THE BOYHOOD of BERNARD BRIGGS
Episodes 11 – 15
Episode Eleven of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken
from The Wizard
Wearing only a pair of shorts, young Bernard Briggs stood up on the canal towpath and touched his toes. After a couple of minutes of that, he dropped down and did a dozen press-ups.
His dog, Tiger, watched him from the deck of the old barge that was their home. Bernard was on his own. He scraped a living for Tiger and himself by dealing in scrap metal. He was up early on this particular morning because he wanted to go junk hunting before school. “Not a twinge, Tiger!” grinned Bernard, jumping to his feet and poking himself in the ribs. Bernard had collapsed during a football match, and doctors at hospital had discovered that he had three cracked ribs, injured in a fight with three hooligans previously.
Bernard had kept
goal in two matches while suffering from the cracked ribs, a performance that
had astonished the doctors. It was an early example of the courage that was
to help Bernard to become
Tiger proves his worth as a watchdog by giving a tough time to an unwelcome visitor.
“Bernard Briggs is an unusual lad
in many ways,” said the head. “But Mr Moult can tell you more about him than I
can.” Left alone with the health inspector, Mr Moult lost no time in putting in
a bad word for Bernard. “You can see what sort of a scruff he is!” said Mr
Moult. “That barge he lives on must be a pigsty!” “I’ll have to look into it,”
said Mr Kelso. “We can’t have a lad living in unhealthy conditions.” Meanwhile,
Bernard was having a good scrub. Unaware that Mr Moult had arranged some more
trouble for him, he hurried into the classroom, where the lesson was just starting.
“Come along, Briggs, let’s see if your brains are as muddy as the rest of you!”
sneered Mr Moult. “We’re doing geography. How many states are there in
THE BIKE BAN
As soon as morning school was over, Bernard pedalled away. He intended to dump his junk at the barge before going to the football match. He had worked up to a fair speed as he turned on to the slope leading down to the towpath.
a hulking lad called Elkie jumped out in front of him. “Let’s have a look at
what you’ve got there, Briggsy!” he called. “Out of the way, you clown!”
shouted Bernard. He clapped on the brakes and swerved, Elkie yelled, and made a
jump. The pram caught him a glancing blow, and down he went. “If you’re hurt,
it’s your own fault, mate!” he said. Bernard scrambled from the saddle as Elkie
came at him, fists clenched. “I’ll teach you to run me down, you drip!” roared
Elkie. Bernard dodged a punch, and planted his fist in Elkie’s ribs. “You’re
welcome to try!” he said. Elkie grunted, and hit him on the ear. Bernard
flattened Elkie’s nose, then a policeman marched up and pulled them apart. “Cut
it out, lads!” he ordered. “It’s his fault, officer!” whined Elkie. “Briggs ran
me over! He’s got no brakes on that wreck he calls a bike!” The policeman went
over to the bike and examined it. Bernard wasn’t the sort to ride around
without brakes, but the officer wasn’t satisfied. “With the sidecar added, this
contraption isn’t safe,” he said. “You’ll have to get better brakes or stop
using it, son.” “I could have stopped if I’d had some warning,” said Bernard.
“All right, officer, I’ll get the brakes attended to.” He pulled the bike down
on to the towpath. Clinging to a pole beside the barge was Mr Kelso, the health
inspector. “Good gracious!” said Mr Kelso. “You look almost as dirty as when I
saw you at school this morning!” “I’ve been in a scrap, mister,” exclaimed
Bernard. “I’ll soon get cleaned up.” “That’s what I want to check on,” said Mr
Kelso. “I’d like to inspect your barge, but your dog won’t let me down.” “A
good watchdog is Tiger,” said Bernard. “All right, come on! Down Tiger!” Tiger
gave a quiet growl, but lay down obediently. The dog watched with a suspicious
eye as Mr Kelso prowled round the barge. “Only an old enamel bowl to wash in!”
said Mr Kelso. “Where do you get the water from?” “Out of the canal,” said
Bernard, “but I boil it first.” “Not at all satisfactory!” said Mr Kelso. “I
shall have to put in a report about this. I doubt if you’ll be allowed to go on
living here.” Bernard watched Mr Kelso march away. Tiger looked up at Bernard
and whined. “Aye, it’s a bit of a problem, pal!” said Bernard. “Bike and home
both condemned! Well, let’s take things as they come! The first job is to get
this junk stowed away, then off to a game of football!” That thought cheered
him up. He set to work briskly, unloading the hose and the sink from the
sidecar. A shout made him turn round. The Owen Engineering Works overlooked the
canal. One of the foremen was leaning from a factory window and calling. “Hey,
Bernard, do you need that hose!” he shouted. “We could use it at our
Some time later, Bernard pedalled his bike towards the football pitch, with Tiger sitting in the pram sidecar. He was seen by two men standing talking on the street corner. One was Mr Miles, the school attendance officer. The other was the policeman who had told Bernard to get his brakes attended to.
