The Tempus Trilogy – an Omnibus



Once more into the publication breach, dear friends!

As I did with the three Richard and Susan novels, I’ve now combined the three Tempus books into a Hardback Omnibus, available via here.

This stunningly attractive book (thick enough to stun a hare if thrown with the correct force) is a must-have addition to any bookshelf, and will retain its value as long as nobody goes and writes in it, least of all me. The unsigned ones will be the rare ones, people, the token that people who bought them hadn’t got their arms twisted up behind their backs at the time.

Seriously, this is a good fun collection, and I could do with being discovered, so what say you take a look? We’ve got over penurious post-Xmas January by now, we’ve been paid again and the snow means you’ll not be going very far, so invest in some reading time.

Thank you one and all.

Discounted Books – No, seriously

People, after the farrago last time I tried to pass on to you a code to get my recently published The Revenge of the Purple Puffin (or any of my existing books) at a discount, this one works!

For the next two days, until 11.59pm on Thursday 14 August, you can get a 25% discount – yes, a full quarter – off the price of books via Lulu by using the code TWODAY25.

It only applies to print books so the e-book versions are unaffected, but to be honest at the prices I’m asking for those, you have to be paricularly shameless to want discounted prices on those.

Get in quick, be profligate. Here’s a link to your starter page.

Go crazy! Because I’m worth it.

Discounted Books – Not


This is a warning and an apology to anyone who tried to follow my recent post about a 15% discount of my latest novel, The Revenge of the Purple Puffin: many thanks to Alex who has alerted me that it doesn’t work (but who has bought the book anyway, cheers mate).

In case it was something I’d done differently on Puffin, I tried to apply it to one of the others, only to get the same response.

That seems to suggest that my books are neither Standard nor Premium, which I will check out as soon as I am able.

In the meantime, ignore my first post, though anyone who makes like Alex and buys it anyway will be my friend forever.

Discounted Books

Yes, it’s Shameless Plug again.

From now until the end of Monday 21 July, are offering 15% off the purchase price of my latest novel, The Revenge of the Purple Puffin (as purchasable via the following link – ). All you have to do is use the following Code at checkout – DOGDAYS14 – to claim your discount.

Indeed, you don’t have to restrict your buying to The Revenge of the Purple Puffin as it applies to everything I have written that’s available from Lulu.

Go mad, take the chance to grab a bargain, there are two trilogies out there that you can purchase whilst the cost is even righter than usual.

You know how happy it would make me…

*New Book!* – My Brilliant Sporting Career


With a cover courtesy of StreetWorm, for whose site see the adjoining link, I have now published my ninth book (discounting omnibuses). This time, as the title suggests, it’s a Sporting Autobiography. If you’re wondering how an overweight buffoon such as myself can have had any kind of Sporting Career, I suggest you read the book’s Preface, below, to discover exactly what kind of book this is…


I was on my own on the right, running with the ball, no-one coming to challenge me.
There was a big gap into the penalty area, and I had team-mates inside of me, running in on goal, ready for the crisp, low, diagonal ball that would invite them to score.
There was also a big gap between the keeper and the post, vulnerable to the low, hard shot, giving me the option. Which was it to be? The good of the team or personal glory?
In football, moments like this happen all the time. Sometimes, there isn’t the time to think, and instinct takes over, pushing the buttons and selecting between the cross and the shot, the lay-off and the piledriver, the team or the player. Other times, there is the luxury of thought, and then it’s down to the personality, the experience, the demands of the game. I saw Paul Ince go through on goal once, run half the length of the field with only the keeper to beat, round him miles out from goal and facing only the man on the line: it was the Cup Final, it was injury time, United were 3-0 up with the Double in their back pockets and with an unselfishness above and beyond the call of human nature, he laid it off to give Brian McClair a tap-in.
There was nothing that important riding on my choice. It happened 40 years or so ago, a Games Period on the Top Pitch at Burnage Grammar or High School in the First or Second Year, and I was 11 or 12. I’d never scored and I desperately wanted to put one in, but I was afraid of the digs and snipes I’d get if I bogged it up through being greedy.
The point of all this is that, although this kind of choice, and even these very circumstances crop up time and again in all levels of football, the choices are the same, and the player brings the same factors to bear deciding what to do.
Except I didn’t.
When I said I was running with the ball, what I meant was that I was kicking it ahead of me and running after it until I caught it up, and then kicking it ahead of me again. I was afraid of what my team-mates might say if I went for goal, because I knew, already, just what kind of a footballer I was.
So I decided. If I went for the goal, or I pulled the ball back for the cross, it didn’t matter, since I couldn’t kick it straight enough to save my life. Instead, I aimed very carefully halfway between the cross and the shot, and left it to fate and my ineptitude how it would turn out.
If you have guessed that, on this one occasion, my accuracy could not be faulted, then you will have already sensed what kind of book this is.

Those who are devotees of Australian literature and/or Australian cinema will immediately recognise the title of this book to be an hommage (or, as most Australians would put it, rip-off) of the famous and moving novel by Miles Franklin, which was made into an equally famous and moving film starring the famous and talented Judy Davis.
Sadly for devotees of Australian literature and/or Australian cinema, there is little or no connection between either of those proto-feminist works and the life and fumbling times of a hopeless sportsperson. Indeed, it is doubtful that devotees of Australian literature and/or Australian cinema would find their way anywhere near this dog of a book, but since they are Australian, and a disposition towards sport appears to be an indelible genetic trait, one can but hope.
If they do read this book, it will probably go a long way towards confirming their impressions of bloody wingeing effete hopeless Pommy bastards. If I had any illusions about things like that, I couldn’t have set down this chapter of accident, disaster and occasional but exceedingly limited triumph.
So what’s the point of this book? It’s very easy to write a sporting biography if you’re a superstar: people are more likely to buy your book, for one thing, which means publishers are more likely to want to print it, believing that they can pay you substantial amounts and still live in the lifestyle to which any of us might want to become accustomed.
If you’re a journeyman, you can sometimes break into the charmed circle of attention, by being witty and perceptive about what sport is like on the margins, where the game is accepted as being more ‘real’, though I have never found myself falling through the seats at Old Trafford because they only exist in the imagination.
If you are a total nobody, who has never achieved anything, never laid claim to private let alone public attention for his exploits in sport, in short a total and utter amateur, in thought, word and deed, you can regard yourself as having no chance.
The thing is, I’ve had a sporting career too. It hasn’t taken me to the heights, it hasn’t given anyone else lasting memories (though that lad I backheeled the ball past to score probably thought about it for several days), and you can scour even the smallest of local papers without ever finding my name in a match report, because it hasn’t been that sort of sporting career.
It also hasn’t been confined to one sport, not football, not cricket, because I never had the talent to concentrate upon any one sport and make it my life’s work, my profession. Inability is so wide-ranging, a true amateur can fail at as many sports as takes his fancy.

