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
Paterson alludes to the poor social conditions endured in Scotland in the mid-20th century. This may contribute to Horace's poor hygience:
...so smelly the air seems to quiver above him...
The very limted nature of the boys' game suggests their poverty:
...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 swingssuggesting childhood pleasure has been stilted due to poverty and economic success leaving small towns
the dead shanty town/ of allotmentstelling us that nothing is cultivated here - a place where talent falls into the gutter
the black shell of Skelly-Dry Cleanersrecalls 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:
...tries to swank off like he meant it.