Exiled Valiant Barry Edge lives in Western Australia and is a regular columnist for onevalefan. His latest contribution was prompted, in part, by onevalers’ Voice of Treason (VofS).
Rudyard by the Lake
Mrs Edge and yours truly recently spent a few days R & R in the south west of Western Australia. Our base was Albany, approximately four hundred kilometres from our home in Kewdale near the capital city of Perth. By road it’s a pleasant four-hour drive. By air just thirty-five minutes.
Albany is the quintessential reminder of all things British and colonial. But with a Mediterranean-type climate, subject only to the influence of the Southern Ocean and its winds, the average summer temperature is 23°C. In winter the average is 19°C. In short, an ideal tourist destination for all things old and new – matched with a pleasant climate.
European interaction with this southern paradise began on Christmas day in 1826 when a small brig called the Amity sheltered from the storm-ridden seas of the Southern Ocean in what is now known as King George Sound. Its cargo of troops and convicts had been dispatched from the Sydney, New South Wales penal colony to commence work on providing an outpost for other free men, women and children to emigrate to and settle under the protection of the British Crown.
In fact, Mrs E and yours truly visit Albany each and every year. Sure, we’ve travelled to such places as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang, as well as many other destinations across this fair land of ours. But Albany holds a special place for us because it was the first holiday destination in which a much younger version of Mr and Mrs Edge spent together some very special quality moments.
As previously stated, this was purely an R & R affair. Mrs E took some quilting and other arts and crafts projects to do, and yours truly had plenty of ovf material to work with. We have done all the tourist stuff in Albany and regions time and again including climbing the nearest and highest peaks in the state of Western Australia. On this occasion we just wanted to relax, to catch-up with friends, to spend time in good restaurants, and so on.
So there we were driving to Denmark – so named in 1829 after the renowned English surgeon Dr Alexander Denmark – a short journey of fifty kilometres west of Albany. We had just finished a latish breakfast in a small café on a peninsular at the entrance to King George Sound – a small settlement located at the most southerly point in Western Australia. It was approximately 11am on Tuesday 11th February 2002.
It’s true to say we had seen the signpost each and every time we had visited Denmark. On one occasion we found ourselves calling into the little caravan and camping ground, nestled on the side of an inland lake, to enquire the origin of the name given to it. Unfortunately the original owners had long since left the area, and the only information given by the current owners was that they might have been English.
During our journey to Denmark Mrs E was asking how the latest ovf poem was progressing because the night before I had started to work on onevalers’ Voice of Treason’s (VofS) message board post. He had shared with ovf his days as a smart dresser, of Chawners in Hanley, the physical attributes of the Bycars loo, the old Vale Park scoreboard, and of conning his then not so keen football girlfriend into going to Vale Park to watch Manchester United in action.
That part about o’Treason’s girlfriend going to the game with him prompted both of us to reminisce back fifty years when mums and girlfriends rarely went to football matches. It would have been almost unthinkable for women or teenage girls going to football matches unaccompanied. However, the night before we had been watching the Premier League highlights on the motel television (ah, a different quality moment than years previous), and in the various football grounds the sea of faces included women and girls in their hundreds. How the times have changed – for the better, of course.
At this point in our conversation we were approximately seventeen kilometres from Denmark and passing that signpost pointing travellers to its little caravan and camping ground nestled on the side of a lake. It has stood for many years as a mute beacon for those whose modern day physical journey is nearly at an end and pointing to the place where they can begin their time-out from the everyday treadmill. But on this occasion, as Mrs E and yours truly were discussing o’Treason’s girlfriend of many years ago, that signpost was pointing me to another caravan and camping ground nestled by a lake in a different place and clime.
As I looked into the rear vision mirror, watching the road junction and its Rudgyard signpost trail away behind us, yours truly shared with Mrs E the time he missed one of the best games ever at Vale Park. The reason? To spend a day with a girl at our very own Rudyard by the lake.
It was the 1958/59 season and we were in the old Fourth Division. Port Vale and Coventry had been running neck and neck for top spot – even though the top four teams would gain promotion. We had lost 1-0 at their place two or three weeks earlier, and it was April when Coventry made the return trip to Vale Park.
Spring was in the air, and I’d just started going out with girl who lived with her folks near the junction of Ubberley Road and Beverley Drive, Bentilee. But not long afterwards she and her family moved to Cobridge. In my mind’s eye I can still picture Dorothy, and she could be my guide anytime down my ‘Yellow Brick Road’.
On the occasion of Coventry’s visit to the Hamil I had suggested to Dorothy that she might like to go to the game with me. In response she suggested we go to Rudyard Lake for the day. Sadly, my heart was in her hands (no smart comments, if you don’t mind). So we went her way.
Boy was I annoyed to have missed the game. Port Vale 3, Coventry 0. My mates were talking about that scoreline for weeks afterwards – generally to get ‘under my skin’ for not having been at the game, and particularly because I was ‘persuaded by a wench’ to miss the match.
Port vale eventually finished the season as Division 4 winners. Coventry was second.
It would be several weeks after that particular match when Dorothy informed me she was going into nurses training, and that she would be moving out Buxton way. We promised to exchange letters – as parting would-be young lovers do. Also, it was agreed that when she was back in town we would get together for outings etc. But in my heart of hearts I always hoped that being ‘back in town’ would coincide with those occasions the ‘Lads were playing away, that I would never be faced with having to say ‘No, we’re not doing that, we’re going to Vale Park instead’. Not that I could anyway. I was just seventeen years old and absolutely smitten. But I would have been on clover if Dorothy had chosen to join me when the ‘Lads were playing at home. Sadly it wasn’t to be.
In hindsight, having to make such a choice would be academic because by April 1960 yours truly was in Australia, and whilst we did write to each other for several years our letters would eventually cease.
Now, in a postscript to this story, I did manage once to get a friend – as opposed to a girlfriend – to go to Vale Park with me. Again, I can remember it as though it were yesterday. It was early March 1960, and it was a 2-1 home win against Newport County.
Carol also lived in Bentilee, the daughter of a Welsh collier. He was the biggest taffy that I had ever seen, with shoulders like tallboys. And for those who remember back then, he resembled the Welsh boxer Dai Dower. What’s more, he could freeze you on the spot with his glare alone. All I could ever do was to quietly tremble in his presence, and I was always very, very glad to be on our way to wherever Carol and me were going.
We stood in the Hamil Road end and watched the game in a reasonable crowd of approximately ten thousand. It rained all day – no surprises there – and PMT was our transport. After the game we shared a pot of tea and several cakes in the Lyons Cafe next to the Palace Theatre in Hanley. Boy, did I think I was posh.
Several weeks later I was in sunny Australia.
See you later…
February 25, 2003