I once stood
in the Sahara Desert panting like a dog. The insane heat combined with
running over hot sand was exhausting. Our guide, Driss who usually worked
with geologists, had dragged us from the Land rover with a promise of
seeing something special. I saw him wave and shout to someone in the
distance who was surrounded by camels. Minutes later he was conversing
with a young person. I got my breath back and walked over. To my amazement
it was a woman. I pulled down my Arab style headdress and asked him what a
woman was doing in the middle of the desert alone with a bunch of ugly bad
tempered camels. He beckoned me to wait and said. "I do not know what
tribe she’s from. I am having trouble with her language."
Driss was as
excited as a birdwatcher with a Dodo. He continued without looking at me,
"The men are in the souk trading goods."
around me at an endless ocean of undulating sand. "Souk?
We’re in the middle of nowhere."
laughed as they seemed to begin communicating. My companion Mark reached
us, he too was wheezing like an old dog with asthma. A week earlier Driss
had informed us that we would mingle with the locals much better if we
dressed accordingly. This was the only excuse Mark and I needed to dress
up as Arabs. Driss took us to the local souk (market) where his mate
Mustapha kitted us out in full. My whole outfit was Blue. Mark’s was
black. I did wonder for one second if the locals would accept us looking
like a giant Smurf and a Ninja.
The woman now
standing in front of Driss pulled down her multi patterned headscarf and
stared straight into my eyes. Sweet lord baby Jesus, she was absolutely
gorgeous. I have never seen eyes like that before or since. They were a
million shades of green. I stood captivated within her piercing amber gaze
thinking nothing could be prettier.
smiled. She was so beautiful I felt cleansed. My jaw must have been on the
floor as Driss started laughing. "Michael. I think she likes
handle that Driss."
"She’s not Bedouin or Berber but she speaks a bit of Arabic."
She turned to
Driss and began to speak. Behind her I saw a young girl and a teenage boy
approach us. The young lad looked familiar he reminded me of a gypsy I
used to know in Knottingley. Our guide was right this was special. I had
seen tribes people before in South and Central America. Upon close
inspection they always had Nike trainers on or fake Rolex watches, or a
bottle of coke sticking out their arse pocket. These people were different
this was like glancing into the past.
She looked at
me again and burst out laughing. Her gaze then fell to the floor with an
almost flirtatious air. I looked at Driss to find he had a wry smirk on
did you say to her?" I asked
her you think she is beautiful." He chuckled.
I now had
butterflies in my stomach. This was flirting from another century,
flirting that didn’t include sexual innuendos or lurid comments; it had
an antiquated dignity that was as much refreshing as it was original. It
was all done with a glance, and my God what a glance.
laughing but joined in with a worried tone. "Mike, are we about to be
shot by some Arabs?" I ignored him and whined to Driss.
completely kissable face." To my horror he called my bluff and
relayed my words. She burst out laughing and blushed. She then mumbled
some words which Driss translated. "For a kiss you would need many
loudly. She smiled at me, waved then walked away into the desert. She
turned and waved once more from the distance. I never saw her again but
her face haunts me to this day.
Boys face was equally haunting it took me back to the late 60s when I was
living in Harkers street, Knottla.’ My childhood friend ‘Middy’ and
I had got involved with the wrong sort of boy. I’ll call our gypsy
friend ‘Heathcliff’ for he was just as dark as the Bronte’s man but
twice as brooding. We were following him like sheep. The new Screw Bridge
was being built and we stood watching him vandalise the work that had been
done. "Come on you two. Get stuck in." He was much older than us
and we both new he could get nasty. He ordered us to carry on as he
intended to break into a lorry and drive it into the cut. I felt quite
relieved at the possibility of watching him drown. I knew from my father,
that the great thing about criminals is that they are usually stupid. Then
as he entered the lorry and began to rip out wires I saw a blue flashing
light behind us. The copper grabbed us both, clouted me and then ‘Middy.’
After ramming us in the police car he then stood and shouted to Heathcliff,
"You’ve got two seconds to get outta that lorry. If I have to come
and get you it’s gonna’ hurt lad!"
say, within minutes he too was in the police car. He didn’t look so
tough then. The copper knew Heathcliff by name which verified our worries.
