Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!
Have you ever discovered that a family story you have been telling people for years and years
and years is not just inaccurate but wildly so? This has just happened to me and I am covered with embarrassment. Let me tell you all about it.
My dear Dad loved
his football. Football and Family were, indeed, the two great loves in his life. I have a marvellous account, written in his own fair hand, of the very first match he played for his school team. He was lucky enough to have a pair of proper football boots,
procured, doubtless at great trouble, by his Dad, my lovely Grandad. About to take to the pitch my Dad noticed that the team captain only had ordinary boots to wear – so he gave one of his boots to his captain. They each played the match wearing
one football boot and one ordinary boot and my Dad (according to his own account of things) played “a blinder.” At the end of the match, when he retrieved his boot from the captain, he was told: “You will be in the team from now on.”
Whether this was because of the loan of the boot is a matter for conjecture.
Now this story, at least, is true, because I have the evidence in my Dad’s
own handwriting. This is a story I can happily go on telling to anyone prepared to listen. In fact I submitted it to a chap who was writing a book about the influence of football on young boys between the wars and he included it in his worthy tome. My Dad
When War came in 1939, my Dad had to set off for foreign fields – in his case Egypt. I can’t imagine what he must have made of it all, bearing
in mind he had never ventured much outside London and its suburbs for the whole of his life. But there was one constant which followed him abroad – football. It seems that even War could not stop The Beautiful Game.
Among the medals Dad won for his footballing exploits over the years is a much treasured gold-coloured medal which we always called The Cairo Medal. I remember him telling me that there were only eleven
of these medals in the whole world and he had one of them.
It is at this point on the story that everything goes wrong. I was as sure as sure can be that my Dad
told me that Alf Ramsey, he of 1966 World Cup fame, was one of the other ten footballers to receive the Cairo Medal. I have lost count of the number of people who have heard this story from my lips. You have to admit it is is good one. I have trotted it out
at many a dinner when the conversation among the men-folk turned to football and their wives were looking bored. It was one of my best stories.
Then a few months
ago a friend lent me a biography of Alf Ramsey. You can imagine how I fell upon it, seeking through its pages to find out more about Sir Alf’s army career in Egypt and the football games he played. Except that he didn’t. Go to Egypt. Play football
there. Win a Cairo Medal. It seems that Sir Alf spent his whole War in good old England.
In despair I turned to my brothers, both older than I am. Both confirmed
that our Dad never played football with Sir Alf in Egypt. Except, it would seem, in my admittedly fertile imagination. However my younger brother did say that the Great Man did call round our house once. Like my Dad, he lived in Becontree
so I suppose they may have played together once upon a time. In something called the Becontree League, perhaps. It doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it, as the Cairo Medal, won in wartime Egypt?
I can’t make up my mind whether I am glad to have discovered the truth, so that I am no longer telling porky pies – or whether I wish I hadn’t, so that I could go on telling the “My Dad and Sir Alf
Ramsey” story in blissful ignorance of the facts.
It was such a good story, too...