“I know that urchin!” exclaimed Mr Miles. “It’s Bernard Brigg!” He stepped into the road and put up his hand. “Stop! You should be at school, Briggs!” “Look out, Mr Miles!” called the policeman. “The lad oughtn’t to be riding that bike! The brakes aren’t safe!” Bernard clapped on his brakes and the bike stopped smartly, well short of Mr Miles. “Not to worry!” grinned Bernard. “These brakes would stop a runaway tank now!” The policeman bent down and inspected the brakes. “You’re right, son!” he said. “They couldn’t be better!” “I’ve had them fixed by experts at the Owen Engineering Works,” said Bernard. “And I’m not at school because my head’s given me the afternoon off to play football! Do you mind stepping aside Mr Miles, or I’ll miss the kick-off!” The attendance officer grunted. He looked like a cat who had seen the canary escape, but he moved back to let Bernard pedal on. Reaching the ground, Bernard was pleased to see that Mr Owen was the referee. Mr Owen ran the Engineering Works, and it was he who had given Bernard permission to use the barge. He was also a good referee, and Bernard knew the game would be well controlled with Mr Owen in charge. When the teams turned out, Bernard saw another old acquaintance. Turning out as centre-forward for the opposition, the East District, was big Elkie. The East started off with a rush. Their winger brought the ball along. Elkie pounded down the middle, bawling for a pass. The winger lofted the ball over, Bernard jumped out and collected the cross. Elkie rushed at him. Clutching the ball, Bernard swayed aside, and Elkie stampeded past. “Get your brakes relined, Elkie!” grinned Bernard. “Oof!” said Elkie, colliding with the goalpost. Bernard booted the ball clear. His forwards slung the ball about and the striker ran in. “Hit it!” bellowed Bernard. The striker obliged, and the shot went slamming into the net. Bernard’s West District team were one up. Stung by that, the East came surging back. Elkie burst through, hustling the ball along. Bernard dived at his feet. Mr Owen’s whistle shrilled. Bernard had grabbed the ball, then Elkie’s boot thudded into his ribs. Bernard rolled over and bounced to his feet. “You all right, lad?” asked Mr Owen. “He couldn’t kick his way out of a paper bag!” said Bernard. He took the free kick, but the East were soon swarming round his goal again. Elkie bullocked through, and hit the ball with everything he’d got. Bernard took off and pulled the shot down under the bar. The East kept hammering away. Bernard bounced about his goal, stopping everything they fired at him. With time running out, the West were still holding on to their lead, thanks to Bernard. Elkie made a last effort, and broke clear with the ball. He ran in with only Bernard to beat. “Bet you miss it!” said Bernard. Elkie scowled, and hit the ball with all his weight behind it. Bernard did not need to move. The ball went straight at him, and smacked into his safe hands. “Good old Elkie!” chortled Bernard. “So keen to hit me you clean forgot about scoring!” The final whistle blew. Bernard turned to leave the field, and saw Mr Kelso waiting on the touchline. “Grubby again, Briggs!” said Mr Kelso. “He’s grubby because he’s just played a storming game in goal!” snapped Mr Owen. “Ahem!” said Mr Kelso. “Well, come on, Briggs. Councillor Simpson, the chairman of the Public Health Committee has read my report, and he’s waiting for us at your barge.” Mr Simpson was waiting on the towpath when Bernard pedalled up. Mr Kelso had already arrived in his car. “Not exactly palatial, is it, lad?” said Mr Simpson, jerking a thumb at the barge. “Mr Kelso tells me you’ve got no washing facilities.” “He’s out of date, mister,” said Bernard. “Come and see.” He took the two men into the cabin, Mr Kelso stared. Fastened to the bulkhead was the old sink that Bernard had bought for sixpence. An old oil drum, cleaned up and polished, was on brackets above it, with a pipe leading down to the taps of the sink. The wastepipe of the sink led out through a hole under the sink. “I borrowed some tools and rigged that up before the match,” explained Bernard. “I fill the oil drum with fresh water from a tap in the yard at the Owen Engineering Works. I’ve got permission to use it. The waste runs out into the canal.” “Can’t see anything wrong with that!” said Councillor Simpson. “You’re obviously an ingenious lad who knows how to look after himself. Come on, Kelso, we’re wasting our time here!” Kelso trailed out after Councillor Simpson. Bernard winked at Tiger. “I reckon we’ve cleaned up all round today, Tiger!” he said.
NEXT WEEK—A new adventure
for Bernard when he becomes
the guinea pig in a lab
Episode Twelve of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken
from The Wizard
The sound of a football being kicked made young Bernard Briggs prick his ears up. He was on the canal towpath near the barge where he lived with his dog Tiger.
The sound came
from the other side of the wall that separated the towpath from the Owen
Engineering Works. “Some of the lads from the factory must be having a
kick-about in their dinner hour, Tiger,” said Bernard. He had already had his
own dinner, a helping of fish and chips that he shared with Tiger. His school
was closed for the mid-term holiday, and Bernard was busy with his junk
business. He had an old pram attached to his bike as a sidecar, and from the
pram he was unloading the assorted scrap that he had collected during the
morning. On the side of the pram was painted: “B. Briggs. Dealer.” Bernard
was on his own in the world, and he made a living by dealing in scrap. It was
a hard start in life for the boy who was later to become
Bernard Briggs becomes a lab guinea pig and finds out how a test pilot must feel under pressure.
