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Ancient Feet: 47 - 'Excuse me, can you tell us how England went on last night?'

On a days-long trudge through the wilder parts of northern England TV-less Alan Nolan and his mates are still eager to keep up with the most important news events of the day.

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The walking was pleasant and the weather improved and, by mid-morning, we reached the attractive Dales village of Gunnerside, which does not have much but does boast a pub, tea room and the cleanest public toilets I have seen in many a while. We were anxious to know how many goals England had scored against Northern Ireland and the few walkers we had encountered since leaving Keld had not been able to help us.

As we stood outside the tea shop deciding who should go in with our order (we didn't think the proprietors would appreciate five pairs of muddy boots), two couples came out. They were clearly visitors to the area, but not walkers, and likely to be staying somewhere which had a television.

'Excuse me, can you tell us how England went on last night?'

'Lost one nil,' came the reply from one of the men.

'No, seriously, how did they go on?'

'It was one nil,' said the other man. 'He's not joking. England were awful. Most of them didn't seem to be trying.'

'What about Rooney?'

'At least he tried. He played like two men,' said one.

'Yeah, the only trouble was, they were both crap,' declared the other.

During our break, the conversation turned towards family matters and, of course, Tom's reasons for having no more than three children were known to us already, but Don was asked whether there was any particular reason why he had only the one daughter.

'My wife decided she didn't want any more and she persuaded me to have a vasectomy. Actually, I think her exact words were 'I'll cut your balls off myself if you don't get down to that clinic'. Anyway, she made the appointment for me and, on the appointed day, accompanied me in order to provide support.'

'Which you were certainly going to need, in the circum-stances,' laughed Joe.

'We arrived at the clinic half an hour early, so we decided to have a cup of tea and a cake at the clinic cafe and I noticed a sign that really put the wind up me.'

'Why? What did it say?' we asked.

'Please Note That the Cakes May Contain Nuts or Nut Extracts. I said 'they're not making cakes out of extracts from my nuts' and headed for the door. Unfortunately, Jane dragged me back before I could make a break for it.'

'So, you went through with it and, since then, your activities have been recreational rather than procreational,' Paul said.
'Yes, but it was a very traumatic time, you know. Apart from the sign, I needed convincing that it was worth all the pain and discomfort and it didn't help when I got talking to a young bloke in the waiting room.'

'Why? Did he try to talk you out of having the snip?'

'He didn't have to. Just listening to him made me want to run a mile. He had five children under eight years old and he was in for his third vasectomy.'

'Get away.You mean the first two hadn't worked?' I asked in astonishment.

'That's right,' Don said, 'I didn't realise that it doesn't always work and, apparently, it is quite rare for the op to be unsuccessful. He must have been very unlucky'

'Or very potent,'Tom said, almost enviously.

'But you'll never believe this,' Don added 'when the nurse came for him and called his name, I fell off my chair.'

'Why?' we demanded as Don burst into a fit of laughter,'what was his name?'

'Andy Cocks,' he spluttered, as he collapsed with laughter, spilling his tea on the table.

Recovering from Don's hilarious tale, we asked Paul about his family, knowing that he had two sons.

'We couldn't have children, so our two boys are adopted.'

That was news to the rest of us and it was good that Paul felt comfortable enough to tell us, but the conversation soon moved on to the subject of children never believing that their parents have sex and, indeed, even though we were all in our sixties, the thought of our own parents ever having had sex seemed preposterous.

'I was working in the garden years ago,' Paul said, 'and overheard one of the boys, who was about eleven at the time, talking to one of his little mates, and they must have forgotten that I was weeding behind the bushes. Of course, they could not believe that their parents ever engaged in sex and they were both boasting that their own parents never 'did it'.

'Well, your Mum and Dad must have at least once, 'cos there's you' I heard my son say.

'Well your Mum and Dad must have twice, 'cos there's you and your brother,' his little pal responded, triumphantly.

'They haven't,' Philip said, defending his mum and dad, 'we're adopted.'


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