Swearing in


We were late getting a colour TV. I was nearly twenty before I realised snooker didn’t involve varying shades of grey balls.

In 1970, when I was 13, colour TVs were the domain of the rich – or if you had relatives working for Radio Rentals.

In the sixties and seventies, when I was growing up, very few people owned their own set.

We rented a series of black & white sets from Mr John in Balham Station Road. Although I never ran our family finances, we never seem to pay for any of the sets’ rental or maintenance.  Saying that, my mother’s way with most of the traders in Balham & Tooting ensured we never paid for that much.  It would appear, with Mr John, that payment enough was simply listening to him talk.  And he could talk.  He knew 1,001 things to do with a burned valve.  He would regale you with these uses during most visits.

On 11th April 1970, my dad and I were invited to watch the FA Cup Final pitting together the Lionel Messi-esque players of Ron Harris of Chelsea against Billy Bremer of Leeds in colour. We knew the owners of the colour TV, they ran the hardware shop, HH Thomas & Son on Balham High Road.  The owner wasn’t a massive sports fan, but knew of dad’s Stamford Bridge allegiance, hence the invite.

Despite having a senior job in advertising and being well-read, dad was staggeringly vituperative. He made Roy “Chubby” Brown sound like Mother Teresa.

Chelsea went 0-1 and 1-2 down and as Jack Charlton’s mis-timed header went in, and Mick Jones’ quick reaction follow up to Allan Clarke’s assist, my dad was clearly having some mental Davina McCall moment as someone somewhere was imploring him not to swear.

(Dad was bright enough to be accepted to have an audition for “Fifteen to One”. Sadly, because of this massive swearing vocabulary, he failed the audition).

18-days later we watched David Webb, in his Royal Grey shirt, bundle the ball over the line to win the replay for Chelsea, in the comfort of our own flat, together with dad’s mandatory 40 Senior Service. It was better for dad’s health that he could eff and blind at home, rather than teaching the children who lived above the hardware shop to learn words they never knew could be used as verb, adjective and adverb all one sentence and so many times over 120-minutes.

I can’t remember when we finally got a colour TV, but this didn’t matter as mum’s favourite programme was The Black and White Minstrel Show, so it was academic how sophisticated our TV was.

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