Great Walks – Scafell via Lord’s Rake

Scafell and Pike

Aerial shot of Scafell (right) and the Pike (left). Brown Tongue is in the bottom left corner with Hollow Stones above

Scafell is the second highest summit in England, and was clearly regarded as the dominant peak in Wasdale, as its higher neighbour derives its name from being The Pikes near Scafell. Despite that, it’s seen as a lesser fell, and on the occasions I have climbed it, I have never found more than one other party on the top with me: Scafell – a 3,000 footer on which you can easily find yourself alone.
The principal reason for Scafell’s relative unpopularity is that, with the exception of the cirque of crags overlooking Mickledore, and the approaches to either side, it is a relatively ungainly and, frankly, somewhat dull mountain. There is a fine, high, ridge approach from Eskdale and Slight Side that is well worth a day of anyone’s life, but in the main the excitement of conquering Scafell lies in surmounting its massive, often terrifying crags.
For those who are not climbers, this rules out a direct approach from Mickledore, and necessitates a massive diversion downwards from the ridge, to gain the summit indirectly by one of Foxes Tarn, Lord’s Rake or the West Wall Traverse. Walkers with red blood in their veins will find themselves needing, at one time or another, to test themselves against one or other of the latter.
Walkers bound for Lord’s Rake must first find themselves a space in the small car park just off the road to Wasdale Head. After passing the head of the Lake, turn right on a road crossing the valley floor, and slip off this left into a parking area well-concealed by trees and hedges. Ensure you are well-supplied with food and liquids, return to the road and march on towards the looming fells, until a Public Footpath sign, marked Scafell Massif, points an eroded way over a stile to the right.
The approach from Wasdale is the shortest route of ascent, and thus the most unrelievedly steep. Nevertheless, there are no difficulties in the first hour of the walk, which follows the beck uphill through woodlands, before emerging in the bare valley a couple of hundred yards short of the foot of Brown Tongue. The beck gushes lustily, and this is a good spot for a five minute break. Long ago, the curve of the underlying rock formed a superb waterchute, down which stones could be propelled with great vigour, but time appears to have eroded this little feature, which I was unable to identify when I last passed this way
Another change to the landscape is the path from the foot of the Tongue, where two gills meet. Originally, this headed directly up the Tongue, following its watershed, at least to the extent that was possible on eroded and crumbling ground that had created a loose scar. This was, in my memory, one of the earliest paths to be given attention by the National Trust, with the old route fenced off in the Seventies and a new route constructed along the flank of the Tongue, just above the right-hand gill, gently climbing onto the flat back of Brown Tongue to reach the upland valley known as Hollow Stones, lying beneath the massive buttresses of the crags of Scafell and the Pike.
This allows for some easy progress on gentle gradients which allow plenty of time to be given to the massive structures around and above. Somewhere in every fellwalker, no matter how much he or she is afraid of the prospect, or is convinced lies utterly beyond their skill, there is a flame that lights up at the sight, that taps at the door of imagination and asks for the courage to enter into that forbidden world. If only…
But Lord’s Rake is one of the few places where a walker, albeit an experienced, and preferably agile one, can stand on the edge of that world, can see the crags at the kind of range climbers do, can pass among them and all in perfect safety. Or rather, not perfect safety, there being nothing of the sort when out on the fells, but enough of a degree of safety as to make the experience not just worthwhile but essential.
At this point, a cautionary note should be injected. My ascent of Lord’s Rake took place in 1996 but, about a decade ago, a piece of rock fell from the crags above and has come to rest on the first col. It has remained wedged in place, across the route, ever since. For some years after, the route was closed, and whilst it is now in use again, the dangers of the ascent have substantially increased. Furthermore, it is noted that where the base of the stone rests is gradually crumbling. At some point, the stone will become unstable, and will fall down the first pitch. Anyone climbing the same when this happens will, almost certainly, be killed. This is not an ascent that anyone can ever think of taking lightly.

Lord's Rake - the first pitch, showing the fallen stone on the first col
Lord’s Rake – the first pitch, showing the fallen stone on the first col

From Hollow Stones, paths diverge. To the left, a well-marked track climbs to Lingmell Col, and provides the easiest route to Scafell Pike on this side of the mountain. Ahead, an increasingly stony, loose and steep route scrambles up to Mickledore, though this is effectively only a route once more to the Pike, as the direct ascent would be by Broad Stand, which is climber’s territory. Instead, turn right, towards the great cliffs, shadowed by the sun glimpsed over the dark tops.
The path leads to the base of a massive scree fan, up which an indistinct route scales. The scree-fan rises at a steep angle, and is loose underfoot from bottom to top. Walk slowly, walk carefully, test each step for durability and don’t look around at the views, or if you must, stand still, and make it quick. The crags above grow ever darker as you move under their shadow, but it is possible to use these to gauge your progress. Finally, the width of the scree shrinks, until you reach firm ground at the top, directly under the base of Scafell Crag.
A narrow trod rises to the left and provides a traverse along the base of the Crag as far as Mickledore, but for Lord’s Rake, bear to the right, on surprisingly level ground, rounding the buttress directly ahead and entering the base of a direct and steep gulley rising into the rock above. This is Lord’s Rake.
The Rake cuts across the crag in a dead straight line. It is three hundred yards in length, from beginning to end, with three rises and two descents, and two narrow cols to pass. The first pitch is confined by high rock on both sides: beyond, the Rake is exposed to the right, with steep slopes immediately below.
The first pitch is surprisingly wide, but increasingly steep, so much so that its upper third, and especially the final ten feet or so of the ascent to the col, could not be achieved without using both hands. At that time, the loose scree had been scraped pretty much bare: there were rocks underfoot and care needed to be taken in placing ones boots, but provided this was done, there was little risk of starting a slip that might imperil climbers below, and ample room to move from side to side to gain the best purchase.
One should not take this walk lightly, but at one point, about half way up, I wanted to take a picture of the view behind, only to discover that I needed to change the film in my camera. To do so, I clambered off the Rake, into a crevice on the right, found something flat enough and secure enough to sit on and calmly changed the film, marvelling all the time at my coolness in such elevated places.
The fall of the standing rock has complicated this section. There is again a profusion of loose stone underfoot, to an extent that not only should this ascent not be attempted in anything but good weather conditions, but that if someone is above you, you should wait for them to reach the col before setting off yourself: this is not a slur on their abilities but rather a practical reflection of the danger of their dislodging stones of quite some size that would then start to bound downhill: wear a helmet.

West Wall Traverse

The West Wall Traverse, from Deep Gill

I can give no advice to those who wish to climb the West Wall Traverse. Its entrance is a terrace, reached by a short scramble up the left hand wall of the Rake. The narrow terrace crosses a shelf on the rockface before debouching into the upper section of Deep Gill, which requires then a frantic scramble upwards to Scafell’s broad summit. I have sadly not taken this route and, indeed, was concentrating so hard on the Rake that I completely failed to see the entrance en route. Apparently, the base of the entrance is crumbling, and the risk of it too collapsing, making the Traverse inaccessible, must be faced.
As to the col, I was bloody glad to each it, though it marked a point of no return: there was no way I was going back down that last, terribly steep section below the col. Now, progress is complicated by the need to squeeze beneath the standing stone, a process troubling in itself but holding extra concerns for the more generously built walker.
Beyond, the comfort of the right hand parapet vanishes within a couple of steps. The second col is visible, at the same level, with a steep descent and reascent in between. However, the worst of the Rake, at least as far as I was concerned, now lies behind, and the ground is firmer underfoot than imagination makes it from a distance. Cling to the cliffs at hand, take short steps and the second col can be comfortably attained.

Scafell Lords Rake col 2

Lord’s Rake, looking towards the second col

A similar scene presents itself another steep descent and reascent, on a narrow path clinging to the cliffs, stretched over a longer distance, with a longer climb to the far side. This, however, is not a third col but the end of the Rake: safety beckons. Again, take short steps, be careful, cling to the cliffs rather than hug the unsupported edge, and before very long Lord’s Rake falls away behind, and you are on the Green How flank of Scafell. The summit is a mere 300′ above, and most walkers will be so adrenalised at their safe passage through the fearsome Lord’s Rake that there will be no stops on the final run up the fellside.

Scafell Lords Rake col 3

Lord’s Rake, looking over the third pitch to the exit

The path emerges into a saddle, where four paths meet. The upper ramparts of Deep Gill buttress lie to the left, with the prominent notch beyond that is the top of Deep Gill and the exit from the West Wall Traverse. The summit itself lies up a gentle slope to the right, a litter of stones surmounted by a prominent cairn.
How best to descend? Exhilarating as it may be, the thought of reversing the approach along Lord’s Rake does not appeal. I am not talking here about that ten feet down from the first col, nor the fact that the the scree-fan would be many degrees more unpleasant to descend than ascend, but merely the thought of going over ground already trodden so very soon, let alone in the same day. The Green How ridge is an obvious line of descent to Wasdale Head, and is easy, but it is equally obviously tedious, and should be avoided.
Whilst this is not a course I would normally encourage, having the experienced fellwalker’s horror of the unnecessary loss of height and requirement to regain it, the best descent from Scafell in these circumstances is via Foxes Tarn. This involves a descent to a point some 400′ below Mickledore, on the Eskdale side of the ridge, and a 400′ climb that is not the easiest part of the day. However, the adrenaline of Lord’s Rake should still be evident, and the route is fascinating enough to be worth the additional effort.
Return to the saddle and, after a diversion to the top of Deep Gill to encourage the development of your vertigo at the depths revealed, turn down on the right. The path crosses easy grass towards a narrow cleft in the fellside. Within no more than fifty feet of descent, a National Trust constructed route appears underfoot (though I am told that now the path is difficult to trace under loose scree) and the cleft open into a fold in the fellside, at the bottom of which, appearing to be almost vertically down, is a tiny tarn, approximately the size of a standard living room, occupied by a boulder the size of a three-piece suite. There appears to be no exit from the fold.