He sliced the ball, and it sailed away to land a few yards in front of the goal. Bernard positioned himself to gather it. The surface of the yard was a long way from Wembley standards. The ball hit a loose stone and spun off at an unexpected angle. It was heading for the top corner of the goal to Bernard’s left. Bernard took off. He hurled himself upwards and back. His left hand went reaching out. His fingers got a touch, and he pushed the ball away. It hit the wall outside the chalked post. Bernard went sprawling, but he was up again instantly, a grin on his face. “That boy’s reflexes work like lightning!” said Mr Arthur. “The way that ball changed direction would have defeated most goalkeepers.” Bernard’s opponents made a last effort to put the ball past him. A high one came over, and Sam Webster ran for it. He had already sized up the corner of the goal that he was going to aim for. Bernard was on the move as well. He sprinted out of goal, stuck out a foot as the ball came down and hooked it away. Before Sam had worked out what was happening, Bernard had dodged past, taking the ball with him. The opposition had moved up, and the other goalkeeper was well forward from his wall. Bernard got his toe under the ball and lifted it high. The players watched it soar down the yard. “You’ve put it over the wall on to the railway, Bernard!” one of them exclaimed. “Like to bet?” said Bernard. The other goalkeeper suddenly came to life. “Crikey!” he gasped, scrambling back towards his goal. He was too late. The ball dropped behind him and smacked against the wall between the chalk marks. “Caught you napping there!” Chortled Bernard. A hooter sounded, signalling that it was time to return to work. Sam Webster slapped Bernard on the back. “Great goalkeeping, Bernard,” he said. “I’m glad you don’t play against us in the works league!” “Thanks for the game,” said Bernard. He started to amble away, but Mr Arthur called to him. “Just a minute, young fellow,” said Mr Arthur. “You may be the person I’ve been looking for. Would you like to help me with an experiment in the research lab this afternoon?” “Sorry, mister, but I’ve got a living to earn,” said Bernard. “I’m off looking for scrap.” “We’ve got some scrap here,” said Mr Arthur. “I’ll see you get a load in return for your help in the lab.” Bernard collected his bike with the pram sidecar and brought it round to the yard entrance. Mr Arthur’s eyebrows rose. “Is that your transport?” he said. “Very original! Well, I’ll get Bert Pearce, out labourer, to fill it from the scrap heap.” He beckoned, and a stocky man in greasy overalls came over. Mr Arthur explained what he wanted, and Bert Pearce took the bike. “It’ll be ready for you when you’ve finished, Bernard,” said Mr Arthur. “Come on. The lab is this way.”
THE FIVE-BOB THIEF
The research department was well equipped and in the middle of the laboratory was a contraption that looked like the cockpit of a fighter aircraft. A hood fitted to it was open. Looking into the cockpit, Bernard saw a panel of lights and switches.
“This is our high-speed simulator,” explained Mr Arthur. “It’s designed to test the stresses on materials and individual at high speed. You’ll see it’s balanced on rocker arms so that it be flung about in all directions. In you get, lad!” Bernard climbed into the cockpit, and Mr Arthur helped him into strap himself into the seat. “I shall close the hood, so that all you’ll see is the instrument panel,” Mr Arthur went on. “Every time a light flashes on the panel, you must immediately pull the switch underneath that light. Got it?” “Right!” said Bernard. “The important thing is to work quickly but calmly,” said Mr Arthur. “Don’t forget the simulator will be whizzing you up and down and round and round at the same time.” “I’ve always wondered what it felt like to be a guinea pig,” grinned Bernard. “I feel that the results I’ve been getting so far have been unsatisfactory because the people tested have got panicky in the unusual conditions and failed to think clearly. I’m hoping you’ll do better.” He closed the black hood and snapped it shut. Bernard found himself in darkness except for a faint glow from the instrument panel. He heard the hum of machinery, then he was flung against the straps as the cockpit began to spin. A light blinked on the panel. Bernard’s hand shot out and prodded at the button below the light. Another light came on in its place, and out went Bernard’s hand again. The cockpit rocked and spun. Lights came on and off. Arthur moved a lever, and the cockpit began to spin faster. “Phew, I reckon I must be in orbit!” muttered Bernard. His hands were still moving quickly and surely over the switches. The cool head and fast reactions that made him such a remarkable goalkeeper enabled him to keep pace with the lights as they flashed on and off. At last the hum of machinery stopped, and the cockpit came to a standstill. The hood snapped open, and Mr Arthur beamed at him. “A splendid set of results, Bernard, said Mr Arthur. “You’re a perfect subject for the experiment.” “Cor!” said Bernard. “Have I stopped? The room’s still going round!” “A touch of dizziness,” said Mr Arthur, helping him out. “It’ll soon wear off. Here’s my secretary with a cup of tea for you.” Bernard sat in a chair and gulped the tea. Clutching a sheaf of notes, Mr Arthur went out with the secretary. “I must dictate a report on this experiment to my secretary,” he said. “Can you find your own way out, Bernard? If you can help me again next week. I’ll see you get another load of scrap.” “It’s a deal, mister!” said Bernard. The dizziness had gone. He finished the tea and went out. His bike was in the yard, the pram piled high with an assortment of scrap. “Great!” said Bernard. “This’ll buy me and Tiger a few dinners. I’ll take it straight round to Alfie’s yard and see what he’ll give me for it.” He pedalled out of the yard and along the street, heading for Alfie’s junkyard. Round the corner there was a hill to climb, and Bernard got off and began to push his bike. A hulking young fellow in a leather jacket was leaning against the wall. He came forward to meet Bernard. “That’s a likely-looking lot of scrap you’ve got, kid,” he said. “I’ll give you five bob for it.” “Nothing doing, mate,” said Bernard. “It may be worth more than five bob, and anyway I always do business with Alfie.” He moved on. The young fellow came up behind him and whipped out a cosh from under his jacket. Before Bernard could turn, the cosh thudded down on the back of his skull. Bernard grunted, and went sprawling. Slowly his senses came back. He was vaguely aware of the noise of a van engine then a door slammed. He pushed himself up, and gasped as a pain shot through his head. He blinked to focus his eyes, and had a glimpse of a van skidding away, round a corner. Bernard hauled himself up. He was alone in the street. His pram sidecar was empty. All his scrap had gone. “Cor!” muttered Bernard. “Somebody went to a lot of trouble for five-bob’s worth of junk! Ouch, my head!” He leaned against the bike until the throbbing in his head had subsided a little, then he climbed into the saddle and started back towards the canal. “Well, might as well go home, I reckon!” he decided. Tiger jumped around him, tail wagging furiously, when Bernard got back to the barge. Bernard patted him. “It’s been a rough old day, pal,” said Bernard. “There’s a bone I’ve got saved for you, but I’ll have to make do with bread and marge! I hope I meet that geezer in the leather jacket again! I’ll be ready for him next time!”
