their bookcases would repulse them. As long as Tibby kept her word then nothing need upset our arrangement. But Tibby could not keep her word. Going the way of all Gizzard’s she took to the white spirit. When under the influence her wagging tongue would tell tales of recent history, a past that left me culpable for her increasingly bitter present. Your birth you see was not a happy one. You kicked violently and accusingly against your ejection into the bleak surrounds of the Gizzard hovel. You twisted and tore and left the blighted Tibby incapable of bearing any future offspring. Despite her best efforts, her ruined feminine centre remained vacant and hollow. As empty as the alchohol-fuelled existence she now struggled to tolerate. Thankfully, her increasing unpredictability rendered much of what came out of her mouth barely comprehensible. But word reached my ear of gossip that was beginning to circulate amongst the factory hands. It involved myself, the mad Tibby Gizzard and a sickly babe. It was a fragmentary and inconsistent tale but nevertheless within the hubbub of worker’s gossip certain facts were beginning to coalesce.
That night I confided my concerns to Bertram. Always a rock in a crisis, your manly adopted big-sister and I conceived a plan.
As the factory bell sounded marking the end of another 19 hour shift the silhouette of a dashing young blade could be seen in the watery moonlight. Leaning against the railings in her finest frock coat and breeches, her false moustache freshly oiled was Bertram. The eyes of the young women as they clattered through the factory gates were transfixed on her figure, shouting lewd suggestions such as :
“ ‘ow about a tuppence of toddy-nut’s sailor !” and “ tan me rabbi”,
Their barely controlled lust was visible for all to see. But Bertram only had eyes for one female glue-working personage that evening. As the flood of grubby humanity turned into a trickle of mortal effluent, the shambling drunken figure of your mother approached. Charming Tibby with warm words and a handful of liquorice, Bertram linked arms with the mad Gizzard and told her of the affection which she had always held for her. Gizzard, easily pleased and used to the crude grasping of thugs and vagabonds was dizzy with the smooth charm of this handsome stranger. Walking the empty streets, Bertram recited romantic poetry and sang Icelandic songs to the enchanted simpleton. Reaching the canal Bertram overcame a deep physical repulsion in the cause of friendship and embraced your syphillitc mother. As Tibby closed her eyes and expressed her lips in a posture of pucker, Bertram withdrew her embrace and with the speed of a trained Eastern warrior delivered a sharp shove to the Gizzard midriff. Your mother fell briskly backwards into the rank odorous waters of the canal, where her semi-conscious self struggled little. Her eyes suddenly filled with a clarity that they had not possessed for years looked upon the dastardly dandy with a painful, bitter realisation. The stony-faced figure on the towpath was none other than Bertram, the devilish gender-bending deviant who shacked-up with her nemesis. As her head began to be tugged beneath the waters, her mouth opened to gasp her final words.
“Tell Larkin I love him.”
Bertram silently nodded, turned and slowly walked away. In the shadow of the factory workings, the early morning bell sounding for the beginning of another shift, your mother, her lungs filling with the discharge of factories and a thousand rank latrines, slipped out of this life and into a better place.
The disappearance of Tibby Gizzard went largely unremarked. Loonies like your mother frequently joined the ranks of the missing. Her family, after an initial period of confused grief, overcame their loss and determined to look on the bright side, letting her space in the communal bed to an itinerant throstle charmer named Lefarge. Later Ruminate Gizzard, your grandfather would sell the remaining members of his family to scientific research, their bottled remains still items of curiosity in the scientific academies of Edinburgh. Your grandfather with the proceeds of his transaction bought passage to Tasmania and has never been heard of since. I know not what became of Lefarge, but I cannot imagine he prospered after fashion turned so sharply against the throstle table piece.
I realise that learning that the woman who bore you was nothing more than a drink-addled slapper must grieve you greatly. But try not to be too hard on the hateful harridan. She was nothing more than a lost child, a worthless simpleton, an ugly stinking wretch that should have been strangled at birth. If she had then none of these unfortunate events which I now recount need ever have happened.
I did all that I did for your welfare but now as a gentleman you choose to turn your back on my goodness. Never forget that had you been left in the charge of the Gizzard’s , your liver would now be in formaldehyde and your intestines regularly probed by trainee Scotch medics.
Be assured my dearest Larkin that I have learnt my lesson from these tragic events. All holiday’s were cancelled and pregnant employees promptly dismissed from then onwards until this present day.
But now the tide of my life is ebbing. These heavy truths I have carried for too long. Now my only son, the burden of your history is yours to dispose of. I will no longer be troubling this world with my presence. My time has passed, the product of my life’s devotion to equine based adhesive is now for you to do with what you will. I no longer care for the gold of commerce or the respect of mortals. This world has been both benevolent and cruel to your poor adopted father but I will not let circumstance define me any longer.
Prosper dear boy and live well
Your loving and devoted father”

