Thursday 7 May 2015

Top Skips, Twitter and the 'Dear Departed'.

It’s my fault. I should never have listened to that stupid boy in the first place.

Vernon,” he said, “if you want your writing career to be a success you have to engage with social media.”
“Social media,” I replied, “what’s that when it’s at home then?”

I was sorry I asked because he rambled on for hours about things called Facebook and Twitter. It all sounded a bit weird to me. If I want to socialize I nip down the club and chat to Idris behind the bar if he’s not too busy cleaning glasses. 

To be honest I feel sorry for Idris, he hasn’t got many friends. It must be lonely because the membership has dropped alarmingly since his latest outbreak of impetigo. Come to think of it, it’s funny how he always has all those glasses to clean when there’s nobody there but me and him.

Idris never says much, he’d rather listen to my stories. Mog says I’m a born racketeer and my book only goes to prove it. Listening is a lost art, too many people like the sound of their own voice but fair play to Idris, sometimes he listens so hard he falls asleep. I only wake him up when my glass is empty because at least when he’s sleeping he’s not scratching. That’s the type of bloke I am.

Raymond wouldn’t let it drop though and said if I really want to become a best selling author like Ernest Hemingway I have to have a ‘presence’ on Twitter and Facebook. He made it sound like a haunting. Anyway I looked for Ernest on Facebook and it turns out the bloke is dead but there’s still thousands of people following him. Bit creepy for my liking, perhaps somebody should tell them. Still it’s none of my business and I wasn’t going to hang around and wait for a séance. I had enough of that with Auntie Doris after Uncle Emrys passed over.

Always a bit highly strung was Auntie Doris and after Uncle Emrys disappeared Liberace could have played a tune on her nerves. A few weeks after Emrys’ disappearance she met a friend in Woolworth’s who had also recently lost her husband. This ‘friend’ contacted a medium who’d helped her get in touch with her dear departed on ‘the other side’. Auntie Doris got the contact details and ‘Bob’s your uncle’ a séance was arranged as soon as it was convenient for all parties. Whether this included Uncle Emrys or not was never made clear.

My father wasn’t happy, him and Emrys had never got on so he wasn’t particularly keen on getting back in touch, but my mother dug her heels in. We kept the meeting a secret. The last thing my mother wanted was members of the local Pentecostal Church turning up on Auntie Doris’ doorstep singing aggressive hymns and waving abusive placards. She’d suffered enough of that after Uncle Emrys had been accused of absconding with the Church funds and the memory was still raw.

I should explain that Emrys had been treasurer of the local Pentecostal Church before his disappearance on the Jolly Boys’ outing to Barry Island. All they ever found was a pile of discarded clothes on the beach. After two weeks the police and coast guard gave up the search. Aunt Doris never even had a funeral to pay for which even my father had to admit was a pretty thoughtful gesture on Emrys’ part.

Aunt Doris took it hard. She would catch the bus to Barry every day and wander round the beach asking all and sundry if they had seen her Emrys. People would ask, “How old is he luv?”
When she replied, “sixty nine,” they became much less sympathetic.
To be fair some day trippers who probably had senile elderly relatives were a bit more patient.
“What was he wearing?” was the next question.
“Just his socks,” Auntie Doris would reply.
At this point the best response Doris could expect was, “I think we’d have noticed luv,” before they turned back to their cucumber sandwiches.

Aunt Doris had arranged the table for five people. I didn’t want to take part but my mother said I had to make up the numbers. The medium was already seated when we got there. She had what looked like an old curtain draped over her head so you couldn’t see her face properly. Auntie Doris was obviously on edge fluttering round the table like a startled sparrow.
“Sit,” said the medium who sounded suspiciously like Mrs Pritchard Corner Shop.
The shop was known locally as ‘guts and gossip’. Five minutes in there and the regulars would have your guts all over the shop floor as they picked through the entrails. My father reckoned the CIA went there for their training. If it was Mrs Pritchard Corner Shop behind the curtain then even being dead was no guarantee your personal secrets stayed with you.

