Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Second Meaning of Sport - Greengrass

Studying at the London School of Economics in the mid-1960’s was a fantastic experience for a simple lad from a Lancashire mill town.

This was Swinging London, and for me it really swung. I realised that southern ale was not, as I had been taught, ”witches’ piss” - Young’s was a grand brewery!

Carnaby Street, blues groups by the score, folk clubs every night of the week, Bert Jansch on tap, all-night poker schools and an unlimited supply of Southern Crumpet. Since I had a Beatles haircut and a northern accent, they all thought I had grown up with the Fab Four - and who was I to spoil their fun?

There was, admittedly, that regrettable Jagger business. That poor bloke, after two years of hard studying at the L.S.E., apparently got wind of the fact that I was on my way there, realised that there wasn’t room for both of us, pouted, and did the decent thing. Last I heard of him, he was singing with some half-arsed band out Kingston way - not Kingston, Jamaica, but Kingston upon Thames.

There was a lass from the Wirral at the L.S.E. The Wirral is just a ferry cross the Mersey from Liverpool. Wirral people like to believe they talk posh, but they talk Scouse - well, a sort of veggie Scouse. She was what today’s Swedes might term a ”puma”: heads turned in the library when she went to look for a book; she must have caused any number of stiff necks.

Miss Wirral had a boyfriend back home, and I had a girlfriend back home. We really enjoyed having a coffee, ”studying” together, agreeing that Herman’s Hermits were crap, humming ”Wild Thing” and taking turns to sigh about our long-distance relationships.

After a while, we stopped sighing about our long-distance relationships and went for a short-distance relationship: we were, after all, at a school of economics, and saving on travel made sense.

She stayed with her aunt in Ealing, which in my mind’s eye was the stop before Plymouth. I went out there once, to watch The Who with her, and noted that the ads for rooms to rent stated ”No Irish”. Well, you can’t expect Ealing landladies to speak the Erse, now can you?

I stayed in Brixton, which appeared to be a suburb of Kingston - not Kingston upon Thames, but Kingston, Jamaica. Coming home half-cut in the early hours of Sunday morning and hearing the ska pouring out of all-night parties was one of the joys of living there.

I was sharing a room in a Brixton student flat, which meant that my meetings with Miss Wirral involved me bribing my room-mate, Paul, to go out and get drunk every time we needed a bit of peace and quiet. We just couldn’t properly appreciate Buddy Guy singing ”First Time I Met the Blues” on my reel-to-reel Grundig with Paul in the room.

After a few months of that, I got a room near Euston station - I couldn’t stand the thought of my love of music turning that poor lad into an alcoholic.

Come the Christmas break, it was time to nip over to the Wirral and meet her parents. I sung ”I Hear You Knockin’” to my knees and sunk into their smug suburban sofa, ready for the trial to begin. But it wasn’t all bad - the next day, they went to work and we didn’t, which of course gave us loads of time to visit the library in Liverpool and the jam butty mines of Knotty Ash.

Then came THE BIG ONE: Liverpool v. Manchester United at Anfield. Liverpool was her team, Manchester United mine. We rolled up to the ground at the last minute and headed for the cheapest entrance in sight. It turned out to be the Kop, and it was packed.

Since I was shouting things like ”Keep on runnin’!” every time a Red Devil looked like breaking clear, the Liverpool fans quickly sussed out the fact
that I supported United.

After about 40 minutes of heart-warming homely abuse I noticed that people who had passed out were being passed over the crowd and onto the pitch, just behind the goal. I whispered to Miss Wirral, ”We gotta get outa this place. Pretend to faint!”

She suddenly said, ”Oooh!” and collapsed into my arms. She was passed over the heads of the crowd, and I swam after her. When we arrived on the pitch, she was given a whiff of smelling salts to ”bring her round”. The man from the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade then asked me if I was OK, and I told him I was fine. He said that I might need a drop of brandy ”to be on the safe side”, and I understood him to be a very wise man, so I took a swig.

As we were led away to the halfway line, she mumbled that she’d never forgive me the fact that she got those awful smelling salts for her brilliant acting - and I got a shot of brandy.

