“Ea Bah Gum son just 30 minutes to kick off, you must be getting excited beyond the pale lad. By teatime you’ll be the talk of the town and I’ll be as proud as punch”
Those were the words my retired coal miner father, then riddled with black lung disease, spoke to an adolescent me back then from what was so very soon to become his death bed. You see the old boy wanted me to champion his lifelong quest namely that I become the first person ever to attend a Bradford City versus Sheffield Wednesday cup tie with the Holy Trinity of ferrets down my trousers. That trio of little beauties for those not in the know was made up of the albino, the red-eyed white plus the notorious dreaded wild black-foot varieties of ferret. Quite a challenge I must admit yet one I was up for. I felt it only right and proper that I should make pater a proud man before he popped his clogs.
“Now son don’t forget those ferrets must remain in place about your person until the final whistle even if the match goes into extra time.”
“Ee us Yorkshiremen don’t need bloody Sherpas to set world records like that southern softie Hilary did climbing up some daft hill in Surrey weren’t it?”
“Actually if my memory serves me well pater Hilary is a New Zealander and he climbed Mount Everest in the Himalayas.”
“As it maybe son, as it maybe…they all be southern softies to me. I’ll lay odds he wouldn’t have climbed a step ladder with a wild black-toed down pants. Anyhow whatever you do make sure you don’t cheat…not that any son of mine would cheat of course. The rules of the contest are quite clear with specific regards to the ferrets not just being down trousers but down underpants also.”
“Yes pater I know; you’ve mentioned it several times before.”
“Thy knows you know…were just reminding you. You don’t want to end up like Fatty Ramsbottom do you. Fatty had stuck to rules insofar as he could yet so fearful of the wild black-foot was he that he substituted a jock strap for Y-fronts and were disqualified before half time. Did him no good mind, the ferrets still had him…he was never the same man after that…even lost his job calling out the numbers on bingo night down working men’s club…his voice became too high pitched you see and every time he opened gob pint glasses would shatter…his missus left him for milkman shortly thereafter.”
“Well you can rely on me pater, you know that.”
“Aye, you be a good lad. Oh yes you’ll have to confirm that the ferrets have been on a liquid only starvation diet in the days leading up to the game…I presume you’ve had vicar swear Affidavit to that effect as Denis the Arbitrator will demand sight of that before kick-off.”
“Yes pater, look see herewith said Affidavit…in point of fact everything is in order.”
“One last thing son before you head off to match consider this…”
“Not the Mavis Posslethwaite tale again pater, that one about her attempting the women’s pigeon challenge at the self-same derby?”
“Yes son it is her I speak of. Mavis attended the very same derby match some years back with a brace of racing pigeons in her blouse yet had been spotted leaving a taxidermist the day before game and all bets were off leaving the woman ostracized thereafter and forever…stuffed pigeons I ask you, what an affront to Yorkshire pride and heritage. To this very day she is a pathetic replica of her former self, she never could show face down mine shaft ever again for fear of public ridicule.”
“Well best I head off pater, don’t want to be late for the game.”
“Ay son best you were. Ee it’ll be right, right nice to see a smile on that face of yours when you come back home an all-time world record holder.”
With that I took of my leave. My preferred vantage point at the Valley Parade ground was the terraces in the Midland Road stand where I ensured said ferrets were delivered within my Dolce & Gabbana leopard skin printed underpants at the point of kick off. All was going well until midway through the second half (of frankly what was the dullest of dull 0-0 games at that point) when I became aware that that dreaded wild black-foot was becoming agitated. However, having spent months in training I knew that a few softly sung verses of that old Yorkshire classic, ‘On Ilkla Moor bar tat’ would calm the beast…well certainly take his mind off taking a nibble of my privates for the time being. Whether or not he would stay calm in the event of extra time being played I remained unsure.
It was about this time when Denis the Arbitrator nudged me in the rib cage, “Ee lad you’ve got a worthy opponent challenging your record attempt I see…look over there, three tiers back, the bloke with the turban.”
“Who’s that then, never seen him in these parts.”
“That young man is none other than Wilfred the Arab bloke, Chief Eunuch of the Sultan of Oman…his reputation goes before him.”
“Surely not a reputation for extended periods with ferrets down his trousers, although thinking about it is he not the chap I read about who managed to give safe haven to four wild black-foot’s at the final of The World Chess Championships in Oslo last year?”
“The very same…he’s won accolades far and wide.”
Well that was a turn up for the books yet how could I be defeated on my own turf by this Wilfred the Arab bloke. Of course he held the trump card…well he didn’t exactly have a trump card to hold exactly if you get my drift, yet his deficiency in the family jewel region certainly gave the chap a distinct advantage over ‘intact’ me when it came to housing starving rotten hungry ferrets!
Inevitably the frankly awful match did indeed go into extra time. However just minutes before that final whistle, with my trio of ferrets now so very restless Sheffield Wednesday were awarded a penalty! To a hushed silence around the ground their centre-forward Lanky Pickles stepped up to take the kick. As he slotted the ball away with his trademark panache the hushed silence stilled further, you could have heard a pin drop amongst the throng of home crowd. A palpable gloom descended upon us Bradford City supporters. Yet then, at that very moment the still of it all was broken as Wilfred the Arab bloke started belting out the oppositions match day song, “Hi Ho Sheffield Wednesday” at the top of his lonely voice.
Silly, silly Wilfred. How could he have not known he was ensconced within the home stand. The Bradford boys ripped him to shreds and frankly he deserved all they threw at him. Never in the history of the club had there been such an affront toward the home crowd.
Whatever, as Wilfred’s ferrets scattered hither and yon the referee blew full time and the record was mine all mine. Back home, and with tears of joy running down his cheeks, his voice breaking up a little and now petting the black foot ferret resting upon his stomach, pater just managed to say, “Ee lad I’m right, right, right proud of you,” before choking upon what was the liquorice Pontefract cake that finally did for him. Amen.