I looked out of our kitchen window one dark winters evening as a small child of five years of age and saw our garden shed walking at head height across the yard.
It walked all the way from one side of the yard to the other and repositioned itself in an unused corner, which was useful as my dad was talking about demolishing it from where it used to stand to make way for the garage that he was going to build.
And then our mother opened the kitchen door and I understood how it had bobbed all the way across the yard at head height because there in the dark, in the yard, was our dad and seven of his friends from the Con Club, all of them drunk and puffing hard after carrying a shed on their shoulders across the yard, they hadn’t even emptied it first.
The Conservative Club was in an incongruous place for a Conservative Club, the Conservatives, the party of the wealthy, the party that was in the main anti-unions, not the first choice party for your average working man who grafted in a factory with his bare hands all day and then came home of a night with a raging thirst and a desire for a game of snooker or darts, the Conservative Party had chosen the working class suburb of Meanwood to locate their social club, a whole suburb of working men who toiled at the lathe and building site all day long, joined unions, hated the bosses, were definitely anything but wealthy – you’d think that a Conservative Club in that district would not thrive ?
It had something that those hard working working-class men wanted, it had two snooker tables and winning snooker and billiard teams, and if you did have to swear allegiance to the Conservative Party to join it was worth doing it with your fingers crossed behind your back in order to join and drink cheap beer, and play local league snooker and billiards to a high standard.
And thats why my father joined as a young lad, he was playing billiards from an early age, was in the club team at fifteen even though he shouldn’t have yet been allowed in the place, was taken under the wing of a hugely rotund old man by the name of George Hughes who was a snooker, but even more so, billiard ace and between them they ruled the Leeds and District leagues winning many trophies for their late night exploits on the green baize – one of my early childhood memories is of my father coming into our bedroom (Ned and I shared a bedroom all the time we lived at home) late, late into the night, very, very drunk, and waking us up to show us another trophy that he’d just won, and he’d sit on one or the other bed and go through the whole match with us as we sat bleary eyed, one or the other of us holding the silver engraved trophy that was often bigger than we were.
And once a year or so Sir Donald Kaberry the Conservative Member of Parliament would show his face in his party’s Meanwood club in order to whip up support in local or national elections and he’d shake hands and he’d buy everyone a pint and they’d all pledge allegiance to the party that none of them would ever dream of voting for and as soon as his back was turned and he exited the building they’d all raise his free pint and with their free hands stick two fingers up at his departing limousine.
They were only there for the snooker.