We all sat. Nobody spoke though my father’s stomach rumbled ominously. He coughed to cover his embarrassment and the tension mounted.
“We are not six!” cried the medium in a muffled voice and turning to Auntie Doris she continued, “I told you the spirits demand the presence of six souls.”
I didn’t like the sound of that and neither did Auntie Doris.
“I’ve only got five chairs,” she bleated.
Mother stepped in.
“Go next door and fetch Dennis,” she said to my father in a tone that brooked no dissent, “and bring the patio chair from the back of the van.”
We always kept a couple of chairs in the back of the van just in case the bailiff’s tried a sneak raid while we were out. My father trudged off next door and we all sat in cemetery silence until they returned.

Luckily the carers had just left and Dennis was free to join us. He was getting on a bit and dementia was rushing in like the tide but he was always ready to lend a helping hand whether you needed it or not.
“Lovely,” cried Dennis excitedly when he saw us sat around the table, “tea party is it, whose coronation then? Do I get a mug?”
My father eventually managed to persuade a beaming Dennis to sit down.
The medium, I was convinced by now it was Mrs Pritchard Corner Shop, took control of proceedings.
“We must all join hands,” she said.
So we did. Unfortunately Dennis thought it was the cue for a communal sing song and before anyone could stop him he launched into the first two verses of ‘Auld Lang’s Syne’. It took a little while for order to be restored.
“I sense a presence,” said Mrs Pritchard in a squeaky voice. The hairs on the back of my head stood up and my father squeezed my hand so tight I had to bite my lip to stop from whimpering. “Is there anybody there?” wailed Mrs Pritchard.
“I’ll go and have a look,” said Dennis helpfully and he wrenched his hands free and ambled off to open the front door.
“The circle is broken!” exclaimed the miffed medium, “Emrys was here but now he has departed beyond my reach.”
Auntie Doris was distraught.
“Emrys my love where have you gone?”
“It says Benidorm on the postcard,” said Dennis who had shuffled back unnoticed amid the drama. He reached across and handed a postcard to Auntie Doris who took it with trembling hands. “The postman must have dropped it in the wrong house,” explained Dennis, “last week I think it was. What are we having for tea?”
Aunt Doris looked at the postcard in her hand and without saying a word handed it to my mother before sitting down heavily on the chair.
Mother glanced at the postcard.
“You sure you want me to read this?” she said quietly.
Auntie Doris nodded slowly.
Mother coughed nervously then began.

“Sorry Dor,
Met Camila at a church convention.
Always wanted to visit Spain.

We all looked at the floor while Auntie Doris buried her head in her handkerchief. Nobody knew what to say. It was Dennis who eventually broke the silence.
“Can I have my mug now?”

Turns out getting in touch with people on Twitter is almost as difficult as getting in touch with the ‘recently departed’. You’d think they’d be flocking to follow a top skip like me. Turns out I've only got four followers and two of them is Rowlands. Social media my a**e! 

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Bowlers Beware the Hidden Dangers of Sports Research

According to Raymond I should be exploring the outer reaches of sporting research in my blog. He makes it sound a bit like an episode of Star Trek. Apparently sports psychology is the future for aspiring champions like Raymond. He even quoted a Guinness advert that tells everyone to ‘believe’ (he didn’t say what mind). After a few pints of Guinness most of our members would probably believe anything you told them with the exception of Horizontal Herbie who prefers to collapse in a heap. Herbie would most likely not be selected to take part in the Guinness advert Raymond was talking about. See what you think:

What’s that all about then? By the looks of him he must have had a few pints of Guinness before the game started. Can’t blame him mind! Only the Irish could invent a game that involves running around a pitch trying to decapitate every body in sight with clubs. They only chuck a ball on the field to make it look legal, reminds me of our local derby with Gelligalled. At least he made it back to the pub on his feet and the dog didn’t get run over.
I did think of suggesting a trip around the Guinness Brewery but Raymond put me off when he showed me another YouTube video. If this bloke Conan’s experience is anything to go by we could have a riot on our hands before we got half way round.

Didn’t sound very Irish to me, but that’s the trouble with our Celtic cousins, too gullible for their own good. Apart from his dodgy accent he didn’t look anything like Conan the Barbarian and I should know I’ve seen it seven times. I bet profits took a right hammering before they managed to get him out of the building. At least Herbie would have had the decency to collapse long before then.