We arrived just in time to see the players come out of the tunnel for the second half - you could almost touch them! We spent the second half in seats, and later heard that Miss Wirral and I had appeared on the telly as we walked along the touchline.

She later got back with her Wirral boyfriend, and I continued my valiant quest for the Meaning of Sport.


andrewm said...

Six months!

Six effing months I've been waiting for this!

Yes, of course it was worth the wait, but that's hardly the point. I was young and full of fun when I read the first Meaning of Sport. I'm old and bitter now. I could be dead by the time the next one arrives. We all could. Think on.

GG, write your damn autobiography and stop tormenting me. Your colourful recollections are my only consolation now.

mimi said...

andrewm!! what a treat - I thought you'd been eaten by a scottish kitten!

I just loved reading this. It's so Pseuds and just full of, well, the spirit.

Made me think of all sorts - sports, music, friends.

Just great and a real bonus to find here tonight.


tonyellis said...

GG ah, what times! You bring it all back. At least, my dad says so.
I'm with Andrewm (about whom more in a minute) here - let's have some more installments.

Andrew - good to see you back although 'my only consolation' sounds ominous. Are you ok?

guitougoal said...

great writing gg, as the king said"I have great memories, I've had a great life."
wonderful story, thanks also for telling us when and where you got your drinking habit.

Zephirine said...

GG, somehow, from now on, whenever I see a St John's Ambulance man I shall think of you.

It's a good thing I don't see them very often.

Andrewm, how nice that you're back, not too old and bitter I hope:)

offsideintahiti said...

gg, I'll have a few Archeo-ethno-linguistics questions about that piece of writing, but not now. Today is too good. Zeph's Return, the Second Coming of Greengrass, and... Andrew's Dramatic Entrance. I'm a happy pseud.

offsideintahiti said...

And even Guitou is back. I think I'll have a large glass of smelling salts...

offsideintahiti said...

Now, if we could just have a quick line from Kokomo, I'd light a celebratory pakalolo bonfire and sit myself downwind.

guitougoal said...

could we start the bonfire kokomo is on his way.

offsideintahiti said...

Smoke signals? Hey, there's an idea. Let's forget about all that technological nonsense. I'll start work on my next piece for PC straight away.

file said...

the green green grasses of swinging 60's London (+ Anfield)

lovely piece GG, really well written

'veggie scouse' accent, know exactly what you mean!

BlueinBetis said...


"veggie scouse" scored a seven on coffee spitting. Very, very atmospheric.

Although I feel I must point out that I see all this happening in Black and White; in my imagination I mean. (most of the tings mentioned I've only ever seen on the haunted fishtank, in BW)


Thanks for pointing out my ridiculouness the other day on GU. I feel slightly ashamed.(They both probably support the Republican party though)

guitougoal said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to embarass you, it's just obvious that one of them has a dictatorship mentality on the other side the two yanks seem to be less "hands on"...
I wish you well with Chelsea.

tony said...

Bib/Guitou - Do you two mind? The encounter group's next door! ;0)

guitougoal said...

next door? which one , gg's shit house , offside's taproom or you're all hidden in the basement with
inspector becklouseau?

ynotsille said...

GG - sshhh! I've just got hold of an absinthe flavoured with hemp and wormwood. I'll meet you in that place where we had a drink on my birthday...

laoguotiug said...

may I ?

mimi said...

laoguitiug: can we have some laphroaig?

laoguotiug said...

oui imim.

tony said...

Strange stuff. An old friend brought some over and I thought it tasted like disinfectant. I still do, but the taste has grown on me so much that I'm thinking of trying Domestos.

mimi said...

aah - you lot! You always bring laughts into my life. Bless you!

MotM said...

A brilliant piece from Prof GG and the return of AndrewM!!!

That's a helluva hit for a Sunday.

PS GG I played similar cards at UCL (rather than the LSE) 20 years or so later - happy, happy days!

pipita said...

Admired Professor GG

Loved reading this mate, well worth the wait, ta a million. Having said this I assume this is the first of your autobiographical saga and that their will shortly be a follow up to this, cos there aint much about footer in ear lad...Give us some more details about that Anfield game.

Welcome back Andrewm

mimi said...

