Tag Archives: Derby County

Fred joins the RAF (2)

By 1941, inspired no doubt in part by the exploits of “The Few” in the previous year’s Battle of Britain, Fred had made up his mind to join the RAF. To do this, he had to walk to the recruiting office in Derby, a journey he had made so many times before with his father to see Derby County play football at the Baseball Ground:

It was a lot less built up and a lot quieter in 1941 than it is now:

Fred duly arrived at a two storey building in the middle of  Derby, where all three of the services were busily enrolling volunteers.

As he walked in, Fred was immediately offered a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Sherwood Foresters, but he refused this generous opportunity and continued on up the stairs to the RAF. Here, he was asked to spell two words correctly, and he had passed their entrance examination. The words were “horizon” and “bicycle”. Fred was now a proud member of the RAF, an organisation which most of the population believed were “the cream of the nation”. He would wear this for the best part of five years:

When Fred returned home, he told his parents what he had done. His father congratulated him on his bravery, but his frightened mother slapped his face, and said “You wicked boy!”

Not everybody saw it in such a negative way. In October 1941, Fred was still working in Swadlincote at the office of Bert Orgill, a local business man, when Colonel Guy German from nearby Ashby-de-la-Zouch called round, and asked about him, perhaps even seeing Fred as a likely recruit for his own regiment.

Mr Orgill said that Fred had recently volunteered for the RAF, and Colonel German generously gave him a five pound note for having done so. Eventually, Fred would look like this:

At this time, as was briefly mentioned above, the RAF was considered to be the élite force of the three, a fact which was strongly emphasized in the personal letter sent to every man who joined the RAF by Archibald Sinclair, the Secretary of State for War. He said that

“The RAF demands a high standard of physical fitness and alertness, and I congratulate you on passing the stringent tests”.

They were also told they had a “great task to perform” and that

“The honour of the RAF is in your hands. Our country’s safety and the final overthrow of the powers of evil now arrayed against us depend on you and your comrades.”

They were encouraged to “keep fit, work hard, live temperately”. Well, two out of three isn’t bad.

Perhaps as a direct result of this generous praise, there were so many volunteers for the RAF that young men were often sent away for up to a year or more, until a place on a suitable training course became available. This may possibly have been what happened to Fred, although, at this late stage, we have absolutely no way of ever knowing the truth, as his RAF records are far from exhaustive, shall we say!

Nobody of Fred’s social class had ever done any flying. Few had ever been inside an aircraft. Hardly any could even drive a car. To have volunteered for the RAF, and to have been accepted, no matter how low he said their standards of spelling may have been, must have suffused him with immense pride. In this, of course, he was not alone. Thousands of young men across the entire nation had read books and magazines about aviation throughout the 1930s and now, as they reached their early twenties, they were only too willing to join the youngest service:

We do know that when Fred volunteered, he was within just a couple of months of his nineteenth birthday. At the age of eighteen, he still had the right to choose which service he entered. Had he waited those last two months, until he was nineteen years old, the government would then have had the right to conscript him, and he would have lost the right to decide in which arm of the services he was to serve.

It is, however, actually possible to disprove one apparently neat theory, namely that Fred, as a keen cinema goer, might well have been inspired to join the RAF by seeing a famous documentary film, which he would talk about ceaselessly in later years. It was entitled “Target for Tonight”.

“Target for Tonight” was a Crown Film Unit propaganda film, using real RAF personnel throughout and chronicling a night raid on Germany by the Vickers Wellingtons of 149 Squadron of Bomber Command, with, coincidentally, “F for Freddie” as the main aircraft. It is a nice idea that Fred was inspired to join the RAF by seeing this film but it cannot be true, as the film was not released until at least October 1941, almost a full month after Fred volunteered.  He still spent the rest of his life as an enormous fan of  Charles Pickard, the hero of the film:

One thing that Fred was always to joke about, however, was the immediate impact that his joining the Allied Forces was to have on the conflict. Montgomery’s victory over Rommel at El Alamein followed his enlistment reasonably quickly, and not long afterwards, the Soviets were to win the Battle of Stalingrad.

