Stanza 1 (lines 31 - 48)

The final lines of the stanza move to the present where the school boy’s half-hearted kickabouts leave us with two little boys- Alastair Watt and Horace Madden.

Paterson alludes to the poor social conditions endured in Scotland in the mid-20th century. This may contribute to Horace's poor hygience:

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...so smelly the air seems to quiver above him...

The very limted nature of the boys' game suggests their poverty:

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...playing desperate two-touch with a bald tennis ball...

The use of the word desperate here implies that football is perhaps the only thing they have energy for, while bald suggests the faded state of the tennis ball which they use instead of a football.

The poet focuses on the fate of Horace who is left without even this meagre ball. Instead he finds a substitute for a ball, dribbling it past the remnants of a world long gone:

  • the stopped swings suggesting childhood pleasure has been stilted due to poverty and economic success leaving small towns
  • the dead shanty town/ of allotments telling us that nothing is cultivated here - a place where talent falls into the gutter
  • the black shell of Skelly-Dry Cleaners recalls the old sponsors of the team now hollow and ruined - perhaps burnt out by vandals.

The boy significantly arrives in a cul-del-sac – another dead end. Instead of skill, he accidentally kicks the stone into the gutter and then pretends it was planned all along, covering up his failure as he:

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...tries to swank off like he meant it.