I grew up in the seventies when watching rain trickle down your bedroom window was considered a hobby.
My high school was not so much a seat of learning more an obstacle course of physical and emotional pain – a nightmare of a place where the strongest survived and the weak went under. Think Lord Of The Flies meets Please Sir.
A few years ago a TV documentary sat a modern day Premiership referee in front of a video of the 1971 FA Cup Final replay between Leeds and Chelsea. The game is remembered as a particularly vicious encounter with tibia snapping tackles and violent stud-first kicks. As he observed the recording, the referee shook his head, producing card after card, confirming the view that if the contest were played today it would be reduced to a five a side kick about. Schools, football, the work place, everything in the seventies was colder, harsher, duller and if a video existed of a typical day at my school c1979, any Ofsted inspector, instead of brandishing red and yellow cards, would be writing the following in his notes; exclusion, expulsion, child psychologist, ambulance, NSPCC, police, riot squad, investigative journalist.
Once I was cheeky to teacher called Mr Clough in his history lesson. He hit me so hard with the palm of his hand that I flew across the prefabricated classroom and knocked myself out on the wall heater. I went home to tell my Mum and she told me off for giving cheek.
If that happened today Mr Clough would be arrested, jailed and be on the local news. In 1978 – a fortnight after sending me flying – he was made head of year – go figure.*
What has all this to do with our romantic story I hear you sigh? It is this – Sarah, the future object of my desire, was going through something very similar at an all girl’s school so violent and abusive it made my own comprehensive seem like a Buddhist monastery.
We grew up twelve miles away from each other. She was in a city, I was in a town, but because we shared the same values, mores and attitudes when we met many years later, we had a similar backstory and communal points of reference that we could recall and intertwine. Remember when this used to happen, remember when you could do this ?
By rifling through our common back catalogue of lower middle class life in Seventies Lancashire we could spot-welded moments in time that we both remembered from different perspectives.
When I was a teenager my Dad would take me every Saturday to go and see either Liverpool or Everton play. He had no great affinity with either team he just enjoyed the football.
Squeezing into Anfield was always a chore. I remember me and my bedraggled Father staggering out of the Kop after a game. He used to pull his squashed Trilby out from his coat pocket and jam it back on his head. Once he attempted to wear it during a particularly tense encounter against Leeds Utd. If he got told to take his fuckin’ hat off once he got told a million times. We had not so much been to a football match as tossed about on a high sea of Liverpudlians. Weathering the storm of twenty thousand crazy scousers was very often a harder battle than the scrap going on down on the pitch.
Everton on the other hand was a breeze to enter; you could stroll up just before kick off and have your choice of seats in the half empty stands.
When we watched Liverpool, if we could get in Dad preferred the Anfield Road (the terrace at the opposite end of the ground to the Kop) because it tended to be calmer than the rest of the standing areas.
There was one game (a 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town in 1979) that sticks in my memory, not for the game, rather for who I saw….
* a line from my favourite film