Saturday, 12 March 2016


In the Letzigrund, Zurich last Saturday I saw my first scoreless game of the season. And frankly both FCZ and Thun were lucky to get nil. If ever the phrase 'Get stuck in, you bloody fanny merchants' deserved to be bellowed at high volume this was it. Sadly my efforts fell on deaf ears.

Today I return to Ironworks Road for the first time in many a year. On the last visit I stood next to an elderly man who called out - in the plaintive, hopeless tones of someone long marooned on a distant shore- 'Hells bells,Lawyers, hells bells.'

I hope he is still there.

For now, an article about a family food fight that appeared in Tees Business. The piece has little to do with football, but it amused me at the time and maybe it might you, too.

When Upex pies re-launched last November after a twenty year absence from Teesside’s culinary landscape, hungry punters practically knocked the shop over in their clamour to get one. Owner Steve Davies sold 1,400 in a matter of a few hours.

Personally I am not surprised. Upex pies have been around for over a century and there are few things that attract brand loyalty like a pie. I should know, my own family was savagely divided by what can only be described as pork pie civil war.

There were other gastronomic disagreements amongst us, admittedly. My father’s family were committed to tomato ketchup and Branston pickle, while my mother’s would entertain only Hammonds Yorkshire Sauce and Piccalilli; things could get a bit heated over the Lowcocks v Alpine debate when it came to lemonade and dandelion and burdock; many a trip to Whitby ended in an acrimonious dispute over the merits of favourite chip shops, and when it came to beer, the impossibility of finding a pub that served both Cameron’s Strongarm and Vaux Samson meant separate Saturday nights for a couple of branches. It was the pork pies that were the cause of the bitterest trouble, though. When it came to them it was The Beatles v The Stones, Blur v Oasis, Mods v Rockers. You had to pick a side.

You see, my granddad and his brothers grew up in Smeaton Street. As lads from the heart of the Boro they had – naturally - pledged pie-allegiance to Newboulds at a young age. While Joe and George stayed in Middlesbrough, my grandfather married a girl from Marske and settled there. Later his daughter, my mother, moved to Great Ayton. And that was when the trouble started, because our house was 50 yards from Donald Petch, the butchers.

At some point my grandfather was lured into buying a pork pie from Petch’s and pretty soon they were the only pork pies he’d give house room. He might have stayed silent on the matter, but, like a man converted to a new religion by a miracle, he just couldn’t keep the good news to himself.

It all kicked off round my great-gran’s house on Christmas Day when I was six. It was a tiny terraced house, the living room so small the only way all of us could fit in it was with kids sitting on knees and men folk arranged shoulder-to-shoulder around the walls. We all had our place. You could tell where the men stood even when they weren’t there by the height of the stains their Brylcreme left on the wallpaper.

At some point my great-gran expressed the view that a nice pork pie would do her for New Year’s Eve.

‘You want to have a one from Petch’s,’ my granddad announced.

‘What are you talking about?’ Uncle Joe said, ‘Have you gone looie? I’ll get her a one from Newboulds.’

‘The only thing she’s getting from you is a load of tripe,’ My granddad replied.

By this stage my mother had started to wrestle me into my coat and signalled for my Dad to go out and get the engine of the Riley warmed up. She recognised fighting talk when she heard it.

Things might have stayed at simmering point, but at this point my grandma’s sister’s husband who hailed from Skeleton, worked down Boulby potash mine and had a voice so loud and deep it sounded like an explosion in a cave, growled out his opinion that the pork pies from the butcher in Sleights knocked all others on Planet Earth into a cocked hat.

What happened next I cannot honestly say, for my mum had hustled me out the door. From reports it seemed the police got matters under control fairly quickly once they arrived on the scene.
Later my Dad suggested that ‘Blahblah’s Pies – They’re worth decking your brother-in-law for’ would make a good advertising slogan. As far as I know, it’s still available, if anyone wants it.

1 comment:

  1. Petch's for me Harry. Now when come up to the North East there is a diversion to Great Ayton; Pork for me. a sort of Cottage pie thing for Sue and ten steak pies for our son back in the smoke. There are complicated hand-overs for the steak pies at motorway services around the M25 as a young man goes away happy with his partner shaking her head and his car smelling like Petch's shop. The simple things in life. A lot simpler than the Boro.

    All the best like, John