A growl from Tiger aroused Bernard. The dog was lying in the cabin of the barge at the foot of Bernard’s bed. Bernard had turned in early, hoping to forget his empty stomach and his aching head.
“What’s up, pal?” asked Bernard. A voice called from outside. “We’re coming aboard, Bernard! Keep your dog under control!” Bernard recognised the voice of old Frank, the night-watchman from the Owen Factory. “O K, Frank!” he answered. “Quite, Tiger.” A torch shone into the cabin. The watchman climbed in. He was followed by a policeman and Mr Arthur. “What’s up?” said Bernard, swinging out of bed. “We want a word with you about the scrap you took from Owen’s today, son,” said the policeman. “But I never reported it had been nicked!” exclaimed Bernard. “You admit you have been stealing?” snapped Mr Arthur. “Hey, wait a minute, you’ve got it wrong!” protested Bernard. “I was working late tonight, and I discovered that some platinum rods were missing from the laboratory,” said Mr Arthur. “They are very valuable, and I had to report the loss to the police.” “Mr Arthur tells us you were in the lab this afternoon, son,” said the policeman. “We’ll have to ask you some questions.” “I don’t know anything about platinum rods!” said Bernard. “All I had was some scrap, and that was stolen from me!” “I can speak for Bernard,” said the night-watchman. “You wouldn’t find a more honest lad.” A second policeman came into the cabin. In his hand he held a metal cylinder. The name “Owen” was stamped on the outside. “I’ve been having a look round outside,” he said. “I found this in a pile of junk near the towpath.” That’s the cylinder the platinum rods were in!” exclaimed Mr Arthur. “It’s nothing to do with me!” said Bernard. “What pile of junk are you talking about, anyway? All my scrap is aboard the barge, what little I’ve got.” “Come and see,” said the policeman. Bernard pulled on some clothes and followed the others out. The policeman shone his torch on a heap of junk near the towpath. “That looks like stuff from our scrap heap!” said Mr Arthur. “Yes, this must be the load that the boy was given this afternoon!” “You said the scrap had been stolen from you, lad,” said one of the policemen. “It was!” insisted Bernard. “I don’t know how it got back here!” “You took the platinum as well as the scrap!” said Mr Arthur. “You’ve let me down, Briggs!” “We’ll need a statement,” said the policemen. “You’ll have to come with us to the station, son.” At the police station, Bernard repeated his story to a C.I.D. sergeant. The officer made notes, then looked at Mr Arthur. “I’m not pressing charges,” said Mr Arthur. “I suppose I’m to blame for leaving the boy alone in the lab and putting temptation in his way.” “I’m not a thief, I tell you!” protested Bernard. “You ask Mr Owen. He knows me well.” “Mr Owen is abroad on business,” said Mr Arthur, “but when he comes back I’m sure he’ll agree with me that we don’t want you hanging about the factory any more.” “All right, lad, you can go,” said the sergeant, “but if you decide to change your story, we’re always ready to listen.” Bernard walked back to his barge, Tiger trotting at his heels. He heard the sound of banging coming from the direction of the canal, and he broke into a run. The night-watchman was nailing boards across the entrance to the cabin of the barge. “Hey, what’s going on, Frank?” shouted Bernard. “Sorry, Bernard, It’s Mr Arthur’s orders,” said the watchman. “You’re not to use the barge again, and you’re to keep away from the Owen Company’s land!” With chiming from a nearby church clock. Bernard pedalled his bike along a deserted street. Tiger sat in the pram. “We ain’t got a home, Tiger, and I’m branded as a thief!” he said. “The cops will be watching me, ready to pounce! I’ve been framed! If I find the yobbo that did it I’d make sure he gets a worse headache than mine!”
NEXT WEEK—Bernard finds
unexpected friends in the
Episode Thirteen of: The
Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard
Bernard Briggs yawned as he rode his bike into the playground of
Bernard had spent the night trying to sleep in the pram, after being turned out of the old barge that had been his home. Cyril Dallow, the class sneak, caught sight of Bernard, and gave a cackle. “Watch your pockets, boys!” sniggered Cyril. “Here comes Burglar Briggs!” Olly Potter, another of the boys was eating an apple. He flung the core, and Cyril yelped as it hit him on the nose. “Shut up, drip!” said Olly. Bernard parked his bike as Olly and some of the other boys gathered round. “We don’t believe that story about you being a thief, Bernard,” said Olly. “Thanks, mate,” said Bernard. “I wish I could convince a few other people!” During the mid-term holiday, Bernard had collected a load of scrap from the Owen Engineering Company. Bernard was on his own, and he made a living for himself and his dog, Tiger, by dealing in junk. After Bernard’s visit to the factory, some platinum rods had gone missing from the firm’s research department. The evidence seemed to point to Bernard as the thief. Mr Owen, the factory owner, who was a football referee in his spare time, had befriended Bernard and given him permission to live on the old barge on the company’s canal wharf. But now Mr Owen was abroad on business, and there was nobody to speak up for Bernard. Mr Arthur, the head of the company’s research department, had decided not to prosecute. But he had ordered Bernard to keep away from the factory, and not to use the barge any more. So Bernard and Tiger were homeless again.
Bernard Briggs finds himself surrounded by the law when he becomes the ‘keeper for a police football team.
Tiger was sitting in the old pram.
