The 1970s has been dubbed ‘the decade that taste forgot’.
Not for the first time, though, the clever cultural commentators have got it seriously wrong.
Their hypothesis crumbles when confronted with an advert that appeared in the Evening Telegraph on the last weekend of May 1972.
Brierley’s emporium in Wellingborough promised a ‘Bank Holiday Bargain Spree’ featuring family-sized Angel Delight for 7p and a selection of Heinz tinned steam puddings for just a penny more.
A double dose of sticky unctuous dessert for three bob!
As Gregg Wallace might have said – taste just doesn’t get any better than that.
It was a notable weekend for other reasons.
The Duke of Windsor died in Paris at the age of 78, resurrecting memories of his brief reign as King Edward VIII – notable for little beyond the fact that Gary Sobers, Bobby Simpson, Bob ‘Knocker’ White, Peter Parfitt, Laurie Johnson and Burton Latimer’s Malcolm Craddock were all born during it.
Corby band ‘The Avengers’ were on the look-out for someone to lend them instruments to complete their local bookings after their own equipment was nicked from a car.
United Counties decided to withdraw some of the bus services between Wellingborough and Bozeat on account of ‘vandalism and violence on the route’.
And Bailiff Norman Hall was pelted with ‘flour, rotten eggs and stink bombs’ as he read the traditional proclamation declaring Rowell Fair open.
On the footballing front, the Bones considered their managerial options following the resignation of Ken Burton, the Poppies reckoned a fee of £15,000 for Cobblers striker Frank Large was “too high” and the United Counties League targeted those clubs deemed to be ‘anti-referee’.
Were (and are) any of them actually ‘pro’?
The weather that weekend wasn’t great with local visitor attractions including Wicksteed Park, Overstone Solarium and Billing Aquadrome reporting below-average crowds.
But County League cricketers managed to dodge the showers – which proved a mixed blessing for Corby Town.
On the Saturday, Graham Abbott’s men skittled Kettering for just 59 in their Division One contest at Northampton Road, with Rob Parkin bagging 5-21.
But Pat Freestone – chuckling throughout, no doubt – responded with a 5-3 haul to dismiss Corby for 54 and claim a famous victory.
A couple of days later it got even worse for the top-flight newcomers when they entertained reigning champions Irthlingborough.
The irrepressible Michael Reginald Dilley claimed 4-8 – as did his new ball partner Jim Griffiths – to rout Corby for a paltry 31, ‘Tex’ also contributing 72 with the bat to earn his post-match pint.
Griffiths, of course, would soon be turning out at Wantage Road, while Dilley perhaps still could and should have been.
And that brings us to the Northamptonshire side in late-May 1972.
The County had begun their Championship campaign with a win, a defeat and a draw – but perhaps the most significant performance in the early weeks of the season came in The Parks where ex-Hampshire man Bob Cottam marked his debut for the club with 8-14 against the Dark Blues, leading off with a Freestonesque burst of 5-3.
Mushtaq Mohammad and Bishan Bedi spun the students out in their second innings and the match was all over inside two days.
Cottam (who had to wait until mid-June before the registration rules allowed him to play in the Champo) and Bedi were both winter signings, along with left-armer John ‘Doc’ Dye from Kent, as Northamptonshire moved decisively to strengthen the attack.
Secretary Ken Turner had opened negotiations with Bedi the previous summer – when India toured England – and despite nearly burning down the silky spinner’s new Northampton home with a central heating system he didn’t understand, ‘KCT’ was well-satisfied with his new acquisition.
For the time being, at least.
Three newcomers in the bowling department, then – but the likes of Jim Watts (in his second year as captain), David Steele, Mushtaq, Brian Crump and Peter Willey had all earned their pegs in the tatty, splinter-infested first-team dressing-room, while Geoff Cook and George Sharp were in the process of establishing themselves and the cognoscenti reckoned this lad Larkins might be useful too.
Crump’s career, sadly, was on the wane, which coincided with his benefit year.
‘The Atomic Pill’ scored 604 Championship runs, hardly bowled, raised just over £4,000 and was released at the end of the season.
The ground they all called home was not, in all honesty, a particularly welcoming place.
As usual, money was tight – although improved results boosted membership – and securing the services of decent cricketers figured much higher on Turner’s list of priorities than tarting up the so-called ‘amenities’.
The Ladies Stand, in particular, looked in danger of imminent collapse.
And juniors were tolerated rather than encouraged with a membership card containing more restrictions and warnings than a North Korean entry visa.
The Northampton gatemen would surely have given their Lord’s counterparts a run for their money when it came to unfriendly, unbending officiousness.
My Great-Uncle Percy was one of them, and as a survivor of Passchendaele I suppose you could forgive him a lot.
At any rate, he was always very kind to me – even if he did once refuse admission to Alvin Kallicharran, unconvinced that the great West Indian was ‘a player’ despite the evidence of a car and kit bags emblazoned with his famous name.
And that sort-of brings me to the point of this journey back 40 years in time.
Northamptonshire’s fourth Championship fixture of 1972 spanned the holiday weekend in question with Richard Gilliat’s Hampshire the visitors.
Rain restricted Saturday’s play and, in an effort to keep the match alive, Watts declared at 247-7 before lunch on Monday.
It was during the opposition’s reply – sometime on the afternoon of May 29 – that an enthusiastic if overawed and very nervous nine-year-old showed his pristine, uncreased membership ticket (possibly to Uncle Percy) and entered the ground with his grandmother.
That was me.
And so began a love affair with the place that’s still burning – notwithstanding the odd tiff – at the start of its fifth decade.
What do I remember of that first taste of county cricket? Precious little.
We sat in the seats at the front of the old pavilion, even though I was convinced we didn’t belong there and would be turfed out presently.
Wisden confirms that Barry Richards and skipper Gilliat made half-centuries against an attack comprising Dye, Willey, Mushtaq, Bedi and Ray Bailey.
But the style and technique of the peerless South African opener made no impression at all that day.
As I’ve mentioned before, the most vivid memory of my first visit to Wantage Road was being denied an autograph by DS Steele as he nipped off for a cuppa and a drag at teatime.
His “Not now, son” could easily have scarred me for life. Some might suggest it did.
But it didn’t stop me coming back for more. Lots more.
And the first inter-club friendly 10 days ago found me doing the obligatory ‘lap’ – just to make sure everything was still there.
The buzz at the start of a new cricket season in April (or even March) is a feeling beyond compare and beyond price.
Not even dear old Frank Brierley ever tried to flog THAT.