Foxes Tarn

Foxes Tarn, from the descent

Only as the path nears the Tarn itself can it first be seen that the outflow drains around a steep grassy bank into a heretofore unseen exit. There are a dozen or so steps that can be taken on level ground before the outflow disappears down a stony gully, littered with fallen stone. Like Lord’s Rake, this gully is also straight, with its exit always visible. Descend with care: I prefer the four point method if descending face first – that there be four points of contact with the rock at all times, and only one limb is moved at any time. For those whose anatomy is uncertain, the fifth point is your backside, an invaluable anchor on the way down.
Once the narrow valley of Mickeldore Beck is reached, brush any accumulated debris from your useful backside and turn uphill to the ridge, relying on the adrenaline to make this passage more comfortable than its steepness, the late stage of the day and the loose ground underfoot would otherwise make it.
That ongoing adrenaline surge must be taken into account on achieving the ridge. Head for home, by all means, descending on similarly loose stone from Mickledore, the ground easing slowly until you reach Hollow Stones and can make a leisurely return over trodden ground. But having got here, having undergone all that toil, having done Lord’s Rake fur hilven! (one for you fans of The Killing, Borgen, etc.) it would be a terrible shame not to turn right, scale the cap of stones, and add Scafell Pike’s summit to the day. You are so close already, and as Wainwright says, the only ridge route in the Lakes that is harder than this is the same route in reverse. Do it, for the greatness of it.
From the summit of the Pike, descend north, onto the stony descent to Lingmell col. There is no requirement to include Lingmell itself at this point, but stronger walkers who have not yet counted this top may divert themselves across the col for the additional 300′ of climbing. Everyone else will curve around to the left, over gentle slopes with a superb, grandstand view of Scafell’s Crags throughout its length, until dropping to the head of Brown Tongue.
Descend peacefully and, if you feel like it, smugly. Lord’s Rake is an Achievement in anybody’s book.


I’m something of a rarity among Lancastrians in that I actually like Headingley.
There are plenty of reasons not to, not least the preponderance of Tykes around the place. The playing area is surrounding by a concrete track, around which, throughout the day, endless numbers of folk of the White Rose County perambulate perpetually, halted only by stewards closing the barriers at alternate ends to keep them from walking behind the bowler’s arm.
So, if you want a view of the cricket uninterrupted by Yorkshire bodies, you must either take one of the glorified school-type chairs ringing the boundary boards, or must seek somewhere to sit with a little height.
Unfortunately, in the glory days of my regular visits to Headingley, this was limited to three places, the Football Stand, the Western Terrace and the top deck of the Winter Shed. And the Football Stand (which was named for how it was two-faced, backing onto the Rugby ground), was inside that half of the ground that was only accessible by Members, Yorkshire or Visiting.
(There was, I discovered by chance, a way around that restriction, as described in my novel Tempus Infinitive (, though becoming a Lancashire member in 1986 removed the need to sneak about).
The Football Stand was superb, and you could get yourself a seat directly behind the bowler’s arm at that end. As for the Western Terrace, which now rings with controversy at Test level, lies 90 degrees to the pitch, and is of such a low camber that, by the time you reach the highest row of seats, you are nearer to Bradford than to Leeds.
Which left me, at first, with the Winter Shed, high, exposed, with a glorious view, albeit from a widish long on/long leg position vis-à-vis the wicket.
Mind you, as the photo above demonstrates, it’s all changed now.
I’ve had a variety of experiences at Headingley, but one in particular stands out as especially outstanding. Given Headingley’s reputation as a bowler’s wicket, it seems utterly improbable that I should spend a day there during which 382 runs would be scored, in three successive unbroken century partnerships. Yes, 382 runs, in a single day of County Cricket, without a single wicket being taken. At Headingley! How did this come about?
This was, of course, taking place during a Roses Match, there being no other game below Test Matches that could lure me to Headingley. It took place over the 1st, 3rd and 4th August 1987, in the days when County Cricket was still all three day games. Lancashire scored 356 all out in their first innings and Yorkshire, beginning their reply on Monday, had reached 125 when the second wicket went down in the middle of the afternoon session.
I was sat on the top deck of the Winter Shed, as usual, enjoying the sun, and a good, exposed tree-top level view towards the centre of Leeds. That’s how I picked up early on the clouds beginning to mass.
The ground was still in sunshine, but the clouds in the distance were merging into an increasingly dark mass, and they were drawing slowly nearer. The combination of approaching dark clouds and a clear, sunny sky overhead is a definite sign of trouble, and I decided to gather my things together and make a break for the Football Stand and the only realistic shelter in the ground if it started to pelt down, which I was convinced was going to happen with at most the next thirty minutes.
I walked around the concrete track, mingling with the Tykes, diverted to the Gents down the side of the Football Stand, quickly exercised the facilities and emerged out the other end into the Rugby Ground. I’d been here often enough to know what to aim for so it was a simple case of across and up, through the door (once the ongoing over at this end finished) and slip into a seat. Once you were in the charmed half-circle reserved for members, you were never challenged for a member’s card.
From here, I could no longer see the advancing cloud, but the sky above the cricket ground was getting increasingly dull, and I was congratulating myself on my fore-sightedness. And then it started. Big, heavy, single drops, splattering on the walkway, quickly turning into a continuous rain that had the Umpires halting play and signalling for the covers to come on, whilst the players started to disperse, rapidly, in the direction of the old Pavilion.
For this season only, the MCC were carrying out an experiment with leaving pitches uncovered during breaks in play. This had been the old way of things, and it had led to tense situations were the breaks were extended whilst the pitch dried sufficiently for play to resume, but came back as a ‘sticky dog’, a pitch on which spinners could work marvels, making the ball rear, spit, turn and misbehave in a way only possible on a drying-out pitch.
But for many years, breaks in play resulted in groundstaff racing out to cover everything in sight on the square: pitch, run-ups, the works. The result was play resuming much quicker after rain, but on blander pitches.
This season’s experiment was a hybrid. Run-ups etc. would still be covered, permitting play to resume quickly, but the wicket was left uncovered, to try to give the bowlers an old-fashioned chance.
And the rain came down, There was no thunder or lightning, not any that I recall, but the rain came down in a solid, unbroken wave, hard, heavy, sluicing, solid. I watched it in awe, as with horrible speed it took over the walkway, water rushing along it, one, two inches deep, as the fall far exceeded the capacity of Headingley’s drainage. Those supporters who had not been able to take shelter like me were trying to hunch under raincoats, with the rain turning the seats beside them slick with water. Others huddled in the limited shelter of overhangs, or under the Winter Shed stairs. It was a good, old-fashioned deluge.
And it ended after about thirty minutes, the rain abruptly turning to a trickle, as the storm cleared Headingley and moved away north. No longer swamped, the drains eventually conveyed away the copious surface water. The next question was when would play resume?
There was half the day left but, without even a halt for Tea, the Umpires took one look at the pitch and called play off for the day.
Thus we returned for the final day of the match, with Yorkshire on 168-2, Richard Blakeley and Kevin Sharp having already added 43. They batted on until declaring, having extended the score to 250. The undefeated Third Wicket partnership had added 125 runs
Lancashire started their Second Innings 106 runs ahead. With two full innings to play, the chance of a result was very slight, but with some fast scoring, it might be possible to engineer a target for a run-chase. The young Mike Atherton, still FEC, was promoted to open with Geehan Mendis and the pair ran up 180, exactly 100 to Mendis, runs before declaring without a wicket loss.
This set Yorkshire a notional target of 287 to win, but there hadn’t been the remotest sniff of a wicket in the day, everybody knew the game was heading to a draw as soon as the Laws permitted the acknowledgement, and at least one member of the crowd would have been bitterly disappointed if a Lancashire breakthrough had interrupted this quite unique spectacle.
And so batsmen’s averages continued to prosper whilst bowlers’ averages continued to be dumped on from a great height as this astonishingly blanded-out pitch performed to the last. Yorkshire duly racked up 102 runs for no wicket before the game was ended as soon as decently possible. To think that thirty minutes of rain should produce such a devastating effect.
Full days of First Class Cricket in which no wicket falls are very rare (except when it’s raining) and  those instances I can recall have been when two batsmen have resisted, or commanded, the whole day. That one innings might conclude without a wicket on the day and the next remain wicketless until the close seems at least possible, but three? Each celebrating century partnerships? Even cricket’s equivalent of Roy of the Rovers would jib at trying that one on.
It’s my only experience of a wicketless day, and it added a layer of charm and fascination to a day that would otherwise have been an exercise in tedium: pure cricket, played for the sake of delivering the ball, with no aim or end in sight but the eventual entropy of time: not that much fun to watch, to be honest. Instead, I watched an unlikely feat unfold.
And, as I said at the outset, for it to happen at the Batsman’s nightmare that was Headingley was the icing on an improbable cake for me.
It’s never happened since. When it did, I was there.

