One of the joys of living in London that has not quite been snatched away in recent years, is the access to so many second hand bookshops.
I say not quite, because the number has been greatly reduced - comparing Charing Cross Road today to fifteen years ago is a somewhat depressing experience, but some shops remain, like stubborn weeds determined to defy the corporate gardener. In some areas charity shops are now the closest we have to second hand book shops, and in one Dalston shop recently I came across a rare gem - the Rugby League Annual for 1977-78.
Reading it is to be transformed to another, rather more innocent world - the teams names - Bradford Northern, Blackpool Borough, Wakefield Trinity are often long gone. Two whole pages are devoted to the colours of all 30 professional sides - no sponsors names clogging up these designs. Even the pictures of players like Roger Millward, Brian Hogan, Tony Karalius and Mike Coulman exude a certain reassuring ambience (although that cannot be said for the picture of Hull K.R's John Millington, who looks worryingly like a photofit of the Yorkshire Ripper!)
The highlight of the book is 'The Schoolboy Dream' a report of the warm up to the 1976 Challenge Cup Final, where two school teams from Hull and Leeds played in front of 100,000 fans prior to the match between St Helens and Widnes. Whilst the boys got commemorative plaques from John Noakes of Blue Peter, St Helens were awarded their trophy by - wait for it - Mrs Margaret Thatcher, leader of the Conservative Party!
Whether any rugby league fans got an early boo in - after all this was three years before the wicked witch became Prime Minister - is sadly not recorded. If only they had known what was to come, she might never have left the ground alive! On one level though, you have to give Maggie her due - when the Challenge Cup final is held in 2010, it is pretty nigh impossible to imagine David 'Snooty' Cameron shaking hands with the winning captain............