As you’ll know if you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, I am not averse to a bit of name-dropping. Last week alone I wrote about meeting Gwen Grant, Paul Stewart, Chris Riddell, John Harvey etc. – not to mention the Sheriff of Nottingham. That was last week. Before that… where do I start? I’ve shaken Jacqueline Wilson’s hand and rubbed shoulders with Patrick Stewart, Richard Madeley, Anthony Horowitz, David Almond, Geraldine McCaughrean, Michael Morpurgo and Philip Pullman to name but a few… Basically, I’m the Paris Hilton of children’s books. But while meeting those people is a blast nothing, nothing compares with having corned beef hash at Gail Newsham’s house the other night.
Gail (above) wrote In a League of Their Own! http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=gail+newsham about the amazing women’s football team Dick, Kerr’s Ladies and runs their dedicated website www.dickkerrladies.com . She was kind (and brave) enough to invite me to her home to talk to me about these sporting legends. The first thing she did was to show me Lily Parr’s football boots. I’m not kidding – I almost fainted right there. In fact I would have done if Gail hadn’t got such a light-coloured carpet. Then – then – she left me alone with them. The fool!
Let me put this into persepctive for those of you who are a bit confused. For me, touching Lily Parr’s boots was like you meeting Brad Pitt or David Beckham or Venus Williams or – you know -someone you admire wholeheartedly. Lily Parr. First woman to be inducted in the Football Hall of Fame. Lily Parr, after whom my ficitonal Girls FC football team is named. That Lily Parr.
Aren’t the boots fabulous? All leather with what felt like a steel toe cap, they were quite large – Lily was almost 6′ – but not as heavy as I thought they’d be. Can you see the old fashioned studs and the tiny nails hammered all round the sole? I’m not sure how old the boots are, exactly – Lily’s playing career lasted over thirty years – from 1920 to1951 but that makes them at least 60 or 70. Gail had the white laces in a separate bag so they wouldn’t gather rust from the eye holes.
The boots were only the first of many wondrous gems Gail had as custodian of the Dick, Kerr Ladies’ name. She’s got posters and photos and original match reports galore. My eyes were out on stalks, I’m telling you. Gail has also met some of the players, like Joan Whalley, another Dick, Kerr’s stalwart (right wing) and England player who was also inducted into the Football Hall of Fame. In fact it was through Gail’s endeavours that both Lily and Joan were included.
It was brilliant to meet Gail and I’m hoping we’ll do some events together next year during the Women’s World Cup. Watch this space.