He was escorted the short distance across the glistening tarmac from Swansea Central to the new sports shop he was about to open.
My grandmother took me. Come on boy she said and lifted me as high above the buzz as she could manage, which wasn’t much for a dumpy little woman in her fifties. I patted him on the back as he went in. I remember a huge head with thick brown hair and the smell of aftershave. It was like he had his own gravity the way people pressed towards him.
Gran shoved me through the steaming overcoated and anoraked bodies to stand in front of the hero, the man who’d WON THE WORLD CUP. Three goals in the final — a hat-trick, I’d later learn. The poster he signed for me confused at first. In the massive picture he wore the claret of his club, West Ham, not the red of England in which he’d won.
He scrawled his practiced autograph with the thickest black felt pen I’d ever seen and a helper deftly rolled the poster, first into a plastic bag, and then into a cardboard tube for safe conveyance on the bus back up the valley. Even if it rained.
I can’t remember if he said anything, I’m sure he looked, and grinned. Gran paid and said something complimentary and we were scuttled out past excited people with crumpled green notes in their hands.
In my memory it is all dim and cold and bleak, apart from him. He glowed with health and wealth and cheers. It was my first experience of the potency of celebrity. Everyone fluttered like moths about his flame.