Bruce’s tale and how the Geriatric Four,Plus Madge and their Bette used their magic Day


Bruce’s Tale and how the Geriatric Four, Plus Madge and their Bette used their magic Day

                                    Bruce’s tale by Bruce Brewer

We used to walk down black road towards Knostrop. Down there was a pond where we used to fish for gudgeon. It was very small but we called it Danger, Deep Water after the sign on the side. Once, Terry Sidebottom and I were standing on opposite sides of the pond throwing a large wood beam as deep as we could to see how far it would go under. It then surfaced at the other side. He chucked it in his side and it bounced right out of the water and landed on my foot! He was mortified! I limped home and my Mam took me to the Dispensary where they told us that I’d broken a bone in my foot and put a plaster cast on it. Later that evening I was sat on our front step In Oxley Street waiting the sun to dry it when Terry sheepishly come round to show me his prize box of different bird eggs  laid out on straw with names on them all. He passed them across to me to hold and I purposely dropped them and bust quite a few! He said “don’t worry Bruce, it’s no big deal”, but I know it was. Unbelievably we are still friends after more than 65 years since that happened!

My brother Clove who is 85 now walked down to the power station at Skelton Grange with his mate Keith Hewett they decided to climb to the top of the ladder attached to the side of the chimney, they managed to get there and had a gander around and then decided to come down. Mistake! If you look at it, it bulges at the top. Up OK, down no way! They couldn’t get their feet onto the ladder rungs!  Eventually some workmen and the police had to help them down. 

Bruce read last month’s tale about the walk around Cross Green Richmond Hill and East End Park and made the following comment:

I bet you didn’t notice but I walked practically all the way round with you. Once you mentioned the Navvy. I recalled that up near George Sidebottom’s garage we built a cave in the side of the navvy and used to sit secretly in it. Once a bloke shouted ‘gerrata there’ we ignored him, he shouted again and reluctantly we climbed up. I shouted ‘bugger off’ as we scrambled up the hill. When we got to the top it was my dad, I got a good arse whipping for that.

I’m going to tell you how we, the geriatric four plus Madge and Bette, enjoyed our magical day offered by the magic cup.

Well as it transgressed the cup delivered its magic gift we did wake up in 1951 and we remembered we had to make our way to the Snake lane field by nine o’clock. And we all assembled there bright and shiny as 13/14 year olds bursting with energy we looked at each other in amazement, ‘Crikey,’ said Malcolm, ‘Madge and Bette you both look half pretty’

‘Pity we can’t say the same for you,’ was the girls reply.

Right we have got a lot to get through in our magic day,’ said Brian, always the one to take charge of the situation. ‘We are right on site for your sprint, Pete, I’ve got a watch with a second hand on it I’ll time you get to those goal post and I’ll start you off.’

‘I used to be able to do the hundred in eleven seconds,’ I said, ‘that’s the hundred yards of course not the hundred metres.’

I set myself by the top goal post and Brian said the old ’ready, steady, go.’ and I was off as fast as I could go I felt I had loads of energy but somehow I seemed to be treading water a bit, when I got to the other goal posts Brian checked his watch, ‘Thirteen seconds,’ he said.

‘Oh that’s a bit disappointing,’ I said, ‘I used to be able to do it in eleven.’

‘Go on then have another go,’ he said.

So I set myself again and off I sprinted, when I reach ether other end Brian checked his watch again.

‘Sorry mate,’ he said, ‘fourteen seconds this time.’

‘Oh, I’d better give it up,’ I said, ‘I’m getting worse. Perhaps I have been thinking I was faster than I really was and ‘bigging’ myself up when I didn’t deserve it.’

‘Right next it’s Bette and her jumps,’ said Brian, ‘Let’s get down to her field and set the jumps out we’re on a tight schedule.’ said Brian. So off we walked down to Bette’s old farm.

‘Oh goody,’ exclaimed Bette, ‘there’s Prince my old pony still there in the field.’

So we mended the round of jumps which were already laid out in the field, But the pony was skitish and it wouldn’ take the jumps ‘Oh hard luck Bette,’ we said and made off on our short walk to the navvy for Brain’s attempt on its depths. 

Brian had formally descended the navvy by the route we had named ‘the devil’s drop But on this occasion he had chosen to descend form the Copperfield’s side.

‘How are you going to make your descent Brian?’ we asked.

‘Well, I’ll go down via Ginner Rock and the Town Hall Steps and then finally the scree.’

We stood back and encouraged him on but somehow he didn’t seem very confident, he negotiated the Town hall Steps but seemed stuck on Ginner Rock he attempted a further descent a couple of times but he was obviously unhappy  and finally he started to back up he was white and shaking.

‘I’m sorry guys,’ he said, ‘I can’t seem to be able to see a safe way down and I’m windy. I can’t believe it I used to be able to do it easily but that which seemed exciting now seems dangerous, I’m really disappointed with myself.’

‘It’s not going as we expected is it?’ said Malcolm, ‘Pete couldn’t recapture his speed for the hundred yard sprint, Bette couldn’t get her pony to perform and

Now Brian has failed with the navvy. Come on let’s get on the number 61 bus and hope Madge has better luck at the Mecca,’ I said.

Madge had brought some dancing shoes with her and had managed to keep reasonably tidy but the rest of us were beginning to look a bit scruffy. I was sweaty after my attempt at sprinting; Brian was less than pristine after his battle with the navvy. In fact as we walked up the County Arcade to the Mecca we looked a bit of a motley bunch.

