Lesson Learned?

As my dear old mum would say, Thursday 19th June is being played out accompanied by “Weather for ducks!” Incidentally, as no doubt the Leeds lass would’ve prefixed the word ‘weather’ with the mildly cursory ‘bleeding’, I’m paraphrasing at this juncture.

The word ‘bleeding’ her go to adverb in the occasions Maggie feels she’s perhaps overdone the use of the slightly brisker ‘bloody’.

The word bloody, when used as an expletive, has apparently been rattling around British parlours and taprooms since the 17th century. The locution’s first recorded use by Tewkesbury carpenter Ernest Cooper, who’d exclaimed the curse after inadvertently hammered his thumb while building a bird box.

Quite what exclamation Mr Cooper utilised during previous painful carpentry accidents isn’t clear. However, it’s believed “Ouch!”, “Chuffing heck!”, and “Jeepers!” weren’t amongst the Gloucestershire chippy’s howls of discomfort.

Although a heavily tabooed profanity for centuries, the late 20th century saw the word bloody become more accepted by society. The Reverend Archie Shoehorn and his parishioners instead targeting their wrath at newer, stronger expletives such as ‘tugnuts’, ‘chuff’ and ‘lady’s busters’.

The acceptance of the use of bloody into mainstream conversation seemingly coinciding with the disappearance of once oft used motherly threats to “Wash your mouth out with soap!” This intimidation spouted when deeming her young offspring’d strayed over respectful parle boundaries.

I recall my own personal introduction to the world of stronger cursing, along with the repercussions of mum hearing one of her children utilising such profanity. This incident playing out something like this:-

Scene – In a quiet south Gateshead suburb in the early 1970’s, a grey sky bares witness to my brother Ian and I playing football in the front street. Like a hungover father watching his son play in pouring rain, the sky wasn’t overly bothered about watching us exhibit our footballing skills. However, as Saturday morning TV was pretty rubbish back then, so turned up anyhow.

In our brotherly contest on the hallowed concrete road of Dorchester Gardens, in Low Fell, I undertook my habitual impersonation of footballing hero, Leeds United striker, Allan Clarke. Our kid choosing to be Clarke’s team mate Peter Lorimer, my younger sibling’s rocket-shotted childhood idol.

Why Ian and me chose to portray footballers from the same Leeds side, when we competed against each other, I’m unable to recollect. I guess, though, it was merely sporting artistic licence on our part.

As I liked my aping of the Willenhall born footballer to be portrayed with forensic accurate, like Clarke, I’d pull my sleeves over my hands while running with the ball. Additionally, I imitated his goal celebrations, along with later adorning number 8 sock tags akin to the slim framed striker.

Gary and Ian 3
My beloved first Leeds Utd kit (with extra long arms)

Everything was going swimmingly until a kid nicknamed Curly, who lived at the top of our street, wandered over towards Ian and I, enquiring if he could join our game. He imaginatively got the name Curly as he had curly hair. As you can probably guess, we didn’t waste much time thinking up nicknames in Dorchester Gardens; there was too much footy and cricket to play.

I’m not sure why, as I wasn’t a spiteful kid, (not until the angst of puberty, anyhow) but I responded at Curly with a new word I’d overheard used earlier in the week by an older kid at my alma mater Oakfield Junior School……. Subsequently advising him to “F*** Off!”

When using this word for the first time, little did I know of it’s inappropriateness. Or, indeed, that as a young child I shouldn’t be using it. Well, that was until my mum raced out of the house, dragged me in and immediately grounded me for the day.

Stood in the front room of our modest semi-detached home, I was in a bit of a shock at the rollocking I was getting. My mum, who’d heard me unknowingly swear through the open front window, told me never to use that word again (which, of course, I haven’t until today… cough, cough) and sent me to my room.

I forlornly wandered upstairs to my bedroom with the sleeves of my white Leeds top still pulled over my hands, I slumped on my bed reflecting on the incident. In my displeasure, muttering to myself I bet Clarkey didn’t become a top level footballer by being hauled indoors by his mum when just about to plant the ball into the net.

In retrospect, I think mum’s anger was exacerbated by the fact my grandad Charlie had come up from Leeds for the weekend and had overheard me cursing. I recall grandad fighting back the laughter at my innocent use of the ‘F’ word. However, he couldn’t be seen to undermine his daughter’s disciplining of me, so fought to suppress any overt laughter.

What did the young Gary Strachan take from this episode, apart from a smacked arse and learning not to use the ‘F’ word?…… To be honest, absolutely f*** all!!

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