“Vernon boy, its cheap as chips!”
How times have changed. My father must be turning in his grave up the allotment.
Nowadays lots of clubs have their own different coloured tops just like football teams. Some even change them every other year!
I can still vividly recall the day my father handed me my first white bowls shirt. There were tears in his eyes.
“Vernon,” he said, “look after this it belonged to your Great Great Uncle Ivor. Wear it with pride son.”
He was too choked to say any more. Great Great Uncle Ivor must have been a big bloke because it reached down below my knees. I had to tuck it in my trousers which severely restricted my ability to bend and helped me develop my own distinct bowling style. I believe that was my father’s plan from the start. He was always a great thinker about the game.
Anyway, I became curious about Great Great Uncle Ivor and began asking a few questions. Turns out he emigrated to Australia very suddenly back in the day.
“Transported to a better place,” was how my mother put it.
My father kept strangely quiet on the subject. I think he was a bit jealous of Great Great Uncle Ivor lying on the beach all day drinking the amber nectar and eyeing up Aussie beauties in bikinis (if Harry/Harriete from Maerdy is reading this I mean real girls mind).
Talking about Australia they take their bowls very seriously over there, too seriously if you ask me. Have a look at this video made by John Patrick Tiplady discussing appropriate clothing for lawn bowls, sounds too bleeding expensive for my liking. Afterwards I’ll tell you how to get your hands on some cheap clobber while performing a delicate social function at the same time.
How much is that little lot going to cost then? Here’s a much cheaper option although you may need to buy a copy of the local paper for a few weeks and check the obituary columns. If your luck’s in there’ll be a couple of suitable entries. After all, none of us are getting any younger are we, especially us bowlers. Now you have two options:
1. Trawl the local charity shops until suitable items of clothing and equipment surface. This is the tactic preferred by one of our members known affectionately as ‘Lefty’. He has been so successful that most of us are wearing and using recycled clothing and equipment. Jealous of our capacity to survive in times of economic austerity some of our opponents refer to us as ‘Deadwood Bowls Club’. We rise above such petty remarks.
2. Make direct contact. It is always neighbourly to offer our condolences when a fellow bowler passes on to that Great Rink in the Sky. I always phone to offer mine to the grieving widow concerned (too be honest a few of them don’t always sound that grieving). Tact is all important in these situations. I usually say: “Sorry to hear about your loss Mrs Doe, John was one of our best players. What size shoes was he by the way?” At this point, overcome by emotion and touched by my concern many bereaved spouses simply put down the phone. Best to give them a couple of days before trying again.
I don’t know what kind of club Mr Tiplady is a member of but apparently a lot of breeding goes on behind the scenes. He didn’t mention what kind of breeding though. Nothing like what goes on behind our local Youth Club I hope. One of our members breeds pigeons and another breeds ferrets but I think it’s going a step to far to try and breed champions. Tampering with peoples genes is not natural. No good will come of it mark my words.
Another thing Mr Tiplady went on about in his video was the need to wear protection against the sun. You can tell that video wasn’t made in Wales. Welsh bowlers spend half the time in wet suits wiping their glasses and slipping off the mat. On one particularly wet day last summer my Lead and Second did a passable impression of Torvil and Dean before disappearing over the banking. We’re more likely to get dry rot than melanomas. It might be alright wearing flat shoes in sunny Australia but in Penypont you need something with a bit more purchase.
Mr Tiplady would never succeed in getting some of our members to stop “wobbling at the point of delivery”. Raymond tells me the severity of the wobble is directly related to the number of beers consumed in the pub beforehand. It’s a wonder most of our bowlers can remain upright for the duration of the game. We had one who was particularly prone to adopting the horizontal position when attempting to deliver his wood. I recall one very embarrassing occasion that probably cost me a call up to the Welsh Veterans Squad.
As a top skip me and three of the boys had been selected as a rink to represent our club in a County match against a visiting team from Worcestershire. I knew we had a problem when I saw who they’d chosen for Lead. Herbie's nickname was ‘Horizontal Herbie’ and that should tell you all you need to know. To make matters worse the game was played in a club that had its own bar. Prising Herbie away from the bar was like trying to winkle a muscle out of its shell. I was all for dropping him in a vat of boiling water but we didn’t have one handy.
We eventually manoeuvred him unsteadily onto the green. He didn’t just wobble at the point of delivery he lurched so violently from side to side that two of the opposition began displaying symptoms of sea sickness. It was then I realised our fatal error. The selectors always made sure that whoever played Second to Herbie was young, fit and strong because they would have to hang onto Herbie’s leather belt to stop him hitting the floor after he’d let go of his wood. Mog was none of those. After the first end you could see he was struggling. To be fair Herbie is not a small bloke and Mog isn’t exactly Arnold Schwarzenegger. By the third end Mog’s back gave out and he let Herbie go.
Herbie hit the green face first with a sickening thud. The alcohol must have deadened the pain because he got straight back up, wobbled a bit and smiled. Five ends later it was obvious Herbie was going to stay down. Nobody rushed to give him the kiss of life because by now he was reeking of Guinness and had started to dribble. We clustered around him looking for signs of life. After about three minutes he began snoring so we guessed he wasn’t badly hurt. We decided to break early for tea. Hopefully by the time we got back Herbie would have come round.
Our strategy worked. After tea we returned to find Herbie wandering around the green mumbling incoherently. He didn’t answer to his name but he was able to finish the game on two feet. We lost quite heavily thanks to Herbie. He did touch the kitty once but it didn’t count because it was on the next rink. We decided not to stay for a drink afterwards and shepherded Herbie back to the car. He slept all the way back oblivious to the disgrace he had brought upon our club. We propped him up against his front door, rang the bell and drove off quickly before his wife could answer. She’s never liked me, says I’m a bad influence on her husband. There’s only one bad influence on her Herbie and his name is Arthur Guinness.
Before I go I have to mention I am still looking for a proper sponsor for this blog. To be honest I want to ditch Rowlands and his book. I’ve been getting very peculiar looks lately. The other day one of the junior members asked me about Mavis Jones and the incident in the air raid shelter. How many times do I have to explain that I dropped my conker and was trying to find it in the dark? I will definitely have to get round to reading the ruddy thing.
Next week I shall discuss the mental aspect of the game. Believe me I've known a few nutters in my time. See you then.