Retrieving the local football team’s balls from the brambles #England #narrowboat #canal

Sunday morning, a peregrination along the canal towpath, a solitary church bell clanging in the distance… and a couple of local teams having a football match in the rain.

I was transported right back to childhood – please don’t let the ball come near me, please don’t let the ball come near me…

Here’s the chap doing “an throwing in” (I believe it’s called) after the first time the ball left the pitch, sought me out and called me into the trees and brambles around the field to retrieve it, while the players watched me and waited (and waited). Didn’t matter where I stood, and I experimented with standing in a lot of different places, the ball left the ruddy pitch and sought me out like a Hutson-seeking missile.

Yes, I spent not some little time with my head in the brambles, my arse to the pitch, reaching at arms length for a muddy ball that was determined to not be re-captured.

Football on a fine February morning in England

Yes, dear Younger Self, even after all of these decades we still throw like a girl.

Present on this February morning were the teams a-playing, a few spares in case they broke any of the players, a couple of very vocal coaches, and their new “ball gofer”. Still, there are worse occupations on an English winter’s morning.

The only thing that has improved after all of these decades is my ability to handle that sinking feeling as the ball escapes and heads for me while I try to hide on the sidelines. Same feeling, same intensity, but I am better at handling it: I no longer throw myelf to the ground and feign death.

Not being so green as I am cabbage-looking at no time did I try to kick a ball back to those who needed it, I stuck with the tried and tested “goal-keeper’s over-arm lob” (invariably lobbing wild) and the “goal-keeper’s roll it back” (invariably hitting some mystery object mid-roll and missing the intended recipient by three points of the compass).

What’s that then? A curtsy to facilitate a chop to the throat?

It is a pivotal moment in a young chap’s life when he realises that he could easily be replaced by a well-trained Collie dog. Actually, a Collie dog would have been more elegant and, possibly, faster than was I.

Get away from me, Claud, it’s my ball…

All that would have been needed to transport me back to my teens was the players asking me to take care of their watches, jackets and bags. I spent my teens telling Games Masters exactly what they could do with their “Physical Education” lessons, and with my forearms covered in twenty-three or more wristwatches. I taught all of my Games Masters the meaning of the word “no” and the inflexibility of the phrase”…and there is no sanction in your armoury that can make me play your games”.

Have at thee, little left kidney…

I watched a professional football match once and it all made sense. Just the one match, no match before or since has revealed the mechanics of the game to me. For that one game of two halves though I could see the tactics, could see the players manoeuvring themselves in advance of where the play would take the ball, setting up attempts at some of those “GOAL!” thingies that they all like so much.

Same with cricket. That’s an unfathomable game too, but equally delightful and fascinating to watch, although football releases a higher level of free-radical testosterone into the air and is thus to be much-preferred. Watching football is akin to watching the hunters of “hunter-gatherers” hunting, while cricket is much more a case of standing there and thinking of England, of Spitfires flying overhead and of Lord Woolton Pie for tea.

There’s levitation in football. What’s that all about then?

I can fly…

There are times when the ball is there (after I’d returned it, with some girlie throw), but no-one seems to be playing it…

Cha cha cha? Mambo? It’s some sort of dance-for-three-players, anyway.

Then there are the goalkeepers.

Goalkeepers are usually insane. This is because they are often left alone and isolated for long periods, ignored by even their own team.

In England goalkeepers are often left alone for long periods, and thus slip into insanity.

Then, suddenly, usually just as the goalkeeper has become used to being an outcast, everyone wants to know him. After twenty minutes of standing like a leper in the rain he’s expected to perform and save the day that his team have hitherto failed to save.

BYO Party at the goalies’ place…

This naturally leads to some peculiar behaviour on the part of goalies.

There’s the “put the ball down and back away” plea behaviour…

Put the ball down and back away, we’ll get you the help that you need…

There’s the “zombie kick”…

Grr. Argh. Zombies play football too.

and, perhaps most pathological of all, there’s the (blurred) “look at me, I’m a windmill” dance…

Football just hasn’t been the same since Expressive Dance broke free from the nineteen-seventies and invaded the pitch.

Saddest of all though are the players who have come out onto the field with their arms on back-to-front…

Throw-in performed with arms fitted back-to-front.

Is any of this working? Am I distracting attention from my own inadequacies in even returning a stray ball with any accuracy? No? Oh. Well, it was a faint hope to begin with.