The Justice Society of America – Appendix 1: The Glory Days of Earth-2

It was 1956. At an editorial conference at National, over what the kids might want to read next, some unidentified voice suggested they may be ready for superheroes again, and suggested reviving The Flash. Julius Schwarz, editor of the newly-created Showcase, National’s official vehicle for introducing new concepts, agreed to do so, on condition he could start afresh with a new character: Jay Garrick had been ‘done’, he was ‘boring’.
Schwarz was given the go-ahead. He lined up his best artist, Carmine Infantino, to pencil, and enlisted Robert Kanigher to write an origin. Police Scientist Barry Allen, working late in his laboratory, is knocked down by a cabinet felled when lightning struck the lab. He receives a bath of an unpredictable mixture of electrified chemicals. The next day, he realises he has the power of super-speed, just like his old comic book favourite, The Flash. With a radically different costume, he sets out to fight crime.
The new Flash was an instant hit, although it would take four try-outs over three years before hesitant management would be convinced to grant him his own series, starting with issue 105, picking up the old numbering.
Schwarz would go on to helm a similarly popular new version of Green Lantern and, subsequently, less commercially successful new versions of Hawkman and The Atom. Before these two, however, Schwarz was instructed to bring back the Justice Society.
He did not exactly do that. He put together a superhero team, including his new Flash and Green Lantern as well as the Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (albeit with Weisinger’s influence restricting the use of the first). But Schwarz had never liked the name Society for a superhero team: too soft, too social. He wanted something bigger, stronger, something in the kids’ minds, like all the Football and Baseball Leagues in the news. So the revived team would instead be the Justice League of America, who have been National/DC’s premier team ever since.
They were also crucial to comic book history in an unexpected way: according to the official story, Jack Leibowitz played golf with rival publisher Martin Goodman, and boasted that the JLA was their best seller. Goodman returned to the office and instructed his editor Stan Lee that they had to put out a team book. Lee conceived of the Fantastic Four, and the rest was Marvel Comics.
In the meantime, a growing number of readers wanted to know about the Golden age versions of these new heroes: older fans with a nostalgic hankering, younger fans curious to see what older brothers were talking about, or just intrigued by the fact there was another Flash out there: what was he like?
There was an obvious story in this, and Schwarz turned to Gardner Fox to write this for Flash 123 (even though Flash was John Broome’s book). Their explanation was the familiar SF trope of parallel worlds: Barry’s Earth and Jay’s Earth occupied the same position in space but vibrated at different rates, rendering them invisible and intangible to each other. When Barry accidentally tuned in to the vibrations of Jay’s Earth, he found himself in Keystone City, and meeting an older Mr Garrick, in retirement, greying at the temples, but still fit, active – and able to get into his costume when three of his old villains posed a threat.
The story was a massive success, and a sequel, in which Jay visited Barry’s Earth and helped him against his villains, was immediately scheduled for Flash 129. This time, Schwarz and Fox teased their audience with the Justice Society. The issue began with a flashback, as Jay remembered his last outing before Barry’s visit, namely All-Star 57. The audience loved it and wanted more so, for the third team-up, back on Jay’s Earth in Flash 136, the story was built around the disappearance of each of Jay’s old JSA comrades. The villain was Vandal Savage, newly released from prison after sixteen years following his part in the first Injustice Society caper in All-Star 37. Savage wanted revenge, and intended to capture and imprison the heroes responsible for eternity. With Barry’s assistance, his plans were defeated, the JSA released, and Wonder Woman suggested that, to avoid things like this happening in future, the JSA should get together again every now and then. Permanent Chairman Hawkman called an immediate meeting.
This wasn’t just a teaser to the fans: Flash 136 was cover-dated   1963, and the JSA were teaming up with their counterparts of the JLA in issues 22/23 of their title, cover-dated August/September: far too soon to be a response to audience demand roused up in Flash.
The two-part story established a few new ground-rules. The Justice League were on Earth-1, the Justice Society on Earth-2. The revived team had new by-laws (presumably their Constitution). Henceforth, everyone who had been a member of the JSA was a member, and that went for Wonder Woman and Mr. Terrific too. The team would have a rotating line-up of seven, chosen by lot. The choice this time fell upon the four who had already had successors, Flash, Hawkman, Green Lantern and The Atom, plus two other founder members, Dr Fate and Hourman, and the JSA’s last recruit Black Canary, who had never worked with the latter two before, not that you would have had any idea of that from the story. And, despite Hawkman having already laid claim to the permanent Chairmanship in Flash 136, it’s Dr Fate, of all people, who conducted the JSA’s meeting.
But whilst the idea of seven active members went out the following year, the notion of rotating membership, just like the Justice League, was a permanent development.
Certainly the initial meeting between the two teams was immensely popular, and was sequeled in 1964. By the time the team-up was repeated, the following year, it was a tradition, and it continued for 23 years, ending only when the DC Multiverse, or parallel world system, was swept away.
Gardner Fox wrote the first half dozen team-ups (his last team-up was, fittingly, his last JLA story), and he rang the changes every year. In 1963, the teams faced-off against an alliance of villains from each Earth, cooperating with each other. In 1964, Fox introduced Earth-3, where the heroes were all villains, challenging both League and Society in turn to see who was strongest.
The following year, Johnny Thunder made his comeback, causing havoc as usual and allowing his Thunderbolt to be controlled by his evil Earth-1 counterpart, who changed history to eliminate the JLA. Both the JSA and a sextet of Thunder’s gang masqueraded as the JLA at different times, and in the end the story got so convoluted it had to be ended by a magical ‘never-happened. In 1966, Fox mixed the two teams for the first time, as heroes, villains and ordinary folk found themselves being switched from one Earth to the other, whilst in 1967 the action was set on Earth-2 with the JSA coming up against an unbeatable menace and forced to call in four JLAers facing an identical menace on Earth-1. It ended with a series of mini-battles between heroes possessed by evil and the rest of the two teams, before Johnny Thunder saved the day with a handful of awful jokes (seriously, he did). That story also included the first membership change for the JSA in almost two decades, as an adult Earth-2 Robin was awarded membership as an explicit replacement for the semi-retired Batman.
Fox had come very close to writing a JSA-only adventure that year, but in 1968 he went the full distance. The two teams were both matched against the same foe, but never met: the JSA fought in issue 63, the JLA in 64, and the only character common to both stories was a new, android, Red Tornado, who was Fox’s final gift to the DC Universe, created by the villain to disrupt the JSA from within. But the Tornado was no criminal and ensured his creator’s downfall, for which he was rewarded with JSA membership.
It was almost the end of Fox’s career at DC, an era when many of the original writers, who had sustained the company for thirty years, found themselves moved out, replaced by younger, less expensive fans, who had grown up on comics, and who were much less concerned with the precarious life of the freelancer, facing retirement without health or pension benefits.
Fox was replaced by Denny O’Neill, a former journalist with a mandate to shake-up and modernise the JLA. Of necessity, this meant a new approach to the annual JSA team-up, and by extension to the JSA itself. The Golden Agers had been brought back as older heroes, their years in comic book limbo added to their ages as characters. Athletic men and women, especially those with powers, in their early to middle-40s were perfectly plausible when it was expected they would appear in a couple of stories then fade away again. By the end of the Sixties, their longevity was a little more precarious. O’Neill therefore posited that Earth-2’s vibration rate actually slowed its history down, by about twenty years, so that the the JLA’s 1969 was the JSA’s 1949, and the heroes were physically contemporaries. This enabled Black Canary to swap Earths in 1969 and transfer to the JLA.
And this theory was maintained, silently, until 1976. By then, National had finally decided to revive the JSA in their own series, bringing back All-Star from issue 58. At first, the JSA worked, awkwardly, with the Super-Squad, a trio of teenagers, comprising Robin, the time-transplanted Forties hero the Star-Spangled Kid and the newly-created Power Girl, the Earth-2 Superman’s cousin. Within a year the Super-Squad would be absorbed into the JSA itself, and new writer Paul Levitz would have taken the team back to its true age, with complex, detailed biographies for the veterans, who were now recognised as being in their Fifties.
The revived All-Star lasted until issue 74 before falling victim to the infamous ‘DC Implosion’, the cancellation of the lower-selling half of National’s (now renamed DC Comics) line, though the series continued for another year in Adventure – still going strong after 460 issues.
This period also saw Levitz write the first ever origin for the JSA – a convoluted wartime affair that was, frankly, ridiculous and historically demeaning to Britain – and the run in Adventure ended with the never-before disclosed reason for the JSA’s retirement in 1951 – a tighter, much more historically-viable story in which the team fall foul of Joseph McCarthy, and retire rather than reveal their identities to a Congress that suspects them of being Communist sympathisers.
It wasn’t long, however, before a version of the JSA was back. Roy Thomas, recently arrived from Marvel after fifteen years, devised, wrote and edited All-Star Squadron, a series set in 1942, in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbour, featuring all the Golden Age characters to whom DC had rights, in one large team, formed to protect America’s home front during the War. Thomas’s main enthusiasm, unfortunately, was for retro-filling holes in continuity, making the stories conform (to a degree) with the events of the War, and the events of the comics of the time, and adding detail at every conceivable point.
With the series intended to progress at a month of the war for every year of All-Star Squadron, there was a lot to get through, much of it the correcting and harmonising of forty year old comics that few had read and fewer had been concerned about, except for Thomas. Thanks to their enlistment in All-Star 11 onwards, the JSA were rarely available, but they were there as a background at all times.
As a counterweight Thomas devised the contemporary series Infinity Inc, starring a new generation of heroes who were the children of the JSA.
But Earth-2’s days were numbered. The maxi-series, Crisis on Infinite Earths, was in preparation, scheduled to appear throughout 1985, the 50th anniversary year of Major Malcom Wheeler-Nicholson starting National Comics. By its end, there was one Earth, and there had never been any more. The JSA were no longer the heroes of another Earth, but of another generation. And to avoid confusion between multiple heroes with identical names, which after all was the start of this whole event, Thomas was required to write a final case for the JSA, packing them off (with the exception of the handful of characters DC still wanted) forever.
It was a rotten story, Thomas’s loathing of its necessity no doubt contributing. But it was a death of the best comics kind: with a backdoor open to bring the JSA back when DC changed their mind. And you do not get rid of the JSA easily.

