Tuesday, November 10, 1981
I felt fairly OK when I got into school but as I sat waiting for the bell there was Duncan calling me that infuriating name “Marty” and hitting me with his bicycle pump and for some reason, I went mad. It must be a culmination of things. I grabbed the pump he was waving in my face and hurled it away and as he continued I pushed him to the ground and kicked him in the legs. I was really angry. The berks in the 6th form all applauded and I stalked away feeling stupid and ashamed. Violence is the last resort of the incompetent. Duncan glared at me throughout History, calling me “a bastard” and at break studiously ignored me, violently slamming things around.
I left at eleven full of conflicting feelings: shame, anger, complete paranoia. In Easterby I got the noon bus to Dearnelow, then the Swinscoe bus and met Robert in the staff room at his school.
Our journey took exactly two hours, and we found the football ground easily enough, were frisked and herded into the Athletic end, hemmed in by wire meshing. Cross End's ground was modern and clean but a bit smaller than I’d expected. There were about two hundred Athletic fans there and they started up a continuous chant which lasted right to full time. Exhilarating. I was glad to see Easterby playing in their home strip.
It was a predictable beginning; sustained Cross End pressure, Athletic looking totally outclassed and inevitably, in the 32nd minute, the ball was headed home by Cross End's No. 4. 0-1. I half-regretted going. The second half started out the same but, gradually, Athletic crept back into the game, exerting pressure, hurrying Cross End off the ball. They started making errors and sending passes astray. Then, to my amazement, and our collective rapture, there was Littlewood lunging amid red shirts, the ball in the net. A goal!! Pandemonium at our end.
The last fifteen minutes were unbearable, some people facing the other way, unable to watch, and everyone screaming at the ref to blow his whistle. Then, when he finally did, more crazy celebrations and the Athletic players came jogging over to salute us, as if they’d won the FA Cup or something. We were weary and hoarse in a bemused sort of way as we left, scarcely able to believe that we’d held the mighty Cross End to a draw.
It was in this excited, happy mood that we set off back and were cruising along quite nicely, discussing the match, when out of the darkness came the red rear lights of a car. Robert flicked the steering wheel and WHAM!, we hit the car, glanced off, swerving into the middle of the road before Robert managed to pull over. I was shaking like a leaf. I had to force the passenger door open but the door wouldn't close again. The other people in the car we'd hit came running up unhurt, a couple of Athletic fans who’d had a puncture in their hire-car. "We thought you'd be pissing blood!” I was still shaking (“you're just nervy,” said one bloke) as Rob exchanged details with them. What would’ve happened if we’d hit that car full on!?
I had to hold the door closed with my scarf all the way home; we pulled off at Purswell to report the accident to the police. The journey seemed to take hours, the miles crawling by. I kept drifting away, fatigue and semi-shock making me jump at imaginary things looming up in the road ahead. Robert was really sick. His insurance has just expired, and yesterday he paid out £160 for a new clutch.
We drove on in depressed silence and got back to Saxton after midnight. Carol seemed resigned about it all and was just thankful we were alive.