In truth I miss my motorsport photography days, signing on at local club events, slipping into the yellow hi-vis vest provided and exchanging my club voucher for a cup of tea and a wad. I miss car rallies, but most of all I miss motorbikes every other Sunday. Haven’t yet found a way of getting to events from the canals.

Aby Enduro, Banovallum MCC. © Ian Hutson.

Motorbikes make sense without knowledge of team tactics and stuff.

If football is to be more easily accessible as a spectator from the canals I shall have to study the game in depth, and develop some better photo-op sense.

The canal ahead that I originally set out to walk along and inspect? Well, that proved for a couple of miles at least to be what we in the trade call “unprepossessing”. Thank goodness that the football match brightened up my walk!

The canal ahead is… unprepossessing. Wheelock, Trent & Mersey.

This is perhaps the only occasion on which I have seen plywood used semi-structurally on a bridge over the canal. Someone must have been cutting costs (to the bone and beyond)!

Trent and Mersey Bridge 154 – first time I’ve ever seen plywood used for a bridge!

So, that was my Sunday morning walk that was, and it decidedly blew away any and all cobwebs, as ordered.

The overly-gustoid winds are back again for the moment, so the next move will, I suspect, be at least a couple of days hence.

Ever onward, Everard.

Back home on the Cardinal, whereupon of course the rain promptly stopped.

Cardinal Wolsey on the Trent & Mersey at Wheelock.

Chin-chin for the mo, chaps.

Ian H and Cardinal W.


    1. I’m sure that American “Football” is a wonderful game for those steeped in it from birth, but to me, as an outsider, it’s just a lot of over-padded chaps in helmets uncertain whether they are playing (proper) football or rugby! It’s all stop-start and little action.

      That said, (proper) football here of late has been defined as ‘ninety minutes of pretending that you’re injured when you’re not’ while rugby (my favoured game – to watch) is ‘eighty minutes of pretending that you’re NOT injured when you actually are’…

      I used to enjoy watching Wimbledon tennis but that has become a game now that would be much improved by the replacement of the tennis balls with hand-grenades. It’s all grunt, scream and tactical complaining these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That is an amazing photo of the motorbike. And you caught quite a few good shots of the game, even if it was mostly incomprehensible to you. I have strong suspicions that football, and indeed many sportsballs, are incomprehensible. That similar to the kings clothes everyone is pretending they get it and no one is actually getting it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The “magic formula” that the coaches were shouting to the players at this game was to “get it early”. I assume that they meant the ball, and weren’t just selling merchandise from the touchline. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Earlier than what, I wonder? That seems a bit of a nonsense statement. But I don’t really understand the dynamics more than each team is trying to put the ball in the other team’s net.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. If I were in charge of the national game then it seems to me that it could be much improved by the addition of goal nets all around the pitch and with each player having his own ball to play with. They should let dogs onto the pitch more often, too. 😉

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  2. Just thought I’d tell you that just North of Weedon on the Grand Union you can listen to and watch flying motorcycles from the canal as there is a motocross circuit right beside it. Just the thing for a peaceful Sunday afternoon, well, if you’re as deaf as I can be if someone asks me to retrieve a pig’s bladder that they have been foolish enough to lose control of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! There must be loads that I could get to, if only I knew what and when and where and how. I shall have to do a lot more research.


  3. Ah this is wonderful! And wot photography and the best decription of the game of football I have ever read – it makes a lot more sense now! I only ever went to one professional football match in my youth – you know when you see someone being passed overhead to get them unconcious out of the crowd? Yep, that was me! Never went back again!

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    1. Crowd-surfer, eh? I might have guessed! Only time that I was ever held aloft by a mob was when we were on the way to the village bonfire…

      Rugby is a – dare I say it – far better game, followed closely by Australian-rules Football, but regular football will do when there’s nowt else on offer. 😉


  4. Yes – football is a game I cannot understand either; like you, I do understand motorbikes and their races. I used to be Secretary to the Bantam Racing Club – those were the days! I miss my own bikes too but nI don’t miss the cold and the wet and the pain in the hands from the vibration.

    I hope next week will be a good one for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re not wrong there, the weather can sometimes make “El Sporto Outdoors-o” a little bit of a trial. If the mud doesn’t get you then the dust will… 😉

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