Next: Appendix 2 – the post-Crisis eras

Green Arrow – No such thing as a bad character: Part 3 – Back to Square One-and-a-Half


So, after a thrilling couple of years during which Green Arrow had been re-imagined, with a new appearance, purpose and potential, what happened next? The answer was, for over a decade, virtually nothing.
It was true that Green Arrow had been transformed, and had been given the chance to strut his stuff upfront, as co-star of the series of one of DC’s longest lasting and popular heroes. The stories had been dynamic, visually, and thought-provoking, dealing with social issues that were at the heart of the troubles facing America as the Sixties turned into the Seventies. And they had bombed.
Looking back on the GL/GA series, it’s best to see them as historical examples of the times, because with a later eye, the stories come over as clunky, implausible, uneven, and decidedly unbalanced. The series was supposed to be about the contrast between the conservative, logical, law-abiding Lantern, and the liberal, hot-headed, anarchical Arrow, in which each would learn from the other, but writer Denny O’Neil can’t find much in Green Lantern to learn from. He’s admitted his inability to portray a figure who was, at base, a cop.
Though the last image in the series, excluding the left over story serialised in The Flash is of an entirely emotional moment from the Lantern, dramatically destroying an expensive aircraft. But then, that particular plot twist was added by Neal Adams, in a departure from the script.
So: with the series gone, Green Lantern shelters in a solo spot in the back of The Flash, and Green Arrow starts to appear as a back-up to Superman in alternating issues of Action. The Emerald Archer also continues on his way with the JLA. In short, status quo restored, except for the fact that Green Arrow can now be said to have been elevated to a B-list character. It’s just not got him very far, that’s all.
There’s one story that’s intriguing enough to mention, and that’s the 1972 JLA/JSA team-up, which features Green Arrow. In fact, it features more than one of him.
This particular team-up was a landmark event, changing the course of the annual meeting. It was the first such team-up to be extended to three issues, mainly because it featured nearly thirty heroes and they certainly needed the space. But it also began with Justice League of America 100, a landmark in itself, which marked the début on the series of writer Len Wein, and it had as many heroes as it did because Wein chose to bring in the 1940’s only other superhero team, the Seven Soldier’s of Justice. One of whom was Green Arrow.
By itself, the story wasn’t particularly thrilling. An old foe of the Seven Soldiers has returned, threatening to destroy Earth-2 with a gigantic, nebula-sized ‘hand’ that will crush it. Only the Seven Soldiers can defeat him, but they’ve been lost in time, and lost from memory. Various teams rescue each of the Seven from where they’d been stuck in history (Green Arrow has been substituting for Robin Hood, which is about the level of imagination this story occupies).
The oddity is that, unlike the first JLA/JSA team-up, when the paired heroes made a point of greeting each other, here the two Green Arrows not only don’t meet-and-greet but take care to ensure they don’t even get into the same part of the room as each other. Add to this the Earth-1’s Green Arrow’s reaction, in issue 100, to the discovery that there is a second version of him, which amounts to a defensive-aggressive “So what?”, and here’s a very interesting little psychological corner to explore.
But no-one else seems to notice the Arrows standoffishness about each other, no-one comments, and the two characters would only appear in the same story once after this, over a decade later in the continuity blasting Crisis on Infinite Earths.
In 1976, Green Lantern was revived, picking up its numbering from where it left off, by starting with issue 90. Denny O’Neil resumed scripting, and Green Arrow was once again co-star, but art was now by popular newcomer Mike Grell. Grell has always been described as being heavily influenced by Adams, though his highly stylised art is, to me, the exact opposite of Adams, comics’ premier photorealist. When Adams portrayed a ridiculously exaggerated pose, he made it look real. When Grell portrayed it, he made it look like a ridiculously exaggerated pose.
There was no attempt to return to the Age of Relevance: that had burned out long ago. Instead, the two Greenies had superhero adventures, in which the disparity between their powers and the increasing dominance of GL-type star-spanning stories, made the combination increasingly pointless. It was brought to an end by issue 137, when the series reverted to being Green Lantern only.
This second run lasted 37 issues, almost three times as many as the O’Neil Adams run, but it left almost no memorable stories behind it.
So Green Arrow was again left with the JLA and his bi-monthly back-ups in Action. At least he had a dedicated writer, most of his Seventies solo stories being scripted by fan-turned-writer, Elliot S! Maggin (yes, the ! is deliberate. But he was a decent writer for all that).
Maggin’s enthusiasm for GA was obvious, to the extent that he based Ollie’s dialogue on his own manner of speaking – a point openly conceded in a clumsy attempt at metafiction in the 1975 JLA/JSA team-up, which is so ludicrous, I can’t resist describing the story.
The tale began in real life, with writers Cary Bates and Maggin struggling to come up with a plot for a JLA/JSA story that will be acceptable to editor Julius Schwarz. Doing their best to avoid any actual thought, Bates confides in Maggin that The Flash actually turned up at DC some years ago (he did: our Earth was part of DC’s Multiverse as Earth-Prime) and that the Cosmic Treadmill he built to get home is still in a back office. You can see this coming, but Bates, demonstrating the Treadmill to Maggin, accidentally starts it and is whisked into Earth-2, where he falls into the hands of the latest Injustice Society. and, under their control, kills the JSA by using his power to plot stories against them!
Maggin, after telling Schwarz what’s going on, uses the Treadmill himself and ends up in Earth-1 with the JLA, who are weirded out when he and Green Arrow are found to talk exactly alike, and Maggin admits that he writes GA that way! The JLA split for Earth-2 where they defeat the Injustice Society, only to find that, as a result of Bates’s ‘plotting power’, it’s actually the JSA who are dead.
The resolution is an even bigger mess than the set-up, with the Spectre turning up to talk God into letting him bring the JSA back to life. Meanwhile, whilst Bates gets to do stuff, all Maggin is allowed to do is insult him. Using the same words he’d write for Green Arrow, of course.
Be that as it may, Green Arrow was still a minor, second-string character.
Writer Mike W. Barr thought there was more to GA than that, and convinced DC to do a Green Arrow mini-series in 1982, the first time the Emerald Archer had soloed in his own title.
This was the era in which DC (and Marvel) were just discovering the deliberately limited series: maxi-series of 12 issues, mini-series of 4, series that told a single story, with a beginning, a middle and an end, and no obligation to necessarily leave the hero completely unchanged for next month. As Showcase was now a thing of the distant past, and in a time when the direct, fan-only market was starting to exert the dominance it now holds, it was an ideal way to test out the commercial viability of a character.
The Green Arrow mini-series was a decent enough story, of no great significance, save for introducing GA’s long-term foe, Count Vertigo. It was well-received, but it’s noticeable that there was no follow-up, no unlimited Green Arrow series, nor even a second mini-series.
But as this series appeared, something was developing deep in the background. Writers Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, frustrated at dealing with DC’s Multiverse and its multiple sets of heroes, and holding that responsible for DC’s smaller market share, had proposed a series to eliminate the Multiverse.
Their notion would become Crisis on Infinite Earths and would not appear until 1985, partly because it was a hideously complex undertaking that was still being plotted from issue to issue even whilst being published, and partly because DC wanted it to run that year, to celebrate the company’s 50th Anniversary.
I don’t propose to discuss the series in any great detail. It achieved its aim, as the Multiverse was destroyed at the beginning of time, not merely no longer existing but never existing, and leaving a single, integral Universe which re-started in its place.
The final issue included a blood-bath of unwanted characters, amongst them the Earth-2 Green Arrow, who died without ever having that conversation with his Earth-1 counterpart.
So, 1986 dawned with everything new, a bright future available to anyone. In Green Arrow’s case, that would come true, but it would be an act of colossal comic industry irony that the character who was created to be a cheap knock-off of Batman should owe his eventual long-term success to a series featuring the Caped Crusader. Or, as we should now describe him, The Dark Knight.

Green Arrow – No such thing as a bad character: Part 2 – Three Comics

There’s no such thing as a bad character.
People who don’t read mainstream comics on a regular basis don’t understand how utterly malleable the characters are, although a comparison between the Adam West Batman of the Sixties and the Christian Bale Batman of the Noughties should open some eyes. It’s down to the fact that the companies own the characters. No-one, especially not their creator, has any effective control over them – as witness the manner in which Jerry Seigel and Joe Schuster were forced off Superman by an editor who persuaded management that only he knew how to handle the Man of Steel. Anybody, literally anybody, can write a character: as long as they are not already being successfully sold, they are available to anybody who has an idea for the use of them.
The classic example was the transformation of the Swamp Thing by Northampton born, bred and based Alan Moore, in his first series for American comics. Moore took over a somewhat moribund, clichéd character whose uninspired adventures were heading towards cancellation, and literally reversed the character’s story and origin, transforming Swampy into something utterly new, fresh, inspired and full of potential.
In slightly less deliberate form, this was what happened to Green Arrow at the beginning of the Seventies. It was down to two people and three comics. The people responsible for making the Emerald Archer interesting for the first time were writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams, and this was achieved through The Brave & The Bold 85 (August/September 1969), Justice League of America 75 (November 1969) and Green Lantern 76 (May 1970).

