The planned new poems in a volume called substitute was held back as I had another year’s teaching contract to complete. I am now officially retired from Nottingham College so can concentrate a tad more on the written word.
To date I have written a baker’s dozen of new poems since last year’s reading and will be reading from the new collection at the Open Book Reading on the 3rd October.
In an ironical twist having selected the title because of The Who song I found out that Pete Townsend actually got married in my hometown and at the council offices I and my sister helped clean back in late seventies. My mother and nan were cleaners there in evening.
There no sustitute for a tie-in bit of PR in this case there were even photos taken. No I was not there but probably at home kicking a football against the wall as a nine year old.
A poem about a true story. I do not know if anybody still alive would remember it. I have a vague memory as a child.
The match was organised by Ernie Butler who was then working as a driver at Smiths Crisps on the Trading Estate Station Road in Didcot and the club was the Marlborough Club. The park is Edmond’s Park as my family lived in Glebe Road and Newlands Avenue.
I played for Didcot Boys (THE team) briefly before being substituted too many times and my Dad moved me to Didcot Eagles….where I played a lot more and lost every game but happy as larry .
Looking on from the sidelines came naturally, a boney slightly effete lad who wanted to be what his Dad wanted him to be. Every Xmas Meccano and Scalextric (or a cheaper version from Bosleys toy shop) When all I wanted was pen and paper or an Airfix Saturn V and some comics. Happy with my mum’s Encyclopedia of Animals and a set of colouring pencils. I even built my own museum of antiquities in my bedroom. Including a glass topped case of oddments my Dad dug up with his JCB. A meteorite, a bit of roman pottery, fossils or so he told me and who was I to argue.
I spent hours kicking a ball against my neighbour’s shed. The smell of tarmac and sweat oozing from his pores after a day labouring as he showed me how to dubbin my boots. How to pace myself, avoid injury. In kick-arounds I wasn’t bad, no Tony Adams I struggled at left back. A position the better team I clawed my way into could not fill so there I was. Sunday morning in Edmond’s Park living my father’s dream in his position. Trying to live up to the photograph of his team shot at Reading FC ground before winning the North Berks Cup ( I have photo, medals and programme.)
My mother watched me take a few knocks and struggle as a defender. Not ‘filled out’ enough to stand up to the bigger boys. Immature and sensitive. The inner poet derailing my ambitions to play for Arsenal from an early age. I look at photos of me aged 14 and wonder I didn’t break something. But my father’s advice came good. Don’t get angry get even. They score one you go back and score one against them. Remember your second wind. I wrote a poem titled that. Mum played the long game wanted me to go to University. First in family.
The rest all drove trucks, laid tarmac or went into the police or army. One Sunday my Gramp Ernie challenged a semi-professional team to a match. His family and mates from the Working Men’s Club against them as a bet. Our whole family of Butlers and Belchers turned out on a frosty morning to watch them win on the park I had been substituted most games on. My Dad and Uncle Dennis and others ran rings around the so called professionals. There was a big celebration at the club that evening. Ernie had won his bet. I learnt then that there is no substitute for perseverance, talent and a bit of luck.
Now I stand on the sidelines again.
Recovering from a host of bad tackles, unlucky injuries and plain bad-timing.
Always a substitute never a first-choice.
Stepping across the poetic line. Taking on the professionals at their own game.
Shaun Belcher was born Oxford, England in 1959 and brought up on a down-land farm before moving to a council estate in the small town of Didcot in 1966 just as England won the world cup..
He studied fine art at Hornsey College of Art, London from 1979–81 where he sat under a tree with Adrian Mitchell.
Began writing poetry in the mid 1980s and subsequently has been published in a number of small magazines and a poem 'The Ice Horses' was used as the title of the Second Shore Poets Anthology in 1996.(Scottish Cultural Press).
He now lives in Nottingham, England after two years in Edinburgh studying folk culture and several years in the city of expiring dreams working as a minion at the University of Oxford.
He is currently enjoying retirement from 20 years of teaching and hopes to write something on a regular basis again. He has been involved in various literary projects including delivering creative writing workshops in Nottingham prison for the ‘Inside Out’ project.
He supports Arsenal football club.
Favourite colours therefore red and green like his politics.
We have not won the world cup again since 1966 and Shaun Belcher is not as famous as Simon Armitage although his songs are better.