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Saturday, 4 December 2010

Lost Memories


In his recent and very evocative post, The Curmudgeon (TC) tells of how a simple toasted cheese snack took his memories back to a pleasant time in the 70s New Zealand. A simpler time, but by the sounds of it, a more boring time.  There wasn't much to do.

Proust (not to be confused with Prowse) wrote in his book À la recherche du temps perdu about involuntary memory, where an input from any of our senses could trigger non-conscious recall from our past, the taste of the toasted cheese being an example.

I had my own flashback last night. 
Sitting at home, tired after an especially long week at school, I was watching/dozing  TV, with my beloved and my Son (back for a visit from his flat in Wellington).  I was feeling exhausted, but it was too early to go to bed (about 7:30 ).  Like TC, I suddenly wanted a hot and savoury taste, but I wasn't hungry, just having finished a very large plateful of my beloved's Beef Rendang. 

Bovril, the very thing.  My beloved, knowing of my occasional fondness for this British beefy/yeasty drink, always kept a jar in the cupboard, and I had a mugful made in minutes.
The first sip took me back.
It was not a pleasant memory.
It was in Hampden Park in Glasgow.  At that time (1971) it was the biggest football (soccer) stadium in Scotland, and it was used for all the football internationals.  Scotland was playing some other foreign team, and as usual, the Scots were loosing.
I should explain that I have never had any real interest in soccer, but a bunch of my friends and colleagues were going to this match and I went along.  They were all football fans, supporting many of the different clubs in the Glasgow area, and were normally bitter enemies; Rangers and Celtic, plus one poor confused individual who supported Partick Thistle.  However, all such rivalries were semi-forgotten in the face of the common foe.  Scotland uber alles, we're the guys, see you Jimmy, awe awa an bile y'r heed, wha's like us.

I had only been to one football game in my life, with my late Grandfather, who took me when I was about 4 or 5 to see Airdrie play Partick Thistle.  I didn't understand or enjoy it very much.  So when I entered Hampden Park, I was unprepared for the experience. It was in the winter it was cold.  There were no seats, we all stood in the terraces, supported by the occasional iron railing.  There was no drinking inside the stadium, something new in Scotland, but a riot the previous year when Celtic played some Spanish team had allowed the Polis to crack down on the booze. 

Of course wee all had had a few warming beverages before, about 4-5 pints of beer, and a few whisky chasers. We were feeling absolutely no pain by the time we got in.  I cannot remember much about the match, but at half time, we went up to the rim of the stadium, where the food cabins were situated, and we managed to get a hot pie and a cup of Bovril.  The Scotch Mutton Pie is a rare delicacy and with the grease congealing on your lips, the hot bovril added a delicacy to the whole gastronomic experience.  We made our way back to our place and as we arrived, I became aware of a noise.  It was not unlike the sound made by a little stream as it fell into a placid brook, a gentle tinkling/splashing sound.  The sound was getting louder and louder, and I became aware of a waterfall now forming and flowing down the terraces. 
There were over 52000 men (plus the very occasional woman) in the stadium.  There were 10 toilets. Everyone had partaken of a fair amount of beer before the match.  Bladder pressure (and the cold) necessitated relief, and seemingly the football etiquette insisted that if you needed to go, you went up to the very tip of the terrace and pissed against the back wall.  Gravity then collected the liquid and it flowed down the terraces in a series of waterfalls.

The smell was appalling, the impression I took away was of complete barbarism.  I have never been to a football match since, and often, when I take my first sip of Bovril, I smell the ammoniacal stench of the waterfall.

I much prefer real football (Rugby Union) now.


  1. I prefer that you watch Rugby Union. It's the game that my father follows.

  2. Bovril.......that takes me back to Ayr ice rink about 1969 or 1970. Saturday mornings skating with my pal always included at least one cup of bovril. {also usually included a wet backside from falling on the ice too}

    Happy days!

  3. Well, what can I say? Mad cow disease could well be a connection with the mad and anti-social behaviour of Scottish football fans if they had been drinking Bovril in the '80's and '90's. It is not surprising that that mad cow, Jerry Hall promoted Bovril as a slimming aid in the '80's.

  4. Interesting post . But who chopped the top of the priest's head and why is he so happy!

  5. Hi Second, No, it's not a priest. If it was a priest, he'd be looking happy if he could see a little boy approaching.


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