Bugger Bognor


I only went to a holiday camp once; in 1967, along with half of Balham, we decamped (no pun intended) to Bognor Regis (so called because a monarch discovered swearing there).

I’d never been on a holiday where there was so much barbed wire; I told myself, as we drove our Ford Poplar through the camp gates, that Alsatians really were THE friendliest of dogs.

I spent a week there. As a ten-year-old boy, and because washing was anathema to me, I wore my newly-bought, from Frank Blunstone’s Soccer Shop on Lavender Hill, Peter Osgood’s No.9 Chelsea shirt the entire week.  (Dad refused to buy me a Gerd Müller top; to be fair, there wasn’t much call for these in Clapham Junction).  My friend from school came too, he wore a No. 10 Fulham shirt – denoting Allan Clarke (the footballer, not the lead singer from The Hollies).

There was an inordinate amount of sport to be played.

A consequence of the first book my dad bought me being the MCC Coaching Book, throughout the week I scored plenty of runs with my Colin Cowdrey bat (heavily aided by the fact that a tennis ball was used).

The week culminated with the lads vs dads football match.

If you’re ten you really don’t want to be playing against a team of people several feet taller than you, slightly stockier (!) and several having had many games in the Southern League under their ever-growing belts. “Chasm” wouldn’t even get close to a word describing the difference in class (Or height.  Or weight).

The first (and last time) I ever went for a 50/50 ball was against thirty-five-year-old Ron, who had been turning out for Hillingdon for years. Having previously innocently played on Wandsworth Common, where the toughest tacklers were squirrels, this was an eye-opener.

That summer of ’67 I played the innings of my life, realised I’d never make the first team of Hillingdon FC and discovered snooker, darts and pool – this was subsequently reflected in my O-level results.

“Ronnie’s up!”

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