Raymond wanted me to talk about the book ‘In The Zone’. He said there’s a bit in there I should study very carefully. It’s called the 'Karpman Drama Triangle’. I told him straight, “Raymond,” I said, “if I wanted to ponce about on the stage I’d join the Mid Rhondda Operatic Society.” Would I heck, not after what happened to one of our ex-members Cyril who was forced to join by his overbearing wife. 

The first production Cyril acted in was ‘The Desert Song’. He was one of the Riffs who had to form a chorus as the Red Shadow sang his song. All the Riffs wore dressing gowns with tea towels draped over their heads. You could spot Cyril a mile off he had ‘Souvenir from Tenby’ written all over his. They looked more like Ruffs than Riffs with the exception of Cyril who wore his Captain Jack Sparrow outfit to compliment his tea towel. All of us in the front row burst out laughing so loudly the Red Shadow took umbrage and we were escorted out by the ushers.

Cyril kept his head down for a few weeks but worse was to follow. The next production was ‘South Pacific’ and this time Cyril was to play a G.I. At the end he would stride onto the stage and hoist a chest over his shoulder before marching off. He did it with great gusto. It beat tea towels and dressing gowns any day of the week. We managed to get tickets for the last night. The show had been a great success and Cyril strutted onto the stage like a proud peacock to perform his little cameo. I swear he was looking at us and smirking smugly as he gripped the chest and hoisted it onto his shoulders. Only thing was it didn’t hoist.

Try as he might Cyril couldn’t budge the chest. Nobody laughed, we were all gruesomely transfixed by Cyril’s purple face and bulging eyes. The veins on his neck began to stand out like ship’s rope and it was a toss up which would burst first. I was relieved we didn’t have front row seats this time. Like a clip from ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ we watched Cyril drag the chest inch by painful inch across the stage as the cast appeared and took their bow. He had almost reached the wings when he valiantly decided to make one last supreme effort to lift the chest onto his shoulder. You could hear the tearing sound from the back of the theatre. It was almost as loud as Cyril’s scream. It was a shame really because he wasn’t a bad Lead. Nobody ever owned up to filling the chest with rocks and Cyril never played for us again. I see him about now and then but every time I say hello he glares and limps off without saying a word, very temperamental these theatrical types.

There’s only three people in the ‘Karpman Drama Triangle’, a Victim, a Persecutor, and a Rescuer so it can’t be much of a drama and what it’s got to do with bowls is beyond me. I tried reading a bit but to be honest I’d rather read Rowlands’ book and that’s saying something! I decided not to muck about with the mental side of the game after the incident with Mog that got us suspended from the Cynon Valley League for a season. That was a rum do I can tell you.

Mog looks like a geriatric Beatle with Roy Orbison’s glasses just back from a funeral. He’s never had much luck with the women and he’s got a nervous stammer so I usually finish his sentences for him. That’s the kind of bloke I am. Anyway, someone on the Committee suggested we needed to toughen up our mental attitude. You could tell he’d been talking to Raymond, probably read that bleeding book as well. Mog was held up as a prime example and nobody could argue really. None of us fancied reading Raymond’s book so we all perked up when our Secretary suggested we employ the services of a hypnotist. Problem was we didn’t have any money in the kitty. That was when Terry had his bright idea.

Looking back it wasn’t all Terry’s fault. He’s almost deaf and obviously didn’t quite get the drift of what we were talking about. When he heard the word hypnotist he perked up no end, said he knew a talented hypnotist who needed to get some practice and was looking for volunteers. The vote was unanimous in favour of volunteering Mog. If Terry’s hypnotist could work the oracle with Mog we’d all be up for it. We were so enthusiastic and keen to get the sessions under way that not one of us gave a thought to the fact that Terry was also entertainment secretary of the local social club. Big mistake!

The sessions went on for three weeks behind closed doors. Mog emerged a little paler but in every other respect we could not detect any real difference. Still the proof was in the pudding and as match day approached we could hardly contain our excitement.

After the first three ends a sense of anti-climax set in like a cold damp mist. Mog was his usual drippy indecisive self and I was getting a sore throat from shouting at him. By the fifth end I was at the end of my tether. We were three shots down, nothing unusual there, and nothing was going our way. I asked Mog what shot should I play. He hovered over the head like a nervous dragonfly and my patience finally snapped. “For God’s sake get on with it man!” I shouted. He just looked up blankly and I smacked my hands together to try and get some kind of response.