What My Brilliant Sporting Career is about is the sporting life of someone who was never ever, even in his wildest dreams, going to be called in at the last minute to salvage his Country’s sporting pride. In fact, to be truthful, I have doubts about my chances of being called in at the last minute to salvage my street’s sporting pride.
Not that that ever stopped me.
For years and years I played all manner of sports. Some more often than others. Some more adeptly than others, but not by the kind of margins observable without an electron microscope. All with the same kind of limitless enthusiasm that asks only for small amounts of realistic gratification, which has been delivered surprisingly often.
Long ago, I decided that it’s the complete amateur, and preferably the most hopeless of all, who gets the greatest satisfaction out of sport. Whatever your game, be it cricket, football, squash, pool or any of the others represented in these pages, if you play it often enough, long enough, time enough, there will come – however long removed or, however fleeting – that moment of magic. That moment when muscle, bone, sinew, tendon, hand, eye, everything that goes to make up a motion comes together perfectly, when you do something gloriously, unexpectedly right.
Professional sportsmen are professional for many reasons. Some of them are because they possess the dedication and determination to exclude from their thoughts and lives everything that is extraneous to the vision of them playing, being possessed of and by their sport. But mostly they’re professional because they can call upon these moments at will. The instant of sweet power as the boot draws back and delivers the rising shot from thirty yards that arcs beyond the reach of any earthly goalkeeper. The flowing drive that speeds the ball, almost without effort, past the despairing dive of the fielder and to the rope. The accuracy of touch and strength that sends the cue ball around uncountable geometric angles to rest in precisely the spot you would have placed it had you been able to pick it up and set it by hand.
They can do that all the time, you see, and whatever state of mind it produces in them, be it arrogance or humbleness or merely relief that it still happens the way they want it to, that the body has not yet begun the decay beyond what they ask it to produce, it cannot match the emotion of the man – or woman – who knows they lack that skill, but who for a disbelieving instant, find their bodies obeying to a degree of precision that will never ever come again.
Well, not in this game again.
Sometimes it’s like that. Most of the time it isn’t. Most of the time, it’s the way I describe it in here. Those of us who play for the fun of it have to make the most of what we get, and if it gets as good as this, we’re lucky.
If you saw me as I am – 5’10” of straining waistband, perspiring myopically through glasses slid permanently down a nose – you wouldn’t immediately take me for an athlete. If you saw me in the middle of one of my sporting endeavours, you’d congratulate yourself on how right you were. Take it from me, there is a lot of modesty on show, and precious little of it is false.
But, like you, I have had my triumphs, and I count them dear, because the rest of the time I’ve nothing to look forward to, nothing to look back on and, now I’m in my 50s and laid up with a dodgy ankle, a dicky knee, a suspect back and a groin that sometimes feels the strain, not a great deal of present.
But I consider myself to have paid my dues. Read the book and pay me some of them back.

Now you’ve read the extract, you’ll obviously want to know all the inglorious details, so here’s the link to for the paperback edition, priced £6.99 + postage and packing – visit

Details of the Kindle edition will follow when the book is published there.

Happy reading!

Tempus Expletive – The Tempus Trilogy Book 3

Available in paperback from £6.49

Available from the Kindle Store £1.91

and it starts like this…

“I’m thirsty,” I announced to no-one in particular.
Without for one second allowing her binoculars to waver away from the Lancashire dressing-room where, at any moment, Steve O’Shaughnessy might wander past, wearing only his jockstrap, my wife extended her left arm in front of my face, rotating her wrist elegantly to permit me to focus upon the dial of her watch.
“I can’t drink that,” I observed, which I thought was a quite reasonable thing to say.
Alison smiled and, with an equally eloquent gesture, swung her hand so that she hit me on the nose with the back of her forearm (an part of the body that ought to have a specific name of its own).
“Ow!” I said, more for the look of it than anything else. “So that’s it, the honeymoon’s definitely over then. What happened to Love, Honour and Obey?”
“Check the contract, darling,” said my wife, at last lowering her binoculars. “Love and Honour, fine, Obey you agreed we left out, but I remember nothing that bars me from bopping you on the nose when you’re being a bit of a pratt.”
“You’ve changed,” I said, with mock bitterness. “I blame you going into the private sector, it’s made you hard. It’s that boss of yours.”
“Oh yes?” Alison said, raising an eyebrow at me for good measure. “Who didn’t fancy living in Oldham? Especially on the money I got for working for the Council.”
“Ah, the Great God Mammon,” I proclaimed. On the pitch, Clive Lloyd punched a powerful drive through mid off, the ball taking approximately three seconds to hit the ropes below us, in front of H Stand. An appreciative ripple of applause ran around Old Trafford, to which we contributed heartily, several times over if we’re being technical.
Whilst Alison was distracted, I surreptitiously removed the binoculars from her lap, resisting the temptation to stroke her thigh in passing. “What shall it profit a woman,” I orated, “if she shall lose that air of loving sweetness towards her lawful husband and start battering him at every opportunity? And I’m still thirsty.”
“Alright, what’s the time?” she asked, referring to a dog-eared notebook open in the top of her bag. Grateful for the excuse, I seized her wrist and twisted it round – gently – until I could focus on the tiny dial.
“Of course, precisely. You don’t get approximately twenty four minutes past three.”
“You’ll have to wait.”
“Are you sure?” I said, hopefully, knowing that Alison is twice as likely to be right about such things as Roland, but not half so irritating.
She gave me a look that would have been more impressive if she’d first had to raise those old triangular mirror shades of hers. “Until 3.26, you’re at the bar behind the Wilson Stand, getting four lagers, which you take back to the ringside seats at the Warwick Road End, arriving at 3.28. When you’ve sat down, you can go and get another two lagers, provided you don’t hang around until after 3.50, when you’re queuing for four lagers again, which we drank when we were up the back of the Wilson Stand itself.”
I knew she was right, in fact, I banked on it. But just to tease her, I leaned across and looked at the book. Its pages were ruled off neatly with rows and columns: a minute by minute timescale ran down the left hand side of each spread whilst both pages were covered with columns, blocked off by different coloured bars. Purple bars meant the bar under the Wilson Stand: one extended all the way down to 3.26pm.
“Satisfied?” Alison asked.
I shrugged. “You want a can as well?”
“Good boy. Now give me those binoculars back.”
Damn, she’d noticed. “Not until I get a snog.”
“During a Roses Match? What kind of heathen are you? That’s dangerously like enjoying yourself.”
“It’s alright. We’re allowed to enjoy ourselves during Roses Matches, it’s the Tykes who can’t.”
I got my snog, with Alison briefly but deliciously sticking her tongue halfway down the back of my throat, which almost had me suggesting we went home now. After all, we could always come back any time we wanted. But anticipation lends an altogether more delightful glow to going to bed, which is not something I’d ever imagined about married life, so – after checking that we’d just successfully used up the missing time – I levered myself out of my seat and headed for the aisle. She was already directing her glasses towards the dressing room.

Now, if I know my readership correctly, which I flatter myself I do, you’re already getting comfortable about my habit of starting in the middle of things and clattering on as if we all know what we’re talking about. My regular readers do, of course, and put up with my little stylistic flourishes – we call it in media res, incidentally – but each time I hope for more interested faces, for whom a few words of explanation must be inserted, before they lose the thread.
It doesn’t matter so much if I lose the plot, but the paying public need to be acknowledged once in a while.
What you are currently reading about is a surprisingly typical evening in the life of Jack and Alison Warrington, a married couple just approaching their mid-twenties, with eighteen months of connubial bliss, and the odd row, behind them. Yes, despite any impression to the contrary that you may have formed, this is all taking place in the middle of the evening. I grant you that we not only appear to be but are in fact enjoying a hot afternoon at the cricket, the Roses Match to be precise, on the afternoon of Tuesday 26 August 1980 (Lancashire are going to win, trust me). But this is actually happening on a Monday night in January 1985.
At the risk of undermining any dramatic tension you may already be feeling, Alison and I are Time-Travellers. Neither of us are a slightly bewildered young man in Edwardian cricket gear (nor for that matter a deep-voiced loping man with long curly hair and an attachment to overlong scarves that borders on the obsessive), but we are Time-Travellers nevertheless.
It’s just that we don’t go in for high drama with the Universe at stake – not if we don’t have to, that is – we just enjoy our cricket and have found a really convenient way of indulging ourselves in it.
Mind you, in the right light, Geoffrey Boycott can look uncannily like a Dalek.
So, with this vital piece of information made readily available, let us return to this simultaneously blazing September afternoon and freezing January night. If you happen to be fair-skinned, bring suntan lotion.

