A Short Moving Tale

This one is true.

My main preoccupation over the past few weeks has been knocking Railway Cuttings into shape in preparation for viewings by prospective tenants. The floors have been scrubbed, the electrics have been fixed, checked and double-checked and anything that needed mending, sticking or nailing down has been mended, stuck and nailed down. Short of a once-over with the roller and whitewash the old place is looking as near as damn it perfect. I’d rent it myself, if I didn’t already own it. Shame really, but them’s the breaks. Times are tough and needs must etc etc. The Potting Shed awaits and with the fiscal climate the way it is, moving home is the best way forward.  And as my mates Dave, Nick and Gideon never tire of telling me: We’re all in this together.

This photo has nothing to do with this story. It’s merely to remind you of your enemy. (Osborne is 2nd from right)

Thus far I’ve had 3 couples come to look at the property. The first people were very pleasant indeed. An Asian (possibly Indian) couple who looked over the place, upstairs and down, asked all the right questions, smiled, left and were never heard of again. A little bit of me wanted them to be the ones who rented my house, but I suppose I was just being a little optimistic to rent it out to the first people to come along. And anyway (I told myself later) if the first viewers had said they wanted it I would have kicked myself cos I was obviously asking far too little in rent. It’s like putting a treasured item on eBay, spending an angst-ridden hour deciding carefully on the reserve, then some git swoops in and buys it for the price you asked for. Shit.

Anyway. For a week or two no-one else rang to express any interest in my little place and so now I’m thinking I’m asking too much for the place. Shit shit. I looked online to see what the going rate for a Railway Cutting was, but it seems I’m in a bit of a niche market. It seemed that whatever the price, too high or too low, I wasn’t getting out of here in a hurry.

Then, just before Christmas, some good news. My letting agent told me that he had a couple who really liked what they saw in the ad and wanted to come by and see it the following day. Great ! It was the last business day before the holiday, but that was no problem. The place had a nice Christmassy feel about it. I had a quick hoover round, made myself a cup of coffee (they tell me the smell of fresh coffee is attractive to home-seekers) and settled down in front of Film4 to wait for the potentials to arrive. An hour or so later the doorbell rang. Up I jumped and went to the door to let them in.
“Hello, we’ve come to see the house. The letting agent sent us”
“Oh…..er…hi”. I was blushing. “Just give me two secs will you?”
I sprinted back into the lounge in search of the tv remote. I’d been watching Tora Tora Tora which in a snap judgement I decided wasn’t going to go down well with the two Japanese people on my doorstep. Remote found, crisis averted. They were very nice people too. Though they spent less than ten minutes looking around, and I pretty much knew the house wasn’t for them. But I was content in the knowledge at least I hadn’t upset them with my tv viewing habits. (And before you ask, yes I may be ignorant enough to misjudge their ethnicity but I wasn’t taking any chances.)

Christmas came and went and I was fretting about changing the price of the rent (either up or down) when today, out of the blue, the phone went. It was the agent telling me they had a couple in the office who wanted to come round right away to look at the house. I ran a duster and the mop and bucket around as well as I could, but within minutes the new viewers were at my door.

As I greeted them on the threshold they shook my hand and introduced themselves.
“Hello, I’m Tomas” he said in a thick european accent. “Hi there, I’m Mike”
“Hello I’m Christianne” said the woman”
“Mike. Please, go on through”. Hmmm… Germans, I thought, how very cosmopolitan of me.

We walked through to the lounge, and only then did I remember what I’d been watching on telly. There in full view of all three of us was a particularly lavish battle scene from The Longest Day, blaring out of my tv in the corner of the room. I gave an internal shriek and bounded between them to push the off button on the remote. I’m not sure how much they saw, and I don’t even know if they cared. But I did and I do.

Tomas and Christianne were very nice indeed, and I hope I hear from them again. I have another couple coming round tomorrow. Before they arrive I’ll just ensure ITV isn’t showing The Last of the Mohicans. Well you never know do you?



For Those of You Watching in Black and White…

Dear old Harry Carpenter. When yesterday I heard of his demise, I immediately thought that he’d died years ago, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t sad to hear the news. Another part of my childhood snuffs it. Carpenter’s voice was ever-present in our house, commentating as he did on Ali fights (later becoming Frank Bruno‘s straight man), presenting the BBC’s coverage of golf, the tennis (it was only Wimbledon in those days) and the Boat Race. He had one of those friendly, comforting faces who instantly made you feel all warm inside. A bit like Frank Bough without the bondage and coke. Harry also had one on those faces which, like that of Michael Fish and James Burke, never looked how you expected it to look.