The dog ducked down out of sight when he heard a familiar voice. Mr Moult,
Bernard’s teacher, came out of the school and clanged the bell. “Inside!”
shouted Mr Moult. “And don’t dawdle!” A sneer crossed his face as he looked
Bernard up and down. “Have you spent the night in the gutter, Briggs?” he said.
“A very suitable place!” After a restless night in the pram, followed by a
makeshift wash at a drinking fountain in the park, Bernard was not exactly
immaculate. His threadbare sweater and patched jeans were rumpled, and his hair
stuck out like a chimney-sweep’s brush. Bernard made no answer to Mr Moult’s
goading. He was used to his teacher’s little ways. The boys trooped into class.
Mr Moult pointed to a desk that stood apart in a corner, near his own desk.
“You’ll site there, Briggs,” he said. “I’m not having a thief mixing with the
other boys! You’re a bad influence!” Bernard still said nothing. He knew that
Mr Moult would be delighted to make more trouble for him if he lost his temper.
He went to the desk and sat down. A snigger from Cyril Dallow turned to a
squawk as somebody trod hard on toady’s foot. “Silence!” bawled Mr Moult.
“Settle down!” Bernard looked out of the window. Mr Robinson, the school
janitor, was going past. At his heels trotted Tiger. Mr Robinson gave Bernard a
thumbs-up sign and winked. Bernard grinned. It was good to know that he still
had some friends left. Mr Robinson would look after Tiger until school was
over. Bernard’s grin faded as Mr Moult started to talk about football. The
teacher was in charge of the school team. “I have here the names of the players
to represent the school against
THE GOALIE FROM JAIL
After school, Bernard set off on his bike with Tiger in the sidecar. It was a relief to get away from Mr Moult at last, but Bernard had no chance to relax. “We’ve got to hunt up some scrap, pal,” he told Tiger. “We need some money if we’re going to have a roof over our heads tonight.”
on, Bernard passed the pitch where his school played. The school team was
trotting out on to the field, and Bernard stopped to watch. Mr Moult had put
Cyril Dallow in goal. Cyril looked the part with bright
NEXT WEEK – Bernard and
Tiger fall foul of a loud-
mouth know-all amateur inter-
Episode Fourteen of: The
Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard
Bernard Briggs was pedalling through the busy section of his home town
approached a crossroads, and a policeman stepped out to halt the traffic
moving in the other direction. The motorist at the head of the queue stopped
his big car and glared at the constable’s upraised hand. “What are we being
halted for?” the driver grumbled to his passenger. “Are they letting the Lord
mayor through?” The motorist nearly swallowed his cigar when he saw who was
going past. “A scruffy schoolboy on an old mangle!” he spluttered. It wasn’t
an absolutely accurate description, but it was near enough. Bernard’s jersey
was threadbare, his jeans patched. His hair had been smoothed down with
water, but it had sprung up again like the bristles of a brush. The old bike
he had built himself from bits and pieces. Attached to the bike was an old
pram as a sidecar. Painted on the pram were the words: “B. Briggs. Dealer.”
Bernard’s dog, Tiger, sat in the pram, enjoying the ride. The policeman
winked at Bernard, and got a grin in return. “Thanks, mate!” chirped Bernard.
Bernard was well known to the local police. He had recently turned out for
their football team when they were short of a goalkeeper, and he had played a
storming game. Bernard was already showing the courage and skill that were to
He soon struck lucky.
Tiger’s high spirits may make Bernard laugh, but they upset a touchy customer.
“There’s an old wringer you can have,” said a young
housewife. “I want to get rid of it now I’ve got an automatic washing machine,
and will you take an old jacket and cap of my husband’s?” “I’ll be glad to have
the wringer, lady,” said Bernard. “I ain’t a ragman, but I can get rid of the
clothes for you. How about three bob for the lot?” Bernard carried the old
wringer out of the kitchen, and heaved it along to his bike. The woman brought
out an old sports coat and a cap with a gaudy check pattern. She hung them on
the gate for Bernard to pick up. The cap fell to the ground. Tiger was frisking
about, and he pounced on the cap. He worried it like a rat, and tossed it in
the air. “Your dog’s playful,” the woman smiled. Tiger tossed the cap again. It
came down on his head and settled at a jaunty angle. Bernard and the woman
laughed. The woman’s husband, a burly youngish man, came hurrying from upstairs
and out into the garden. “What have you been giving away, Mary?” he demanded.
“Only some old rubbish,” answered his wife. “You never wear the stuff.” “That
moth-eaten mongrel’s got my cap!” the man snapped, pointing at Tiger. “He looks
almost as funny in it as you did, Maurice,” his wife giggled. “Is that urchin
trying to be funny?” demanded the man. He swung a foot at Tiger. “Drop it, you
brute!” Tiger dodged away. “Lay off, mister!” said Bernard. “It’s just an
accident that Tiger comes to be wearing that cap.” “Yes, can’t you take a joke,
Maurice?” said the woman. “You’re getting terribly pompous.” “Pompous, am I?”
said her husband. “Well, let me tell you a thing or two!” Bernard could see a
family row developing. He signalled to Tiger, and quickly retreated. The sound
of raised voices followed him as he pedalled away. Sitting in the pram on the
old jacket, with the wringer alongside, Tiger cocked an ear. He was still
wearing the cap. “You seem to have taken a fancy to that gear, Tiger,” said
Bernard, “but it sounds as if you’ve started something!” Bernard made a few
more calls, and collected a few odds and ends, then it was time to go to
school. Bernard trundled his load of junk into the playground, with Tiger
perched on top. Mr Robinson, the school janitor, allowed the dog to stay in the
boilerhouse while Bernard was at lessons. A car stood near the school entrance.
Mr Moult, Bernard’s teacher, was talking to the man who had got out of the car.
