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A Storm in Every Port Vale

Port Vale versus Swindon


It is and was an absolute truth,

Universally acknowledged, as well,

That our dad had a bad war in the jungle,

Fighting behind Japanese lines

(‘Over here, Tommy. Over here …

If you turned your head, son …Bang!’)

In Orde Wingate’s Chindit army,

So, it wasn’t too surprising after the war,

For the surprising and unpredictable

To happen at home in the bosom of the family,

And I wasn’t even born until 1951.


But it was still a shock in the autumn of 1960,

The first day of October,

When he toddled off to the Wheatsheaf

One Saturday lunchtime for a couple of pints,

And didn’t come back to collect me for the treat

He had paternally promised:

Walking with him down to the County Ground,

To watch Swindon play Port Vale.


He forgot.


I was bereft.


I cried my eyes out from three o’clock

Until twenty to five, when I saw the score:

Swindon 6 Port Vale 0.


I promptly started crying again

At the thought of what I had missed.

I was bereft.



But that football misery was nothing

Compared to pacing the streets of Stroud,

Tripping over kerbs and wayfarers

In the darkness of sudden death shoot-out,

Scrolling on my phone

(The internet was down at home),

May 19th 2022.

As Philip Larkin might almost have said:

‘They f**k you up, penalties.

They may not mean to,

But they do.

And add some extra.

Just for you.’




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