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