We found out later that clapping loudly was the trigger Marvin the Marvellous, our hypnotist’s stage name, favoured in his act. His piece de resistance was to convince his subject he was General Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The poor bloke would be stranded alone on the stage desperately fighting off hordes of imaginary Sioux warriors with his imaginary sabre. Before the poor beggar collapsed with fatigue Marvin would creep up behind him and chop him between the shoulder blades with his hand. Convinced he had been struck down by a hostile tomahawk ‘General Custer’ would drop to his knees and the battle was over. Marvin would click his fingers and the bemused individual would struggle to his feet and stare out into a crowd of drunken cheering faces.

As soon as I clapped my hands Mog stood suddenly upright and glanced around like a startled deer. Grabbing hold of a steel bowl lifter he twirled it around his head grimacing wildly like one of those berserk Irish hurlers.
“You’ll never, ooo you know, take me alive you filthy savages,” he yelled as he rampaged across the green scattering team mates and opposition in every direction. A lucky few made it to the sanctuary of the club house locking the doors firmly behind them ignoring the cries and pleas of their compatriots who hammered on the doors in vain. It was like a scene from the Titanic.

Little groups of bowlers huddled together for mutual protection as Mog galloped around the green like a man possessed. A few of the less nimble bowlers were gingerly rubbing their calves or clutching bruised posteriors. As luck would have it one of the phantom Sioux warriors must have shot Mog’s phantom horse from underneath him because he fell to the ground cursing. Quick as a flash he was up on one knee aiming his pistol frenetically at anything that did or didn’t move. “Eat my lead,” he cried which was preferable to being attacked with a stainless steel bowl lifter. I realised we had to do something quickly before his ammunition ran out.
“Terry”, I cried “get hold of Marvin on your mobile.
 “He’s in Benidorm,” replied Terry.

It must have been one of the opposition who phoned the police. I never knew we had so many in South Wales. They arrived in squad cars and vans with dog handlers ready to leap into the fray. There was even a helicopter hovering above the green but to be honest I think the SWAT team was a bit over the top. Fair play to Mog he put up a brave fight but trying to beat off Crazy Horse and the Sioux nation as well as the South Wales Constabulary proved a little beyond him. Four burly police officers eventually wrestled him to the ground. During the struggle one of them must have struck him between the shoulder blades because he went limp as though he’d been hit over the head with a tomahawk.

Mog woke up in a police cell four hours later and couldn’t remember a thing. In the end the detectives interviewing him gave up and released him on bail. The match was abandoned and not one of the opposition bowlers stayed for tea. We were left with piles of tuna and egg sandwiches that nobody wanted. There wasn’t even a wedding or a funeral we could donate them to. So, everything considered, I think I’ll leave exploring the outer reaches of sporting research to Captain Kirk and give Guinness a ring instead. I think they’d make brilliant sponsors. 

Saturday 7 March 2015

Wobbling at the Point of Delivery

 In my father’s day the great attraction of bowls was, and I quote:
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’ll 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. 

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Fifty Shades of (Rhondda) Grey

Raymond tells me that now I’m writing a blog I have to ‘ride the wave’. I wonder if he knows what he’s talking about half the time. Ride the wave? I’ve never been surfing in my life where does he think we are, Bondi Beach? Mind I did use to go to Barry Island twice a year regular back in the day, once with the club and once with the chapel. There always used to be a religious revival about three weeks before the chapel outing. The Sunday School teachers couldn’t cope. Most of them left to join the Jovies.

‘Ride the wave’ be buggered! The beach was so packed you had to queue to get a sight of the sea. I usually ended up in the ‘lost children’ enclosure that was sectioned off at the top end of the beach. After a few trips the people there knew me by my first name. I even had my own plastic mug with a picture of Mickey Mouse on the side. My mother and father never failed to pick me up five minutes before the bus left. Like clockwork they were. There was just that one time but to be fair they hadn’t had me long and it was my first trip.
Happy days!