The first of these, The Brave & The Bold 85, was drawn by Adams, but was written by the veteran writer Bob Haney, and was surprisingly produced under the editorship of Murray Boltinoff, a very conservative figure with almost a terror of doing new things. The title had been through several phases since the mid-Fifties but, since issue 74, had been a Batman book, featuring team-ups between the Caped Crusader and a different guest star every issue.
Adams had already begun using the series as a way of changing the look of Batman, moving the character away from the camp and bloodless daytime version of the Sixties towards a sleeker, darker version that hewed closer to the roots of the character. In 85’s “The Senator’s Been Shot!”, Adams produced a new and radically different costume for the Emerald Archer.
Gone was the plain tunic and the dull hat. The new version was much slicker (it was Adams, of course it was slick) and vivid. There was still a hat, but it tapered towards the forehead. There was an undertunic with a loose-folded neck, topped by a laced jerkin, bare arms with leather bands, slick pants, leather boots. It was vivid, it was interesting, and it came with a blond moustache and goatee beard.
That was the most striking element. Remember that this was a time of massive social and cultural upheaval, and that beards and moustaches were very much the symbol of the young, the disaffected, the ‘scruffy, dirty’ hippies. It was a visual move immediately creating associations Green Arrow had yet to display, associations that would arise naturally from the sympathies and concerns of the new, younger generations of artists and writers just beginning to enter the comic book industry and displace the veterans of the Forties.
It also Oliver Queen’s secret identity wide-open, especially given the very tiny domino mask he sported, but like Clark Kent and his glasses, the bowman got away with it.
The story itself was no great shakes. Millionaires Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen attend a fundraiser at which the beneficiary, Senator Cathcart, is gunned down. The Governor asks Bruce Wayne to fill his place in Congress to see Cathcart’s anti-crime bill passed. Concerned about which of his identities is more important, Wayne confides in a psychiatrist (who happens to be the Senator’s son).
At the very same time, Oliver Queen is experiencing an identity crisis, and consults the same psychiatrist about the same issue. Unrealistically, the guy concentrates his efforts on trying to help his patients quickly instead of mentally tallying the decades of fees he’s about to earn from two such extremely disturbed individuals. The two heroes team-up to bring in the would-be assassin, Wayne fills in until Cathcart recovers. Notably, along the way Queen relies on skill and accuracy, and not on gimmick arrows.

The bigger change was to come in Justice League of America 75, though first we had to see GA in issue 74 where, confusingly, he is back in his old tunic, clean-shaven, and still carrying a quiver of trick arrows. This is understandable given that this issue is not merely the second half of the annual JSA team-up, but also a direct continuation from the much earlier issue 72.
It’s to writer O’Neil we turn for the next stage of the revision. O’Neil had replaced Gardner Fox on the JLA with issue 66, and and been engaged in shaking off the stodge and trying to develop something with some relevance to the problems of the time. Julius Schwarz had installed him to change things, whilst Dick Dillin, himself new as at issue 64, was the penciller.
The story, which continues on from JLA 74, is co-narrated by Green Arrow and Black Canary, the former Justice Society character, as two people whose lives have suddenly been uprooted and who are seeking new paths, or, to put it in a bit more practical fashion, haven’t got a home to go to. The juxtaposition was a foreshadowing of a pairing that, on-off, on-off, has lasted until the end of DC’s pre-New 52 Universe.
The Canary is alone because, in the previous story, her husband Larry Lance died, saving her, and she’s asked to be brought from Earth-2 to Earth-1 to escape memories of him (and also to fill the role of token female member of the JLA following Wonder Woman losing her powers and stepping down). Green Arrow is alone because a crooked businessman named John Deleon has forged documents ‘proving’ that Oliver Queen has fraudulently manipulated municipal bonds, causing Ollie to lose his fortune.
The story itself featured the various JLAers being confronted by mysterious green duplicates of themselves, vicious, destructive, free from conscience, each representing the uncontrolled and selfish parts of their personalities. The Leaguers have to overcome their evil sides to win, which, given Green Arrow’s identity crisis, leads to his giving in to his duplicate’s claims that Ollie never was a crime-fighter, just an attention seeking thrill-hunter who wanted to feel good.
Fortunately for all concerned, this scene takes place in front of a jewellery store looted by the duplicate, and owned by an elderly couple of self-effacing, scraping along, hand-wringing citizens, whose pathetically brave acceptance of the fact that they are not worthy of attention from such an important person as Green Arrow passively-aggressively guilt-trips Ollie into being what he must, i.e., a superhero who defends the weak from predators (good intentions were not being portrayed subtly in 1969).
After having his look transformed, Green Arrow now had his personality transformed (if you can call the establishment of one after nearly thirty years to be a ‘transformation’).
O’Neil would continue to feature Green Arrow and his new, loud, social crusader personality in almost every issue of Justice League of America after that. The old GA, sans beard, sans new costume would make a cameo appearance in World’s Finest 189 (also November 1969, but clearly out of chronological order), but it was not until O’Neil and Adams came together as the new creative team on Green Lantern that the butterfly truly emerged from its cocoon.

Beyond their shared viridescent names, there seemed to be nothing in common between Green Lantern – wielder of a ‘magic’ ring controlled by his thoughts that could do pretty much anything – and Green Arrow – a guy who shot arrows. But this was part of the point of the pairing. It was just as much a radical re-examination of Hal Jordan, the inter-galactic cop, the straight arrow (sorry) beholden to alien lawmakers, as it was of the new Ollie Queen, the socially conscious, radical, indeed anarchist, concerned with moral as opposed to legal justice.
The pair clashed immediately in an infamous manner: Green Lantern, returning from attending upon his bosses, the Guardians of the Universe, drops in on Star City to visit his close friend, Oliver Queen. He finds a mini-riot going on, a dozen or more angry young black men (this was an era when it was impossible to find a black man at DC who didn’t have the adjective ‘angry’ spot-welded to his description) hurling garbage at an older, lone, well-dressed white man. GL automatically shields the law-abiding citizen, only to find garbage being thrown at him by Green Arrow.
GL is shocked to find GA defending such obvious crooks, but GA lets him in on some not-so-obvious information. The white guy is the Landlord of the building, the blacks are tenants, and this is a slum. When GL is taken inside, he (and the reader) gets an eyeful of just how ill-maintained, dirty, disease-ridden and rackety these people’s accommodation is, because the Landlord is ripping them off. Just as GL’s world-view is rocking, slightly, along comes an elderly black man with a question that will crack the Man Without Fear in two: he’s heard how Green Lantern works for the blue skins, and he does a lot for the white skins, and on some planet or other he helped the orange skins and the purple skins, but could GL tell him why he’s never done nothing for the black skins?
That moment, which is a false but, in the context of the times, unavoidable question, sets in motion a landmark series, as O’Neil Adams as the pair were known) took the two heroes on a roller-coaster, Easy Rider kind of ride to discover the real America, continually forcing the chosen issues of the times through the debate between the conservative, law-oriented Lantern and the volatile, liberal, prepared to take the law into his own hands Arrow.
The two even argued about music, with Ollie taking a shine to ear-bleeding rock music, and Hal staying loyal to the Dixieland jazz his creator John Broome favoured.
Although the duo shared logos on the cover, the comic still remained Green Lantern officially. It made noise, it made waves, but it didn’t make sales increase, especially not when Adams began to display the first signs of a preference for completing his art to his satisfaction rather than to deadline. Superheroics returned to the forefront quite quickly, though seen through the prism of the O’Neil Adams-led Age of Relevance. Black Canary became almost a third star of the series, slipping into the foreshadowed role of girlfriend to GA, whilst maintaining her status as an independent, strong-minded female, of course.
The most notorious issues of the series saw the first return of Green Arrow’s sidekick, Roy Harper, in issues 85-86, but not as Speedy. This time the issue was drugs, and Roy turned out to have become a heroin addict, largely as a consequence (he claimed) of being abandoned by Ollie. He also developed the superpower of going cold turkey in a single page, under the anxious eye of the Canary, but the story was still notable for being the first time DC defied the Comics Code Authority and went out without the Seal (as had Marvel, a year earlier: together, the two stories forced the CCA to re-write the Code to permit reference to drugs-taking – as long as it was in the cause of pointing out that it was A Very Bad Thing).
And then Adams did blow the deadline, forcing Green Lantern 88 to go reprint. The delayed story went into issue 89, but the sales had tanked too much, and the series was abruptly cancelled. One final, completed story, which would be a landmark issue for Green Arrow over twenty years later, was chopped into three and run as a back-up in The Flash, but that was it.
The transformation had worked artistically, but not commercially. When the Green Lantern series resumed as an ongoing back-up in The Flash, it did so with the Lantern only. For the time being, Green Arrow went back to back-ups, alternating every issue of Action, and to featuring with the Justice League. At least he got to turn up a bit more often now.