“Crikey!” muttered Bernard. “That’s the bloke who tried to kick Tiger!” The man
had recognised Bernard at the same moment. He turned to Mr Moult. “Do you have
to put up with that ragamuffin, Mr Moult?” he demanded. “He caused trouble at
my house this morning.” “That’s Briggs, a young lout who should be in a home!”
answered Mr Moult, “but I’m doing my best to civilize him.” Bernard joined his
pals, and the boys went into school. “Know who that is with Moulty, Bernard?”
asked Olly Potter. “It’s Maurice Grainger, the centre-forward of Manningham
Amateurs. He played for
BERNARD BLOCKS PLAN B.
Bernard was puffing a bit as he pedalled up to the Boys’ Club ground later that evening. On top of the other junk in his pram he now had a stack of timber that the foreman on the demolition site had given him.
Tiger was perched aloft. “We’re just about in time, Tiger,” said Bernard. The other players were already trotting out. Bernard rushed into the dressing-room and tore off his clothes. He was still pulling on his jersey as he ran out again. A player in the Boys’ Club strip staggered as Bernard bumped into him. “Sorry, mate!” said Bernard. “Briggs!” snapped a familiar voice. “Cor!” said Bernard. “Maurice Grainger again!” Grainger was wearing the Number Nine strip. He moved away, scowling. Bernard trotted to his goal and spoke to his left-back. “What’s Maurice Grainger doing in the Boys’ Club colours?” “He’s the Boys’ Club president, and he does a bit of coaching for them,” explained the back. “He’s eligible to play. I reckon they think they’ll really hammer us with him at centre-forward. The light was fading. The referee signalled, and the lights came on round the ground. The Boys’ Club couldn’t afford a professional installation, and the lights were a long way from First Division standard. Bernard put up a hand to shield his eyes. “We’re going to have trouble from this lot with high balls,” he said. The Boys’ Club kicked off. Grainger tapped the ball to the inside man and raced ahead. He was in position to take the return. He swerved round a defender and slammed in a hard shot. The ball rose for the top corner of the net. Bernard went up to take it. The ball vanished from his sight against the glare of the lighting. He shoved out a hand by sheer instinct, and got a touch. His lightning reaction tipped the ball over the bar. “Nice, chum!” called the left-back. “I gave away a corner!” grunted Bernard. “I could have collected it properly if the lights hadn’t blinded me.” He put his fingers to his mouth and whistled. The referee frowned at him. “I do the whistling here!” said the referee. “Sorry, ref,” said Bernard. “I was just calling my dog!” Tiger ran on to the pitch, carrying the check cap that Grainger’s wife had given to Bernard. The dog sat up and offered the cap, Bernard took it, and Tiger ran off again. Bernard clapped the cap on his head. “I see!” smiled the referee. “Right, let’s get on with it!” Grainger came running in as the ball lofted over from the corner. He went up to head the cross home. Bernard jumped with him. Soaring up, Bernard pulled the ball out of the air. “Mine!” he grinned. “This cap of yours is great for keeping the lights out of my eyes!” He got the ball clear with a long throw. His team mounted an attack, but they were held, and forced back. Grainger broke through. He changed pace, did a shuffle, looked left, and hit the ball right. Bernard wasn’t fooled. He was already diving, and he took the ball cleanly on the line. Bouncing up, he booted the ball down the wing. Grainger trotted back, and one of his team-mates spoke to him. “That scruffy-looking kid in their goal is making things hard for you, Maurice!” “He’s been lucky so far,” grunted Grainger, “but it won’t be long before I get one past him.” The Boys’ Club put on the pressure. Bernard’s team were pushed back, and the defence got in a tangle. Grainger came through with the ball. His left-winger got away unmarked, and strode into open space near the far post. Grainger raced the ball on towards Bernard. A defender hustled towards him. The left-winger was yelling for the ball, but Grainger ignored him. The defender came in for the tackle, and Grainger got off a hurried shot. Without moving, Bernard collected it. The left-winger threw up his arms in disgust. “Bad luck, mate!” grinned Bernard. “Your centre-forward is so keen to put one past me that nobody else gets a look-in!” The game seemed to be developing into a personal duel between Grainger and Bernard. Grainger came through again, and Bernard leapt out to meet him. At full stretch, Bernard went down at Grainger’s feet. “Bernard will get his head kicked in!” gasped a defender. But Bernard had snatched the ball away from Grainger’s feet. He rolled aside and Grainger jumped over him. Still on the ground, Bernard rolled the ball away to his centre-half. Getting to his feet, Bernard overheard a snatch of conversation between Grainger and his inside-left. “We’re not getting anywhere, Maurice,” said the inside man. We’ll have to change our tactics.” “Stick to Plan ‘B.’ as I told you,” answered Grainger. “Plan ‘B ‘?” thought Bernard, trotting back to his goal. “I reckon I know what that is. They keep feeding Grainger, pushing the ball down the middle for him to have a go.” He watched an attack by his team being broken up. The Boys’ Club centre-half came away with the ball. Grainger started to stride ahead. “Here comes Plan ‘B’!” muttered Bernard. The centre-half got his foot under the ball and sent it soaring high down the middle. Bernard flung his cap off and came racing out. He strode beyond his area and kept going. Grainger was waiting for the ball to reach him. A surprised shout from a team-mate made him glance round. He saw the goal empty, and Bernard running for him. He hesitated for a moment, then scrambled towards the ball. He was too late. Bernard took off in a great leap. The glare from the lights was not so bad out here in the middle. Bernard climbed up high and met the ball with his head. A quick flick, and he headed the ball up to his right-winger. “Run it, mate!” yelled Bernard. The winger strode away with the ball. The opposition had moved up, and there were gaps in their defence. The sudden switch in play had taken them by surprise. The winger lifted the ball across and his centre-forward slammed it into the net. “Goal!” yelled Bernard. He grinned at Maurice Grainger. “It’s what I said, chum! When you make plans, you’ve got to reckon with the other fellow!” There was no more scoring, and that one goal won the match for Bernard’s side. Back at the barge, Bernard unloaded the wood and the wringer. Tiger frisked about, watching Bernard. “When I’ve washed my clothes, I’ll be able to put them through the wringer. Old Moult won’t be able to call me scruffy soon.”