Whatever was going on in the Lancashire dressing room must have been pretty fascinating, because Alison hadn’t even noticed how long I was gone. I dropped back into my place at her side, handing over a lager that she accepted sweetly, placing it on the seat between us. I carefully opened my cold and lovely can, all the time keeping an eye on her face. She reached for the notebook, retrieved her little gold pen – cousin Elsie’s wedding gift – and looked at her wristwatch.
Her brow furrowed.
“You’ve been fifteen minutes!”
“This I know.” I took a long swig.
“What were you playing at? You could have got another one, probably two lots of drinks into that gap, and you’ve pretty nearly used it all up. What were you doing all that time?”
“Open your drink.”
“Tell me why you were so long.”
“Open your drink. You’ll need it when I tell you.” Alison hesitated for a moment, then hooked a finger under the ring-pull. The lager foamed briefly on the rim of the can. I gestured with my can, and she took a less-extensive mouthful herself.
“I met… someone,” I said. “And we had a bit of a chat.”
Her face fell, which was instructive. I didn’t know they could really do that. I wondered if the kiss of life could be of assistance, but on reflection it maybe wasn’t the right time.
“Oh no! You didn’t! Oh Jack, and I thought we were being so careful.” Alison took a slightly bigger drink from her can, which I thought was a sensible response. She was so going to need it when I’d finished.
“How on Earth could that happen? I was sure I’d been so careful, right from the beginning. I recorded all your booze trips.” She sighed. I savoured the way her chest moved when she did that, almost as much as the momentary advantage I held in knowing something that my very-well organised bride didn’t. Alison shook her head and frowned at me. “Have you come here on your own and not let me know? That’s just asking for trouble. If you don’t know just where you are, you could keeping walking into yourself all round the ground.”
I lifted my hands in the universal gesture of innocence, then brought the one with the lager back into reach. “Believe me, Alison, the only time in my life I have ever been here on my own was the Saturday of the very first time, before you came in at lunch.”
“Then it must be something that’s yet to happen as far as we’re concerned. Maybe we can prevent it from happening. You did ask him when he’d come from, didn’t you?”
I deliberately took another cold gulp, and let it ease past my Adam’s Apple. “Who said it was me?” I asked, looking away from her, over the pitch, where Bernard Reidy had just biffed another one for four. The score was coming along nicely, but then we knew that, didn’t we?
Alison frowned, not getting it. “It wasn’t you…? It couldn’t be Roland? No, he’d not be seen dead at a cricket match, and besides, California’s too far away, and he gave us the Time Machine. Who else?” She stopped abruptly. I could almost hear the penny bouncing, and then rolling away under the mental equivalent of the cupboards. “You don’t mean me?!”
I indicated with an indolent tip of my can – now sufficiently emptied that there was no risk of spilling any of it – that this was indeed so. Alison looked at me in flat-out disbelief.
“That’s not possible,” she said. “You must be mistaken. I just wouldn’t be so stupid. I couldn’t be.” Sensibly I said nothing, whilst trying to project the kind of look that suggested I was deeply hurt That she could even think I might be capable of not recognising my dear wife of eighteen months standing (and large chunks of it lying down).
She pursed her mouth in a show of denial that was decidedly adolescent. “Well, if it was me, I must have told you when I came from and how this could possibly have happened. We can still put it right, I can make sure I don’t come here that time. We can stop this from ever happening.”
It would have been interesting to see how she could actually change something that had already happened to me, though the explanation would probably have been incomprehensible, at least up to the inevitable you-just-don’t-understand-circular-causation. But I had a bubble to burst.
“Have another drink,” I suggested. “And don’t be so hard on yourself. You haven’t made any mistakes, not now or in the future. You’re not the problem. Or, rather, you are the problem but you’re not it, if you get me?”
“Which I don’t. Will you just tell me what you’re talking about?”
“Ok, at the risk of bringing up unpleasant memories. You remember how we met here, the first time we came, and I fixed up a date with you and then broke it?”
“For which I have almost forgiven you, but don’t push it, Jack.”
“Then, out of the blue, I just happened to bump into you at Ringway, great big coincidence, all excuses and talked you into giving me another chance, which led in due course to our marrying?”
“Which at the moment I’m holding against you.”
“Don’t be like that,” I said, reproachfully. “Just cast your mind back to that date you allowed yourself to be talked into. What did you discover?”
“Two of you. And it wasn’t even you that had tried to pull me again, it was your parallel world double from Earth-2…. Oh.”
Don’t need to hit my girl over the head too often before she catches on. “So the woman you met was actually Alison2?” she said, enlightenment dawning like Ian Botham battering his way to another century. “Oh dear.”
“Yes, oh dear.”
“And that means that, just like you got confused with Jack2, there’s too many mes in the same place at the same time.”
“Hey, I was going to say that! We’ve jumped back here so many times, the barriers between us and the nearest parallel worlds are starting to soften, and it’s getting a bit dodgy trying to keep the dimensions separated.”
Alison closed her eyes. When she re-opened them, there was a new expression in them. “Unfortunately, darling, much as I’d like to, I can’t fault your reasoning there.”
“If you were Roland, you’d find a way. I do so miss him.”
“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.”
“But I am not being sarcastic, sweetheart. I am merely being deeply and bitterly ironic. Irony, that’s what it is.”
“It’s sarcasm and you’re talking bollocks. Anyway, Roland probably wouldn’t be any use if he was here. Last time he visited, he’d definitely moved on from Time Travel and Parallel Worlds. Officially, at least.”
“You mean you understood what he was talking about?”
“Apart from it being about computers, of course I didn’t understand a thing. He’s forgotten all about the stuff he was doing back here, now he can play with real machines and not just jumped-up Meccano. Which leaves us stuck where we are. And it’s Tea.”
We broke off to stand and applaud the players off the field, with Lancashire’s innings in remarkably good stead, of course. I glanced over to our right, to the gentle sprinkle of folk on the Warwick Road End, two of whom – clearly visible with their shirts off – were our younger, browner selves. The only pair of us in the ground today who didn’t know what the result would be.
“We’d better jump back home,” Alison said, thoughtfully, but also with a great deal of sadness in her voice.
“What, already?” I asked. “Why can’t we stay for the end, like we always do?”
There was an odd softness about her eyes as she turned and looked round the ground, casting a rare glance towards her bikini-topped junior away over there. “I just don’t think we should take any more risks,” she said, closing her notebook. “If it’s already broken down so much that Alison2, and pretty obviously Jack2, are here, then we’ve already stayed too long, and I don’t want to do any more damage. We should go before we find the way out is through somebody else’s Earth.”
“But.” That was as far as I got. I knew she was right, or anyway, I knew she was going to be right after I’d stopped huffing and puffing and trying to get out of it, so why should I waste time making a fuss? Don’t get me wrong: we don’t argue that often, and when we do I immediately apologise, even when I’m in the wrong.
“God, I’m gonna miss this,” I said, helping her gather our things up.
“Me too,” my wife said, with a catch in her voice. “It just seems impossible that we’re not going to be able to come here again.”
“Not ever?”
“….not ever.”
“Shit,” I said, putting an arm round her as she fumbled out the remote, ready for the hug I knew we’d both need in a moment, “but let’s remember, really it was impossible that we got here more than once anyway.” She lifted the remote. “Oh,” I added, “I don’t know if it makes any difference, but it wasn’t actually…”
There was a lurch forward, and things looked very very different as our bedsit formed around us.
“…Alison2” I finished, just before Alison1 burst out crying and disappeared into my chest for the next long while.