You can watch “Target for Tonight” here:

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, Derby County, History, Personal

A Good Man doesn’t Stand By (2)

In the late spring of 1934, just as Hitler was consolidating his Nazi hold on the German state, Derby County toured Nazi Germany for a series of friendly matches.  At the time, two years before the Berlin Olympics, many Britons were still blissfully unaware of the political turmoil unfolding in central Europe, and the frightening rise of the Nazi Party and their shamelessly racist attitudes.
The Derby contingent took a train to Dover and then a cross-Channel steamer to Ostend. They dutifully practiced their Seig Heiling and their Heil Hitlering on the boat:

derby practice

They eventually reached the German border to find the swastika emblem flying everywhere they looked:

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The Germans, to a man, worshipped Adolf Hitler. He couldn’t even go out for a football paper on a Saturday night without bringing the place to a complete standstill:

hitler

The four matches which Derby played were all against teams designated as a “German XI”. The Rams lost their first match by 5-2 in Frankfurt but then drew 1-1 in Dortmund. Here are Derby running out at the start of the game. Some of those Hitler salutes could take your eye out if you weren’t ready for them:

running out

Here is a scene thought to be from that game:

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Derby lost by 5-0 in Cologne. We have a picture of the team going for a run to warm up before the match:

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After two defeats at the hands of the Master Race, Derby triumphed in their last game in Dusseldorf by 1-0.

Here is the start of that game:

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On the advice of the Foreign Office, to please Adolf Hitler, all the Derby players had been instructed to give the Nazi salute, with right arms outstretched, just before the start of every single game.

Before his death, at the age of 83 in 1989, Rams full-back George Collin, who was the captain of the Derby County team for the second half of the tour, when full back Tommy Cooper left the party to play for England, recalled how:

“We told the manager, George Jobey, that we didn’t want to do it. He spoke with the directors, but they said that the British ambassador insisted we must.

“He said that the Foreign Office were afraid of causing an international incident if we refused. It would be a snub to Hitler at a time when international relations were so delicate.

“So we did as we were told. All except our goalkeeper, Jack Kirby, that is.”

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Jack Kirby was from old South Derbyshire mining stock and he was adamant that when the players were asked to perform the Nazi salute, he, quite simply, would not do it:

“When the time came, he just kept his arm down and almost turned his back on the dignitaries. At the time nobody really noticed and nothing was said. It was only years later, with hindsight, that we can see what he is doing on the photograph. He is a lot better known for it now.”

There is, in actual fact, a famous photograph taken just before one of the matches which proves this very point. Jack Kirby, looks down the Derby County line up with utter disdain. His hands are firmly by his sides, and he looks rather embarrassed. He clearly does not know where to put himself, as he waits for the imminent start of the match. His ten white shirted colleagues all duly salute the Führer.

So Hitler went unheiled by at least one Englishman. And at least one Seig would remain equally unheiled:

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And here is Jack the Hero anti-Nazi Fighter in close up:

derby nazi closer

Jack Kirby may have been a rather lackadaisical character to be the goalkeeper of a top First Division team, but he was not slow to stand out from the rest. He was not slow to make sure that he would not be the good man who did nothing and let evil prosper. He refused adamantly to kowtow to the Fascist bully-boys:

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Jack Kirby left Derby County in August 1938 he became player-manager of Folkestone Town, a position he held until August 1939. And then war broke out.

And million upon million of innocent people were slaughtered. Many of them children. How different it might have been if one or two people with real power had done something when they had the chance and not just stood idly by, giving evil the chance to prosper.

Never again.

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Filed under Criminology, Derby County, Football, History, Politics

A good man doesn’t stand by (1)

Some time ago, I showed you a picture of the England football team all making their Nazi salute at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on May 14th 1938:

England-Germany 1938 nazi.xsderftgyhb

They were not the only foreigners to greet the Führer with a cheery “Sieg Heil”. Here, just a year later, is the Republic of Ireland football team engaged in pretty much the same behaviour:

Ireland-Germany-1

Let’s just leave that for a short while, and move westwards to the English Midlands. To South Derbyshire, and more precisely, the little village where my Dad, Fred, grew up.

