Plis, ve vud like to play football with you.

Oh here we go again. You wouldn’t have thought that we had won the World Cup last week and had safely parked the Jules Rimet trophy in Lancaster Gate, admittedly without the protection of Pickles.

In the town

Everyday we went across the road to the football pitch opposite our house in Hubbelrath and the six of us at the camp who were teenagers and football mad would kick yet more winning goals into the rock-solid wooden goal.

where I was born,

The flowering of our own very English football skills that seemed to come naturally with being World Champions managed to attract German boys from all across the city of Dusseldorf. Another half dozen turned up everyday to challenge us.

OK, five side across the pitch, who is the spielführer?

Lived a man, who sailed to sea,

It was the summer holidays and this happened every day, every single day. I think Bobby Charlton had it easy, he only had to win the World Cup once. We had rematches against Germany every day, which we won comfortably armed with the knowledge that we were the best footballing nation in the world and these were just the losers we were being challenged by.

And he told us of his life,

We must have spent most of August defending the honour of the team that scored four but were forever challenged on der dritte tor. We always replied with “fier zu zwei” using the appropriate number of fingers to demonstrate why the Germans had lost.

In the land of submarines,

It had been a strange summer. Dave had finally learnt to cope with Hamm. He had come top in his year, won the cross-country and was now lead actor in the school play and this had finally helped him to settle although it delayed our departure to Venice. The Muttocks were taking us to keep Rob company as Caroline had started work. They didn’t want him to be lonely and as a result we had lucked out with a camping holiday in Austria and Italy.


So we sailed on to the sun,

Till we found the sea green,

Do you think crabs are intelligent?

Well they build their own homes in the sand don’t they?

So is that a sign of intelligence?

Could be, shall we test it?

Yeah! I know lets build a maze and see if they can get out of it.

It’ll be easy with the sand. Come on.

And we lived beneath the waves, In our yellow submarine,

Dave wasn’t as interested in building a crab colony, nor in the data we were collecting, as Rob and I were. He had just discovered the joys of snorkeling and was swimming up and down the shoreline at Lido de Jesolo like a fleshy submarine. Whilst Rob and I were becoming experimental beach scientists he was becoming the consummate submariner.

We all live in yellow submarine,

yellow submarine, yellow submarine,

We all live in yellow submarine,

yellow submarine, yellow submarine.

So it was that we were in Italy when North Korea knocked them out of the World Cup and the vibrant, boisterous streets were suddenly completely deserted as though the loquacious Italians couldn’t face the thought of talking with each other face-to-face after such a humiliation.


And our friends are all aboard,

The holiday worked well, Rob and I got on really well, we all had flippers and it was the first time any of us had swum in the see, and Dave was easily the best swimmer. Jim and Edna prepared food beside our tent which all five of us, and several thousand ants, shared late each evening when the heat had finally gone out of the day.


Many more of them live next door,

We boys really enjoyed the campsite at Jesolo, but you couldn’t say it was quiet, nor did we have much privacy. But we spent most of our time examining the wildlife on the beach and repeatedly cooling off in the sea. So much so that we were actually disappointed when we were taken across the Lido to visit Venice.


And the band begins to play.

Then three days in disaster struck. Jim and Edna, who never visited the beach and had trouble keeping cool, decided that they had had enough and our developing experiments with town planning for crabs were terminated before we had developed any real professional capacity in it. We had observed enough to know that crabs were exceptionally thick when presented with a cityscape however.

We all live in yellow submarine,

yellow submarine, yellow submarine,

We all live in yellow submarine,

yellow submarine, yellow submarine.

Italy was too vibrant, its tourists too boisterous, its heat too hot and the food too spicy. The campsite was conveniently located but over-run. Jim took charge, we packed the VW estate and headed away from all things sweaty and Mediterranean.

(Full speed ahead, Mr. Parker, full speed ahead!

Full speed over here, sir!

Action stations! Action stations!

Aye, aye, sir, fire!

Captain! Captain!)

