Well, I’m sure you’re waiting to hear about the skittles, eh? The first difficulty was a 9.30 start in the evening. Who has heard of a 9.30 pm start? Certainly we who have ventured into the nether regions of Shropshire seeking glory as part of the Wenlock ‘B’ bowls team, like to be back in the comfort of our homes by that time. Here in Jamestown things are done rather differently.
Having spent an hour or so in the Consulate Hotel (rather nice and charming atmosphere with, you chaps out there will be relieved to hear, no dogs and owners imitating the opening day of Crufts) having a beer (South African lager) or two, I stumbled out to the skittles alley at the local community hall. I arrived early to watch the previous match so that I could remind myself of the laws and finer arts of the game – actually I couldn’t spot any of the latter. I did notice that the skittles ball is pink, which surprised me. It actually looked as though it might be made of sponge.
Eventually the rest of the team (called the Alcoholics or something similar) turned up, obviously practicing their tactics in another watering hole. Now, I had been led to believe that the team was relying on me to turn up as they are invariably short of a player or two. But no, not on this occasion – oh no, they were fully up to spec for this championship match! Looking me up and down and clearly spotting a fellow athlete, the team captain – who is a police lady who goes by the name of Emerald – decided to step down herself and offer her position to your correspondent. After the usual, and expected, polite exchanges of ‘I couldn’t possibly’ and ‘Go on, now you’re here, have a go’ I found my name chalked on the board as part of the first pair.
Now in the discussions with the owner of Sally’s Sandwich Bar which led to this selection for the squad, and then the team, I may just have mentioned that I was the village (Etchilhampton, Wiltshire) silver jubilee skittles champion – yes, it is just possible that I let that slip into the chat over the chicken mayonnaise sandwiches. The Saints are very patriotic and, presumably, the message had got to the team and team captain that they were dealing with a competitor of some prestige – ‘by appointment to her majesty etc.’ – and this probably swung the place in the team for me.
The first couple for the opposing team bowled their first three rolls (?) with no particular distinction. My partner dragged himself away from the bar, hurled his ball (?) down the alley and scored a meager 6 points. Now, it was my turn and there was a bit of a hush in the crowd – let’s see what this chappie is made of? The first surprise was that the pink wood wasn’t actually made of sponge and was solid and of what a sportsman would expect to be a proper weight for a tool of sport.
What followed next might be considered in some quarters as being a bit of a disaster but I prefer to think that it was an act of unbridled skill. Not only did the first and then the second bowl miss scoring a point – but the third also. Now, hang on chaps. Not a pathetic set of woods that entirely missed the field of play, no, nothing like that. Each one of the bowls exquisitely found its way, as if guided by a laser, between the skittles – through a space that looked too narrow to allow the passage of the pink ball. Yes, one, two and three balls taking this similar route. Clearly, team-mates, opponents and gathered crowd (about a dozen Saints) could appreciate that here was a Master at work. How they laughed when they drew a Christmas Tree in the space where my score should have gone. Why a Christmas Tree in April I have not the faintest idea but I’m certain that their laughter was hiding an appreciation of the very finest skills of the sport.
Clearly, Emerald was impressed for, at the end of the contest (which we lost on account of us never being able to make up for the Christmas Tree of the first round) she asked me whether I was interested in joining the team when it moves from the 6 a-side league to the 9 person format. ‘When would that be?’ I asked reasonably. Do you know, no one was quite sure when this chapter of the league season starts although someone suggested it might be in June. ‘Don’t worry,’ said skipper thoughtfully, ‘ we know who you are and where to find you.’
I await the call-up and just hope that the evening of the next match doesn’t clash with my call up to the new FM radio station. Strange that I’ve not heard anything yet ….
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