During those long sunny summers and cold snowy winters after the Great War, Fred’s home was at Number 39, Hartshorne Lane, Woodville. The house was called “Holmgarth”, and it was the very last house in the little village of Woodville as you went down the hill towards the neighbouring village.

After Fred’s house, the only dwellings were just a couple of very large detached houses set well back from the road, either side of a small, shared, lake. This was just a few yards beyond the massive blue brick railway bridge, which carried the old passenger railway line from Woodville Station towards the neighbouring town. Here it is, being demolished in the early 1980s:

demolition

Hartshorne Lane in the 1930s was made of gravel, and there was so little traffic that it was perfectly possible for boys to play football or cricket all day long without any interruption whatsoever. Boys, including Fred, regularly knocked their cricket stumps into the soft surface of the road:

hart road 2 START HERE

Indeed, the whole area was still so countrified, that one day in 1929, a seven year old Fred saw a stray cow walking around in the front garden of the house, and rushed to tell his mother. She was busy with her housework, and just told him that he was being silly and telling lies. Eventually, though, she looked out of the kitchen window and she too noticed the cow which had by now made its way around the house to the kitchen garden. She was very startled and cried out in fear. Fred though, thought that this was a good example of somebody getting their just deserts.

Fred’s father, Will, used to work at either Wraggs or Knowles clayworks, a couple of miles away. He would finish his working week at lunchtime on Saturday, and then return home immediately to make sure that he did not miss the football match at Derby, which started at three o’clock:

aerial 1

First of all, though, he would always strip to the waist and wash off all his grime in the kitchen sink.

When Fred was too young to accompany him, Will would walk to the match at the rather strangely named Baseball Ground in Derby. His knowledge of shortcuts, and his willingness to walk over the fields, meant that he could reduce the usual distance by road of twelve or thirteen miles to a walk of only some ten miles or so.

This all came to an abrupt end, though, when Will began to take his young son Fred to the match:

AD with grandma 3

Everything had to change. They would both stroll the short distance down Hartshorne Road until they reached the so-called Lovers’ Walk, a path, complete with romantic tinkling brook, which ran as a well-known short cut, up to the end of Station Street. From here father and son would take the train together from Woodville Station to the Baseball Ground at Derby, hiding away in the middle of a thousand terraced houses.

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Sometimes, though, they preferred to catch the ordinary bus in Hartshorne Lane. There was, in actual fact, great competition between the train and bus companies, with occasional, but regular, price wars. The usual fare was one shilling and a halfpenny, but first one, and then the other, company would knock the halfpenny off in a bid to steal a march over their rivals.

Whatever method of transport they used, Fred and Will always left for the match around one o’clock or half past one.

In the early 1930s, Derby County’s goalkeeper was a man called Jack Kirby. He came from Newhall, a mining village just the other side of Swadlincote from Woodville. Kirby had joined Derby County, a professional soccer team in the top division, from a little amateur team, Newhall United, in April 1929. He made his debut for Derby at the top level in the 1929-30 season:

kirbhy

In those days, footballers did not assemble for a pre-match meal at some prestigious hotel. Indeed, Jack used to travel to every Derby home game on his bicycle from his terraced house in Newhall. This was a distance of some thirteen or fourteen miles.

On alternate Saturdays, therefore, Kirby would come slowly past Fred’s house on his bicycle at around one o’clock.  He still had, perhaps, an hour and a half to travel the twelve or so miles to Derby. Fred and his father Will would watch out for him, have a quick chat, and invariably joke that Jack was going to miss the start of the game. Kirby never hurried, though, keeping always to what Fred and Will both considered to be a worryingly snail like pace.