And now, just like the multiple mes had turned Headingley 1981 into a one-stop place for all Jack Warringtons around, the presence of a couple of dozen Alison and Jacks had done the same for Old Trafford 1980. So we had had to fly away home, into cold and dark January 1985, and dark and cramped Heaton Moor, where Alison was crying in my arms at suddenly losing our secret little bolthole, and I wasn’t so sure I could go without a bit of comforting myself.
“What did you mean,” she asked me, between sniffles, “ it wasn’t Alison 2?”
“Let’s sit down,” I said, intending to make myself comfortable before realising that there had been a profound change of not only scene but also temperature. “Bloody hell, it’s cold,” I said.
“What do you expect? It’s not August any longer. I’m going to get a warmer top on,” said Alison, scampering for the bedroom. I called after her to bring me a jumper or something: t-shirts are not the ideal clothing for January.
She came back wrapped in her old and voluminous red dressing gown, and threw me mine. Whilst I pulled it on, Alison arranged herself on the sofa, drawing her legs up beneath her so that they too were covered. I was all set to manoeuvre myself alongside her when she instructed me to make her a cup of tea, so things were put off whilst I filled the kettle and boiled up a couple of cups, mine being coffee of course.
“Ok,” said Alison, once I was seated again and she was warming her hands around her cup. “Now you’d better tell me the whole thing, from the beginning. Maybe we’ve reacted prematurely. Maybe you’ve got it wrong.”
“Oh, gee, thanks! Are you Roland in disguise, all of a sudden? What’s up, you don’t trust me?”
“Of course not, darling,” she soothed me. “I’m just clutching at straws, that’s all. Go on, tell me all that happened when you sneaked off to meet this other woman behind my back.”
I was all set to get outraged, but she’d buried her face in her cup and was looking just that little bit too innocent, so I made a mental note to bring that up again later, if she wanted to start anything when we went to bed.
“It was nothing at first,” I said. “There was this guy being served at the bar, and two others waiting, so I was just enjoying the sun for a bit, when this woman behind me said ‘What are you doing here?’ Naturally I recognised the voice, but I couldn’t for the life of me think why you’d followed me down to the bar, nor why you were asking me a stupid question like that, because apart from the fact I was stood in front of the bar, you knew damned well why I was down there.”
“And you didn’t realise something was wrong, then and there?”
I smiled sweetly and, with my free hand, reached out to cup her cheek. Alison leaned into my hand a little, and I was just starting to draw her mouth a bit nearer mine when she said, “Details, Jack! Go on.”
“Ok. Well, I turned round and said I was getting the beer, just like I said I was, and she frowned at me and said, ‘But why are you here right now, you’re not supposed to be here now.’”
“And that’s when you realised it wasn’t me, because she was wearing…?”
“Exactly the same t-shirt and skirt you’ve still got on now. I assume you’ve still got that on? You look bloody good in that skirt.”
“Excuse me, concentration? So you’re staring at her legs like you do mine?”
“Of course I am, love. But then it’s my turn at the bar and she has to wait whilst I got our cans. And I step aside, and she gives me this look. Like you do.”
“This look? What look? Are you saying I give you looks?”
“A lot of the time. But sometimes they’re nice looks. This was was your Where Do You Think You’re Going? look. But I was just making room whilst she bought her booze, because I knew something had gone wrong and I figured I’d better find out what, because you’d only ask me when I got back to you.”
“Good boy. I can’t think why Roland thought you were so dumb. So, go on.”
“Well, she’s got her cans and we’ve stepped off to where they can’t overhear us at the bar, and the first thing she does is make the same assumption you did, that somehow your notes had gone wrong. Only she thinks that I’m the one from further in the future than her, and I know it has to be her who comes from further upline than me, because otherwise you’d have told me about meeting me if it had happened first. You’re good about things like that.”
“So I take it this was where you traded dates of when you’d come from, and…”
“Exactly! And she came from 28 January 1985 as well, and that’s when she started to look a bit bilious.”
“I know how she felt. I’m still feeling a bit sick myself. But, come on, why did you tell me she wasn’t your other Alison?”
“Because she wasn’t. I mean, I assumed straight away that it must be Alison2, but when I said that she started shaking her head and saying she was Alison1, and I should stop talking crap, because Jack had sorted it all out that time when he’d temporarily got sent to Earth2. At which point I stopped her and asked a few quick questions, and it turns out that she lived through the same experience as you.”
“As in, I get dumped, then a year later you come talking me into seeing you again, except it’s Jack2, not you, and that’s how I found out about Roland and the Time Machine?”
“You said you wouldn’t say dumped any more.”
“Ok, darling. Jilted do you?”
“You are never going to let me forget that, are you?” Alison shook her head very deliberately and with a deep grin which meant that if she’d only have finished her tea, we’d have been rolling onto the cushions without further notice. I ground a tooth or two, then nodded.
“Yes, that was more or less it. So if she’d had your experience, that makes her Alison3, or something like that, and so there’s a Jack3 out there somewhere.”
“And a Jack4, if you think logically.”
“I don’t do logic. I leave that up to you, dear.”
Alison drained what was left of her tea, giving me the chance to tale a welcome pull at my coffee. After an explanation like that, a young lad’s thoughts turn to Rich Tea Finger Biscuits to dunk, but I probably wasn’t going to be allowed into the kitchen cupboards tonight.
“Well well,” my wife mused. “I did hope that you might have gotten something arse about face, but it seems like you were spot on.” She looked glum, and for a moment there it looked like the tears would return, but instead she took a deep breath and wriggled herself into my arms, not that I was making it difficult for her.
“No more Old Trafford,” she said mournfully, from somewhere about my clavicle.
I stroked her hair, since all other more interesting places were being pressed up against me, albeit through the less than conducive medium of an oversized dressing gown. “It’s not that bad, surely?” I said. “We’ll have to give up this game, but there are others we can still go to. David Hughes? Cometh the hour, cometh the man?”
“We’ve already been there three times,” Alison mumbled “How many more times can we go there and not have it happen again. And this time is it going to be Jack4 and Alison3, or is it going to be another pair of us? I mean, Roland thought you got involved with Earth2 because it was the most contiguous parallel…”
“Why you just can’t say closest, I don’t know.”
“…but now we’re interacting with a totally different Earth.”
“Can’t be that different if the same thing happened there as here.”
Alison shook her head without removing it from my chest. “Urgh,” she said, drawing it out like someone practising to be sick. “This is going to make everything different. We’ll have to think about other ways to get the best out of the Time Machine. Urgh. Not now though, I can’t think straight.” She pushed herself up straight and looked me in the eye. “There’s nothing else for it,” she said.
I looked at her, considering a quick dash in for a snog, but she was holding me at arms length. “You’re just going to have to take me to bed and shag my brains out,” she said.
“Ok,” I replied, trying to sound cool. “As long as you don’t start wimping out and wanting to give up after three hours.”
“Promises,” Alison said, sliding her legs off the sofa and standing up.
This is one of the big reasons I really prefer to do my Time Travelling with her.

