Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New balls please.

Should you ever see me in the street, (and that sort of counts on you knowing who I am I suppose) what would the first thought be?

Would it be 'I say, he's reasonably tall.' or 'What a splendid beard that man has, I shall make it my life's work to become his faithful man/woman servant.' or 'What was that awful baconny smell?'

One thing it probably wouldn't be is 'That fine figure of a man there, is a natural sportsman, I should bow down before him in supplication and offer him the unfettered use of my clothing optional hot-tub.'

And that's because I'm not.  My frame is not what you'd describe as streamlined (apart from my head that is). My musculature, such as it was, has become flaccid through lack of use, and I sometimes get a bit out of breath thinking about chips.

But believe it or not, at one time, not only was I an avid sportsman who played thrice weekly, but I was captain of not one, but two top (ish) of the league sports teams at the same time.  I can virtually smell your surprise from here.

It all began around twenty-five years ago in a bar called The Old Silk Mill (As previously mentioned HERE).

I was sat there, one Saturday lunchtime, with my then girlfriend, when the landlord wandered over to the noticeboard and pinned an A4 piece of paper to it. It was the sign-up sheet for the new pool team.  Within a week or so, many names were added to this list and we went onto some limited success.  In fairness a number of the limitations we faced involved a few of the team being under the influence of certain substances that may be frowned upon in polite society.  It was a fairly regular occurrence that we would have to take nine players to a match that required seven in case someone started rocking backwards and forwards in the corner having 'shroom flashbacks and another person found themselves unable to play because the table was covered in tiny, multi-coloured horses with tusks, wearing snowshoes.

But we had some truly great players.  Our original Captain, Billy B, was a borderline psychotic, who looked like a dark haired cross between Professor Mick Aston from Timeteam and Rasputin, who would strut around the table with both his prehensile knees and eyes pointing in many different directions at once.  he mumbled to himself all the time whilst executing some truly physics defying shots and he would often turn around and laugh uncontrolably in the face of his opponent in the style of a pirate.

His sister, Louise, also played for us. It would be difficult to find two siblings that were more different in outlook (or any other email system for that matter).  Where Billy was manic, Louise was calculating.  She would look at all the balls on the table from all angles before every shot and was the closest thing to a Cyber(wo)man that I've ever seen. Fine pool player, especially where performing 'snookers' was concerned.  In fact, she only ever lost it when she made a mistake that lost her the match - Then... Well... Have you seen Bladerunner? With Harrison Ford? You know the bit where Daryl Hannah's character Pris was 'retired'? Well, that.

Louise had a female life partner (or whatever the politically correct term is this week) called Annie who was a natural pool player and a great mate who would wander around the table, taking great shot after great shot, taking multiple swigs from her pint, and bringing the generally masculinity of her opponent into question and then mercilessly barracking him until he cried.

We also had Sam, and her boyfriend Sam (Yes, it did sometimes get confusing) who we would usually try to put on in the last match, the spot usually saved for the Captains to play each other... Although it was more of a guideline than an actual rule really.  We would wait for the last player from their team to come to the table, if he was small, and seemed to be easily intimidated, Male Sam would play, and win without speaking a single word.  If he seemed to be confident, the sort of man who would have had his own cue cut from a single piece of antique wood, salvaged from the wreck of a viking longship, Female Sam would play - Not straight away of course, she would have a bit of a stretch, declare that her blouse was a bit restrictive and then look her opponent directly in the eyes whilst she slowly undid as many buttons as she needed to to let him know that she had 'forgotten' to wear a bra that day.  Then she'd win. Thinking about it, that might have technically been cheating I suppose.

Now, I'm going to stop there, because this is in danger of just turning into a list of people that I knew at the end of the 80's.  Suffice it to say that, obviously, the blindingly famous SMick was in the team, as was my other professionally Scottish friend Jock, who is, as I've mentioned before, sadly no longer with us.  Suffice it to say that it was like an outside broadcast featuring The Addams Family every time we went to a different pub to play one of our 'Away' matches.

Over a few seasons, things changed, as they so often do. old players left and new ones joined. In fact, Billy B himself left to concentrate his chemical experimentation and because I was the only one not to say 'no' when he tried to appoint a replacement Captain, I got the job.  A couple of other major things changed too.  One was that there had, for a long time, been complaints in 'The League' about sexism and misogyny, so a separate 'Ladies' league was started (Our team was Captained by my then girlfriend) and The Silk Mill changed hands, it's new owner instantly deciding that his first order of business would be to get rid of all the dirty bikers and turn the place into one of those awful, homogeneous city centre pubs with microwaved (but still described as homecooked) food.

So we moved, to The Station Inn, mentioned in the SMick story linked above, and presented them with at first two and then three ready made teams. We stayed there for many years, in fact, if you visit there to this day, you will see many of the trophies that we won still proudly displayed.

The teams continued to change, the supremely gullible Steve, joined the team that we now had to call the 'Mixed' team because:

a) It had both male and female members
b) You weren't allowed to call it the 'Men's' team, because that would be sexist.

But all this isn't exactly getting us to where I was Captain of two sports teams is it?  The emotional rollercoaster that was my love life took an excitingly depressing downturn in 1991, where my then girlfriend, and Captain of the ladies team, found solace in the arms (amongst other things) of another, as hinted at in this post HERE - So, I did what any self respecting man would do under those circumstances:

I became the Captain of the Ladies team too.

So, Thursdays and Sundays I would go to the pub, get drunk and play pool with my friends (both male and female) and on Tuesdays I would go to the pub, get drunk and watch ten girls, between eighteen and thirty, bend over a pool table for two hours.  It took my mind right off the heartbreak situation that I'd just been through I can tell you.

And for our less gentlemanly male readers, whose minds are racing with all sorts of interesting possibilities...

Yes, two, but not at the same time.

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