A Knight’s Tale (68: The Man’s Fingers Still Clutched The Ball)

Michael and Matthew (clearly in the midst of a perennial growth spurt) often played soccer in Horse & Dolphin Yard. The Ball, the subject of this next story was not a deflated football. To take these photographs I must have been standing outside the door of our flat.

On another occasion two gentlemen, to my left, somewhat the worse for having consumed a quantity of the cheapest possible intoxicating liquid, sprawled against each other in a corner on the floor. Michael and his friend Eddie were playing with a tennis ball. Soon, my son came running up the stairs to inform me that one of the imbibers had taken their ball. Naturally I descended into the yard to persuade the gent to give up his spoils.

The man’s fingers still clutched the ball, even though he was now dead.

I called the police who arrived quite quickly. The officer in charge, whilst arranging for disposal of the body, instructed me to send Michael inside because he shouldn’t be seeing this. It didn’t seem politic to argue, so I quietly suggested to the fifteen-year-old that he would get a better view from an upstairs window. Up he went.

There were no blue and white tapes applied to keep out sightseers, and no chalk outlines were made. Clearly this was not really considered to be the scene of a crime. Except possibly the snatching of the ball. In the circumstances, I was prepared to overlook that.

Like all of Chinatown, the yard looks rather different now.


      1. You’re welcome Derrick. I just keep imagining that would not be an image you could get out of your mind. Certainly one for the family history books.

  1. Here’s the plotline for a story: the man clutching the ball, in his last moments, was thinking it was a human hand offering a gesture of compassion.

    1. That’s what I was thinking! “A little help?” is what we used to say as kids when we lost our ball & it went towards someone. Perhaps the effort was too much.

  2. How the yard has changed. And I’m imagining the earlier shot in the dark with lights, too. Hard to believe it’s the same place. And good heavens what a story. I find it amusing at different times in my life when I had other adults instruct me on what I should be allowing my own child to see. I love the way you dealt with it. Ha!!

  3. Nowadays, Michael would have been sent directly to therapy and this would have become the sum total of his life story. (I would have sent my kids up to watch from the vantage point as well. ?)

  4. A fascinating account for a variety of reasons, not least of which the man dying whilst clutching the tennis ball he had presumably just caught. It was wise to suggest to Michael he would have a better view from upstairs – especially as he had already been exposed to the dead man!

  5. What an amazing story, Derrick! I can remember all the meths drinkers that used to congregate up Deptford High Street when I was a housing officer. What a dangerous drink it was but it was affordable and ‘hit the spot’! I think you dealt with the situation perfectly. Was the dead man’s companion aware that his friend had died?

  6. Brothers and their friend…what adventures find them! 😮 Yikes! and sad! 🙁
    Did you get the ball back!? 😉
    This is one memory that would not ever be forgotten.
    You handled everything well, Dad!

  7. What an interesting story, and the comments are fascinating also. I might have made some of them if others hadn’t beaten me to it. If there was true justice, it would have been the man who deflated the football, but that is an uncharitable thought on my part. I have them from time to time. Actually…I seem to be getting them more often with all the arguments within the family network as to whether to vaxx or not – but, as usual, I digress.
    At fifteen, and in that era, Michael did not need that advice, but it probably came from a good place. Maybe the policeman was thinking there’d be time enough for him to see these grimmer events. But I do think our culture does us a disservice by making us look at death as something frightening. Maybe not the nicest way to go, but it sounds quick and “peaceful”, after a fashion.
    As always, my eye is drawn to what is in the back of the photo. “Anna + Marg”, presumably a same sex couple, would have been trailblazing their publicly announced relationship fifty years ago. Even though London was a trendsetting place, Chinatown would have had a number of socially conservative inhabitants. That’s my take on it anyway.

  8. What a story. I have a few too. While living in the East Side Marc was apprehended by a man with a knife and his accomplice in the hall outside our apartment. The accomplice said, that’s not the one.

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