There was more to Jack, though, than just banter about the speed of his cycling. Jack really was the good man who refused to stand by and do nothing, so that evil might prosper. For now though, here is Jack in action against Newcastle United:jfk0072211209 - Copy

The English First Division could be a really rough place in 1934:

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Jack was a handsome devil, and like all proper goalkeepers, his doting old mum always knitted him a nice warm pullover:

jfk0072210208 - Copy

He was very good at latching on to the heavy, invariably wet football of the era, with hands as big as buckets:

jfk0072209207

The secret was practice, practice, practice. Even if people in the house next to the ground keep spying on you as you train:

jack again

Soon, we will all hear the story of how Jack proved to the whole world that he really was the good man who refused to stand by and do nothing.  Jack was not prepared to let evil prosper.

 

 

 

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Football in the Old Days ; Derby County v Norwich City

Imagine it is the late 1970s. We are walking down to the old Baseball Ground, and about to turn into Harrington Street. The floodlights of the ground are just visible:

A fur x police hors 4

My Dad, my brother and I used to park on what had been the Parade Ground at the old Victorian army barracks at Normanton, and then walk down to the football ground. If we were at all late for the kick off, Fred, my Dad, was quite capable of generating a punishing pace along the terraced backstreets. It was with complete justification that my brother would regularly accuse him of setting off like “a long dog” (whatever that was).
On one occasion, Fred was extremely late for the game, so rather than miss a second of the action, he just left the car on the grass verge of the Ring Road. He accepted as a necessary evil the inevitable parking ticket and fine he would receive, and paid it without demur, but both my brother and myself were advised, “Don’t tell your mother.”
This was not too dissimilar from an incident when he damaged his beautiful pale blue Hillman Minx quite badly by reversing it into an, admittedly, pale grey, well camouflaged lamp post, down near the bridge which went over the railway lines at Swadlincote Station:

building site 3asdf

Again, he accepted the cost of the panel beater and a resprayed rear wing, on the basis of “Don’t tell your mother.”
Closer to the ground, Harrington Street was closed to traffic because of the thousands of people all rushing down to the game. The single floodlight is even more obvious:

B - Copy (3)
Here is a backlit policeman on his horse, and more terraced houses, looking back past the long demolished Baseball Hotel:C x police horses - Copy (2)

Two rather drenched policeman on their horses, walking down Shaftesbury Crescent. Look at the fashions! Look at the flares!

D r x police horses 1

At last! These two policemen have the sense to find a little shelter from the weather:

E ur more police horses -photo 3

They are at the back of the Normanton Stand, at the entrance to the Popular Side. The “Popside” was where hooligans of both teams would stand. There would be disorder at virtually every game.
Fred, as a man of some fifty or so years of age, was himself physically attacked, on two occasions, both of them by those lovable, loyal, warm hearted supporters of Newcastle United.

We had a period when we used to park the car in the playground of Litchurch Lane Junior School, for a mere 25p. One day, as we returned from the game, I was surprised to see large brown birds flying over our heads. Only when one of them crashed into the wall of the railway repair works, did I realise that they were not birds, but bricks, thrown by a group of discontented Newcastle supporters.

On another occasion, a group of Newcastle supporters set about giving a damn good kicking to an innocent young man and his girlfriend, who had the misfortune to be walking along Osmaston Road, just in front of us. My Dad, Fred, of course, armed with his RAF maxim of “it always happens to somebody else, never to me”, raced off to help out the young victims. I can remember how Fred grabbed one hooligan’s foot as he prepared to kick the poor young man, and then wrenched it around backwards as hard as he could. That must have hurt! Afterwards, I remember too how the young victim had been kicked so much that he had lost the face off his watch.

When I got home, I discovered a tear on my favourite green USAF war surplus jacket. That tear was present in my T-shirt as well, and my back had a long red mark on it. I have always reckoned that that was as close as I ever got to being stabbed, by somebody I did not even see, in a mêlée of whirling bodies.
The opponents for this match are, I think, Norwich City:

F football x four photo 4

They are playing in yellow shirts and white shorts, which was a slight change from their normal kit with green shorts:

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The problem was that in the early 1970s, lots of people still had black and white televisions, and Derby and Norwich would have looked very similar, as Derby were wearing white shirts with dark blue shorts, and Norwich yellow and green. Here Derby press forward with yet another attack:

F football x four photo 4

I can’t remember the score of this game, but I think it is safe to say that Derby probably won. They used to beat Norwich fairly regularly in the 1970s.

