With lunch over, it was time for another in the daily epic series of football matches to take place at the top end of the school playground.
Our boys – we liked to think of ourselves as the “Whizz-Kids”, playing against that nasty, evil “Hodges’ Mob”. We didn’t particularly like Hodges or his mates come to that, and there was always a score to settle, with bragging rights to secure for the remainder of the day.
Amongst others, our team featured Twinkletoes up front, he being so called because he could dance his way through any defence line, and his initials were TT anyway. Ossie held up the rear in goal, more often than not unwillingly as he was always desperate to become an outfield player, and little Coggie out on the wing, with the heart of a lion added to the aggression of a tiger with raging toothache. He would be prepared to run straight through a brick wall if you asked him very nicely!
And there was myself, the midfield general who, at the tender age of 11, unbeknown to all my friends and foes on that blissfully sunny afternoon, was about to forevermore enter school playground folklore.
Located behind the school at the rear of the playing field, was an egg packing factory, where periodically, large lorries would trundle up the small lane at the end of the playground, on their way off to being loaded. All that separated the lane from the school was a brick wall which had been extended upwards by a few feet with a chain link style fence.
The ambition, past and present, of all small boys at the school, was to kick a football over the wall and for the ball to bounce off the side of a passing lorry and end up back in the playground. Many had tried and to our knowledge, all had failed, but the honour and glory of being the first to achieve what was considered as "the impossible” was well worth incurring the wrath of the Headmaster who had strictly forbidden any such activity.
The match was in full flow when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a lorry had entered the lane and was slowly creeping up toward the back of the playground. Just at what I considered to be the right moment, the ball was passed in my direction and not giving a thought to any repercussions that might ensue, I launched the ball upwards, in the direction of the lane and the slow passing vehicle.
The ball flew away from the end of my shoe, gaining momentum as it soared over the fence toward the truck. Then it clattered against the lorry and after a few heart stopping moments unbelievably bounced backwards, just managing to clear the fence back into the playground.
It was like scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup final. Twinkletoes, Ossie and Coggie all started screaming, followed by the three of them all jumping on top of me in celebration. Hodges’ Mob had temporarily put aside their animosity and were celebrating, and even some of the girls at the bottom of the playground momentarily showed a modicum of interest in all the commotion, before reverting back to whatever it was they usually did in the lunch hour.
The next thing I heard was my name being called by the Headmaster, directing me immediately into his office for a dressing down, but I couldn’t care less. For that short period of time I was a hero!
The egg packing factory is now long gone having been replaced by houses and the lane is now a major thoroughfare serving the new housing estate. The school closed down many years ago with its buildings being converted into luxury apartments.
But sometimes on a sunny afternoon, if you listen very carefully, the echo of a ball clattering against a truck can still just be heard in the far distance and just for a split second, I become the hero again!