I spent most of my boyhood on the Brockley village green. It was not a very prepossessing green but it had some assets. There was a shallow pond and moat on one side. The pond was full of roach and carp that we fished for with rods of hazel cut from the hedge, bent pins and lumps of dough. The moat was a mass of frog spawn in spring. We picked it up in handfuls and threw it at each other. Fringing the pond were several low mounds made of past dredgings. We used these for gun fights when playing cowboys and Indians. The pond was an important source of water for washing before the arrival of piped water. The green also had a well and pump. Unfortunately the water we loved to pump up was oily. The well had been fouled. One of the drawbacks of our play area was that we shared it with Mr Vincent's horse. It was a horse with character. It had mad fits when it would career wildly back and forth with thundering hooves. I think it only did this to frighten us. Mr Vincent's carthorse also suffered from flatulence. It was a very windy horse. Woe-betide anyone who left a jacket or jumper on the green over night. By next morning the horse had chewed it to death. Worst of all the horse used to kick the hell out of our cricket pitch.
I had arranged a football match on the village green against the boys from Hartest for Saturday afternoon. Those were the days when children did everything for themselves. No adults were involved. It promised to be a tough game because the Hartest boys were older and bigger than we were. However I had a side and still possessed the optimism of youth. I spent Saturday morning marking out a pitch. This was done in a very rudimentary fashion with pea sticks. The leather football was inflated and laced up with great difficulty. This was an almost impossible task for a small boy.
After dinner I was the first 'up the green'. I eagerly awaited the arrival of my team. It wasn't long before an ill assorted group had arrived for a preliminary 'kick about'. We were still two key players short. I then saw something that changed my life forever. The two players on whom I depended were all dressed up and walking along Mill road to catch the bus to Bury St Edmunds. I can remember crying out in despair, "You said you would play. You said you would play." They said nothing. They just walked in silence to the bus.
The Hartest team turned up - big boys all. We were handicapped by two asthmatics, a little boy who ran away from the opposition and a mental defective who kicked in the wrong direction. I played my heart out. We lost 39 goals to nil.
It is no exaggeration to say that this incident changed my life. It destroyed my faith in human nature. I have never expected personal loyalty again. It was a kind of betrayal and it is easy for me to understand why Jesus was so troubled by the betrayal of Judas. Integrity is an under valued virtue. It is so much more important to be nice! One of the boys who let me down all those years ago was very charming and that has stood him in good stead down the years. Jesus said, "Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No', 'No'." Matt5v37. - that is something I have tried to live by. I have kept my word.