The Prisoner: Where am I?

the-prisoner-complete-series-+-bonus-68049Where am I?
In the Village.
But where is the Village?
Three episodes of the series deal with this issue, more or less explicitly, though it must be said that the reliability of each of the wildly disparate answers has got to be in question.
Arrival establishes that the Village is remote, isolated, hemmed in against a south-facing coast by mountains. A bit like Whitby, on the north Yorkshire coast, except that there are no scenes that suggest the Village is overshadowed by anything but its local, wooded hills, unlike the manner Whitby is by its moorlands. This is, of course, because there are no such mountains where the series was filmed.
Transport is local, there does not seem to be any access by sea (for vehicles, that is: a dead body floats ashore in episode 8, Dance of the Dead, but when Number Six believes he has contacted a ship in episode 9, Checkmate, he has to use a float to reach it, suggesting a shallow shore). The only access from the outside world is by helicopter, which travels for about one minute to The Launching Pad, suggesting some sort of airfield in the vicinity. Not that that reference, in episode 5’s The Schizoid Man, is necessarily reliable.
Almost nothing in the Village is, which makes speculation an entertaining but highly volatile practice.
The Chimes of Big Ben is the first to state a location for the Village: on the Lithuanian Coast, approximately thirty miles from the Polish Border. The fact that this is part of a complex plot to deceive Number Six into thinking that he has escaped and returned to London, in order to deceive him into divulging information, and that the information comes from a Village Agent brought in solely for this scheme, tells us only that the Village is in no such location.
The issue is not revisited until episode 7, Many Happy Returns. Once again Number Six escapes from the Village, this time in reality, and effects a return to London, entirely under his own steam. He makes contact with his own people, who call in senior experts from the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Number Six has kept a primitive log of his approximately three and a half weeks at sea, from which the Naval expert’s calculations determine that the location of the Village is somewhere in south-east Spain or north-east Africa.
The following day, Number Six flies out as passenger in a surveillance plane seeking to identify the specific location. The Village is duly found, but he is ejected and re-imprisoned.
This version is difficult to discount, but is utterly implausible nevertheless. Is the day-to-day climate of the Village remotely identifiable with Southern Spain or with Africa? The question itself demonstrates the unlikelihood of this being the case.
But whilst Number Six has no idea of his navigation during his raft journey, there is no suggestion that the Naval expert’s identification of the approximate location of the Village is other than honest. Added to this is the fact that the pilot does indeed fly Number Six to the location of the Village, after a lengthy surveillance exercise of flying over strips of land.
Admittedly, the pilot is actually a substitute, a Village Agent, which opens us up to the notion that instead of flying Number Six to Spain/Africa, but he has taken him to the true whereabouts. Against this is the fact that Number Six is busying examining maps of the various fly-overs and that he will have been alert at all points, and would have noticed if they were in a different part of the world.
But Spain/Africa? With that weather? With those trees and flowers?
The last indication we have of the Village’s physical whereabouts comes in the surreal final episode, Fall Out.
At the beginning, we receive the only reliable information we will ever get about the whereabouts of the Village, namely that the series has been filmed in the grounds of the Hotel Portmeirion, in North Wales, courtesy of the noted architect Clough Williams-Ellis, who had been allowing his Italianate folly village to be used for television location filming for at least a decade. That’s where “The Village” is in real life, and its a fascinating place to visit even if you’re not a Prisoner fan.
But, at the end of an episode which travels beyond rationality and realism, the former Number Six leaves the Village by lorry and drives back to London on the A20, which comes in from Kent.
And that’s not a reliable location either, for reasons that we’ll look at when I reach the final episode.
So, where is the Village?
The only thing we reliably know, based on evidence that cannot have been manipulated by the authorities who run the Village, is that it has a climate and flora identical to that of Great Britain. The Village must therefore exist on a very similar, if not identical latitude.
The issue of longitude is another matter. Can we draw a viable inference, from The Chimes of Big Ben, that The Village is within the same time-zone as the UK? The only flaw in the Village’s plan is that Number Six changes watches after his own stops in ‘Poland’, and realises that the tape in the ‘London’ office is chronologically out.
Let’s explore the implications of this a little further. Logically, for Number Two’s plot, it doesn’t really matter where the Village is and what time it is compared to London: Number Six is measuring the duration of the different stages of his and Nadia’s journey to make sure that the time they arrive is the time he expects it to be. Irrespective of what time his Village-set watch shows, he only needs to know that they arrive in London at 8.00pm local time. But The Chimes of Big Ben makes it plain that the watch he is carrying shows the same time as ‘London’ although it is supposedly set to the next Time Zone.
If the Village were actually sited in Lithuania, then it would be in the next Time Zone: an hour ahead of Poland and two hours ahead of London.
But Number Six’s reaction strongly suggests that his borrowed watch and Big Ben are synchronised. And if the borrowed watch had been incorrect as to the hour of day in ‘Poland’, Number Six would have realised this immediately, and have become suspicious then.
And, of course, even this tortuous argument has no meaning: when Number Six emerges from the Town Hall in which he was meant to believe that it was eight o’clock at night in London, it is actually late afternoon in the Village, say, 5.00pm? Which introduces an inconsistency: if the journey has lasted so long that it would have been 8.00pm in London, how come it isn’t in the Village?
I’ve delved into this argument to prove a point. Had The Prisoner proceeded in line with George Markstein’s original ideas, as purely a complex spy drama, the Village’s physical location would have been of real importance. Instead, the Village’s whereabouts are important to only Number Six – who intends to escape and return, to wipe the place off the map – and not to the series.
All that matters is that the Village is.. elsewhere. That it is not connected in any realistic manner to the ‘real world’.
Under McGoohan, Where am I? is a MacGuffin.

When New Order weren’t New Order

As a Joy Division fan, I was lucky enough to see the band perform live twice, given that for the majority of their effective career, I was living seventy miles away in Nottingham. I had barely returned to Manchester when dear old much-missed John Peel gave us the horrible news of Ian Curtis’s suicide.
Naturally, I became a New Order fan, and they were my favourite band for much of the Eighties, at least before they came under serious challenge on my discovery of R.E.M.
Being back in Manchester, I had far more chances to see the new band in concert, at various venues, from my first gig at the Haçienda in 1981, and my last, also at the Hacienda, in 1987.
That first gig was not, to be honest, the best of experiences. It was my second gig in as many days, the previous night having been taken up with The Nolans at the Free Trade Hall – and the Nolans were the better night.
But that was the only time I had to make that complaint, and perhaps it was something to do with the band still being in that early period of uncertainty when they were still cleansing their souls of the traits of Joy Division. From 1983 onwards, New Order were powerful and focussed, and at its best, their music was propulsive and overpowering when performed live on stage. It had a tremendous physicality to it that I’ve never experienced in quite the same manner from any other live band.
So the gigs racked up, and they were great fun every time: Salford University when the nascent Happy Mondays were in support, and you can hear my voice roaring on the bootleg when Barney announces they’re doing an encore because Man United have beaten Liverpool in the FA Cup Replay that evening, G-Mex for the eleven hour Festival of the Tenth Summer concert, finishing the day by inspiring my first and only indoor Mexican Wave.
Encores were always something to think about at New Order gigs. The band rarely did them, and most of the time, once they left the stage the house lights went on and it was up to you whether you chanced it and stayed, more in hope than expectation.
This was certainly so the night I last saw New Order on stage.
It was May 1987, back at the Hacienda again. The band’s fourth album, Brotherhood, was out, but not yet True Faith, which would break the commercial mode for the band. By 1989, New Order would have recorded Treatment, their most overtly dance music oriented album, and the first break in the continuity of my enthusiasm for their music.
But the gig was another stormer, from beginning to end. I had taken my usual position on the balcony, clinging to the front, overlooking the floor below. One thing I didn’t like was the band’s habit of not coming on before 11.00pm, meaning a finish somewhere about or after 12.30am. Add in the return to my car and the drive back to South Manchester, I wasn’t getting into bed until 1.00am, and getting up again at 7.00am to get ready for work.
This time it was 12.40am when they finished the last number and went offstage, the Hacienda house-lights coming up immediately. There was a buzz in the air from the gig. Some people drifted out, but the majority of the audience stayed, me among them. There were no indications – there never were – that they might come back, and it was late and I was tired and I had work in the morning, but I stayed. There was something in the atmosphere, something telling me to stay, that it would be worth it to me if I did.
So I hung around, dehydrated, clammy from the set, whilst nothing happened. Then, without a change in the lighting, or an announcement, the band drifted out again, plugged their instruments in and prepared to play an encore. It had been worth waiting.
It had been more than worth the waiting. The rush of chords, the insistence of drums were instantly recognisable and a cold thrill went through me: they were playing Love Will Tear Us Apart
I’d only once heard that song live before, at the Apollo, that Saturday night in 1979, supporting the Buzzcocks. To hear it again, by the only band who, in my mind, had the right to even think of playing that song, was an astonishment and a dream. I was there. It had happened to me, as it had for a tiny number of audiences over the past three years, as the band chose a solitary gig, near the Anniversary, to remember Ian Curtis. I’d got the bootlegs of those three instances, but now I was here for one.
But the strangest thing of all was the band. They were the same four people, dressed in the same clothing that they had worn during the ninety minutes of their set, the four who had gone off-stage more than five minutes ago, but they were no longer New Order. They weren’t Joy Division, but for the four or so minutes that they played that song, with Barney misremembering the words, but with that oh-my-god, so brilliant a riff that I had missed so very much in the hearing live, they were… different. It was if the song existed in its own zone, into which everyone that entered had to leave their selves behind.
And it was over. There wasn’t the voice in the world with which to scream my delight, my gratitude, my delirium at what had happened.
I went home, undressed, got into bed. It wasn’t a deliberate decision on my part not to see New Order live again: the chance just didn’t happen for long enough that my enthusiasm began to dim, my loyalties shift from Manchester, England to Athens, Georgia. By then it had become fitting that the last song I’d heard New Order play had been the only time I’d heard them cover Joy Division, and become something different in the process.
They had touched magic, and I was there.

