So here we are again, the time for me to try and sum up another great afternoon of Kubb playing. The trouble is, of course, that this is the fifth time I've had to do this and I've long ago worked through my extensive list of wood-based jokes. But isn't that just the thing - this is the fifth time. Back in May 2007 when so many of you first gathered in miserable weather at the Station Inn, probably against your better judgement, did we ever dream it would come to this ? Did we imagine that we'd be able to boast an afternoon of sporting endeavour to an international field of competitors ? People came from literally all over the world - Bristol, London, Liverpool, Germany. Ah…..Germany. More of that later.
So how was it ? Well, the weather was initially abysmal, and that's being kind. It simply chucked it down while my helpers set up the pistes. But so keen were they to get the job done that they simply could not be diverted by the thought of a glass of Stella. They made up for it later, though. Boy, did they make up for it later…..
Setting up continued and then, when we were almost ready, a coach arrived. [Players last year may remember a similar event when a coach load of Orientals arrived. I was, frankly, sh1tting myself at that point as I doubted I could cope with the additional numbers and my Japanese just isn't that good. Fortunately they merely sang a song [eh ?], returned to their coach and left]. It says something about my state of mind that I was anticipating a repeat event but news quickly filtered through to me that this coach actually had people wearing Kubb t-shirts on it, and that they were keen to let somebody else carry the heavy burden of driving while they got on with the more enjoyable tasks of playing and drinking.
Fortunately as the official opening ceremony began [that's just me, shouting mainly], the rain stopped and 30 teams were able to begin battle. The sun came out and it started to get really hot, leaving many with the dilemma on how best to stop themselves overheating. Personally I keep in the shade, but others prefer the technique of taking 'liquids', orally, by the pint or wine glass, to be repeated every 15 minutes. That's fine, unless you 'overdose' and your body 'rejects'. I was just glad that it wasn't over one of my Kubb sets.
Anything else of merit ? Oh yes, the Germans and their technique. They were good, really good - at one point I saw a keen young fan recording High Definition video of their throwing technique, with the intention of watching it in slow motion later on. They won, deservedly, and although most of us assumed they might just possibly already have a Kubb set, they gratefully received another from Crown Darts. Quite what they made of the spectacularly shoddy wooden mug tree I gave them was less easy to gauge. With hindsight, I have to admit that I messed up rather - I knew they were coming and should have allowed for the possibility of them winning. I should have gone with my gut instincts and, for a trophy, made a wooden gun - try taking THAT baby through Customs ! Amusingly someone made the comment "That's quite a heavy set to take back on a plane to Germany - it's going to cost a lot to get it through Excess Baggage…..hopefully". We all laughed of course, but only because we needed to feel better about ourselves, having being so hugely outclassed. Joking aside, they were very pleasant people and had obviously made a huge effort to turn up for what could reasonably be described as little more than a few hours of 90 people drinking in a pub garden, shouting insults at each other from either end of a vomit stained patch of grass.
While we're on trophies, a special one was awarded - 'Most improved player, 2012'. It emerges that one player [I shall refer to her simply as Mrs. H.S. of Main Road, Temple Cloud, firstly to preserve her dignity and secondly because I can't remember exactly how to spell her first name - is it one 'L' or two, Hilary ?] has played every year for the last 5 years but never won a single match. We felt the need to encourage her by giving her this award, a year in advance, as a motivational tool - and if she fails again to win a match next year, we'll have it back off her. Not that she'll mind, I suspect, as it genuinely looked as if it had been quickly put together by a poorly child wearing mittens in a darkened room, with their eyes shut, and then chewed by next door's dog.
Ok, enough of that, who do I need to thank ? Firstly, Jesse from Crown Darts who drives down from Stafford, sells a few sets, gives one away as a prize and shouts nearly as much as me. Afterwards, he came round to ours for a drink. He didn't try to steal any of the cutlery, so I'll undoubtedly be inviting him again next year. Invaluable. Next up is the combined administrative talent of Jane, Grace and Ellie. Sponsored by Pimms, they ensured that the afternoon went smoothly, keeping the games going and freeing me up for chatting and more shouting. [At this point, let me briefly divert and make this promise - I'm not going to shout next year. I'm really not - I'm going to buy me a megaphone….. ] Thanks also to the New Inn for use of their garden. Then again, somebody suggested they might thank me - I'd love to know how much they took that afternoon. And last but not least, Ian and Mary, who took charge and set up the pistes. I really should buy them a present as a 'Thank You', I'm thinking a tape measure and a set square ?
Finally, I was thinking back to a comment made by a friend a few months back - her view was that I must be mad to arrange the event each year. And while I understand her viewpoint, I'm increasingly of the opinion that, actually, I would be mad to stop - the enjoyment it gives to so many people keeps me buoyed up for months to come and it is always a joy, ALWAYS a joy, to see old friends and acquaintances again, even if just for a few hours. Your continued support and tolerance of my shouting and temporarily gruff manner is, as ever, hugely appreciated.
But you know that, right ?