There's a phrase of which I'm particularly fond - "It's not the winning that matters, it's the messing about" [Actually the original says "arsing about" not "messing about" but let’s keep it decent]. And on May 10th, it perfectly captured the spirit of the second annual Kubb South West Funday, for which fine weather and the opportunity to settle some grudges from last year's tournament encouraged a superb turnout of nearly 100 players to the Old Station Inn, Hallatrow.
The field looked magnificent, finely decorated with the Crown Dart’s bunting and professional looking trade tent, jostling for position with the amateurish (but considerably cheaper) KubbUK gazebo that would be put to great use over the next few hours as cover from sunstroke, a real contrast to its role last year as rain shelter. At one stage, it even provided a tying up point for a small dog – luckily nothing sufficiently exciting encouraged him to scamper off as the flimsiness of the gazebo would have been no match for his enthusiasm
After a brief demonstration game, the first task was to encourage players away from the bar to register. Disgruntled at having their afternoon’s drinking program interrupted, many teams found picking a name tricky, so often used the logo from their clothing as inspiration. This resulted in teams called 'Tokyo 76', 'Super Hi Octane' or 'Banff Wolves' and had the advantage of making identification of teams easier from a distance. Apologies to teams requesting 'Waist 34, Leg 33' or 'Likely to bobble - hand wash only' but I had to draw the line somewhere. My personal favourite names were “Charlie’s Angels”, a group of Temple Cloud ladies so very glamorous that I momentarily thought that Girls Aloud must be playing nearby and had got lost en route. And “The Winners”, presumably an ironic choice, as the team never once came anywhere close to justifying such a name. We were also graced by the presence of last year’s winners, who kindly posed for photos and sold autographs to an admiring public.
Registration complete (and a few expressions of surprise that entry was free), battle between the 28 teams started. At this stage, let us pause and put this statistic into context. At the beginning of 2007, the number of local people who knew of Kubb could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Here we are, not a year and a half later and we draw this crowd – if this rate continues, it won’t be long before we outgrow our current location and move to The Millennium Stadium, a venue whose closable roof has the advantage of keeping out bad weather but does it have sufficient seating for the fans and groupies ?
For the first 90 minutes, each team played 3 others of similar standard, trying to ensure that no husbands and wives played against each other – nobody likes a scene at these things. One team complained to me that they had been offered a bribe to lose a match - I don't think it was the morals of the issue that concerned them, just the paucity of the amount available. Eventually 4 teams emerged with 3 wins out of 3 matches, resulting in 2 exciting semi finals and a final between 'Super Hi Octane', a team based around a quartet from Paulmont Rise and 'Clapped Out', a less local trio of novices from Clapton, the losing semi finalists being 'The Power Men' and 'Kickers'. It has to be said that ‘Clapped Out’ had the advantage of match experience – their second game went on for so long that it must have left them mentally boggled, a conclusion I drew from their badly slurred speech. The crowd were heckling magnificently at this stage, the constant barrage of ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’ making it sound more like a fireworks display than a top sporting event. But after less than 15 minutes, ‘Clapped Out’ won it and the presentation ceremony began. The winners received a trophy so small that it made even The Ashes look impressive and the all important Crown Darts Kubb set. In contrast, ‘Super Hi Octane’ were recipients of the runner’s up trophy, a seven foot high fence post rescued from a skip last winter. Here at KubbUK, we feel that the list of requirements for the prize has been refined over time from 'plain shoddy' to 'made of wood', 'homemade' and 'hopelessly impractical'. The committee has already narrowed down next year’s prize to either an engraved railway sleeper or wardrobe and hereby warns all players who think they may be contenders to make sure you get a roof rack or trailer fitted
And with that, it was over. Pausing only briefly to cajole younger players into helping to tidy up the Kubb sets, I realised that I had to offer three things - an apology, a request and a thank you.
Firstly the apology :- To anyone who found me kneeling on the grass and approached me with "I know you're already writing down another result but we've just won our game, we really smashed them. Can you write that down please while simultaneously telling me which team I'm playing next. And when. And where. Oh, and could you get me a Coke please, Dad ? I’ll be sat over there" - if I ever caused offence with a terse "Ok, I've got that, could you come back in 10 minutes please and I'll tell you your next victim", then I apologise. It was hot, I was stressed and regretting leaving my camping table at home. No excuse, I know, but hopefully acceptable to the moral guardians of Temple Cloud and Hallatrow.
Next, the request. Do we have a Classics scholar to translate my phrase into Latin ? If so, I can make that our motto and have it embroidered onto a blazer and cap badge. For the chance to see me strutting around dressed like that, you’d surely all come back next year, wouldn't you ?
Finally the thank you. We would never have had the turnout we did without so many players from last year spreading the word so far and wide, encouraging friends to join us in our trivial pursuit. I know the weather was very kind to us, but the truth is that it was you who helped raise the numbers so brilliantly and things can only go from strength to strength with your continued support. Long may you play.