I got in with a bad crowd, thats all I’ll say
When I was 14 years old I got in with a bad crowd, they were all a bit older than me and my uncle introduced me to them.
Indeed, they were all a lot older than me, in fact they were pensioners, retired men who recalled World War Two as if it had happened just yesterday, and one who recalled World War One as if it had happened the week before last.
“Bill Dakin” was how Bill Dakin introduced himself to me, holding his hand out for me to shake shortly after he had wiped the ever-present transparent drop of snot off the end of his nose, “Initials WD” he later showed me when he filled in his cash bag totals, “War Department”.
A tall but stooping ex-guardsman who still dressed in Army great coat even at the height of summer, Bill Dakin was my programme selling partner at Headingley rugby and cricket ground, I was paired up with him and he was to “show me the ropes” although to be fair there were not so many ropes to show me, in fact there were only two ropes, the ropes across the path that encircled the cricket pitch manned by old men who would nod at you as you walked around the pitch for the one hundred and fiftieth time that day, “rope down” and you could walk past, “rope up” and you waited until the over was over and you weren’t “behind the bowlers arm” anymore, there, those were the ropes, and no, I cannot explain them any better than that.
Ten percent is what we took as our stipend, ten percent would be skimmed from the top of the takings and divided equally between us all, five of us in total, I will say this about the old men, they shared the spoils equally even with a fourteen year old interloper, even on his first day the fourteen year old interloper got an equal share as the rest of the octogenarians who had been doing the job since the old King was on the throne.
And then there was the flower show, “Are you doing the flower show ?” is what Old Harry said, Old Harry was the leader of the pack, a stout man with a huge red bulbous nose who had obviously been an officer during the war (the one that happened only yesterday) as he was the one to which the others gave deference to, “The Leeds flower show” he repeated to my confused face, “Roundhay Park lad, be there at 9am Monday” and so I was, on my school holiday and working, I couldn’t believe my bad luck.
And yet the flower show job would surely reap huge benefits, Old Bill had told me the takings at the Leeds Flower Show were enormous and the opportunity to short change the punters were also enormous, for the punters at the Leeds Flower Show were mainly dateless old fogeys and when Old Bill and Old Harry told you they were dateless old fogeys then you had to take notice, for they were not exactly dateless-less or young fogeys themselves.
It was the budgie jacket that I coveted and now I must ask you dear reader not to laugh when you read this next paragraph for it was all in the name of high fashion ok ?
Imagine a short bomber-style jacket with extremely wide lapels and with four pockets stitched to the outside of the jacket in a safari-suit style, no, it gets worse, now imagine the jacket and the pockets all made from different coloured material, imagine how trendy that would look eh ?
Adam Faith made the Budgie jacket a desirable item in any young mans wardrobe in his role as “Budgie” in the TV programme “Budgie”, you can see how the jacket got its name can’t you ?
And so for a week during my school summer holidays I stood outside the main gate at the Leeds Flower Show and I sold programmes to people who by any reasonable definition should have been dead decades ago, people who visited the show every day for a week even though neither the format of the show nor the exhibits changed at all on any of the days, old people who could not shuffle around the showground fast enough to see everything within the five days and needed to ask their companions “Now where did we get to yesterday” as they shuffled unsteadily through the main gate, buying the same programme as they had bought for three days running from me, “I think we got to the tea stall dear” is what their also elderly companion would say “and then we queued for the toilets, do you remember ?”
And yes, I made a small fortune at the Leeds Flower Show that week, even after deducting my bus fare from the stipend I made a fortune that could easily be classified as a Kings Ransom to a fourteen year old.
I know what you are all thinking, did I buy the Budgie jacket ?
Well, I went into town on the Saturday after the Leeds Flower Show, pockets bulging with shillings and small coins of the realm, full of intent to purchase a Budgie jacket, but then when I stood in all of the many boutiques in Leeds that sold them I had what can only be described as a “Road to Damascus” experience – the Budgie jacket looked absolutely ridiculous.
It was probably the fact that I had slaved under a hot sun selling programmes to dateless old biddies in order to earn this huge bulging stipend in my pockets, but frankly, standing there in those boutiques looking at the Budgie jacket price tags, I couldn’t bring myself to do it, I’d rather buy several Long Playing records instead, so I did.
And that was probably the last time that me and fashion ever nodded in acknowledgement to each other.