By the time Larkin had received this tragic note, his father had been found hanging from the roof of his cavernous factory. His neck contained in the same noose that once dragged his dead canine companion along the streets of his model village. A note attached to his waistcoat button read “they call us legion for we are many.”
You might be wondering what this sorry sequence of events has to do with my own passage through this mortal coil. This is after all the life and times a dead Edwardian footballer, not the story of a blighted Victorian family. But what came after for Larkin Spendthrift is the reason for my survival despite the disabilities of my birth.
Larkin was rocked to his roots. Being a son of commerce in the West Riding of the time was little bar to gentlemanly aspiration as it would have been in the feckless feudal districts of the south. Being the son of a troll-like imbecile and any possible number of simian thugs could prove to be one social innovation too many. Vowing never to tell a soul the contents of this letter, he put it to the fire. Mrs Roomie and the dastardly Bertram were paid-off and soon left the city for life in a Littlehampton bungalow. Bertram in her later years went on to become a Conservative politician and Mrs Roomie continued to take in lodgers.
Larkin Spendthrift sold his father’s business and invested his capital in any number of projects designed to improve the life of the poor. The Pork Belly Slice Benevolence for instance provided a cheap-Christmas chop for some 200 families in Brighouse. The Petty Coiffeurs Disability Pool was a small lido based in Penistone for self-employed hairdressers injured in the Boer War. But most of his largesse went towards his ground breaking work with orphans.
At the Mid-Pennine Orphan Penitentiary for instance, use of the hot poker was outlawed on aesthetic grounds, and we were known not by numbers but pet-names such as “gobshite” and “twat-features.” I for instance spent six years answering to the name “stumble” due to my regular habit of tripping up over furniture and the other inmates. In less enlightened institutions I am sure I would have been provided with a white stick with which to tap my way around the building, but such an approach was seen as archaic in the Spendthrift establishment. Instead I was left to my own clumsy devices, soon learning when to jump over a prone footless boy, or discarded spitoon. In fact I became something of a master at sightless mobility. By the age six I could run, hop, spin, pirouette and chason-da-lulu with the best of them. I was a fleet of foot Frederik, a carefree Colin, a toodling Tony on the last carriage to Lytham. There was freedom in movement and I enjoyed nothing more than running gaily across the scrubby moor lands which bordered the home. I may have been born a sightless blind boy without vision, but due to a catastrophic set of personal circumstances for poor Larkin Spendthrift and the enlightened approach to orphan tending he came to favour I was given a precious opportunity.
Larkin came to be one of my biggest fans. Modestly he would tell his friends that he was responsible for my meteoric career success. I never begrudged him this reflected glory and I like to think that his association with my success provided a counter to the tragic motif of his life. When a lost butterfly flaps its wings in Cragg Vale a man in Swindon may sneeze, such are the unseen threads of connectivity that connect us with connections. An ugly drunk woman being murdered in a turd filled Bradford canal inadvertently launched the career of England’s Pele. The Lord makes all things new and in my blind features and spindly orphans limbs he saw a vessel for the redemption of the name of Spendthrift.

Friday, September 15, 2006

My magnum opus

Keen eyed readers will be aware that I have been suspiciously quiet over the last few months. You may be wondering what it is a mad old dead bloke like myself gets up to when he's not been around for a while. Well let me tell those of you with vivid imaginations, my absence has bugger all to do with linament and the Sequinned Fox as reported in some of the scandal rags !
I have in fact been busy writing my belated autobiography, The Life & Times Of The Blind-Winger Jones. This is the first genuinely "ghostwritten" football life story, as it's being written by a bona fide dead person, rather than just a money grubbing hack pretending to be a fancy dan.
The foreword has been written by Cumberland Sausage Manufacturer and occassional sports writer, Huntsman David who despite not having read it,has likened it to a book of spiritual guidance. He has already predicted it will soon be up alongside the Bible and the works of Billy Shakeshaft in the canon of great literature. So there you have it.
I will keep you up to date with occassional progress reports as it develops. My publishers tell me you will be able to buy my distilled wisdom in book form at some point next year. Until then try to be good and don't upset the turkeys.