The Literary Necrophiliacs are back

or rather, let’s not carry on


I’ve gone on before about literary necrophilia, but this is one of the most idiotic and appalling examples of the fetish that I couldn’t possibly have imagined.
With the approval – indeed at the request – of the author’s estate, Sebastian Faulks (who has form in this field with a James Bond novel) has signed to produce – I refuse to use the word ‘write’ – a new Jeeves and Wooster book.
Think of that for a moment. Let it sink in. Savour the very notion. Then apply the swords to the old grindstone in order that they should be nice and sharp to go with the pitchforks and burning brands.
Words fail me, and it would be nice if they would fail Faulks too, but never fear, whatever the extent of the travesty that he will produce, the words will still find themselves enclosed in books, from where they will not be allowed to leave and run howling through the shrubbery at the enormity in which they have been forced to participate.
Hell’s Bells, Faulks even says that Wodehouse is inimitable, so why is he even trying, unless he’s got a big, fat contract for a big, fat wodge of oof, at which point the light of understanding passes over the old features rather like…
But there you go. I’m not going to even try to complete that line because it’s heading towards being pastiche Wodehouse, and, like everyone in this world who does not bear the name Pelham Greville and a nine-letter surname beginning with W, I’m not up to the delight of creating a simile that is fit to stand in such context.
Any time the characters and the style of a deceased and extremely talented writer are dragged from their just rest and made to perform at the hands of someone who, no matter how talented they may be, is not the creator of those beings, an offence is committed against art and nature. P G Wodehouse is the indisputable master of Light Comic Fiction of the Twentieth Century, and in his many creations are figures of comic genius who live gloriously. To be unable to write like Wodehouse is not a confession of inadequacy but a recognition that one is not Wodehouse himself.
Faulks, who is a genuinely creative writer, and, being an absolute Wodehouse fan himself, should know better.
The Estate, who surely can’t be that short of a bit of the old readies, should be ashamed of themselves.
And what is the point of creating a second rate imitation of something touched by genius? Is Faulks that egotistical that he thinks he can actually do turn himself into Wodehouse?
Inevitably, the book will be a disaster, because it’s impossible for it not to be, as with all such necrophiliac pursuits. The publisher has said the following about the new, unspeakable novel, that it will “be faithful to the history and personality of Wodehouse’s characters but by shining a different light on them will also show how robust, durable and lovable these creations are”, which goes to show that publishers who can scent money will say any damn thing, no matter how fatuous it is.
But the words themselves recognise what is so hideously wrong about this notion. Leaving aside the question of whether it is possible to recreate Wodehouse’s characters in their popular selves, it openly says that Faulks is going to update them.
Does he not know what a disaster that is? Wodehouse wrote on into the Nineteen Seventies, when he was in his nineties, and he never updated any of his characters. In Wodehouse, it is always that between the wars period, and his boys and girls, aunts and Earls and sagacious butlers belong in the centre of that unclouded period (unclouded in the books, whose characters are formed by the glorious golden Edwardian summers before the first War). The most modern concession is the unspeakable Spode and his Blackshorts, an unusually but delightfully deadly lacerating parody of Sir Oswald Mosley.
You can’t change these glorious creatures. They are perfect as they are, crystalline creations, who, if you try to extend them into further dimensions, will crumble into nothingness.
The only remedy is to do the decent thing and not buy a single copy. Avoid the atrocity like the plague, or, more fittingly, like Lord Emsworth, simply fail to recall that it exists and wait for Beech to clear it away to be mixed with pigswill for the Empress of Blandings.

Singing for The Undertones

One of my favourite bands of all time was Derry’s Finest, The Undertones. Teenage Kicks is one of my favourite songs of all time, and even though it was actually released almost 35 years ago, whenever I hear it, it still sounds as fresh as if it came out a week last Thursday.
Before the band broke up in 1982, I got to see them live in concert on three occasions. The first was at the Free Trade Hall, where I was sat about six rows from the front. The band hit the stage, the audience surged. I got to about four rows of bodies from the stage itself, discovered that I was having this problem with expanding and contracting my chest and spent the best part of four songs forcing my way back far enough to breathe.
The second was the Apollo, Ardwick, where I was sat in the front row and spent the gig stood up leaning against the stage, with my arms balanced on the stage-floor itself, as Feargal Sharkey wheeled and emoted.
The third and final occasion was at the famous Haçienda, FAC 51, in 1982, when the band were touring their fourth and last album, The Sin of Pride.
If my memory serves me correctly, this was the first of about half a dozen visits I made to see gigs at the Haçienda. It was a bit of a strange venue to see bands, with everybody but a tiny handful having to stand, and from my second visit onwards, I used to buy my only drink at the bar, carry it upstairs and find a place on the balcony which gave me the best view of the stage, and nurse it for as long as I could until the gig started, and believe you me, when it was New Order on stage, that took a whole heap of nursing.
This first time, however, I was down on the floor with the mass of the audience, a good rowdy crowd looking for fun and the ‘Tones usual high energy set.
The Sin of Pride was a far better album to tour than Positive Touch, which had been the focus of the previous tour and the gig at the Apollo. Positive Touch was an experimental album, the band’s self-conscious attempt to ‘progress’ their music. The Sin of Pride, in contrast, accepted the fun of simplicity, and emphasised the band’s soul influences, with several tracks decorated with brilliant horn riffs, not that the ‘Tones were bringing a horn section onto the Haçienda’s tiny stage.
It was a good night, and the band were on good form until, suddenly, halfway through the set and bringing a song to a typically frantic conclusion, the sound went off!
There was confusion on stage, and in the audience, and a bit of laughter on our part of the equation. It only took the electricians about five minutes to get the plug back in again, but in the meantime, a little piece of magic ensued.
With the PA out of action, bassplayer Mickey Bradley came to the front of the stage, signalled for the audience to stop buzzing about it, and shouted out, “Well, we were going to do My Perfect Cousin next, but instead, we’re going to get you do it!”. Behind him, Billy Doherty struck up with the strutting little drum intro. Bradley shouted a vocal version of the two guitar chords that accompany it, and waved to us. And the whole crowd, in unison, if not in tune, shouted out, “Well I’ve got a cousin called Kevin, who’s sure to go to heaven.”
And, for a madcap four minutes or so, not even interrupted by the PA, which came back on towards the end of the song, we stood and swayed and lustily sang the whole song, word for word, while Billy Doherty kept the beat, and Mickey Bradley conducted us, and everyone had a whale of a time, even during the ‘instrumental’ break, which was the strutting beat and more mouth guitar chord sounds. And when we finished, the band applauded us, and we gave ourselves the biggest cheer of the night (until it was time to haul the Undertones back for their encores).
The band broke up after the tour, and whilst they’ve returned to action in later life, minus the Fearg but still boasting Bradley, Doherty and the O’Neill brothers, I’ve never had the luck to see them again.
It won’t be (quite) the same without the Fearg, and I’ll never get another silly little interlude like that again (though I’d laugh my head off if it did repeat itself), I’d still love one day to be in a hot, sweaty crowd, whipped up in a ferment, and those two beats and the riff ring out and once again I’m rocking to Teenage Kicks.
But that’s what it was like that night, when I was there.