NEXT WEEK—The school
faces destruction unless
Bernard can act fast.
Episode Fifteen of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken
from The Wizard
The ball came in fast and low as Bernard Briggs dived at full stretch. His hands clamped round the ball. With a thump he landed on the ground.
Bernard!” called his pal, Olly Potter. Bernard’s landing was no soft one on
lush turf. The boys were kicking a ball about before school, with a goal
chalked on the playground wall. The surface of the playground was rock hard,
but that didn’t bother Bernard. He would have thrown himself on to a bed of
nails to save a shot. Bernard bounced to his feet. The playground was dusty
as well as hard, and hurling himself about in goal hadn’t improved his
appearance. “Better knock off,” said Bernard. “There’s just time for a wash
before the bell.” Mr Moult came striding up. He was Bernard’s teacher, and he
never missed a chance of getting at his unfavourite pupil. “Filthy, as usual,
Briggs!” snapped Mr Moult. “Go and get some of that dirt off! Try using soap,
for a change!” Bernard knew it was no use explaining that he was just on his
way for a wash, anyway. Experience had taught him that arguing with Mr Moult
only led to more trouble. The teacher liked well-dressed, respectful boys,
and Bernard’s independent ways irked him. Bernard was on his own. He lived on
an abandoned barge with his dog, Tiger, and he managed to earn a living by
dealing in scrap metal. It was a hard start in life for the boy who was to
Pressed hard by opposing forwards, Bernard doesn’t waste time but clears his goal with an overhead kick.
Clean and shining, Bernard slipped into his desk just before Mr Moult entered the classroom. The teacher looked disappointed at not being able to jump on Bernard for being dirty or late. “Open your books at page seventeen,” said Mr Moult. “Start work on exercises 4 to 8. Briggs try to make your scrawl neat enough for me to read! If you manage to get anything down on paper at all, that is!” There was nothing wrong with Bernard’s handwriting, and he was one of the brightest boys in the class, but Mr Moult would never admit that. Bernard said nothing, and set to work. When the classroom clock showed nine-thirty, Bernard put his hand up. “Mr Moult, can I go—” “Looking for an excuse to dodge work again, Briggs?” said Mr Moult. “Keep quiet and get on with it!” Bernard stood up. “I was asking to be excused because—” He got no further. Mr Moult marched up to him, grabbed him by the shoulder, and shoved him back into his seat. “Don’t try to defy me, Briggs!” he blared. “I told you to get on with your work! You’ll leave this classroom when I give permission, and not before!” The classroom door opened, and the headmaster came in. “Anything wrong, Mr Moult?” asked the head. “Briggs was trying to sneak out, headmaster,” said Mr Moult. “He’ll use any trick to get out of work.” “Really?” said the head. “I asked Briggs to see me in my study at nine-thirty, I came along to see what was delaying him.” Mr Moult’s jaw sagged. “You – you sent for Briggs?” he spluttered. “I tried to tell you, Mr Moult, but you wouldn’t listen,” said Bernard. “I suggest you should be less hasty in future, Mr Moult,” said the head. “Come along, Bernard.” Bernard followed the headmaster out. In his study, the head opened a cupboard. There was a bundle of clothes inside. “Don’t be offended by what I’m going to say, Bernard,” the head began. “But I know you have a bit of a struggle, and we have some clothes given to us now and then to help lads like you. They’re second-hand, of course, but they’re clean and in good condition. Is there anything here that could be useful to you? Don’t look on it as charity.” “Thanks very much, sir,” said Bernard. “I ain’t offended! It’s a kind offer, but I’d sooner not. I ain’t got much, but what I have got I earned myself, and that’s how I’d like to go on.” “The answer I expected,” smiled the head. “But I thought it was worth trying! All right, Bernard, nip along back to your class, then.” For the rest of the day, Mr Moult left Bernard alone, but the teacher hadn’t forgotten the incident. When the class was dismissed, Bernard hurried out with the rest. The janitor was passing. “Don’t forget tomorrow at four, Bernard,” said Mr Robinson. “The youth club can do with you in goal. They’ve never beaten the scouts.” “I’ll be there on the dot, Mr Robinson,” promised Bernard. Mr Moult overheard the conversation. It was the start of more trouble for Bernard.
A BAN ON BERNARD
With school over for the day, Bernard set off on his old bike to look for scrap. Attached to the bike was an ancient pram that Bernard had made into a sidecar. Tiger, his dog, sat in the pram, which had “B. Briggs. Dealer” painted on it.
