My despondent lips take a mouthful of beer.

We sit in silence for a moment. Outside, the drizzle descends on one of the prettiest village bowling greens in England; a place to which you would be honour-bound to take American tourist friends, once you had shown them Durham Cathedral and Barney’s snack bar on the A148.

“Well,” observes Big A at length.

“What I can’t work out,” I ruminate, “is how I’m so consistently bad. I mean, I’m nowhere near where I’m meant to be, but I’m consistently nowhere near.” I take another slurp. “I’m sure there’s a positive in there somewhere.”

Bowls is a cruel mistress. One evening she is fun to be with and you can do no wrong; the next you are being savagely beaten and humiliated and being mocked for putting in a short wood. But you keep going back for more. It is an addiction, like turkey.

Through the smoke, the jovial atmosphere in the small club is palpable. Our opponents are the cream of local bowls; we sense that we are already heading for a relegation battle. I carry the glasses back to the bar; Big A takes the wheel and we drive home in the rain.

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