My grandfather was a compulsive gardener and grew a vast variety of vegetables for home use; any over-abundance was quickly retailed after the Second World War on the flourishing black market in exchange for the exotic things in life like fresh home-made butter, sugar that came from the local army camp, bananas and the occasional pineapple.
He had built a greenhouse in which he grew the most delicious tomatoes, and to this day I have not tasted a tomato with such a superb taste as Pops’. He maintained that the taste was enhanced by his constant watering with his secret pigeon-shit concoction brewed in an old ten gallon diesel drum next to the compost heap at the bottom of the garden.
We also had three apples trees which received the same medication during the flowering and early fruit forming period. These apples too were absolutely delicious and at harvest time we had a queue of neighbours lining up to buy them.
I have to take some credit for both the apples and the tomatoes as every Saturday morning I was ordered to get down on my hands and knees and scrape up the pigeon-shit from the pigeon-loft floor and breeding shelves. It was a grimy and arduous task and I hated it. But with hindsight I have to congratulate myself producing the best tasting apples and tomatoes on the Fylde coast.
The Fylde Coast is a coastal plain in western Lancashire. It’s roughly a 13-mile square-shaped peninsula, bounded by Morecambe Bay to the north, the river Ribble estuary to the south, the Irish Sea to the west, and the Bowland hills to the east. The eastern boundary is approximately the location of the M6 motorway, constructed in the mid sixties.
It is a flat, alluvial plain, parts were once dug for peat, and it is the western part of an area formerly known as Amounderness. The name 'Fylde' is of Scandinavian origin, meaning "field".
With all this in its favour the region became a vegetable man’s paradise with is rich sandy mixed clay loam soil. We lived in Cleveleys a small town to the north of Blackpool and south of the fishing port of Fleetwood.
It was spring but I had been bed ridden for three days with a terrible dose of flu. On that third day I donned an old dressing gown of Pop’s and went to the vegetable patch in the back garden.
Just in front of the pigeon loft was the veggie patch, I could see that Pop had already got two rows of spring baby potatoes in as the rows were highly ridged. I guessed that the next row would be his climbing runner beans as he had half built his cane trestle for them to climb. How could I help? I noticed that the blossom buds were just beginning to open on the apple trees adjacent to the pigeon loft. He’d not done his round tree soil loosening.
Ah ah, I could do that. This job entailed the use of the pitch fork. The ground around at the base of the trees had to be turned over and loosened creating a circular trough around the tree in which I would pour the pigeon-shite mixture.
I darted off to the tool shed and brought out the pitch fork. I didn’t bother changing out of the dressing gown and slippers as I sussed out that I would be able to hear, my mother’s lover boy’s at the time, car pull up to drop her off after she finished rehearsals.
On hearing it, I could dart back to my room, which at the time was the large downstairs front room, which had been converted in a self contained flat-let for my mother and me. I’d throw myself into my bed and pretend I’d been a good boy and spent the whole day in bed as I’d been instructed.
This was not to be. On my third downward plunge of the pitch fork my right foot was on the receiving end of the motion!
I uttered a scream that would have made Russel Crowe proud had he used it when he heard of the death of his wife in the movie Gladiators.
The moment of acute pain coupled with the shock of disbelief at my stupidity subsided quickly. Doctor Andews our local GP leapt to the forefront of juvenile grey matter, and he’s only four houses away on the corner of York Ave.
To this day I do not know how I managed it, or what drove me to hop on my right leg, clutching the pitch fork embedded through my slipper and left foot, down the drive-way through the gate along the street and into Dr Andrews’ surgery.
The waiting room was full but gasps from the waiting patients alerted old Molly Suttcliffe, the doctor’s assistant, that the figure of a child with a pitched fork impaled in his foot required immediate attention. An enterprising young waiting patient picked me up in his arms, “Where do you want him?” he asked.
“In Doctor’s accident room.” Replied Molly opening a door.
