One man and his 140-year-old dog


Sport, living in Du Cane Court, was always restricting. With never more than ten children living in the flats, team sports were forever challenging – even if we included our imaginary friends (of which, being an only child, I had an entire family) we’d never make up a full XI.

Even with both Tooting Bec and Wandsworth commons nearby we still chose to play most of our sport around the garages which were round the back of the flats. In those days there were very few cars, a consequence was that our “playing field” was quite safe. The only traffic tended to be pedestrian in the form of the head porter, Mr Hurst, and his dog, Blackie (this was the sixties).

There were several “NO BALL GAMES ALLOWED” signs up and around the garages; Mr Hurst’s job was to manage this. Sadly, Mr Hurst, an ex-prison warder, had been bitten by a prisoner in HMP Wandsworth and consequently walked slowly and with a limp.  As did Blackie, who was the wrong side of 20 – and not in doggy years.  Despite being the human equivalent of 140, the dog was quicker than the man and would waddle into view first.  There were two ways into the garages and, as the dog entered at one end, we would gather up our sporting equipment and leg it the other way.  We were never caught and mercifully so as child-biting was still allowed in the mid-sixties.

When we did get to play and were Labrador-free, we would invent games for two or three people. The only problem was the low level of the garages.  If someone decided they were going to Wes Hall and get a ball to rear up, there was no option other than tipping it onto the rooves of the garages.  Subsequently, we became very adept at climbing walls onto the garages to retrieve our balls.  Word had it that Sherpa Tensing lived in the flats and mastered his climbing skills on the rooves of the garages in Du Cane Court.  We once found a set of clamps and, putting two and two together, made Everest.

We had to decide on a set of rules when the cars were about and it was possibly one summer to be given out caught one-handed off a Ford Cortina.

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