So, as I like to honour my boyhood heroes on these pages, I went off to find something suitable to pay tribute to Harry. Where better to start than the bored office-worker’s favourite site, Youtube?

Perhaps someone would have compiled a few minutes of classic Harry quotes? “Oh my god he’s won back the title at the age of 32” stands out in the memory (Ali beats Foreman). “Get in their, Frank!” (Bruno hurts Tyson before being demolished) is another. Indeed those and more were there to watch and enjoy, but I stumbled across this:

Come on, admit it, that felt good, didn’t it? Yes I know it didn’t include much of Harry, but sod that. When was the last time you heard the Sportsnight music? When I played that this afternoon I felt a warm glow all over me. Memories came flooding back: Harry Carpenter, David Coleman, staying up late on a school night, the BBC actually having some sport to show. This was when Sue Barker was half decent at what she was paid to do, Nick Faldo was still on his first wife, most of us in the UK still had black and white televisions and there were just 3 channels on TV. THREE CHANNELS (we pause here for my American friends to stop giggling). Sport on tv in the 70’s and 80’s was something to be treasured cos there wasn’t much of it, and what there was had to share what little bit of airtime there was on offer with other sports, all vying to be seen.

Sportsnight lasted about an hour on a Wednesday night, it’s sister show Grandstand had a 5 hour slot on Saturday afternoons. Fabulous if you loved sport, less so if you didn’t. What we now call narrow band-width meant there was no space for continuous broadcasts. The cricket would share air-time with horse racing and snooker. How did we put up with it? Every half hour we’d have to leave the test match at Lord’s to endure the 3.20 from Haydock, or the final frames of Doug Mountjoy vrs Kirk Stevens. Still at least on the BBC didn’t have adverts, unlike it’s rival over on ITV.

And it had Des Lynham.

ITV’s answer to Grandstand was World of Sport presented by the amiable and skunk-haired Dickie Davies. As I was on my nostalgia quest, I went to look for the theme tune.
I don’t know anyone who admitted to watching it, or at least not regularly, but now wish I had. Just look at this!:

Wow!! All-in wrestling, dog frisbee and log-walking. AND Eric Morecabe !! What a show. What a way to spend your Saturday afternoons. All that plus that haunting middle-eight bars of whistling in the opening music. Maybe I’d misjudged the commercial channel. Had I been too harsh on them ? As the Soviets did to Trotsky, I’d erased all traces of ITV from my childhood memories. So I delved deeper. On to the football highlights.

Everybody quotes tales of trying to watch Match of the Day while your they were supposed to be paying fond attention to the girlfriend, but no-one ever talks about fumblings on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon being interrupted when this came on:

Brian Moore’s The Big Match: ITV’s Sunday highlights show. Nobby Stiles, Ossie Ardiles and Butch Wilkins with hair!! IT WAS THAT LONG AGO !!. And those shorts must have chafed a bit.

I was hooked. GOD, I love Youtube. Where to next?

Now hang on a minute: Get a grip, man, it’s just nostalgia. Worse! It’s nostalgia for ITV shows. Pull yourself together.

Now where were we? Ah yes, football. Now this takes me back, the Beeb’s finest hour. Everybody remembers Italia 90, when we all got behind the English Team’s ultimately futile campaign (apart from the Jocks who got behind the West Germans. They deserve each other). Of all the superb concerts Pavarotti gave, in all the great Opera houses and concert halls of the world, this is what made him a star to millions in the UK.

I’m sorry, Auntie, I’ll never doubt you again. This was the last era when the BBC and especially the Sports Dept reigned supreme. A golden age. A time when their sports presenters and commentators were household names: Harry, Coleman, Lynham, Eddie Wareing, Richie Benaud, Peter O’Sullivan, Barry Davies (“and where were the Germans? and quite frankly, who cares?”), Ted Lowe, David Vine, Raymond Brooks-Ward (“come on David“) Bill McLaren and Dan Maskell. These are the voices, the sources of all knowledge of my youth, (even Tony Gubba who never actually went to a match but commentated on the highlights from a studio hours later).

Will the bloggers of the future be waxing lyrical over the opening titles to Sky’s Soccer AM or Ford Football Special ? Will they be posting clips from Superleague XIII ? I doubt it. They’ll be seeking out tapes of Booker T and the MGs playing Soul Limbo to herald BBC Cricket, or the theme to Pot Black or Formula 1 motor racing (knowing my luck they’re still be showing it).

So sorry, not much about Mr Carpenter in this one. I just got carried away with the music and the memories. Know what I mean, Harry?