Being chased by Constable Ben
Dear Sir, — It was somewhere around October. Most of the other kids had gone spud bashing on the farms at Astbury and surrounding areas. Ten shillings a day, not bad for a day’s work.
Skinny Ken, Tricky Micky, Stan the Man, Smokey Joe and Fat Bob were all playing football in the road at the back of Parnell Square. One sock up and one sock down everyone was chasing the ball like a load of dogs running after a bitch that was on heat. Not one had a decent pair of shoes, the toes were all busted, some had string as laces and some didn’t have laces, who cared.
The game stopped suddenly when big Constable Ben was spotted on his double crossbar Raleigh bicycle heading our way. Constable Ben was a big man — that’s why his Raleigh bike had two cross bars. When he sat on the saddle, it vanished up the Khyber Pass.
Skinny Ken grabbed the ball and we headed for the top fields. Constable Ben was unaware that we were playing football on the road (which was illegal) but suspicious as to why we had started to run.
Pedalling as fast as his tree trunk legs would go, he made a dash straight for us.
We all scrambled through the mud and ran as fast as we could. Arms swinging and jackets wafting in our wake, we headed for the gate that led to the park, which was looked after by Sam Bayley.
The bowling green was Holy Sacramental ground; sod that, we all ran straight across. Now we also had a furious Sam running after us.
There was now no way we could go to his little shop ever again to buy a packet of chocolate raisins. He knew us all.
We all jumped the stinky ditch. We called it that because that is where the CWS drained its waste milk, which then flowed all the way down to Tommy’s Brook.
By this time we knew that Constable Ben had given up the ghost as it was a big job for him to cock his leg off the Raleigh.
Sam was of a more determined character, as we had trodden on his Holy Ground.
Still running through the scrapyard area of CWS Dairy, beside the railway cottages, we then jumped over the railway lines where the tankers used to either deliver milk or pick it up from the CWS dairy.
Sweating, red cheeks, panting and snotty noses we slowed down. Skinny Ken was still holding his ball. There weren’t many kids had a case ball, so he was important to us. We were all knackered, there was no way that Constable Ben was anywhere near us but as for Sam, we weren’t sure.
Next to the goods train shed (Congleton Plumbing) was a navvies’ hut tucked away behind the allotments. Let’s get in and take a breather. What a relief. Smokey Joe had a Woodbine and we all had a drag to calm our nerves down. Feeling a lot better we now had to plan our escape because as sure as not, Constable Ben would be on the prowl to find out why we ran away. The inside of the navvies’ hut was all whitewashed but you could see where there were traces of coal dust from the navvies’ clothing as they had rubbed against the walls. The fireplace was still intact and even the ashes were still there.
The door was a bad fit and had many gaps, which allowed us to peep through and keep a watch out. As time went on we started to laugh at what we had just done, playing football in the road.
Now who is going first? We can’t all go together because if we go in a group and Big Ben riding his Raleigh turns up, we are doomed.
Fat Bob said, “I am going along the Canal to Canal Street and then making my way home from there.”
Smokey Joe decided to go along Park Lane to the traffic lights at Lawton Street.
Stan the Man decided to wait at the railway station until the next train arrived and follow anyone who was heading for town, as though he was with them.
Tricky Mickey said, “My dad drinks in the Queen’s, so I’m going over there to wait till he has finished, and walk home with him.”
Skinny Ken thought, “What the heck, I’ll stick the ball up my jumper and just look like a fat kid walking home.”
At that moment there was a sharp intake of breath from Stan the Man as he said, “That fat Big Ben on his Raleigh is here!”
We all clambered to find a crack in the door to have a look. He was so close to us we could see the Congleton police badge at the top of the forks on his bike and as he turned his head our way the sun glinted off his helmet badge.
With hearts pounding we all ducked down, as though that would have done any good.
The next few seconds seemed like hours; any moment the door is going to come through and we are going to be marched off to the police station. The fear, tension and sweat was overwhelming to the point that we decided we were going to stay overnight, but then if they sent the police looking for us and found us here they would know that it was us who had been playing football on the road.
We were doomed. One at a time we stuck to our plan of escape. With whitewash on our jackets, mud on our shoes and fear on our faces we headed out.Everyone arrived home safe. We didn’t meet up until a few days later and even then under a low profile.
I contacted one of the guys the other day by electronic mail and he said, “Don’t let’s talk about it, we may be still on file”.
We are now all into our late 60s. — Yours faithfully,