Exiled Valiant Barry Edge lives in Perth, Western Australia and is a regular columnist for onevalefan. In this memoir he links his own personal boyhood version of the card game known as Klondike solitaire to football in general, and Port Vale in particular.
Each Friday mum would finish work early to allow enough time to make the journey from Hanley to the Bucknall Co-op before closing time where she would meet me outside the shop. For my part it would mean that after school I would go home first to change out of my school clothes and, under strict instructions, no going down to Bucknall brook with my mates. Because it took less than fifteen minutes to run from 17 Millward Road to the ‘Co-op it meant that I would have time to play my own version of football solitaire. More about that later.
Mum would get of the bus outside the Bucknall Workingman’s Club on the Abbey Hulton side of Werrington Road between Fellbrook Lane and Central Avenue. In my mind’s eye I can still see what must have been one of the widest sections of Werrington Road and, in Oz parlance, you needed a cut lunch and water bag to make the crossing from side to the other.
A myriad of aromas awaited as you entered the Bucknall Co-op. Prominent amongst them were the loose-leaf teas in packing cases, the large slabs of butter, and the huge rind covered cheeses. In one corner was a large angled bacon slice that seemed forever spinning to reduce the legs of ham to finely cut rashers of tender bacon.
With the purchases noted on a special chit it would be placed with the tendered money into a cylinder before being whisked away in a vacuum tube to the cashiers upstairs. Whilst waiting for our change and receipt I would be allowed to pick out two or three broken biscuits from a big jar on the counter. In no time at all a whirring sound and a thumping noise indicated the return of the cylinder and the end of our shopping transaction.
With our groceries we would start our walk home up Marychurch Road. At the top it was left into Ruxley Road and right into Townsend Place. Then across the open waste ground between Townsend Place & Westfield Road before going down Hopwood Place. At the bottom of Hopwood it was left into Woolliscroft Road and right into Lillydale Road. Finally we would cross over Corneville Road from Lilydale into Alan Road before turning right into Millward Road and home.
Where was I? Oh yes, football solitaire.
It was an old pack of cards that had been well used over time, the shiny surfaces long gone and the original durable texture almost paper-thin. My dad had taught me to play cribbage with those cards – fifteen two, fifteen four, and one for his hat etc. But I would also use them to play my own personal version of football solitaire. If then was now I’d probably be using an e-game solitaire.
Having made myself a cup of tea, and put together a jam sandwich or similar, I would sit at our kitchen table and commence my first game of football solitaire using the Klondike version with its initial layout of seven columns left to right. The first column contained one card, the second two cards, the third three cards, and so on. The top card of each column was then placed face-up. The twenty-four cards left over were then left face down to form the stock.
The object of the game was to move the four aces, as they appear, to the one of the four foundations, and to build-up each suit from ace to king. The game ended when either all foundations were filled – a win, or when no more moves were possible. But because this was my own personal adaptation of solitaire you will see that I found it necessary to include several other reasons why a game would end before all foundations were filled.
There were only two teams in my football solitaire competition: the black & white spades & clubs being Port Vale, the red & white hearts & diamonds were Stoke City. In my version the last king placed on the last foundation represented the last and winning goal in each game with two points awarded to the winning team. Occasionally I would declare a draw and divide the points. But no points were ever awarded for abandoned games.
Needless to say Stoke City did not win very often. Why? Read on dear friends.
It goes without saying that my strategy was one of making sure that the very last card played to win a game was always a black & white one. Well, almost always. Every now and again I would let Stoke win. For all the other occasions where it was clear that the red & whites would win if I played out the game I would activate my list of reasons to prevent that happening. Some of my peers argued that this was akin to creative cheating, or words to that effect. Still, I never verbally engaged their criticism.
One reason for abandoning a game would be rapidly descending fog. Another would be rained off causing the ground to become a quagmire. Yet another was one of the stadium becoming snow bound. And sometimes I would end a game because of ice building up on the playing surface. Ah yes, bad weather saved me many times.
Other reasons included an insufficient police presence, St John’s Ambulance not being in attendance, and public transport strikes. And finally, a game would be abandoned because it was 4.15pm and I would need to be out of the house and heading off with all speed to the Bucknall Co-op.
After all, I was only a kid.
Do I play my football solitaire today? On very rare occasions I do. What’s that, with the same rules as for when I was a kid? Of course!
Nowadays though you will find me, most of the time, writing my Port Vale memoirs for onevalefan.
See you later…
May 31, 2003