I was laid down on an examination bed and the next words I heard were, “So Pooley boy, what’ve have you done this time?”
Doctor Andrews was in his late fifties with a craggy lined face and he constantly smiled exposing his brown nicotine teeth acquired from his 60 a day Craven A. He peered at my foot.
“Well, well that’s remarkable,” he said as he looked at the metal prong that was about three inches through my foot. At the same time old Molly who was now holding the pitch-fork with one hand grabbed an Asprin and with the other, gave it to me and said, “Swallow that!”
“Missed everything! Remarkable!” exclaimed Doctor Andrews. “Let’s get it out.”
“Right between the metatarsals, remarkable.” he continued as he deftly withdrew the pitch-fork with both nicotine sets, upper and lower teeth, exposed.
I let loose a second Russel Crowe scream.
“Alright alright, calm down Pooley, I’m going to give you a local.” He said as he filled a large syringe with a translucent liquid, “You won’t feel a thing.”
And sure enough I didn’t.
Within a minute of the injection I felt as if I no longer had a left foot.
Bizarrely this is almost the same way a fellow thespian forty years later explained how he felt as I axed off the tip of his middle finger of his left hand in a production of the Scottish play aptly named “Mac-Bed”, as it had a giant hydraulically powered bed, which was meant to roll up and down a ramped stage as its centre piece.
This production was in the early eighties and the enlightened Israeli director proclaimed that Mr Shakespeare’s Scottish Play was all about the sexual relationship between Macbeth and his villainous coercive wife. For this reason a giant very slow moving bed working on an hydraulic powered system, was assembled in front of a large back-drop of scaffolding and all the scenes between the two protagonists were played on the bed.
In the latter part of the play when the fighting starts between Macbeth and Macduff the mattress was removed and the base with the scaffolding became the setting for their fight. This meant we clashed blows precariously balanced on the scaffolding making dramatic leaps onto the bed-base.
It was during a final spurt as Macduff swung towards my head that I parried his blow and swept my sword down aiming for his arm. Unfortunately Michael, playing Macduff was at that time meant to grab hold of a horizontal scaffolding bar and swing with Tarzan-like dexterity onto the bed. A loss of spit second timing and my sword caught his hand still on the scaffolding.
Michael a true Thespian landed on the bed, let out a huge roar and charged at me pushing me off the stage were he was to deliver the fatal blow. All to the rehearsed plan!
The iron bed began its cued trundle down stage giving me time to let out my dying scream off stage.
Michael whispered sotto-voce in the wings, “You fucking Asre-hole!”
I met Michael in his dressing room after the curtain call and it was immediately assessed that a trip to the local hospital was in order to re-attach the dangling nail of the middle finger of his left hand, which had only been saved from a trip on the hydraulic bed by the fact that Michael had been wearing some very robust leather gloves.
It was a Tuesday night so the casualty department was virtually empty and not bursting at the seams with its weekend victims of alcoholic poisoning.
Michael was quickly examined by a junior intern on duty who told us to get to the x-ray facilities and get the hand x-rayed.
This done we returned to casualty to be greeted y the smiling face of a doctor we both knew. Dr Kushlic the husband of a local theatrical diva who we both knew.
Dr Kushlic and the intern looked at the x-ray.
“Nothing broken, luckily just caught the finger nail” said Dr Kushlic, “But I’m not into fingers as I’m a gynecologist,” he continued with a broad smile on his face.
Michael and I both laughed catching Dr Kushlic ‘s double-entendre.
“You’re going to lose the nail.” He said as he instructed the intern to clean and dress the wound.
The rest of the night and well into the early hours of the morning Michael and I consumed of bottle of a fine malt whiskey. We slept most of the following day and performed in the evening.
After the performance when asked how he was Michael gave exactly the same answer that I gave to my mother when she returned from rehearsals.
The show must go on even though "Accidents do Happen'.