Raymond’s just explained what he meant by ‘ride the wave’. Apparently the wave he wants me to ride is a book called ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Very popular at the moment it is. They’ve even made it into a film. Why anyone would want to watch a film about different shades of paint is beyond me. Raymond says if I can work it into this blog it will double the circulation and maybe even tempt Brylcreem on board. I told him, “Raymond”, I said, “I am a trained athlete not an interior decorator.” Raymond said he would show me the trailer before I write any more.

 I’ve just seen the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trailer. It’s not about paint!
I told Raymond straight, “I’m not having anything mucky in my blog.” Anyway it’s something me and Megan never talk about, haven’t for years. Its common knowledge that s-e-x is bad for highly tuned athletes like me. I told Megan before we got married, “Bowls comes before ‘the other’ mind Megan”. She didn’t seem to object too much, funny that now I come to think about it.

S-e-x once reared its ugly head in our club, quite by accident mind, and ruined a promising bowler’s career. Simon was a new bowler and hadn’t quite got to grips with the proper terms (see 'Top Tips Number Two') . He kept calling the bowls ‘balls’ and the kitty ‘pussy’, though I have my suspicions that some of our less serious members had a hand in deliberately misleading young Simon. He could possibly have one day become a top skip like me. Sadly it was not to be.

Only recently married he returned home from a game in which he had been awarded ‘man of the match’ to be greeted enthusiastically by his young bride with the words, “Hello darling how did you enjoy yourself?”
To which Simon replied equally enthusiastically. . .

I have not seen so dramatic a change come over a person since Dr Jekyll turned into Mr Hyde. Before I had a chance to explain she had yanked poor Simon indoors and slammed the door.

It was as if Simon had disappeared off the face of the earth. For months afterwards neighbours only ever caught glimpses of him cleaning the windows from the inside. Somebody said his leg was chained to a radiator. Whatever, we never saw him at the bowls club again. One day a removal van turned up outside his front door and the next day they were gone.

I’m glad my Megan isn’t the jealous possessive type. She often says laughingly, “If they want you they can have you.” Too much passion can play merry hell with your delivery. So I told Raymond straight,
“No way is my blog going to be a platform for mucky stuff about ‘the other!”
He said,
“It’s a bit late for that now.”
I started to get worried.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Haven’t you read our sponsors book yet?” he said smiling.
“What,” I said starting to panic, “not that book Rowlands wrote?”

As it happens he had a copy of Jack’s High with him. He turned to a page that had a corner turned down and pointed to a paragraph. I had to sit down.
“Rose leads him onto the centre of the green just as Eve led Adam before the Fall. Jack knows he should be worried about his mother and the members who will shortly be arriving for the AGM but he no longer cares. He wants to be seen with this beautiful woman, his desire for her transcends any boundaries shame and decency might attempt to impose. She lay down on the grass. . . ”
I couldn’t read any more! Jack Pryce our captain, and his floozie, rolling around on the green in the altogether when he should have been in the AGM, and his mother had spent all afternoon making the sandwiches. Are there no depths of depravity to which men will not sink when the sexual sap rises? He didn’t even think about the damage they would do to the green. You’d never catch me and Megan rolling around on the grass, she knows exactly what to do whenever my sap starts to rise and I am a better bowler for it.

Looks like I’m stuck with bleeding ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. To raise the tone and finish on a positive note here’s my favourite Welsh artist, Max Boyce, singing about a different kind of grey, Rhondda Grey.

I must apologise to everyone who was expecting me to tell them how to get cheap clobber. You can blame Raymond and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ for that. Well now I’ve ridden the wave I’ll tell you all where to get it in my next post. 


Vernon "Top Skip" Lewis

Thursday 12 February 2015

Lawn Bowls and the Power of Brylcreem.

Hello again, Vernon Lewis, Top Skip, here.

Today I’m going to explain why:

  •  (i) this particular coach thinks using two fingers is acceptable on the bowling green and 
  • (ii) how Brylcreem can give you the edge in a tight match.

When I started bowling as a young lad I had to be very careful what hand signals I used on the green. Most of the bowlers in those days were ex-miners with short tempers and no sense of humour. Hard to believe now but back then I was a bit naïve and thought everything my father did was universally acceptable practice. 
The game against Wattstown proved it was not.

