Abide is a word that reminds me of the English Football Association Cup Final. Every year all the teams in the english foot ball league play against each other to win a place in the cup final when the FA cup is awarded, and this since 1923 when the first cup final was played. All teams have a chance to get to the final, but only the best survive, although now and again there are a few surprises. There are traditions attached to this final and one is to sing the hymn “Abide with Me” before the game. It has always been done and always will be.
I have my own memories of the cup final, I grew up with it in the background of my life. We were a working class family, and only got our first TV some time in the fifties. Money was scarce in our area, but somehow we got the few pounds together. It was probably paid for by weekly amounts. We would never had the cash to buy a TV just like that.
Every year the cup final was played at the beginning of May, the last match of the football season and the football supporters were ready. I remember my dad always listening on the radio before the TV arrived. Everyone had a radio somewhere and the match was broadcast. You didn’t see anything, but everyone was listening hoping that their team would win. If your team did not reach the final, you always had a team that you supported.
When the days of TV arrived in our little house, dad was ready to watch, the first time he could actually see the match, even if it was in black and white. Not everyone had a TV in our street in Bethnal Green, East London and so we shared. Families in the East End were not the sort of families to visit each other’s houses, they were small houses and there was no need for visits. We saw the neighbours almost every day, just by looking out of the window. My mum went to school with most of them, but the cup final was different. I remember our first TV days. There was dad of course and my grandfather who lived downstairs in our house. He had been waiting to see the match live for all his 70 years of life. Then there was Ernie. Ernie was the next door neighbour, also retired, and had no television, so he was invited. My uncle lived opposite, not yet with TV, so he was in the group. I think a few bottles of beer were organised and mum and I left the men to it and went shopping. Here and there in our Victorian built street of attached houses, you could hear shouts as a goal was scored. There were also complaints if the referee made a wrong decision.
It was about 2 hours viewing time, including the beginning with “Abide with Me”, and the break in the middle. As time went past in our working class street, slowly everyone had their TV and those days of inviting the men to see the game on our little set (and it was little) were over. They are the memories that remain. We were all abiding with each other.