After a massive lecture we then drove to where Heathcliff lived. Middy and
I were left in the car while the policeman took the Romany boy to see his
father. As the copper walked back to the car we could clearly hear
Heathcliff getting the beating of his life. The sounds of him begging then
screaming were quite terrifying. As the officer got back in the car he
looked at me and Middy. "That’s what happens to vandals."
arrived at Middy’s; well it was actually his Auntie Marylyn’s. This
saved his life. The officer then turned to me..."What’s
your dad called son?"
As I relayed
his name my father’s reputation preceded him before my very eyes. The
coppers face softened and he looked down. "Oh I see." He thought
deeply for a minute then smiled. "Look I’d better not take you home to
him, but if I see you with Heathcliff again you’ve had it."
That had been
a crossroads in my life. Neither ‘Middy’ nor I have ever been in
trouble with the police since. One thing we did learn from the experience
is to choose your friends wisely. The following year Heathcilff ended up
I remember my
father getting nasty one time so I ran from Harkers street, I could take
being bashed but I could not handle my mother being hit. I think ‘Temp’
found my crying in Howard’s field somewhere. He took me to his home
where I stayed for weeks. ‘Temps’ family were so kind to me. His Dad
Charlie Temple Looked like Fred Dibnah complete with flat cap but without
the glasses. Charlie had a kind heart and he provided well for his family.
He never swore in front of the kids and he could hold his ale. If he’d
ever had one gill too many he just became jollier and even more animated.
He and his wife Joyce always did a great Sunday lunch. We’d all sit at
the table Charlie and would gently enforce manners. This was the first
time I had seen dining etiquette. Joyce would sometimes make a big round
Yorkshire pudding that you ate before the main roast meal. Temp also had a
little sister called Linda; she was a bubbly bright eyed little girl with
a wonderful nature. Charlie worked at the Tar Distillers down by Bank
Dole. He rode there on his Honda 70/90. Temp and I constantly begged him
to let us have a ride on this wonderful petrol steed.
lads you’re far too young."
Charlie had a change of heart, plus a few gills. It was about 11 o’clock
at night (No, we weren’t usually allowed up that late) Charlie called us
into the living room.
about time for your passage of rites. Tha’ll soon be men I think tha’
should take mi motorbike for a spin. I know that when I’m in bed after a
night shift you two have practised riding in the back garden or sleepy
valley. So off you go. Don’t get caught!"
Temp and I
were elated apart from a slight problem; we only had one crash helmet.
Charlie had a shot of whiskey and came up with a solution. "Necessity
is the Mother of invention." he added.
disappearing into the garden shed and falling over about five times he
appeared with a cheap plastic football. A large carving knife was produced
and he cut the ball into two halves. He plonked one half on Temp’s head.
bit of lace through that and you’ve got your self a chinstrap lad."
Temp looked horrified. Even if he did look like Max wall it was probably
the best bald wig in the world. Charlie’s next Idea had me in silent
tears of joy. He produced a biro pen and proceeded to draw a moustache on
Temp. After a couple of minutes my poor comrade resembled a Mexican Bandit
who’d lost his hair.
distance you’ll look just like an adult." Said Charlie. I
couldn’t help thinking that even from a hundred yards away any police man
out that night would have seen us and said, "Look there’s two kids on a
moped and the one with the oily face has got half a football on his
As we walked
into the night Temp was very brave, he uttered no protest. After all he
didn’t want to jeopardise our ride on Charlie’s hog. Mr Temple bid us
farewell with his favourite maxim, "Happy Days."
We bombed up
England’s Lane with the wind rushing by my face, and sweeping over Temp’s
football. Hardly a scene from easy rider, but boy we had fun. Even for a
child Temp was a skilled rider. I was not so lucky; we shot under the
railway bridge and up the dirt track towards Metcalf’s farm. I was going
far too fast and I heard Temp scream. "For God’s sake slow down, I’m
wearing a football on my head!" It was that point that I went through
the hedge. We flew through the air to have our fall broken by potatoes
plants. Temps foot got stuck in the back wheel and the exhaust burnt his
leg. ‘Happy Days.’
I had a
million wonderful memories with the Temples. I adored Charlie and Joyce. I
can never thank Steven Temple enough for his friendship in those early
years. I think he always new what a difficult time that was for me. If you’re
reading this Temp. Thank you for everything!
Also by Mike Edwards:
Africans and Communists
Memories of Knottingley - My Knottingley
More Memories of Knottingley - My Knottingley II
Stranger Things Can Happen At Sea
Teachers of the 70's