Season’s Greetings to all followers of the great game of Rugby League Football. At this time of year, one is apt to look back on previous Christmases with a sense of nostalgia, and in this respect I am no different.
I well recall the Christmas of 1918. Father had been working on some top-secret war work at a secret location in Runcorn. Number 173 Wyvern Place, Astmoor, Runcorn to be precise.
Father would say little about his work except that a scientist had developed a growth hormone for use with birds and that the idea was to develop a carrier pigeon large enough to be capable of carrying a bomb from a base in East Anglia all the way to the Krupps Armaments Factory in Germany and returning unharmed by the German Fockers.
The war ended before tests could be carried on, and the experiment was dropped by the government. Father and his team continued however as funding had been secured until the politicians thought the war might be brought to its earliest conclusion; some time in 1954 I think they said it would be.
Just after dark on Christmas Eve 1918, an army truck appeared outside our house in the Bewsey district of Warrington. Two soldiers opened the tail gate and through the gloom of a winter evening, I saw father jump out of the truck and pulling on a length of rope. I wondered what could possibly be on the other end of the rope. Suddenly, a six-foot turkey leapt from the truck and onto the footpath. Father had to use all of his strength to hold the beast steady. He dragged it up the path and in through the front door. It stood in the hall looking for the entire world like Les Boyd in a feathered dress.
“Don’t just stand there boy! Get the frying pan and hit it!” I ran to the kitchen and returned with the cast iron frying pan. I gave the turkey a hefty whack on the head with the pan, the resulting ‘clang’ making the windows and light fittings rattle. To my astonishment, the bird merely shook its head and grabbed me by the lapel of my blazer with its claw. Mother came rushing to the rescue and attracted its attention with a forty-pound bag of Trill which it proceeded to devour.
“You fool Alfred!” she shouted at father. “However are we going to eat that? It must weigh fifteen stone!” “Sixteen and a half stone to be exact. He’s a fine specimen is he not?” replied father proudly. The bird, sensing we were talking about it ran through the house, into the garden shed and refused to come out.
“What are we going to do now?” asked mother. “I have an idea!” said father. “Come upstairs with me for two minutes!” “Not in front of the boy Alfred, you impetuous love god you!” “No, no, you misunderstand!” he replied, and running upstairs with mother following behind, he took one of the pillows from the bed. Next, he ran into the kitchen and poured a whole tin of ‘Tate and Lyle Golden Syrup’ all over mother’s head. He then ripped open the pillow and emptied the feathers all over mother. “Now, you run into the garden, make sure he sees you, then, run back through the house and into the roadway. He will think you are a female and follow.”
Mother ran out into the back garden and ran about flapping her arms. The turkey saw her through the window of the shed and opened the door. Giving an almighty ‘gobble-gobble’ he gave chase and mother ran back into the house, down the hall and out into the road.
The turkey ran after mother with a gleam in his large, round eye and I do believe a smile on his beak. As he ran into the road, I heard the engine of the army truck start up and looking up, I saw father sitting at the wheel. The turkey stood motionless in the headlights as father revved up, then sped forward hitting the bird with a mighty wallop. The bird lay motionless in the road as father reversed over it several times. Stopping the truck, father jumped from the cab and finished it off with a burst from a Lewis Gun.
A neighbour happened to be passing by, and being the worse for drink, thought our house was under attack from giant turkeys. Snatching the frying pan from my hands, he gave mother a brutal blow to the head and shouted “Take that! That will teach you and your bird friends to attack this neighbourhood!” “That’s my wife”, shouted father at the neighbour. “Bloody hell Alfred! I didn’t realise. Tell you what though. I’ll buy her sister’s drumsticks for ten quid once you’ve finished running that truck over her.” “Done!” said father, “and if you wait until Easter, I might be able to put you in the way of a six foot rabbit we’ve been working on lately.” “That’s good Alfred! I’ll buy a couple of galvanised dustbins and make some stew with that.” “Leave it with me and I’ll have a word with the chief scientist over at Runcorn.” “What’s his name?” enquired our neighbour. “Professor James Stewart” father replied. “Well, if you save me one of its giant feet, it should carry enough good luck to ensure Warrington win the league for the next ten years!”
How we laughed, but unfortunately, the only thing we did for the next ten years was eat turkey sandwiches, turkey curry, turkey lasagne, turkey and chips and in the summer, eat turkey flavoured ice-cream. At least we were never short of quills.
I’ll miss the Boxing Day Derby friendly against our near neighbours the Widnes Vikinglongboats. I’m very happy they have found a financial backer and won’t be going under any time soon. I always enjoy a visit to Widnes as there is so much to see. There’s the railway station where Mr Simon Garfunkle wrote his well known song “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” which became a Widnes players anthem the day after the NL1 Grand Final last October. You can’t buy loyalty, and the dearly departed who jumped from the Vikinglongboat over the following weeks showed that you can certainly buy disloyalty. I am sure they will join those other fans favourites Owen (Save The Whale) Cragie, Andrew (Haka in the Naka) Emelio, Troy (Sing When We’re Losing) Wozenikrap and Missili (The Revolving Door) Manu.
Let’s hope all goes well for the ‘Chemicals’ in the next twelve months and Boxing Day 2008 will not only see the recommencement of hostilities between our two great clubs, but the installation of some proper beer at the Stobartquest Stadium, because what passes for beer there at present, is quite frankly gnats’ water.
In conclusion, best wishes to all rugby league supporters, and to those who think turning up and singing offensive songs to the opposition constitutes ‘support’, get lost you sub-human half-wits and find another sport where that type of thing is regarded as great fun. A sport where millionaires try to kick a ball into the back of a huge net and continually miss and where fans have to be kept apart from each other would suit you!