Moving on from the fabulous Worthing, there followed numerous trips to HMS Dryad’s mixed festival (one year HMS Sultan I think), Basingstoke mixed festival, Rickmansworth and Swanage. Some of the stories I simply can’t tell you, but my highlights include……
Basingstoke I remember chatting to a young girl in the bar on the Friday night with some of my team mates. The girl in question was part of a team we were due to play the following day, and claimed to be a gymnast of international standard. While she certainly looked the part, the whole team thought that it was something of a ‘tall’ drunken tale, as she would do nothing to prove her bold claims….not even a handstand. As we were leaving the bar, one of her team mates had a quiet word in my ear. “If you want to see her in action, let her score against you tomorrow and see what happens.” Anyhow, it was back to the tent, all thoughts of the evening disappearing into a sleepy haze. The usual tomfoolery followed in the morning, and it wasn’t until we lined up against the said same team that thoughts of the previous night returned. I tapped one of my team mates on the shoulder and repeated what I’d been told the night before. “Let’s let her score and see,” he suggested. Quickly we passed the word on to the defence and midfield, leaving our goalkeeper totally out of the loop. Mere seconds later the umpire started the match, with our centre forward passing the ball to the opposition. Straight away they surged forward and as they did so, we noticed the young girl from the previous night slip into the centre forward position for them. Slowly (as that was pretty much our only speed), the defence and midfield parted like a couple of pieces of worn old velcro (very noisily, and quite slowly) and not believing their luck, our opponents shifted the ball onto their centre forward. Not needing an invitation, and looking slightly worse for wear, the young girl picked up the ball and headed straight for the D. By this time, our forward line (who were more than a little perplexed by our slightly more casual than usual stance…….defence and midfield were all standing, leaning on their sticks) were attempting in vain to run back (more than a little unusual in itself……we could hardly believe it ourselves), while our goalkeeper was screaming things that just can’t be written down, well not without this document bursting into flames and my computer crashing! It was at this very point, as I stood on our 25 yard line, unable to do anything about proceedings as the young girl had just skipped on to the top of the D, that it suddenly occurred to me that the whole thing could be a ruse……designed for us to let the opposition score. A cold shiver ran down my spine at the thought of what my team would do, if that turned out to be the case. As it happened………I needn’t have worried. As the young girl reached the top of the D, she let rip with a shot so fierce, that our keeper never even saw it, let alone managed to get something on it. Everyone (except our goalie) applauded. That, however, was not the main feature. True to her words of the previous evening, the young girl dropped her stick and broke into a run towards the centre of the pitch. My eyes nearly popped out of my head at what happened next. Throwing herself into the air, she flipped, somersaulted and did just about everything you would see a gymnast do on the television……..it was truly amazing. Not only did both teams applaud, everyone in and around the pitch and the people on the balcony of the clubhouse all joined in too. After that, there really was only one thing to do……yes, you’ve probably guessed…….let her score again……and we did….straight away (much to the chagrin and embarrassment of our keeper who tried to stop her on his own). Same celebration again, and well worth conceding another goal. And yes, we let her score once more after that, but with being 3-0 down, with only a few minutes of the match played, we then decided to play sensibly (well, you know…..as much as possible), and I seem to remember we lost the match 3-2. Still…….it was worth it to see the best goal scoring celebration EVER!!!
At another Basingstoke festival (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the same one), long into a very drunken evening, two of the Basingstoke players came over into a big space in front of where a few of my team were sitting…………something was clearly afoot!! We sat and watched the two (clearly quite drunk) for a few minutes, as they appeared to be miming setting up an invisible table of some sort. While it provided a few minutes of mild amusement, it was nothing to what would follow. The two players with their invisible table set up, started to have a game of what can only be described as……..invisible table tennis……..this was MAGIC!! Long rallies, brilliant serves…….it was all there and everyone in our team was enjoying the show….well, everyone except one! There’s always one in each team…….and I have to say, he was normally it. Having consumed about three pubs’ worth of beer that day, he promptly got up and told the players what he thought…..”that they couldn’t make the over 100, blind, local village, invisible table tennis team”. To say they were offended was an understatement, but just as I thought a fight might break out, one of the young players laid down a ‘challenge’ to our ‘drunken old idiot’. Our drunken old idiot accepted with all the speed that he showed in the bedroom, and lacked on the hockey pitch. With the crowd growing ever bigger, the biggest grudge match in invisible table tennis history began. The young player started with the ball and drew up a serve with lots of spin, sending it flying and waiting for our drunken player to return. He was as confused as the crowd, when our player just stood there……stock still. As the silence ensued, our player coolly stepped up to the middle of the table and straightened the net, then, retrieved the ball from the young player’s side of the table (implying, as everything was invisible, that the serve had not made it over the net). The crowd erupted in to spontaneous applause!!! The young player had more than met his match. Oh, don’t get me wrong…….he and his friend were very good, but, there’s no substitute for experience and although unbelievably drunk, our player had an answer for everything. The young player would stand next to the net and serve (to make sure the ball went over), and our player would return it, the young player would return it……….our player would retrieve the invisible ball from the floor, dusting off his side of the table and implying that the invisible ball had not hit his side of the table……AGAIN the crowd applauded. This happened time after time, along with both players moving further and further back from the table, and our player even bouncing the ball off of a few walls on occasion much to the crowds delight. The whole thing lasted well over 40 minutes and as a teetotal, it was one of the funniest and most inventive things I’ve ever seen.
Please feel freet to comment on anything I’ve written. I’d love to know your thoughts and your hockey and other team sports festival stories. For the comments and thoughts I like the most, I’ll send out a signed copy of my book.