The Wattstown boys were always a touchy lot at the best of times and Saturday afternoon was never one of them. It was the first round of the Carruthers Cup and the score was level. Our rink was the last left on the green and the rest of the bowlers crowded around the edge like they were circling a couple of prize fighters locked in mortal combat. The opposition skip, a beast of a man called Mansell Ketley, was about to bowl. We were holding shot and you could cut the tension with a knife.

My father was our skip and stood behind Mansell as he prepared to deliver his bowl. He looked down the rink straight at me and shook his head sadly just like he did when the bailiff loaded another piece of our furniture onto his van. For a moment I was transported back to our bare little living room staring at the back of the beefy bailiffs as they struggled to get the sofa out through the front door. I raised my two fingers in a gesture of defiance as my father had taught me. A deathly hush followed by a sharp intake of collective breath whistled around the green like an oncoming storm. Mansell slowly put down his bowl and then the storm broke.

I see his purple face looming larger and larger in my recurring nightmares as he stomped down the green towards me. My father bless him, always sensitive about my welfare, covered his eyes with his hands. His was the first face I saw when I regained consciousness. He offered me his hand and pulled me up to my feet. I can still remember the sadness in his voice as I wobbled unsteadily in front of him.
Vernon,” he said, “we bleeding lost again!” 
Then he turned and trudged forlornly back to the club house.

But I digress. Here’s the video teaching bowlers how to use two fingers so they won’t get clobbered by bad tempered opponents with no sense of humour.

Bit too technical for me, I’ll be showing you a simpler method in a future post
Now here’s how Brylcreem, who would be a brilliant sponsor by the way, can give you the edge in a tight game. Sadly Brylcreem has gone out of fashion since the invention of hair gel. You know the stuff, sort of liquid Viagra for your follicles. In my reckless youth I used to be a Teddy Boy and any kind of Viagra would have been a ‘no no’ in those tight drainpipe trousers we used to have to wear. If your flick-knife ever went off in your pocket you were in deep trouble let me tell you.

For this method you will need:
i) a healthy dollop of Brylcreem smeared all over your hair (which you then comb neatly);
ii) two absorbent rags. It is very important you keep one rag in your left trouser pocket and one rag in your right. NEVER MIX THEM UP.

Now imagine the game is going against you because the opposition is wicking off everything under the sun. After the completion of a particularly depressing end kick the woods back making sure at least two of your opponent’s lands in the ditch. Run you hand through your pre-prepared Brylcreemed hair and sportingly pick up your opponent’s woods with your generously smeared Brylcreemed hands. Now reach in your LEFT pocket and wipe your hands on the clean rag. The next time your opponent attempts to deliver the affected woods they will squirm out of his two fingered grip like startled catfish. Sportingly hand him the rag from your LEFT pocket, he’ll assume it’s Grippo.  

Some of you out there will probably say that I am being unsporting or that there is even an element of cheating in this tactic. I say to you, “All’s fair in love and bowls!”

Now, as I promised, my first video shot by our captain Jack Pryce and produced by Raymond. Raymond says he’s already posted it on YouTube and I could be on my way to celebrity status. Tell you one thing for a start, they won’t get me parachuting into that bleeding jungle!

In my next post I'm going to tell you beginners how to get your hands on cheap clothing and equipment. No it's not that eBay thing although some people will probably whinge about it being it in bad taste. There's always one moaner.
See you in a fortnight.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

A Blog About Lawn Bowls

Following the outstanding success of my book ‘7 Top Tips for Top Skips’, which has had over 30 downloads and counting, I have been urged to write a blog. “What’s a bleeding blog?” I hear you ask. I certainly did when Raymond first suggested it. I had visions of a confused Oriental gent lost in Cardiff and desperate for the toilet wandering around muttering, “Where nearest blog pleese?”  For the benefit of those readers who don’t live in Penypont ‘bog’ is a word we use to describe what our overseas friends call the ‘can’ or ‘loo’.

Apologies, I digress, the last thing I want is for my first blog post to be just about a load of s**t. I have to admit when Raymond went on to talk about blog posts my imagination shifted into overdrive. Perhaps Oriental councils are more strapped for cash than we are in Wales but the idea of replacing a public toilet with a post smacked of desperation to me. Imagine having to wait in line behind a couple of staff bulls and a poodle when you’re caught short on the way home from the club. This was obviously before Raymond explained that a blog post was a page of information posted on the world wide web or internet.

