Earlier this year, our Editor in Chief Sarah Cheverton judged entries to the Fratton Big Local writing competition, One Day in Fratton. Over 3 weeks, we are publishing the winners and runners up. In our final week, our adult winner David Eamey shatters an old stereotype and celebrates Fratton’s most famous sport – football.
Winner, adult category
Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover by David Eamey
One of those Saturday mornings, a late, slow start and by now getting on for about 11:30.
Scott was out in Fratton, his local neighbourhood, to do chores the working week just did not allow time for; some spices for tonight’s curry from the Asian grocers, get his hair cut, swing by Asda for the main shop. All perfectly run-of-the-mill, quotidian, boring.
As he was scooping up handfuls of green chillies into a bag in the Asian shop, he felt a sharp poke in the ribs.
A broad cockney accent.
‘Scott, old china, you still round this neck of the woods? It’s been ages, mate.’
What was the guy’s name? Indeed, he’d not seen him for years… Matty, Monty, Murray, something like that? Not able for the life of him to remember, Scott opted for the safest form of address.
‘Hiya mate. Long time, no see! Yeah, I’m still living round the corner. It’s just the two of us, Claire and me, so we’ve never needed anywhere bigger and we both like the area. What are you up to round here? How’s things?’
The mystery-name cockney man was an old college friend from Scott’s days doing a film course about 10 years ago. He’d stayed around Portsmouth for work for a couple of years after college before moving elsewhere. Scott vaguely thought he’d moved back up to some part of London.
‘Good, good, geezer. Y’know: bit of this, bit of that. Down for the big match today. You know, the cup tie. The ‘Wall playing Pompey today. Just off to meet the guys for a couple of pre-game bevvies, y’know, but saw you ducking in here, so thought I’d catch you. Coming along yourself this afternoon?’
So Pompey must be at home today then. Scott vaguely recalled now that mystery-name was a big football supporter. Not that he had any interest in the game himself. Living in Fratton and being so close to the football ground though, you couldn’t help noticing the crowded roads and streets on a match day.
‘It’s all going to be hitting off in a bit. You know, always does when it’s Millwall-Pompey, ‘specially now we’re not in the same league and playing every year. Wanna come along with us when we’re getting our own bit of pre-match action, shall we say before kick-off?’
‘No, no. You’re alright, mate.’
Scott would only want to know that so as to make sure he stayed well away from any of this ‘action’. Mystery-name obviously thought Scott to be very different from the reality of his personality and daily life.
‘Ah, boring and too quiet these days, eh!’ – in what days had he ever been anything else? wondered Scott – ‘Well, being I ain’t seen ya in years you can at least come for a pint with us now, catch up on life. My shout. C’mon, pay up for that stuff and let’s go.’
Perhaps easiest just to go along, keep the guy happy. He had a bit of time anyway, nothing in particular on this afternoon and he didn’t need to be getting back just to have lunch (which would most likely consist of just a quick sandwich or something) at home with Claire.
‘Alright then, twist my arm.’
He grabbed the couple of dried spices he needed and paid up at the till.
‘So, where are we going then for this pint?’
‘Just into the local ‘Spoons mate; cheap, cheerful, big and crowded. Perfect for us to, y’know, blend in.’
They ambled up Fratton Road. He noticed now that there were already quite a few blue-shirted Pompey supporters around.
‘Whereabouts are you living in London these days then, mate? This was obviously the safest form of address, in the absence of remembering the guy’s name. ‘It was London you’d moved back to, wasn’t it?’
‘Yeah, yeah, back to New Cross, the old kinda stomping ground. ‘Ere we are.’
They walked past the bouncers and into the pub, already pretty busy at around midday and began weaving their way towards the bar.
Fifteen minutes later and Scott was already quite happily through half a pint of beer. Mystery-name’s friends seemed like a nice enough bunch, not like Scott’s preconceived stereotypes of football supporters (in this case he’d expected the rougher, more ‘hooligan’ element). With time for another drink before they were all heading on, Scott bought second pints for himself and mystery-name, who had paid for their first ones, after all.
He hadn’t even noticed the black cases sitting piled up between the group and the wall of the pub.
After their second pints, mystery-name and his friends were heading on for their ‘bit of action’ before kick-off and Scott said his goodbyes and headed on for his haircut and then on to Asda.
He’d been home for about half an hour afterwards and was relaxing with a cup of tea when there was a knock at the front door. Claire was nearest and went off to answer it. A few seconds later, her voice called through:
‘Scott, could you come through for a minute, please?’
He walked through. It was his friend Tom, who lived just a couple of streets away.
‘Ah, Scott, you busy at the moment? You guys have gotta come down to Fratton Road for a few minutes, you’re not gonna believe this.’
‘What’s going on?’
‘Just come on, will ya? I’ll let you see for yourselves…’
‘Come on Scott, we’re not up to anything in particular, are we?’ said Claire.
Getting their jackets, they walked with Tom the short distance through to Fratton Road. As they drew closer to the main road, Scott could hear the sound of music… not exactly the usual kind of music he heard around here though; wasn’t that the sound of a trombone? And trumpets, cymbals and snare drum?
A very unusual sight met their eyes at Fratton Road. Some kind of jazz, brass marching band were heading up the road itself, causing traffic to halt up behind it. There on the lead trumpet was mystery-name himself, while a couple of his friends that Scott could recall were on the drums and other instruments.
One of their crowd was at the pavement, taking pictures on his phone. Recognising Scott, a grin broke out on his face.
‘Thought you couldn’t make it along for our bit of action?’
‘But I thought…’, Scott paused, unable to say quite what he’d thought about their bit of ‘action’.
‘What? That because we’re Millwall football supporters we were heading off to have a fight before the match? We’re just out to spread our own little bit of love and joy, in our own funny way. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, old china!’
Scott was speechless still, taken aback by how surreal this was in the middle of Fratton on a Saturday afternoon. He certainly would be a bit slower to assume any lazy stereotypes of people again, he thought to himself.
The strange things you see sometimes, one day in Fratton.
Judge’s comment, by Editor in Chief, Sarah Cheverton
David’s story surprises the reader and challenges the way we make assumptions about people, while celebrating football, Fratton’s best known sport, and the people who love the game.
One Day in Fratton is an annual writing competition run by Fratton Big Local for residents of all ages. S&C is publishing the winners across three categories: 9-11 years, 12-16 years and 17 years and over, and you will be able to read all winners here as they’re published.