Football: 2pm yesterday: Bette Davis gets a result

EURO 2000: SCOTLAND V ENGLAND: Avoiding the score is no easy task for those of us without Sky, says Simon Turnbull
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The Independent Online
IT WAS, quite literally on this occasion, after the Lord Mayor's Show. As soon as Alderman Clive Martin, the 672nd Lord Mayor of London, completed his golden coach trip from the Guildhall to St Paul's Cathedral, Steve Rider and the Grandstand team set about wiling away the three hours and 45 minutes until BBC1's delayed big kick-off from Hampden.

It was not an easy task - for those of us for whom BSkyB is beyond the financial limit, that is. It meant an afternoon following in the evasive footsteps of Terry Collier and Bob Ferris, aka James Bolam and Rodney Bewes. The Likely Lads, if memory serves correctly, succeeded in avoiding the result of England's match in Bulgaria (by ducking down in the front seat of their Cortina while passing an Evening Chronicle billboard and by bribing Brian Glover after being followed to the supposed sanctuary of a church) only to discover the game had been flooded off.

They had to settle, instead, for ice skating from Sofia, so it came as some relief to discover that Grandstand had dropped gymnastics from Glasgow from its build-up schedule - the Likely Lads echo having been too close for comfortable viewing. Not that there was much chance of Hampden being flooded (other than by the deluge of pre-match prattle) or, with the house empty and the phone off the hook, of the scoreline finding its way inside Chez Turnbull before 4pm.

"We'll protect you from any news from Hampden," Rider faithfully promised. Protection from Hampden hype was another matter, though. It was when, during the course of Football Focus, Tony Gubba suggested to Lou Macari, "You need to get a result today," that I could take no more. Someone should point out to Tony that Bon Accord "got a result" when they visited Arbroath in the first round of the Scottish Cup in 1885. The result was Arbroath 36 Bon Accord 0.

In any case, the prospect of boxing from Bethnal Green, racing from Haydock Park and rallying from Perth was too much to take. Thus, when Kevin Gallacher was kicking off at Hampden on Sky Sports 2 and Ontheboil was winning the 2 o'clock from Haydock on BBC1, I was watching Bette Davis on BBC2. She played a blinder too - getting a result, a positive one, in her battle with Mary Astor for first place in the affections of George Brett in The Great Lie.

Lee J Cobb was also playing a blinder in the episode of The Virginian that followed on BBC2, though whether he got a positive result as the under-siege Judge Garth I couldn't tell you. He still had another 25 minutes to hold out when delayed kick-off time came round. It was a difficult decision to switch channels, though having got that far in ignorance of events at Hampden, I felt duty-bound to do so.

To tell the truth, it would have been no great surprise if the final score had flashed across Judge Garth's face, this having been an annus horribilis in the result-avoidance department. Back in April, for instance, having followed the Five Nations' Championship for 10 weeks, the final weekend climax was blown double-whammy-style.

First, after returning home from an afternoon's football-reporting and pressing the "play" button on the video recorder, instead of Gregor Townsend and Thomas Castaignede, the faces of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall appeared on the screen. A mother's desperate plea for clemency spared my son from painful retribution, though he did push his luck to its very limit by suggesting that his Luddite father should perhaps master the technological complexity of the toaster before learning, as my wife was not slow to advise, how to programme the video recorder.

The following day I did manage to press the appropriate buttons myself. Sadly, though, just as little Neil Jenkins was hitting the high notes of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, a visitor in the hallway happened to pop his head around the living-room door and remark: "Oh, it was a shame England lost, wasn't it? And right at the end too."

Knocks at the front door went strictly unanswered as the first leg of the Battle of Britain unfolded. I wasn't taking any risks. Nobody was going to tell me the final outcome - not before I'd seen Judge Garth's fate for myself on video.