Extortion On Eastwood Gardens

The Australian national anthem is blasting out in the corner of the living room as I commence this literary portrayal. To clarify, the playing of Advance Australia Fair isn’t a precondition of me writing a blog, it resonates around my living room as a proviso to the England v Australia rugby international that is playing out on my TV.

If I was vain glorious enough (which I’m not) to have a ceremony prior to penning a blog, it certainly wouldn’t incorporate the Aussie anthem. As much as I find the English offering uninspiring (prior to sporting events anyway), God Save The Queen is what I’d be selecting from the Now That‘s What I Call National Anthems playlist on Apple Music.

Obviously, that’s what I call unlikely to happen. After all, if I wanted a inspirational ceremony prior to me administering quill to parchment (it’s probably time I updated my writing raw materials) I’d go for a haka war cry……. Right, this is getting ridiculous now, I’ll move on swiftly!

Yesterday, it was good to receive a comment on one of my blogs from an old schoolmate, a fellow cricketer during my teen years and early twenties in Gateshead.

I’ve not seen him for over 30 years, but he’d felt moved to get in touch regarding a blog I’d written in the summer. A narrative paying tribute to the under 18’s junior cricket team we represented that won the league and two cups in 1980:- GFCC Juniors – Class of 80

eastwood gardens

The success achieved by our band of fledgling club cricketers wasn’t a consequence of being stirred by a pre-match national anthem. Moreover, down to three or four years bonding as a team, numerous hours of training in the nets, coaching from senior players and having incriminating photos of every league umpire in Durham.

Our captain’s early season acquisition of pictures implicating match adjudicators clandestinely flouting strict match day dress code playing a key part in our motley crew’s efforts to secure silverware that year.

Amongst the guilty, a league umpire (who for the purposes of anonymity, I’ll call Bert Grievson of 142 Climethorpe Road, Eppleton) was shamefully caught donning lederhosen underneath his white umpiring coat.

Our extortion leverage enhanced further a few weeks later; the consequence of getting possession of a incriminating tape featuring a league committee member.

This league official had recently secured the role of marketing sales director for a razor blade manufacturer. On the recording he can be clearly heard discussing implementing legislation banning the adorning of moustaches of anyone who featured in the top six of the batting order in under-18 games.

His goal to increase company razor blade sales by forcing the elder more hirsute juniors to remove ‘bum fluff’ facial hair. The strategy included leaving samples of the product in changing rooms, aimed at raising awareness of his employer’s brand. A strategy that would be rolled out to senior teams if proving successful at junior level.

This eccentric legislation was never implemented, a consequence of the committee member forgetting that 17 year olds ‘fluff’ was ordinarily removed by a brisk North East breeze. A fact rendering the committee members aspirations of acquiring young men’s razor blade loyalty as unlikely.

Corruption in local cricket was rife in those days. Club tuck shops with their bounty of jelly wrigglers, sherbet dips, liquorice strings et al, were regularly forced to pay protection money to unscrupulous characters with Italian pseudonyms.

The consequence of not acquiescing to the underworld being the unspeakable stretching of the jelly wrigglers and liquorice strings, aimed at diminishing the buyers overall pleasure of the confectionery.

Deliberately elongated confectionery, like razor blades for 17 years olds, didn’t have a large market. For the tuck shop assistant, witnessing a jelly wriggler being stretched by a prospective buyer was akin to crisp bags being flattened in the tuck shop customer misdemeanour list.

Thoughts of that summer in 1980 ignite many fond recollections. It was a time when a group of predominantly 17 year old lads acquired a trinity of silverware through hard work, support from experienced players and the sheer anger of their confectionery being stretched.

** Disclaimer – This is a fictional narrative. Any intimation of wrongful umpiring or cricket practises are untrue. If in the unlikely event you’re called Bert Grievson and lived at 142 Climethorpe Road in Eppleton in 1980 that is purely coincidental. …..No jelly wrigglers were harmed in the writing of this blog.


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