Not sure who was scariest - hairy tarantula or Ginger Squires!
- Credit: Roger Mann
My Saturday had started badly, when, at 06.00, on my way to work, I had been stopped by a policeman for going through a red light at Torre Station.
He shouted at me until he was red in the face, and couldn’t seem to comprehend that twenty-one-year-olds are never wrong!
Then, several hours later, I was chatting to my granddad, in our banana ripening room, when he, suddenly, shouted: “Stay absolutely still! There is a tarantula climbing up your back!”
I was wearing just a thin T-shirt, and I could feel its legs moving slowly upwards.
He, quietly, explained that if he knocked the tarantula downwards, its fangs would dig into my flesh.
“You must wait until it climbs over your shoulder, and then brush it off from behind!”
It seemed an age until I locked eyes with the hairy creature, but I managed to dislodge it safely, and watch it scurry back into the warmth of a stem of bananas.
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It was 1963, and, this afternoon, I was playing in a South Devon League match for Ilsham Vale, against Ipplepen.
We had already beaten them 11-0, in the away match, earlier in the season, so felt pretty confident about today’s result.
I was playing at centre-forward, so might even score a few goals too!
In the1960s, the changing room for the pitch at Ilsham Valley was over the stream and tucked away in the undergrowth. It was cold, damp, and had no lights.
As I sat there, in the dark, changing next to Mervyn Collier, I told him that my day had started badly, and that I was worried that bad luck may come in threes!
Could we possibly lose today? Surely not!
Ipplepen had arrived already changed, and, a few spectators had gathered as we all warmed up for the Junior Division One match.
Being captain this year, I tossed up, and we opted to play towards the sea.
Ipplepen were a typical country team, with some good players, some old guys, and some make-weights.
They tried hard, but by half-time we were 2-0 up thanks to some great approach play by Peter Northcott, which gave me two simple tap-in goals from a few yards out.
It had been fairly boring, except for one incident when the big Ipplepen left-back tackled Charlie Piggin, our new winger, well after the ball had gone!
Now, as we lined up for the second half, I noticed that the big full-back had moved to centre-half to mark me!
I whispered to Johnny Yeo, who was next to me “Who is that bloke, John?”
“That’s Ginger Squires, Rog! Haven’t you heard of him?” I will never forget the next 45 minutes!
Every time I got the ball, he hurled himself at me. He kicked my ankles at every corner kick, pulled my shirt, and seemed to tread on me every time I fell near him!
Every time I went up for a header, he elbowed me in the neck, and when I fell, he just glared down at me with a look full of hate!
When we went shoulder to shoulder, it was like barging into a Roman column with a gargoyle on top, glaring down at me! He was built like an all-in-wrestler!
Although we won the match by 5-4, I will always remember it as my first meeting with Ginger Squires.
In thirty years of South Devon League, and Exeter & District football, I never played against anyone who seemed to dislike me so much!
I played against him a further five or six times, and he kicked lumps out of me each time! He never smiled at me, and we never spoke in all that time!
Later on, I heard that he played cricket for Ipplepen, and was a much-loved coach to youngsters there, but I suppose we all mellow with age.
When that Saturday finally ended, I laid my head on the pillow, shut my eyes, and saw three faces.
A red-faced policeman, an eight-eyed tarantula, and a snarling Ginger Squires!
Maybe I deserved what I got, or maybe bad luck DOES come in threes!