The liquid scalds the back of my throat. I blink in surprise and pain.
“Not bad, is it?” asks Don.
I decline a second helping. The sporting authorities are far keener these days on fostering a clean-living and healthy look – Lord knows what the image-obsessed International Bowls Federation would make of a team that blatantly distributes home-made cider from a vodka bottle before the start of play.
“It tastes a bit… spirited,” I agree, as I stagger towards the mat, coughing in agony, my eyes streaming and face melting.
We complete our handshakes. “I’m very sorry about the green,” says my opponent. “The groundsman was meant to mow it today. We’ll kill him if we get hold of him.”
His tone leaves no doubt that they will, indeed, kill the groundsman should they get hold of him. I make conciliatory noises, as does Big A. It is the same for both sides and frankly anything that evens things up is ok by me. My conciliatory noises are interrupted by more cider-originated coughing; my eyes and ears don’t appear to be working properly.
My first wood stops about ten yards short of the jack. My opponent’s stops next to it. I glare savagely at the uncut grass, a surface fit only for amateurs.
When it’s Nigel’s turn I have a decent idea. “If you can come in round this way,” I shout, “you might be able to knock these two up.”
Big A prods me tactfully in the ribs. “Nigel’s just had his turn,” he explains. I look confused. Somebody offers me more cider.
“I was a bit surprised when they just stole that end and you started muttering ‘fucking bastard,'” muses Big A in the Village Pub afterwards. “You seemed to be getting a bit competitive.” I sip my pint sheepishly. “I was having a bit of trouble getting into the zone,” I reply.
The season is but a few matches old, and we are already looking like we might challenge for honours. I need to keep my head if we are to keep this standard up.