 

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Football in the Old Days : Derby County v Middlesbrough

In the early 1970s, I used to watch Derby County who, at that time, were a highly successful team in what was then still called “The First Division”. I saw Derby win the Championship of that First Division on two occasions, in 1972 and 1975. In later years, I took my camera with me a couple of times, to take a few photographs, even though, at the time, this was actually illegal and club stewards kept a careful watch in case anybody did it.  Derby, of course, did not play in their current modern stadium, but in the old Baseball Ground, built in the middle of square miles of terraced houses in one of the poorest areas of Derby. It has now, alas, been demolished, although I do have a box of mud from the pitch, and a fair quantity of bricks from the stands.

I keep them in the cellar, but the very best one I had concreted underneath my Dad’s gravestone. He was a Derby fan from 1931, when Newcastle United came to Derby and won by 5-1, until the last game at the Baseball Ground, a 1-3 defeat against Arsenal. Fred was to watch Derby County for almost seventy years, until his very, very last game, at the new Pride Park Stadium, a defeat by 0-2 to Charlton Athletic. Nobody said supporting a football team was going to be easy.

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My camera was a Voigtländer Vito B (I think) equipped with a rather handy Zeiss lens:

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Here are the match stewards just before the match begins:

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Today, the opponents are Middlesbrough, recently promoted to the First Division, and relying on tenacious defence to stay there. Here they are warming up before the match begins. The spectators at the back are in the Ley Stand, sitting upstairs, as it were, but standing in their thousands underneath. The “standees”, what a wonderful new word, are the away supporters from Middlesbrough:

B four more police horses photo 4

Middlesbrough played in all red with a white chest band:

1973

Derby played in white and dark blue:

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Middlesbrough have already come out for the game, but here come Derby, resplendent in their white shirts with a darker collar and cuffs,

C four more police horses photo 1

Here is the moment just before Derby kick off to start the game. At the far end is the packed Normanton Stand:

D football x four - C photo 2

Hooliganism was rife in the 1970s, and here the supporters next to me in the Osmaston Stand, Lower Tier, are obviously bored by the game, so they concentrate on a threatened pitch invasion by the Middlesbrough  fans:

E photo 1

Here Derby attack, and their best player, Kevin Hector, has a shot at goal:

football x four - photo 1

He shoots, he scores!

photo 2

I thought the result of this game was Derby County 3 Middlesbrough 2 but apparently, when I checked my reference books, it actually finished Derby County 2 Middlesbrough 3. They are useless books and I may throw them away.

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April Fool? Maybe yes! Maybe no!

Here are today’s football results for April 1st 2016…

AS Adema    149       Stade Olymique L’Emyrne 0

burun

Akurba FC 0       Plateau United Feeders    79

Bon Accord Aberdeen 0       Arbroath     36

Micronesia 0       Vanuatu    46

Australia    31       American Samoa   0

Arsenal   26     Paris   1

Preston North End     18       Reading   0

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Australia    0    England      17

Germany   16     Russia   1

England     15       France 0

Manchester United     14       Walsall   0

Clapton 0       Nottingham Forest     14

Tranmere Rovers    13       Oldham Athletic    4

Stockport County    13       Halifax Town   0

Newcastle United    13       Newport County   0

Newcastle United captain Jimmy Nelson leads his team out

Borussia Mönchengladbach    12       Borussia Dortmund   0

dortm

Chelsea    13       Jeunesse Hautcharage    0

Athletic Bilbao    12       Barcelona    1

Derby County    12       Finn Harps    0

Luton Town   12       Bristol Rovers    0

Corinthians    11       Manchester United    3

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Real Madrid    11       Barcelona    0

