I mean, there am I, all fired up to enjoy a weekend of assorted freestyle gardening and sporting spectator-dom, and the e-mails and Facebook messages start flying in.
“You got anything ready for Monday?” wails my editor.
Yeah. Clean socks and underwear, now piss off, no a little bit further than that, further, even further, and when you get to there, piss off again. I mean, hasn’t he read the by-laws of life?
Between the ages of 3 and 12 Saturdays are the day of the week that you go for a haircut with your Dad, right? A valuable learning experience for sure, in listening discreetly to adult conversation, sitting still in morbid fear of ear loss and what exactly comprises “Something for the weekend, Sir?”
Haircuts aren’t weekly events though, even if you are – like William Saroyan – someone who resembles several out of work violinists, so the other Saturdays, if they were anything like mine were, could have been the day when our nearest cinema put on a special morning show of cartoons and films especially made for children by, wait for it, The Children’s Film Foundation. Good wholesome character building stuff, none of your hedonistic American nonsense.
Our local cinema was a bus ride away, and although admission was only sixpence (a groat and a half for you REAL old timers who predate even pre decimal currency) this meant funds needed to be extracted from parents. Not exactly the hardest thing to ask since it guaranteed our parents at least half a day free from our constant interruptions and intrusions.
In fact, as we got older, the morning cinema trip extended itself into Saturday shoplifting sprees whereby my collection of “Scalextric” model racing cars increased by a greater margin than my rate of pocket money and savings would allow.
To save my parents the worry and the maths, I usually threw the boxes away and said I had swapped them with another kid from the neighborhood. I don’t recall their sleep being in any way reduced over this matter.
Depending on his shift patterns, Saturday could also be the day when Dad drove us to the local shops to “get the rations.” Without a major supermarket in the area, our local shops were a row of individual enterprises, Co-op where a range of foodstuffs, furniture and tokens to be exchanged for bread and milk from the guys that delivered them to our door, Greengrocer, Baker, Pharmacist, Hairdresser, Post Office, Butcher, Hardware Store and Bookmakers. All an average working class area needed.
In later years there were a few closures and the addition of a Chinese take away and Mini-Mart, but somehow we always seemed to go shopping on a Saturday.
On the Saturdays when we went shopping, we always ate meals together at lunchtime. Dad’s favorites were, sausages, mashed potato and tinned tomatoes or minced beef and mashed potato. Dentures you see. I guess he had never had the thought or the money to take good care of his teeth until he was called up into the army, when he opted to have them removed and the plastic smile I shall always remember inserted in their instead.
Dinner was followed by him sitting and rolling cigarettes while my Mother made a pot of tea they would use to wash down sugary doughnuts, and lubricate conversation. When the conversation and my father were exhausted, he moved into the front room and onto the sofa, where he would take one of his “catch up” naps. A result of working shifts for many, many years. 6am – 2pm, 2pm – 10pm, 10pm – 6 am.
At these times my Mother would be elsewhere, and I would be required to play quietly, if the weather meant I had to stay indoors. In such times I would read, or, if feeling particularly inventive, would construct vast railway networks spanning as much of the downstairs floor area as the track I had would cover, before sending the trains hurtling to their doom.
All of this would have to be finished by four thirty in the afternoon when, despite whatever effects of shift work he felt, my father would awake, turn on the TV to BBC1 where, this being Saturday, the Sporting World was brought into our living room by means of a program called Grandstand. At 4.30 the teleprinter would start to churn out football scores from around the country which my Father would note down on his football coupon, searching for the elusive eight draws that would give him a jackpot and the keys to a house on easy street.
The classified football scores were read throughout my entire childhood and most of my adult life by a man called Len Martin, whose Australian voice had a wonderful intonation, informing us, even before the final goals tally had been announced whether the first (home) teams score he read out had been enough to win, draw or lose. An example, Arsenal 2 (lower voice) Tottenham Hotspurs 0. Fulham 1 (raise voice) Chelsea 3. The ones my Dad was looking for were, Manchester United 2 (voice raised and irony switched on) Manchester City 2.
There would follow Rugby League scores, Horse Racing results and a round-up of sporting news before the presenter would wish us a hearty “Good Evening.” The BBC was a persuasive organ of state in those days, and cemented the idea in my mind from an early day that Saturdays were to always be associated with sport.
Later in life of course, things change and several women have tried – in vain – to convince me that Saturdays are days to be filled with the joys of shopping along with the other hordes of brow beaten and brainwashed men whom it was obvious to see were wishing they could be somewhere where sport was and shopping (unless it be for beer) was not.
I’ve never had a job that required me to work on Saturdays. I avoided it on religious grounds. Not strictly true these days, as, whenever Arbroath FC are playing at home at their scenic Gayfield Stadium, I get to play some music before the match and announce the teams, substitutes and goal scorers. But this always finishes before 5pm when I race to my car and turn the radio on to hear the football results from around the country read – as they have been for many years – by the last of a dying breed, James Alexander Gordon.
In 1984 I lived in Orange in the South of France. I worked on a goat farm for the entire year while the rest of my fellow Britons were suffering the hardships of the Miner’s strike. Even then, Saturday afternoons – before the evening milking of the goats – was time to myself when I would tune my radio into the BBC World Service and listen to the second half of a football commentary from somewhere in England, followed by the football results.
My most perfect memory of that time is being invited by our neighbors – an ages old couple, the husband of which did not speak French, but instead only Provencal – offered me the chance to pick as many of their cherries as I wished from the three trees they owned in a field opposite their farm. I took my transistor radio with me climbing as high as I could and installing myself on a sturdy branch, from where hundreds and hundreds of cherries were within an easy arms reach.
The sun shone, swallows circled around trying in vain to reduce the insect populations, and I listened to a football match commentary wavering in and out as short wave radio signals always did while I gorged myself on cherries and spat the stones out for gravity to do with them as it wished. As I loved both cherries and football, high in the branches of that cherry tree is as close to heaven as I’ve ever gotten. And that on a Saturday.
These days – at least when the football season is over, Saturdays tend to be days when my wife and I take to our allotment for an hour or two of gardening. We tend to make these visits in the morning and come back in time for lunch of something plus whatever vegetables or salads we have harvested. Despite the fact I do not work shifts, I am now of an age where I follow my Dads fine example and take an afternoon nap. I do not need to be woken in time for the recitation of the sporting scores. It’s in the genes.
So please read this Mr Editor. It took me about as long to write as it will take you to read. Read and be enlightened. Monday will always come, perhaps not always for us, but it will come, and so will the next edition of this inane, insane drivel. Fear not, but do not hassle me for it over the weekend, for Saturdays are devoted to the pursuit of sport, and on Sundays I do even less.