1968

The D’Olivera affair. I was living in a flat with two fellow students on Princes Road, Liverpool 8. They were both ex-public schoolboys with a love for rugby and drinking. Chris’s father owned a carpet factory and Andy’s dad was a draper. When they came to visit, they’d feed us up. My mum and dad brought a picnic. Chris’s grandparents took us to The Adelphi. Chris regularly took me to his old school on the North Wales coast and it was great to visit with their families during the holidays.

The D’Olivera affair. Basil D’Olivera was a Cape-Coloured S. African playing for Worcester, good enough for England, but not selected for the tour to S. Africa. Then Shackleton got injured and D’Olivera couldn’t be overlooked again. S. Africa cancelled. Michael Parkinson, Sunday Times cricket correspondent, was apoplectic, mostly about The MCC. It was everest-sized hypocrisy. He didn’t need a pen or a word processor, just his spleen.

Reading Parkinson’s stuff was part of Sunday mornings. Three of us, sharing a first floor bedroom, lounge and small kitchen, on Princes Road, Liverpool 8. None of us wanted another year in a hall of residence, so we’d banded together. Two public schoolboys and me. Chris’s father owned a carpet factory in Saddleworth and Andy’s dad was a draper in the Potteries. When they visited, they’d take us out to restaurants and feed us up. Chris’s grandparents even took us to The Adelphi. My mum and dad brought a picnic. It didn’t matter, to Chris or Andy anyway. Chris had a car and regularly took me to his old school on the North Wales coast and it was great to travel and spend time with both their families. Pre-clinical students, we still had long university holidays then.

It wasn’t far to walk to lectures or the city centre. The flats were converted imposing red brick terraced houses. Lining both sides of Princes Boulevard, they would have been fit for people of some substance. A Road and an Avenue separated by a wide central reservation planted with trees. When he married, older brother had lived here, in one of the back-to-backs packed in the side streets. They’d moved over a hairdresser up near the bypass by the time we moved in. Brenda’s chip shop was round the back. It was a chinese. We couldn’t pronounce the owner’s name, so we called it Brenda’s.

There were girls. I went out with a buyer from one of the big stores. Met her at the rugby club. It didn’t last long. Andy had a series of affairs, sometimes in parallel. Chris could have, but didn’t.

We played rugby Saturdays and Wednesday afternoons, and some Sunday mornings. Chris had a school contact at Waterloo so we went there rather than sign for the university. Wednesdays were against other colleges and medical schools and Sundays were the inter departmental games within the university. Waterloo was on the way to Southport, near posh Blundellsands. We started in the under-21 team known as the schoolboys. The fixture list comprised public schools, New College Sandhurst and local works teams. The clubhouse was mostly wood. The main bar was men-only and lined by the coats-of-arms of top schools. Ned Ashcroft used to do the haka on the bar top. Huge baths that took all morning to fill. Most of the locals had come through Merchant Taylors and were well placed in finance or one of the professions. There were other ranks, but we were tolerated because we could play a bit and string a sentence together.

The medical students’ society met every Thursday evening in the anatomy lecture theatre. I put myself forward and was elected magazine editor. Each officer of the society was then expected to do a regular update. My first Thursday, a full lecture theatre. Nothing would come out of my mouth. ‘Sit down,’ someone shouted, ‘Shh,’ whispered another. I’ve no idea what I said then, but it would have been short, quiet and possibly pointless. All the other officers of he society went off to get pissed, and I went back to the flat. Hurting like anything, like a small boy on his first day at a new school. Amazing. How could I have failed? Deputy head boy, speech day, talks on parents’ evenings. All round success story, back at the bottom of the pile. One of those falls from grace that dog you for a short while, until the big one. No one asked how I was and I never attended a committee meeting.

I was still decorating our new place off Lodge Lane, Croxteth. Four of us now and we each had our own bedroom, for entertaining. Two floors above a “lady of the night”. I bought a wardrobe from the stage at Swainbank’s, a converted Toxteth cinema. Too wide to get up the flight of winding stairs to my garrett, so I sawed it in two pieces and then somehow got a bracket between them, enough to hang a few clothes. The bed and chest of drawers came from mum and dad. The easy chair had been granny Addy’s and the lamp stand was a Christmas present. It was all I needed.

I produced three magazines and they were crap. I blamed the budget.

My money wasn’t much better. The maximum grant and a small post office savings account. The odd pound or so when mum could afford. Not enough. We always ate well, but some months I struggled to buy toothpaste. Too much spent on beer. Chris shared his bank account with his dad. The rest of us borrowed and clubbed together.

Sheila came to Liverpool about then and lived with Jan on Lancaster Avenue. She worked on intensive care at Broadgreen.

We continued to follow Michael Parkinson in The Times. Gentle stories about his family, Fred Trueman and Wilfred Rhodes. Skinner Normanton was our favourite. Not a bad model for anyone learning to write.

We followed the affair from the somewhat biased perspective of Michael Parkinson who had a column in The Times. Basil D’Olivera was a Cape-Coloured S. African playing for Worcester, good enough for England, but not selected for the tour to S. Africa. Then Shackleton’s injury and D’Olivera couldn’t be overlooked again. S. Africa cancelled. Parkinson was apoplectic, mostly about The MCC. This was everest-sized hypocrisy and his articles were splenically brilliant. We took to reading all his stuff. Skinner Normanton was our favourite. I eventually bought a couple of his books. Gentle stories about his family, Fred Trueman and Wilfred Rhodes. Not a bad model for anyone learning to write. I edited the student magazine and it was crap.

We followed the affair from the somewhat biased perspective of Michael Parkinson who had a column in The Times. Basil D’Olivera was a Cape-Coloured S. African playing for Worcester, good enough for England, but not selected for the tour to S. Africa. Then Shackleton’s injury and D’Olivera couldn’t be overlooked again. S. Africa cancelled. Parkinson was apoplectic, mostly about The MCC. This was everest-sized hypocrisy and his articles were splenically brilliant. We took to reading all his stuff. Skinner Normanton was our favourite. I eventually bought a couple of his books. Gentle stories about his family, Fred Trueman and Wilfred Rhodes. Not a bad model for anyone learning to write. I edited the student magazine and it was crap.

We moved to Lodge Lane, Croxteth, a year later and lived two floors above a “lady of the night”. I got my furniture from Swainbank’s, a converted cinema that was torched in the Toxteth riots. My wood wardrobe was too big to get up the flight of winding stairs to my garrett, so I sawed it in two pieces, lifted them both, and then somehow got a bracket between them, enough to hang a few clothes.

There were just eight pubs on Lodge Lane.

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