10 September 2008

Plague of Flies

Guy and I sat down last night and watched the film, ‘The Mummy’. I’d seen it before but couldn’t remember much about it. In one scene the Mummy who is wreaking death and destruction all around opens his mouth and a huge swarm of flies comes out. It looked horrific and then I remembered………

In my late teens I used to go to a football match every week. Away games were great with each town having some sort of attraction. Edinburgh speaks for itself. Kilmarnock was a nice little place to visit and St Johnstone, who played in Perth had the best bridies in the land. A bridie is the Scottish equivalent of a Cornish pastie. Motherwell, I’m afraid had absolutely nothing going for it !

And then there were the so-called 'European' games, Leeds and Newcastle. Usually we went to these away games on a supporters bus but frequently they were full and the regulars at the pub had first refusal so being 17 and not being a regular at the pub I had to cadge a lift in someone's car.

For the Newcastle game, my cousin Gordon volunteered as he had just bought a VW Beetle within weeks of passing his test. It was black and scruffy but it seemed to go ok, so mid-afternoon Gordon, myself and two of his friends set off. I didn’t take much notice of the journey south and soon we were there. This was in 1968 and all I can remember, other than the fact that Newcastle beat us 2-0 to get into the final, was that it was quite a nice ground and that Newcastle had played well to beat us. The Rangers fans did their best to get arrested after Newcastle went 2-0 up but we just headed back to the car and set off back up the A68 which conveniently, along with the A72, links Glasgow with Newcastle so although it was now around 11pm and freezing cold, all we had to do was follow the road. No turning, just straight ahead for 150 miles !

We were making good progress and although it was freezing outside, the windows were up and the heater was on full blast making everybody reasonably comfortable. I was sitting in the back trying to keep Gordon’s pal’s head off my shoulder and trying my best to get into a position where I too could get some shut-eye. As I pushed my head further back onto the rear parcel shelf I heard a buzzing sound. I tried to locate the noise but as it was a Beetle which had an air-cooled engine there were always strange noises so I ignored it.

A few minutes later I realised that I wasn’t going to get to sleep as this buzzing was inside the car. I needed to find it, although in retrospect, had it been a noise from the engine there wouldn’t have been anything I could have done. Anyway, I looked around the parcel shelf to see if I could locate the source of the noise and spotted a large can in the far corner. I picked up the can and realised the buzzing was coming from inside it. Intrigued, I started to open the lid when I heard Gordon scream, ‘Don’t open that can’.

Too late. I unscrewed the lid a couple of turns and the top literally shot off and a plague of bluebottles erupted from the can. Thousands and thousands of them. The two guys who were sleeping were wakened by the screams and Gordon swerved as he tried to keep control of the car. I shouted to the guy in front to open his window but surprise, surprise it didn’t work. The car was now a mass of flying, buzzing bluebottles. They flew into your eyes, your ears and your mouth if you opened it. It was complete panic stations for about 30 seconds (it seemed like minutes) until Gordon managed to get the car to the side of the road and open his door. Out they flew into the cold night and the four of us were left quite shaken….. but not too shaken to ask Gordon why the *&!% he kept a can of bluebottles in his car.

‘Oh’, he said, ‘I wondered where that can of maggots from last week's fishing trip had gone. They must’ve turned (into flies)’.

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