The Mittons arrived in Helmshore in the early Winter of 1976. Our house, a 1930's, semi-detached ex council house, did indeed possess, the fabled indoor bathroom, and central heating to which we had been promised. I also now had the luxury of my own bedroom, a front garden, a side garden and a back garden. OK, so the house was a wreck, which had to be stripped down to the bare essentials but that in itself was an adventure for a 5 year old. I mean, which 5 year old, would not enjoy crawling underneath uplifted floorboards on a journey to the centre of the Earth. Even more interesting to me, was Rossendale golf course. As far as I was concerned, this was miles of undiscovered territory. Situated in the foothills of the Pennines and possessing such features as ponds, woods, trenches, mounds and streams. It was a young adventurers dream. It soon became apparent that the uppity golfers did not share my enthusiasm, as they launched their missiles in my direction. My friend Darren Bell was actually hit in the chest by one of their whistling obes, as I sat next to him. One second we were talking about young boys stuff and the next he was howling like a werewolf, clutching his chest, whilst gasping for air in an attempt to breathe. In the distance, we could hear the launcher of the belligerent sphere, shouting his obscenities, whilst swinging his club around in anger. From here on in, it was war. The hundreds of golf balls in my bedroom cupboard were testimony to this fact.
For the next 15 years I was to spend almost everyday on the golf links in some context or another. If I wasn't adventuring, I was hunting for golf balls, taking a shortcut to school or from the age of 13 to 15, legitimately playing golf, as I rested my morals and joined the enemy. This was a failed coup, I hasten to add. I never have had good balance and this was clearly evident, as I swung my club, missed the ball and ended up on my arse, more often than not. As my friends seemed to improve on a daily basis, I regressed from bad to downright awful. The only shot that I ever got credit for, was a shot from a particularly deep bunker. Somehow I managed to emulate the sound of a ball being hit, as I picked it up and lobbed it at the green. Miracurously, the ball trundled across the green and fell into the hole, to the amazement of my friends to whom I had become a golfing burden. Within a few years, I had conceded, sold the clubs and immersed myself in the video game generation.
Although, the video game age, gripped me in it's time wasting grasp, I never lost my sense of adventure and the golf course provided this arena for many years. As my peers fell by the wayside, lost to such boring ativities as girls, I continued to surround myself with balls - golf balls. These days, I love to travel alone, unimpeded by other peoples whims and follies. Those solitary days on Rossendale golf course could well be responsible for this. Donned in a pair of Wellington boots and armed with an abundance of time, that never seems to be available in older age, I would wander the links, before heading off down the abandoned railway line or along the river bank to Irwell vale and beyond. Depending on which option I took, I would either look up and marvel at the Ravenshore viaduct or look down from this engineering masterpiece and gaze at the river Irwell. Here, at a place known by the locals as Little Blackpool, due to it's attraction as a place of leisure during times gone by, I would fantasise about entering Helmshore caves. In retrospect, the caves are not all that impressive, the water sluice, a legacy of the industrial revolution. However, in my mind they were a place where adventures were made, if I only dared to enter them. This, I never did, too scared to do so because I had watched "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" on tv and was scared that there was an angry Indian in there.
I was told that a box had been buried under the first brick of the Ravenshore Viaduct. This box was to be a time capsule, capturing artefacts of the time it was built. God, how much I wanted this box and would often puzzle myself over which brick was the first in this gigantic structure. Sometimes I would take a spade and make a futile attempt to find it. To me, that would have been a treasure trove worthy of any young boys dreams. Unfortunately, I never struck gold. In later days, when puberty had taken control of my body, the treasure I longed to find took on a more seedy edge. I seemed to have a nose to find porn magazines. I was famed amongst my friends for having an extra sense, which told me which bushes to look in, as if my erection were a divining rod. My adventures remained the same, only I was driven by different goals. It was during in these sexually confusing times, that I became all consumed in the thoughts of stumbling upon a porn shoot. I have no idea why, but an inner force told me that this would happen one
day. It was my fantasy that once I found my crock of sexual gold, I would be invited to join in the saucy shennanigans. Upon reflection, I am uncertain of what role they would have had for a snotty nosed, teenager, in wellington boots with pockets full of golf balls. But then again there seems to be a category for all these days. It is with a certain irony that 20 years later, whilst walking across England with an ex girlfriend, we would stumble upon a porn shoot, and no we were not asked to join in.