Tempus Infinitive – The Tempus Trilogy Book 2

Belatedly, I know, but…

Available in paperback from £5.99

Available from the Kindle Store £1.90

and it starts like this…

“Hey, Roland,” I said, breezily, “can I borrow the keys to the Time Machine?”
My big brother lifted his eye from the microscope and regarded me, not fondly I thought. “It doesn’t have keys,” he said, pedantically.
“So, ok, figure of speech, man,” I said, trying to maintain my pose as the insouciant teenager trying to cop off with Dad’s T-Bird. It’s not that unreasonable a line; I may be twenty, but I play younger.
“Well, well,” said Roland. “And to what do we owe this change of heart? Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you not the Jack Warrington who stood in that very spot last September, telling me he wanted nothing more to do with me or any of my works again? You’ve shown no urge for time-jumping for at least five months – don’t think I don’t know about your little jaunt last February – so what’s behind this sudden rush of enthusiasm?”
I shrugged, trying to keep it all casual.
“Oh, nothing really. It’s just that it’s such a nice day, the kind where you don’t feel like hanging round the house, I just thought it might be nice to go for a quick spin.” Roland said something I thought it better to pretend I hadn’t heard.
“And why just now?” he asked. “Mum will have tea on the table any minute now. You’ve only just got in yourself.”
“That’s not a problem,” I said, offended. “You know as well as I do, I can do a short hop and be back inside a minute, no matter how long I’m in the past.”
“Funnily enough, of all the measures possible for my intelligence, I’d never previously thought of using you as a yardstick,” Roland said. He’s like this a lot, but we do get on really well most of the time – ok, most of the time that he wants me to do something and I do it, which, as he’s pointed out, hasn’t really been the case since September last year. That state of affairs is a direct result of the invention of Roland’s semi-legendary Time Machine and the fiascos attendant upon its testing run. Roland was right: I did swear not to let myself get caught up any of his coils again, but this was different, and I was always prepared to let bygones be bygones when they can get me something I want.
“Why is it so important for you to use the Time Machine this very minute?” persisted the mad scientist.
What the hell, he was going to need to know anyway for the co-ordinates. “You may or may not have heard the news from Headingley, Roland, but England won!”
“Headingley?” he said, both looking and sounding blank.
“Cricket,” I prompted. “The Test Match. It’s been in all the papers, Roland, and we won!”
“Cricket,” he repeated, savouring the word like Jilly Goolden with a mouthful of cough syrup. “England have won a game of cricket, and immediately you have to rush off and see it. This,” he added, “I take is a rare occurrence.”
“Do you mind!” I protested, even if he wasn’t totally wrong. “This was more than just a win, you know. Bob Willis took 8 for 43 and we got the Aussies out for 111, they only had to make 130 in virtually a full day, and it’s only the second time ever a Test team’s won after following on.” I paused for breath: it was pearls before swine, and we both knew it. “I was in the off-licence at half two, getting a coke, and I heard it on the radio. It’s unbelievable.”
“I’m sure it is,” said Roland. I may be wrong, but I got the impression he meant something different.
He stood up, abandoning the microscope, and whatever he had on the slide there. I have no idea where his ceaseless testing of the boundaries of back street garage technology is taking him these days, but he’s been making pretty free with my old Gardner Fox comics recently, especially my complete collection of The Atom.
“So you want to see this no doubt epoch making occurrence,” he said, his voice pregnant with sarcasm like a woman on fertility drugs.
“If you don’t mind,” I offered, politely. “But, as the technology is available, and you did promise me all the bugs were ironed out, and I can be assured I will find things as they actually did happen and not some mad adolescent’s idea of a bad joke, yes please.” I contemplated doing Bambi eyes but they don’t work on Mam, or young Mary – especially on Mary – so I didn’t think Roland would be affected. Not that he can see much with hair like that.
Like I’ve always said, give my science pioneer brother half a chance to lecture, pontificate or simply show off and you’ve got him in the palm of your hand, though you’d better be prepared with a very strong disinfectant for immediately afterwards. A few more grumbles, mainly for the sake of his image, were to be expected, but already Roland was ferreting along the shelves of his laboratory (aka the Warrington family garage) for the boxes in which the Time Machine had been laid to rest.
Life around the Warrington household is often one long round of surprises, thanks to Roland’s insatiable curiosity about how things work, why they don’t work better and what he can do to bridge the process, usually by cannibalising domestic appliances and Home Electronics Kits. By means that are not so much mysterious as a State Secret, my brother funds his scientific adventuring with a day job as an Electrical Draughtsman, and a closely guarded connection to the National Grid that still has NORWEB baffled. I have long since given over pointing out that the smallest commercial exploitation of some of his inventions – the smokeless oven, the non-stick butter-knife, the collapsible pen, to name but three – would enable him to both finance and power his schemes purely legitimately, as well as help to stave off Mam’s inevitable nervous breakdown. But then, I have always been the lone voice of sanity in the Warrington household: both parents would die rather than be exposed as the progenitors of the man who invented the soybean blancmange.
One regrettable side-effect, I’m sorry, I mean one of the many, indeed uncountable side-effects of Roland’s fertile mind is a concentration span that would make a fruitfly appear steadfast. Inventions come and go, one minute the most important development since sliced bread, the next minute nothing more than a flat surface on which to slice bread. Even the Time Machine, the ultimate piece of throw-it-together-in-a-converted-garage science, stopped being flavour of the month.
Once an invention reaches the end of its atomic half-life, Roland stashes it away on one of the hyperdimensional shelves on the back wall of the garage. I call them hyperdimensional because that makes the shelving’s capacity to absorb outmoded equipment sound like something a rational mind is capable of comprehending (given a sufficiently long run-up). The far end of the shelf is up in the north-eastern corner of the garage, the area that no visitor to Roland’s workshop dares approach to closely since I have my doubts as to which Universe he’s got out there.
So the Time Machine came down off the shelf, Roland plugged it in, dusted it down, warmed up the transistors, checked the central chronometer against his wrist-watch, ran a circuit test, tuned in Radio Luxembourg (joke, Roland, joke) and generally carried out all those little exercises and disciplines so important to ensure that the unwary time jumper bound for earlier this morning doesn’t find himself halfway up 1967 with the backside hanging out of his jeans.
Whilst he was at that, my mind engaged in some non-mechanistic time-travelling of its own, rolling back eleven months to the root of my long-held antipathy towards Roland’s Infernal Device.
For those who insist upon the full details, there is an earlier volume of my memoirs which records the adventure in embarrassing detail (under the title of Tempus Fugitive. Available at good bookshops, supermarkets with slow return policies or, in the last resort, send money here). There you will learn all you wish to know about the science and theory of time travel (or all I understood of it, anyway), together with the reason why I shudder on meeting anyone who bears the baleful name of Gerald. Those with greater patience may rest assured that anything relevant to what is to follow will be mentioned at the appropriate time. And, in case you are one of those Philistines to whom great moments in English Cricket history means nothing, the year, month and date is 21st July, 1981. And the sun is shining exceedingly brightly, both physically and metaphorically. Ok?
Whilst he bothered himself with setting up the Time Machine, I peeked over his shoulder to see what it looked like now. It no longer looked so much like a hi-fi system without speakers, the bank of faders having been replaced with an array of watch dials, their contrasting faces the result of some uneven scrap collection. I knew from my illicit trip in February that these had to be set precisely in order to identify the exact temporal co-ordinates, whilst the impressive LCD’s dealt with spatial trajectories, and the digital clock had nothing to do with time, not that I had any idea what it was for. But no substantial redesign since February: Roland was obviously working on something else now, and I congratulated myself on not knowing a thing about it.
Roland’s preparations were brief but, presumably, thorough. It seemed he’d forgotten nothing of how to programme the Time Machine to deliver a given subject to a particular location in the Space-Time Continuum. By a lucky chance, he’d never gotten around to dismantling the field projector, which still hung from the rafters of the garage, like the detached sunray lamp it had started out as being: a couple of minutes wiring up the connections and the old Time Machine was pronounced ready for use.
“6 o’clock,” said Roland. “You want to be sent back to 11.30am, for an intended jump of approximately three hours, short hop, with a minimum delay here at Time Zero. You’re absolutely certain you don’t want to wait on this, do you? There’ll be much more time after tea, you could make an evening of it, take a picnic.”
“No, thank you, Roland, I shall travel light. You have still got the handset, haven’t you?”
Roland raised his eyebrows, not that you can see them anyway. He hasn’t cut his hair in nearly a year and sometimes you can’t even see his eyes. Hell of an improvement.
“What a prodigious feat of memory, Jack. You must really have been concentrating to recall that.” He handed me the remote. I eyed it carefully. It looks like a video recorder remote control, only infinitely more complex, but it also doubles as the beacon to which the Time Machine responds when returning you to the present day – or Time Zero, as Roland insists on terming it. Lose this, and you might as well prepare yourself for a very slow journey back.
“Before I go anywhere, I want you to tell me you haven’t totally redesigned the handset,” I said.
“I’ve totally redesigned it,” said Roland.
“Oh Christ, can you never leave well alone?”
“Progress cannot be geared to the comprehension of the intellectually challenged.”
“Yer wot?”
“Shut up, Jack. The red button is still the one to press when you’re ready to return. As for the rest, just leave it alone. You never understood how to work the remote before I upgraded the system anyway.”
“I got there and back in February. On my own.”
“More by luck than good judgement.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I’ve met you before.”
“Minor detail.”
“It’s all set. Headingley, Leeds, 11.30am. I still think it would be more sensible to postpone your jump till after tea.”
“What difference does it make to you?”
“None, I suppose. Just make sure you’re not late back. I have no intention of making any excuses for you if you’re not sat down at the table by the time…”
He was interrupted by an ear-shattering sound. Not the knock at the garage door but the childish tones of Mary outside, shouting, “Mummy says to come in, now! She’s just putting tea out.”
“There you go,” said Roland, reaching out to pull the plug. “Beaten to the punch. You’ll have to save it until this evening, after all.”
“Sod off,” I said, impatiently. “We’re all set to go and I’ll only be gone a minute your time, so let’s get on with it.”
“Whatever for?” asked Roland, genuinely puzzled. “Why are you so impatient?”
“I’ve been looking forward to this since half past two,” I said. “And if you’d had the same kind of day I’d had, you’d want a spot of enjoyment as soon as possible.”
“Did you hear me?” demanded Mary from outside. “I said Mummy’s putting tea out.”
“Come on,” I urged. “Get me sent.”
Roland paused for a moment, then shrugged. Sometimes I’ve wondered if it would all have been different had he not decided to give way. I mean, would waiting until after tea have altered what happened to me at Headingley? Roland is adamant that it wouldn’t, that the theory and practice of time travel, of which I have such a limited and indeed faulty understanding – his description, not mine – dictates that everything would have fallen out the same, but I still ask myself the question. Everyone would.
Roland cut the circuits that maintain an electronic silence about what happens inside the garage and called out, “Tell Mum we’ll be in in a minute, pet. We’re just tidying up.”
“Pet,” I said, disgusted.
“Alright, Roland,” said Mary. We heard her skip off.
“On your head be it,” said Roland, switching the Time Machine on.
As things turned out, this was a fair assessment of the situation.