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Tottenham Hotspur   10       Everton     4

Barcelona    3       Notts County     10

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Notts County    1       Southwell City    10

Notts County    1       Queen’s Park      10

Bournemouth    10       Northampton Town     0

Sunderland       9      Newcastle United    1

Charlton Athletic    7       Huddersfield Town     6

Huddersfield in possession in the photograph below:

(L-R) Huddersfield Town's Alf Whittingham takes on Charlton Athletic's Jock Campbell

Brazil    1    Germany     7

Atlético Madrid    6       Athletic Bilbao   6

Manchester United    0       Huddersfield    6

hudders

Barcelona     2       Notts County     4

Barcelona    1       Notts County      3

Kenya Breweries Mombasa    2       Notts County    1

Brazil   3     Exeter City    3

Derby County    8       Tottenham Hotspur   2

And what’s so strange about all these scores?

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Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill

When we were first married, my wife and I bought a house in the Meadows area of Nottingham. This was traditionally a place of slums, crime and general unpleasantness, but at the time, the early 1980s, huge numbers of unhealthy hovels were being demolished to be replaced by newly built, better quality, council houses, as they were then called. Mixed in with all the rented accommodation though, was a small estate of private houses, and we bought one of those. When we first moved in, we were surrounded by a vast building site:

photo 1

In the background is Nottingham Castle, which has very little remaining from the medieval period and dates mostly from the 1670s. It is perhaps most famous for being the trademark on Players Cigarettes:

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And now, it must be nine minutes past four and the teaching day is ended and I have driven home at top speed:

“Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.”

photo 3

I used to have an old 1964 Hillman Minx De Luxe, with the registration plate BLT 141B. It was my first car, and I loved it dearly. I wish I could have it back again. It had previously belonged to my Dad, Fred, who loved it even more than I did. When the seventeen-year-old car failed its last roadworthiness test, he was so glad that I took the trouble to drive it, fairly illegally, the 35 miles to his house, just so that he could then drive it himself on its last ever journey down to the scrapyard.
This beautiful blue car was “the one” as far as Fred’s motoring career was concerned. One day in 1966, he took me with him to nearby Derby and we visited Peveril Garage, on Friar Gate, up near the headquarters of the Derby County Supporters’ Club:

dcfc
Fred told me not to mention anything whatsoever about the day to my mother, not under any circumstances. Without any consultation with her at all, therefore, he bought this marvellous car, which was priced at £510. In those days, that was a princely sum indeed. If truth be told, it was actually a total sufficiently royal, that when my mother did eventually find out what he had done, she would have had Fred beheaded if she could have organised it.

The car was a rich blue, half way between sky blue and navy blue, with a black side stripe picked out in metallic chrome. In later years, when he had problems with rust on one of the wings, Fred was to opt for a total re-spray, which allowed him to retain the same colour blue for the body, but to incorporate a black roof which added that extra, unique, little detail to his beloved car:

photo 4

At this time, I had only recently passed my driving test, so, while I waited for the green “Provisional” plates to be invented, I retained my Learner plates, with the Big Red Ell on them. That was enough to be pulled over by a young policeman, apparently tired of arresting burglars, drug dealers, terrorists, murderers and bank robbers. Still, no hard feelings.
And here I am, looking like the man who designs the stage costumes for a 1970s pop group:

photo 2

I am wearing my favourite wide lapel purple jacket which had a wonderful Polyester feel to it. My shirt was short sleeved and chequered in pink and white. My extra wide tie was scarlet, and again, made of Polyester for easy cleaning. My glasses were gold-rimmed and my hair was a deep delicious dark brown without the slightest trace of grey:

photo 5

I had probably been wearing a pair of trousers throughout my day as a teacher, but they are not visible in this photograph. They may well have been my favourite pair ever, which were generously flared and mid-grey with an emphatic large black check design all over them. This created a whole series of huge squares perhaps four or five inches in size. I eventually gave these show stealers to a charity for the homeless in Africa. I often wonder who got them and what he made of them. Conceivably, some kind of shelter.

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