To be honest I didn’t have a clue what he was on about. I think he could see that. He suggested I take a year off bowls and concentrate on writing my blog. Jack Pryce, our captain, was very supportive, a bit too supportive for my liking. “Take as long as you like Vern,” he said, “we’ll struggle on without you for a season or two. The world of bowls needs you.” I couldn’t argue really after the comments I got back from readers of “7 Top Tips for Top Skips”. Here’s just a few:
“Never read anything like it. . . unbelievable!”Gwyn Rees (Treasurer Rhondda Indoors Bowls Club)
Is this man for real?” Anon
“Great advice if you’re ever going to play a transvestite or a woman in surgical stockings!” Harry or Harriette (Maerdy, Rhondda)
          "Thank you very much, a GREAT publication."  Warren Miller (Australia) 
“I’ve always been amazed how you handle those big balls of yours Vernon. Now all has been revealed.” Jimmy Sparrow (Ynyscynon BC)
(I’d better explain that this last comment refers to an incident I described in ‘Top Tips Number Two’)
There were other comments but they tended to be on the bitter and sarcastic side. Envy is a terrible thing. Raymond said he was going to make my book available directly from my blog. All I have to do is tell everybody to look up in the top right hand corner and ask them to provide their name and email address – whatever that is.  I just nod as if I understand what he’s talking about half the time. Too brainy for his own good that boy, probably end up inventing something that will do more damage to the environment than plastic bags. I blame whoever helped him with his homework.

My father never fell into that trap. He made sure I was a fit and healthy child. “Vernon,” he would say, “nip up the shop and get me a packet of fags there’s a good boy.” In the winter this was a chore he would make me repeat two or three times a night. Sometimes he would vary the route so I wouldn't get bored and send me down the bookies instead. By the Spring I was built like a greyhound but with severely chapped legs. My mother was very supportive too and always ready with useful advice. “Don’t talk to strangers and don’t chew on your balaclava,” she would say as she pushed me out through the front door. I will always be grateful for the sacrifices they made. Without them I would not be the man I am today.

Raymond suggested I include some coaching videos from somewhere called YouTube and give them my own rating so people will know what’s worth watching and what’s rubbish. He wants us to make our own video, says it will only take a morning, then he’s going to post it somewhere and if we’re lucky it will probably spread like a virus. I told him straight, “Raymond,” I said, “I want to pass on my vast knowledge of the game of bowls not start a bleeding epidemic.” That boy seriously worries me on times. Oxford my arse!

We also need sponsors according to Raymond. Sponsors are business people who will pay to be linked with my blog on account of me being a Top Skip. I did warn him I would not have my good name linked with surgical stockings or any other kind of sexual appliance. This is an educational and motivational blog I reminded him. You know what they’re like at that age, all exploding hormones and acne. To listen to them you’d think they invented sex. “Raymond,” I explained gently, “sex is almost as old as the human race itself.” You should have seen the look on his face. Someone had to tell him.

At the moment our only sponsor is one of our members, Phil Rowlands. One book and he thinks he’s Enid Blyton. My wife Megan has started reading it. To be honest she’s getting on my nerves a bit. Every now and then she peeps up from the bit she’s reading when she thinks I’m not looking, stares at me, smirks, then goes back to reading the bleeding thing still chuckling to herself. I’ll have to get round to reading it seeing as I’m one of the most important characters. But getting back to the issue of sponsors, what this blog really needs is sponsors with a bit of class, not to mention cash! My vote goes to Brylcreem and Henselite.

Right, I think that’s enough for today. Don’t want to overload your brains with too much information. Next week we’ll take a look at why this so-called coach encourages new bowlers to use two fingers – it’s not what you think. Also how Brylcreem can give you the edge in a tight match.

If you haven’t already read “7 Top Tips for Top Skips” what are you waiting for? Sign up and grab a copy because if you don’t your next opponent definitely will.
Also next week our ‘viral video’ – whatever that means – will be ready, so Raymond assures me. He’s negotiating with Mel Gibson to play the part of me.

See you then.

Vernon Algernon Lewis