I like Headingley. There are reasons not to, not least the preponderance of Yorkshiremen about the place, but I do. True, half the ground you can’t get at unless you’re a Member of their County or, preferably, your own, and the other half barely offers a decent view, thanks to this enormous concrete running track round the outside of the playing area. Either you sit on a plastic bottomed school chair hunched up against the boards or, if you retreat to the stands you’ve got all the restless folk of the County perpetually perambulating in front of you.
And if you go further back, trying to gain some height, you come up against the fact that the stands have a camber only slightly greater than Blackpool beach, so that by the time you’re at the top of the Western Terrace not only are you square of the wicket but you’re thirty feet short of the Bradford border. Admittedly there’s the top deck of the Winter Shed, at the Kirkstall Lane end, but even that’s only at wide long on.
But Headingley has atmosphere. It might be full of Tykes but they’re there for the cricket, and when it’s a Roses Match, you don’t half know about it. And anyway, if it gets boring after lunch, there’s always the ice cream seller: “Choc ices, lovely choc ices, yum-ah yum,” with all the relish of Fanny Craddock contemplating a dead cat.
Mind you, there is a way to get a decent view in Headingley when you still haven’t reached the age when your Dad will spring for that all-important Membership. The Football Stand – named for the fact it’s shared with the Rugby ground on the other side – lies within the protected zone (bloody stewards), and you actually get into its upper regions through the back, and sit yourself behind the bowler’s arm for the best views in the ground. But don’t think you can just walk down the side and round the back because they’ve got that blocked off. On the other hand, you can, with perfect legitimacy, go in the Gents down the side of that Stand, and, after you’ve done your business and washed your hands, if you leave through the other door, well, there you are, overlooking the Rugby pitch and all you have to do is to walk up to one of those doors in the back of the Stand… don’t look at me like that, it was Neil Montague’s Dad who showed us how to do it, first time he took us.
And I don’t like time-jumping, though anything that can get you into Headingley without going through Leeds first can’t be all bad. The transition, from the moment you step onto the launch pad, under the generator and are enveloped in the field, to when you arrive at your chosen past point, is instantaneous. One minute it’s strip lighting and Roland’s ugly mug, the next it’s summer sun and “Choc ices, lovely choc ices, yum-ah yum.”
But when that switch gets thrown and I get bounced off, it feels like falling over backwards on the spot and it makes me want to throw up. Roland always used to tell me it was psychosomatic, and it’s evidence of my total lack of any brain power, but then he’s always had a kind word at the right moment.
It had been almost a year since I’d last moved through time in this direction, but as I wasn’t travelling more than six or seven hours, the effect was minimised.