A big house standing in a large garden caught Bernard’s eye. He hopped off his bike and went up to the front door, with Tiger frisking round his heels. The owner of the house, Mr Evans, answered Bernard’s knock. He was a burly, jovial man who looked as if he enjoyed a joke. “Junk?” he said. “No, I don’t think so, lad. Hang on, though. There is something. Come round the back.” At the back of the house, the garden ran down to a sports field. A notice on the other side of the fence said, “Evans Sports Field.” Mr Evans owned a factory, and the field belonged to his firm. “You can have that if you can take it away,” said Mr Evans. He was pointing to a roller that stood at the bottom of the garden. The roller was massive, and it had two shafts. It had originally been designed to be pulled by a horse. “Cor!” said Bernard. “It must weigh tons! A bit bigger than the scrap I usually handle. Are you sure it’s alright for me to have it, mister?” “We’ve got a motor roller for our sports field now,” said Mr Evans. “I’ll be glad to get rid of it, if you can do the job quickly.” “Right, mister. I’ll shift it!” said Bernard. “And thanks.” Mr Evans went back into the house, leaving Bernard scratching his head and looking at the roller. “I’ve set that lad a bit of a poser,” Mr Evans told his wife. Half-an-hour later, Mr Evans was in his front garden, digging up some weeds, when Bernard appeared with Tiger. Mopping his brow, Bernard climbed on to his bike. “Well, you stuck at it, lad!” said Mr Evans. “Giving up at last?” “I’ll be back, mister!” said Bernard and pedalled away. A few streets away he arrived at a fish-and-chip shop. Five of his school pals were outside. “Hi, Bernard,” said Olly Potter. “We were just pooling our cash to see if we could manage a feed between us.” “Fancy a job that’ll earn you a bit of pocket money?” said Bernard. “Mind you, I can’t pay you until I’ve completed the deal!” “Never mind about that,” said Olly. “If you need a hand, lead on, chum!” Back at the house, Mr Evans was sitting chatting with his wife over a cup of tea. A bellow from outside brought him to his feet. “Heave!” Mr Evans and his wife looked out of the window to where Bernard and his pals were hauling at the roller. They had fixed ropes to the shafts to give them a better grip. As the roller trundled away, Bernard waved. “Thanks, mister!” he said. “All right, lad, the joke’s on me!” smiled Mr Evans. “Good luck to you!” Bernard and his pals hauled the roller round to Alfie’s junkyard where Bernard did most of his business. Alfie lifted his battered bowler and scratched his head when he saw the roller. “Never had to price anything like this before, Bernard,” he said. “You’ll have to give me some time to work out how much I can give you.” “Don’t take too long, Alfie,” said Bernard. “I’ve got to pay my mates here for their donkey work.” “No Hurry, Bernard,” said Olly. “See you in school tomorrow, chum. Have you got any more surprises lined up for old Moulty?” But it was Mr Moult who had a surprise for Bernard in class the next day. “Briggs, there’s a school football practice this afternoon at ,” announced Mr Moult. “Be there as reserve goalkeeper!” “Who me?” said Bernard, in astonishment. Mr Moult was in charge of the school football, but he had never named Bernard for a game before. “Sorry, I can’t, Mr Moult,” said Bernard. “I’m playing for the youth club.” “Your school comes first!” snapped Mr Moult. “I promised the youth club, and I ain’t going to let them down,” said Bernard. “You’re letting the school down!” retorted Mr Moult. “All right, Briggs, if that’s your attitude! You’ve refused to play for your school, and I’ll see to it that you don’t get another chance!” There was a hint of triumph in his voice, and it did not go unnoticed.
The Manningham scouts were a big,
bustling team. They swept into the attack the moment Mr Robinson blew his
whistle to start the game that evening. Standing between his posts, Bernard
watched the forwards bearing down on him. The ball went out to the wing.
Bernard came jumping out as the winger lifted over a high cross. Up went the
centre-forward, but Bernard reached above him. Clawing the ball down, Bernard
swerved away and slung the ball clear. The youth club made ground, but their
attack was blocked. Back came the scouts. A forward tried a long-range shot. It
gave no trouble to Bernard. He was in position to collect it cleanly. Another
forward rushed at him, shoulder lowered. Bernard swung a shoulder to meet the charge,
and stood his ground. “Ouch!” said the forward, bouncing off. “Hard luck,
mate!” grinned Bernard. A spectator had arrived near the goal. It was Mr Evans,
and he stared at Bernard. “That’s the lad who took my roller!” he exclaimed.
“My word, he’s got a safe pair of hands!” Bernard booted the ball away. He had
spotted his left winger moving into open space near the touchline. Bernard
lifted a long one down the field. The ball bounced near the winger, and he
pounced on it. Striding to the flag, he pulled the ball back. The
centre-forward ran on to the pass and slammed in a shot. It went between the
goalkeeper and the post. “Goal!” bellowed Bernard. Stung at being a goal down,
the scouts piled on the pressure. They swarmed round Bernard’s goal. Bernard hurled
himself about, barring their way to an equalizer. He pulled down a high shot. A
quick dive took the ball from the feet of an advancing forward. Another leap,
and he pushed a shot round the post. From the corner, he came bounding out to
snatch the ball from the forward’s head. Nothing that the opposition could do
put the ball past him. Another spectator joined Mr Evans. This was Mr
Cresswell, the selector for the
Two minutes later, Mr Robinson blew for full-time. The youth club had won 2-0. Mr Robinson walked off with Bernard. “A great game, Bernard,” he said, “but there’s Mr Cresswell waiting for you. I don’t like the look of that. I heard how you turned down a school game this evening. I reckon Mr Moult has got it in for you, lad.” “Congratulations, Bernard!” called Mr Evans. “I’m the local scout commissioner, and it’s the first time the youth club have beaten our lads—and they can thank you for it!” “I wouldn’t argue with that,” said Mr Cresswell, “but I’ve come to tell you that you can’t play for the District team again. I’ve been officially informed that you’re banned from the school team. That means you can’t be picked for the District!”
NEXT WEEK—Mr Moult’s job
depends on Bernard keeping
The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs 20 episodes appeared in The Wizard
© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd
Vic Whittle 2006