After six years of organising the Kubb tournament, you have to admit I certainly know how to pick the date. Avoid the Glastonbury festival, don't have it during exam season, keep well away from the Wimbledon final and, last but not least, make damned sure you choose the single most miserably damp Saturday you can manage. But as usual, the weather did not deter our hardcore players. Many old players returned, along with plenty of new ones, including a very pleasant party of 12 and a half from north Bristol and another group who brought with them a small fluffy dog that Bill Bryson would refer to as 'a burly hamster'. It was probably a Chihuahua, but whatever it was, its sh1ts look like wormcasts. Unfortunately at one point I think I saw someone absentmindedly use it to dry off a baton, but even then it was impeccably behaved.
Before we started, there were two popular topics of conversation amongst the old hands. Firstly, the playing surface, which in horse racing parlance would be best described as 'soft'. It must have been ignored for so long by the New Inn groundsmen that it wouldn't have surprised me to find a crop circle in it. If they ever get round to cutting it, they'll need a combine harvester, not a mower. Secondly, the Germans, and were they coming again. Many will recall the very pleasant family who flew over especially last year to teach us all how to play - they left with another victory under the belt and one of the worst trophies I ever managed, the now legendary mug tree. I suspect that secretly most players did not want them to return [after all, you can only cope with having your arse so soundly whupped once in a lifetime] and they were not disappointed. We tried to fool ourselves that Team GupfelSturmer were probably running scared, but it's more likely that they were extremely unimpressed. I'd even made a wooden gun as a first prize for them, just to see how they coped with it on their return through Customs. But that's not to say we didn't have an international field. No. We had two players from Wales who came as an advance recce party and who have promised to return next year in force. To welcome them, I think I might set up a toll gate at the pub entrance, in retaliation for the Severn crossing fees I've suffered over the years.
And so once the 30 teams had assembled to hear my embarrassingly ill-prepared welcoming speech, during which even I got bored, we began proceedings and I actually got to play in a proper team for the first time, just to make up the numbers, you understand. Despite the fact that 'The Neil Wilson All-Star Kubb Dynamos' was formed mere minutes before the start and consisted of myself, 10 year old Charlotte [who insisted on being captain, otherwise she was going home, thank you] and Laurence [let down badly by his Mother [I don't mean throughout his life in general, just on the day when she was stuck in traffic], we did really well, winning three out of three. That put us in the semi-final against Joe and Rich, an epic match of nearly an hour, during which Charlotte had to leave [I think she had a party to go to, or a similar better offer]. The match flowed back and forth and the crowd were suitable enthralled, particularly those who had come mostly to heckle. I can't describe the level of abuse as being of John Terry standard, but at one stage I was referred to as being 'really quite disappointing' and 'somewhat poor on the whole'. Did it put me off ? Not a bit, it'll take more than that level of puerile b******* from b******s like those f****** to spoil my concentration levels. But we were beaten after a minor fracas with a baton, and deservedly so.
The final, between Joe and Rich and Ben's team, was pretty quick, Ben and co taking the title. For their troubles, they won a Kubbuteo set, which they received with a look of dismay, bordering on disappointment. They should have known better not to expect too much. Actually, I believe they were secretly thrilled with it - I base this on the fact that they didn't dump it in a hedge whilst leaving the pub afterwards.
What else can I say ? Thanks to Ian for helping set up beforehand but please, please, PLEASE - no string next year ! Thanks also to Jane and Ellie for scoring and organising - another fine job that allowed me to get on out there and mingle. Thanks to Jesse and Corrine for all their help - hopefully next year they won't get stuck in a Gay Pride march through central Bristol, unless that's preferable, of course. But finally thanks to all you players, who have to suffer both bad weather and me - 4 hours of either is more than enough for most people and your attendance and continued support is much appreciated.
As is now becoming tradition, we ended the afternoon with a quick 'shall we do it all again next year ?' which resulted [as is also tradition] in a resounding 'not bothered. ok, yes'. And to cap it all, there's even talks of another tournament being organised. You can be sure that I'll be going to the 'Kubb UK regional qualifier : Cambridgeshire and district' - I'm itching to see what a proper trophy looks like.