The Most Surreal F A Cup Tie Ever

Third Time Round… and More to Come

I’ve been to three Cup Finals with United at the Empire Stadium, Wembley, winning the Double on each occasion and, whilst I was never blind to the manifest flaws of the decrepit old pile, I am thankful for the experience of taking part in such an historic occasion.
But some of my most memorable FA Cup experiences have been at the other end of the competition, with the non-Leaguer’s Cup Final, the Fourth Qualifying Round and, occasionally, their prize of a place in the early rounds of the Cup proper.
There have been two spells in my life when I’ve been an active, avid fan of Droylsden FC, a long-standing semi-professional club lying to the east of Manchester. From 1969 to 1980, and again from 1995 to 2003, I was a regular at The Butchers Arms ground on Market Street, and for the last five years of that second spell I was the editor and main contributor for the match-day programme. But I’d given up that role, and stopped going regularly (after a bust-up with owner/chairman/manager Dave Pace) by 2008, when the club finally emulated its late seventies success and got through to the FA Cup proper.
It was only the eighth time ever that the Bloods had even reached the Fourth Qualifying Round, four of those occasions coming in a five year spell in the late Seventies, two more in 1998 and 1999, and the most recent the previous season, when Droylsden had been humiliatingly knocked out by a non-League team two levels below them. I’d seen three of those ties, defeats all: on the three previous occasions we’d gotten through to the First Round, I’d been missing (the first time because the game clashed with my 21st birthday, and I wasn’t allowed to miss the party).
I’d been to the five games we’d played in the Cup Proper, and it was saddening that, with the Bloods drawn to play away at Darlington, I was forced to break my record because of the cost of petrol for the trip. But Droylsden achieved a creditable 0-0 draw, and my wife and I were at the replay, which we won 1-0 (though I missed the goal, the Bloods having the bad grace to score it whilst I was at the tea bar, getting refreshments for us). The reward, as we already knew, was an away trip to Chesterfield in the Second Round, the barrier before the opportunity of the highest in the land, the tie to be played on Saturday 29 November.
We set off from Manchester on a cold, misty afternoon, but found cool, clear skies once we had gotten onto the moors between Manchester and Derbyshire. But as soon as we began to descend towards Chesterfield, it was clear that the ground fog was thick in the valley, and we grew increasingly concerned that the fog would be to thick, and the game postponed. By the time we reached the centre of Chesterfield, and were struggling through Saturday afternoon traffic to find Saltergate, it seemed impossible for the match to go on. But once we’d found parking, and walked back, then walked round three-quarters of the ground to find the Away end entrances, the game had started. We found our old mates behind the goal.
The Bloods were defending the Away end. The scene was amazing: we could only see to the half-way line, and if the action was in the Chesterfield half, we could neither see nor hear anything of what was going on. Presumably the referee could see the goalposts at either end from the halfway line, which is, as I understand it, the criterion for starting a game, but it was absurd and surreal that the match should have been played in those conditions at all. Only those supporters sat or stood on the halfway line could have seen any kind of play developing: supporters at either end could only see what went on in their half of the field.
I’ve never seen anything like it when at the football. The only comparable situation, to which my mind flashed back instantly, was an early Seventies midweek European game featuring Leeds, which had been played in conditions of thick fog, during which play had been suspended for 25 minutes in the (realised) hope that the fog would lighten. Before this, the fog was so bad that the TV cameras could not pick up anything beyond a line about ten yards in from the further touchline, leading in turn to the surreal moment when the commentator had to announce, “And the ball’s gone out to Eddie Gray on the Leeds left, at least we assume it’s Gray, we cannot see the player but that’s where he should be…”
The proof of the abnormality of the situation came after 35 minutes, when Droylsden took the lead, and the first we (and our goalkeeper) knew of it was when celebrating players crossed the halfway line on their way back for the kick-off (the goal itself was barely visible on the BBC cameras for that tiny flash on MOTD that night).
At half-time we were still ahead, the Bloods’ goal having been in no real danger yet. The interval was, understandably, quiet, marooned in our little segment of visibility, but initial enthusiasm started to turn to concern when the interval carried on longer than it should have, and talk started to turn to the fear that the match was being abandoned. Then players and coaches appeared out of the mist to tell us that that was indeed the case. Just about visible, in front of the Main Stand in our half, a raging argument was going on between Pacey, the referee and their Chairman, but to no avail. Pacey accused the referee of giving in to pressure to abandon because Droylsden were ahead, that the game would have gone on if Chesterfield were leading. I’ve no doubt but that he was right. The honest truth was that that game should never have been started, that it was being played in conditions that were impossible, especially for the spectators who had paid £10 a head to ‘watch’ the match, but that as the situation had not deteriorated one bit during half-time, if the game was fit to play in the first half, it should have continued.
But there was no arguing: the game was abandoned, and was re-scheduled for Tuesday week, December 9, at 7.30pm. Chesterfield, to their credit, announced that entry to the second game would only be £1.
So, on a cold Tuesday night, we left Manchester as soon as I got home from work, drove through a cold, frosty night, parked in the same car park, walked the same long walk and were inside and joining our mates a couple of minutes after kick-off.
There was no fog tonight, everything was cold, crisp and clear. Unfortunately, as we had suspected would be the case, it was Chesterfield who got on top, and were 1-0 up at half-time. However, a short cross from the left and a superb glancing header put us level early in the second half. Then, with twenty minutes to go, the tie descended into the bizarre again.
Chesterfield player was down inside our half, and our defence, obligingly, put the ball out for a throw-in about thirty yards from goal. Treatment over, play resumed. The ball was thrown to Chesterfield’s no. 9, who I shall not name (but he knows who he is), who took one step with the ball, shaped to knock it to our keeper, then dug his foot under the ball and lofted it over his head into the net.
There was instant fury. We were howling with anger and rage, but our fury was mild and restrained compared to the Droylsden bench, who instantly charged Chesterfield’s bench. It was a mini-riot, and how the entire bench – especially Pacey – escaped being red-carded, I don’t know. I can only assume that the referee took account of the unusual provocation and made allowances.
The problem was, the goal was perfectly legal. It stood. Chesterfield have always maintained it was an accident on their striker’s part but, I’m sorry, there were no visibility problems that night, and I’ve watched enough football to know when someone means something, and that guy meant it.
It was a full five minutes before the game resumed, during which there was much discussion as to what should and would happen. But, credit again to Chesterfield, when the game kicked-off once more in an atmosphere of not-very muted tension and resentment, the ball was rolled forward, Droylsden’s skipper, Steve Halford, collected it and, with the Chesterfield team standing around casually, he jogged down the pitch with it, walked it past the keeper and knocked it into the net. It was only justice, but to actually watch that happen only heightened the surreality of the whole event. No matter how justified it might be, seeing an entire side step back like that felt curiously wrong, as if the very spirit of the game was being overturned.
It ended 2-2, and a replay was duly arranged at the Butcher’s Arms the following Tuesday night, December 16. Sean Newton, the Droylsden left back, received a yellow card during the game. This may seem irrelevant, but bear that in mind.
Surely the game would be completed at the third attempt, and one or other of the two sides would go through to meet Ipswich Town away in the Third Round. The Third Round: that’s what everyone was playing for.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be the Bloods. This time the gulf in quality between Blue Square North and League Two counted. Chesterfield were 2-0 with eighteen minutes to play, and looking far more likely to extend their lead than Droylsden were to cut into it. Then the floodlights failed.
This was the fourth time this had happened to me, although the previous examples included one set of floodlights failing to come on at half-time, and one side of Old Trafford losing all its electricity literally seconds after the final whistle. It’s weird. Your first instinct, strangely enough, is to laugh. one moment, the game is in progress under lights, the next, in utter silence, the world changes abruptly and you can’t see a thing. It had happened once, a few years earlier, away to Ashton United, when we were 2-0 up with thirteen minutes left to play (the game was abandoned and we lost when it was played again).
A fuse had blown, affecting not just the floodlights, but the whole ground: the Social Club were stuffed, the electric beerpumps wouldn’t work! And the game had to be abandoned, with the Chesterfield fans furious, and throwing around accusations that we’d switched the power off to avoid being beaten. Exactly as we’d said about Ashton when the lights went out at Hurst Fold, though it was clear that the entire area had been hit with a power cut.
So a fourth game was now required, to be played at the Butchers Arms, the following Tuesday night, 23 December. It could have been arranged for Monday night. If it had, maybe the strangeness of this whole tie might have ended there.
Until the Police first insisted, in 1992, on having ten days notice before providing the statutory cover for football matches, FA Cup ties had to be replayed to a result. At least every other year, there would be one tie in which three, sometimes four replays were required before one of two exhausted teams, now playing every other night, caved in and lost. In the Seventies and before, all replays after the First had to be on neutral grounds. This tie had assumed the proportions of one of those fabulous dinosaurs, and I don’t know what it was like for fans in that era, who knew this was on the cards, but in the Noughties this was unreal. We seemed to be doing nothing except play Chesterfield, and it was now only days before Christmas, with the Third Round on the first Saturday in January. It had to be settled tonight, extra-time and penalties of needed, but given the history of the tie so far, what else might happen?
The Chesterfield fans turned up super-disgruntled, their complaints abut the probable fraud over the floodlights exacerbated by the fact we were charging £5 for entry at the gate after they’d charged only £1 when it was their turn. You can’t blame them, really, although our economics were different to theirs.
However, they were jubilant about half an hour in when our keeper dallied over a back-pass, allowed that **** of a number 9 to charge the kick down, the ball rebounding into the net. Our despair was short-lived because, within ten minutes, Sean Newton, advancing into their half, drilled home a brilliant thirty-yard daisy cutter into the bottom corner.
I’d taken my wife’s mobile phone along to update her as to developments, so this called for a loud, jubilant call to roar about the equaliser, but it was nothing to the incident in the second half, abut an hour into the game, when there was a foul in the area and we were awarded a penalty. I was on the phone immediately, to give live commentary, with an exultant roar as Sean Newton blasted the ball into the net to give us the lead. And for all Chesterfield’s efforts, we refused to give way, and the final whistle, the very very very long overdue final whistle, we were through to the third Round Proper, for the first time ever in the club’s 100 plus years history. “Are you ready for a trip to Ipswich?” I husked down the phone to my wife, who came from East Anglia in the first place.
At last it was over, after four games or almost-games over 24 days. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
We went to bed not that long after I got home. If we’d sat up, and had been on the Droylsden Message Board at about 12.30am, we’d have had the first inklings that this tie was continuing to wreak havoc with everyone’s lives.
Sean Newton’s yellow card, collected a fortnight earlier at Saltergate, in a game that was only being played because of the fog abandonment, was his fifth of the season. Once this was reported, the FA notified Droylsden that Newton was suspended for one match taking place after Monday 22 December, in accordance with standard rules. The Club received this fax on Monday 15 December, checked the first list, acknowledged the suspension and confirmed that this would be applied to the Club’s match on 26 December, away to Vauxhall Motors. The following night, the floodlights had failed and the Club suddenly had an extra match pitchforked into its schedule. Like I said, it could have been played on Monday 22nd or Tuesday 23rd, and, presumably in the interests of extra recovery time from the weekend’s league game, the Club went for Tuesday. The day Newton’s suspension came into effect. In the fuss and bother of arranging yet another meeting, no-one noticed. Until after the match on Tuesday night.
Droylsden had played an ineligible player. What’s worse, he’d only gone and scored both the bloody goals we’d won by.
It was an accident, a calamitous accident, an all-too-easy oversight, but intentions are irrelevant in that kind of situation. The moment I learned of this blunder, I knew that we would be expelled from the Cup, and that Chesterfield would be reinstated and would play Ipswich in the Third Round. Any other outcome was impossible.
A lot of people refused to accept that. It was an accident, we could have played Monday night and he’d have been eligible, we’d already agreed with the FA which match he was going to be suspended for, Chesterfield were trying to cheat us after we’d beaten them fair and square. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair.They were all deluding themselves, unable to accept that, through our own fault, we had disqualified ourselves from this magical, once-in-a-lifetime achievement. One of those was Dave Pace, appealing against the FA’s decision and, of course, losing.
Chesterfield played Ipswich Town at Portman Road on Saturday 3 January 2009, and lost 3-0.
It was the final touch of shoot-yourself-in-the-foot insanity that, given everything that had happend in that tie, we should have seen coming. Winning the tie, in the end, was never going to be the end. It would have been a complete anti-climax if it had been.
I’ve drifted completely away from Droylsden since then. In 2010, they made it to the Second Round Proper again, forcing a replay away to Leyton Orient, and leading 2-0 only to be overrun and lose 8-2, the last six goals coming in extra-time. Currently, they’re second bottom of Blue Square North, have lost their last two home games by an aggregate of 0-12, are nine points from safety having played more games, and being kept off the bottom only by a club under financial restrictions, unable to play anyone other than Juniors. A return to the Evo-Stik (Northern Premier) League is all but guaranteed. It’s a far cry from the year the Bloods technically made it into the Third Round, but when they did, I was there.