I was at the football this week but not my normal venue in the East End of Glasgow. No, this time around was to be a new venture for me: in Ayrshire, at the home of Junior football titans, Auchinleck Talbot. I say Juniors, though the Talbot now operate in the Scottish football pyramid, a couple of steps below the SPFL's Division 2. A division currently lead by Kelty Hearts, who only joined the league this season and who I am reliably informed have taken a few beatings from the Ayrshire team. I am no football historian and being a guest at the home of the bearer of this information, I have to believe it to be true. Saying that, any Fifers wishing to dispute this information are free to do so.
So why was I at Beechwood Park? My friend, Tom Brown, football enthusiast, writer, raconteur and all round good guy, took me. Tom is a resident, like me, of the fine city of Edinburgh. However, also like me, he is not an Edinburgher by birth and as fate would have it, his team the Talbot, had been drawn against mine, West Calder United, in the South Challenge Cup. Only being the second time the teams had met in a competitive fixture, Talbot were looking for revenge for the 2-3 defeat suffered in the Scottish Cup, back in 1965.
When the draw mas made, we agreed it was too good to miss and, come hell or high water, we would make the trip. Following a car journey crossing the country, we arrived in the village, parked a couple of streets away and made our way to the ground. And quite an impressive stadium it was, with its sizeable main stand and even floodlights, and facilities every inch as good as a number of established SPFL clubs.
The game was kicking off as we entered through the turnstiles and emerged to a crowd of around 300. I believe this was a smallish crowd for a Talbot game and if it had been the real business end, which is league football, it would not be unrealistic to witness a crowd of double that number. We made our way round to Tom's friend Billy's vantage point across from the main stand and set to watching the action on the field.
After a closely contested first half, I joined the sizeable queue for the refreshments stand and was impressed by the range and prices, which were in turn way above and much cheaper than those at my usual venue. Adjacent to the refreshments, was the club shop selling scarves, hats and replica Talbot shirts. They even had a match programme, which was top quality, containing some interesting facts about the visitors and my hometown, and I was fortunate to secure the last one available. All of these things together struck me that this was a very well-run operation.
The supporters, as well as being passionate and loyal, display a sense of community, which some today might see as a bit of an anachronism, though that would be misplaced. And as Tom observed, they bear injustices fully and with gusto. This was perhaps most clearly evidenced in the continuing howls of derision toward the referee when he incorrectly awarded a contested throw-in to West Calder, and this at a point in the game where the home side were in the lead by a comfortable margin.
Both Auchinleck and West Calder share a mining tradition. In Ayrshire it was coal and in Midlothian (laterly subsumed into West Lothian) it was mainly shale. With the home team's victory on Saturday, they now also share one win each in the fixture.
The end result was 7-1 (to Auchinleck Talbot) - Ed
Living through a period of change is really difficult. It was bad enough moving from typewriters and call boxes to computers and mobile phones, from the radio to television, and from listening to the gramophone or record player to things plugged in one's ears. To be honest, moving from sitting-up all night on trains to visit places in Europe after being seasick on a cross-Channel steamer to flying all over the world was one change I took to like a duck to water. I have given up driving, so electric cars are not going to be a problem in this brave new world, but my new digital voice telephone is the latest change to discombobulate me completely.
BT, in its generosity, has decreed old landline phones will no longer work unless plugged into a computer's modem and I have been given digital voice phones which need to be charged by plugging them into a power point. They gave me three of them when I asked about getting the adaptors which would have allowed me to use my other two old extension phones. They were free, unike the adaptors, so I accepted them unaware of the need to plug them in. No house has enough power points for essential things that have to be plugged in like kettles, toasters, lamps, slow cookers, so they were not quite the bargain they seemed.
Inevitably, the instructions neglected to explain how to answer a call. People who write manuals live on another planet. I could make one but could I answer one? It required a visiting teenager to explain what to do. How do they know? So now I have five telephones, one old style plugged into the modem, three digital voice ones placed where I could find an unused power point, and a mobile.
I imagine the Victorians confronted with the train, the people who first got Mr Crapper's equipment, and those given the first car to drive had much the same problems in getting to grips with doing things differently – but at at least they had a choice in the matter. BT just dumped the phones on me. Who needs five telephones?
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to email@example.com