We decided to head back to Austria where it was cooler and, significantly, cleaner. So much cooler and cleaner in fact that it never stopped raining and we drove non-stop from Venice to Dusseldorf and the holiday was over. Damn those autobahns.

As we live a life of ease

Nevertheless watching England in the World Cup would make a wonderful substitute for our friends the crabs. Unfortunately the first game we saw was the bewildering quarter-final match with Argentina which we won, but at the cost of setting up an enduring and fractiously animalistic rivalry.


Every one of us has all we need, (has all we need)

Then came the wonderful match against Portugal, clearly the best team with the best player, Eusebio, who had single-handedly beaten North Korea with four goals. But we were lucky enough to have Charlton on fire, playing his match of the tournament and putting the fear of God into Germany who would sacrifice Beckenbauer to stop him, and the final as a consequence.


Sky blue, and sea green,(sky of blue and sea of green)

We were watching the final in black and white on Dutch television, who clearly favoured England over their Prussian neighbours. Our TV was tiny, about fourteen inches wide, but it was the first World Cup, it was the first football, any of us had ever seen on live on TV. Our aborted snorkeling was soon forgotten as one of the epic, stomach-churning games (if you were a fan) in World football unfolded before us. Every goal, and there were 6 in 66, dramatically changed the status of the game and created such a filmic drama that David Thompson wrote a whole book about it; we just lived every single second of it literally on the edge of our seats. Like Hard Days Night it gave us a multi-coloured future in black and white.

And a yellow (and a yellow) submarine. (submarine) ( Hahaha! )

And then, with the final over, Dave and I rushed outside and scored endless goals in a little part of Europe that would be forever English, not knowing that we still faced a comeback from the local Germans, who were still thinking global.

We all live in yellow submarine,

I see you were playing against the Germans again John, how did you do?

Oh, you know Mum we won again, I got a hat-trick this time!

What’s this on the radio?

Can’t you guess?


yellow submarine, yellow submarine,

Beatles? This? Is that Ringo?

Sounds like Ringo, don’t you think?


We all live in yellow submarine,

It sounds like a kids song

It does sound like a children’s song. You never know what The Beatles are going to come up with these days.

It was the Saturday after the World Cup final and the Beatles had just given us the soundtrack to that gloriously victorious summer. Yellow Submarine might not have been the great folk-rock we were expecting after Rubber Soul, but it was brilliant sing-a-long stuff. Perfect for building football chants around as it transpired.


yellow submarine, yellow submarine.

That summer in Germany we were surrounded by the consequences of winning the World Cup, or rather the consequences of the Russian linesman’s decision on das dritte tor…

You may think that Germans don’t have a sense of humour, but in my experience it is a sense of sportsmanship that they lack. They certainly kept Holland awake all night before the World Cup Final in 1974 and finally edged that one, and let’s not mention Schumacher (take your pick), or anything else.

We all live in yellow submarine,

How many rolls did you get?




Four? Four brotchen with your bratwurst? Oh well done

Back at school we played our favourite game of buying a Bratwurst in the town square at Hamm and seeing how many free bread rolls we could smear with mustard to accompany it before our hands were slapped as we went for just one more. Schoolboys in search of fast food.

yellow submarine, yellow submarine,

Yellow Submarine may sound like a children’s song but we felt like Tommy’s when we sang our version of it. Schoolboy Tommies admittedly, but ones who had found that its tune came in handy when creating a new football chant. And, when we walked back to school fortified with free rolls, we knew exactly the right place to sing it . Just after we turned right off the main road and were getting close to the school and with our courage fortified by Dutch TV we sang in the park to any Germans we saw at a safe distance.

We all live in yellow submarine,

We all won the World Cup

Won the World Cup, Won the World Cup

We all won the World War

The First World War and the Second World War

And we all live in a gelbes untersee boot

yellow submarine, yellow submarine.

Ein gelbe untersee boot, gelbe untersee boot

We had learnt just enough German to take the mickey…



  1. August 23, 2009 at 9:29 am

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