When discussing last year's Kubb tournament with players in the months afterwards, I received two pieces of very sound advice :- (1) change the date to sometime in the Summer and (2) have more than one trophy to contest. So, being an accommodating chap, I took both ideas on board and I'm glad I did. Not only did we have better weather than in the past few May events, but also people had a lot more to play for once they'd lost a game, with both a Cup (for people who won all three games) and a Plate (for those who only won two) on offer. When I say "a lot more to play for", the prizes are, of course, still made of wood and, naturally, incredibly shoddy but you get the gist. And just to rub salt into the wounds, the Plate trophy was a lot bigger and better than the Cup and the runner's-up prizes significantly more impressive than the winner's.
The afternoon started off quite worryingly - less than 15 minutes before the start, a coach of 40 Japanese arrived and proceeded towards the garden. With 80 players already in attendance, I feared that I was about to be overwhelmed by such a number. Fortunately they stopped short of the playing area, sang a brief but incomprehensible song, took some photos and got back in the coach. Ever the opportunist, I claimed to have organised this for the benefit of the players but was not generally believed. I was also concerned as the photos were taken next to the brand new homemade KubbUK flag - it would be uncharitable (though accurate) to describe it as rubbish, but some of the high power lens of the photographers may reveal a greater lack of attention to detail than could be seen from the ground.
And so the event proceeded. Many players had joined us in previous years but we did have some new teams and faces, from as far as Liverpool and London. And thus, after a few disagreements about rules and throwing styles, we got stuck in. There's not much I can say now about the actual playing any more. It's hard to describe the graceful lob of a particular player without getting bored but I will say that I actually got to play for once. Due to the odd number of teams present, all contestants were thrilled by the appearance of the near mythical "Neil Wilson Allstar Kubb Dynamos" team. Actually not all contestants, not the ones we beat...
What else to say ? Oh yes. The Red Arrows flew in formation overhead. Again I tried to take credit and again I failed. And we had what is thought to be the first ever Speed Kubb session. I needed to get 10 teams down to 4 for the Plate semi-finals, so we started 5 matches off simultaneously, the fastest 4 winners getting through. It was certainly amusing to see such usually casual players chucking Kubbs as quick as they could, but I'd have liked to see at least a few accidents in the chaos.
Eventually the teams were whittled down to two for the Cup and two for the Plate. Both matches were played in great spirit, which was disappointing. The crowd provided world class heckling and even attempted a Mexican wave at one point. And both matches were won. But don't ask me to say who by, because I only know one of the four teams in the finals (my team beat them in less than 10 minutes, though they deny this) and it would be churlish to only name check them. But I will report that still no team has won the coveted KubbUK trophy more than once, which either proves how the standard is ever increasing or shows how bloody inconsistent most people are.
Thanks are due to the New Inn who let us use their excellent garden again in return for filling their pub with thirsty punters for an entire afternoon and also to family members Grace and Jane. To the tasks I had allocated to them (scoring and scheduling matches), they had added a number of their own - chatting, sitting and drinking, at which they excelled. Their efforts were much appreciated as it gave me the chance to "press the flesh", heckle and, as said, even play. The day ended with a three cheers for me [I didn't even have to start it this year] and the annual question "Shall we do it again next year ?" You will be glad, though maybe not surprised, to know that the answer was a resounding "Yes".