I opened my eyes to find myself in front of the old Pavilion, and gleefully within the Member’s cordon sanitaire. A prolonged ripple of applause greeted me which, for a moment, I found unnerving, since one  of the many functions build into the Time Machine by its inventor is some minor but invaluable circuit that convinces spectators that the new arrival has been there all the time: I know it works, I’ve seen Roland come as no surprise, and that takes an effort.
Needless to say, the applause was not for me but for the English batsmen, clear of the Pavilion stairs and walking across the sunlit turf towards the middle. Botham flexed his shoulders and twirled his bat like a gladiator with a morningstar (see, I do know what the knobbly thing on a chain is called). Willis simply hunched along, making no attempt to pretend his bat was anything more than a piece of wood.
Headingley sparkled with anticipation, only not much. It didn’t take long to work out why: the big electronic Scoreboard opposite spelt it out. England 354-9, Lead 125. We were potentially one ball away from the end of the innings, and any time Bob Willis is batting, that one ball is not far away.
True, Botham had made sure of being on strike for the first ball of the day, but then he’d done a damned good job in keeping himself on strike as long as he had the day before. Willis had been in for twenty minutes last night and barely faced a ball, thanks to the hero of the hour who, along the way, had managed to carve another 31 runs out of the dead-on-its-feet Aussie attack.
But let us be realistic about this. Flying in the face of any Fifth Day attendee – who are drawn in any event from the ranks of the terminally keen, the old, the rich, the unemployed and those schoolkids whose main interest is an impromptu knock-up at lunch, as close to the square as the Stewards will allow – all anyone was here for were Last Rites. At least the body would be interred with dignity. Up till the middle of yesterday afternoon, Australia had owned this game. At 135-7, still 92 runs away from making them bat again, we were on our way to ignominious defeat and two down in the series. Then Botham and Dilley, Botham and Old, even Botham and Willis blasted England into a wholly improbable lead. I got in last night, switched on the TV, saw the Scoreboard reading 326-9 and refused to believe my eyes. 226-9, yes, I couldn’t have been seeing straight, could I?
But, like I said, let us be realistic. Yesterday was for pride only. It was about making the Aussies work for their money, nothing more. Of course, if Botham could, improbably, farm the strike all morning, maybe eke out another 40, maybe 50 runs, then and only then might the impossible become thinkable.
Which was why a surprisingly full Fifth Day crowd was being so noisily appreciative of the last pair. Be generous to those who, even in defeat, have rescued reputations, especially the recently resigned-but-would-have-been-sacked-anyway-sorry-what-do-you-mean-by-dignity? Ian Botham. At least it was a beautiful day.
But I knew what was coming. That is to say, I knew the outcome but not the specifics. I knew England’s innings didn’t last long, because I’d been walking past a TV shop just before twelve o’clock and the Aussies were already batting, but I didn’t know how and when the last wicket had fallen.
In fact, Kim Hughes took the new ball immediately, handing it to the refreshed Terry Alderman. Beefy added another four to his tally, 149 not out, but he couldn’t prevent Willis facing the bowling forever: Alderman had him caught at slip by Border for his sixth wicket of the Innings, though I’ll bet he hasn’t often conceded over 100 runs getting there.
Whilst the teams changed over, I went in search of a Scorecard seller and settled down to copying up the bowling figures. I knew Roland would frown upon such interference with history and I suppose I shouldn’t countenance it myself, not after last year’s shenanigans. But, just for once, I was determined to have a souvenir, and whilst it’s true that the slightest deviation from history can have incalculable consequences for the future, some old bugger selling one extra Scorecard would have to work flat out to make a difference in the six and a half hours between here and Time Zero.
As Scorecards go, it was an improvement over the Headingley County Championship version which, though printed with nice, non-smudge type on good smooth card, does not change or update over any of the three days. The Cornhill Test Match Scorecard was smudgy and had bitty type, but it had everything up to last night on it. I decorated it with a day 5, underlining for good measure the date: as I said, July 21st 1981.
Umpires Meyer and Evans strolled out, carrying the bails. Old Professor Greyhair Brearley led his men down the far steps on the Pavilion, to warm applause from an already warm crowd. Graham Wood and Johnny Dyson, coming down the other set of steps, got a more respectful greeting.
Brearley invited Botham to open the bowling from the Kirkstall Lane end. A fortnight ago, this man had resigned the England captaincy one jump ahead of the sack after an almost unblemished record of defeat, with one 50 and nary a five wicket haul to his name as captain and you wouldn’t have had him bowl a hoop down a hill. But the skipper was clearly betting on the Force being with Beefy.
Two balls into the innings, that didn’t look a good bet, the left-handed Wood dispatching both to the boundary. Dilley, blond hair waving, pounded up the hill from the Football Stand end, arched his back, pointed his leg and hurled the ball down with no greater success. 13-0: when defending small totals over long hours, the best theory is not to give your opponents ten percent of their target off the first two overs.

As I said, I knew the outcome, but I had taken extreme care not to know anything else: well, Willis’s figures aside. All I knew was that we won, but until the score reached 111, I didn’t know how. There would be no looking at the scoreboard, anticipating that the next wicket must be coming up. Of course, it would have been ideal to know as little as the few thousand real-time customers, but to have achieved that state of happy ignorance would have required scientific and philosophical contortions so great that even I could have come up with several, unassisted.
The Aussies had made a racing start, but the Botham Effect wasn’t totally exhausted, Wood edging to the beatific Bob Taylor to give us the breakthrough with no further runs to the score. In came Trevor I-Know-Very-Well-Who-My-Brothers-Are-Thank-You Chappell. Dilley bowled another over from below me but having conceded eleven runs all told, was taken out of the attack in favour of the hero to come, Bob Willis.
It wasn’t happening. Willis toiled up the hill, runs steadily accumulated, nothing fancy but nothing fancy needed, they had virtually all day to get them if they wanted to. How Willis got eight wickets in these circumstances seemed unlikely: maybe he changed ends? The score passed 30, 40, 50, Willis came off and the Venerable Brearley even tried Peter Willey’s dobbly little spinners for a few overs, but that was apparently only to get Willis round to the Kirkstall Lane End – score one for my percipience?
Trust me: if Willis was going to start taking wickets for fun, which he was going to have to do pretty pronto, unless that illiterate, illegitimate, interfering, Godless bastard Gerald had escaped from the prison of a collapsed timeline and was interfering with history again, he was cutting it fine. And what was the point in getting myself behind the bowler’s arm if all the action was going to start coming from the other end?
Any fears I might have had on the Gerald score started to disperse when Willis got one to rear up at Chappell’s face, off short of a length. Chappell got his glove in front, the ball looped in the air and Taylor came trotting forward like a friendly beagle scenting a bone to take the simplest of catches. 56-2: they’d gotten halfway to their eventual total just on those two wickets.
This was going to be some collapse, if it was ever going to start, but it started in Willis’s next over.
In the space of four balls, he snaffled Kim Hughes and Graham Yallop, both to cracking catches, Botham going low to his left at slip for Hughes, Fatty Gatting taking the ball at ankle height at short square leg to the left-hander Yallop. Suddenly it was lunch, and England were in the game again.
My secret knowledge was not very welcome at that point. We’d taken three wickets in the space of as many overs, creating a momentum, a roll, steaming through, crushing the enemy inexorably under your wheels, they’re on the run, haven’t a minute to think, and, oh yes, we’ll just stop for forty minutes now. See you later. If you’re taking wickets with that kind of abandon, you don’t want to be interrupted. But I knew it continued, which drained the situation of a little of its tension. None of your think-about-that-one-over-your-egg-sandwiches-and-shiver for me.
Speaking of egg sandwiches; I thought I’d better get myself something to eat whilst I was here. Tea would be waiting for me when I got home, and woe betide if I spoilt my appetite, but on my personal timescale, I was an hour overdue any grub, and ninety minutes away from a ham salad with thin brown bread slices, this being Tuesday. The only serious question was between burger bar inside the ground or chippy outside the Kirkstall Lane gates, and provided they let me deal with the issue of ketchup, fish and chips sounded good.
I hadn’t actually been joking with Roland about the kind of day I’d had. Last summer, I’d had my arm twisted into accepting a summer job in Roland’s office, basically being a gopher. Mam would have settled for me doing the same again, but I had a better idea. If you must do a summer job, you should try to make it pertinent to your future career, even if only to find out that some occupations are so deadly dull, you’d run away screaming.
Like architectural draughtsmanship. I’m sure there are people doing a Graphic Arts course with a personal bent towards pencil and paper who would kill, or at least cause actual bodily harm, for the chance to draw buildings and elevations all the livelong day, but I personally would rather gouge out my left eye with a 2HB. Yes, I’m still doing nothing better than gophering, but I’ve seen enough to know that if I wound up in that as a profession once I qualified, I would willingly embrace the chance of being Roland’s guinea pig in perpetuity. Without parole.
Actually, I have very little idea what I want to do with my life once I leave College, apart from the obvious things like earning enough to afford a front-loading video-cassette player, buy retrospective box-sets of albums and go to away legs if United qualify for the UEFA Cup.