The doorman took one look at us and said, ‘You scruffy lot aren’t coming in here dressed like that.’ We argued with him for a bit and then he said, ‘The young ladies can come in but not the rest of you.’

‘Go on Madge you and Bette can go in and have a dance together we’ll wait for you out here.’ So they went in and we sat on the steps. They were only in there about twenty minutes and then they came out, they weren’t looking happy.

‘What’s up girls? ‘I said, ‘you weren’t in there very long.’

‘The lads were rude to us,’ said Madge, ‘and the disc jockey, a guy with tartan hair was getting familiar with us.’

I nudged Malcolm and said, ‘I bet that was Jimmy Saville.’

Even Malcolm was quiet and didn’t try to put Madge down for once.

‘So that leaves my tram ride and Bri’s swim.’ said Malcolm.  ‘I bet it will be a bit cold Bri, I hope you’ve brought your trunks and where’s you towel?’

Anyway we caught a tram in Briggate and went upstairs to the wooden slat seats, there was seemingly something wrong with the tram as they couldn’t seem to be able to get it moving.

‘This reminds me of a tale my dad used to tell,’ I began. ‘ My dad used to be a tram driver and this particular day the Leeds Corporation were unveiling a brand new type of tram that was supposed to be so easy to drive that anyone could drive it and the Lord Mayor had been invited to unveil  the tram and then be the first to drive it. Well just like this the blooming thing it wouldn’t move they tried all sorts and then they had the embarrassment of aborting the unveiling, as it turned out it seemed that my dad who had driven the tram to the place of the unveiling had left the brake on at the other end of the tram.’

They all had a little chuckle. Just then there was a jerk and our tram started off. It jumped and jerked up Roundhay Road and it had put the ticket collector in a bad mood when we tried to pay half fair because were under sixteen he became obnoxious with us it was altogether an unfortunate ride and not what Malcolm had hoped for, finally it gave up the ghost at Oakwood clock and we had to walk the rest of the way across the Soldier’s fields.

‘Another disappointment,’ said Malcolm. ‘You build things up into something they never were in the first place then you’re disappointed. I don’t suppose trams ever were ever as comfortable as a modern coach anyway.’

We walked down to the lake from the main gates; Bri had brought his trunks and he got changed behind a bush, he was already shivering.

‘Are you sure you want to try this?’ said Madge, ‘it looks awfully cold and an awfully long way across,’ 

‘And awfully dangerous too,’ said Bette.

‘I’ll be alright,’ said Bri, but he didn’t look alright he looked white and shivering.

‘We are not going to let you attempt to do it without an accompanying boat,’ we insisted. ‘Look someone has left a boat un-attended two of us will row across with you in case you get tired. The rest of us can have a rest on the grass.’

We stated rowing the boat with Bri swimming alongside, he started off strongly but after about 300 yards we could see he was starting to struggle his arm and leg coordination was out of sync and he was beginning to splutter. ‘Get in the boat, Bri,’ we said, ’you’ve given it a good crack.’  He complained but we grabbed him and pulled him in.

‘I don’t know why I thought I could do it all the way across, the last time I tried it I had to be pulled out too but you always think you can do better than you really can, don’t you?’

We got him to the bank and dried him off with some excess clothing we mustered between us.

Let’s get him to the café and get some hot Bovril down him we decided. He was still shivering

We sat there in the café drinking Bovril and all chastised.

‘I wasn’t up to the swim,’ said Bri.

‘And I was scared of the navvy,’ said Brian.

‘I couldn’t run for toffee,’ I said.

‘I didn’t enjoy the jumps,’ said Bette.

‘Nor me the tram,’ said Malcolm.

‘Nor me at the Mecca lunch- time dance,’ said Madge, ‘it was awful,’

‘Perhaps being young was not all we made it out to be,’ said Bri, ‘it was never plain sailing even as a teenager there were always challenges to be met and heartache.’

‘And look at us now; have we ever had such great mates or great adventures?’

There was a juke box playing in the corner, I went over and pulled the plug out and it stopped.

‘What did you do that for, Pete?’ said Malcolm.

‘Well, we’ve been disappointed with so many things today I’m not going to chance adding fifties music to the list,’ I said.

‘Good on ya,’ said Malcolm.

‘Have we got enough left in the kitty for fish and chips?’ Somebody said to Bette who the treasurer.

‘Ya, I think we can just manage it,’ replied Bette.

‘At least we’re lucky we’re still alive at our age,’ said Madge,

‘Ya, we can’t die as young folk anymore now, can we?’ said Brian

Let’s make the most of it and go fill our boots ’

We linked arms and set off for the park gates.

‘Step it gaily off we go,

Heel to heel and toe to toe………..’   

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2 Responses to “Bruce’s tale and how the Geriatric Four,Plus Madge and their Bette used their magic Day”

  1. Doug Farnill Says:

    That was a scary one Peter, the thought of climbing down a ladder that was sloping inwards along the concave curve, was enough to make me feel uncomfortable. Imagine going down a ladder that sloped inwards rather than outwards – terrifying, And the reality shattering the rosy memories of the past and the good old days when we never had it so good, those were the days! But were they really? There were good times and there were bad times, just as in the present there are the good and the bad. But, despite the realities, I would like to take a sip of that magic water and visit a few past experiences again, and come back refreshed and feeling it is good to be alive. So, Peter and Bruce thank you, and see what memories and thoughts you stir up:-)

  2. Elaine Beaumont Says:

    Happy Yorkshire Day you lot. Enjoyed the variation to the tale.
    We did enjoy our childhood though. We made our own fun and we have the memories to brighten up our days now. What will the young ones of today have?? Not a lot !

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