We all need benefactors in our lives.
When I was in my final year at junior school (1986-87), the big craze of the time was marbles. This may seem irredeemably old-fashioned in the age of Pokemon Go, but you couldn't move round the drain covers of All Saints Junior School at break time for groups playing marbles. Starting at opposite corners of the drain cover, players would nudge their marble along the diamonds of the cover before attempting to hit their opponent's marble and thus add it to their collection. Simple, easy and compulsive entertainment - just a few years earlier, I had been spending my breaks at this school, kissing older girls but who wanted to be doing that when you could have this much fun instead. Was it a quirk of timing or fashions that my schoolboy interests ended up being back to front?
Alongside the thrill of the game was the fascination in the objects themselves. There were innumerable varieties of marble. I can recall pee-wees (ultra-small marbles that it was considered bad form to use in a game), ordinarys (your bog standard marble cannon fodder - the equivalent of a pawn in chess), chinas (marbles which weren't see-through, but which looked they were made of china and with lines painted on them), kingers (large coloured marbles which again were solid and had lines painted on them). One boy even had an emperor marble which looked like, and in retrospect possibly was, a small paperweight afforded greater importance because of its size. He never played it in a game, instead it was occasionally glanced as he opened the pencil case in which he kept his marbles in and which lay hidden away from mere mortals' eyes like the contents of the Ark of the Covenant.
My own stack of marbles was predominantly made up of ordinarys together with the odd china, but everyone needed at least one marble of their own as a statement of intent. With me, it was a black kinger with orange and yellow lines; my prestige marble; the marble that was me. But the problem with decorative things in a competitive sport is what to do when all your functional objects are lost and all you have left is the deluxe item. Over a period of a week I hit a losing streak that would have made a compulsive gambler quit and dedicate themselves to a life of sobriety and good works. I couldn't catch a break in any game, I even lost one match when my opponent's marble was three inches in front of mine and I conspired to fail to knock the marble with sufficient force to hit theirs. My reserves were decimated and my friend, Shaun, kept asking me to play my kinger in a game with him. I kept refusing - no one except the stupid or the desperate used large marbles in games - they were unwieldy movers on the drain covers and besides those marbles were not for gameplay, but for prestige. But eventually, I had lost all my marbles until I was down to that kinger. If I lost that, I had nothing left. I would have to save up my pocket money over several weeks to buy new marbles; also my pride was tied up in that kinger. If I lost that, it would be like I would cease to exist at break times.
Eventually, I reasoned that I may as well play Shaun with my kinger, because either way I was looking at weeks without being able to play marbles. I agreed to a game in afternoon break time and tried to psych myself up for the big game. About 20 minutes before break time, I was trying to do some work, when a marble rolled on to my exercise book. I looked up to see a boy in my class called Jason Higgs rolling 10 or so marbles across the table towards me. "There you go, Pascoe," he said, "that will keep your kinger safe for a while". I was astonished, "Are you sure?" I asked him. "Yeah, of course. I've got loads. Just don't lose them all too quickly". Astonishingly, he did me the same unasked favour several months later when I hit another losing streak. It remains one of the nicest acts of kindness, I've ever received from someone, and even when he started hanging around with school bullies at secondary school, I wouldn't hear a word said against him - maybe because I could see his heart wasn't in that.
I thought of Jason Higgs when the redoubtable Webbie also known as @keepingitpeel uploaded the tracks by Mind Sirens and Kat Bjelland that I couldn't share earlier in my ramblings about selections from 9/2/92. This is not the first time that Webbie has conjured up a missing track and I am immensely grateful for their support and kindness in doing so. This blog wouldn't survive without those who have uploaded Peel shows for others to listen to or who put tracks out on YouTube, many probably completely oblivious to the fact that I'm embracing them on my own journey through Peel's playlists and trying to put them into my own 13 year mixtape, for you to share. We all have our relationship with Peel and the music he played. Kindnesses like this allow me to explore mine and I cannot thank you all enough for letting me do that. Webbie and the other uploaders are my benefactors now, and I count myself very lucky to know them.
PS - if anyone can upload Forest of Doves by The Werefrogs from Peel's show on 1 March 1992, I'll send you a kinger marble in thanks.