If you ask, I could give some insight on that Jagger lad.

Know what I mean?

mimi said...

And this has to be farewell.

MotM said...

A neglected classic Mimi. I have to fess up to preferring the 80s' full on Diva version

munni said...

I'm with Pipita: let's hear more about the game, please. Really enjoying the wealth of historical reminiscences that have been appearing on here recently.

I also saw this in b&w as I read, although I didn't realise it until I read BlueinBetis' comment.

gg said...

Thanks, everyone, for the praise.

Footy? I can't point my writing in a particular direction it just comes out like this.

The logical sequence to this would be
the incident where I knocked a bloke through a large aquarium for fondling my Danish girlfriend.

As you all well know, I know bugger all about footy I'm a Man United fan...

P.S. You saucy wench, Mimi! OK, spill the beans on Jagger!

mimi said...

I could be tempted should others wish to know more about M Jagger.

But I was hoping to find a few folks in tonight for a bit of perhaps roast hedgepig, or maybe Sarah Jane's puppy - who knows?

All I know is I'm starving and looking for some company.

pipita said...

Come on GG, at least tell us something more about the Anfield game, ie year-score-players. Surely you remember

mimi said...

Midnight and this is it.

gg said...

pipita -

it's all a blur, really.

Score? Can't say.

Hannibal will be able to tell us - he's good at Liverpool history.

I remember swearing over players such as St. John, Yeats, Smith, callaghan, etc. in those days - and cheering the antics of Best, Law, Herd, Charlton, Crerand, Stiles, etc.

However, I can't remember which players turned out in which matches, or in which particular match Georgie Best did something that defied the laws of science.

On the other hand, I don't remember much of what happened last season. Wait - we won the league and PC saw the light of day!

marcela said...

i thought the whole point about being "around in the sixties" is not to be able to remember any of it...

at least, that's what i was always told, particularly by those who were doing things like 'studying' at the LSE circa '68, etc.

but, pipita, for crissake's, use the medium of the blog! enhance this story for us. you of all people can dig up a rothman's yearbook or whatever they're called and find most significant clashes between liverpool and manure - sorry, i meant man u - in the seasons 64/65, 65/66, 66/67 for instance.
shankly days, for sure, and busby? wow. real history.

the dave edmonds, though, was that not 70s already?

this is terrific stuff, at any rate, prof gg. many, many thanks.

mimi, i'll stay for a drink if you're still up :)

marcela said...

Just boiling the kettle for a last cuppa and going all classical
I just love this one

mimi said...

So sorry
that was me above, not marcela.
Don't quite know how that happened!

pot said...

ha, ha!!

easy there, kettle, you know how i feel about name calling on the web :))

but i'll have a black coffee while i check out your classical... ta

mimi said...

god - are we into the into sosspan calling kettles vach? That's putting strain on my welsh!

pipita said...


"Medium of the blog"??Precisely trying to get GG to put these personal recollections into some type of Footy perspective...No Rothmans FYB in the 60's I'm afraid. Besides, what's the point in speculating about which 60's Liverpool-Man U game GG was probably at.

Hummmm, beginning to suspect that Professor GG wasn't at Anfield at all and made this up for the purpose of enhancing his 60's tale: Another question GG...Had you heard at all about the existance of pakalolo when you were attending LSE in the swinging 60's??

marcela said...

attending lsd lectures??


pipita - and gg may enjoy this too, as it is an ol' trafford tale - i went to the match yesterday, against chelsea, in the esteemed company of prof bilardo.

he hadn't been there since 68 :))

welsh tea, mimi? oh, go on then...

mimi said...

Marcela: we only have Scottish tea here, but we do eat welsh cakes! Ah if only my mum still baked and sent them up! Nothing better at this time of night for a little bit of comfort food!

mimi said...

No comfort food but found a lovely bit of comfort music.

Gosh - how did I not find this before when looking for Forest of Dean stuff. This is just fab.

Pin back your ears and let cynicism go away.

guitougoal said...