Back to the Test, licking surplus vinegar and ketchup from my sticky fingers. The ground was significantly fuller as the teams came back out than it had been when I first arrived. There were a lot more suits about: the word had presumably spread that something might just be going to happen, and commercial Leeds had responded. There were also more than a few blokes my age dotted about the expanding crowd, helping to balance out the escalating average age.
As before: Willis from the Kirkstall Lane End, Chris Old bowling from the Football Stand. I wavered about returning to my seat and, given that I couldn’t get behind Willis’s arm without taking up station on the field, did the Loo shuffle to get back to my former seat. Alan Border had joined the somewhat adhesive Dyson: this was the last pair of front-line batsmen in the team, and they didn’t last long. I’d barely made my seat, and Border hadn’t got off the mark when Old had him play on. Then Willis nabbed Dyson, going to an easy snick to Taylor, who was leaping about nearly as much as I would have been doing if I’d been out there.
England were on a roll. Rodney Marsh could have pulled something out of the bag for Australia, but he hooked Willis, the ball sailing out towards Dilley, running backwards, eyes fixed on the ball, taking the catch and looking round to make sure he hadn’t run over the ropes. Lawson, a single, and then another nick to Taylor, his sunhat fairly glowing with pleasure.
In came Dennis Lillee, with 55 wanted, and the odds suddenly having swung round in our favour. What a brilliant bowler to watch, and not a mug with the bat either. He took Willis on, uppercutting the ball deliberately, sending it high over the slips and away for boundaries. The game was wavering back the other way again, they’d reduced the target to only 20 and Willis pitched one up, Lillee mistimed his shot, the ball spooned up towards mid on, Gatting was fielding there, he ran, and dived and came up with the ball, another fantastic catch.
Out came Alderman. Professor Greyhair brought Botham back at the Football Stand End, and Bright foolishly accepted the offered single, first ball, giving Beefy five balls at Alderman, a batsman for whom the word hapless could have been invented. Unbelievably, Botham found the edge of Alderman’s bat twice that over, and both times he was put down at slip, by Old. Any other player (and we shall draw a veil over the memory of Keith ‘the Gnome’ Fletcher) would have been crucified for dropping one, let alone two. But Alderman survived the over, leaving Bright facing Willis again.
And that first ball smashed through the wicket, knocking middle out!
The ground erupted in cheers, and hundreds of people came over the fencing, running towards the England team, themselves racing to get off the pitch to celebrate. Stranded as I were in the Football Stand, I had to be much more genteel, and queue myself out through the back before I could hurdle the barriers and join the throng, but what a win! What a performance from Willis! I was bloody glad I’d come. At least, at that moment.

I stayed for the ceremonies, with my old buddy from 1956, Jim Laker, awarding the least surprising ‘Man of the Match’ to Botham for “a Captain’s performance one match too late…” while Willis the star bowler glowered like he’d love to knock someone’s teeth down their throat, only this time without a ball in his hand.
Eventually, though, my stomach started reminding me, with all due deliberation, that it was time for a serious meal. Reluctantly, I detached myself from the crowd and walked back across the turf, towards the Electronic Scoreboard. I was fumbling for the handset when I received another urgent message, this time from my bladder.
I could go when I got back, but then Mary had been yelling that tea was on the table, and I’d have to go upstairs so, what the heck, I’d use the facilities here before going home.
So I vaulted the boards, jogged up the steps and down again and round the corner into the Gents. From where, natural functions concluded, I stepped back out into the sun, behind the aforementioned Scoreboard, a couple of minutes later.
The party was breaking up and there were people leaving now, streaming through the gate onto Kirkstall Lane, busily telling each other what a day it had been. Ay, lad, and ah were theer too, I thought. Roland did come in handy sometimes.
No-one was looking at me, except that to my left, in front of the Souvenir Shop, two youngish blokes were talking to one another across a gap of three or four yards. One kept turning and looking at me, the nosy sod. I avoided his eye, looking only to check when he’d turned away. Weirdos and Tykes: same thing really.
I withdrew the handset, automatically checking it for changes. Nothing that met the unskilled eye, though no doubt it was wired up totally different under the plastic surface. Roland has never learned to leave well alone but as long as I never needed more than the red button, what did I care? Mentally preparing myself for the lurch forward, I pressed it.
Nothing happened. I opened my eyes upon Headingley’s brick perimeter. I hit the button a second time. Nothing happened again. With a mounting sense of panic that I nobly tried to ignore, I tried it a third time, followed by a fourth, a fifth and others, in natural sequence. Nothing. Nada, zip, bupkiss. I remained rooted to the temporal spot, three hours and the odd few minutes from home.
Oh great, just what I needed. He spends all that time checking the something circuits on the something else Machine and just chucks me the equally obscene remote control without even making sure the incredibly obscene batteries are working. What was I going to say to Roland when I got back? Don’t even try guessing.
I was stuck here.
Well, I wasn’t going to put up with that. I stormed towards the gate, passing one of those two blokes on the way. He was looking at me strangely and I was almost tempted to stop and hang one on him, on the grounds that he wasn’t Roland but he was handy. His mate had buggered off, I didn’t know where, or care, come to that. I left him to gawp, swept out, queued for the phone box outside the gate and dialled home, intent upon giving my big brother a piece of my mind, with added vocabulary.
“Hello?” said Mam.
Immediately I replaced the receiver on the bracket. Something something pratt, what was it, 3.00pm? Roland wouldn’t be home from work for another two hours at least, and it was still another hour from then before he’d be jumping me up to here. Mad as I was, even I knew I couldn’t contact him until he’d sent me here, in case I set off the kind of temporal paradox even the mad scientist couldn’t dismiss.
I was indeed stuck here. You may imagine my despair.

Alright, you tell me what you can do on a cricket-less Tuesday afternoon in Leeds? In fact, what can you do in three hours in Leeds that you can’t do in ten minutes and get just as much out of it? By the time I’d walked up Kirkstall Lane to the main road, all the sandwich shops had long since shut, and I was damned if I was springing for a fried chicken from round here, you’d never know if what you were eating had ever seen the inside of a suit of feathers. So I walked back to the ground and then, remembering where Neil’s dad used to park, walked up Headingley Mount to the road at the top, where there was a park. It offered nothing but grass and trees, so I sat on one, under the other and contemplated things like the mysteries of the Universe, the fragile construction of the human form and how to disrupt it to maximum but not fatal effect. Just wait till I get home, Roland Warrington. A few minutes before 6.00pm, I walked back to the phone box and waited for the distant chimes to toll the knell of off-peak rates. In the manner of the already legendary ET, I phoned home.