"not to be able to remember any of it"
How can I forget la Callas, la Tosca 1964-
Marcela don't hold professor Bellardo too long he is needed at River Plate, they do need a doctor at this point.

guitougoal said...

from "la Wally" to the Tornados with no transition,cynism go away for sure-is the welsh cake baked an then rhum atised...?

pipita said...

Bloody hell marcelita, you saw ManU-Chelsea in the company of that nut-case Bilardo????!!!!You'll definetly have to tell us more about this. And Carlitos decided to score his first goal at Old Trafford when you happened to be there, amazing

pipita said...


If Bilardo were to arrive at River at this moment, they'd definetly get relegated. What is urgently needed there is some pakalolo therapy.
BTW, no comments from you aout the rugby. Met a prestiguos French historian last week who said he is supporting the Pumas because he hates the French rugby team coach for being such a raving sarkozian

guitougoal said...

Bilardo and Marcela at Old Trafford while Arsenal is playing in London ? I am calling my lawyer asap!
I don't care much about rugby and less about this egomaniac Laporte. I didn't know Argentina has a good rugby team either, congratulations.
River and pakalolo. it seems the damage is done.

pr pakamambo said...

Dr Professor Piaget,

Our Department of Archeo-linguistics has been working around the clock on your latest offering. We are confident we have deciphered most of it, but a few nuggets are still proving difficult to digest. No doubt, the blame lies with our young and unexperienced crew of researchers, most of whom have only been through England on their way to much more interesting places like Scotland and Wales.

We would be eternally grateful if you were kind enough to provide full archeo-linguistic background on some of the most arduous terms of your dissertation, such as "southern ale, Bert Jansch on tap, Southern Crumpet, jam butty mines of Knotty Ash", as well as the cryptic sentence: "Well, you can’t expect Ealing landladies to speak the Erse, now can you?"

In your own time, of course. We can keep ourselves busy while we wait for your answer, by applying the department's resources to Velvet Bear's Codex next door.

Much obliged.

Professor Pakamambo
Head of Paleo-Gamesmanship
Pakalolo Institute
Southern Seas

PS: Our researchers have reached a consensus on three points: that they would much rather read about the context than the actual football, that they can see it in vivid colours, and that it would be a cruel loss for science if you were to be the victim of a puma-hunting accident. Do take care.


pipita said...

Dr Pakamambo

One hell of a "mambo" you must have...What nerve you have to insinuate that prestiguous Professor GG could be the victim of a posible "puma accident" as you put it...

Yours truly

Doctor Burrito Ortega
Emeritus Professor, Chair of Futbolero Studies
Instituto Universitario Riverplei

gg said...


this is a very interesting trip in self-knowledge. I never realised that I remember so little of the actual games from way back when: just some salient details, which often have very little to do with what actually happened on the pitch.

As far as those other trips are concerned, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but - no, I didn't try the pakamambo at the L.S.E. Some did, I know, but us working-class lads and lasses from the North contented ouselves with ale and Cherry B.

If we're into deconstruction or - Dog forbid! - semiotics, I should inform you that the Anfield bit is true.


now I know why Tevez finally scored.

Professor Pakamambo,

hah! Trying to slip in a little jibe, eh, to tempt me into a diatribe against our Celtic cousins!

Scotland is a lovely country, populated by surprisingly generous folk - and if Wales hadn't existed, I'd never have met
that lovely young lady in Devil's Bridge who may yet emerge in a new episode of The Meaning of Sport. Thanks for reminding me of Blodwyn, or whatever her name was!

My students in the Department of Applied Astro-Paralytics are also trying to work out what some of my expressions mean - apart, that is, for loads of unpaid overtime on their part.

One of them hopes to be able to find Bert Jansch singing "Needle of Death" soon, and post it on You-tube.

Another is directly descended from Monsignor Ken Dodd, the legendary guide who opened the jam butty mines of Knotty Ash to the world and is also credited with the discovery of the Bury Black Pudding Bush, the Wigan Pie Seam and the
Bolton Tripe Fountain.

Finally, all Ealing landladies talk through their Erse, but none speak it.

P.S. Yes, puma hunting is hazardous - one or two of them have been hunting me for years, but still haven't caught up with me.

duncan said...

Mind-bogglingly good stuff GG. I'm saving this one for whenever I feel fed up!

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